The New York Slimes has taken a brief repose from its daily smear campaign of the military to profile Michael Yon, a former Soldier-turned milblogger.
Michael Yon was not a journalist, and he wasn’t sure what a blogger was. He had been in uniform but not in combat, and he wanted to keep it that way. He went to Iraq thinking he would stay for a month, and maybe find a way to write about the war after he got home.
Michael Yon, a former Special Forces fighter, writes dispatches and posts photographs from the front lines in Iraq.
Instead, he has spent most of the last three years in Iraq, writing prolifically and graphically, and racking up more time embedded with combat units than any other journalist, according to the United States military. He has been shot at, buffeted by explosions and seen more people maimed — fighters and civilians, adults and children — than he can count.
“The easiest thing in the world to write about is combat, because all the drama is there,” said Mr. Yon, a fit, ruddy-faced 43-year-old who was a Special Forces soldier more than two decades ago. He insists that he still does not really know the rules of journalism, but says he has recently, grudgingly, accepted that he has become a journalist.
His detailed, mostly admiring accounts of front-line soldiers’ daily work have won him a loyal following, especially among service members and journalists and bloggers who follow the war. One of his photographs showing an American soldier cradling an Iraqi girl injured in a car bombing (the girl later died) appeared on Time magazine’s Web site and was later voted one of top images of the year by visitors.
Mr. Yon, however, does not work for any organization; no news outlet pays him for the hundreds of dispatches and photos he has produced. He publishes his work on his own Web site, michaelyon-online.com (some will appear again in a book set for release in April), and he also posts submissions from military people serving in Iraq. He says contributions from his readers have paid most of his costs, though he declines to say how much they have given.
Like most bloggers, Mr. Yon has an agenda, (yeah, like the New York Times doesn’t?) writing often that the United States’ mission to build a stable, democratic Iraq is succeeding and must continue. He rarely disparages those who disagree, though, and he does not shy away from describing the disturbing things he sees.
He sometimes criticizes United States forces, their Iraqi allies, and even decision makers in Washington; lately, he has warned that while the American focus is on Iraq, Afghanistan is being lost.
His upbeat outlook on the war has made Mr. Yon a favorite of the war’s supporters. But others in that camp have attacked him for insisting that Iraq is in a civil war, and for condemning American treatment of some detainees.
“His work has a remarkable, chin-out, unvarnished intimacy,” said Jackie Lyden, a National Public Radio reporter who has worked in Iraq. “He isn’t a guarded, diplomatically toned reporter; he can be very frank, and he questions his own assumptions.”
The Internet has fostered such citizen journalism, shaking up ideas about where news comes from, but few have taken on the expense and danger of working in a war zone. Mr. Yon’s daily expenses are small, but he has paid tens of thousands of dollars for computers, cameras, phones and body armor.
He went to Iraq believing that the mainstream news media were bungling the story, and he still often criticizes the media’s pessimism. But he has also praised particular reporters from major outlets, or defended the media in general, explaining how difficult and dangerous it is to cover the war.
Yeah, it must be real difficult for Paul Krugman to “cover the war”, vitrol and all, from the comfort of his NYC office.
Along the way, he created a niche outlet that is better reported than most blogs, and more opinionated than most news reporting, with enough first-hand observation, clarity and skepticism to put many professional journalists to shame.
Col. Stephen Twitty, a brigade commander with whom Mr. Yon has spent time in Iraq, had high praise for his work, saying that he often takes the same risks as the soldiers he accompanies.
……In his first year and a half of online writing, Mr. Yon carefully avoided a position on whether he thought the war should have been waged in the first place. He eventually said that he had supported it reluctantly because of claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
“Since 2003 Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent,” states a June 21 declassified summary of a report from the National Ground Intelligence Center. “Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.”
1.77 tons of enriched uranium
More here: http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=Y2FkMWJhOTQ0NWFjMGFlZmUxN2U2M2UyZWQ1MDkzOTc
This is a nice “gesture” by the NYT, but you can bet your sweet ass they’ll get right back to the military-bashing/anti-war business as usual, in the next edition.