The Command and General Staff College had the honor of hosting six members of the national media for a Media Panel. They consisted of: Kyra Phillips from CNN, Thom Shanker, Correspondent from the New York Times, Cami McCormick Correspondent CBS radio news, John Barry from Newsweek, Noah Shachtman from Wired Magazine and Wired.com , and John Roberts from Fox News. The panel started with a question from Mr. Steve Boylan, mediator for the panel. How is the military doing with relations with the media? Each member of the panel gave an answer. A summary of the answers is that military members needed to develop a trust relationship with each of the reporters that they were working with. A specific comment from Thom Shanker was a highlight as he stated a comment made earlier in an article from Mr. Boylan, “This relationship is like a dysfunctional marriage and we stay together for the kids.” John Barry commented that he believed that we are that the height of the good relationship and from this point forward the relationship would continue to degrade. Noah Shachtman highlighted the fact the media/military relationship works in spite of itself and commented on the importance of the military publishing its own good news stories. John Roberts finished the comments from the panel with a reiteration about reaching the high water mark and needing to continue to work to find stories about the military and the military helping the media to find good stories as we downsize from Iraq and Afghanistan.
After John Robert’s comments, a question and answer session was started with the audience. A total of seven questions were asked by the audience. The first question was in response to Noah Shachtman’s experience with Green Projects in the Navy. He wanted an equal effort from the PAO that was assigned to help him with the story. This brought up a response from Kyra Phillips on how she had poor experiences from PAOs that she believed were the “flunkies” of the military. The issue of trust was brought back up in the third question. Noah Shachtman commented on the media not being a profession and how it was of upmost importance to find media you can trust. The antithesis to this was in Thom Shanker’s comments about New York Times reporters and their vetting of journalists. The next question was about informing and influencing. The consensus from the panel is that journalists are there to inform and it is their responsibility to inform the public so that the American People can make accurate decisions. Thom Shanker’s comment about his time on IO missions stood out. He said, “You can’t advance democratic ideals through non democratic means. The best IO missions are not designed as IO missions but successfully planned missions.”
The next question was about how media people deal with PTSD and mentorship of the junior members of their field. Cami McCormick admitted she has PTSD and talked about how many journalists do and they struggle with going forward to their superiors about their symptoms similarly to the military. John Roberts commented on the second part of the interview about the development of the junior members in their field and how it doesn’t happen. The last two questions had ideas from the panel about the importance of imbedding media into the Air Force especially in the UAV community and then the difference why good news versus bad news stories get published. The panel finished with a dialogue on how to prevent an incident like the one presented in the article for reading “The Runaway General.” The consensus was to layout the ground rules for imbeds from the very beginning so there was not confusion when the actual story came out.
The student reaction was positive as well as the panel to the students. This was evident in a question posed to the students about the number of students that had dealt with the media during their time in the military. The answers from the panel were straightforward and direct.
In response to today’s media panel, what are you going to do to prepare yourself to build trust with members of the media in your future jobs?