Do Military Command Information Newspapers Meet State Goals and Objectives
They Claim to Advocate?

Department of Defense
Joint Course in Communication
University of Oklahoma -- Class 03A2


Table of Contents:





Jessica Bailey, U. S. Navy
Marisol Cantu, U. S. Marine Corps
Sharon Chan, U. S. Navy
Masao Doi, U. S. Air Force Civilian
Robert Whetstone, U. S. Army




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Literature Review

Dual Process Theory

Dual process theories provide a way to describe how individuals process information. They are relevant to base newspapers in that they assist public affairs professionals in determining the content they choose for the base paper. How people are influenced is a question researchers have strived to answer. Dual process theories are one answer to the question. Two types of dual process theories are the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), developed by Rich Petty, and the Heuristic-Systematic Model (HSM), developed by Shelly Chaiken. "The dual process approach is quite simple and based on four assumptions about people and influence" (Retrieved December 8, 2002 from the World Wide Web:

The first assumption within dual process is the idea that individual thinking functions in two modes (Retrieved December 8, 2002 from the World Wide Web: One mode, "systematic", is used to describe a person who is thinking in a clear, organized manner. The second mode, "heuristic", describes when a person is not thinking in an organized way, but rather, is "passively" thinking. The second assumption within this process is that the way a person thinks is affected by that person and the situation in which he or she is in. People who are directly affected by a scenario may choose to use systematic thinking, while those who are in a situation with no relevance may think more heuristically. Thirdly, the way in which a person is persuaded about an issue will vary based on the way a person is thinking. When someone is thinking systematically, facts are important. When someone is thinking heuristically, appearance is important.

Finally, "Influence achieved through the systematic mode is more persistent over time, more resistant to change, and more predictive of behavior than influence from the heuristic mode" (Retrieved December 8, 2002 from the World Wide Web: Basically, if a person thinks systematically, he or she is likely to remember more over a person who is thinking heuristically who may remember only the moment.

The Elaboration Likelihood Model is based on the premise that there are two ways of persuading. The first manner, central path, is used when a person cares about the issue. "If the person cares about the issue and has access to the message with a minimum of distraction, then that person will elaborate on the message" (Retrieved December 8, 2002 from the World Wide Web: The second method, the peripheral route, is used when a person is not intimately familiar with an issue. This method claims that a person will attempt to make an association or generalization about an issue. "If the peripheral cue association is accepted then there may be a temporary attitude change and possible future elaboration" (Retrieved from the World Wide Web: The central route to persuasion is used when the receiver is able to elaborate on the message, while the peripheral route is used when the receivers arguments are weak.

The heuristic mode of processing information is based on "cues" that lead a person to an assumption. "In a heuristic mode, people focus on that subset of information that enables them to use simple decision rules or heuristics to form a judgment" (Retrieved from the World Wide Web:
An example of heuristically processing information would be the thought that "Republicans are smart" and then an individual deriving from that premise, a judgment, instead of evaluating all angles of the argument. Most individuals are not aware that they are processing information heuristically (Retrieved from the World Wide Web: The systematic approach to processing is based on using all information available. Individuals that are highly motivated tend to use this method of processing. Heuristic and systematic modes can work at the same time, hence the name "Heuristic-Systematic Model".

Dual process theories pertain to the study of whether or not internal newspapers are effective in that they give an explanation for how individuals process information. One way in which this theory can be used in this study is by determining how the mainstream audience, or the majority, on base process information. Two questions to ask would be: 1. Do readers of internal newspapers process information systematically?; 2. Do readers of internal newspapers process information heuristically. If readers process information systematically, more fact-based articles rather than features should be the main focus of the internal papers. If readers process information heuristically, more graphics and photography should be used in the paper.

Uses and Gratification

Uses and gratification theory suggests that individuals make choices about media based on what pleases or gratifies. This not only holds true when choosing specific programs to watch on television, it also spills over to what they choose to read and why they choose to read it.

Although it has been traced back to the early 1940s with early research done by Herzog (1944) and Berelson (1949), the uses and gratification theory was introduced in the late 1950s by Jay Blumler and Elihu Katz. At that time, it was the norm to consider mass communication as a hypodermic needle or a bullet theory aimed at passive audiences during the 1920s through the 1940s (Severin & Tackard, 1997). Essentially, the media would do the feeding and the audience would receive whatever was fed to them. This allowed the media to exercise considerable power over what audiences watched and portrayed the audience as passive and not active.

However, there was a shift in theory during the middle of the 20th century and a more understandable and acceptable theoretical framework was developed by Katz, Blumler & Gurevitch (1974). The newer, improved theory posits that individuals decide what type of media they choose to expose themselves to based on what they find personally satisfying or gratifying. The theory addresses some basic points:

(1) the social and psychological origins of (2) needs, which generate (3) expectations of (4) the mass media or other sources, which lead to (5) differential patterns of media exposure (or engagement in other activities), resulting in (6) need gratifications and (7) other consequences, perhaps mostly unintended ones (Katz, Blumler & Gurevitch, 1974, p. 20).

In addition, Blumler and Katz maintained that consumers should have a free will having a say in what influence the media will have. The theoretical assumptions made are that the mass communication audience is very active and goal-oriented and not complacent in making choices. Researchers believe that consumers are consciously aware of and can communicate their reasons for picking certain media content (Wimmer & Dominick, 1991). The individual is actively making choices, which relinquishes some of the power media once had in determining what the public actually watched.

Rubin (1984) has identified what he considers two types of television viewers. There are the ritualized users who view television as important, are frequent watchers and use television primarily as a diversion. The second type is an instrumental user who only watches certain programming and uses the content primarily for information. This viewer tends to be more selective and goal-oriented about programming and doesn't necessarily see television as all that important.

One who can receive gratification from watching television usually applies the same reasoning to purchasing a newspaper. In many instances, the content of either media would carry the same considerations because individuals often choose what to watch or to read based on what affects them directly. For example, a homeowner might be interested in a story about rising property tax or a baseball enthusiast might be drawn to the sports page to check the current team standings. Other considerations might include an individual being more comfortable or familiar with a particular genre such as horror, suspense or adventure and is more apt to make those selections.

This ability to make choices based on what gratifies can also be used in determining why someone would even bother picking up a base newspaper. In the uses and gratification theory, individuals ask the same questions about newspapers that they would ask regarding anything else related to media, "What's in it for me?"

Blumler (1979) says that the uses and gratification theory is based on the idea that people know what they want and need and are not easily persuaded. People are more inclined to pick up the base newspaper to get what they want from it. The media source, in this case the newspaper, fulfills or gratifies that individual's specific needs.

In this study, uses and gratification theory does not provide information regarding whether individuals pick up the Tinker Take Off for entertainment purposes. However, this study provides a framework for future research on whether the paper is accomplishing what it is supposed to accomplish.


Uncertainty Reduction

Newspapers provide information to personnel which in turn decrease uncertainty. By providing information to base personnel, the overall attitude of these individuals and their families is improved.

People develop relationships on a daily basis. They meet new clients at work, fellow worshipers at church and often seek new friends at the local establishment they frequent to eat or drink. As people create these interpersonal relationships, they encounter a degree of uncertainty. Since uncertainty tends to make a person uncomfortable, it motivates them to seek information from the other person so that they can process it to reduce this uncertainty (Heath & Bryant, 2000).

Uncertainty refers to "the number of possible alternative ways of behaving and believing when strangers meet" (Berger, 1975, p.33). As people interact, they try to get to know each other. It is a natural curiosity for people to want to know why others behave as they do. Not only do they desire to collect information about others, but they also seek information about themselves for reassurance that they are socially competent. People also tend to be extremely conscience of their social status and want to know what others think of them (Heath & Bryant, 2000). Berger explains, "Each interactant must develop a set of causal attributions in order to answer the question of why he and the other are behaving in particular ways or believing certain things" (Berger, 1975, p.33).

Uncertainty reduction theory originated with Berger and Calabrese (1975) who drew on the work of Heider (1958). They determined through their research that people seek to make sense of their environment, including the people in it (Heath and Bryant, 2000). "Uncertainty reduction theory is a powerful explanation for communication because it operates in all contexts to help explain why people communicate as they do" (Heath & Bryant, 2000, p. 271).

Berger and Calabrese (1975) claim that uncertainty reduction follows a pattern of developmental stages. This pattern usually occurs during initial interaction. The entry phase typically consists of information exchanges of demographic information and expressions of attitudes on topics of minimal consequence or low involvement. After this phase, one or both interactants decide if the relationship is worth pursuing. The personal phase occurs when the conversation reveals intimate information. The participants discuss subjects that involve personal attitudes and judgments. During this phase the conversation patterns are less scripted than the initial phase. The exit phase occurs when one or both participants decide to terminate the relationship.

Berger (1979) describes three information-seeking strategies of communication that are used to generate information about another person: (1) Passive strategies are those used to observe others. They include reactivity search, social comparison and disinhibition search. These strategies are unobtrusive observations of what the observed person is doing or saying; (2) Active strategies are described as asking others about a target person. This strategy also includes environmental structuring; (3) Interactive strategies involve face-to-face interaction and include asking questions, also referred to as interrogation, self-disclosure and deception detection.

Uncertainty reduction, as a theoretical perspective, is one of the major frameworks employed in the study of interpersonal communication (Gudykunst and Hammer, 1988). Uncertainty reduction theory describes "how people make attributions about one another and about themselves and how they act in regard to one another" (Heath and Bryant, 2000, p. 281).

Understanding this research and theory emphasizes the important role information plays when people strive to communicate in everyday life. "To get to know one another is a person's incentive to reduce uncertainty, which is a motive for communication" (Heath and Bryant, 2000, p. 270.)

When military personnel and their families first report to a new duty station there is a high degree of uncertainty that they tend to experience. Newspaper personnel might use uncertainty reduction as a theoretical perspective and provide information via the base newspaper in an effort to reduce uncertainty for new personnel reporting to the base. This enables a smoother transition and more positive overall orientation for new personnel and their families.



Newspapers transfer particular information to a wide audience and offer ample variety to said users. Some users pick up a newspaper and beeline to a specific section such as obituaries, sports, business, etc, while others disregard them due to poor methods of transfer. The environment and one's social make up are factors that direct choices and shape thoughts concerning issues, and how information is processed. Military newspapers are the same as civilian newspapers in this regard, and they both suffer from a condition called equivocality.

Equivocality refers to the existence of multiple interpretations of the same event. It does not refer to uncertainty or ambiguity about the meaning of an event (Miller, 2002, p. 199). This variable is not a phenomenon allied exclusively with one particular discipline, but can be seen as a factor taken into account and influenced by researchers throughout numerous disciplines. It is closely linked to the environment, individual morality, culture, and at times, mass media fed perceptions. Ambiguity appears to be a major concern both externally and internally which organizations can attribute to equivocality and other causes. Some researchers feel ambiguity can be overcome or reduced through face-to-face dialogue, while others go a step further and address outlying issues they surmise are related to equivocality.

Miller uses an example of laughter in a meeting to describe equivocality. An environment could be described as equivocal if an individual could put forth multiple viable explanations for the laughter (e.g., "they're laughing about that funny e-mail message that was circulating this morning" or "they're laughing because everyone is punchy from working so many hours?) (Miller, 2002, p. 200).

A typical individual's preferences, it seems fair to assume, are neither perfectly informed and fixed nor totally uninformed and random (Page & Shapiro, 1992, p. 2). Instead, they are based on some fundamental needs and values that are relatively enduring, some uncertain beliefs and some incomplete fragments of information (Page & Shapiro, 1992, p. 2). If this is so - then new information or arguments that bear upon beliefs about policy alternatives can change people's policy preferences (Page & Shapiro, 1992, p. 2). Equivocality is a defining line that can be the cause of misunderstanding within organizational communication. Furthermore, it frames surrounding environments, making them hostile and perhaps unsuccessful.

We can see how indirectly we know the environment in which nevertheless we live (Lippmann, 1992, p. 469). Whatever we believe to be a true picture, we treat as if it were the environment itself (Lippmann, 1992, p. 469). There is a distinct relationship between the scene of action, the human picture of that scene, and the human response to that picture (Lippmann, 1992, p. 477).

It is like a play suggested to the actors by their own experience, in which the plot is transacted in the real lives of the actors, and not merely in their stage parts (Lippmann, 1992, p. 477). The moving picture often emphasizes with great skill this double drama of interior motive and external behavior (Lippmann, 1992, p. 477). Two men are quarreling, ostensibly about some money, but their passion is inexplicable. Then the picture fades out and what one or the other of the two men sees with his mind's eye is reenacted (Lippmann, 1992, p. 477). Across the table they were quarreling about money. In memory they are back in their youth when the girl jilted him for the other man (Lippmann, 1992, p. 477).

Lippmann offers great insight to how equivocality is not bound to one discipline. His example of a dyad and two different views of a single event express the interdisciplinary nature of equivocality. This variable is not held to only organizational theory or sensemaking, it has universal quality.
Equivocality is obviously an element that must be controlled in order to allow greater understanding to take place in communication and in organizations. Karl Weick, a leading theorist of organizations and sensemaking, states that eliminating equivocality altogether can be dangerous as well. One must find a balance in order to insure integrity remains for groups and individuals.

Equivocality, in the world of communication, offers a sense of uncertainty and confusion. Investigators who favor the metaphor of information processing often view sensemaking, as they do most other problems, as a setting where people need more information. That is not what people need when they are overwhelmed by equivocality (Weick, 1995, p. 27). Instead, they need values, priorities, and clarity about preferences to help them be clear about what matters (Weick, 1995, p. 27, 28).

In order to manipulate or reduce equivocality, the environment is a central figure that must be shaped. Its role is important. Both incentives and innovation ideas can emerge from the environment (Daft & Becker, 1978, p. 16). Maintaining openness to innovation and advocating incentives within an organization will create a "target rich" environment that is conducive to shared knowledge and sensemaking can occur.

One requirement in all organizations is that information be processed among participants (Daft & Macintosh, 1981, p. 207). In order to interpret the external environment, coordinate activities, and handle problems that arise, participants attend meetings, send and receive reports, obtain knowledge of events relevant to performance, read printouts, and make technical and administrative decisions, and perhaps disseminate instructions - all of which involve information processing in some form (Daft & Macintosh, 1981, p. 207).

Equivocality is relevant to this study because the two entities (audience and military newspaper distributor) may have differing views concerning the functionality of the installation newspaper and whether it meets stated goals and objectives. Although this variable is not formally addressed in military literature governing installation newspapers, commanders and Public Affairs Officers constantly address the issue equivocality in order to streamline production and offer the audience a useful information tool.