media war and conflict - [PDF Document] (2022)

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    DOI: 10.1177/17506352103765912010 3: 315Media, War & Conflict

    Thomas J. Johnson and Barbara K. Kayecharacteristics in 2003 and 2007

    Believing the blogs of war? How blog users compare on credibility and

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    Article

    Media, War & Conflict

    3(3) 315333 The Author(s) 2010

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    DOI: 10.1177/1750635210376591

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    Corresponding author:

    Barbara K. Kaye, Associate Program Chair, Master of Arts Degree in Communication, The Johns Hopkins

    University, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Suite 104, Washington, DC 20026, USA.

    Email: [emailprotected]

    MWC

    Believing the blogs of war?How blog users compare oncredibility and characteristicsin 2003 and 2007

    Thomas J. JohnsonSchool of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin, USA

    Barbara K. KayeJohns Hopkins University, Washington, DC, USA

    AbstractThis study surveyed those who used blogs for information about the war in Iraq to investigate the

    degree to which judgements of credibility, reliance, demographics, and political characteristics of

    war blog users have changed between 2003 and 2007. In both 2003 and 2007, blog users judgedblogs as more credible sources for war news than traditional media and their online counterparts.

    This study also found that different types of blogs were rated differently in terms of credibility in

    2007 with military and war blogs rated the most credible and media blogs being judged the lowest

    in credibility. Additionally, parallels are drawn between the findings and possible roles for blogs

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    in the escalating war in Afghanistan. Results are also discussed in terms of the changing roles

    of the military in Iraq as well as the changing role of blogs in the Iraq War.

    Keywords

    blog credibility, blog use, blogs, credibility, milblogs, war in Iraq

    The war in Iraq provided a huge boost to the fledgling blogging community (Hastings,

    2003; Kaye and Johnson, 2004) because users found that blogs provided more personal

    insight and more thoughtful analysis of the war than the traditional media (Haigh and

    Pfau, 2007; Hebert, 2004). In 2003, bloggers were largely dismissed as small terriers

    who nipped at the ankles of traditional journalists but, by 2007, blogging had become

    commonplace as the number of blogs created by journalists and those hosted by

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    316 Media, War & Conict 3(3)

    traditional media had grown considerably (Eveland and Dylko, 2007; Singer, 2006). War

    blogs1 and milblogs, which are written by soldiers or others on the frontlines and focus

    solely on the war, also received considerable attention during the combat stage of the war

    in Iraq because they presented close-up and unvarnished views of military culture andmilitary life (Haigh and Pfau, 2007). Despite being initially viewed with skepticism,

    blogs were later touted as a genuine alternative to mainstream news outlets (Johnson

    and Kaye, 2007; Kaye and Johnson, 2004).

    At first, the war enjoyed enormous support as three-quarters of Americans applauded

    the decision to send troops to Iraq (Jones, 2007). But much has changed since the initial

    invasion. As the mission shifted from toppling Saddam Hussein to maintaining a fragile

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    peace and propping up the Iraqi Government, support for the war plummeted, with only

    about one-third of the public supporting the war effort after the first three years (CNN.

    com, 2008). Also, attention to the war from the traditional media had dropped (Project

    for Excellence in Journalism, 2007a).

    Although several studies have examined the characteristics of individuals who seek

    out war information from blogs (Kaye and Johnson, 2004; Johnson et al., 2007;

    Perlmutter, 2008), how much they use blogs for war information (Smith and Rainie,

    2008; Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2005), how credible they find blog war infor-

    mation (Johnson and Kaye, 2004, 2008) and the perceived influence of blogs on war

    attitudes (Graf, 2006; Kaye and Johnson, 2004; Johnson and Kaye, 2007), these studies

    examined blog users at a single point in time, typically during the first months of the

    conflict. Studies have not investigated whether perceptions of credibility and use of

    blogs have changed as support for, and the nature of, the war in Iraq have changed.This study is based on two online surveys of politically interested internet users who

    visited blogs to get news about the Iraq War. The first was conducted from 23 April to 22

    May 2003, and the second exactly four years later. The purpose of this study is to com-

    pare changes from 2003 to 2007 in blog credibility and blog use for information about

    the war in Iraq. Moreover, military commanders were given the authority in 2005 to

    order service members to stop blogging or to submit their entries for review because of

    the belief that some content violated military regulations or security (Haigh and Pfau,

    2007; Strupp, 2005). Because milblog content may have become more constrained,

    users perceptions may have changed and these shifts may have been captured by thisstudys analysis.

    Also examined is the degree to which ideology and other characteristics of war blog

    users have changed from 2003 to 2007. The results identify factors that influence

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    perceptions of credibility of blog war reports. Further, as the war in Afghanistan inten-

    sifies, the findings provide insight into the role blogs continue to play as providers of

    war information

    Media and foreign policy

    While the media may preach the philosophy ofdetachmentfrom story topics and their

    sources, they practice the policy ofattachmentin foreign policy coverage, in general, and

    war coverage, in particular. In the practice of attachment, journalists abandon the notion

    of neutrality and cover the war in terms of good guys/bad guys and good versus evil

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    Johnson and Kaye 317

    (Ruigrok, 2008) and, since the media rely heavy on government sources, that coverage

    typically reflects the governments policies (De Beer and Merrill, 1994; Fahmy and

    Johnson, 2010; Vultee, 2009), especially during wartime when the media are expected to

    take sides and support the government war policy through favorable coverage (Bell,2008; Bennett et al., 2006; Ruigrok, 2008). During the ground war in Iraq, US media

    coverage was overwhelmingly positive (Haigh et al., 2006; Pfau et al., 2005), with reporters

    acting as cheerleaders in support of the governments war effort rather than maintaining

    a critical distance. Bell (2008) lamented that war coverage signaled the death of news,

    because it promoted the governments efforts with reporters crossing the line from being

    detached observers to acting as if they were government representatives.

    Blogs and credib

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