Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Bob, let me help you out a bit here .....

Bob Woodward has an issue with reporters on the military beat .. .
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.

"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.
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 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.


Grandpa Bluewater said...

Remember the 60 Minutes expose aobut 20 years ago, when the prominent (still is, now "experienced") female reporter was asking "hard questions" about why we had a huge warehouse of heavy equipment tires for "war reserve stock". Why didn't we  just keep enough for normal use, and order more from the manufacturer as we used them up; because "you can't possibly need all these tires" for normal wear and tear?

The "huge" tires she was standing next to were just about the right size for an LAV. No mention of application or service wide fleet size for applicable vehicles. Just a "huge" warhouse that wasn't issuing many tires.

Waste and mismanagement. QED...in her mind, at least. Why, the tires on her Corolla would last for years....

Grumpy Old Ham said...

<span>"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.</span>

Right.  Like reporters never say (write) things that are not plausible.  Every time I've read a newspaper story chronicling an event I've been involved in, there are multiple factual errors in the story.

I wouldn't cross the street to piss on Woodward if he were on fire.

Kristen said...

I wonder what percentage of reporters have any active-duty service in their backgrounds?  I bet it's less than 5%.  They have no ability to understand the military culture, and I think most of them are predisposed to despise military values.

This is one of the reasons why I'm so happy that we have a good crop of recent veterans heading for Capitol HIll.  Their input on military matters will be invaluable.  We are, after all, fighting a war for the future of civilization.  The veteran viewpoint might just come in handy as we debate how to prosecute that war.

Cdr Ashore said...

Just finished his latest book "Obama's Wars" and in it, Bob Woodward hammers away at the military (that is, Mullen, Petraeus, McChrystal, and the Joint Chiefs) for being completely unable to gain any perspective than their own (which Bob never attempts to explain).  The military is cast as something aloof and apart from the nuance of the White House.  Bob also fumbles over himself trying to figure out how to be dismissive of generals he does like (Cartwright, Lute, Jones).  The ultimate insult is when he uses just two or three paragraphs to dismiss the military led relief efforts to Haiti and continue on his flogging of the military.

Bob's got an agenda and I think it has less to do with improving journalism and more with debunking those damn military types who continue to earn the trust and confidence of the American people.