Social media puts the squeeze on Army public affairs

Agencies struggle to keep pace with 24-hour news cycle

Social media tools such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter are forcing Army officials to rethink how they share information with traditional and new media providers, an Army public affairs official said today at a workshop about social media.

Responding to news as fast as it happens is a struggle for the service, said Lindy Kyzer, a public affairs specialist with the Army’s Online and Social Media Division.

“People are used to the immediacy of getting answers when they want them,” Kyzer said at the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement’s Social Media for DOD Government conference in Fairfax County, Va. 

“They are used to being able to log on and get onto the Huffington Post or the Daily Brief and getting an instant and continual feed of news,” and Army officials are trying to adapt to that nonstop news schedule, she said.

For example, the Army recently released a casualty report about soldiers serving in Afghanistan. The report was released on a Friday afternoon, which was perceived by some as an attempt to limit news media coverage about it, Kyzer said.

Author Thomas Ricks wrote a post criticizing the Army about the timing of the report’s release on his blog called "The Best Defense." The quick, and sharp criticism is something the Army officials are not used to dealing with, she said.

The episode illustrates how news and commentary have evolved in recent years, Kyzer said. "There used to be a time when a journalist wouldn’t have the editorial space, and his editors wouldn’t have let him write that because they didn’t want to hurt that relationship,” she said. “Now he has a blog post with unlimited space. So it has really changed the way we release our news and information.”

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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