Today, a coalition of media organizations including the Association of Health Care Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers demanded that the Food and Drug Administration stop requiring that its employees get official clearance before speaking with reporters. From their letter to the agency:
Public information officers can play an important role in answering questions and facilitating interviews. But when they forbid, delay or monitor contact between reporters and employees, they interfere with the public’s right to know and can delay access to timely information necessary to protect and advance public health. Usually the most accurate information comes from federal employees closest to the facts, not a go-between. These practices are a disservice to Americans.
See their full statement here. In our (alas, currently inaccessible) January/February 2009 editorial, CJR called for the incoming Obama administration to “[m]ake it clear that government scientists, experts, and researchers have a right to express their knowledge and opinions to the press, the scientific community and policy makers.” Granting the coalition’s request would be very much in the spirit of that goal.Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.