Recently, Christoper Jensen of the New York Times wrote an article titled “What’s Off the Record at the N.H.T.S.A.? Almost Everything.”
Anyone interested in spin, and particularly in this case, spin control, should read this article and discover how alarmingly un-accessible the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has become to the media and thus the public. In the article, Jensen describes the NHTSA as a disgusting example of public accessibility to its government (my words, not his).
The piece relays information about how Nicole R. Nason, administrator of the NHTSA has instituted control over information coming out of the organization that is so restricted, most communist governments would be impressed. Jensen writes:
“Nason has adopted a policy that has blocked virtually all of her staff—including the communications office—from providing any information to reporters on the record, which means that it can be attributed. The agency’s new policy effectively means that some of the world’s top safety researchers are no longer allowed to talk to reporters or to be freely quoted about automotive safety issues that affect pretty much everybody.”
Being in PR and coming from a political background, I understand the need for consistent messaging and a central point of contact for media inquiries, but I don’t understand why an arm of the government, such as the NHTSA, would choose to require special permission for officials to deliver safety information to the public. Especially when the NHTSA had, for the previous 20 years, experts speak to reporters and discuss its research as well as findings with pride.
Transparency is important for many reasons, especially when dealing with an organization who’s self-proclaimed mission is to “save lives, prevent injuries, reduce vehicle related crashes.” You would think that an organization with that mission statement would be less concerned with having a central spokesperson and more with the safety of the American public. — Morgan Smith