WAR DIARY: 'Suddenly, journalists are wannabe Marines' - As the global crisis continues, MoD information officer Jonathan Spencer begins an occasional diary on news management in the media relations frontline

Monday 15 October

The media war is running faster than events, but there's no press

conference today. There isn't always anything new to say and we don't

want to waste anyone's time. But that doesn't stop the phonecalls or the

journalists from writing about an imminent ground invasion.

Tuesday 16 October

I'm feeling more like a travel agent, taking calls from journalists

eager to deploy wherever UK forces may be going. Suddenly everyone's a

wannabe Para or Marine.

Lunch with Panorama's producer. Tough task planning programmes on a war

in uncharted waters. The BBC sees Panorama as a flagship, but frankly,

TV has enough 'flagships' for an entire navy.

TV wants exclusive footage, but that has become difficult since all

networks have a camera on the frontline - often ahead of any


Wednesday 17 October

Tying up loose ends for a press facility tomorrow on the SA80 A2 rifle.

Need to sub the press release and check pictures for


We brief defence correspondents with details on Afghanistan, the Taliban

and Al-Qa'ida. Sometimes there's a need to fill the information vacuum

that can easily occur when there's little to report. Speculation runs

wild and policy officials can straighten it out and add critical


Thursday 18 October

Up early to catch a Chinook at RAF Northolt taking journalists to

Warminster - we need the morning if this is to hit the lunchtime news.

Army PRO Clive Bull is running the news conference - very much his

parade. We brief the minister's party on schedules and any overnight

developments and running stories.

Much has been written on the SA80 (and much of it inaccurate). It's had

problems, but has been upgraded and rigorously tested. We gave

journalists a chance to fire it for themselves - too bad the Daily Mail

couldn't make it. Junior minister Adam Ingram would not have rubber

stamped this for TV and press if he wasn't convinced by the opinions of

those who may depend on it.

Friday 19 October

Chief press officer Simon Wren is back from Number 10 and holds a

quick-fire round of who's doing what. With people covering different

subjects, we need to be joined-up in our approach. There are peaks and

troughs of media activity and it takes a wider focus to get all our

ducks in a row.

Saturday and Sunday 20 -21 October

We have 24-hour cover in the press office - and it's me for 24-hours of

it. There is footage of US special forces in Afghanistan, so all the

journalists call to ask about is ours - for a change. We don't comment

on special forces, so I advise them to write about something else.

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