28 February 2009

Use New Media to “Fill the Gap”

A gap exists in the information that is presented in mainstream media and what the American public desires. Soldier blogs are one way to help fill this gap. To do so, the Army should encourage Soldiers to blog about two broad topics: stories about the rebuilding effort and positive stories about events in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The media overestimates the public interest in coverage of terrorist activities and even more strikingly underestimates the public’s desire for stories about the reconstruction effort. Additionally, the public wants to hear more stories about individual Soldiers. Knowing this, Soldiers can fill a significant need – tell stories about their involvement in reconstruction. There are many engineer Soldiers who are rebuilding schools and hospitals. Medical Soldiers are providing needed care to many who have not had such care in quite some time. There are civil affairs Soldiers involved in helping to establish local governmental organizations and demonstrate the legitimacy of the Iraqi government. These Soldiers need to have their stories told – and main stream media isn’t doing it to the degree that the American public desires. Soldiers’ blogs can provide stories of interest to the American public.

Suggesting that Soldiers tell positive stories about events in Iraq and Afghanistan is not a recommendation that the Army hide problems and challenges nor is it a recommendation that Soldiers only be encouraged to blog positive stories. Stories that are not inherently positive must not be spun into something they are not, nor can negative stories be ignored or brushed under the carpet. The American public absolutely has a right to know the full costs of the wars. However, there is a significant disconnect between the balance that the media believes they provide and the American public perception. 68% of the media believes they provide balanced information while 70% of the public sees the coverage as predominately negative. Soldiers can provide their own coverage of the many positive events that are occurring on a daily basis while remaining real and fair about what it is really like to serve as a Soldier in these current wars.

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