(#8 in a series) One frequent response to my series on War Bloggers is that are a minor phenomenon, especially compared to the mainstream media. First that ignores the increasing prominence of the war bloggers. Second, this ignores their increasing role in the mainstream media – NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and now this — a glowing review in the influential Columbia Journalism Review.
Note: I use “mil-blogs” in the narrow sense of “blogs by soldiers”, per Major Elizabeth Robbins (US Army) in “Muddy Boots 10: the rise of Soldier blogs“, Military Review(September-October 2007). The CJR article uses the term in a wider sense, what I call “war bloggers.”
“Blogging the Long War“, Columbia Journalism Review(March/April 2008) – “Bill Roggio wants to be your source for conflict coverage”
When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, among the seven-hundred-odd journalists who embedded with combat units were few who were familiar with the military in any intimate way. To many critics, especially those with military experience, this revealed itself in the press’s coverage of the war, which they felt often missed the mark when it came to explaining the hows and the whys of the fight, as well as the mundane realities of military life and culture. It wasn’t long before a rash of blogs – dubbed “milblogs” and written by soldiers in the field and civilians back home, many of whom were veterans-emerged to describe life in a military at war and complain about the press’s failings, real or imagined.
As with any other niche in the blogosphere, some heavy hitters soon began to separate themselves from the milblog pack. Sites like Blackfive, The Mudville Gazette, MichaelYon.com, and BillRoggio.com became favorites for war geeks and anyone else looking for insiderish news and critiques from a decidedly pro-military perspective. Each fills a certain role – Blackfive is the irreverent, often partisan, group blog; Yon is the roving, embedded reporter; and Mudville is more an aggregation of other milblogs.
Bill Roggio, though, a former Army signalman and infantryman who runs The Long War Journal and writes most of its posts, has his sights on something grander. In September 2007, Roggio, along with his business partner, Paul Hanusz, created a nonprofit company – Public Multimedia Inc. (PMI). Their goal is to develop a first-of-its-kind media entity made up of independent reporters, at home and abroad, dedicated solely to reporting on terrorism, so-called small wars, and counterterrorism efforts around the world, to do it in the kind of fine-grained detail that the mainstream press never will, and, as much as possible, without an overt partisan bent.
If they succeed, PMI could join a small but promising group of Web-based reporting and analysis operations that focus on a single beat – Talking Points Memo and The Politico on U.S. politics, ProPublica on investigations, and now, maybe, The Long War Journal on conflict reporting.
… As long as U.S. troops are engaged around the world-and to the extent that a struggle against terrorism remains central to our foreign policy in the years to come, this will be the case-there will be people who want reliable information about what they are up to, how they’re fighting, how they’re being led. Bill Roggio has found his niche.
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For more information on this topic
- Three blind men examine the Iraq Elephant (6 February 2008)
- The oddity of reports about the Iraq War (13 March 2008) — Some theories why after 5 years we still debate basic things about the Iraq War.
- War porn (25 March 2008) – Discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the war-bloggers’ reporting in Iraq.
- More views of the events at Basra (2) — bloggers and war-bloggers (28 March 2008) – Contrast the war bloggers’ reports with those of some experts.
- A rebuttal to “War Porn” (it takes 2 sides to have a discussion)(29 March 2008) — Someone writes a defense of the war bloggers, and my reply.
- A look at the writings of “war blogger” Michael J. Totten (31 March 2008) – extracts of his posts from 2003 – 2005.
- An email discussion with Michael Totten (31 March 2008)
- Evidence of the war bloggers’ growing influence (2 April 2008)
- Basra, a test case: war blogger’s vs. experts (2 April 2008)
- Experts’ views about the recent fighting in Basra (2 April 2008)
- Sources of the Instapundit’s knowledge — analysis or cartoons? (3 April 2008)
- Some comments by Bill Roggio, Editor of the Long War Journal (3 April 2008)
- Archive of links to articles about the Iraq War — My articles, and links to several by Niall Ferguson.
- Our Goals and Benchmarks for the Expedition to Iraq