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    Success of ‘going negative’ changes campaign strategies
    January 25th, 2008 under Blog Program, Military Programs, New Media

    By Holt, Charles, AFIS-HQ/IC  

    November 6, 2006 I was transferred to American Forces Information Service, Department of Defense Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Internal Communication, New Media Directorate. My tasking was to figure out what was the New Media environment and how to engage. I studied U.S. Central Command’s Blogging Best Practices
    published by Joint Forces Command as the Blogging Handbook and initiated contact with some of the bloggers listed there-in. Initially the discussion centered on how to get bloggers credentialed with the various public affairs and press offices and how to get bloggers embedded with troops downrange.
    Some of the bloggers had limited success on their own, but it wasn’t until U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Mark Fox decided to engage with bloggers did our discussions bear fruit. These initial engagements lead to the development of the Blogger’s Roundtable, the Blogger’s Roundtable website, and numerous bloggers embedded
    with U.S. troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    February 2, 2007 the Department of Defense conducted the first Blogger’s Roundtable with U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Fox from Baghdad, Iraq via telephone conference call. What began as a once a week conference call with bloggers whose interest is the U.S. military and DoD operations has grown into an average of once a day conference calls with a wider variety of subject matter experts but primarily still focusing on the Global War on Terror and SME’s and
    decision-makers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    During this time I have studied the New Media terrain and followed what has been happening in traditional media in response and reaction to developments in technology. What follows are my observations on the changing mediascape.

    What is “New Media’?

    In the beginning was the word; and the word was in print. Print was the only word that could be distributed widely and maintain its accuracy and intent. Word of mouth spread more quickly but was subject to individual interpretation and differences in background and experience altered nuances between sender and receiver. Printed word maintained some
    semblance of integrity and intent.

    New Media is primarily the impact of new technology on communication. For the past 100 to 150 years or so mass communication meant publishing on a grand scale. For businesses to grow in the expansion of our nation westward more people needed to be reached to let them know what products and services were available to them. With the completion of the trans-continental railroad, a major technological feat in its day, the ability to send bulk mail from businesses in the east to consumers in the west gave rise to the Montgomery Ward catalogue and others soon followed.

    The advent of electronic broadcasting brought new dynamics. Radio had an immediacy that newspapers lacked but newspapers had the dynamic of place-shifting. Technology soon leaped once more with the advent of television providing pictures along with the sound and radio found the technology needed to place-shift.

    These technologies drove our procedures, policies, rules, regulations, and laws which guided our public information efforts in the United States as we became more and more a world power. Our public information responsibilities grew as well but were limited by geographic, political, and technological boundaries. The development has meant changes in technologies
    drove changes in procedures which drove changes in policies which led to changes in rules and regulations which lead to changes in law.

    The decision to publish has always been the right of the publisher. In the past, publishers exercised that right for various reasons. In colonial America 16 year-old Benjamin Franklin penned letters to the editor of the New-England Courant under the name “Silence Dogood” knowing, it is speculated, that if he used his real name the editor, his brother, would never print them. Until the early 1980s publishers and producers put out public information for and about government organizations and operations as a public service that, for broadcasters anyway, was part of their licensing agreement. The FCC “Fairness Doctrine” required broadcasters to present  issues of public importance in an honest, equal and balanced manner.

    In 1987 the Fairness Doctrine was abolished by the FCC stating “the intrusion by government into the content of programming occasioned by the enforcement of the (Fairness Doctrine) restricts the journalistic freedom of broadcasters …” One of the unintended consequences, in my opinion, has been the neglect paid to the coverage of government activities
    and operations that do not rise to the level of a “story” in the mind of an editor.
    The Internet has democratized publishing and challenged our current concepts of mass communication giving rise to questions about how our current laws, regulations, rules, policies, and procedures affect our abilities to communicate with the public. The Web 2.0 technologies have given voice to citizen-journalists who are treading on the turf of traditional news organizations. How does a news organization with billions of dollars invested in infrastructure compete with a guy with cell phone camera and access to a computer who happens to be present at a newsworthy event? And a blogger only needs access to his public libraries computer to access his blog page and post a story. He needn’t even own a library card.
    Random Thoughts

    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the noosphere, where people congregate around thoughts, ideas, concepts free of artificial physical boundaries.
    Genesis the story of the Tower of Babel What is the U.S. military’s greatest weakness? National political will. Ho Chi Minh did not defeat the U.S. or the South Vietnamese militarily. He lost almost every battle on the field but he was successful in undermining the U.S. political will for the fight. In the end, it was the South Vietnamese that suffered when our Congress lacked the will to send emergency funds to the South to bolster their forces against the oncoming North Vietnamese Army. Ho Chi Minh successfully completed the insurgency to the conclusion he foresaw in the early 1950s and 60s.
    (T.X. Hammes The Sling and the Stone) What is the most powerful leadership tool? Listening. Listening satisfies people. When they feel they have had their say and were listened to, they are satisfied. They may not agree with
    you, but by listening you have satisfied their need for inclusion and given yourself a platform from which to lead. New Media tools allow us to engage with the general public in a manner that satisfies the “listening” requirement. The public has selected the bloggers by their links, or contact with them. We engage the bloggers with subject matter experts to discuss what has been happening on the ground; telling the soldiers stories. The bloggers are the third party intermediaries. They understand the complexities of the military operations, are able to relate that to the public, bring questions from their readers to the table and discuss the operations with those who are conducting it in a conversational manner.
    Television is not a technology; television is a sociology.

    The business models: I pay; you pay; someone else pays The content value: Pay; commercial; free
    What is the social value of the medium? Entertainment - Information - Education
    What is the corporate value of the medium? Influence - Pursuade - Reinforce - Decieve
    What is the commercial value of the medium? Target - Engage - Aggregate - Disperse
    So what is journalism today?
    What is journalism’s greatest responsibility?

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    The Dole Institute of Politics is a bipartisan facility. Our mission; to encourage political and civic involvement, especially among young people; to encourage civil discussion on important issues; to emphasize that politics is an honorable profession; and to provide opportunities for all to interact with political leaders, practitioners and writers.
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    A Summary of the 2006 Blogger-Reader Survey

    Fall 2006 Blogger/Reader Survey Details and Research Reports
    In December of 2006 Dr. Dhavan Shah of the University of Wisconsin and his “Blogclub” of graduate students and Dr. David D. Perlmutterof the University of Kansas conducted a survey of major political blogs and their readers. The project was partially sponsored by a grant from the Knight/Carnegie Foundation’s Future of Journalism initiative. The summary of the results are posted here--please fully cite us if you refer to the findings.

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