immediate external releases. Some of this information
can also be included in press kits (as in the Midway fire)
or used in briefings.
THE INITIAL NEWS RELEASE
The initial news release on an accident should give
as much information as possible unless the disaster is of
such magnitude that information about it is to be
released from the seat of government. Remember, after
you first receive notification of the accident or incident,
you have one hour to disseminate the initial news
release to the media. DO NOT delay the release until
more information becomes available or while awaiting
the results of an investigation.
The following information, if available, should be
contained in the initial news release of an accident:
The specific type of accident that has occurred
The location and time of the accident
The persons involved (subject to requirements on
notification of next of kin)
The places of departure or destination of any
vehicles involved (including vessels, aircraft,
The type of equipment involved, unless
The unclassified, pertinent facts about the
mission at the time of the accident
A statement regarding whether a board of inquiry
is investigating or will investigate the accident
release of this kind follows the standard Navy
policy of releasing as much information as security con-
siderations permit. Additionally, it provides the news
media with information to convey to the general public
and discourages rumors.
Never speculate about the cause of an accident or
responsibility for the mishap. The standard statement is,
An investigation is being conducted to determine the
cause of the accident.
COOPERATING WITH THE NEWS MEDIA
Recognize the Navy's public
affairs role in cooperating with news media
representatives during a disaster.
The first hours of a disaster are hectic and tiring. The
public affairs staff cannot afford to take a break in the
critical hours following the initial release. You must
gather more information to answer the inevitable
questions which will follow. The direct responsibility of
the PAO and his staff continues until the interest of the
press and public is satisfied.
Mere cooperation by the Navy with the news media
will not guarantee sympathetic handling of the facts in
an unfortunate situation. News people have a job to do
and will do it whether the Navy cooperates or not. While
putting the initial release together, let media know you
are doing so and find out their deadlines. Try to get the
reporters something within their time lines. Being
proactive, initiating media contact versus responding
to query, establishes a more credible relationship with
the mediaespecially under negative circumstances.
Cooperation, however, will often result in a more
accurate and undistorted picture of the situation. If the
facts are presented carefully and candidly as they
become available, reporters are more likely to report
them objectively. There is also less margin for error and
less chance for misinterpretation.
If the Navy refuses to cooperate, reporters have no
alternative but to start looking elsewhere for informa-
tion. In an accident or disaster situation, a reporter will
not hesitate to interview any bystander in an effort to get
information. But if the reporter knows that the public
affairs representative is doing all in his power to
cooperate and obtain up-to-the-minute information, he
will prefer to wait for authenticated facts. He will prefer
to hear the facts presented by an official spokesman or
the officer in command.
At the scene of a disaster, reporters are the repre-
sentatives of the public. Through their eyes, the public
learns what has happened, how it happened and the other
details that are available. The publics first impression
of the situation and the Navy will be made by what they
see in print, hear on the radio or watch on television. It
is important that these impressions be unbiased and
undistorted from the beginning.
Attributes for Dealing with the Media in a
There are five attributes that contribute to the
success of media relations in a disaster situation:
accuracy, initiative, honesty, impartiality and good taste.