Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Missouri History of Blockage by Spokespersons

Bob Priddy, news director the statewide commercial radio network Missourinet, says his operation has been blogging about the tightening of controls on information for more than three years.
In December 2009, the blog explained the history:

“The rise of the official spokesmen, spokeswomen, spokespersons, spokesones—pick the one that works best for you—for state government agencies is becoming more pervasive and more oppressive with each administration in Jefferson City. It too often reaches a point where reporters are refused opportunities to speak to those in state government who are most knowledgeable about a subject, a policy, or an issue…..

“The concept of elevating PR people to be impenetrable walls between the media and people in state government who can and should provide their expertise and knowledge has been increasing,” [over at least the last two and the current gubernatorial administrations].

“It was rare not that many years ago when we called someone in state government directly and were told we had to go through the agency PR person, who in those days mainly wanted to know that the conversation was going to happen, often so the department director would not be surprised to see someone from his or her agency quoted in the press.”

“Even that was a point of contention from time to time. But it was usually resolved rather quickly.”

“Not today. The walls are up. The bureaucracy is carefully protected… by the department spokesmen who, unfortunately, are not as all-knowing as they want us to believe.”

Priddy also noted, in December 2010 when spokespersons would not answer questions about the governor’s cancelled trade mission to Korea and Taiwan, “Information the public deserves to have is being hidden, intentionally, by public officials, those who claim to be public servants, those who ask the public to trust them to carry out policies for the public good. One of the roles of the media should be to let the public know if that trust is being abused.”

Kathryn Foxhall

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