Any civilian PRO who has attempted to keep a story out of the media
will be well aware how bitterly journalists resent attempts at news
management. This resentment can only be amplified as journalists come
under pressure to produce an unprecedented quantity of copy and footage
on one of the biggest stories of the past few decades.
In the 21st century, the public expect wars to be fought in the media as
well as on the ground. But as both the UK and US administrations have
been at pains to point out, the upcoming conflict will be a war unlike
any other. While during the Gulf War the Western allies used all the
technology at their disposal to play to the gallery, this campaign
requires a cloak of secrecy if it is to succeed.
Here in the UK, even before a shot has been fired, the D-Notice
Committee - the advisory group that alerts news organisations to
information whose publication threatens national security - has asked
the media not to speculate as to tactics, lest their theories stray too
close to the truth.
Committee secretary Rear Admiral Nick Wilkinson admits he has no power
to compel the media to comply. And while much of the media has taken a
responsible line, some have been unable to resist detailed speculation
as to likely military strategies.
The onus is on the Government to make clear that ignoring this
particular attempt to manage the news agenda may cost lives.