- By Blake Hounshell
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.
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."
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.