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Problem Identification

When America’s military is deployed overseas to protect the nation’s interests or citizens, they leave behind the general public. However, the public and its opinion have a tremendous impact on the military’s ability to complete its mission. Hooper (1982) has studied this phenomenon and argues that an unchecked media can sour public opinion, destroy public support, and severely reduce troop morale and mission effectiveness.

This purpose of this paper is to lay the foundation for a future empirical study that may describe, predict, and potentially control the media’s "framing" of their reporting of military contingency or war operations. This project uses agenda setting, information manipulation, and uncertainty reduction theories as its theoretical structure. It also looks at the use of civilian crisis communication and military doctrinal and historical perspectives. As an end-product, the study proposes a pilot test of a new joint-military public affairs organization that will influence how he media frames future contingencies.

The problem, as identified by the authors, is how to optimize military public affairs interaction and information manipulation in the process of civilian media framing. Used as a tool for shaping public opinion, framing is the connection between qualitative elements of a news presentation and the subsequent public reaction that this information produces. The impact of framing on public opinion is historically evident in the context of military, civilian, and theoretical perspectives. These perspectives will be developed throughout the course of this paper, with the goal of asserting specific characteristics that have promoted the success or failure of public-relations efforts during crisis situations.

Within the context of this study, positive media framing will be employed as a dependent variable, which is the result of prompt, coordinated, and salient response by a military public affairs professional team. In order to produce a statistical measure of effectiveness, this study will employ methods of content analysis and survey (see Annex A) to quantify the relative benefit of organizing, training, and employing a Joint Crisis Information Response Team. The mission of this team would be to embody and effectively employ all of the characteristics which historically improve the effectiveness of military public affairs response to crisis situations.

This page last updated on July 23, 1998.

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