DoD makes progress in new-media acclimation

NEW YORK: The Department of Defense (DoD) is making over its public affairs operation to make it more Internet-savvy and nimble in reacting to negative or "inaccurate" media reports.

NEW YORK: The Department of Defense (DoD) is making over its public affairs operation to make it more Internet-savvy and nimble in reacting to negative or "inaccurate" media reports.

Officials haven't released details on how exactly they plan to shift resources from traditional media representation to new media or to what extent the team would expand. However, Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, told PRWeek that progress is already evident in, among other things, the increased availability of video and podcasts on the DoD's main Web site, www.defenselink.mil.

As reported by the AP, a Pentagon memo recently made public describes the need for the DoD public affairs team, led by former ABC News producer Dorrance Smith, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, to focus more on blogs and other Web-based information sources. The team itself believes it has been slow to adapt to current trends in media relations.

"We have to recognize that people now get their news in very different ways," Whitman, said. "What we're trying to do is grow capabilities that will allow us to communicate more broadly than we did in the past. I think we've been slow to do it."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has complained for months about the relatively slow adaptation by the DoD and the US federal government to media venues such as online video sharing and how they can be used to influence global opinion.

Partly in recognition of the viral nature of news reports, the Pentagon has recently been dogged in berating media outlets deemed to have misrepresented facts. Whitman stressed, however, that the DoD has always aggressively sought to "correct the record."

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