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09/11/2004

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Holden Lewis

Mark,
I'm a reporter, and this is a problem that began with the swearing-in of George Bush. I write about mortgages and real estate, so most of my calls to federal spokespeople are to the ones at HUD. They almost always ask not to be quoted by name, even if I'm merely asking them to define a term or explain some statistical material. I've never asked why, because I figure that's just the way the weird press ecology in Washington works nowadays. (Everyone in Washington looks down on any reporter who calls from outside the 202 area code, so when I'm poorly treated it doesn't arouse my curiosity.)

During the Reagan, Bush I and Clinton administrations, spokespeople in federal departments and agencies allowed themselves to be quoted by name.

The Bush II policy reached its nadir a couple of years ago when I wanted to talk to someone at a HUD field office in South Dakota for a story about housing in Indian country. I called the person in South Dakota, who called a spokeswoman in DC, who called me and said I could interview the woman in South Dakota on the phone if I attributed the quotes to the woman in DC. I said no, because that would be lying to my readers.

I wonder how many reporters submit to such misleading ground rules.

Fr33d0m

Is it any wonder, specifically in this administration, that everyone would like to stay anonymous? Just ask General Shinseki.

Eric H

I noticed that the New York Times' public editor addressed this in today's column.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/12/weekinreview/12bott.html?hp

Kennedy

Welcome back Mark, you've been missed.

If anything, I would say that the whole bit about labor department spokesmen remaining nameless has to do with them being messengers for the department, and that their names aren't particularly important to delivering that message.

Not that that makes a great deal of sense; it's just all I could come up with.

Mary

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mike

You are right.

olga

I don't commonly comment but I gotta say thank you for the post on this amazing one :D.

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