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Blogging the War

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Last week we reported on the accumulating signs of imminent war with Iraq. They keep piling up, so much so that Slate has said the chance of war is 99%.

Another indication is that the news media are speaking as though was were a certainty, although they always add a caveat like “in the event of” or “should war occur,” but these are as formulaic as “alleged” when attached to court reporting even when the defendant was caught in the act by 100 cops on live TV.

Here’s a report from Reuters on anticipated web coverage of the war:

    For the first time since the Internet became a fixture of American life, the stage has been set for a huge international story that could expose the strengths and weaknesses of the Web as a purveyor of breaking news.

    The Internet as it is now known didn’t exist in 1991, when Iraq was driven out of Kuwait by allied forces. Now as Washington prepares for another war with Baghdad, more than 68 million homes and millions of U.S. businesses have access to the Web.

    That will make the medium figure prominently in keeping Americans informed. Unlike the lightning-quick U.S. military action in Afghanistan (news – web sites) after the Sept. 11 attacks, an Iraq conflict is expected to be the kind of news event that will lend itself to specialized coverage on the Web.

    “The coverage of the war against terror in Afghanistan was fast, accurate, reliable and comprehensive, but it was relatively one-dimensional. This is going to be the first major conflict, if it happens, to be covered at the beginning of the broadband era,” CNN.com executive producer Mitch Gelman said.

    The Internet can provide more detailed coverage than traditional media because it allows sites to post complete documents, first-hand civilian accounts and, due to the growth of high-speed Internet, video on demand.

All of that is dandy and doubtless true, but how can a major news service like Reuters run a lengthy particle on web coverage of the war and not even mention blogs? This would indicate that despite all of the lip service in the mainstream media about the spreading influence and importance of blogs, when it comes to the delivery of news, they still aren’t taken seriously.

I understand and agree with the theory that when it comes to event reporting, especially from a remote location, that the mainstream news outlets have the advantage of trained reporters on the spot and expert analysts waiting to explain and elaborate, but wait a minute: with a million bloggers out there almost every news event has at least one blogger on the spot reporting live. And bloggers are nothing if not analysts – with virtually every conceivable field of endeavor being blogged by someone trained in the discipline, or at least a dedicated amateur, dismissing bloggers entirely from the category of war reporting and analysis seems shortsighted.

It remains to be seen how much actual reporting on the coming war will be done by bloggers, but when it comes to analysis and pespective, I assure you they will be second to none. Where do you think the term “war blogger” came from?

About Eric Olsen

  • mike

    War is “imminent” but where is it? If you’ve noticed, the date keeps slipping even as the rhetoric grows more bellicose. I say there’s not going to be a war, and that the U.S. is working furiously behind the scenes to avert one. The diplomatic process is opaque and public rhetoric does not often match private reality. There’s a rumor that retired Gen. Anthony Zinni (who’s anti-war) is engaged, at Powell’s request, in “round the clock” negotiations with Saddam’s people in Athens. True? Who knows. Maybe Saddam will agree to some type of modified multi-party democracy with permanent inspectors and a United Nations military presence to replace his army (then watch Bush’s ratings go to 99%). Stranger things have happened.

    Bush is in a pickle but since God is a Republican, as I always say, he’ll find a way to pull George out of this one.

  • http://www.well.com/~srhodes Steve Rhodes

    The well was around during the Gulf War and there was a very active war conference.

    Howard Rheingold writes about the well then in Virtual Communities (the complete text of the first edition is online) and has this section on IRC:

    Gulf War

    The most widely cited instance of cross-cultural dialogue on IRC is the use of the medium during the Gulf War. An Internet link had been set up in Kuwait before the Iraqi invasion, and the link stayed up for a week after radio and television broadcasts ceased. Kuwaiti students used IRC for eyewitness reports, and so did Israelis. According to Reid, “I am told that users from the two countries often interacted with very few disagreements and mostly with sympathy for each other’s position and outlook.” There has been some discussion of the role of the Net in the Gulf War, via Usenet.

    From: frechett@spot.Colorado.EDU (-$SIRunaway Daemon$SI-)
    Subject: Re: IRC Folk History

    The channel at the time was called +report. It was moderated by a bot first run by lynx and then by myself. Basically it was a moderated channel and a number of people around the world would come onto the channel and listen. If someone had something to report then they would change their nickname to something like NBC or CBS or AP. etc. . representing some news reporting agency. (Just people listening to the news though, not real representatives of that agency) Those people would get chanop and could report the news as it came in.

    One of the notable things I recall was an Israeli on the channel (was in the Wall Street Journal too I believe) who had a terminal in the sealed room and would talk about an incoming scud alert and then would come back a few minutes later typing at us from in the sealed room.

    I also recall one of the Isreali’s [sic mentioning to us when he heard one of the first scuds hit that he heard Isreali jets scrambling and flying west. This was a bit of information I never did hear through CNN, AP or the network news.

    A little research on the Net led me to the archives where the logs of the Gulf War IRC sessions are kept. Reading through a transcript certainly re-creates that feeling of news hunger that surrounds the fog of war during the early hours of a major conflict. Here are a few selected excerpts from the IRC channel that preceded the +report channel. Ironically, these remarks took place among participants in the +peace channel:

    IRC CHANNEL +peace
    IRC Log started Thu Jan 17 01:03

    bombsd are droppiong in baghdad

    jeesh

    am i getting through?

    CNN HAS THE SCOOP!

    #Breeze# has CNN on

    this channel name is fairly oxymorninical [sic.

    koala* 20 minutes since first attack

    thanks

    who’s in baghdad here?

    scoop? hah!

    bombs are happening

    bombs hitting the net!

    2 major explosions-1 near major comm center.

    phones are going down

    Attack started at 2:30am baghdad time.

    I dont think bagdahd is on the net $SI

    No arab countrys on the net..

    hold for net diagnostic..

    welost the finnish d00ds

    ANYBODY FROM ISRAEL HERE?

    Boy and Ely are on from israel.

    < Fau: i'm FROM ISRAEL!

    Got your gas mask ready, Boy?

    AA-fire still going up-very random (CNN)

    steal: yes .. and we just finished silling the house from gas. .

    WAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    !!!! WAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    WAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WAR!!!

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    #Hamlet# The liberation of Kuwait has begun

    Hallo bardo Willkommen in +peace. Hallo chris Willkommen in +peace.