Tension between the two institutions has always existed, but according to a new report, that relationship has been deteriorating steadily since the invasion of Grenada in 1983.
But instead of just chronicling dissent, journalist Frank Aukofer of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and retired Navy Vice Adm. William P. Lawrence have proposed a variety of solutions, including development of a tier system for wartime reporting.
While researching their comprehensive report, "America's Team, The Odd Couple: A Report on the Relationship Between the Media and the Military," Aukofer and Lawrence found that "the two groups come to cross-purposes only when there is something seriously wrong in either camp ? whether an unscrupulous journalist who bends the facts or a military commander who tries to hide an embarrassment.
"On the other hand," they noted, "when both groups perform professionally, consistent with the ideals and principles of their respective institutions, when they exercise old-fashioned common sense to handle the inevitable disputes, they get along just fine."
In addition to outlining military-media history, including a detailed analysis of the Persian Gulf War, the report ? which was sponsored and distributed by the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University ? includes a poll of media-military attitudes toward each other and commentary from key players in each camp.
Aukofer and Lawrence also offer a series of suggestions for the media, for the military and for both.
Recommendations for the military include:
? Assigning a high-ranking officer to coordinate military-media relationships in combat areas during times of conflict, a request that has been made many times by the media.
? Adoption of a "security at the source" policy, such as used in Haiti and Somalia.
? Maintenance of a continuing dialogue about the impact of technology on wartime reporting.
? Inclusion of media training in the military education system.
? Directives from the Secretary of Defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that combat commanders must be involved in planning for media support in military operations.
? Continued promotion of the role of public affairs officers as a prestigious career option.
? Planning for coverage by foreign news operations.
Aukofer and Lawrence also make a series of suggestions for the news media, including:
? Establishment of a military-media relations office in Washington, funded and run by foundations such as the Freedom Forum, the McCormick Tribune Foundation and the Knight Foundation.
? Production of a military sourcebook for news organizations by that military-media office.
? Enhanced efforts by the news media to train reporters and editors in military affairs, as prescribed by the nine principles adopted following the Persian Gulf War.
? Establishment of joint programs between campus ROTC groups and journalism schools to increase their knowledge about each other.
For both the military and the media, the report's authors recommend the following:
? A joint consultation for continued improvement of the Department of Defense National Media Pool, that will get journalists to the scene with troops at the start of secret operations.
? Development of an Independent Coverage Tier System.
? Arranging, as standard practice, joint Pentagon-media analysis of coverage and operations following each military action.
The tier system, to be worked out during peacetime, would not replace the DoD pool, which still would be used in situations where secrecy or surprise would limit the number of reporters who can accompany troops.
Journalists in the pool must share their stories with the rest of the media, but once the independent tier system is initiated, all stories become proprietary.
Each tier would include about 50 newspeople, with those news organizations reaching the largest number of people getting in first, although those organizations would not be limited to the first tier only.
A certain number of positions in each tier would be reserved for free-lancers, specialty publications and foreign journalists.
Formation of the tiers would continue until all participating news media personnel are accommodated.
If an organization drops out, each of the remaining media moves up a slot, and the option of independent coverage also would remain available, although there would be no requirement for the military to accommodate the independents.
To make the tier system work, Aukofer and Lawrence suggested an independent facilitator's office be established. This office could be funded by the foundations mentioned above and would be responsible for producing the military sourcebook for journalists.
"The beauty of an Independent Coverage Tier System, overseen by a military-media facilitator's office, is that it would bring both the news media and the military together in a joint effort that would encourage ongoing rapport and understanding between the two groups," according to the report.
"This would help to break down the barriers of distrust that have sometimes existed between these two vital American institutions.
"The result would be more accurate and better-quality coverage of military operations, with the American people as the ultimate beneficiaries," Aukofer and Lawrence noted.
By: Debra Gersh Hernandez IT MAY TAKE a little work, but with effort and understanding, the military and the media just might be able to get along ? at least as professionals.