I inadvertently published this before completing the post- for those that saw it and wondered what happened, it was a mistake. I finished the post and this is the result.
With a name more attuned to a magician working the Poconos, you'd think he'd have picked something a bit more 'zippy'. Like Z-man. Troops could identify with that, eh?
I've got some history with this type of activity- as the one who made assignments for the media in Iraq, and arranged embeds, approved/disapproved them, or relayed that information made by those senior to me, I've got some insight into what some of the thoughts are behind the decisions (or not) of those PAO-types in Iraq.
First off, let me say that those PAO officers of ANY ilk that are not backing their Marine brothers (telling Z that they understand his position, etc) are being completely disingenuous and should be removed from any position that relates to media involvement. Grow a spine, you dolts. If YOU had removed someone for something similar, ya think the Marines would let them in? Doubt it...
In Sept. of 2004, while trying to get back into the pigeon hole they were trying to keep me in, I received a call from my boss saying ''Geraldo screwed up again- head down to (LZ) Washington and pick his sorry ass up coming in from Camp Fallujah.''
''What happened?'' I asked.
''Dunno. Just that he thoroughly pissed off the Marines after only 4 hours in Anbar and they uh, 'released' him.''
''So what am I supposed to do with him? Take him to dinner?''
''Take him over to Victory and let him set up over there. He has some live feeds to do. See what you can do.''
''Roger. Ugh.'' I was NOT looking forward to meeting up with a crew that had been booted; I had seen them in the CPIC prepping to go out (the entire crew, including Geraldo and Craig, his brother/producer, slept on couches in the CPIC. Showered in the restrooms. Heh. Far from glamerous, that was.) I immediately called the Marine PAO's over at Camp Fallujah; they offered no info on what caused or why the crew was sent back. Only that 'they didn't follow protocol.' Since the local commander has full authorization to allow/disallow any media embeds depending on missions and availability of support, they were well within their prerogative to have the crew removed. Which they did. So I got stuck with them for 4 days. That's another story.
So what's this have to do with Z? Precedent has been set in removing/barring media for various reasons. The base document that was produced to cover embeds is here. Look at pg. 10, para 4.h.1.
4.H.1. MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES WILL BE REMINDED OF THE SENSITIVITY OF USING NAMES OF INDIVIDUAL CASUALTIES OR PHOTOGRAPHS THEY MAY HAVE TAKEN WHICH CLEARLY IDENTIFY CASUALTIES UNTIL AFTER NOTIFICATION OF THE NOK AND RELEASE BY
Now, compare this paragraph to the SIGNED agreement, which every media person is required to review and sign, here.
8. The media organization and the media employee understand and agree that the Government may terminate the embedding process at any time and for any reason, as the Government determines appropriate in its sole discretion.
The italics are not mine; those are in the base document. That said, the commander on the ground, as well as the senior PAO in theater, has full jurisdiction to remove any media as they see fit. They well know that doing so may risk some 'bad press' and a possibly lengthy review, but they CAN and WILL do it. My boss had also previously removed Geraldo for his drawing the map on the ground in March of '03 (and only after notifying LTG McKiernan's XO he was about to do so due to the anticipated fallout. XO's reply: ''you're the expert... do what's best''.)
The media agreement has been updated somewhat, but the provisions are the same; it is expected that there will be 'less than perfect' or 'less than desirable' outcomes at times, but that is the benefit of having free speech. In Z's event, knowing what unit he was with from previous blogs, and who he was traveling with, allowed one to 'interpret' who the KIA may have been. This is a key element- while he claims to have waited for NOK notification, there is every possibility that he didn't wait LONG enough, and someone reading may have seen that picture, known the unit, and believed the KIA was a relative or passed it to someone believing them to be a relative who was not notified. This part has nothing to do with the way his posts were written, nor with how he presented material; he is free to publish it, but he must realize- they don't like it, you will be dis-invited.
What if he wrote such horrendously bad material that it was too embarrassing to allow him to continue? Same thing. ''Dude, you write like a 3d grader- leave now'' is definitely something I would do. Not likely, but you never know.
The Marines are extremely media-savvy; at times, the Army could do well to learn from them. And its not necessarily the training- nearly all DoD journo's are trained at Ft Meade's DINFOS school, so its the application of the knowledge and training that's the difference. They apply it differently, and get a different result. I'm good with that.
I once had to take a Rolling Stone reporter to an embed; this chick showed up wearing a light cotton blouse, linen capri-style slacks, and light white sandals. I told her 'WTF- where do you think you're going??? Saks?'' She replied ''I've traveled all over Lebanon like this- whats the deal?''
''You're going to an Najaf; there is a battle going on there- think you have HALF a chance to keep up in that getup?''
I should have canceled her trip right then and there, but I was told to put her on the chopper; wish I had done differently, and next time, I WILL cancel the trip if the rep shows up so willfully unprepared. You media types note that, hear?
Z could have written what he did, could have published whatever, but save the photo's for later- for his book, for his memoirs, whatever; but to claim what he does and then wonder why he's canned, well, get a clue. You have an impact on morale- commanders have full discretion to do whatever it takes to maintain morale, and Z impacted it negatively. Remove him, and all others who do the same.
Now, should OCPA or DoD or the WH change course and decide they'll let pics of caskets or KIA or otherwise proliferate the media in the future, things may be different. But given that up til now we have NOT permitted that, its not likely to change anytime soon. I'm sick of these guys claiming they are 'middle of the road' when they plainly are NOT, and have an agenda. If he's so blatently blinded to his own perceptions, he needs a trip down to DEOMI- they'll bring those out quite readily- whether or not you want it out.