Stars & Stripes: News watchdog for the military
I am researching a character for my novel who served in the Middle East as a military correspondent while on active duty. I got immediate help and some contacts from Tobias Naegele, ombudsman for Stars & Stripes.
In the process, I learned of examples where this official newspaper for service members has broken the first investigative stories of military abuses, enlightening to me after all my years in journalism since the paper is published by the Department of Defense and funded by Congress.
I have Naegele's permission to reprint a portion of his recent column about the unique role of a government-owned watchdog protecting service members who protect all of us.
My mission: Protect Stars and Stripes’ freedom
By Tobias Naegele
About six weeks ago I joined Stars and Stripes as its new ombudsman. That means I’m a sort of outside investigator, both a reader’s advocate and an inspector general of sorts, one with a particular mission to protect Stripes’ press freedoms and to ensure it delivers a fair and balanced product...
...Can the government publish a fair and balanced newspaper and news site, free from interference and censorship? Most of the time, yes. But it only takes one misstep to raise doubt about everything one does. That makes this a challenging and complex question.
In the 1980s, questions about censorship in Stars and Stripes arose in the Pacific, prompting investigations. The net result: Congress affirmed Stars and Stripes’ mission to provide daily news coverage for the extended military community, and established the ombudsman position to be an independent guardian of Stars and Stripes’ editorial independence.
My job, then, is threefold:
I’d like your help on what type of novels you read regularly? And maybe even some thoughts on my general book outline below.
I’m trying to figure out the genre for my next book. There are more than 100 genres of fiction, but the most common are in the chart above.
My novel is going to be set in Frankfort and the capital city makes sense for a political thriller, my favorite genre.
My main characters could be the adults fighting for control of the governor’s mansion. The star is more likely an 18-year-old young woman who has no interest in politics or religion, yet her life gets pulled into the middle of conflict over both when her mother runs for governor and her boyfriend is a Mormon.
My theme is a young woman angry at her mom for a pending divorce, uprooting them from their Malibu mansion to return to her Kentucky roots. The daughter mocks the move as “the Beverly Hillbillies in reverse.”
I'm a lousy patient. I finally had to shut down and take two weeks of vacation to see if that will work to stop the incessant infections that are coming because of a compromised immune system.
In just 10 days, an abnormal result showed an autoimmune disease might be eating my salivary glands; strep throat came next; and then I had pain so excruciating that I went to the ER thinking my kidney stones were back.
It was a really odd and random attack below the belt, as my long-suffering wife accurately said. Officially it’s called “Epididymo-Orchitis” which is like “testiticulitis.” I made up my own term pronounced “oh-my-goddess that-really-hurt-us.”
I started this website resting flat on my back in bed with a laptop and high doses of meds. I hurt so badly I couldn’t sit in a chair and cranked out 1,000 words an hour on the novel I’m planning.
I never tried writing this way. Maybe I have moved into a new class with Hunter Thompson and Ernest Hemingway, writers who deluded themselves into thinking they did better with their own forms of heavy medication.
Thompson’s “gonzo journalism” was fueled by drugs. Hemingway’s problem was booze. Neither had happy endings.
I promise that my blogs won’t repeatedly sound like the old folks’ home where everyone spends the day comparing illnesses.
Sometimes the news angels show up to bless a reporter. That's what we called those random gifts when a source gives you a guaranteed, front-page quote.
That sure happened to Gayle Deaton when she wrote about the possible sale of a place once known as the Mousetrap Lounge, a topless club the seller said got an undeserved bad reputation.
Seller Roger Crall told Gayle in the August 19 front page story in the Frankfort State Journal that the topless club never seemed that bad to him.
And now, the quote of the day: "Two guys might get into a fight and stab each other," Crall said, "but you could walk in there and they wouldn't stab you."
In a way, this page is my third book, a virtual and public account of the next chapter of my life. My story is not over.