Air Guard commanders, chiefs learn to interact with media

Story By Master Sgt. Matthew McCoy

Commanders and chief master sergeants assigned to the 184th Intelligence Wing attended a four-hour class designed to familiarize them with expectations and responsibilities while interacting with the media at McConnell Air Force Base, March 22. The class was presented by the Adjutant General’s Public Affairs Department, 184th IW Public Affairs and included a two-person panel by local media.“I’ve had the opportunity to talk with the media at least five times since the beginning of the year,” said Col. David Weishaar, commander, 184th Intelligence Wing. “This kind of training will prove to be valuable in the future.”

The morning began with Ben Bauman, director of Public Affairs, the Adjutant General’s Department; and Capt. Matt Lucht, chief of Public Affairs, 184th IW, explaining the positive and negative aspects of the media’s ability to quickly spread information to a mass audience.

The training clarified the media’s needs, emphasizing different needs for different news outlets, and how Guardsmen can fulfill their requests while delivering a positive message.

“A lot of people think of media as radio, television and newspaper, but the social medias can have a huge impact as well,” said Lucht. “I think that it is great that leadership is taking a proactive approach, because engaging with the media is the best way to spread the word about the great things that we are doing here at the wing.”

The class was the result of a concern by Col. Mike Venerdi, commander, 184th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group. Venerdi recognized the operational security problems that could arise by talking about the wing’s missions, but also understood the importance of the media’s ability to connect the unit with the community.

“Due to the nature of our mission, we can’t fully highlight the jobs that we do,” said Venerdi. “But this won’t stop the community from wondering what goes on out here.”

He sought advice from Lucht, and together they developed a plan to educate the wing’s leaders.

“I took a leadership course through the Wichita Chamber of Commerce where they put us in front of a camera and that really showed me the importance of feeling comfortable with media,” said Venerdi. “Just knowing the difference between the media outlets, what they need and best practices during interviews will help us [leadership] when we interact with the media.”

To complete the training, Jean Hays, deputy editor, Wichita Eagle, and Lauren Seabrook, reporter, KWCH Channel 12, spoke with the audience during a question and answer session. They explained the differences between local, regional and national news networks and their different purposes and behaviors.

Both emphasized the importance of building relationships with local news outlets and said the more they work together, the stronger the relationship will be and that can improve the unit’s community relations.