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Internal report dings State Department’s media efforts

Internal report dings State Department’s media efforts

The State Department’s public-affairs shop suffers from "poor communication, lack of staffing and uneven leadership," according to the AP’s Matthew Lee, who got his hands on an unreleased copy of a new inspector general’s report.

And here’s the juiciest bit: "[S]ome employees had been instructed not to return phone calls to reporters asking sensitive questions and … the environment in one office was so tense and hostile that several workers fear violence."

Violence!

The report’s most damaging findings involve the Office of Broadcast Services, which produces and distributes audio and video content to worldwide media outlets. That office, it said, is beset by severe morale problems and hostility between employees and managers.

It said several employees expressed concern "that violence in the workplace could result because of the high levels of workplace animosity and tension." The report called for the current director of the office to be replaced.

Another concern highlighted in the report, according to Lee, is that "the Office of Press Relations, which in previous administrations has been a primary channel for answering inquiries from the media, had lost much of its role because Clinton’s team believed it was not effective." More: "Under direction from the front office, PRS does not return some reporters’ calls, for inquiries that are deemed sensitive," the report said.

P.J. Crowley, the assistant secretary who heads the bureau, acknowledged it was a "tough report" but said that about a third of the problems identified were already being addressed. He also denied that anyone instructed PRS not to return phone calls, but said that some questions were kicked to the front office. 

The report also noted that "the duties of some career employees in the press office had been transferred to political appointees, which contributed to low morale," but either Crowley declined to comment on that sensitive topic, or Lee didn’t print his response.

I have a great deal sympathy for the folks on the other end of the line from us journalists — I’m sure they are often overwhelmed by complicated or touchy requests every day. I know it’s a constant struggle just to track down the right people and get all of our queries answered accurately. But clearly, there’s room for improvement here.