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Citizen-Soldier Journalists

Chris Eder, a combat correspondent with the U.S. Air Force, has been pondering citizen media and its application to the military. In “Broadcast This: Leveraging Citizen Journalism in the Air Force,” he dives deep into the topic. (Note: I spent some time with him on the phone and in an email exchange as he was developing his ideas.)

You may or may not agree with his political/policy/etc. views. But what he has to say — not just to his military colleagues but civilians, too — is well worth the investment of your time.

4 Comments on “Citizen-Soldier Journalists”

  1. #1 Seth Finkelstein
    on Apr 7th, 2007 at 1:04 pm


    [Rest of my comment skipped because it’s just not worth it 🙁 🙁 :-(]

  2. #2 Jon Garfunkel
    on Apr 8th, 2007 at 8:36 am

    Dan– interesting. I did a lot of research on the milblogs last year (something else still-to-be-published on Civilities.

    My essential conclusion of my piece is essentially Eder’s last comment:
    “Bottom line, unlike citizen journalism, we’re held accountable. A Public Affairs Officer must review your story for policy and security before it can be posted on your wing’s public website.”

    No kidding. If the we-media revolution is bringing about a paradigm of a world without publisher-gatekeepers, then military-citizen-journalism still doesn’t apply.

    Example: In the battle of Mosul in 2003, Culby Buzzell, an Army specialist machine gunner, ended up making a series of sensational first-person accounts on his blog later, trying to describe the brave actions of his fellow soldiers. But it was the PA Officer who told the AP about the battle that the Iraqi forces had fought valiantly, with backup from the Coalition forces. It’s this sort of misinformation-as-policy by the Pentagon which has mired us for years there. (Buzzell’s blog was thereafter closed down).

    “Today’s civilian news media is all about generating revenue.”

    The problem with this sentence are the words “today’s” “civilian” and “all about.” If you or Jeff have made the argument that the central formula of news has changed, than your readers have been misled. The news has *always* been about writing about unexpected events which would sell more newspapers.

    When someone or some entity (such as the US Air Force) does their job, IT’S NOT NEWS. The pilots of civilian aircraft in the United States did their jobs last week– not a single crash or fatality, and most important for me, not on the two jets I flew on. The crew in Columbus de-icing my plane Friday night? God bless ’em.

  3. #3 Chris Eder
    on Apr 9th, 2007 at 3:30 am


    Shame on the PA who pulled the story. I say as long as there is no classified information…publish it, post it, tell it. Also, I don’t see the difference between ‘generating revenue’ and ‘selling more newspapers.’ I’d also suggest we’re no longer in the business to to tell the news because of $$$. We’re now in the business to entertain. Especially on TV. Look at Fox’s “Fox and Friends,” and my favorite, “Keith Olberman’s Countdown.”

  4. #4 Jon Garfunkel
    on Apr 9th, 2007 at 4:03 pm


    Sorry, I mistyped. The name is Colby Buzzell. Look up his story, and his book My War: Killing Time in Iraq. It wasn’t like the PA pulled his story. And the battle was 2004, not 2003.

    Anthony Swofford reviewed Buzzell’s book amidst other Iraq war books in the Columbia Journalism Review

    “These scenes bring combat and valor and extreme fear and violence to life, especially when Buzzell offers the military’s dry version of the same events. And here he is most insightful and tentatively has his finger on a hugely damaging trigger, but he fails to totally unload his magazine the way he would on a street full of insurgents: the military is creating a fiction surrounding the readiness and participation of Iraqi forces. In the military’s version the Iraqi forces lead all the fighting, but in the far more believable version offered by Buzzell, the Iraqi forces are working sweep-up when they happen to be around. The dismal level of Iraqi force readiness is one of the biggest failures of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the continuing American military occupation of Iraq.”