We have had numerous reader surveys tell us that one of the Gazette’s most appreciated features is our Letters to the Editor section—for years it has served as a forum for debate and discussion on issues that affect the Marine Corps. There have been many back-and-forth debates and “point/counterpoints” that have played out in the letters. However, the world and the way that we communicate have changed greatly since the days when letters were a staple of discussion across distance.
Today the web is the vehicle for discussion and debate and to make points and counterpoints. It is no different for the Gazette. Even the way we communicate on a personal level has changed. The greatest growth in social media sites like Facebook, at least in the United States, has been among middle-aged women. Why? If you want to see images of your grandchildren, you probably need to be on Facebook, as that is the most likely place your children have placed them. For those of us not lucky enough to have grandchildren or children in proximity, Skype and FaceTime are the new reality in interpersonal relations. Marines on active duty understand how video conferencing is the new normal for briefings and meetings, even in combat. Additionally, Microsoft Internet Relay Chat, or mIRC, is a reality in how we communicate among commands.
The Gazette is witnessing a sea change in the way our readers communicate with us and among each other. We recently had two articles written on the subject of women in the infantry. One article elicited 6 letters to the Editor, but 333 comments online. After the second article was published, we received 3 letters commenting on the author’s position, but within a few days of the article’s publication on the web, 25 comments and observations, both agreeing and disagreeing, were posted.
The other radical change has been in the timing of responses. Due to our print deadline and lead time, an article will normally not have a letter response printed until at least 2, and probably 3, months after the article has appeared in the print edition. A counterpoint can take another 2 to 3 months. The web provides almost instantaneous communication.
One other point is that, out of necessity, we have to edit letters that go in the print magazine for length, while web postings are unedited and unlimited.
Finally, we receive perhaps half a dozen “snail mail” letters a year; the rest come in by e-mail, but even they are becoming fewer in number as the conversation and debate move online.
The subjects of debate are also moving online. On our blog you’ll find superb pieces on leadership, roles and missions, operations, and other topics germane to the Corps. Again, these blog entries are as good as—or in some cases better than—the articles we put in the paper periodical. Also, the authors are usually willing to engage in a spirited debate with posters who comment.
I am not discouraging communication and debate via mail, either written or electronic. In fact, I encourage it. At the same time, I feel compelled to point out that the majority of debate and conversation has moved. Go to our website at www.mca-marines.org to read articles and comment, visit our blog at mcgazette.blogspot.com, or like us on Facebook to join in the conversation and debate.