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Pentagon expanding PR office

Oct. 31, 2006 at 8:32 AM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Defense is creating a Public Affairs "rapid response team" to respond to what it sees as unfair or inaccurate coverage.

Many of the additional staff at the Pentagon Public Affairs Office will be dedicated to booking television news appearances for DOD officials and their representatives, and to trying to convince reporters and newspapers to cover the stories that the Pentagon wants to see more of.

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Others will be dedicated to monitoring the Internet, creating podcasts and responding to reports on blogs, negative stories and terrorist propaganda.

The Pentagon press office in the last few weeks has also inaugurated a new blog on its Web site defenselink.mil to respond immediately to news reports it objects to.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is a frequent critic of the mainstream media. In a speech to the American Legion in Utah in August, he complained "some seem not to have learned history's lessons," and then cited four examples, three them mainstream media: a former CNN chief, a senior editor at Newsweek and newspaper stories in general that cover one soldier punished for misconduct 10 times more frequently than a Medal of Honor winner, by his count.

"Those who know the truth need to speak out against these kinds of myths and distortions that are being told about our troops and about our country. America is not what's wrong with the world," he said.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff told Pentagon reporters that the Defense Department is trying to get inside the 24-hour news cycle, and noted that Rumsfeld this year gave Pentagon media operations a "D+", compared with the enemy.

"We're trying to do better than a D+," Ruff said.

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