Wednesday, October 19, 2005

An Example of Government Censorship

This should be filed in “Give me a friggin’ break file.”

The United States Department of Commerce has issued a blanket media policy to employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), requiring that all requests for contact from national media be first approved by the Department

I’m sorry, what was that?

Purportedly, there was en email sent out to NOAA staff (that includes all employees of the National Weather Service as well) around Sept. 29 that states employees must collect information from reporters and forward it to the Department.

I’m sorry can you repeat that?

The new policy says that employees must obtain the following before speaking with someone from the Fourth Estate

-The name of the reporter and their affiliation-Their deadline and contact phone number-The name of the individual being requested to give the interview-The purpose of the interview-The expertise of the requested interviewee on this subject.

(Now, I’m reading this article the other day and thinking to myself that this has NOTHING to do with the media’s reaction to the government’s handling of Hurricane Katrina, right? Nah…couldn’t be [wink wink nudge nudge])

Before this rather bizarre policy change, if an individual or media organization called ANY NWS or NOAA office and wanted an interview, the people at NOAA would do their best to accommodate them quickly.

The new policy (which is the old policy if you listen to NOAA, but we’ll get to that in a moment) requires that local weather offices forward media requests to the NWS press office, which in turn would forward the request to the Commerce Department’s public relations office. The Department would then have the onus of whether a comment should be granted or not, as would the decision as to whom would speak for the agency.

While no explanation as to why this policy was issued has been given, individuals within NOAA state that it does appear the aim of this policy is to curb the stream of weather information to the national media.

The Regional Public Affairs Director of the NWS, Jim Teet (who incidentally is the one who sent the policy email memo AND provided support in 1999 for Bush-sycophant extraordinaire Karen Hughes and her defense of then Governor George W. Bush’s National Guard record, remember that, she is the one that claimed that training constituted “active duty.” Yeah, sure. Ask anyone who has seen combat if they consider that active duty…I can almost guarantee their response) stated the latest policy is merely a way to coordinate the message.

NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John asserts the media policy is not a mandatory directive and is not a new policy. It was simply “updated.” Rather, St. John states it is a set of guidelines to make sure that when a weather service employee speaks to a reporter, that it’s reported back to him ASAP. (But it’s not mandatory…)

(Interesting sidebar...Scott and I were having a debate as to what has more destructive force; a hurricane or my 3-year old twins. He called the NWS for a statement on the destructive force of all the recent Hurricanes compared to 3 year old twins and they said that they would take a message, run it up through 10 departments in 3 different agencies and, if the question was deemed to be important to the benefit of the nation or specifically the region, they would have someone get back to him.)

According to the website, some National Weather Service staff stated that they had never seen the original media policy before, and find the timing of the “reminder” email to be suspect given the recent political impact of hurricane Katrina. (Ah ha! I knew it! I guess I am smarter than I give myself credit for). Some employees are also curious as to why they were never told of the original policy and, perhaps more importantly, they wonder why Commerce has to approve weather media requests in the first place.

The answer is simple…it’s George W. Bush’s America…


Anonymous said...

That has to be the most bizare thing I have ever heard in my life. of all the departments in govt?

A small voice in the wilderness:) said...

Truly bizarre. But, it seems to be going on across the nation; stopping the flow of information to its citizens. Which part of we all pay for that information don't they understand.

I'm living in a "little" southern Indiana town, across from Louisville and I have NEVER seen any government ran the way ours is. Having lived across the United States in various states as a computer/business analyst and always joining my local party and a bowling league to make new friends; I have never seen anything like here, and people just keep saying it's going on across America. And here I thought the Republicans stood for "less layers of government". Okey, dokey.....if you say so. Thank you for sharing your information. Truly fascinating.