Dangerous Dan Thoughts and musings on the world


Reporting in Iraq

Filed under: Media,World — Dangerous Dan @ 11:36 pm

Freelance journalist in Iraq Michael Yon has a very interesting post up about the process for reporting news in Iraq. The basic gist is that that media reports are interpretations of brief SIGACTS (significant action) briefs from the military. Watch the flow:

Subject: Smalls Arms Engagement
Time/Date: 2120 L 24 May 05
Narrative: Alpha Company 1-24 INF reports small arms and RPG, vicinity…. Reports 3 friendly WIA (1 litter-urgent, 2 routine). 4 Enemy KIA…

When this SIGACT is translated by a PAO, this might come out: "3 US soldiers were wounded by small arms in Mosul, Iraq. The soldiers were assigned to Task Force Freedom." News agencies that call or request information will get some variation of this report.

Such reports flow from all over Iraq to a place in Baghdad called the CPIC (Combined Press Information Center). The CPIC is like the Uber-PAO for Iraq, serving all branches of the military, and other nations in the Coalition. The CPIC collects those reports and makes a release that might go like this:

"3 US soldiers were wounded in a small arms engagement in Mosul. 3 US soldiers from Task Force Baghdad were wounded by a car bomb in Baquba while conducting convoy operations in Diyala Province. 1 US soldier was slightly wounded by an IED while conducting combat operations in Baghdad. 2 US Marines were killed in a Humvee accident in Anbar Province. A Blackhawk helicopter made an emergency landing near Ramadi. No injuries were reported."

This will hit pages all over the world, but in a newsier voice:

"A US helicopter made an emergency landing near Ramadi under unknown circumstances. An insurgent website claiming affiliation to Al Qaeda in Iraq says they shot down the helicopter with a surface-to-air missile. A US military spokesman would not comment. Elsewhere, one US soldier and two Marines were killed and seven other service members were wounded in Iraq, along with at least 18 deaths from a suicide car-bomber near the Syrian border. This brings total Coalition deaths in Iraq to 1,800. In other news, photos of the former dictator of Iraq in his underwear have infuriated the Arab world and angered the Pentagon, which promised a full investigation…"

He also notes that the many small humanitarian acts of U.S. forces don't get reported because they don't get into the SIGACT briefs and therefore don't work their way down to the media's reporting. That and the media isn't much interested in them:

I write about them when I can, but there's an irony to all of this that is hard to escape. Most of the acts of kindness I witness are done from an instinctive altruism that almost always seeks anonymity. And there is that other problem with catching people doing good–the cynical media is quick to ascribe cheap motivations to soldiers who reveal their humanity through their decency. And does anyone really care about the soldiers who, after having arrested a suspected insurgent, then spent the next twenty minutes trying to find a home for the two little puppies he was keeping?

It's longish but a good read. He's got lots of other good stuff and is hereby blogrolled.

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