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February 10 2011

19:42

Basetrack in Limbo as Embeds Removed Due to Map Concerns

Over the weekend we learned that someone, somewhere, decided that Basetrack's journalists would have to go. So after we posted up the letter, we scratched our heads and wondered why. Actually, we're still wondering, especially since we received this note from the Marine Corps public affairs office in Afghanistan:

Teru,

Good chatting with you.  As discussed, we very much appreciate the Knight Foundation's efforts in highlighting the important work of our Marines and Sailors of First Battalion, Eighth Marines over the past six months in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  Your team has not been disembedded; media ground rules were not violated.  Instead, the unit made the decision to not entertain the next team of Basetrack.org members, since many of the Marines and Sailors were beginning turnover preparation for redeployment.  There had been concerns by a number of individuals on the use of online maps to portray service members' positions.  I understand that you deliberately off-set actual locations in order to safeguard force protection.  Additionally, First Battalion, Eight Marines' Executive Officer (Maj Ansel) verified each post to basetrack.org. 

This close partnership between the command's leadership and Knight Foundation members is important to note.  While most media embeds last only two weeks, this unit committed to assisting with this project in order to better connect the public to what their service members are doing each day in Afghanistan. 

I think the project was incredibly worthwhile and the relationships you forged with our Marines and Sailors impressive; I heard nothing but positive things from the unit. 

Please know that the unit is hoping you will attend their homecoming.  Also, we welcome you back to Regional Command Southwest and Helmand Province in the future. 
 
Regards,
Gabrielle M. Chapin
Major, U.S. Marine Corps
Director, Regional Command Southwest Public Affairs
First Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan

Not Sure of Next Steps

The public head-scratching continued on our Facebook page and through interviews with PRI's The World and elsewhere.

Some of the comments were touching:

To be honest not sure what y'all do..but I do know that my brother is in the Marines and we haven't seen him in a very long time...and I see my mother posting on here and even called me when you did a wonderful piece on him...since you make my mother smile and bring those happy tears to her eyes I thank you...We love you Nenish..come home safe to us and my prayers go out to the basetrack family and all those involved...

Some were heated, particularly when discussing Operational Security and legitimate safety concerns.

Some were just confused. The most interesting thing about the project is watching the audience -- a very small, but committed and diverse group of people -- grapple with the complexities and nuances of a very difficult subject, war, that is also incredibly personal. If you had told me a year ago that I would be discussing the The Hidden War: a Russian journalist's account of the Soviet War in Afghanistan with a group of civilians, who asked probing, complex questions about the policy in Afghanistan that puts most of the public debate I've seen on television or read in a newspaper or heard on the radio to shame, I wouldn't have believed you.

Yet now, here we are, planning the next stage. I wonder where it will go.

August 05 2010

16:17

Active-duty Marines ‘reverse embedded’ at CNN Money, Chicago Tribune

Writing on the Upshot, John Cook has an interesting investigation into “reverse embedding”, a practice “which permits active-duty service personnel to serve as interns in major media companies – sometimes in an editorial capacity”.

The practice is part of the military’s Training With Industry (TWI) programme, which allows military officers to leave the service for up to a year to work for private companies in a wide variety of sectors. But Cook’s article draws attention to the problem with placing officers in media positions, alleging that they may be “gleaning insights and intelligence into how media organisations operate, and perhaps helping to shape the way they cover the military”.

The TWI operation achieved some notoriety in 2000, when Dutch and French media reported that CNN had invited US Army psychological operations soldiers into its newsroom to serve as interns. Embarrassed at having hosted military disinformation specialists,  the network acknowledged that it was a mistake and said in a statement that “the intern program was terminated as soon as the leadership of CNN learned of it.”

Now, however, the program appears to have been reactivated – at CNN and elsewhere.

Full post at this link…

(via Fishbowl NY)Similar Posts:



June 21 2010

17:00

Knight News Challenge: How will Marines use new social media rules to tell the story of Afghanistan?

The U.S. Marine Corps lifted its ban on social media tools like Twitter and Facebook earlier this year. One Knight News Challenge Winner, Teru Kuwayama, wants to chronicle what that new policy means, and perhaps even change the way the U.S. receives and consumes news about war.

Kuwayama is a photojournalist who has spent the last nine years photographing Afghanistan as a freelance journalist. (He spent this last year at Stanford as a Knight Fellow.) His idea is an outgrowth of his experiences documenting the war and his frustration with the coverage that results from quick embed stints by professional journalists. The opportunity for Marines to use new tools to share information has the potential to give the public a better understanding of an important story. At the same time, he hopes to set up an infrastructure for reporters to connect better with the military, improving stories before they go out, and giving soldiers a chance at feedback.

I spoke with Kuwayama about his plans for the $202,000 grant. He says he departs for Afghanistan this September, joining the 1st Battalion, Eighth Marines (hence the name of his project, One-Eight) for the duration of their tour, which should last seven months, but could extend up to a year. He’ll rotate in other journalists during the project for shorter periods. He expects those reporters will also produce work for their own outlets. Kuwayama is still working out some questions around his project — like to what extent he’s documenting how the marines are using social media, versus fostering that use, or repackaging their content for the public.

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