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What Does a Military Journalist Do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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A military journalist is a journalist who provides stories for the internal media of the military, including government agencies with an interest in military activities. Such journalists may also provide images, press releases, and other materials for the mainstream media when it requires such information for reporting on military topics. Also known as communications or public affairs specialists, military journalists disseminate information through internal broadcasts, print publications, and other media.

Military journalists receive training in print as well as radio and television journalism. Some may develop careers as photographers, while others focus on writing. Editors and other production personnel are also needed, as military news is developed entirely internally, without outside sources. Most militaries expect neutrality from their journalists; their goal is to report information, not to comment on it or provide editorial commentary on world events.

Like other journalists, a military journalist often picks a beat of particular interest to focus on, and works with an editor to discuss and develop stories. Journalists can propose interviews, embedded journalism, and other projects. They report on topics that can vary from new food services contracts at bases to wounded warriors receiving treatment in military hospitals, and are given free access to personnel and locations to collect information for distribution, though they are barred from handling certain sensitive materials.

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Work as a military journalist can involve travel to a variety of locations, as well as interactions with a range of personnel. The work requires attending boot camp and finishing physical training like other members of the military. Journalists need to be able to meet fitness standards and operate weapons, and they also follow the chain of command, receive promotions, and work within the structure of the military to develop careers. As with other creative professionals in the military, military journalists can also turn their work to careers in the civilian world if they later decide to do so, and they typically maintain portfolios or reels with samples of their work.

For outside communications, a military journalist can provide photographs, press releases, film and radio clips, and other materials, by authorization from the military. If the mainstream media wants footage of a new weapon in testing, for example, it can contact the public relations office to determine what might be available. A military journalist can also work with members of the military to prepare them for interviews and public appearances at events like press conferences, so they know how to handle questions and convey information clearly without compromising confidential information or providing confusing or contradictory quotes on military topics.

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