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Welcome to the official website of columnist and combat journalist Jeff Emanuel.

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Does independent journalism from Iraq really make a difference?

Note: This is in response to a comment by RedState user "kowalski," which can be seen here.

First, my work from the front lines in Iraq (and Roggio's, Yon's, etc.) does get exposure, from the Washington Times to the Weekly Standard to AmSpec. One of my breaking news stories was linked by Drudge, as well (bottom of linked graphic).

While that's not a page A1 story in one of the nation's top three most-read newspapers, it does mean that there are eyes-on my and our reports -- and, when you get down to it, that has to be enough (at least as a starting point). We do what we do not for glory or gain (clearly), but because we see it as being of paramount importance that accurate, eyewitness information be made available to the people here at home -- and, as a result of our work, it is. People still have to find it and decide to read it (in my case, they can hear about it on Laura Ingraham and on Melanie Morgan's show out in San Fran, and they can read about it in the Weekly Standard, the JPost, Human Events, the Washington Times, the American Thinker, AmSpec, here at RedState, the Hawaii Reporter, and more -- all of which should point them to my website, where I hope they'll stick around (or keep coming back) to get more information and more reports and analysis. (As an aside, the copious emails and comments I receive from eternally grateful parents of the soldiers I cover are reward in themselves, though that is not, of course, why I do this).

Also unfortunately is the fact that, since we are not staff reporters of "news," our submissions to newspapers and other outlets are all-to-often relegated to the Op-Ed page, rather than being considered for the news pages. Newspapers want their own trusted people providing news, though all too often (ironically), with regard to Iraq, those reporters are simply relaying what they were told by some other person they pay to tell them what happened somewhere, or to what someone else purportedly experienced. As a result of that, our reporting from the front, though not endowed by many with the credibility that comes with having an NYT or WaPo press card, is generally far more accurate than what is filed by those papers' staff reporters.

I won't get into it very deeply here, but the story I mention above, the exclusive amazing story from Samarra that folks will get to see online in 4 days, was pitched to one of these major newspapers (by me) -- and the response was "we're interested, but one of our people [currently sitting comfortably in America] will have to write it." I responded immediately with a resounding "no thanks", as I in Samarra, not some writer at home, had spent a month with the unit, and had interviewed all participants, walked through the events at the location, and had access to everything and everybody else involved, including the contextual knowledge of the coalition/AQ situation in Samarra. Another paper asked me to keep it to under 800 words for their Op-Ed page. Blah.

The bottom line is, though, we do have outlets (though none better than our own websites, which is why we try to flush traffic there at every opportunity), and we risk our lives to make the information available. It's up to the American people to decide to use that information. As far as media competition goes, that's a large part of what Bill Roggio and his PMI (an organization I've done a lot of work to help out with) are trying to do -- to set up a news-reporting version of the AP, AFP, Reuters, etc. that makes its living (inasmuch as a 501(c)3 can "make a living") filing reports from the front lines in the war on terror, through the use of embedded reporters. Is it possible? Yes. Is it sustainable? To this point, the conservatives and unaffiliateds who have been approached -- some people who spend an inordinate amount of time griping about the media we (Americans) have vs. the media they want us to have -- have proven unwilling to actually do anything about the problems they are so vocal about; therefore, PMI is behind the power curve as far as funding goes. If and when a conservative (or non-liberal) with actual vision to go along with his or her deep pockets steps forward and decides to back the frontline reporting project, then this, I believe, can and will become a powerhouse of journalism that more and more people will see and become affected by.

The other thing, of course, is complexity and nuance, and the attention span of the so-called "average American." People want black-and white, cut-and-dried, good-and-bad, success-or-failure reports from Iraq that they can hear in thirty seconds or skim in two minutes, and anything that purports to be accurate reporting or analysis will have trouble competing with that. For example, here's my tome on the current situation in Iraq as I saw and experienced it (link). It was finally (thankfully!) published by the American Thinker, a great online magazine which doesn't shy away from analysis and realistic reporting. However, before they agreed to run it, it was turned down (or ignored) by at least five print publications. Part of the reason for this is, I believe, the length and shades-of-grey style of description; another part, though, is the fact that almost all publications which would run such a piece have already picked their side of the "Iraq is going swimmingly vs. Iraq is an unmitigated disaster" divide, and refuse to publish anything which contains the least bit of negativity (for the former) or the least bit of positive news (for the latter). Anything accurate from Iraq, of course, will likely contain a bit (or more) of both; that's just the nature of the beast.

The situation in Iraq, rather than being black-and-white and easily explainable, is a million different shades of gray. The individual bits of reality seen there are so fluid that the conclusions one draws from them are often invalid before they can be expressed. Further, the complexity of the situation on the ground there is very difficult to grasp without witnessing it first-hand. Being back home for even a few weeks is enough to lose touch with its intricacy, as I found out during the two months I was home this summer between my April-May and August-October front-line embeds.

Perhaps the only thing more difficult that grasping that complexity – surrounding both the positive and negative developments there – is attempting to communicate it effectively to those who either cannot or have not been to the various front lines in Iraq to witness it for themselves. However, as one who has chosen to travel there myself for the express purpose of gathering information and communicating it to the people at home who can and will use it to make an informed decision on the situation there, that is a task that I have taken on, for better or worse.

Unfortunately, doing so means that those who are staunchly against the war there, as well as those who are for it, will be disappointed, as the news from there is rarely purely positive or purely negative, but, as mentioned multiple times above, is generally a dark or light shade of gray.

I understand the frustration on your part, I really do; allow me to conclude with this: as I said, there are outlets where we can publish our work, and more exposure means that more people will come across our reporting and, hopefully, be better armed before they draw personal conclusions on the state of the war and the future of Iraq.

While that might not sound like much in exchange for the daily and nightly risking of one's life for months at a time, against dedicated armed opposition who is targeting you every bit as much as they are targeting the soldiers that you are with, it is, for those few of us who do this, a risk that is one hundred percent worth it.

Jeff Emanuel, a special operations veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, was embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq both in April and May, and from August through October, of this year. His reports, which are 100% funded by reader donations, can be seen here.

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12 Comments:

At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FROM: CAROL HERMAN

Alas, Michael Yon just got co-opted by the Army's PR machinery. In other words? Without interviewing Beauchamp, for himself. He swallows the PR commander's line, that Beauchamp is "going out on risky assignments."

Hello. There was a time, journalists were free to roam. And, to interview sources. As well as to use their eyeballs, as the chaos of battles, cleared. And, they went to find typewriters; to send information home.

Though PR has also always existed. Heck, hitler developed a system "for champions." And, lost. Didn't understand what freedom means. Mistook this for weakness.

All Foer has asked is that he (as a journalist), be given free access to Beauchamp, to do their own interviewing.

You don't see Foer fired.

You don't hear other major news outlets giving the US Army PR the same breaks it gets on the Net.

While most Americans probably think Dubya is beholden to the Saud's. And, the real story of why we got involved in Irak, hasn't been told, yet.

$3-trillion, so far. Just to remove Saddam's head? Oh. And,throw in that between Bush, Condi, and her State Department, we've managed to alienate the Israelis. Who just stay quiet.

Israel has a "dog" in this race. Dubya wants to give the Saud's Mideast property. And, to set the Saud's up as "the fighters against Iran?" With all sorts of arsenal. They then plunk down near their border with Israel.

You can't fool me.

Lots of Americans seem shy about showing their disappointments.

And, then? Ron Paul becomes famous because he keeps asking about the nut jobs who okayed this Iraqi scam.

You think Americans "like" shi'a, sunni, or kurds? Well, I don't.

So, you've got hollywood pandering left. They're not making sales, either.

Me? It's too quiet. It's like there's a CALM, before the storm.

 
At 3:03 PM, Blogger J.P. Emanuel said...

Carol, no disrespect intended, but I really don't follow much of anything you've said here. I can assure you that Mike Yon has definitely not been "co-opted by the Army's PR machinery" -- and that the commander he spoke with, LTC Glaze, is Beauchamp's actual infantry battalion commander, not a "PR commander."

Beauchamp is an infantryman. He is most certainly going out on risky assignments, and to suggest otherwise is very close to impugning the service of a young man who, while he has made tremendously poor decisions, is still putting his life on the line day and night in a very dangerous place.

 
At 3:19 PM, Blogger The Historian said...

Jeff-

The work of you bloggers on the ground is widely seen and repeated. You guys are far better sources than newspapers or mags. The fact is the truth will out: and you folks bring the truth. Thanks for all you do and take care.

www.greensrealworld.blogspot.com

 
At 3:47 PM, Blogger spree said...

If you and Roggio and Yon and the other independent journalists were to group together into a "coalition" (for lack of a better word) of reporters and approach someone like Rupert Murdoch, you would stand a good chance of having him create a source to match AP, NYT, WAPO and Reuters, with news instead of political agenda driven stories.

 
At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Math_Mage said...

I agree with spree. A coalition of the independent reporters in Iraq would probably be difficult to create (you'd have to tell me) but tremendously worthwhile. If it got past the political agendas, it'd be widely read.

 
At 11:37 PM, Blogger Joel said...

Jeff,

What you and your peers do makes a big difference. WAPO does not get any of my mindshare, I ignore them, I have ignored them since one day in 2004 when the Dallas morning news ran a Wapo wire report which was a human interest puff piece on an iraqi insurgent and his dad, how tough they have it defending their country agains the American occupiers, it was hideous.

The whole negative slant on the war in Iraq is a pure domestic politics play. Your actions and those of your peers such as Yon and Totten and the rest are ushering in the era of irrelevancy for the MSM outlets that have chosen ideology over reportage.

 
At 12:27 AM, Blogger dianainsa said...

Words are not enough to explain how much bloggers/reporters like yourself have done for the war effort, both here in the U.S. and for those doing the fighting. As a reader and supporter, I link your stuff in emails to family and friends all the time. Lets face it, the White House has done a terrible job of getting the word out, I think the Left would have won if it wasn't for guys like you and the bloggers who link to your work. You have also given those of us at home a way to fight and stay informed, this is worth countless riches. We cancelled our local Lefty Rag a couple of years ago and do our best to contribute the little we have to you, Yon and Totten. America owes you a huge debt, God bless all of you.

 
At 12:43 AM, Blogger Dstarr said...

Jeff,
I read you, and your comrades, Bill Roggio and Michael Yon. You guys are actually reporting real news. The MSM people never actually give any news, no who, where, what, when and why. They give us the casualty reports, and lots of opinion, but little to no news. Thanks for letting us ordinary people know what's happening to our soldiers.

 
At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By Phillep Harding

The only worthwhile news is from blogs like yours. Thank you.

A comment on style: Long paragraphs are hard for people with bad eyesight to read.

Don't bother trying to make sense of Carol Herman's posts; I'm just glad your blog page designers put the poster's name on top instead of the bottom.

(Speaking of, Firefox has some trouble with the page headers.)

 
At 12:51 PM, Blogger J.P. Emanuel said...

Phillep,

Thanks a lot for the words. With regard to paragraph length, I understand, and if you poke around here a bit I think you'll see that, while I am verbose, I tend to eschew lengthy paragraphs in favor of a more readable format.

As far as the site layout/loading goes, stay tuned -- there will be a massive redesign coming in the next couple weeks, and everything will change. If you're interested in coming back, please make sure that you have www.JeffEmanuel.com saved in your computer, rather than www.JeffEmanuel.blogspot.com.

 
At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Among other things, independent journalists mean that, in the future, the MSM will never be able to say, "We didn't know."

 
At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Chuck Norris when he said "The use of these blogs can be deadly as a roundhouse kick."

 

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