Journalists need to be more aggressive when they cover the military and deal with public officials, said acclaimed Washington Post reporter and editor Bob Woodward, who spoke Friday at the Military Reporters and Editors Conference.The problem Bob, is that there are simply too many reporters out there that have difficulty knowing which end of the tube the round comes out of. Sure, there are some good ones, but they are few and far between.
"There are too many cases when people in the military get away with saying things that are just not plausible," Woodward said at the event.
There are also many that are confused about the structure and culture of the military, and as a result are insecure of themselves and their knowledge base. They are easily intimidated by rank, engineering, and the general kinetics of a military operation. They know little of military history, the Operational Art, and the nature of logistics.
They don't ask hard questions because they either don't know enough or are too intimidated by the big guys with bad haircuts. There are very few reporters I have seen in the field that had even a passing understanding of what was going on around them.
Some are good at describing the details at the Tactical level, but are clueless on the Operational and Strategic reasons behind what is going on. Those in the Beltway are so tied up in personalities, the entrails-reading of programmatics, and the Kremlinology of the POM that they cannot see the broader issues.
Especially in the last few years, I have had the pleasure to help some reporters on background and overtly on some things they are working on. I know a lot of other bloggers have as well. There are also a lot of retired military personnel - and even some Reservists on temporary active duty (yes, I am talking about you ****) - who would be happy to dig in and ask hard questions, but cannot break through the Think Tank ghetto. All you have to do is ask.
So Bob, stop cursing the darkness; light a candle. Reach outside your echo chamber and dinner party circuit and tap in to some people who have the background and personality to ask the hard questions. Those who have done enough 4-star Staff Weenie duty not to be star-struck by the guy with a duty driver and security escort.
If you need some recommendations on who to ask, drop me an email. I can think of a half-dozen off the top of my head that would do what you want - some even have degrees from the "right schools" that seems so important in the rarefied air you breath in on a daily basis. I'm here to help.
Oh and another thing Bob - you could embed at the Tactical level a bit yourself. DEC-APR is a great time to embed in Regional Command East. YNSN can even tell you where the best chow is in Bagram.