WHERE’S THAT ‘ERA OF OPENESS’?
Thirty-eight national journalism groups have written their own headlines about the state of press relations with the White House, and the federal government in general. In an open letter to President Obama, the Society of Professional Journalists and other organizations have demanded more access, and less official intervention from public information offices.
“Over the past two decades, public agencies have increasingly prohibited staff from communicating with journalists unless they go through public affairs offices or through political appointees. This trend has been especially pronounced in the federal government. We consider these restrictions a form of censorship —an attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear,” reads the letter, signed by David Cuillier, president of the society, plus 37 other groups that include the National Newspaper Association and the American Society of News Editors.
“The stifling of free expression is happening despite your pledge on your first day in office to bring ‘a new era of openness’ to federal government,” the letter states. “Recent research has indicated the problem is getting worse throughout the nation, particularly at the federal level. Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations. Contact is often blocked completely.”