forum hosted lasted week by The University of Southern Mississippi
Army ROTC and the School of Mass Communication and Journalism focused
on bridging a long-standing communication gap between the military
and the media.
The panel discussion
was the culminating event of a semester-long senior project of Southern
Miss ROTC cadets, which included working with embedded reporters
from "The Student Printz" serving as public affairs officers
during military field training exercises, researching various aspects
of military-media relations and writing papers.
a reporter from the "Sun Herald" in Biloxi and a member
of the panel, was embedded with members of the U.S. Navy Seabees,
based in Gulfport, while they were serving in Iraq. He served two
tours as a reporter in Iraq. He said initially there was suspicion
from military personnel about his presence. In time, the suspicion
three days, word gets around, and everyone is comfortable with me,"
he said. "As a news reporter, things become much less formal
in an embedded situation."
members included retired Maj. Gen. Walter Yates, a 1971 Southern
Miss graduate; Col. Daniel Zajac, commander of the Training Support
Brigade at Camp Shelby; Maj. Joe Hargett, Operation Iraqi Freedom
veteran and Mississippi Army National Guard officer; Rachel Quinlivan
and Chad Applebaum, members of "The Student Printz" staff
who served as embedded reporters with the Southern Miss ROTC; and
cadets Josh Ulrich, Lee Greco, and Henry Hall. Lt. Col. Kevin Dougherty,
professor of military science, moderated the discussion.
Since the Vietnam
War, the media and military have shared a strained relationship,
marked by institutional distrust and mutual suspicion. One of the
goals of the project undertaken by the ROTC was to repair those
relations through a new generation of officers, soldiers and reporters.
War was a watershed in military-media relations," Yates said.
"It might be considered a low point."
One of the
current problems some journalists face, Peterson lamented, is the
involvement of news commentators in the media's coverage of war,
which he believes undermines the job reporters are doing. "Don't
confuse reporters with commentators," he said. "Those
guys make our job difficult. People think I come in with an axe
to grind. Most of what I do
is report on what happened that
day (as opposed to subjective commentary)," he said.
her experience as a participant in the project was enlightening
and educational. "I have a much better understanding of what
the military does here on campus, in Hattiesburg (at Camp Shelby)
and nationally," she said.