September 07, 2005

Great Explanation for Media Inaccuracy in Iraq

Michael Yon has some very valuable first hand explanations for the Mainstream Media's utter depravity and failure in Iraq.

Here in Iraq, where bullets are often the background noise, most news agencies get their daily facts spoon-fed straight from the military. The basic building block for just about any news item reported in mainstream press is something called a SIGACT.

SIGACTs are Significant Actions; anything that significantly affects friendly or enemy forces, from sandstorms to IEDs. SIGACTs originate at the smaller units and feed to higher units quickly; sometimes in seconds. If a soldier dies on a dusty street in Mosul, his HQ on FOB Marez might know within seconds, and soon his higher HQ, then various HQs in Baghdad will learn. People at Central Command in Tampa might get the news moments later, as will the Pentagon in Washington. Good or bad, information travels faster than bullets. In fact, SIGACTs travel faster than bullets every minute of the day.

Public Affairs Offices (PAO) are like news bureaus for the military, constantly taking SIGACTs and translating them into unclassified press bulletins called "media releases." Here in Mosul, I see the SIGACTs as they come in, or am with the soldiers on the ground where SIGACTs grow. But journalists settled in places like Tikrit or Baghdad rely on the PAO for printed media releases. Once in hand, the "news" can be broadcast or posted on the internet in minutes.

There are no PAO officers at Deuce-Four in Mosul. This is a combat unit. They have a gym, and a place to eat. Yet, a consequence of these media releases is that they allow the press to appear omnipresent on the battlefield, when in fact they usually stay close to the Green Zone in Baghdad. Reporters in places like Miami or Flagstaff also scan the stream of media releases on official military information websites. They can report "news just into our station" as if they had a live feed. Satellite communication has made this speed and sleight of hand possible.

Sometimes service members die and the news is reported around the world before his or her buddies on base find out. I've seen news of car bombs being reported before the mushroom cloud drifted away. Many journalists carry satellite equipment allowing live video and nearly instantaneous photo up-links, transmissions which can also include grid coordinates to the location of the camera.

Maybe the next time when a reporter spews some stupid crap about how he is covering both sides of the news, I should remind him that regurgitating military press releases isn't both sides of the news.

Especially when they don't know 1/5th of what the heck the releases mean given their total incompetency in even military public relations terms.


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