Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Media and Military Dynamics

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Media and Military Dynamics

Article excerpt

EDITOR & PUBLISHER'S sophomoric view about not needing media escorts to cover military activities (Oct. 17, 1992 ) is disappointing, but illuminating. It points out how glaringly uninformed the Fourth Estate is about military dynamics.

Any newsman or Pentagon bureaucrat who believes that immutable "principles" can be carved in granite to define military press relations is either naive or running a con game. Just as the dynamics of the battlefield dictate strategy, so must they dictate media access. Discounting "the fog of battle," there are times when resources, terrain and other circumstances make media pools the only practical way to cover significant military events.

As for escort officers -- any journalist with a modicum of experience covering military activities, especially in combat, knows that their primary role is to facili-rate news gathering. Most are public affairs specialists or journalists in their own right and are dedicated to the principle of the public's right to know. More importantly, they can fill the voids too many journalists share about military operations.

A majority of my military career was spent working with the media. Most of those experiences I found rewarding although, time and again, I was forced to suffer fools graciously who passed themselves off as journalists, but who were little more than voyeurs who never should have been accredited by the news organizations they represented.

I performed over 250 press escort missions in Vietnam, most into combat. I never had a newsman or woman killed or wounded while under my care. It was a point of pride in the "bring 'em back alive" club at Danang's Combat Information Bureau.

Through the years, many of these journalists have communicated their appreciation to me for my assistance in covering both peacetime and combat military activities. I learned much from the media pros I escorted; I assume that they learned a thing or two from me. The most important thing that we both learned was mutual respect for our individual roles.

Many of those journalists with whom I worked in Vietnam reappeared in Beirut, Lebanon, 1983. Hundreds descended upon our small Marine bastion at Beirut's International Airport.

There were times when we had more journalists vying for "news" in our mile-and-a-half triangle than I ever saw in 13 months in Vietnam. …

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