Don’t let government flacks control coverage

Linda Petersen, SPJ’s national FOI chairwoman, and Kathryn Foxhall, of the PR Office Censorship blog, co-authored an article in this month’s Quill magazine about the insidious ways public information officers try to steer coverage.

While Kathryn has written extensively on the problem of government PIOs acting more like minders in third-world countries, either monitoring interviews or serving as the choke point through which all information must pass, the article shows it’s not just a Washington beltway phenomena.

Linda tells of the time a public-information officer in a small Utah city told her that, as a “professional courtesy,” one of Linda’s reporters should tell her what stories she was working on.

The article also gives tips for how to get around these roadblocks to information. You may want to share it with your newsrooms.

Have you had any problems with public information officers who see themselves as censors? Leave a comment below.

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