Friday, August 26, 2005

Media reports on the results of own work 

Americans are more interested in military and national security issues, but feel the media and the military are doing an insufficient job in keeping them as informed on those topics as they were six years ago, according to a new McCormick Tribune Foundation/Gallup Poll.

Fifty-four (54) percent of Americans say they feel the military keeps them well informed, down from 77 percent of those surveyed in 1999. The news media also saw a decline, with 61 percent of Americans feeling the media keeps them well informed on military and national security issues, compared to 79 percent in the earlier survey.
The first prize for the spin goes to Al Reuters for this delicious take:
Americans sometimes feel misled by military - poll

Americans have become considerably less confident in the information they receive from the military, a sign the Iraq war has heightened public scepticism, the sponsors of a poll released on Wednesday said.

Seventy-seven percent of Americans polled believe the military occasionally misleads the media and 60 percent said they feel they have received too little information to make informed decisions about military matters, according to the McCormick Tribune Foundation/Gallup Poll.
This alludes to one of the other findings, namely that 77 per cent of Americans feel the military occasionally gives the media false or inaccurate information. Note, however, that the Reuters story focuses on the criticism of the military in its opening paragraph, and only mentions the correspondingly falling approval of the media in the seventh paragraph.

If more people today feel that the military is not keeping them well informed, maybe we shouldn't look as far as Pentagon for answers. The military, of course, does not communicate with the public directly, unless one takes the initiative to visit their websites and read the press releases and news stories. Instead, it has to rely on the media to spread the message. Unfortunately, the media is not a glass pane but a prism. Which makes it not unusual to see stories like this one, where "The New York Times" has managed to turn a good news military story from Iraq into a complete bad news. You didn't think it was possible? Well read on.

Overall, I think that part of the drop in satisfaction can be ascribed to the fact that, unlike in the run-up to the 1999 poll, military matters are constantly in the spotlight, and in the most controversial of circumstances. It's easy enough to be satisfied with the level of information when the country is largely at peace, its armed forces out of the news, and the public, frankly, neither interested nor attentive. At the time of war, which has so divided the nation, the current results are not surprising. It is a challenge to Pentagon, though, to try to keep on constantly improving its PR machine to stay ahead of the curve. The propaganda war has to be waged not just abroad against the enemies and for the hearts and minds of the international silent majority, but also at home. In fact, the domestic war is arguably even more important, at least in the short term.


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