Linda Petersen and I write in a new article in Quill, “Whether they like it or not, PIOs serve as censors for their bosses. Often staff members know a lot they won’t say when PIOs are tracking—at the leadership’s behest—who is talking to which reporter.”
Quill is the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists. Petersen chairs the SPJ Freedom of Information Committee.
The article notes that reporters used to call up staff people in agencies and elsewhere and staff would give them what they needed.
“Not so anymore. From the largest federal department to the smallest city, everyone is trying to manage the media through the PIOs,” the piece points out.
It advises reporters, among other tactics, to, “Work hard to skirt the monitors.”
The article also urges reporters, “Investigate it. When did it start in your community? Did anyone have any ethical qualms about controlling information? Do they teach this at conferences for local officials?”
The September-October issue with the article, “PIO – Friend or Foe,” should be going up on the SPJ site soon.