From Metal Magnet to YouTube – Access to the Frontlines of War – Weekly#10


The “Metal Magnet” is one of the top artifacts at the Newseum in Washington D.C.   An armor-reinforced Chevrolet truck, it kept Time Magazine photographers/correspondents safe while covering the violent conflict of the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia.  Repeatedly struck by bullets the 7,000 pound vehicle was dubbed the “Metal Magnet.”   Christopher Morris, Time’s chief photographer in the region, and two others were pinned down for three hours in the truck and escaped without injury. 

Metal Magnet at the Newseum

Seeing this bullet-ridden truck is not as dramatic or shocking as compared to seeing and hearing the gunfire of the War in Iraq on YouTube.  For someone who has never been to war or had any connection with the military except to be grateful for their service to our Country, the sound of gunfire is unbelievably loud.  It’s the way YouTube allows us in the war zone.

Although YouTube and the other Web 2.0 tools give us these unique looks at the War, this idea of transparency and coverage of War began in March 2003, when reporters were embedded with U. S. troops at the start of the War in Iraq   The Pentagon allowed reporters to travel and report alongside the military.  Both the military and journalists have given the effort high marks.

Since 2003, the rapidly expanding digital revolution has enabled every person in the War zone to become a potential reporter – teller of the truth of what’s really going on there. Prior to 2004, the Web 2.0 communication sharing communities existed on a very limited level.  Most social-networking and video sites simply did not exist. 

Blogging and solo video journalism have allowed people like Kevin Sites to cover the war and file their stories.  Even if they are first-hand accounts in the War zone, they could be no more accurate or informative than the traditional news media coverage.   As the first news correspondent for and then a video journalist, Sites says his impact can be greater on the internet – a potential audience of 400 million every month, compared to his old job as correspondent on NBC Nightly News with 10 million viewers.

Whatever tools are used to communicate the cruel realities of War, the information is there for all to see and hear.  Reading the blog of “Baghdad Burning” gives us a view of one family in Iraq and the slow destruction of daily life in a War zone.

The Web 2.0 tools have been used very successfully by the U. S. Army in their recruiting efforts.  On the Website, where future soldiers can get first-hand accounts of Army life, Army recruitment is up because of real-life stories for parents and future soldiers such as, “What’s it like to be a soldier.”  The daily routine of a soldier is explained in “At work and during free time.”  The site also provides games and downloads.   Because of these games and efforts on line, recruits are more likely to join and remain in the Army.  Recruiting goals are up as well as Americans have a more favorable opinion of the Army.



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