Monday, March 20, 2006

Correspondence Course

The genre of military blogs is a timely subject, given this week's attention to the continuing presence of troops in Iraq. This history of military blogs may provide context for those unfamiliar with the genre. Some of the more prominent blogs have crossed over to become books in mainstream publishing, such as Just Another Soldier or My War: Killing Time in Iraq. Military bloggers are even organizing their own conferences. This week the New York Times is publishing some of these blog postings in their opinion section, in a special "Frontlines" series.

As a university writing program administrator, one thing that I find particularly interesting about such blogs is that they periodically offer tips to other aspiring writers about inspiration, organization, composition, and addressing an audience. It's a form of distance learning not envisioned in traditional military correspondence school. Many military bloggers also perceive themselves as part of distinct writing communities via webrings and blog rolls. Of course, some military bloggers see their newfound status as prose stylists in ironic terms. For example, this writing advice about the value of brevity from The Donovan looks back at the writer's classroom experiences in college:

Back when I was a stoont, one of my electives was Creative Writing. One day, we were given an assignment--write a short story using as few words as possible. The only other stipulation the prof made was that it had to address three elements: religion, sexuality and mystery. The only A+ in the class was
"Good God, I'm pregnant! I wonder who did it?"

Some of these soldiers have also followed the "Be Your Own Media" message into merchandizing. Yet, as the Washington Post reports, many blogs have come under scrutiny by military commanders who would like to control information released from the battlefield. This article from Military Information Technology details how memos from top commanders have pursued this policy of containment.

(In keeping with today's theme, I have reproduced my favorite illustration from the Famous Writer's Course.)

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