The media-military relationship

The media-military relationship


I came across this article in the Naval War College Review today. It’s from 2002, but it’s still a good exploration of why the media and the military so often find themselves at odds.

The author, Douglas Porch, is a professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School.

My entire post is too long to list here; you can read it over at Midtopia. But here’s a taste of what you’ll find:

The strained relationship between the media and the U.S. military has nothing to do with censorship�for the simple reason that media-military relations have always been rocky, never more than in World War II. The difference between World War II and Vietnam was not the presence of censorship but the absence of victory. In other conflicts, victory has erased memories of a troubled relationship; after Vietnam, the media was caught up in the quest for a scapegoat. Furthermore, the nebulous goals of the War on Terrorism, the fact that it is likely to be a prolonged operation, and the inherent difficulties from a media perspective of covering a war fought from the air and in the shadows virtually guarantee a degeneration of the relationship between two institutions with an inherent distrust of each other.

The article explodes some myths about media coverage of the military, explores what the author sees as inherent differences in outlook and institutional culture, and goes on to look at different attempts to build a workable relationship, from pool reports to embedded reporters to treating reporters like mushrooms.

  • Carla

    Hello, everyone,

    Who can help me with telling me the differences between relation and relationship?



  • Military Man

    I think you’re wise to note how the shadowy and hard to cover battlefield of today’s “War on Terror” contributes to the deteriorating relationship between the media and the military.

    Although lack of victory in Vietnam didn’t help this same relationship, let’s not forget it was pretty darn bad during the war too — before we knew for sure that we were going to lose. Unlike WWII, the war in Vietnam was criticized and lambasted by a huge percentage of the general populace, including (by cause or as a result) much of the media — such an anti-war attitude was not widely-held in WWII (at least my parents don’t remember it that way). Kudos for a thoughtful and well-written article.

    What is your opinion as to why we’re not seeing the graphic images (body bags, etc) today on the news that we saw during Vietnam? One would think that with the ever-increasing amount of violence we see on TV (and in video games, blah blah etc), we would only be more likely to see such coverage on the news outlets.