Accuracy in defence reporting

Mercurius Cantabrigiensis

ACCESS: Restricted
Joined
Nov 8, 2007
Messages
46
Reaction score
8
Having read the “Oh dear, not Jane’s too” thread, I suppose that a logical question must be to ask which magazine represents the 'gold standard' in defence journalism mentioned there? Should we all be switching out subscriptions from International Defence Review to Brand X when they expire? Or is this gold standard a fantasy?

An indecent number of years ago when I worked in the aerospace industry, I learned that a well-known aerospace magazine had a vacancy that I could in theory fill. Over my lunchtime pint, I daydreamed of starting a glamorous new career.

That afternoon, I tried the simple of experiment of counting the number of pages of text in the magazine in question, counting the average number of words in each page, and counting the number of staff writers who were listed on the contents page. Simple arithmetic told me the approximate number of words each writer had to generate for each issue.

Then I worked out the approximate number of words in the report I was writing and thought about how long that job was taking. Suddenly that glamorous new career started to look more like the ‘rowing of the galley slaves’ scene from Ben Hur, and those daydreams collapsed. I’ve often wondered how many would-be applicants for the job did the same calculation and came to the same conclusion.

In today’s economy I don’t suppose that the journalistic workload has reduced any. At a Farnborough lunch a couple of years ago, I found myself seated next to a young lady from a well-known aerospace magazine. Just as the conversation with out host started to get technologically interesting, she excused herself and headed off for her next appointment. Apparently it’s not unknown for reporters to have air show appointments at 30-minute intervals.

So given the speed at which reporters apparently work, it’s hardly surprising that the odd fake story gets through. In the 1960s, even dear old Flight magazine (which almost certainly had a lot more in-house expertise than it does now) fell victim to a hoax – but being Flight, gleefully published an account of the hoax in a subsequent issue.

Perhaps a good analogy lies in the world of fine art, where one dealer once assured me that any full-time professional dealer who claimed never to have been taken in by a forgery was lying.

Stargazer2006 was quick to agree that Jane’s was not all that it should be, but as RP1 quickly pointed out, he’d managed to get a major mistake in only a single paragraph of text. We have all done it. So when I see ‘howlers’ or hoaxes in print, my reaction is not to assume that the writer in question is of limited competence, but to think “There, but for the grace of God, go I”. But according to my nearest friendly historian, even those widely-quoted words of John Bradford contain a reporting error…
 

bobbymike

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2009
Messages
11,346
Reaction score
2,946
I don't have a problem with Jane's other than the price per subscription. I used to have JDW, IDR, along with Defense News, AW&ST, National Defense Magazine and Armed Forces Journal. I noticed with the latter four I never really missed a story and the latter four were slightly less in cost than a single Jane's subscription. Jane's covers more arcane international country defense programs but I usually follow US, Russia, NATO and other major power's programs. Just my two cents ;)
 

Pit

ACCESS: Confidential
Joined
Dec 29, 2005
Messages
145
Reaction score
11
I Like:

Naval Forces, it's an expensive magazine (as much as any other of Mönch Publishing) but for the naval enthusiast (with no money shortage!) and the profesional (who can ask the boss to pay the billet ;D) it's your first reference guide on journal from the english-speaking world (at least for me, far better than Jane's naval publications)...

Some time ago, it was very common to read articles by Antony Preston, Norman Friedman, and Stuart Slade, some of my favourites techno-bubble-gurus ;D, I can only say that today, the list is engrossed someway by folks like Milan Vego (Op Warfare mega-guru ;D) and Geoffrey Till....

HIGHLY recommended!
 

Pit

ACCESS: Confidential
Joined
Dec 29, 2005
Messages
145
Reaction score
11
BTW Mercurius, having read you from Keymags I have been interested to know if you're in the "job" of the military consulting or "editorial&publishing"...just for curiosity :D

What is your "must red" list of journals on naval and general military topics?
 

sferrin

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2011
Messages
14,729
Reaction score
3,697
Pit said:
I Like:

Naval Forces, it's an expensive magazine (as much as any other of Mönch Publishing) but for the naval enthusiast (with no money shortage!) and the profesional (who can ask the boss to pay the billet ;D) it's your first reference guide on journal from the english-speaking world (at least for me, far better than Jane's naval publications)...

Some time ago, it was very common to read articles by Antony Preston, Norman Friedman, and Stuart Slade, some of my favourites techno-bubble-gurus ;D, I can only say that today, the list is engrossed someway by folks like Milan Vego (Op Warfare mega-guru ;D) and Geoffrey Till....

HIGHLY recommended!

I love Monchs "Military Technology".
 

Pit

ACCESS: Confidential
Joined
Dec 29, 2005
Messages
145
Reaction score
11
Sadly the spanish version sucks, or at least their articles are not so interesting.

There is a nice Argentinian naval journal called "Gaceta Naval", it's a bi-monthly issue by the Argeninian's Navy General Staff that translate lot of articles from english journal (from Naval Forces, to Proceedings -another great journal -) with license from the original author for the argentine's naval officer and other related personal.

I don't know if there are similar journals on other south-american navies (Revista Marítima from Chilean Navy is good, but not in the same league, being mostly an in-house review of local naval history and some operational perspectives), so I consider it quite emblematic from this part of the world.

As mentioned before, "Proceedings" is a first rate journal fron USNI, there is also the nice "Morskoi Sbornik" from the USSR/Russia, that althrough in russian, presents similar material to the american before mentioned, plus "general doctrine issues" (operational art, tactics, et all) from that part of the world.

Tayfun journal from Russia on general Russian Navy issues, for me, is the best in the topic from that country, althrough there are a bunch of other good naval oriented magazines coming from the "Rodina"...

What happened to the british naval magazines and journals?, back on the seventies it was a very active publishing country!.
 

Mercurius Cantabrigiensis

ACCESS: Restricted
Joined
Nov 8, 2007
Messages
46
Reaction score
8
Pit said:
BTW Mercurius, having read you from Keymags I have been interested to know if you're in the "job" of the military consulting or "editorial&publishing"...just for curiosity :D

What is your "must red" list of journals on naval and general military topics?

I describe myself as a ‘self-employed defence consultant’, though as I get older this might be more accurately rendered as a ‘sometimes-employed defence consultant’. (There is still a fair amount of work on offer, but I’m trying to cut back on my working hours to the degree that economic reality permits.)

As regards magazines, I have a client who pays for my 'Jane’s Defence Weekly', 'Jane’s International Defence Review', and 'Jane’s Missiles & Rockets'. But since I get these for free, I’m not exactly an impartial observer.

The sheer cost of Jane’s publications perhaps explains why they are often seems to be singled out for criticism when errors are spotted. But in practice, all defence magazines have their share of errors. But I’d imagine that the same applies to all business operations.

Over almost half a century I’ve certainly managed to commit my personal share of engineering and documental errors. But given that most people probably commit their own share of work-related errors, it surprises me how some people get so annoyed when the ‘fourth estate’ gets it wrong.

I used to be a great fan of the original ‘International Defense Review’, but that title lost most of its staff (and much of its expertise) when it was taken over by Jane’s and was moved from Switzerland to the UK. I met its Swiss-era editor in the 1970s, and remember him saying that being Swiss-owned had allowed it to form good relationships with sources who would not have given information on WarPac and other non-NATO hardware to any magazine based in a NATO nation.

One poster here spoke favourably of ‘Military Technology’. It’s not a magazine I take, but its editor has been doing the job since soon after the title was started around 30 years ago. That sort of long-term experience may be working in the magazine’s favour.

There is certainly an impression amongst those of us old enough to remember the Second World War that the aviation and defence press is not as good as it once was. That may reflect a generation gap caused by the gradual passing of a generation of highly-experienced writers, both in the US and Western Europe. Defence writing apparently does not pay well, so what should have been the follow-on generation of defence journalists seems to have suffered a high loss rate, with writers moving into better-paying alternative jobs such as public relations.

If you play ‘spot the press badge’ at defence and air shows, many of the reporters seem quite young. (But it’s said that you know you’re getting old when even the policemen seem young.) However, some of the ‘old guard’ are still with us – at an air show a couple of years ago I spotted Bill Gunston, still very recognisable from the publicity ‘mugshot’ in his early 1970s “… of the West” book series.
 

Similar threads

Top