RIP Early Bird: 1948–2013
Friday morning, the Early Bird’s grim reaper left an offering in the Pentagon press bullpen — a box of Popeye’s chicken with a note that read: “RIP” with a fried chicken wing sitting on top.
And with that, Nov. 1 will be remembered as the day the Early Bird was pronounced dead.
The Early Bird was a collection of stories put together by public affairs officials early each morning and sent out across the Defense Department via email and posted on the military’s intranet. Troops depended on the Early Bird to find out what was going on outside their individual units and get a better understanding of the entire military. The Early Bird was especially important to those who worked at computers that had significant firewalls that limited internet browsing.
However, the Early Bird did have its enemies. Some Pentagon leaders felt the Early Bird carried too much importance as the selection of stories was sent across the Defense Department. And some news agencies complained that the Early Bird was infringing on their copyrights.
Yet, for most service members, the Early Bird was the first thing you read while finishing that first cup of coffee in the morning.
The first signs of trouble started on Oct. 1, the first day of the government shutdown. The Early Bird was considered non-essential similar and the product was temporarily suspended as most public affairs civilians were stuck with temporary furloughs during the same time.
However, when the shutdown ended, the Early Bird didn’t come back and rumors swirled around the Pentagon would not return.
Col. Steven H. Warren, the director of Defense Press Operations, is the one who made the decision to end the Early Bird and also the one who delivered the box of fried chicken to the Pentagon press bullpen where independent military reporters work.
Warren told the New York Times that he had been considering the end of the Early Bird for awhile saying the Early Bird had become “the tail that wagged the dog.”
“A small story that lands in the Bird can have a big impact, since we provided a vastly enlarged readership for some small, niche news outlets,” Warren told the New York Times. “And placement of stories by mainstream media seemed to drive the daily agenda in ways that never were intended.”
Warren doesn’t plan on entirely scrapping the idea of the Early Bird. Instead he plans to trim the distribution list to 300 recipients and create what’s going to be called Morning News of Note, the New York Times reported. Warren told the Times that the effort will return the Early Bird to its original intent.
Service specific clipping services are also still being done. For example, the Navy is still sending out what’s called the CHINFO clips.
Warren told Foreign Policy and the Times that he’s already received considerable blow back from the decision to end the Early Bird. Those on Capitol Hill and across the military have called and email asking what happened to their morning email.
“This is the end of an era,” Warren told Situation Report. “And I will probably be the first inductee into the Public Affairs Hall of Infamy. There is a lot of anger out there.”
Editor’s Note: Those looking to replace the Early Bird can sign up for the Early Brief emailed newsletter that is sent out every morning by the Military.com staff. Sign up here.
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