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July 27 2010


Another wartime disconnect

We're in the midst of another wartime disconnect, though it's different this time around.

During the Vietnam War, the disconnect was between the government and its citizens. With the publishing of the Pentagon Papers, the press solidified a long-suspected belief that the government, through its spokespersons and the military, was misleading the public about the prosecution of the war.

Because they were published in 1973, the Pentagon Papers were late to the game, so to speak, to affect public opinion about the war. Yet they helped turn Americans away from their government: Americans knew their government had failed them, and since then, but for times of extreme crisis, Americans haven't trusted their government to make best-interest decisions.

Today there is another disconnect, highlighted by Wikileaks' publication of tens of thousands of documents purporting to show that the war in Afghanistan is going much worse and with much more innocent bloodshed than the government has admitted. Wikileaks frames this documentation similar to that of the Pentagon Papers, claiming that there's dissonance in what the government is saying and what the public now knows.

But there's not.

The disconnect, instead, is entirely within the public. The unsavory work of special forces, the unnecessary death of civilians, the unpalatable role of Pakistan in propping up the Taliban: all of these were already well documented. The public, however, simply didn't know or didn't care. The disconnect is between hearing facts and then feeling compelled to act on them.

Thus opens a space for Wikileaks and those like 2010 Knight News Challenge winner Teru Kuwayama, a photojournalist trying to break through the shield of indifference by embedding himself with Marines in Afghanistan to tell stories that Americans will--must--pay attention to. As he told journalism.co.uk yesterday:

We've been in Afghanistan for a decade now, and yet the vast majority of Americans have a very limited sense of what we're doing there. That means we [the media] haven't been doing a very good job. We're now in a situation where our press is in serious decline, at a moment when our nation is escalating a war with tremendous costs. That means the public gets even more disconnected from its military, at a time when it should be the most concerned. I can't tell people what to think about this war, but I believe very strongly that they should be thinking about it.

What the Wikileaks episode illustrates isn't that the American government is lying. Rather, it's that we're bad at hearing and processing the truth. We need more compelling methods of journalistic storytelling--whether Wikileaks' data-and-p.r.-intense version or Kuwayama's intimate photojournalism--in order to engage the public, even or especially when engagement is actually enlistment of the public to do more work for itself.

[Edited to include a correction from David Chandler on the extent to which (even less than I'd originally argued) American opinion on the Vietnam War was affected by the Pentagon Papers.]

July 26 2010


Data, diffusion, impact: Five big questions the Wikileaks story raises about the future of journalism

Whenever big news breaks that’s both (a) exciting and (b) relevant to the stuff I research, I put myself through a little mental exercise. I pretend I have an army of invisible Ph.D. students at my beck-and-call and ask them to research the three most important “future of news” items that I think emerge out of the breaking news. That way, I figure out for myself what’s really important amidst all the chaos.

The Wikileaks-Afghanistan story is big. It’s big for the country, it’s big for NATO soldiers and Afghan civilians, and (probably least importantly) it’s big for journalism. And a ton of really smart commentary has been written about it already. So all I want to do here is chime in on what I’d be focusing on if I wanted to understand the Wikileaks story in a way that will still be relevant one year, five years, even twenty years from now. I want to briefly mention three quick assignments I’d give my hypothetical Ph.D. students, and two assignments I’d keep for myself.

Watch the news diffuse: The release of the Wikileaks stories yesterday was a classic case study of the new ecosystem of news diffusion. More complex than the usual stereotype of “journalists report, bloggers opine,” in the case the Wikileaks story we got to see a far more nuanced (and, I would say, far more real) series of news decisions unfold: from new fact-gatherers, to news organizations in a different position in the informational chain, all the way to the Twittersphere in which conversation about the story was occurring in real-time, back to the bloggers, the opinion makers, the partisans, the politicians, and the hacks. This is how news works in 2010; let’s try to map it.

What’s the frame?: This one’s simple, but interesting because of that simplicity. With the simultaneous release of the same news story by three different media organization, all in different countries (The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel), all coming out the the same set of 92,000 documents, we’ve got almost a lab-quality case study here of how different national news organizations talk about the news differently. Why did The Guardian headline civilian casualties while the Times chose to talk about the U.S. relationship with Pakistan? And what do these differences in framing say about how the rest of the world sees the U.S. military adventure in Afghanistan?

What’s the impact?: Will the “War Logs” release have the same impact that the Pentagon Papers did, either in the short of long term? And why will the stories have the impact they do? Like Jay Rosen, I’m sadly skeptical that this huge story will change the course of the war in the way the Ellsberg leaks did. And like Rosen, I think a lot of the reasons lie beyond journalism — they lie in the nature of politics and the way society and the political elite process huge challenges to our assumed, stable world views.

I might make one addition to Jay’s list about the impact of this story though — one that has to do with the speed of the news cycle. Like I noted already, there’s nothing more exciting than watching these sorts of stories unfold in real time. But I wonder if the “meme-like” nature of their distribution — and the fact that there will always be another meme, another bombshell — blunts there impact. You don’t have to be Nicholas Carr to get the feeling that we’re living in a short-attention span, media-saturated society; I wonder what it would take for a story like the “War Logs” bombshell to stick around in the public mind long enough for it to mean something.

So those are stories I’d give my grad students. Here are the topics I’d be keeping for myself:

Why Wikileaks?: I talked about this a bit over in my column today at NPR, so I’ll just summarize my main points from there. Looking rationally at the architecture of the news ecosystem, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that Wikileaks would have been tapped to serve as the intermediary for this story. After all, they just turned around and fed it to three big, traditional, national newspapers. There is, of course, Wikileaks’ technical expertise; what Josh Young called their “focus lower in the journalism stack…on the logistics of anonymity.” But I think there’s more to it than that. I think to understand “why Wikileaks,” you have to think in terms of organizational culture as well as network architecture and technical skills. In short, I think Wikileaks has an organizational affinity with folks who are most likely to be on the leaking end of the news in today’s increasingly wired societies. To understand the world of Wikileaks, and what it means for journalism, you have to understand the world of geeks, of hackers, and of techno-dissidents. Understanding reporting and reporters isn’t enough.

Journalism in the era of big data: Finally, it’s here where I’d start to draw the links between the “War Logs,” the Washington Post “Top Secret America” series, and even the New York Times front page story on the increasing conservatism of the Roberts Supreme Court. What do they all have in common? Databases, big data, an attempt to get at “the whole picture” — and maybe even a slight sense of letdown. The Washington Post story took years to write and came with a giant database. The Afghanistan story was based on 92,000 documents, many of which might have been largely inaccurate. And the Roberts story unapologetically quoted “an analysis of four sets of political science data.”

We’re seeing here the full-throated emergence of what a lot of smart people have been talking about for years now: data-driven journalism, but data in the service of somehow getting to the “big picture” about what’s really going on in the world. And this attempt to get at the big picture carries with it the risk of a slight letdown, not because of journalism, but because of us. As Ryan Sholin noted on Twitter, “Much like the massive WaPo story on secrecy, I don’t see much new [in the Wikileaks story], other than the sheer weight of failure.”

Part of what we’ve been trained, as a society, to expect out of the Big Deal Journalistic Story is something “new,” something we didn’t know before. Nixon was a crook! Osama Bin Laden was found by the CIA and then allowed to escape! But in these recent stories, its not the presence of something new, but the ability to tease a pattern out of a lot of little things we already know that’s the big deal. It’s not the newsness of failure; as Sholin might put it, it’s the weight of failure. It remains to be seen how this new focus on “the pattern” will change our political culture, our news culture, and the expectations we have of journalism. And it will be interesting to see what the focus on data leaves out. This week, however, big-data journalism proved its mettle.

Sponsored post

White House seeks to advise reporters over Wikileaks Afghanistan release

Last night Wikileaks, the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel simultaneously published more than 90,000 classified military documents relating to the war in Afghanistan. Read our report on the publication at this link.

The New York Times has published a statement sent to reporters by the White House entitled “Thoughts on Wikileaks”. The statement advises journalists of some things to bare in mind when reporting on the leak, and offers help “to put these documents in context”.

4) As you report on this issue, it’s worth noting that wikileaks is not an objective news outlet but rather an organization that opposes US policy in Afghanistan.

The email quotes from the Guardian’s report, looking to stress the unreliability of the Wikileaks and the information they have released.

From the Guardian:

But for all their eye-popping details, the intelligence files, which are mostly collated by junior officers relying on informants and Afghan officials, fail to provide a convincing smoking gun for ISI complicity. Most of the reports are vague, filled with incongruent detail, or crudely fabricated.


If anything, the jumble of allegations highlights the perils of collecting accurate intelligence in a complex arena where all sides have an interest in distorting the truth.

The Times has explained its reasons for publishing the classified files in “a note to readers” entitled “Piecing together the reports and deciding what to publish“.

Full story at this link… (see entry at 6:46pm)Similar Posts:

June 28 2010




Yesterday’s New York Times front page story was a “tour de force” and a reminder of how it pays to invest in real reporting.

While the Afghanistan war coverage normally gets hidden by the usual “big news” of the day (England exits the Soccer World Cup, the last Lady Gaga silly provocation or the G20 staged event where thousands of recording-journalists play the sources game), James Dao, The New York Times national correspondent starts his dramatic “A Year at War” chronicles.

A one year coverage that starts now but will continue on print and on line.

With pictures and videos that you will not forget.


Welcome to the real world.

Welcome to real journalism.

That’s The New York Times as its best.

Investing in new narratives in a very moving way.

Just read the comments and you will realize how powerful is the story.

Or the “reader submitted” pieces, like this one.

Kudos to the multimedia team that includes the reporting skills of James Dao; the photography and videography of Damon Winter and Rob Harris; the production of Gabriel Dance, Nancy Donaldson, Catrin Einhorn, Andrew Kueneman and Meaghan Looram.

And this is not enough for you, just read Frank Rich’s fabulous “The 36 Hours That Shook Washington” column with a devastating indictment to the Washington press corp.

This Sunday edition was, believe me, a “collector’s issue” or a textbook about the journalism of the future.

Not about gadgets, technology, magic tricks, branding, and other disturbing distractions.

June 14 2010


Former Times and Sunday Times journalist in documentary debut at Edinburgh Film Festival

Former Afghanistan correspondent at the Times and Sunday Times Tim Albone will make his film debut this week with ‘Out of the Ashes’, his documentary detailing the rise of the Afghanistan cricket team.

Directed by Albone and Lucy Martens, with Sam Mendes as executive producer, the blurb reads:

In just a few years, the Afghan cricket team has risen from obscurity in the sport’s lowest ranks to phenomenal success in the highly competitive international arena. This is the remarkable and inspirational story of coach Taj Malik Aleem and his team, who became the sport’s unlikeliest heroes during a triumphant campaign culminating in the crucial World Cup qualifier in South Africa. In a country more often associated with war and rigged elections, their incredible journey is an absolute joy to behold.

Albone was based in Kabul between 2005 and the end of 2007. He has also reported from Iraq, India, Pakistan, Yemen, Ethiopia and Cuba and has worked for Sky News, NPR, the Globe and Mail and the Scotsman.

The film will be shown on 17 June and 19 June as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF).

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April 16 2010




Like the Mexican pandemic flu, the volcano ashes from Iceland are becoming a nightmare.

So the Mandarins are canceling all the flights in the UK and many other European countries.

Who’s in charge in this mess?

Nobody except the Mandarins!

Look below at the last map released by the British Met Office.

As you can see, no ashes over the UK.

So why the airplanes cannot fly?


Why Jeff Jarvis was able to fly today from Munich?

Why between 100 and 120 airplanes crossed today the Atlantic and landed in Europe?

And more dramatic, in the Civil Aviation Forum, one reader says:

“The previous eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, whose ash cloud has shut down airspace over Britain, lasted for more than a year, according to an expert.”

The chaos is affecting to everybody:

The German secretary of defence was today on his way back from Afghanistan with five seriously wounded German soldiers on board (four others were killed) and it is not known where the Airbus A310 was be able to land in Germany with those medical emergencies who need urgent treatment.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be diverted to Lisbon on her return from the US today – and be stranded there until tomorrow afternoon as the crew will be out hours.

What about Obama going tomorrow Saturday to the funeral in  Poland?

April 02 2010


Ted Rall is going to Afghanistan, with the help of Kickstarter, 200 supporters, and 101% funding

Ted Rall is going back to Afghanistan.

In January, the cartoonist, reporter, essayist, radio broadcaster, book author, polemicist, graphic novelist, mischief-maker, and Pulitzer finalist posted a project proposal on Kickstarter, the community-funding site, in its journalism section: “Comix Journalism: Send Ted Rall Back to Afghanistan to Get the Real Story.”

Rall had been to Afghanistan before (a trip that resulted in, among other things, a graphic travelogue); he wanted to return, he wrote in the project’s pitch, “to see what has changed and how life is going for Afghans, especially those in the remote provinces in the southwest where Western reporters never venture.”

Or, as Rall put it to Andy Baio, Kickstarter’s CTO, in a February podcast: “This is about filling in a lot of gaps.”

The project started with funding momentum, then ebbed a bit — as of Monday, several weeks after its funding effort launched and one week before its April 5 funding deadline, the project had received $15,000 of its $25,000 goal — toward the end of this week, picked up speed. (“Like cartoonists, civilians love a deadline!” Rall told me.) As of yesterday afternoon, the project had received $21,660 from 179 different backers — with 52 people pledging between $50 and $100, 42 pledging $100-$500, 8 pledging between $500 and $1,000…and one generous soul pledging an amount in the $5,000-$10,000 range.

Yesterday afternoon, Rall sent an e-mail to his network:

Issue Number 4 – April 2010
Ted Rall Newsletter


Here’s the latest on my attempt to raise travel expenses for a return trip to Afghanistan.

Needed: $25,000
Raised: $21,600 from 178 backers
Shortfall: $3,400
Days To Go: 3

To pledge support for my trip, please click:


I will only receive the funds, and your credit card will only be charged, if I raise the whole amount of $25,000. Bear in mind; I will contribute some $10,000-$15,000 from my personal money in addition to the $25,000 to make this trip possible.

This is down to the wire, and could go either way. I’d say the odds are 50-50 of pulling this off.

The down-to-the-wire element seems to have worked in Rall’s favor: By this morning, the project had met its goal. Over 200 backers have donated $25,175 to pay for Rall’s reporting trip.

“Good luck Ted, I was really happy to see you undertaking this kind of thing, happy to pitch in on it,” one supporter (delightful handle: “lunchbreath”) wrote in after making a pledge. “i supported you for a hundred dollars i barely had because i believe so much in what you’re doing,” another put it. “thank you for having the guts to explore the dark terrain.”

I spoke with Rall before “Comix Journalism” was fully funded — when Rall was still “on pins and needles” about the pitch’s outcome — about the project, the journalism he hopes to produce with it, and his thoughts on crowdfunding. The conversation’s transcript is below; I’ve edited it for length.

What was the $25,000 number based on — your previous trip to Afghanistan?

Ted Rall: Yeah. And believe it or not, that’s a low-ball. It’s kind of funny how people have responded to that. Most people get it, because they’ve heard how much war correspondency costs. But some people are like, ‘What, were are you staying, four-star hotels or something?’ Far from it, trust me. I’m not going anyplace where there is a hotel — of any sort. I thought it would be easier to raise less money, so I put it as low as I could and still do it.

What you’re paying for mostly is passage through territories. Because Afghanistan’s not a contiguous nation-state — ironically, as it was under the Taliban — now, you have to pay warlords and sub-warlords and local commanders past checkpoints, one after the other. And everything you buy costs you a lot of money. When I was there, eggs were going for five bucks each. If you want to hire a truck to take you over the mountains for a day, that’s maybe a thousand bucks. So I’m going to put up at least $10,000 or $15,000 of my own money on top of the $25,000, assuming I get the $25,000. The $25,000 won’t cover everything.

I got laid off by United Features Syndicate, as an editor, last year. This is the kind of thing that I might have funded myself before that happened. The thing is, I also have a book offer — if I do this — from Farrar, Strauss. But the problem is, they don’t shell out the money quickly enough: Taxes and your agent take half, if you live in New York, then it takes months to get the check, and you only get the first half — so it’s not enough.

The main thing is to just go and see what happens. One thing that’s frustrating about war corresponsdency is editors always want to know what you’re going to do, and what you’re going to see, and what stores you’re going to bring back. And the truth is, you just don’t know. Things are going to happen while you’re there, right before you’re there, and you’re just going to have to chase the leads as they happen. Still, I like to have a plan, even if it’s a plan that I deviate from.

What will that plan entail?

So there are basically three goals here. One is to go back to northeastern Afghanistan, near the Tajik and Uzbek borders, where I was in the fall of 2001. There’s a town there that’s sometimes in the control of the Taliban, and sometimes of the central government. I’m going there to meet my old fixer and his family, to see how they’re doing. I want to bring them some stuff, some money. I want to just talk to them about how the last nine years have been. They’re a Tajik family, and the Tajiks were very oppressed by the Taliban, so they were very happy to see them go — and I want to see how they’re doing, and how the town looks, and how things have changed both for better and for worse since then.

There’s also the oil pipeline story, which I think is one of the most underreported stories. There’s an oil and gas pipeline that’s being built, right now, north of Herat. And as far as I know, nobody has gone there to talk to the workers, take photos and see the people who are building it — and the people who are trying to blow it up.

Why do you think that is?

Mostly I think it’s the big problem of there just not being very many foreign correspondents anymore — that’s probably 95 percent of it. And then of the people who are there, there’s this weird obsession with US military operations. It’s easier to pitch front-line coverage. I could get funding to go do that. I could go as an embedded reporter for that. Things that blow up are exciting. People like uniforms and bombs. It is exciting, and I’ve done that, but the truth is, it’s not really the big story in Afghanistan anymore. And it kind of never was, and it kind of never will be. This is a guerilla war like Vietnam. It doesn’t have a front line. The enemy just lives all around you.

And as far as the pipeline goes, it’s an interesting story, because it was dismissed by the right as basically a paranoid conspiracy on the left — kind of the equivalent of the 9/11 truthers. And so the argument was, ‘This doesn’t exist.’ And, you know, it does exist. So just to be able to go and show that is an interesting story.

So that’s part two. And then part three of the plan is to go to parts of the country that no one ever goes to, just because no one ever goes there. Reporters spend a lot of time wherever military operations are happening — so, these days, in Helmand Province, and since the beginning of the war, in the east along the border with Pakistan. But they really don’t spend any time in a lot of the country. So I’m going to go spend a lot of time on the border with Iran, north of Helmand, south of Herat. It’s an interesting part of the country because it’s so remote that in many ways it hasn’t really been affected by the American occupation. So it’ll be interesting to see how we’re viewed, and how life has changed — or not — since then.

Do you have any ideas about what you’ll find?

Absolutely none. Except that it’s not going to be a very pleasant place to stay. It’s going to be brutally hot — it’ll be August or September, and it’ll be 120, 130 degrees in the shade. And it’s going to be dusty, and dirt-poor — by Afghan standards — so it’s just going to be a miserable place to live for a few weeks. But those people live there all the time, so I can put up with it for a few weeks.

Finances aside (to the extent we can put them aside): Why Kickstarter? Are there other benefits to a self-financed trip, as opposed to a news-outlet-financed one?

I’m really, militantly, opposed to embedded journalism. I think it’s actually really irresponsible for anybody to participate in that program. It endangers all reporters. No one should do it. Imagine if your country were occupied, and you saw European reporters riding around on trucks with occupation troops — and they’re not talking to you, there’s only talking to those soldiers — and they’re going to their press conferences, and you see their reporters on TV, and they’re completely skewed toward the occupiers. You would say, ‘These people are part of the occupation forces.’ And that’s exactly what we’re doing there.

So even people who think they can remain independent — they can’t. When you’re riding around with people, and you’re being shot at, and your life depends on them shooting back successfully, there’s no way you can remain objective.

So the pitch here is: Whether you love me or hate me, I go in with my own mind, and I’m not beholden to anyone. Except the fine supporters of Kickstarter.

March 23 2010


From the frontline: how ‘true’ is the media’s picture of Afghanistan?

Journalists gathered to discuss the British media’s coverage of the war in Afghanistan at last week’s video conference at Coventry University.

The ‘Afghanistan – are we embedding the truth?’ event, chaired by the editor of the BBC College of Journalism, Kevin Marsh, brought journalists such as Vaughan Smith and Stuart Ramsay together with academics Richard Keeble and Tim Luckhurst, and the Ministry of Defence’s head of Operational Communication, Brigadier Mark van der Lande.

Vaughan Smith offered what was perhaps the most troubling thought: “Sports journalist knows more about sports than war correspondents know about war, and that is a cultural problem”.

Vaughan, a news pioneer and independent video journalist who has in the past managed to disguise and bluff his way into an active duty unit to shoot uncontrolled footage of the Gulf war, also held up two photographs as part of his speech; one of Hiroshima’s mushroom cloud, and another of an injured civilian in Nagasaki.

He used these photographs as evidence to explain that you never see enough of the second type, showing the injured and other devastating side effects. Instead, the audience is shown ‘Bang Bang’ images; “a fundamental problem,” he said.

Jonathan Marcus, BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, had a mixed response to the event’s theme: “I think it’s a pointless question, we are embedding some truth, and the truth is very complex. War through a keyhole is what war correspondents are giving you.”

Nonetheless, he doesn’t think that embedding is bad practice, when taken as a whole: “If you put all these keyholes together, you start to form a bigger picture and understand what is going on.”

“However, it is a problem that paradoxically, with advances in technology and globalisation, we can do a lot more. Yet, we are reporting less than we used to,” he said.

Brigadier Mark van der Lande argued that they don’t instantly show casualty because they have a duty to inform next of kin first. “We are not hiding things for the cost of war; we are looking out for individuals,” he said.

It is difficult for the MoD, he said, because the ‘Bang Bang’ is what the audience and the media in general is interested in.  Most of the time the more important things that the military look into aren’t released simply because “it is of less interest to the media and the audience,” he argued.

The media do, to a certain extent, manufacture stories, agreed Tim Luckhurst, a Professor of Journalism at the University of Kent, but it is not because of dishonesty, it’s because “we simply cannot stay away from the impact kinetic stories get; embedded journalism serves the needs of the state.

“We do not see humanitarianism or suffering children because it bears no relevance to the needs of the states.”

“Views of the military and government do not comply with journalists’ views, and today’s conference has revealed the extent of that fact.”

Robert Williams is a student at Coventry University.

Read more here, over at Daniel Bennett’s blog, including detail of the video contribution from Channel 4 News’ Alex Thomson.

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March 22 2010


Non per coerenza, ma per necessità

Silvio Berlusconi si esprime ancora sulla vicenda delle liste elettorali nel Lazio:
Abbiamo mandato a combattere e morire per garantire il voto in Afghanistan e ci vietano di votare a Roma. Per coerenza dovremmo richiamare i nostri soldati.
Mi corre l'obbligo di ricordare che abbiamo mandato i nostri militari in Afghanistan per garantire che le procedure di voto si svolgessero in modo regolare, cioè per impedire che in quel paese accadesse ciò che in Italia qualcuno sta ostinatamente cercando di fare da tre settimane: far prevalere la prepotenza sulla legge e violare arbitrariamente le regole.
Il che, paradossalmente, mi conduce ad essere d'accordo con Berlusconi: forse dovremmo davvero richiamarli, i nostri soldati.
Non per coerenza, ma perché ci sarebbe un gran bisogno bisogno del loro aiuto anche qua.

March 18 2010


#afghancov event – Afghanistan: are we embedding the truth?

Follow coverage of Coventry University’s event ‘Afghanistan – are we embedding the truth’ in the liveblog below from 1pm – 4pm.

The discussion will examine coverage of Afghanistan in the news and wider media with correspondents in Kabul. There’s more details at this link of the line-up, which includes Channel 4’s Alex Thomson and Kevin Marsh from the BBC College of Journalism.

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March 16 2010


Channel 4 News: Embedded journalist in Helmand province

Channel 4 News correspondent Alex Thomson was embedded with the Coldstream guards in Afghanistan, while they came under heavy fire from insurgents.

His film from last night’s news programme:

Yesterday Channel 4 news wrote in its evening email, Snowmail:

[The film] reveals the state of relations between the Brits and the rather hapless Afghan army – who spend much of their time shooting in the wrong direction – or arresting, then releasing a local man who may, or may not have done anything wrong.

Suddenly the troops come under heavy fire as the insurgents start shooting straight at them. Our team are pinned down with the soldiers as bullets fly overhead – even into one soldier’s head, whose helmet luckily saves him. Not much ground is won at the end of it all – but it’s a remarkable watch.

Alex Thomson was tweeting throughout his visit, via http://twitter.com/alextomo. Tweets from the battlefield had a time delay because of operations security. An example from 12 March:

(Not live) RMP shot in helmet wakes up realising he has woken up . Alive. A shd let hm keep smashed up helmet. He’s back on roof sentry.

Thomson is due to participate in this week’s video conference in Coventry: Afghanistan – are we embedding the truth? The event is due to be livestreamed on this site and the BBC College of Journalism. The Twitter tag will be #afghancov.

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March 15 2010


Afghanistan: are we embedding the truth?

Alex Thomson (Channel 4), Stuart Ramsey (Sky News) and Jonathan Marcus (BBC) have all been confirmed as speakers for this week’s conference on journalism from Afghanistan.

As previously reported on Journalism.co.uk, along with the BBC College of Journalism, we are supporting the afternoon event at Coventry University next Thursday (18 March), which asks: “Afghanistan: are we embedding the truth?”

Conference organiser John Mair said he is “delighted to be co-operating with the BBC College of Journalism – the new kid on the J block in Britain”.

“The time is long overdue to closely examine and debate the British media coverage of the Afghan war – this is the forum. Come along or follow the webcast live.”

Journalism.co.uk will livestream video and tweets from the conference from our site. For followers on Twitter, the tag will be #afghancov.

The conference will take place on Thursday 18, at 1pm – 4pm in the Humber Theatre, Coventry University.

The line-up in full, below:

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January 11 2010


Mirror.co.uk: Tribute to Sunday Mirror correspondent killed in Afghanistan

The Sunday Mirror’s defence correspondent Rupert Hamer, who had worked for the title for 12 years, was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan on Saturday 9 January.

Photographer Phil Coburn, 43, who was working with Hamer, was also injured in the attack and is in a “serious but stable condition,” the Mirror reported.

Follow this link for the paper’s tribute to Hamer’s work over the years.

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January 10 2010




Sunday Mirror’s Rupert Hamer, 39, is the first British journalist to have died in Afghanistan.

He died of his injuries while on patrol with US Marines northwest of the town of Nawa in southern Afghanistan.

Another War Heroe.

January 03 2010




Sunday magazines are dying.

But the Sunday Times Magazine is alive.

The secret?

Strong and unique news stories.

Great journalism.


I just read this fantastic cover story in today’s edition.

What a great story!

The Sunday Times, to gain a better sense of the parallels between the Soviet and allied campaigns in Afghanistan, and consider what lessons can be drawn from the past, flew Brigadier Ed Butler to Moscow to exchange views and compare notes with Lieutenant-General Ruslan Aushev.

Butler was the former commander of 22 SAS and 16 Air Assault Brigade in Helmand, a soldier for 24 years, mostly with the SAS, that served in Afghanistan in 2001, 2002 and 2006. He now heads an international company trying to attract investment into impoverished regions.

Aushev, awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, the former communist state’s highest military award, for his service in Afghanistan, Aushev, 55, spent four years and eight months in the country. He was seriously wounded, rose to regiment commander and is one of the war’s most respected veterans.

The conversation between these two war warriors is a fascinating lecture.

With great moments like this one:

“Karzai and his government should take responsibility for the country. The president should be given a strict ultimatum. He should state his aspirations for Afghanistan and plan for achieving them. The West should assist him, but remove him unless he has made progress within a certain time frame. Replacing his US bodyguards with Afghans would stir Karzai into action, added the Soviet general mischievously.”

So compelling that, a reader, Peter Armstrong, wrote this comment:

“This article should be read by all western leaders.”

This kind of first class journalism shows how you can make the difference when you invest in meaningful content.

Content matters.

Content, real content, great content.

And not bullshit!

(Picture by Dmitry Belyakov/Sunday Times Magazine)

December 17 2009


December 04 2009




I agree 100 per cent with Der Spiegel’s Gabor Steingart.

The first (terrific) paragraphs:

“Never before has a speech by President Barack Obama felt as false as his Tuesday address announcing America’s new strategy for Afghanistan. It seemed like a campaign speech combined with Bush rhetoric — and left both dreamers and realists feeling distraught.

One can hardly blame the West Point leadership. The academy commanders did their best to ensure that Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama’s speech would be well-received.

Just minutes before the president took the stage inside Eisenhower Hall, the gathered cadets were asked to respond “enthusiastically” to the speech. But it didn’t help: The soldiers’ reception was cool.

One didn’t have to be a cadet on Tuesday to feel a bit of nausea upon hearing Obama’s speech. It was the least truthful address that he has ever held. He spoke of responsibility, but almost every sentence smelled of party tactics. He demanded sacrifice, but he was unable to say what it was for exactly.

An additional 30,000 US soldiers are to march into Afghanistan — and then they will march right back out again. America is going to war — and from there it will continue ahead to peace. It was the speech of a Nobel War Prize laureate.”

Gabor Steingart, 46, is the senior correspondent of Der Spiegel in Washington DC.

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