Since the Vietnam War, the military and media have had a touchy relationship. Distrust, misunderstanding, secretive are words that historically have been used to describe the relationship between the military and media. However, the University of Kansas and the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth are making great strides to improve military and media relations in order to develop a symbiotic relationship that benefits the American people.
At the Command and General Staff College, the curriculum emphasizes the importance of engaging the media to ensure the U.S. military disseminates key information to the public. Whereas historically the military tried to avoid contact with the media to prevent operational information from leaking to the press, military professionals now understand the importance of telling their story. While there are specific restrictions on what information can be shared for force protection and security purposes, the U.S. military has learned there is great benefit in broadcasting its efforts. By engaging the media and publicizing military operations around the globe, the military can help the American public better understand military efforts worldwide.
The Command and General Staff College provides military officers with multiple opportunities to interact with media in both real and mock settings. The purpose of these engagements is to help officers become more comfortable addressing media questions. Further, these engagements help military officers understand that the media’s intent is not to expose military operations, but simply to educate the American population on what the U.S. military is doing around the globe.
On the media side, KU must be commended for developing the Military and the Media Project, which is a collaboration between the William Allen White School of Journalism at KU and the Command and General Staff College. This project affords third and fourth year journalism students the opportunity to observe military officers with 10 12 years experience discuss military topics. Additionally, the journalism students sit down with the officers to ask questions about the military and get a better feel for how best to interact with the military, particularly in a combat environment.
Many of the military officers at the Command and General Staff College have conducted military operations with embedded journalists and are able to provide lessons learned to the journalism students. The students then have this feedback at their disposal as they get ready to begin their career. Overall, the Military and the Media project provides a great opportunity to introduce the students to the military and develop an initial understanding of the military culture.
Over the last decade, the military and media have made great strides to improve their relationship. The Military and the Media Project serves as the perfect forum to build and strengthen media and military relations.
— Brian Ballew is a major in the U.S. Air Force who currently is attenting the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.