Posts from March 2003

The media war

The media war
: Michael Wolff, New York Magazine’s media man, files his column from Qatar early. I’ve been waiting for this: caustic Wolff embedded in the press corps, wolff in the hen house.

But he ends up with a nonstory about a nonstory.

He complains that there’s no news at the news center at Centcom.

As Gomer Pyle, USMC, would say: Surprise, surprise, surprise!

Of course, there’s no news there. For one thing, there’s no war there; it’s many sand dunes away in Iraq. For another, this is where the generals are, not the soldiers. And for another, this is the military, filled with armed control freaks.

Wolff got applause at yesterday’s Centcom briefing when he complained about no news in the briefing (a theme begun the day before by other correspondents). From the briefing transcript:

WOLFF: We’re no longer being briefed by senior-most officers. To the extent that we get information, it’s largely information already released by the Pentagon…. So I guess my question is, why should we stay? What’s the value to us for what we learn at this million-dollar press center? (Applause.)

GEN. BROOKS: I’ve gotten applause already. That’s wonderful. I appreciate that.

First, I would say it’s your choice. We want to provide information that’s truthful from the operational headquarters that is running this war. There are a number of places where information is available, not the least of which would be the embedded media. And they tell a very important story. The Pentagon has a set of information they provide as well. If you’re looking for the entire mosaic, then you should be here.

I think some of you may have been, based on the questions yesterday, looking for very, very precise information about the operations. And we’ll give you that as we can. But we should never forget, the more we tell you, if we’re precise about the frontline trace and where units are operating, exactly what our strength is, you’re not the only one being informed….

From which we learn that the Pentagon now has excellent courses in PR.

But this is nothing new. Don’t we all remember the fabled Five O’Clock Follies of Vietnam; those briefings became the subject of not only complaint but also lampoons.

But it’s not just the military. Any press briefing is, by definition, controlled. It’s not about reporting. It’s about a message being spoonfed. It’s a press release.

Same thing at a White House press briefing. Nobody’s going to get a scoop from Ari in the auditorium; you’re going to get what Ari want to tell you. Even though Ari and various generals are now on live TV, they don’t want to give us an exciting show. They want to give us their message.

If you want to report, get the hell out of the press briefing and get out where the action is. Thank goodness, the Pentagon is now allowing that to happen with the embedded reporters.

If you’re a media reporter, Mr. Wolff, then you should get your butt back to New York and watch what we’re watching because I’m eager to hear your take on it all.

You’ll learn a lot more in front of a TV here than in front of a camera there.

Fog of media war
: And here is the problem with instantaneous reporting: Sometimes it takes awhile for the facts to catch up.

The BBC catalogues the incidents of big stories that turned out to be smaller: columns of tanks that turn into trickles of tanks, uprisings that don’t rise up much.

[Former BBC reporter and now British MP] Martin Bell blames the recent confusion on the “excitability” of editors of rolling television news stations.

They are under pressure to give the television war junkies something fresh to keep them hooked.

Some “report rumour as fact”, Mr Bell says….

The Iraq war is a media war like never before.

Military training courses around the world attach increasing importance to public relations.

Martin Bell says the best way of cutting through the “fog of war” is to return to journalistic basics: be sceptical.

And this applies to those watching the war on their computers and TV screens, as much as the reporters putting it there.

: The BBC admits making daily mistakes in war coverage. No news there. Of course, mistakes will be made.

al-Jazeera pay-per-view

al-Jazeera pay-per-view
: You can now watch al-Jazeera — but you have to pay. Ish.com, the German service that had been streaming it, just put up a pay gate (via German company Firstgate.com): .10 Euros per minute. I just spent 30 cents watching the U.S. ambassador walk out on Iraq’s ambassador at the U.N.

Worth it.

Pixelated media… grainy reality… low-res news

Pixelated media… grainy reality… low-res news
: Not only is the world changing in this war, news is.

And technology is changing it.

Watch TV news now and you see grainy, pixelated, jumpy, low-res images that would have been cause for dismissal for a network producer only a year or two ago. But now these images from the front imply immediacy, even credibility: They look real, they look now, they look like news.

Now add to this the fact that reporters — and now even members of the audience — can carry the devices that create those images. If I had carried a phone with a camera attached and text-messaging capabilities on September 11th, I would have been reporting (or you can call it blogging) to the world.

Now add one more factor — the always-connected, international, everywhere network in which we now live — and you have the shape of news to come: from anywhere to anywhere anytime by anybody.

Oh, but there’s one more dimension to add: opinion. People will pick their spin. In Britain, people pick the Mirror or the Sun (or the Times or the Guardian). That doesn’t happen in a one-outlet local market. But it does happen in a diverse national market, like Britain, and it will happen in a diverse nanomedia market, with weblogs.

So we’ll get more news from more sources and more perspectives, more up-to-the-minute with more reality from the scene and more perspective later.

I like that picture.

(So does Corey Bergman, a local TV guru who created the wonderful weblog Lost Remote and who wrote about all this for OJR).

Ew, Canada

Ew, Canada
: Christie Blatchford, a well-known Canadian columnist, says Canada didn’t have to send bombs, only words of support, to avoid seeing its relationship with its testy neighbor to the south deteriorate. [via Blogs of War]

Canada did not have to grab a chair and crack it over the head of the guy her American pal was pummelling in the bar, she had only to refrain from actively cheering the other fellow on — oh, and maybe buy the Yank a drink when the mess was over.

It is this national failure of nerve that is, as the modern lingo has it, the root cause of the wildly deteriorating state of relations between the two countries; why the U.S. ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, said what he said this week (and why Mr. Bush, his close personal friend, gave him the go-ahead to do so) and why it now appears Mr. Bush’s first visit to Ottawa, slated for this spring, may be in jeopardy.

Bush supporter

Bush supporter
: It’s a photo gag from Blogs of War. Ya have to be there.

Sour

Sour
: Instapundit points us to a parody of a parody: The Lemon. A promo I liked: “Paul Krugman thinks your idea is stupid.” I also liked the nice link here. Flattery will get you everywhere.

Ew, Canada

Ew, Canada
: Glenn Reynolds is gratified that Canada’s House of Commons just voted to try Saddam Hussein for war crimes.

I’d be more gratified if Canada put its moxie where its mouth is and sent troops over there to help us bring him to justice, eh?

Netpolitik

Netpolitik
: Instapundit and I both blogged this Times of London column about a new world order that begins now. All the old alliances are out-of-date — the U.N. cut off its own arms and legs; NATO’s job is done; America and Britain “reconcile,” in Blair’s word, their relationships with Europe; Russia plays with France and Germany and will live to regret it; Eastern Europe comes into its own; the Middle East is up for grabs; America sees a global role for itself…

Change is unsettling and this is big change.

It needs a name, this momentous new era of ours. It’s not a cold war. It’s not ostpolitik or realpolitik.

It’s all about alliances of convenience and need and the moment.

It’s a world that starts to look like an Internet router, which finds the best route for the moment and then forgets it and finds the best route the next time.

This is the era, then, of what:

Network diplomacy?

: Alex proposes Neopolitik in the comments. (But what I really like in his comment is my new nickname: Buzz.)

: A variant: Netpolitik. It’s all about networks and networks change; they plug into and out of each other. I’m liking that one: The era of netpolitik. Nice ring, eh?