MilBlog Conference: Panel 4 … New Cadre Of War Reporters

September 23, 2008

This panel was moderated by Greyhawk of Mudville Gazette. Bloggers on the panel were JP of, Troy of, Toby Nunn of Toby Nunn’s Briefing Room, and Christian Lowe of Defense Tech. All members of the panel are military except for Christian, who has served as an embedded reporter three times.

Christian said when the GWOT began, he just wanted to get over there. It was the biggest story in history and he wanted to be a part of it. He shared his frustration when he wasn’t chosen for one of the first embed slots. Now that’s he’s been able to experience the GWOT as an embedded reporter, he tries to get back at least once a year. Luckily he says, technology has opened up a lot more opportunities for anyone to be a journalist with a little bit of time, technology and experience. He shared that the DoD is currently looking at opening up embed reporting slots for bloggers, but that he believed there was still a law that states you have to be backed by some type of media corporation to do so.

Matt Burden of Blackfive interjected that they’d been able to embed bloggers for the past year. This was confirmed by a DoD PAO representative who was present at the conference. He stated that the biggest stumbling blocks for bloggers to embed would be the liability. He went on to say that credentialling used to be a problem a few years ago, but that’s no longer the case.

Toby spoke of an incident, to illustrate the often twisted version of events that the media often portrays, that occurred on Bad Voodoo Platoon’s most recent deployment, where they were convoy security, when an IED detonated near the convoy. Instead of hitting the convoy, the IED struck a bus full of women and children. He shared how a Washington Post report came out that they had attacked the bus and how the Milblogging community rallied and corrected the story, basically doing the reporting for Washington Post, by getting the REAL story out there. He shared the frustration of reading about an incident you are involved in, where the media completely twists the story to suit their agendas. (We see that often) Troy stressed the importance of Milbloggers reporting from the combat zone, of making sure that their posts don’t violate OPSEC.

Toby and JP both stated that they had a great experience and that their leadership was very supportive of their blogging and filming their missions for PBS, which resulted in the special entitled Bad Voodoo’s War. Toby did stress however, that there always was a lot of pressure to make sure you’re on the right side of the deal.

Christian stated that as a civilian, he was never censored or pressured into not printing something. He stated that he had his own arbitrary ground rules and the only censorship was his own. He did state that some units he embedded with wanted to read his stuff prior to it being publish. He stated that if he couldn’t change the mindset, he generally moved on. The military members of the panel stated that often they censored themselves due to the fact that they knew their friends and family members would be reading what they wrote. Christian stated that he never thought of the effect of what he reported might affect the family members of the Soldiers involved or even that they might read it, when he initially was embedded. However he stated that he began self-censoring when he realized this, especially how he described the other people he interacted with.

All on the panel agreed that reporting from the front lines, provided the American Public and the world at large, with the opportunity to see first hand what was occurring, instead of relying on the media, who often wasn’t at the scene and often reported skewed versions of what occurred.


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