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Monday, January 22, 2007
Secrets and whys
Via Scott McLemee on Crooked Timber, I see that the Director of the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan body that reports to Congress, has written a memo spelling out new restrictions for its employees on speaking to the news media, which presents, he says, "very real dangers." Notwithstanding the fact that the CRS must maintain an objective stance and reputation and that its job is to report to Congress rather than the people, this is a somewhat odd stance. Journalists generally turn to CRS because, like, for instance, the Congressional Budget Office, it is designed to have no ax to grind and to present the hard numbers, without regard to politics. The reporters just want the facts, to do with them what they wish.
Moreover, Congress in a sense stands for the people, and it makes little sense to keep the proceedings of this organization a national secret. Besides, as McLemee says, journalists often get their hands on CBS reports, which are often posted online, and which they will use with or without accompanying quotes from the authors. This could have the reverse effect of making the agency appear slanted when it is not, depending on the context in a given article.