Media relations is an important facet of your public
affairs office operation, yet it is often underemphasized
or taken for granted. Depending on the events at your
command, media relations can be your number one
priority and easily consume most, if not all, of your
public affairs workday. Whether it be a colorful change
of command ceremony or a plane crash with several
fatalities, you can count on interaction with the media.
Therefore, you must understand the complex media
machineits parts, strategies and concerns. This
understanding will help you recognize the elements that
form the foundation of good media relations.
Also, you must know how to establish credibility
for yourself, office and command, and recognize
strategies you can use to release information to
media. This chapter covers these areas and more.
IMPORTANCE OF SOUND
Recognize the importance of
sound military/media relations.
Americans deal with large amounts of information
every day. The Navy and the American people are now
being led by a television generation of workers and
young leaders. To reach the public in this age of instant
television, you must understand the strengths and
weaknesses of the mass news media and know how to
use them most effectively, particularly the television
Two trends in American society make the task of
communicating the Navys message more demanding.
First, since the military draft ended in 1973, fewer and
fewer Americans have had firsthand military
experience. This group cannot adequately judge the
fairness of military information in news reports. The
public must rely on the reporter to balance his story,
which may or may not apply, depending on the reporter
and the editors or producers.
Second, a generation changing of the guard has
come to the journalism industry. When the draft ended,
the news reporters who usually showed up at military
events were most likely high school teenagers or college
students. Reporters who are now in their late 20s or early
30s (as of this writing) were in journalism schools in the
late 1970s when the military image was shaped by
anti-Vietnam and post-Vietnam trends on the campuses
of America. Therefore, these reporters are skeptical at
best, and hostile at worst.
With this in mind, you and the PAO must reach out
and educate the new generation of reporters and the
public. The best way to do this is to open a dialogue with
the news media by learning to communicate better.
We are now in the post-cold war period
experiencing a major change in how American society
deals with domestic and international relations. There is
a new world order with more multipolar power
dispersal. Worldwide economic competition and
domestic concerns, such as the war on drugs, AIDS, the
federal deficit and environmental problems are at the
forefront of the American agenda.
As American priorities change, it is important to talk
to Americans in a manner that relates to these changes.
We must note that, regardless of the American publics
mood of the moment, its confidence in their military is
strong. This is reflected in the Gallup public opinion poll
in figure 4-1.
News Media Role
One characteristic most Americans have in common
is that we begin our day watching, listening or reading
the news. What the public thinks depends largely on
what the public hears. The American news media are the
American citizens intelligence network. The
headlines of the evening newscast tell us what is
important in society.
In the past 10 years, the worldwide Cable News
Network (CNN) has become the electronic plug-in
news source of choice for military command centers,
newspaper editorial offices and business travelers
around the world.