The hallway that houses the Pentagon’s top public affairs officials has always been a pretty low-key and, for the Pentagon, inexpensive affair. There were cheaply framed copies of old newspaper front pages marking big events: the start of the first Gulf War, the end of World War II. A handful of magazine covers featured shots of past defense secretaries. There were some old black-and-white photos of war correspondents in far-flung locales.
Loop fans might recall that the area, once proudly labeled “Correspondents Corridor” is in the midst of big upgrade — and now we have the details. So far, the Pentagon has spent about $75,000 and plans to shell out another $15,000 to spruce up the hallway — and in the process, to honor not just journalists but also the Pentagon’s message massagers.
“The updated corridor will pay tribute to the Department’s public affairs mission and to journalists — including those who have been killed in the line of duty,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little. “Many hallways in the Pentagon tell the stories and history of the incredible men and women who serve in the US military. It’s appropriate to honor public affairs officers and reporters who tell those stories beyond the Pentagon.”
So what does $90,000 in hallway decoration buy these days? A large backlit reproduction of The New York Times’s front page marking the killing of Osama bin Laden. Wall-mounted exhibits that show the different media the Pentagon uses to get out its message: print, television, photography and social media.
And there are subtle paeans to the Pentagon’s massive public affairs force. “The growing power of technology significantly expanded the traditional 9 to 5 operations of military public affairs officers,” one exhibit reads.
Pentagon officials insist the corridor is a work in process. There is a plan to add a small screen with the names of correspondents killed in the line of duty. And there is also a push to add pictures of legendary journalists from the past, including a shot of Walter Cronkite and Andy Rooney in uniform during World War II.
“How do you have a wall without Walter Cronkite on it?” asks Lt. Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman involved in the redecorating. “Based on the feedback we got from reporters we are going to take down some pictures and add some pictures.”
The reporters, who occupy a small warren of cubicles about 30 yards from the fancy new corridor, have also done a little bit of lower cost redecorating, taping up a piece of paper with the words “Korresponts Koreedoor” on the wall by the door.