Time For A New Media 'After Action' Report

DannyG | August 8, 2008
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The Navy really doesn’t know what to do with us bloggers. Apparently we’re a bit nosier than the other people who come aboard. We ask questions that to us seem pretty basic but that apparently have never been asked. Yesterday, for instance, I dared to ask, “I know this is a humanitarian mission, but is there ammunition aboard the Kearsarge?” Admittedly, it was a stupid, poorly phrased question. (I can't help it; I'm a journalist.) A Navy ship isn’t going to be at sea, or anywhere else, without ordnance. What I really wanted to know was what kind of ammo and weapons were onboard, what kind of protection the Kearsarge has even when it’s headed to the Third World to offer medical and engineering expertise. My question was followed by a pause and a non-answer: “I can’t answer that question.” In other words, I wasn’t going to hear any more than a silent “yes.” Then today, during our tour of the bridge, another blogger asked about a radio tower just outside the bridge. The answer he got: “It’s just a great big antenna.” That’s when the communications guy giving us the tour admitted that he hasn’t been prepared for some of the questions he has been getting this week. And he’s cautious about giving answers because he knows it could end up all over the Internet. I appreciated his honesty -- and his hesitancy. I’m a journalist and blogger, and even I’m a bit reluctant to answer questions from my colleagues, especially now that I’m part of the imagined “vast right-wing conspiracy.” But the Navy trains for everything else. Why weren’t Navy communicators better trained how to interact with bloggers before this life-at-sea outreach effort began? Why didn’t they ask some bloggers for advice on how to implement this new media plan? Today, a couple of people, one in the Navy and one in the Air Force, reminded us that the U.S. military always assesses its missions and drafts “lessons learned.” The humanitarian work is new for the Navy, and Operation Continuing Promise is certain to generate reams of “after action” reports designed to make future missions run more smoothly. The communications team needs to draft an after-action report of its own on the Navy’s first attempt at onboard blogger outreach. Kudos to the Navy for making new media a part of Operation Continuing Promise. It was a valiant effort. But there are definitely lessons to be learned, by both the Navy and the bloggers.

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