Thursday, June 16, 2005

Getting Famous

I received an e-mail today from a reporter at the Boston Herald. He is doing a piece on Milblogs, and liked my work and wanted to quote me. This is what he wrote:

Capt. Ziegenfuss,

I read your blog about "terps." Very funny. I also loved your blog about the Globe. I'm a reporter for the rival Boston Herald, so I appreciate the jab at them. I'm writing a story about these on-line reports from the front and would like to use some of your stuff. In particular the story about the city council was interesting and an angle of the war that I don't think has been discussed thus far. I can't remember reading a story in the Times or Post about city council meetings in Iraq that had the insider's view. But, If you have a second to email me about why you blog? Who you are writing for (your audience)? What do other soldiers thing about it? Anything that comes to mind, I'd appreciate it. The other thing I'm looking for is any military blogger from Massachusetts. If you know of one or could put me in touch with one I'd be obliged to you. Thanks again for your time,

O'Ryan Johnson,

fka Cpl. Johnson USMC.

I think he's one of the "Good Guys." The "USMC" after his name carries a lot of weight with me, and although I tell my fair share of Jarhead jokes, I do respect Uncle Sam's Misguided Children. They (like me) are proof that Brue Force and Ignorance can carry the day much better than Nuances.
So I wrote this reply:
I don't know of any milbloggers in Massachusetts, but I'd check over at the mudvillegazette ( for them.
I'll let you use my works, under the following conditions (A few provisos, if you will)
1. Quote me fully. If you use an Ellipses, then finish the quote (something the Globe Reporters shoulda learned in English 101.
2. Use quotes in context. Don't extract a verse and make a sermon out of a sentence.
3. Please, don't portray the military in a bad light or my Blog as portraying the military in a bad light. I love what what I do and would walk away in a minute if I didn't think what I was doing was right. This is my way of living.
I know, journalistic freedom, First Amendment, etc. I really just don't want bad press to become the focus of my blog (I've met reporters out here that do great work).
Now then, the questions:

Why do you blog? I blog because I needed a hobby. Something to do in my down time, especially the time after mission and before bed, when the adrenaline is pumping and there's no possibility of sleeping until it goes away. I wanted to keep a journal of some of the things I did here, and why. I wanted something to show the boy when he's old enough. I am (relatively) computer savvy, and had read other blogs and thought it'd be worth a shot.
Who you are writing for (your audience)? Initially, I was writing just to write. I didn't have any audience, I was just posting into the void. Two weeks later, I have had over 15,000 readers (I'll bet the Herald would like to see a spike in readership like that) and have gotten mail and comments from
South Africa and the Netherlands, as well as from a LOT of the "Folks Back Home." So I suppose my audience is largely the people who realize that they don't hear about what is going on over here in a "Fair and Balanced" manner. At home in Kansas (where I am currently assigned [i.e. where the family is and where I deployed from] the local news has the "World Minute" where they talk about, among other things, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and EVERYTHING ELSE that happened in the world.
Honestly, Mr. and Mrs.
America really don't care whether Jacko is a pedophile, or if the EU can't get a constitution ratified, or if David Tsang is the next Grand Poobah of Hong Kong (another cheap shot at the Globe, that's the headline carried on google news right now with their story). The people that read my blog and who write to me are incredibly interested in what we are doing here, what life is like, how we react to the locals and how they react to us. And they aren't getting that info in traditional media. For instance, after the Fall of Baghdad, how many embeds have you seen in the news? How many journalists pony up for a Year away from home to tell our story? We'll see reporters come and go, get their story and head off to greener pastures (If it bleeds, it reads). There are almost 70 soldiers in my company, almost seventy of America's sons. Each one of them is a human interest story in and of itself. Each one has different reasons for being here, each one h
as a family at home. And the mainstream media could care less about them unless they are bleeding or broken by the side of the road.
Ernie Pyle wasn't the Last Great "In the Trenches" reporter. Neither was Joe Galloway. But they shared a common thread. They actually lived with the soldiers, got time to know them, and never, NEVER, showed them in a bad light. They told the people at home what was going on, how alien or familiar things could be, and their stories gave people hope.
So I write for them. I write for my soldiers. I write to give the folks at home an understanding of what life is like here. I write about things that interest me. I write my opinions, plain and unabashed. Of course my writing is biased. I am not constrained by $$$ or public opinion. This is my soapbox. I write so that my wife will know if I am doing okay. (I still write her, but the posts generally let her know what I am up to.) I write to keep my sense of humor. It allows me to absorb and digest what goes on around here, and make inline comments about it. And I write about issues at home, because I am interested in what is going on in the land I love so much I would leave it to defend it.
What do other soldiers think about it? The comments I get from other soldiers are also 100% positive. Some are interested professionally, "Wow, I didn't think anyone was doing X over here." "I hadn't thought about doing things that way." and also just soldiers who enjoy the reading. I make them laugh, I make them remember, I give them hope that they too are not screaming into the void. But mostly, I think I make them laugh. And that is sometimes more valuable than anything else.
I'd love to read (and link) to your article when it is finished.


Up Next, My reply to a guy doing a PBS documentary...

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