National Press Club

National Press Club Sunshine Week panel to examine how public information officers limit media access

February 28, 2018 | By Julie Schoo |

In honor of Sunshine Week, the National Press Club's Press Freedom Committee will host an evening panel discussion on March 14 to examine how the Trump administration uses public information officers to limit and shape reporters' access to government information.

The event will take place in the Club's Zenger room from 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. It is free and open to the public, but reservations are necessary. To register to attend, sign-up here.

Successive presidential administrations have increasingly relied on PIOs to act as intermediaries, brokers, and even firewalls between the press and the agency officials who research, develop, and implement major federal policies. Under President Barack Obama, many beat reporters struggled to get access to timely government information and to secure substantive on-the-record interviews with key policymakers. But what was a difficult job then has by almost all accounts only worsened.

Over a year into the Donald Trump administration, PIOs are still heavily relied on to act as buffers between reporters and the career officials and political appointees they cover. But some things have changed. At key agencies like the State and Defense departments, the number of press conferences has sharply declined, as have opportunities to travel and talk with agency heads. On other occasions, journalists have reported the information-gathering process has become politicized by PIOs to a degree not previously felt before.

A panel of journalists and experts will examine limits on access to public information under the Trump administration, how they vary agency-to-agency and compare to previous administrations.

Panelists include:

· Julie Pace, Associated Press Washington Bureau chief

· Kimberly Leonard, Washington Examiner healthcare reporter/co-chair of DC chapter of Association of Health Care Journalists

· Kathryn Foxhall - freelance healthcare journalist/Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information Committee member

· Tom Devine - Government Accountability Project legal director

The discussion will be moderated by Rachel Oswald, Congressional Quarterly reporter and vice chair of the Club's Freedom of the Press Committee.

The National Press Club, founded in 1908, is a leading professional organization for journalists. Through its non-profit Journalism Institute and its Press Freedom Team, the club stands up for journalists, transparency and freedom of speech at home and abroad.