What do you get when you combine user-generated content, the military and prime time television? The new documentary series "My War Diary," that's what.
"My War Diary," which premiered last May on the Military Channel, is made by and for the men and women serving on the war front. Unlike previous attempts to document wartime experiences, this series incorporates the stories with footage, personal accounts and even rap videos created by those serving on the front lines in Iraq.
The show's executive producer, Eric Schotz, insists that what separates "My War Diary" from the pack is its authenticity.
"Our show is about putting clips in context so you know where they came from, who shot them, and what was on each side of the clip," he said. "It doesn't matter whether you're for the war or against the war, this is from a perspective that you usually don't see. It's shot by the people who are serving in Iraq."
The clips, which are submitted over the Internet as well as through soldiers' families, cover a wide range of topics and emotions -- from the comical to the terrifying to the awe-inspiring. Each episode provides a different perspective on the war in Iraq, adding a new dimension to perceptions of the conflict.
"What makes this show unique is that we're looking at the first war shot in the digital age," said Schotz. "The videos from this war are the equivalent of the letters that were sent home from World War II and Vietnam."
But unlike the letters from previous conflicts, these videos are making their way to the Internet and TV, to be viewed by hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of people, giving civilians a sense of the war from the Americans who live it every day.
"The one thing is, no matter what people feel about this particular war, nobody really has any disdain for the soldiers that are serving. And I think that is the most incredible and powerful part of this -- you see a side to real people in extremely stressful situations [who show] dignity and grace and a sense of humor," said Schotz.
Despite the show's controversial subject matter, Schotz said that "My War Diary" does not attempt to make a political statement. Schotz goes so far as to dub the series apolitical.
"I completely disagree with the statement that ["My War Diary"] is a sanitized version or a valentine," he said. "The idea that we're tying to say this is a good war or this is a bad war is absolutely ridiculous. I think people watch this show and, on each side of that debate, both sides like the program, because it supports what they say."
Schotz admitted that even the military community is divided in its opinion of the show, calling the show's reception "wildly mixed."
"I think that there's part of the military that likes it, and I think there's part of it that doesn't like it. I think that's old guard and new guard," he said. "You're seeing something that the Department of Defense has not experienced before, where you have a war being fought by people who have grown up surrounded by the Internet culture. They don't know any different. These people were born on MySpace, basically. And I think that you're seeing something that uses the technology that the people have grown up with and you're seeing it used from their point of view."