Military Bloggers Focus on 'Common Enemy': the Media
The Wall Street Journal profiles military bloggers and Milblogging.com, a site that links to more than 1,400 military blogs around the world. Many military bloggers, or milbloggers, see it as their mission to counteract the perception of what's happening in Iraq that is pushed by the mainstream media.
J.P. Borda started a Web log during his 2004 National Guard deployment in Afghanistan to keep in touch with his family. But when he got home, he decided it was the mainstream media that was out of touch with the war....
Mr. Borda, a specialist, read other soldiers' blogs and found he wasn't alone. Hundreds of other troops and veterans were blogging world-wide, and many focused on a common enemy: journalists.
The 31-year-old software analyst, who now lives in Dallas, wanted to make it easier for people to read soldiers' accounts. So he started a Web site, Milblogging.com, to organize as many blogs as possible by country, military branch and subject matter. Today, the site links to more than 1,400 military blogs world-wide and was recently purchased for an undisclosed amount by Military.com, a Web site catering to soldiers that is owned by Monster Worldwide Inc.
Now, Mr. Borda finds himself at the center of a growing blogging movement. Military bloggers, or "milbloggers" as they call themselves, contend that they are uniquely qualified to comment on events in armed conflicts. Many milbloggers also argue that the mainstream media tends to overplay negative stories and play down positive military developments. For many of these blogs, says Mr. Borda, "the sole purpose is to counteract the media."
There have always been at least some soldiers who have wanted to go to battle against Big Media. Some in the military blamed coverage of the Vietnam War for turning American public opinion against it. What's changed? The Internet now allows frustrated soldiers and veterans to voice their opinions and be heard instantly and globally.
Blogger Matthew Burden is profiled.
Matthew Burden, an Army veteran, started his blog, "Blackfive," in December 2003 after he learned that an Army buddy, Maj. Mathew Schram, had been killed in an ambush near the Iraq-Syria border. Mr. Burden, 39, felt his friend received short shrift in media coverage and decided to blog about military stories he felt weren't getting the attention they deserved.
"Does Abu Ghraib need to be told 40 times above the fold in the New York Times when half your readers couldn't name the guy who won the Medal of Honor?" Mr. Burden says.
Michael Yon, a 42-year-old Army Special Forces veteran, is perhaps the most attention-grabbing blogger, with appearances on MSNBC and CNN. In December 2004, he embedded himself with troops in Iraq and posted dispatches online for the next several months.
The article compares milbloggers' internet traffic versus the MSM, which isn't exactly a fair comparison.
Military blogs receive a fraction of the hits generated by mainstream news Web sites. Mr. Burden's site, for example, receives about 210,000 unique visitors per month, he says. In comparison, Nielsen/Netratings data shows MSNBC.com got 24 million unique visitors last month.NewsBusters' Matthew Sheffield attended the first ever milblogging conference in Washington earlier this year.
But milbloggers, who only began online postings in earnest within the past three years, have become increasingly energized and organized in their efforts to counteract existing media coverage. In April, bloggers convened in Washington, D.C. for the first ever milblogging convention.
Naturally, the mainstream media thinks milbloggers' efforts are misguided.
The frustration of milbloggers is understandable, says Alex S. Jones, a former New York Times reporter who heads the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. But he adds, "If the overall picture is one of continued violence and a significant lack of stability in many parts of Iraq, the individual shards of good news could be more of a distortion than a reflection of the truth."