Of all the things to learn during a week when the basic credibility of ANY news coming out of Iraq, courtesy of “The Media Fog of War,” has been thrown into question, it was incredibly disturbing to learn that almost all news coming out of Central Command (Centcom) is not being picked up by Google News.
I did three inclusion searches at the Google News “help area,” which you can, of course, replicate:
The first two searches were dry holes that looked like this:
The third inclusion search (centcom.mil) came back with the following:
All 17 listings at the time of my search related to the Combined Joint Task Force in Djibouti (referred to as “Horn of Africa” at Centcom’s home page). This means that Centcom news in all remaining major areas is NOT making Google News. That would include Newsroom, Photos, Video, Audio, Coalition, Afghanistan, Iraq, and History.
That is a lot of news that isn’t getting out there that by all rights should be.
I had a conversation with a very helpful Sergeant First Class (SFC) at Centcom this afternoon after doing the first two inclusion searches; in other words, at the time, I thought that nothing from Centcom was getting out to Google News. At that time, the SFC pointed me to a Google News policy page that the SFC thought might explain why Centcom wasn’t being picked up by Google News:
The SFC’s logic was that the military was “promoting itself” in its news releases. I respectfully disagreed and suggested that they were promoting things like freedom, self-determination, and safety. I think the fact that the Horn of Africa news is getting in, which (again) I did not know at the time I spoke to the SFC, makes the possible objection raised by the SFC irrelevant.
The SFC promised to get with a more web-savvy person and to report any new information to me, including whether or not Centcom had applied for Google News acceptance and had been partially, completely, or selectively turned down.
Now that I have learned of the CJTF-only inclusion in Google News, and the exclusion of everything else, I believe it likely that some kind of technical problem may be preventing the other sections of Centcom from being recognized. Here is how I explained a couple of possbilities to the SFC in the e-mail I just sent:
However, figuring out how to get Centcom in general approved would appear to be problematic, because you have to wonder why it’s not automatically happening already:
- It may also be that Centcom is putting code (by accident or on purpose) into its non-CJTF stories that prevents Google’s crawlers from picking up all other Centcom stories.
- Another reason the CJTF URL may be getting picked up, while the rest aren’t, is that its URL has a different format to it (http://www.hoa.centcom.mil/) from the rest of Centcom (other Centcom sites have nothing between the “www” and “centcom”):
But frankly, folks, this is past my meager knowledge, as I’m already pretending to understand things I don’t have a full grasp of, and there are surely other possibilities besides the two I identified. I am hoping someone out there (or perhaps someone at Centcom who is reading this, if the SFC has a tough time getting resolution) can clarify why this is happening.
In the meantime, I have submitted applications to Google News to have the following sites added to its news database, and will report on the response(s) I receive, if any:
I don’t anticipate any difficulty in getting Centcom as a whole approved, or at least the major individual sections, but will certain report anything contrary to my expectations.
The idea that the military’s side of the War on Terror is not getting out to web users because of some combination of inattention, lack of assertiveness, and technical glitches is more than a little troubling, especially in light of the bordering-on-overwhelming evidence that news coming from other sources is irreparably tainted.
UPDATE: I suspect that there are similar problems at Yahoo! News, perhaps up to and including total exclusion of Centcom. An accidental phone conversation I had with a person at Yahoo! who I won’t name or ID by department led to various unsuccessful attempts to find any indication that Centcom news is making it to Yahoo! news in any way. Unfortunately, Yahoo! News does not have an “inclusion” search similar to Google’s (or we couldn’t find it), so I can’t say anything definite. Perhaps someone else can carry that torch; one trip through a maze is enough for one day.
UPDATE 2: It’s also quite frustrating that these guys have noooooo problem getting their “news” out: