The Media Interview - USAF Air University Public Portal

By William Armstrong,2014-05-15 23:48
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The Media Interview - USAF Air University Public Portal

Military Justice and the Media: The Media Interview



    You know you are having a bad day when your commanding officer calls you up and

    congratulates you on being selected for a special assignment--being your Service’s representative

    for a media interview--about a pending court-martial--that is front page news--oh, and the

    interview will be on 60 Minutes. After the initial shock wears off, and you mutter the obligatory,

    “Thank you, Sir, may I have another,” you wonder where to begin.

    I had my opportunity to excel when the Commandant of the Marine Corps assigned me to

    be the Marine Corps spokesperson in an interview with Mike Wallace for 60 Minutes.1 The

    story was on the pending general courts-martial of two of the aircrew of the Marine EA-6B

    Prowler that struck and severed a ski gondola cable near Cavalese, Italy in 1998, killing 20

    2people. I had some prior experiences in dealing with the media on pending military justice

    matters, notably daily sessions with the national media during the 1987 court-martial of then-

    Sergeant Clayton Lonetree for espionage while a Marine Security Guard at the U.S. Embassies in

    3Moscow and Vienna. 4This article is based on those and other experiences I had while on active duty and my

    current view of military justice and the media from my position in the Office of the General 5Counsel of the Department of Defense. Although this article focuses on preparing for the media interview, it also addresses many issues that commanders and their military justice advisors

    should consider whenever they deal with the media.

    The Need for Justice

    When I was a platoon commander, my junior enlisted personnel used to ask a question

    whenever there was a rumor that an officer or a staff noncommissioned officer had committed

    misconduct but had not received formal disciplinary action. The question was asked with the

    tongue-not-so-in-cheek humor one associates with young enlisted personnel. The question was,

    “Is it justice or just us?”

     Those young Marines had a certain understanding of what justice means. That

    understanding was that justice meant a system that they could trust because it treated each

    accused similarly, regardless of grade, was fair, never convicted an innocent person, and

    awarded reasonable punishment to those convicted. While I recognize that the “what is justice?

    debate may become quite complex, in this article I will refer to justice as my young Marines

    taught me thirty years ago.

? Brigadier General (Ret.) Schwenk (B.S. United States Naval Academy; J.D. American University) is currently a

    Deputy Assistant General Counsel with the Department of Defense.

    Protecting the search for justice inherent in the American criminal process colors all that

    the military says, and does not say, to the media regarding individual military cases. Why?

    Without justice, the system breaks down. Without a properly functioning system, good order

    and discipline breaks down. Without good order and discipline, the military’s ability to accomplish assigned missions breaks down and national security is placed at risk. All three

    branches of government have long recognized the vital role that a properly functioning military

    justice system plays in mission accomplishment, and each branch has helped craft the current

    military justice system.

    Congress enacted the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) in 19506 as a result of

    the uneven performance of the disparate military justice systems during World War II. The 7UCMJ established one system common to all five armed forces. During the ensuing 50 years,

    Congress has refined the UCMJ through legislative action.

    In the Executive Branch, Presidents have implemented the UCMJ in a series of executive

    8orders that comprise the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM). The MCM includes procedural

    and evidentiary rules for courts-martial, guidance on the punitive articles, and procedures 9regarding non-judicial punishment. In the Department of Defense, the Joint Service 10Committee conducts an annual review of the MCM and other military justice matters, and

    proposes appropriate changes to regulations, Executive Orders, and statutes. Further, military

    commanders (whose central role in all military matters, including military justice, is both

    essential and irreplaceable) are not hesitant to voice concerns regarding aspects of the system

    that they consider work against justice.

    The Supreme Court and the subordinate federal courts, including the United States Court

    of Appeals for the Armed Forces,11 also play an important role in military justice. The Supreme Court has reviewed several cases over the years related to the military and military justice. A

    brief summary of those decisions might conclude that: the Court gives primacy in military

    matters to the legislative and executive branches; the Court believes that the military justice

    system may exist quite properly under the Constitution as a unique system of criminal law not

    subject to all of the Constitutional requirements applicable to civilian criminal courts; and that

    the Court believes that the federal courts should give great deference to the other branches, and

    to military commanders, in reviewing military issues.12 In each military justice case, the

    Supreme Court’s eye has clearly been focused on ensuring that the military justice process

    provides justice to all those brought before it. Thus, the Congress, the President, the military,

    and the courts are united in their efforts to ensure that justice remains the very essence of the

    process. One threat to justice in any criminal justice system is prejudicial pretrial publicity.

    The Threat to Justice

    American civilian and military criminal justice systems seek to balance the obligation to

    keep the public informed with the obligation to seek justice by avoiding any pretrial publicity

    13that could possibly taint the criminal process and potentially frustrate the search for justice.

    The obligation to seek justice includes ensuring that one person’s liberty is not jeopardized due

    to a well-intentioned but mistaken effort at informing the public about the case. All American

    criminal justice systems attempt to withhold disclosure of any potentially prejudicial information

    about the case until after the trial has concluded.

    The reasons for the concern about potentially prejudicial pretrial publicity are simple. If

    a juror finds out from pretrial publicity that an accused has confessed to a crime, common sense

    14 on its head. Similarly, if a potential

    sentencing or good character witness finds out that the accused has confessed, he may decide not

    to testify. When the judge later rules that the confession was obtained illegally, neither the juror says that it is likely that the juror will approach the trial with the opinion that the accused is

    nor the witness can ever be placed back in the position they had been in before the pretrial guilty. This would stand the presumption of innocence

    publicity jeopardized the search for justice. This fundamental concern about prejudicial pretrial

    publicity could cause the military to resolve the issue by not discussing pending military justice

    matters with the media at all.

    Why Should the Military Talk with the Media?

     This is perhaps the most fundamental question in military-media relations. It is a broad,

    all-encompassing question that strikes at the heart of American government. How you answer

    other questions, and how you approach other issues, depends in large measure upon your answer

    to this question.

    Almost no one, not even the media, argues that the military should report everything, providing complete access on all issues.15 On the other hand, a significant number of military

    personnel argue that the military should provide the media with only that amount of information that absolutely must be disclosed, and that media access to all things military should be limited and closely controlled. Others try to strike a balance between the extremes.

     Commands are often asked to provide information to, or to be interviewed by, the media.

    For military and civilian personnel not in a public affairs office, these requests are often an additional burden of no apparent consequence in accomplishing the mission. In fact, the often-held perception is that the media will distort whatever is said, get the facts or the process (or both) wrong, and create a problem through their story when no problem currently exists. A logical response to that perception is to deny media requests whenever possible, and when denial fails, to provide as little information as possible. However, that logical response is misguided.

     We are fortunate to serve the United States of America, a great nation in large part

    because our Founding Fathers had the wisdom to pen the Constitution, and our predecessors the courage to place the Constitution and its principles ahead of narrower interests. We, of course, should do no less. The Constitution does not directly address the media and the military. It does offer guidance on why and how the military should approach the media. The First Amendment

    guarantees freedom of the press.

    16 Our founding fathers provided this constitutionally protected

    role for a free press to serve as a fundamental check on the government by providing the truth

    about the government to the American people. Armed with this truth, the American people are

    better able to evaluate the policies and actions of their government, petition the government, and exercise their right to vote.

     This is perhaps why we so often hear the media talk about “the public’s right to know.”

    Although there is no express “right to know” in the Constitution, the bedrock principle of our

    democratic form of government is that ours is a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”17 The people must be able to make informed judgments to make democracy work,

    and they need information from the government and its critics to be able to make those informed

    judgments. The people gain the information they need from an ever-increasing variety of

    sources, but there can be little doubt that they receive most of that information through the media.

     The media gathers its information from sources--big and small, formal and informal,

    official and unofficial. A particularly important source of this information is the government.

The people then sift through this tub of information, sorting the credible from the incredible and

    forming opinions about the issues so that they may make informed decisions. 18 Communicating with the public through the media is also important for the government, They present brief

    including the military. This is why every Executive Branch agency holds regular media statements on issues of importance and answer the media’s questions on a wide variety of topics.

    briefings. In the Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Both are busy men, but both see that informing the American public, and the world, is so critical

    Chiefs of Staff often appear as the military’s briefers at these sessions.that they make time for regular sessions with the media.

     A constitutional perspective provides another reason for the military to speak with the

    media. The Department of Defense is an agency of the government, which serves the people.

    The Department’s employees, military and civilian, swear an oath to support and defend the

    Constitution and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.19 Providing the American people

    with information about military activities, including matters of military justice, is a most logical

    extension of this oath to the constitution and the democratic process the Constitution created.

    One might well conclude that the military has a Constitutionally-based obligation to provide

    information to the American public.

     The military may not satisfy this obligation to inform the public merely by public affairs

    announcements of exercises, procurements, promotions, and similar good news. This obligation

    includes discussing the bad news that is also inherent in the military such as training accidents,

    other disasters, and criminal misconduct.20 This obligation also includes correcting the record when misleading or false information finds its way into the media. How or why that

    misleading/false information was published is not relevant to this obligation; the fact that the

    American people receive misleading or false information in the media regarding the Department

    triggers an obligation on the Department to consider how best to correct the recordfor the

    American people.

     Finally, this obligation does have limits.21 Defining those limits is an important issue that

    the commander, the public affairs officer and the lawyer must consider in every release of

    information to the media, including in every military justice matter that catches the public’s


    What Should the Military Tell the Media?

     Normally, the release of information in a military justice matter does not raise the issue of

    putting personnel in the field at risk of death, or of jeopardizing intelligence sources and methods.

    When those issues do arise, we clearly would not release that information to the media. Indeed,

    we have rules that protect classified information from release to the public, even during a court-


     The more difficult issue is deciding what information to release without creating

    prejudicial pretrial publicity. In making this assessment, the military focuses on protecting the

    unique value that is the very essence of military justice--justice itself. The military’s traditional

    approach has been to release relatively little information. In the past decade, however, the

    military has moved to an approach that releases more information earlier in the process--but still

    with an eye on justice and avoiding prejudicial pretrial publicity.

    The Traditional Approach to Pretrial Publicity

    For many years, the military found it relatively easy to avoid any potentially prejudicial

    pretrial publicity, because, in the main, little public and hence media attention was focused on

    military justice. An occasional case would become a public and media sensation, but, by and

    23large, the military justice system did not function on center stage. However, in the past decade, 24the media has increased coverage of significant military justice cases. This increased coverage

    often includes speculation about pending matters and occasionally the use of the media by the

    defense team to get their messages across to the public. As a result, the public record sometimes is incomplete and therefore misleading unless the military counters the speculation and defense messages with facts. Failure to complete the record risks having the media and the public

    misunderstand the case, the military justice system, and the military’s actions regarding the case.

    Thus, the military’s approach to providing information about pending military justice matters to

    the media has had to change to ensure that the public’s knowledge of the case is as accurate as possible without risking prejudicial pretrial publicity. Most military justice practitioners agree that the seminal event that caused this readjustment was the Kelly Flinn case in 1997.

    A relatively minor case on the scale of criminal behavior, the Kelly Flinn case began as a

    typical good order and discipline matter. An officer, then-First Lieutenant Kelly Flinn, engaged in an unduly familiar personal relationship with the civilian spouse of a young enlisted service member; the enlisted spouse complained to the officer’s command; the officer’s commander took

    the traditional tact of treating the matter in an informal, administrative manner by ordering the officer to end the relationship; the officer took the rather unusual step of violating the order and continuing the relationship; and the commander commenced criminal action to hold the officer

    accountable for violating the order and continuing the relationship.

    The spin that made the case interesting to the public and the media came when the defense team seized the publicity initiative.

    25 They painted the picture of a young female officer

    engaging in consensual adult sexual conduct with a civilian. This was, they asserted, at worst a

    simple case of adultery, which wasn’t a prosecutable crime anywhere except in the morally

    conservative military. Not addressed was any concern for the aggrieved military spouse, the

    violation of the commander’s order, or the breakdown in good order and discipline that was

    likely when an officer was perceived to be a party in destroying the marriage of an enlisted

    service member. The media picked up the story and, to the surprise of probably everyone, found

    the public quite interested. A media frenzy ensued. The omnipresent television and radio news

    shows gave the case near constant national attention, with members of Congress, retired general

    officers, and media pundits reviewing the case and its developments seemingly every day in

    print, on radio, and on television.

    The Air Force answered the increasingly widespread public and media outcry very carefully. Following the traditional conservative approach of avoiding any pretrial publicity that

    might prejudice the case at any future court-martial, the Air Force made the normal broad,

    general replies that focused on the integrity of the military justice process, the need for good

    order and discipline, and the adverse affect that adultery and violating lawful orders can have on

    good order and discipline. In the sensation of the moment, these statements seemed, to many

    members of the media, to support, rather than challenge, the defense team’s assertions. Overall,

    they were lost in the clamor of pro-defense rhetoric. Even the release of additional charges that

    Flinn had lied to the investigators and engaged in fraternization was insufficient to bring any

    balance to the public discussion.

    26Finally, the Air Force Chief of Staff seized an opportunity to bring some balance to the This was not an adultery case; this was a case about a public discussion of the case. At a Congressional hearing, in clear, unambiguous terms, he set violation of a commander’s order to an officer to cease an unduly familiar relationship with the out the Air Force’s side of the story.spouse of a young enlisted service member. There was a victim in this case and the victim was

    not Lt Flinn. The victim was the young enlisted woman who had placed her trust in the “officers

    27appointed over” her. This straightforward statement from the senior officer in the Air Force brought much of the sensationalism to an end, but the damage had been done.

    The senior leaders in the military, civilian and uniformed, were surprised at what had

    occurred. Their conclusion was that the military’s traditional, conservative approach to publicity

    had failed the Air Force. Their solution was to change the mindset of those most responsible for

    pretrial publicity: commanders, lawyers, and public affairs specialists. Their change was a tilt

    toward a more open approach in discussing military justice matters with the public through the

    media, and a tilt toward responding more quickly, directly, and forcefully to statements made by

    defense counsel whenever necessary to correct or balance the record for the public.28

    The New Approach to Pretrial Publicity

    This change in approach to pretrial publicity coincided with a new, expanded interest by

    the media in the military, including military justice. As news shows flooded the television and

    radio markets, the hunt for news that scored high ratings drew the media toward military stories

    of interest to the public. Those stories focused less on exercises, training, and daily activities and

    instead on deployments overseas and the more sensational military justice cases. In fact, in the

    past decade, it is fair to say that the media has discovered military justice.29

    What makes a military justice matter newsworthy is difficult to say. Who is involved, the

    nature of the allegations and the context of the case are clearly the key factors, but some cases

    that appear to have the necessary ingredients to be newsworthy are often overlooked. A murder

    case without another ingredient is normally insufficient, but one involving multiple deaths

    almost always garners at least some coverage. Allegations against a flag or general officer, or

    very senior enlisted personnel, tend to make the headlines, as do allegations of sex in senior-

    subordinate relationships. Training mishaps that include allegations of negligence and that cause

    multiple deaths, especially of civilians, also tend to generate media interest.

    Since the Flinn case, each Service has had several opportunities to use and refine this new

    approach. One of the more aggressive examples was, not surprisingly, from the Marine Corps.

    In 1998, the Commandant of the Marine Corps decided to have a Marine Corps representative

    appear on the 60 Minutes television program for an interview with Mike Wallace about a

    pending military justice matter of national interest. What was pending were two general courts-

    martial of the pilot and co-pilot of an EA-6B Prowler jet aircraft that severed a cable supporting

    a gondola in the mountains near Cavalese, Italy, resulting in the deaths of all twenty occupants.

    The Commandant’s decision was not an easy one. He would have no control over what

    parts of the interview 60 Minutes chose to use in the show, over how the interview was edited or

    over what issues were presented and how they were addressed. In addition, the two general

    courts-martial were yet to begin on the merits. Anything said by the Marine Corps spokesperson

    would likely be used in support of defense motions regarding the adverse effect of prejudicial

    pretrial publicity on members and potential witnesses, unlawful command influence and any

    other purpose that might seem appropriate based upon what was said.

    I was that Marine Corps spokesperson. From that experience, many others regarding

    media relations that I have had in my career, and what I have heard from others who have faced

    the media, I offer the following practical suggestions on the media interview regarding a military 30 Keep one thought in mind as you read the justice matter. Although these suggestions focus on the in-depth, adversarial type of interview, remainder of this article: in dealing with the media, as in waging war, “He who will not risk can they apply to some degree to all media interviews.31not win.”

    Alternatives to the Media Interview

    Before agreeing to engage in a media interview regarding a military justice matter,

    especially if the matter is pending, the military should evaluate alternatives to the interview.

    Alternatives include making no statement at all, issuing a written statement, issuing a general

    press release, developing responses to queries or, perhaps, working with a different, more

    friendly media organization to publish a preemptive, similar story with extensive comments from

    the government. Some combination of these alternatives is also possible.

    Denying the request for an interview and making no statement at all must be considered

    as a first option. The proliferation of news shows in the non-print media and the increasing

    number of print media that do in-depth articles on issues related to military justice make it all but

    impossible to be available for every requested interview. So, at some point, saying no will occur.

    What is the risk?

    Without the military’s position on the issues, there is a heightened risk that the story will

    be unbalanced and potentially misleading. In addition, those reading, listening or seeing the

    story may interpret the military’s refusal to appear as “guilt by silence” to the allegations made in

    the story about military mistakes or intentional wrongdoing. The military’s silence also cedes

    the initiative to the defense and other sources in framing the issues and informing the public

    about the case and the process.

    Issuing a letter to the requesting media organization declining the interview request but

    setting forth, succinctly, sound bites they may use might appear to be a much better option.


    When the media uses those sound bites in a balanced story, this approach has merit. But the

    media may choose to state that the government refused to be interviewed for the story and make

    no further use of the letter, or may edit one or more of the letter’s sound bites into the story in

    such a way that it confuses rather than clarifies, and misrepresents rather than explains.

    The military could attempt a preemptive strike by issuing a general press release

    addressing the issues likely to be the centerpiece of the interview. This press release might

    generate a number of stories before the interview-related story aired, perhaps taking some of the

    air out of that story’s sails, ratings and effects. However, it is also possible that having several

    stories generated immediately before the airing of the interview-related story could stoke

    additional interest in that story and heighten its ratings and effects. Of course, the military would

    have no control over whether the press release generated any stories at all; and, if it did, over the

    content of any stories that were generated by the release, including whether and how the press

    release was used in those stories.

    After any major story about the military appears in the media, the military receives

    follow-on questions from the media. This gives the military the opportunity to make

    rebuttal/explanatory points publicly. Again, a press release is a possibility; so is a carefully

    crafted series of responses to likely inquiries. While the responses may be masterfully put

    together, there is no guarantee that the correct questions will be asked (indeed, that any questions

    will be asked), that any follow-up articles will be written, or that the masterfully crafted

    responses will find their way into any follow-up articles.

    Deciding whether to agree to the media interview or use one of the alternative approaches

    is a command, and in some cases service-level, decision. The issues likely to be covered, the

    status of the case, the existing public record, and a host of other factors should be considered. If

    the decision is to refuse to do the interview, either a media statement or a set of questions and

    answers should be prepared for release after the story airs. In addition, key Department of

    Defense and external leaders should be informed of the story, the likely issue(s), and the

    military’s position.

    Occasionally, the military may receive help informing the public of the military’s 33 When the dust settled, position. A little more than 15 years ago, a military justice case that caught the nation’s attention an investigative reporter wrote a book about the scandal and received a front cover book review for months on end was the Marine Security Guard espionage scandal.from a national publication. Those who had closely followed the scandal considered the book to

    be more fiction than fact. The Marine Corps and other government agencies took a number of

    hits in the book, and the article, that they believed were not justified. They wondered how to

    mount a media counter-attack to balance the public record.

    Meanwhile, an internal debate raged within the national publication. The office that

    wrote the book review was not the office that had followed the espionage scandal. That latter

    office also believed the book to be more fiction than fact and decided to write a rebuttal article

    listing the inaccuracies in the book and the facts. They approached the Marine Corps for help.

    The resulting article ran for a full page in the national publication. It criticized key parts

    of the book, citing inaccuracies and correcting the record with facts. The article proved to be the

    perfect vehicle for the Marine Corps to use to set the record straight.

    Who Should be the Command Representative?

    What should one look for in the model command representative for the interview? The

    representative should be senior enough to appear to the public to be an expert regarding what he

    says, present a good military appearance to command some immediate attention to what he says,

    be well spoken with a tendency toward concise rather than rambling statements, know the case,

    substance and process, well, and know the military justice system well.

    Three principle candidates are always available to be the command spokespersonthe

    commander, the staff judge advocate, and the public affairs officer. None are particularly

    attractive candidates for various reasons explained below.

    The commander receives the most immediate respect from the media and the public due

    to his grade, his position of command, and his role as the decision maker in many key aspects of

    a case. However, he also is the one whose real and apparent independence and objectivity is

    most important and most questioned. Any public statement a commander makes about a pending

    military justice matter will be, quite properly, examined carefully by the defense team for any

    indication of unlawful command influence. As a result, the commander often is reduced to

    making comments about the military justice process and not about the case itself. This reality

    may make the commander the least effective person to use in countering defense team

    allegations in the media, presenting the government’s side and responding to related matters as

    they arise.

    The staff judge advocate suffers from many of the same limitations. As the lawyer for

    the commander, required by law to provide impartial legal advice on every aspect of the court-

    martial from initial disposition to ultimate resolution, the staff judge advocate would similarly be

    reduced to speaking only of process and not the substance of the case. While better trained on

    the process than the commander, and therefore a potentially more informed and persuasive

    advocate for the military justice process, the staff judge advocate remains a poor choice for the

    intended purpose of presenting the military’s position to the public via the media. There is also a

    recurring concern about a command being seen as hiding behind the glib advocacy of its lawyer.

    The public affairs officer may well be the most polished and persuasive in dealing with

    the media but normally has the least knowledge of the case and the military justice process. He

    also may be perceived as the professional mouthpiece of the command and may not have the

    credibility of an operator within the system. Of the three, he is by far the least risky choice but

    also the one who would have to learn the most about the case and the process to be effective.

    Given the problems with using any of those three officers, other options should be

    explored. At times, retired officers or other outside experts have been used to present the

    military’s position. This reduces the risk of having their comments linked to the command and

    thus adversely affect the pending courts-martial. At other times, a subject matter expert from

    outside the command is brought up to speed on the specifics of the case and then used as the

    media representative. Once an individual’s role in the case has ended (e.g., a preliminary inquiry

    officer, an investigating officer, a transferred staff judge advocate), he may become a good 34 candidate to be a media representative.On balance, using an individual who was, but no longer is, involved in the case may well be the best option. The individual likely will have no further connection with the case (except,

    perhaps, as a witness), should have substantial knowledge of the case, and is less likely to be

    perceived as a spokesperson for the commander. If such a person isn’t available, then using a

    retired officer or other senior subject matter expert from outside the command is probably the

    next best option because the only downside is the learning curve regarding the case. Using

    anyone connected with the case simply raises too great a risk of creating a perception of unlawful

    command influence. Once someone is identified to represent the military, the most important

    part of the process begins: preparation.

    Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

    The old saw--that if in real estate the three key ingredients are location, location and

    location, then the three keys in litigation are preparation, preparation and preparation--applies

    equally to the media interview. Preparation for the media interview includes developing sound

    bites and responses to likely questions, staffing your proposed answers, and practicing to make

    35perfect by using mock interviews.

    Preparation can be a one-person operation. Successful preparation cannot. If the case in question is of national significance and the media interview is of national scope, then the

    preparation should reflect that level of significance. Each agency or office that has a stake in the

    36likely issues to be raised should have a member on the interview preparation team.

    The media controls what parts of the interview they are going to use, and they normally

    will not use long replies. The team should identify the key messages it wants to convey during

    the interview and condense them into concise statements or sound bites. The statements should

    be devoid of legalisms and relate directly to the intended audience.

    A careful review of the issues the defense, other commentators, and the media have

    raised should give the government a good idea of what the likely questions will be during the

    interview. In crafting answers, the team should weave in the key messages they previously 37developed. Again, the answers should be concise and clear. When the representative cannot answer a question because

    All answers must tell the American people the truth. “We need to tell them the truth,” of concern that the answer may be prejudicial, the representative should explain why. Because

    Secretary Rumsfeld recently said, And when you can't tell them something, we need to tell them each question and answer in this type of interview is discrete, the representative will have to

    that we can't tell them something.repeat the explanation each time it should be part of the answer, or it will be a glaring omission

    when the show is aired.

    The members of the team should then brief their senior leadership to ensure they know what the proposed answers and sound bites are and agree with them. There should be no

    surprises within the Department to any answer by the military representative that airs on the


    The mock interviews should be similar to witness preparation for a trial. They should be run as though they were real interviews from the moment the representative arrives on set; they

    should be taped; and the representative should be given a copy of each tape to study. All

    members of the interview preparation team should attend each mock interview and participate in

    all critiques. One option that works well is to conduct a series of three mock interviews.38

    The first would be a slow-paced, exhaustive effort that covers all possible issues. The

    mock interviewer should ask a complete set of potential questions in a firm but non-aggressive

    approach. The mock interviewer may follow up on particularly vague answers but should not

    attack the representative. After the interview, the representative should be debriefed

    immediately on style and substance. On style, the focus is on posture, expressions, eye contact,

    hand gestures, diction, speed of delivery, and related issues. On substance, the focus is on using

    opportunities to repeat the sound bites and ensuring answers are clear, concise, and hit the key

    point(s) identified by the team.

    The second mock interviewer should be aggressive, abrasive, and tough. The mock

    interviewer should have an in-depth knowledge of the case and military justice and should be

    relentless in trying to box the representative into corners on the military justice process and the

    handling of the case. The interviewer need not cover all potential issues, but should hit all of the

    more significant issues that are likely to be raised. The mock interviewer should pursue every

    poor answer relentlessly. This interview gives the representative an opportunity to face a much

    harder interview than is likely in real life, forces the representative to think quickly under great


    39 and allows the after action review to assess the sound bites and proposed answers for clarity and conciseness in a hostile atmosphere. If changes need to be made to any proposed

    answer, the change should be staffed as appropriate.

    The public affairs member of the interview preparation team should conduct the last mock interview. It should replicate as much as possible the actual interview. At this stage, the

    emphasis should be to hit all key points and to follow up immediately on any weak answers. The

    critique should make final adjustments to answers and sound bites and fine tune presentation and


    One issue that should be raised with the media company is taping of the interview. In general, it is best if both the media and the military tape the interview. This helps in resolving

    any subsequent dispute about what was said, especially the context within which an answer was

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