Wednesday, May 09, 2007

My take on the Milblog Conference

The 2007 Milblog Conference brought everyone together, the support team of spouses, family and Angels, and the official DOD people with Secretary of Defense’s Office of Public Affairs New Media Directorate, Pentagon Channel and other military type public relation people. CNN, Fox News, Time, Washington Post, Wired Magazine and the Weekly Standard represented Mainstream media. After the opening address from the President himself stating his support of the milblogging community I learned that there folks from the White House present and interested in what we had to say. There were regular bloggers along with people who were just fans of someone in the room, there and the military pundits, some of who are ex-military and others that just write about the military. And of course there was us active duty military bloggers who have actually served in Iraq or Afghanistan at one point or another, some identified with their real name others just going by their handle. Even though a majority of the room was conservative, there were some liberals added to the mix and from the ones I talked to, they had a great time.

Each day as technology changes, new mediums arise for a person to tell his or her story. With common access to the WWW, more and more voices have the ability to add their tale to the great global web. The story that milbloggers tell is a tiny one compared to the millions of blogs out there but look at how much affect the military has on the world?

We take up a huge percentage of our countries GNP and yet, the only thing the average civilian sees of us is provided by the news which lately is filled with some scandal or deaths. I’m not bashing the MSM, they have a story to sell and in the like the title of Megadeth’s album “Peace sells, but Who’s Buying”, they have a mindset of not being able to sell the peace. So where does Joe Public turn for a glimpse of the rest of the story? It’s the milblogger who is writing about the pauses and the card games and how the dust gets into everything. We’re selling those moments between the glam of shock and awe, scandals and dead people for the amazing price of nothing. We’re regular guys, don’t get sponsors for what we write nor does the military tell us what to write, we write because we like to, we like the connection it gives us to the people back home.

We heard from the spouses what milblogs meant to them, how it give them something to hold onto when their significant other was deployed on most days, we were the only stories coming from the front. From the support sites like Soldier’s Angels, Books for Soldiers and other support groups, they were able to get an instant grasp on how they could focus their efforts and see instant results. To the regular civilian, milblogs let them have a personal connection to someone on the ground, raw and unfiltered by editors.

Other repeating topics, the rift between the MSM and the milblogging community was brought up numerous times. From the milbloggers, the embeds and the MSM talked about how Marine PAO’s were cool and the Army PAO’s were very not (of course I knew that). How much help Valour-IT as been to the people who had lost use of their hands, Chuck Z tells of how he was helpless in the hospital and had once asked a Soldier’s Angel to pick his nose (and told a couple hundred people about it). He’s a technophile like me, feels more naked with out his laptop then without his pants suddenly both were gone. Then Valour-IT swept in and provided him with a voice activated laptop and suddenly he wasn’t a helpless gimp in the bed and had joined the human race again.

All of the strands that connected our little corner of cyberspace came together on May 5th from the top of the White House to down to the enlisted grunt in the ground and I think we all left with a greater understanding of how important citizen journalism can be.

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