Unit-Level Public Affairs Planning

By Stearns, Scott C. | Military Review, December-February 1998 | Go to article overview

Unit-Level Public Affairs Planning


Stearns, Scott C., Military Review


"Our worst enemy seems to be the press!" This statement, made by President Richard M. Nixon shortly after the 1971 South Vietnamese incursion into Laos, still reflects the feelings of many military professionals toward the media. The idea that the media "caused us to lose" the Vietnam War by poisoning public opinion and eroding public support is now a part of our national military lore and is accepted as the leading cause of our defeat. Of course, as military historians and political scientists can attest, the cause of our loss in Vietnam ran deeper than bad public relations, but the "antimedia" stigmatism remains. However, today's military leaders understand the role the media plays in our democratic form of government, but most wish the reporters would ask their questions elsewhere and point their cameras in another direction.

Many military leaders would like to censor the media and exclude it from future areas of operations. Unfortunately, this is not possible because the advancement in computer technology causing the "Revolution in Military Affairs," is the same technology that is affecting all media functions, including electronic news gathering. The 1991 Persian Gulf War was the first major conflict to have actual battle scenes captured "live" by major network television cameras. The next war will undoubtedly be carried "live" by global news organizations. In the Gulf War, the equipment needed for a "live feed" was expensive and cumbersome, but today, this equipment is handled by two-person crews.' The required equipment-a digital camera, a wide-band cellular telephone to establish contact with a satellite dish and a laptop computer to coordinate the transmission-are all miniaturized, weigh less than 100 pounds and fit into two carrying cases. …

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