Conceptualization & Operationalization
In order to explore the military-designated definition of internal information and the perceived definition by installation commanders and their audience through research questions, several theories will be utilized Uncertainty Reduction Theory, Uses and Gratifications Theory and Agenda Setting.
For the purpose of this capstone, the term installation commander refers to installation, post and vessel commanders. Audience and/or population refers to the installation's service members, civilian employees, retirees who reside in proximity of the installation and who utilize installation facilities, and reservists who train on the installations. The Public Affairs Officer refers to the chief of public affairs unit or the chief of the internal information division of the public affairs office.
Hence the following research question is proposed:
RQ1 Which areas of internal information are most important and how do they vary between the three perspectives of: (a) installation commander, (b) installation audience, and (c) public affairs office?
Uncertainty Reduction Theory
Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT) is defined by Infante, Rancer, & Womack (1997) as an attempt to "describe the interrelationships between seven important factors in any dyadic exchange: verbal communication, nonverbal expressiveness, information-seeking behavior, intimacy, reciprocity, similarity, and liking" (p. 261). These axioms follow an "if... then..." path. URT assumes a causal relationship, in that, if an action is taken, uncertainty may be reduced on the part of the individual taking the action, and if uncertainty is reduced, the relationship and communication may become stronger. For example, a series of sexual harassment cases have occurred over a month on a local military installation. The commander, feeling uncertain about the installation populations knowledge of his or her position on the sexual harassment policy, initiates a query through the public affairs office to determine the populations level of understanding about the policy and the commanders actions. Instituting a query is meant to reduce the commanders uncertainty. Conversely, the population may be confused by the commanders policy and initiates questions over the Internet or installation hotline to the commander about the policy and his or her position. This is how the population reduces its uncertainty about the commander and the policy.
This first phase of the scenario involving the commander initiating a query is an example of active uncertainty reduction. "An active strategy may include finding out about another person by asking third parties for information" (Infante et. al., 1997, p. 265). The commander used the public affairs office (the third party) to find information. The latter phase of the scenario shows interactive uncertainty reduction, in that, the installation population, although not face-to-face, is eliciting responses directly from the commander via the Internet and installation hotline. Infante et al. describe the interactive strategy as "obtaining information directly through asking questions (interrogation) and offering personal information about yourself (self disclosure)" (p. 265). The self-disclosure by the population occurs in the questions and explanation of what they know through the Internet and hotline.
Within this context, the following research questions are proposed:
RQ2- How does the uncertainty level of the installation audience toward specific components of internal information affect their degree of active information seeking?
RQ3- How does the uncertainty level of the installation commander toward audiences perception of specific components of internal information affect his or her degree of active information seeking?
Uses and Gratifications Theory
For information to pass between the commander and installation population, some sort of medium is almost always utilized. Initially, there were only a few options for receiving or dispensing internal information. As late as the 1980s, internal information audiences report that they received most news and information about the military from local television and radio programs, and sometimes from the installation newspaper. Today, there are numerous mediums facilitating the flow of information in the military they include, but are not limited to, newspapers, newsletters, radio, television, Internet and command magazines.
Choices must be made when it is time to receive or send information. According to Infante et al., Uses and Gratifications Theory attributes the choices to individuals desire to satisfy certain needs. Civilian news polls, like a 1997 study conducted by the Gannet, Inc., concluded that 75 percent of the American public get their news and information from television, and that 15 percent get it from newspapers. Radio, magazines and newsletters, and the Internet are the other mediums of choice, in consecutive order, in this study. So, while many people believe the newspaper is an outdated method of reporting information, some of who comprise the militarys internal information audience will not rely on anything else because they desire the details in a newspaper article by habit or the reliability having a document they can access at their leisure, they are skeptical of editing strategies of the electronic medium, or they do not utilize computers. In either case, the choice is based upon satisfying a need. Rosengreen, Wenner, and Palmgreen (1985) explored the Uses and Gratifications Theory and looked at gratifications in relation to technologies. Motives for viewing television, specifically cable, were the variety provided by the increased number of channels and programming choices and control "associated with the flexibility of programming" (Rosengreen et al., 1985, p. 245). Severin and Tankard (1992) explain little research had been conducted on the "ways cable television and other new media offering expanded user choices relate to the users pursuit of uses and gratifications" (p.278). Teleconferencing is also becoming more desirable because it allows people to conduct meetings and conferences without incurring travel costs and loss of time away from their home installation.
Installation commanders must weigh their decisions when deciding how to disseminate information. Urgency, message, response, and availability are several factors that should be taken into consideration. Many facilities currently have web sites on the Internet, offering the commander a medium for reaching the installation population that was not around several years ago. Some commanders may get "caught up" in the "new technology" of computers and the Internet and place their focus of disseminating information through that medium. One glaring problem that must be considered is availability. Does the whole or the majority of the population have access to the Internet or computers? If the answer is "no," many who rely on the commanders information might be overlooked. Also, some commanders will not use the Internet or web pages because they do not see the possible benefits of this "new technology" or do not trust it.
Installation commanders must consider several things:
· What mediums are at his or her disposal for disseminating internal information?
· What are the inherent benefits of each medium?
· What are the inherent disadvantages of each medium?
· Who has access to the mediums?
· When should information be duplicated over each medium?
· Who uses each medium the most and why?
Understanding these questions will aid the commander when it is time to get information to the people quickly and effectively.
The installation population, like the commander, must also consider several angles:
· What mediums are available to receive information?
· What mediums are available to send information to the installation commander?
· What access is available to each medium?
· What is the individuals needs at the moment?
· What are the advantages of each medium?
· What are the disadvantages of each medium?
In a study of adult television viewers, Rubin (1983, as cited in Infante et al., 1997, p. 375) explored viewers motivations, behaviors, attitudes and patterns of interaction. He identified two types of viewers, which Rubin (1984, as cited in Infante et al. 1997) would later describe as ritualized and instrumental. These terms, as defined in Infante et al. (1997), can be generalized through uses and gratifications. Ritualized use is generally associated with people who do something out of habit. Instrumental use is associated to people who are more selective and goal-oriented. The former, according to Rubin (1983 as cited in Infante et al., 1997), represents a more important experience and the latter is more involving. In other words, people may choose to use the installation newspaper to get local information because it always has specific information on a regular basis and it would upset their routine to choose another medium. Hence, the choice of the newspaper is important to their daily experience. However, others may choose to get their local information from the nightly, military news broadcast on one day and the Internet on another because of their schedule or where certain information is located.
Public Affairs Officers and their staffs are inundated with information suitable and suggested to be disseminated to the installation population. They receive information from but not limited to the following mediums:
· Installation commanders, ships and other independent units;
· area public affairs policy;
· country team public affairs policy;
· Department of the Navy, Department of the Army, Department of the Air Force, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps public affairs policy;
· official Department o Defense public affairs policy; press packs prepared by military branches;
· various military wire services;
· national holidays;
· military holidays;
· religious holidays;
· advancement/promotion information (career information);
· Morale, Welfare and Recreation information;
· breaking stories;
· features stories possibilities
· external news sources (i.e. local and national newspapers, and radio and television broadcasts.
Hence the following research questions are proposed:
RQ4- How does access to various mediums affect the audiences motives for using the medium?
RQ5- How does the audiences uncertainty level toward specific components of internal information affect their motives for using established mass communication mediums?
RQ6- How do different demographic variables affect overall audience preference and usage of mass communication mediums?
RQ7- How does audience medium preference and usage affect installation commanders choice of medium selection for delivering internal information?
McCombs and Shaw (1979) theorized in light of infinite possibilities, and media representatives adopt an "agenda" of information to present or report to their audiences. Agenda-setting theory postulates the media is effective at focusing public attention on specific events, issues and persons and in determining the importance people attach to public matters (Shaw, 1979). Lippman observed the media provide information about "the world outside." Consumers use that information to form "pictures in our heads" without first person contact, the media provides information to the consumer letting them "see" what is going on around them (Infante, et al., 1997).
In 1962, Cohen, a political scientist, observed "the press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about" (as cited in Infante, et al., 1997). Also suggested is there is no mere randomness in news reporting. Media sets at least a minimal rank order of news in their reporting, establishing priorities and importance of stories by virtue of their placement within the media and the time spent on event or issue (Shaw, 1997; Rogers & Dearing, 1988; Ramaprasad, 1983).
This is often with little regard to the actual place (salience) the issue or event has in society (Rogers & Dearing, 1988; Weaver, 1984; Palmgreen & Clarke, 1977). The three elements of Agenda Setting Theory, as described by Rogers and Dearing (1988), are media, public and policy. Each element sets their agendas, or priorities of interest, which can be defined as issues or events that are viewed at a point in time and ranked by importance. Agenda setting refers to process used by mass media to communicate the relative importance of issues and events to the public with the goal of increasing public awareness which in turn changes policy agendas.
The original study by McCombs and Shaw showed there was a positive correlation between what voters said was important and the actual media content during the 1968 presidential campaign. In further research, they also found voters with a high need for orientation were more likely to be influenced by media messages, where issues were relevant and uncertainty was high (Infante, et al. 1997).
Demers, Craff, Ho, and Pessin (1989) studied the concept of obtrusiveness in Agenda-Setting Theory. Obtrusiveness is defined as the amount of personal experience people have with issues. If the public has little actual experiences (low obtrusiveness) with an issue, the hypothesis suggested media agenda-setting effects would be strong, thus, the public would rely more heavily on the media for information. However, if the public had much personal experience with the issue, media agenda setting would have little or no effect on issue salience. Their study showed the hypothesis was not supported by the data. They suggest a relative change in media attention to an issue rather than absolute change provides a better explanation of changes in issue salience. This result suggests time may be a factor in determining success of media agenda-setting.
Demers, Craff, Ho, and Pessin (1989) studied the concept of obtrusiveness in Agenda-Setting Theory. Obtrusiveness was defined as the amount of personal experience people have with issues. If the public has little actual experiences (low obtrusiveness) with an issue, the hypothesis suggested media agenda-setting effects would be strong, and the public would rely more heavily on the media for information. However, if the public had much personal experience with the issue, media agenda setting would have little or no effect on issue salience. Their study showed the hypothesis was not supported by the data. They suggest that a relative change in media attention to an issue rather than absolute change provides a better explanation of changes in issue salience. This result suggests that time may be a factor in determining success of media agenda-setting.
Iyengar and Simon (1993) studied the news coverage of the Gulf War and public opinion. They found, as they predicted, television news coverage significantly affected Americans political concerns and the criteria used to evaluate President Bush before and after the Gulf crisis. However, they also noted Lippmann drew a distinction between news and truth, and questions how closely the news could be said to reflect the truth. They suggest the present discrepancy between the two was increased by the present government domination of the flow of information. In their examination of network news reports on the Gulf Crisis, more than 50 percent of the reports came directly from official spokespeople. Any themes contrary to the governments position were ignored. They submit the official journalism ensured the publics and the presidents view of the Gulf crisis would be congruent (Iyengar & Simon, 1993).
When an installation commander communicates with any portion of the installation population, he or she must decide what is being said, through what medium it --will be delivered and the purpose of the message. Hence the following research questions are proposed:
RQ8- How does coverage of internal information issues by the installation public affairs office within established mass communication mediums affect salience of internal information issues within the installation audience?
RQ9- How does the installation commanders perception of internal information issues affect public affairs coverage of internal information issues within established mass communication mediums?