What Are Blogs?
Because blogs are a fairly new phenomenon, it is beneficial to describe the nature of blogs and their users, provide an overview of military blogs, and discuss their potential impact on the military. Blogs can be “as basic as an online diary or as fully fledged as a political community” (Chaddock, 2005, p. 1). The term “blog” is a combined and shortened form of the words “Web log.” According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, a blog is a “website for which an individual or a group generates text, photographs, audio files, and/or links, typically but not always on a daily or otherwise regular basis” (Wikipedia, 2005).  Blogs contain a chronological series of posts, many of which include comments from readers and links to other sites. Besides citing links within postings, most blogs include a blogroll, a permanent list of links to the author’s favorite blogs. These linked and crosslinked blogs create larger online communities on any topic imaginable. Together, the communities of blogs form the blogosphere, which Godwin-Jones (2003) describes as a large, loosely woven net of information as bloggers post new entries, debate issues, and reference and link to other blogs.
The first blogs were created between 1994 and 1998. Until 1999, blogging was done mainly by computer experts who knew how to use Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and could use sophisticated software. The introduction of no-cost, easy to use, content-based software in 1999 made blogging fairly accessible and relatively inexpensive; suddenly, anyone with an average understanding of the Internet could build and maintain a blog (Ratliff, 2002). In addition, new blog architecture enables material to be permanently available so that it can be linked to and found in the future, which makes blog content relatively long-lived (Miles, 2005). Other technology has made it relatively easy for people to remain up-to-date on their favorite blogs; blog servers track updates and notify users when their favorite blogs have new posts (Miles, 2005).
Many blogs are “basement setups – scribbled by one, read by few” (Perlmutter & McDaniel, 2005, p. 61). In contrast, some popular blogs such as Instapundit, Power Line and Daily Kos, receive more daily traffic than many major newspapers or TV news programs (Perlmutter & McDaniel, 2005; Sifry, 2005). Blogs are often described as voices of the people or of political players, and they also may serve as trip-wires for breaking stories. Lennon calls bloggers independent publishers; she believes most blogs function as an editorial form, blanketing niche interests such as medical news and developments in science and technology (Beeson, 2005). Johnson and Kaye (2004b) see blogs as online versions of talk radio in which consumers of the media can communicate directly with the host. Miles (2005), on the other hand, calls blogs “distributed documentaries of the everyday” (p. 66). Turnbull (2002) compares the blogosphere to the Viennese coffee houses of the early 20th century – places where writers and thinkers gather and discuss the issues of the day. Similarly, Klein and Burstein (2005) liken the blog phenomenon to various historical phenomena, including the Talmudic tradition of debating, interpreting, and commenting on religious text passages; the Renaissance artists and thinkers who commented on ancient Greek and Roman culture; and the pamphleteering of Thomas Paine and other American Revolutionaries of the 1700’s.
Johnson and Kaye (2004b) report that bloggers are not independent news gathers, but they rely heavily on traditional media for their content. Many blogs are platforms for political activism, and many bloggers, especially those identified as politically conservative, tend to be critical of traditional media. One researcher found an almost equal number of blogs on the right and left ends of the political spectrum. Glance (2005) compiled a list of the most linked-to political blogs and identified 759 liberal and 735 conservative; her study did not include moderate, independent or libertarian blogs, which she said were far fewer in number. However, Johnson and Kaye (2004b) cite several mainstream media sources that claim the blogosphere is “predominantly right of center, either conservative or libertarian” (p. 626). Although some blogs link across the ideological divide, Glance (2005) found a great tendency for blogs to link within their own ideological communities (liberal blogs to liberal blogs and conservative blogs to conservative ones).  
            Whether depicted as forums for punditry, documentation or discourse, blogs continue to skyrocket in popularity. By 2005, the blogosphere is more than 30 times bigger than it was three years before, with no signs of let-up in growth (Perlmutter & McDaniel, 2005). In November 2005, Technorati, the most comprehensive blog-tracking service, was tracking more than 21 million blogs with more being added each day. The total number tracked has doubled every 5.5 months since June 2002 and continues to do so; this equates to 70,000 new blogs created each day, or about one per second (Perlmutter & McDaniel, 2005; Sifry, 2005). Blogging is a demanding and time-consuming activity. Evidence suggests that blogging tends to lose its appeal for many people once the novelty fades. Technorati founder David Sifry reports that nearly half of all blogs are abandoned after just six months, with 45% becoming idle shortly after being started (Woods, 2005). About 55% of all blogs remain active, however, with 13% being updated at least weekly (Perlmutter & McDaniel, 2005). Posting to blogs remains vigorous; Technorati tracks about 900,000 new posts every day, which is an average of 10.4 blog entries added per second (Perlmutter & McDaniel, 2005). Not all blogs are available for anyone to see. Estimates of the number of blogs that are private or open only to a blogger’s family and friends range from 15% to 33% (Memmott, 2005).
Simmons (2005) notes that blogging is an international phenomenon that circumvents traditional geographic and financial barriers. In her study on blogging in Iran, Simmons posits that blogs serve different purposes depending on the environments in which they exist. Her research found that blogs “have the most impact in environments where they assume a unique role as in the case of Iran” (Simmons, 2005, p. 33). In Iran, blogs present a different perspective than that of state-controlled newspapers. Blogs in these countries may or may not be overtly political, but they often discuss political impacts on every day life. In addition, they serve to bring people together within a country while exposing the outside world to those cultures through the eyes of the average citizen (Simmons 2005). Global Voices Online, a media project sponsored by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, follows global blogs and posts links to the most interesting ones on their Web site. They use the term “bridge bloggers” to describe bloggers who talk about their country or region to an international audience. According to their Web site, the group’s goal is to leverage the power of “citizen’s media” in an age when “international English-language media ignores many things that are important to large numbers of the world’s citizens” (Global Voices Online, 2005). The international character and access of blogs has also resulted in jurisdictional and legal questions. One such example is the case of American bloggers who distributed grisly details from a murder trial in Canada despite a Canadian publication ban (Kirtley, 2005; Woods, 2005).
Who Blogs?
Despite the growth in blog use, the term “blog” is recognized by only 38% of American adult Internet users; the rest are not sure what a blog is, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project (2005). The project’s survey found that about 7% of American adult Internet users reported creating a blog, while 27% said they read blogs; this represents a 58% increase in readership from the previous year when just 17% of similar Internet users reported reading blogs. The survey found that blog creators tend to be: male (57% of the blogging population); young (48% are under age 30); broadband users (70%); veteran Internet users (82% have been online for 6 years or more); well educated (39% have college or graduate degrees); and relatively well-off financially (42% live in households earning more than $50,000). The survey also finds that blog readers are more mainstream than bloggers themselves. Although blog readers, like bloggers, are more likely to be young, male, and well educated Internet veterans, the study reports greater-than-average growth in blog readership among women, minorities, those between the ages of 30 and 49, and those with home dial-up connections (Pew, 2005).
Teens are creating blogs at more than twice the adult rate. According to Lenhart and Madden (2005), 19% of teens (about 4 million) say they have created their own online blog and 38% say they read them. The same study reports that girls ages 15-17 are most likely to author blogs (25%), compared to boys of the same age (15%); about 18% of younger teens of both sexes blog. In an interview with Irvine (2005), Lenhart said that teens blog to develop and maintain friendship networks. Although blogging can help teens connect with friends, exercise their creativity, and share their views (Gilbert, 2005), the practice can also be an outlet for teens seeking attention. Some teens are “posting provocative pictures, discussing real or imagined sex lives, berating and threatening one another, and recounting drinking and drug use” (Gilbert, 2005, p. 1). Other teens may be posting too much personal information causing some adults to fear they could become targets for Internet stalkers (Sullivan, 2005). Nonetheless, if past patterns of growth of the Internet and other technologies are any indication, blogs are likely to continue to grow in popularity as these young people mature. Given the large number of young persons in the military, milblog use also is likely to grow.
Military Blogs

The very nature of blogs described above is likely what appeals to milbloggers. Many people in the military are young, and many embrace technology. Current milbloggers tend to be openly critical of mainstream media coverage of the military and the global war on terrorism. They also fulfill a unique role in society, perhaps even acting as “bridge bloggers” by offering an unfiltered close-up view of military culture that readers do not get from Defense Department or mainstream news sources. Milblogs vary greatly and serve as forums for punditry, documentation, and discourse, enabling service members to connect with like-minded people regardless of where they are stationed. Feeling connected could be especially important during a time when the military is becoming more isolated from the rest of American society. According to Hewitt (2004), long-time Washington Post military reporter Tom Ricks describes the phenomenon as the “increasing distance between the civilian and military worlds, and the divergence in the values of both” (p. 1). Perhaps blogging is a way that some milbloggers attempt to close this gap between the civilian and military worlds.
However, because many milblogs are viewable by the public, they also raise security concerns within the Defense Department. At their worst, milblogs may impact international relations or undermine security. Managing operational security is a priority for the Defense Department in an age when information from the battlefield can be made available to a global audience at the click of a button. The Secretary of Defense emphasized the importance of maintaining operational security in a 2003 Defense Department memorandum. The memo cites an Al Qaeda training manual recovered in Afghanistan that states, “using public sources openly and without resorting to illegal means, it is possible to gather at least 80% of information about the enemy” (Rumsfeld, 2003, p. 1). In addition, an Army Chief of Staff memo, available online, warns that “photos depicting weapons system vulnerabilities and tactics, techniques, and procedures” have surfaced on blogs and other open source Web sites (Schoomaker, 2005, p. 1). Although milblogs are open source, they are not subject to official review; however, military commanders can order service members to stop blogging or to submit entries for review if they believe the content might violate military regulations or security (Memmott, 2005). Memmott (2005) reports that only a few blogs have run into such trouble; among them, 67cshdocs (Hockenberry, 2005), Just Another Soldier, My War (Memmott, 2005), and Leonard Clark (Finer, 2005).These milbloggers either shut down their sites voluntarily or were ordered to shut them down after being found to contain operationally sensitive information.
In April 2005, the commander of Multinational Forces Iraq issued the first known wide-ranging blog policy within the Department of Defense requiring service members within the command to register their milblogs; the policy also elucidated the military’s rules governing release of classified information, names of casualties before next-of-kin notification, and details about incidents that are under investigation (Finer, 2005). The rules are not overly restrictive, however; a military spokesman in Baghdad said that the guidelines are “nearly identical to those required of news organizations that cover the military” (Finer, 2005, p. A01). Another spokesperson “stresses that most soldiers are well aware of Army policy and comport themselves accordingly” (Claburn, 2005). In addition, many milbloggers post disclaimers on their Web sites either voluntarily or to comply with local commanders’ policies. For example, milblogger Matthew Heidt’s bloghome page states, “The views expressed on this website are my own and DO NOT convey the endorsement of the Naval Special Warfare Command, its tenant commands, or the US Navy” (Froggy Ruminations, 2005).
At their best, milblogs may counteract enemy propaganda; influence positive change for the Defense Department; educate the public about the military’s culture, people and values; and increase national and international support for the services and their missions. However, little is known about the scope or effect of milblogging. The milblog phenomenon began with the first widely read milblog, Sergeant Stryker’s Daily Briefing, which was created when a service member became disappointed with mainstream media coverage of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (The Mudville Gazette, 2005). As the build-up to operation Iraqi Freedom began, more and more people began to look to blogs for their information needs about the looming conflict. The Iraq war marked the sudden expansion of the growing phenomenon of milblogs. There are few demographics available about milbloggers – who they are, what they are saying, who is reading them, or even how many there are. In May 2005, the number of milblogs was reported to be around 200, with Sifry estimating that there will be about 1,000 by early 2006 (Memmott, 2005). Memmot (2005) attributes the expected surge to new troops rotating into Iraq and Afghanistan who want to communicate online with family and friends at home without remembering, saving, or typing a host of e-mail addresses.
Milblogs are as varied and wide-ranging as their authors. Chris Missick, a soldier who writes A Line in the Sand, is pro-military and has aspirations to run for Congress. “Blackfive,” a former Army intelligence officer and paratrooper, recently retired from the military; an information technology executive in a major Chicago firm, he continues to blog on his site Blackfive, which was voted best milblog by his peers in 2004. Another popular blog, the The Mudville Gazette, is penned anonymously by a husband and wife team known as “Greyhawk” and “Mrs. Greyhawk.” Michael Bautista is an Army National Guardsman who named his blog, Ma Deuce Gunner, for his M-2 machine gun. Neil Prackish is an Army reserve officer and Silver Star awardee for valor; a dentist in civilian life, Prackish recently stopped blogging on his popular site, Armor Geddon, because of his own concerns for operational security. Matthew Heidt, a member of the Navy special warfare community, pens Froggy Ruminations. Cinnamon Wilkinson (A Female Soldier Story) and Elizabeth Le Bel (Life in This Girl’s Army) are among the women milbloggers telling their stories online. At least two soldiers, Colby Buzzell (My War) and Jason Hartley (Just Another Soldier), have signed book deals based on their blogs.
Given the great potential for positive and negative impacts that milblogs may have on operational security, international coalitions, and public support for the military, it is important to know what milbloggers are saying about the military. Do they communicate a credible message? Is the message more emotional, and what emotions are communicated? Do they frame issues differently from mainstream media and Defense Department news sources? Ultimately, this study seeks to shed light on the phenomenon of milblogs and how they influence attitudes about the military.  
RQ1: What is the overall tone and depiction of the military portrayed in milblogs?
Milblog Credibility
Although no research exists on military blogs, researchers have begun looking at web logs in general. Virtually anyone with Internet access can post information to a Web log. Are these bloggers perceived as credible? How believable are blogs as a communication channel?
To learn whether milblogs are credible and how they compare with other mass media, one must first define credibility and look at previous credibility studies. Andersen and Clevenger (1963) define the construct of credibility as “the image held of a communicator at a given time by a receiver – either one person or a group” (59). It is a measure of the degree to which the receiver of a message believes the source is credible.
Because blogs reach the masses, it is beneficial to look at the study of mass media credibility, which focuses on both source credibility and medium credibility. Source credibility is a major contributing factor to the believability of a source (Haiman, 1949). When a source is perceived by the audience to be credible, that source is much more persuasive than a source that is seen as not credible or one for which credibility is indeterminate at the outset. Support for this argument is intuitive and has been significantly documented using empirical means (Haiman, 1949; Hovland & Weiss, 1951). Medium or channel credibility is one’s judgment of the channels through which messages are sent.
Perception of credibility is the key; even though a source of information may be well informed and highly educated, the receiver must extend credibility to the sender before trusting the information he or she is sending (Andersen & Clevenger, 1963). Kiousis (2001) argues that perceived credibility is a function of both source and channel characteristics. However, he believes that the lines of influence are multidirectional: “In some cases, people’s impressions of channel credibility may drive their opinions about source credibility, but in other situations, opinions about source credibility may drive impressions of channel credibility” (Kiousis, 2001, p. 388).
There is little research on the credibility of blogs, but researchers have compared the credibility of online and traditional news sources. Kiousis (2001) found that, although people were skeptical of news from television, newspapers, and online news, all sources were considered moderately credible, with newspapers considered most credible, followed by online news (defined as primarily news Web sites), and television news.
Johnson and Kaye (1998, 2000, 2002, 2004a) conducted various studies on the relationship between a user’s reliance on various media for information and perception of the media’s credibility. They found that media use does not strongly predict credibility. However, reliance (how dependent a user is on a particular medium for information) is strongly correlated with credibility. The researchers explain that reliance measures indicate attitudes towards the media source; they differentiate reliance from use measures, which are indicative of behaviors.
Although Johnson and Kaye’s (2002, 2004a) first two studies found Internet reliance predictive of users’ perception of online news sources as credible, their later studies showed a negative correlation between Internet reliance and credibility. The later studies instead found a correlation between reliance on traditional media sources for information and credibility of online news. The conflicting results perhaps reflect the changing face of the Internet and its new demographics as more people became connected to the Internet.
Overall, the studies consistently show that Internet users who are heavy users of traditional media sources judge the Internet as highly credible (Johnson & Kaye, 2004b). These heavy users tend to be “political junkies” who use the Internet to supplement traditional media sources for their information needs (Johnson & Kaye, 2004b, p. 625). The researchers posit that “traditional media users tend to be highly media literate, knowing what sources to trust and what to discard, and have learned where to go online for credible news” (Johnson & Kaye, 2004b, p. 625).
With respect to blog credibility, Johnson and Kaye (2004b) found somewhat different results. The plurality of blog users surveyed consider various online and traditional mainstream media sources moderately to very credible; these scores seem to reflect that these blog users are among the highly media literate “political junkies” who read blogs along with other media (Johnson & Kaye, 2004b). Although reliance on mainstream media predicted users’ perceived credibility of Internet news, Johnson and Kaye (2004b) found that blog reliance is the only strong predictor of blog credibility. Thus, those who rely on blogs as their main source of information tend to distrust traditional media and view blogs as a viable alternative. The researchers say that the results may reflect the paradoxical attitude that these bloggers and blog readers have toward the media: “They may distrust the media, but bloggers link to media sites and pay attention to media content, even if only to hunt for mistakes and look for what they consider bias” (Johnson & Kaye, 2004b, p. 634).
The blog users in their study say they rely on blogs because they provide more depth and analysis than traditional media. Although fairness may be considered a virtue of traditional journalism, these blog users see opinionated writing as independent, thoughtful analysis that fills a gap in mainstream media coverage of world events. The majority of surveyed blog users identified themselves as conservative, and “almost two-thirds say they sought information from conservative or very conservative sites” (Johnson & Kaye, 2004b, p. 633). Almost three-quarters of blog users believe that blogs are moderately to very credible. The researchers concluded that readers are seeking out blogs that support their views, and that readers consider those blogs to be highly credible.
            No studies are known to have been done on the credibility of milblogs. The Johnson and Kaye (2004b) study on political blog credibility was measured by surveying blog users, however, no research is available on the general public’s perception of blogs or milblogs. This study seeks to learn how credible the public perceives milblogs to be, and how milblog credibility compares to that of mainstream and Defense Department news outlets. Given the conflicting results of past studies on political blogs and the lack of information on milblogs, this study avoids making a prediction and instead seeks to answer the following research questions.
RQ2: Do milblogs communicate a credible message?
RQ3: Do people perceive milblogs to be more or less credible than Defense Department and mainstream media online articles?
Emotion and Milblogs
Affect and emotion are powerful appeals that guide human behavior. Research on affect shows that evaluations of people, objects, and issues are influenced by feelings, moods and emotions (Petty, Gleicher, & Baker, 1991). Because emotions are universal, the messages contained in milblogs may promote greater understanding of the military and possibly serve to bridge the gap between the armed forces and the rest of society.
Milblogs are often written by men and women who are serving in dangerous places, performing dangerous duties. Whether blogging from Iraq or from a base in the United States, milbloggers offer an insider’s view of war, military life, and the people who are the military. A cursory sampling of milblogs indicates that they express a wide range of emotions, including fear, loneliness, sadness, and even exhilaration. As they describe their experiences, milbloggers often use descriptively detailed language. Some milblogs are “sophomoric and laced with obscenities, while others offer frank and poignant accounts of what it’s like to fight this war” (Schulman, 2005). Before it was discontinued, Jason Hartley’s milblog, Just Another Soldier, was “frequently profane, uproarious, vulgar, searing, and poignant, but always nakedly honest. (Hartley) writes about life and loose bowels and self-abuse and death – kind of how Holden Caulfield might write if he loved the Army as much as Hartley says he does” (Gladstone, 2005, p.1). Hockenberry (2005) likens the blogging of Danjel Bout (365 and a Wakeup) to the prose of “literary warbloggers of yore” like Thucydides and Homer: “Sleep, blessed, blissful, wonderful sleep. Mother's milk. A full harvest in a time of famine. The storm that breaks the drought. It is the drug of choice here - assiduously avoided because of the never-ending chain of missions, but always craved. If rarity is the measure of a substance's worth, then here in Iraq, sleep carries a price beyond words. There is no more precious moment in my day than the sublime instant where my mind flickers between consciousness and the dreamworld. In that sliver of time the day seems to shimmer and melt like one of Dalí's paintings - leaving only honey sweet dreams of my other life far from Arabia” (p. 1).
Milbloggers’ views are distinctive, and they describe events that few Americans outside the military will experience. Many sites describe the sadness of leaving families to go to war. A Seattle-area band, 3 dB down, was inspired by one such post on The Mudville Gazette and wrote the simple but meaningful song On Leaving, (3 dB Down, 2005; The Mudville Gazette, 2005). Colby Buzzell (My War) is among those who blogged about a combat experience in Iraq: “We were driving there on that main street when all of a sudden all hell came down all around on us. I was like, this is it, I'm going to die. I cannot put into words how scared I was” (Schulman, 2005, p. 13). Jason Hartley (Just Another Soldier) mentioned in a radio interview a blog entry in which he described his feelings the first time he shot at someone with the intent to kill: “Intellectually I know this is morally repugnant….But, that experience - that was the most exhilarating thing that I've ever experienced in my life, was making a concerted effort to kill someone. I have to admit this. I don't want to hurt people, but that was really exciting” (Gladstone, 2005, p.1).  Milblogger “Sminklemeyer” (In Iraq for 365) posts candidly about seeking help for “his struggle with recurring nightmares” (Schulman, 2005, p. 13).
Military families, too, tell emotional stories. “Greyhawk’s” daughter posted her thoughts on her father’s blog on her birthday in January 2005: “I had these small worries in the back of my mind that I didn’t want to grow and haunt me. So I thought as positive as possible, and tried not to think about the dangers. I would think instead of how happy I’d be when he came home. Sometimes it’s hard when you hear news like I did yesterday about a helicopter crashing that killed 31 men. A sudden fear struck me that my dad could have been on that helicopter. I feel proud to say that my dad is in Iraq serving our country and helping Iraq become a free nation” (The Mudville Gazette, 2005).
Many blogs include photographs and video links of fellow fighters in battle gear, camp life, combat vehicles and weapons, memorials of fallen comrades, babies born during deployments, smiling family members, joyful homecomings, and other images that illustrate military life. Sadly, since January 2005, “the blogs of at least two soldiers have gone dark after their authors were killed in action,” Schulman (2005). Milblogger Francisco G. Martinez, who died March 20, 2005 from a sniper’s gunshot in Iraq, wrote in August 2004, “My intentions are to come home safe and sound, but my (enemy’s) is to prevent that from happening. So tonight, before you sleep, or while you sit to eat, think of me, and my brothers who are going to sacrifice our lives, so that you may enjoy your every day turmoils and frustrations” (Memmott, 2005, p. 4).
Besides giving readers a glimpse into military life, the moving photographs and descriptive language of milblogs likely evoke powerful emotions, both positive and negative. Their content certainly seems more emotional than that of traditional news sources. Although it appears that milblogs communicate an affective message, no research has been done on what emotions are being communicated. To learn more, this study asks the following research questions:
RQ4: Do milblogs communicate an affective message and, if so, which emotions are more prevalent?
RQ5: Do milblogs elicit more or less emotional response than Defense Department and mainstream media online articles?           
Influence of Milblogs
Anecdotal evidence suggests that blogs, like traditional mass media, influence the public, media, and policy agendas. Prior to the Internet and specifically the blog phenomenon, only those who could pay start-up costs for some sort of mass media could communicate with the “masses.” Now, anyone can. To reach mainstream media-size audiences, “a blogger needs only a computer, Internet access, and an opinion” (Rosenbloom, 2004, p. 31). As Jarvis puts it, “people now own the printing press and the broadcast tower and the barrier to entry to media has been blown away” (Cherkoff, 2004, p. 1). Turnbull (2002) believes that, because of the quality of minds present and the cross-fertilization of ideas, the blogosphere has an influence out of proportion to its number of readers.
Much research has been done on the influence of mass media on society. Lippmann (1922) first suggested that the public must depend on the media to give shape to the facts of life because they cannot be everywhere, doing everything. Media presentation of issues makes the public aware of issues and, to a certain degree, controls issue salience. Cohen (1963) stated that the press “may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about” (p. 13). McCombs and Shaw (1972) coined the term “agenda-setting hypothesis” to describe how mass media set the agenda: “most of what people know comes to them ‘second’ or ‘third’ hand from the mass media and from other people” (p. 176). They posited that the mass media have the ability to transfer items from the news agenda to the public agenda by making them more salient. They also suggest that the media have the power to frame issues by emphasizing, downplaying, and omitting certain aspects of an issue, thereby suggesting to the public or other media how to think about it. Goffman (1974) describes a frame as the definition a person (or the media) gives to the situation or content in which interaction occurs. Entman (1991) theorized “frames reside in the specific properties of the news narrative that encourage those perceiving and thinking about events to develop particular understandings of them. News frames are constructed from and embodied in keywords, metaphors, concepts, symbols and visual images emphasized in the news narrative” (p. 7, 1991). Like the bulk of mainstream media stories, many blogs seem to rely on episodic framing as they offer observations and snippets of daily life. Iyengar (1991) posited that episodically framed stories are more personalized and may be more influential than stories framed thematically. Additionally, frames prime access to schema, what Iyengar (1990) called accessibility bias; that is, the tendency of an individual to place greater weight on considerations that are momentarily prominent or salient (Pfau, Moy, & Szabo, 2001). Priming temporarily enhances the accessibility of concepts in memory. These become accessible cues, shortcuts that people use to analyze new information. The more often a theme is repeated, the greater the accessibility of related schema, and the more they can be expected to influence behavior.
The cross-linking way of sharing information on blogs serves to amplify a message and spread it in real time (Fernando, 2004), and this effect has been visible in both the corporate and political arenas. In fact, anecdotal evidence suggests that blogs are bringing issues to public, media, and policymaker awareness, as well as framing and priming them. In the corporate world, for example, no longer can corporate communicators tightly manage messaging about their products; rather, “a single loyal consumer or an angry critic can have tremendous influence on thousands of other consumers simply by posting one message” regardless of whether their beliefs are rooted in reality (Woods, 2005, p. 28). In some cases, blogs have influenced the public and had a direct impact on corporate bottom lines. For example, one blog that logged 15 million hits began a movement that forced Apple to create a longer lasting battery for its iPod, and Web pages about Coca-Cola’s new C2 beverage impacted Japanese consumers’ thoughts about the product before its widespread distribution (Crain, 2004); additionally, Kryptonite had to replace $10 million in bicycle locks after bloggers spread stories about how to open the locks with a disposable pen (Sudhaman, 2005).
Blogs also can bring issues to the media agenda by supplementing, echoing, amplifying, and sometimes challenging mainstream media reports, particularly in politics. Crain (2004) reports that more people are turning to blogs to read about political events of the day. Although many journalists are critical of bloggers, “they increasingly rely on blogs for story tips, information, and access to stories from media throughout the world” (Johnson & Kaye, 2004b, p. 625). Taylor (2004) argues that the events and the political climate of the last few years would have been an entirely different had it not been for bloggers. In fact, bloggers have led media to stories and kept stories in the public eye long enough for the public to force leaders to act on issues that otherwise might have died in the mainstream press. A few events have triggered “blog storms,” a surge of activity and information within the blogosphere (Parks, 2005). The first national public figure swept up in a blog storm was Senator Trent Lott (Dillon, 2004). Initially, ABC News was the lone mainstream outlet that reported racially divisive remarks the Senator made; the story appeared to be fading away until bloggers began covering it. The blog storm spawned coverage by multiple mainstream outlets, generating a host of articles and opinion pieces in mainstream media that pressured the Senator to resign as Senate majority leader.
In the 2004 presidential election, bloggers helped spread allegations against Democratic candidate John Kerry that originated with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth; blogs also played a role in the resignation of CBS news anchor Dan Rather and CNN’s Eason Jordan (Pollack, 2005; Taylor, 2004). In addition, bloggers noticed that a Bush campaign commercial had digitally inserted additional soldiers into a scene where the president was addressing a rally; the campaign subsequently altered the commercial (Taylor, 2004).
Howard Dean was the first to harness the power of the Internet to raise funds for his bid for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004. Now it appears that other policymakers are trying to harness the power of blogs. Senator Patrick Leahy has the distinction of being the first Senate blogger (Chaddock, 2005); now many others have their own blogs or post occasionally on prominent blogs (Perlmutter & Metzgar, 2005). Members of both parties on Capitol Hill are following blogs (Chaddock, 2005). In October 2005, Republicans from the House of Representatives convened the first ever “Capitol Hill Blog Row” (Chaddock, 2005). For half a day, top Republicans met with bloggers who blogged the conversation live from the meeting room on Capitol Hill. It remains to be seen how much sway blogs will play in future politics, but Perlmutter and Metzgar (2005) offer that blogs may be like a “virtual primary,” in which candidates must work the blogosphere one blog at a time, much like visiting coffee shops and town halls in Iowa and New Hampshire during the primaries. They argue that “the politician who takes them for granted will find himself standing alone” (Perlmutter & Metzgar, 2005, p. 1).
Thus, blogs influence the public, media, and policy agendas and frame and prime issues by echoing and amplifying the voices of those speaking out in society, whether the voices come from the public, politics, the media, academia, or other bloggers. By extension, military public affairs officers may find it harder to manage the message as milbloggers become conduits for unofficial information to the public and the media.Given the influential nature of blogs as a medium, this research seeks to understand how milblogs, through their presence in the blogosphere and their unique viewpoints may be setting agendas by framing and priming various military issues. This study, therefore, seeks answers to the final two research questions.

RQ6: Compared to mainstream media and Defense Department news sources, what impact do military web logs have on the public’s attitudes toward the U.S. military, the war in Iraq, and the military’s continued presence there?