This morning in Warrensburg General (Retired) Richard B. Myers, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented the Ike Skelton Lecture on the campus of the University of Central Missouri. He spoke at length, then answered submitted questions from the audience (read from the podium by Brigadier General Thomas Bussiere), and then took questions directly from the audience.
Earlier in the morning General Myers took questions from the media in a short press conference.
At one point a submitted question (and the general’s answer) touched on new media:
General (Retired) Richard B. Myers, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking
at the Ike Skelton lecture on the campus of the University of Central Missouri on January 22, 2014.
Question: ….in your time as Chairman the media has become more invasive and rabid in coverage . Now with the advent of social media has become even more so and many stories are being created and developed by non-professionals. What challenges, uh, do you see this creates in the public sector for both leadership and how would you advise future leadership to handle this?
Gen. (Ret.) Richard B. Myers: Well, I think future leadership, and I think the Air Force here does pretty well. The Navy does very well. Uh, the Army here, the Army does not do very well in this area. But this is the whole notion of communications. And, uh, I met your public affairs officer earlier. We were briefed on the little press conference we had.
Uh, I think those that are in charge of our public affairs or communications, uh, need to have a seat at the table, uh, for everything that goes on to include, uh, uh, planning for combat. They’ve got to be right there. And then they’ve got to participate when you’re in the middle of, uh, co, conflict or a, uh, bad event. Uh, they need to be there as well. Early on, not when the reporters are at the gates saying, we want to come in and talk to you. Uh, but well before that, all part of that planning. I think that’s the way, you know, you accommodate to the world we’re in today where the, where the news whips around very fast.
Let me give you an example. So you sit in the Pentagon, you hear the news, and it says, uh, Al Jazeera’s reporting that the U.S. troops, this is hypothetical, U.S. troops, uh, bombed a mosque [inaudible], fired into a mosque. So I call Tommy Franks, say, Tommy, they’re saying that you guys bombed a mosque, what the heck’s that about? He says, I’ll find out and get back to you. And, uh, what Al Jazeera would show you is, uh, you know, U.S. fire going into the mosque. That’s all they would show you. And Tommy comes back and says, yeah, they had a big weapons cache in there and we were taking heavy fire from the mosque and, uh, we had to retaliate, he said. Okay, it sounds fair. Where are the pictures of that fire coming from the mosque? Where are the pictures of the, the weapons cache? Uh, well, they’d get that to you maybe in a, in a month. Well that, that great news story was live for maybe twenty, twenty-four hours. [inaudible] Maybe, maybe couple hour, uh, days. But, it’s no longer around. So I think being more agile in how we address, uh, those kinds of situations, making everybody in the unit know that they can be this strategic corporal that by their actions can draw international attention. I think that’s the way you address that.
You can’t, you can’t address all those that are on the blogosphere with varying credentials. I mean, it’s like swatting flies. And you don’t have time to swat flies. So, let, let the flies buzz around. Concentrate on those sorts of issues, uh, pick out those in media that you trust. And you can develop trusting relationships with media as well. And, and develop those so when something really goes wrong you have somebody you can turn to that’s, you have a relationship with that’ll at least give you a fair hearing.
General (Retired) Richard B. Myers.
Credentials. Those worked out so well for Judith Miller.