Pentagon misfires on good-news press briefing

August 7, 2013
(J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel  (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Let’s hope the Pentagon knows a lot about timing — since we’re pretty sure that’s required for missile defense and the like — but such skills weren’t on display Tuesday as the Department of Defense misfired on a media briefing on a topic one would think they’d want lots of ink on: averting deep civilian furloughs.

Reporters covering the Pentagon received an afternoon e-mail alerting them to a background briefing on the matter. Trouble was, the event was starting a mere eight minutes after the missive landed in the scribes’ in-boxes.

Better hurry!

For the members of the media working from the press gallery in the Pentagon, it wasn’t too hard to hustle to get there. But those outside the building were out of luck — unless they were as fast as one of the military’s nifty jets.

Strangely, the announcement instructed reporters without a Pentagon building pass “to arrive no later than 45 minutes prior to the event,” a feat that would have necessitated a time machine.

Making things even odder, the news the officials were announcing would actually constitute good press for the DoD: The department is saving enough money through other belt-tightening means that it is reducing the number of furlough days for its civilian workers from the previously announced 11 to 6.

“You would have thought it was the kind of news the Pentagon would want to spread to as many news organization as possible – not just to those reporters who happened to be inside the building a few minutes before the briefing,” groused one scribe.

The bobbled announcement meant only a handful of reporters actually made it, we hear. “Awkward,” noted another veteran journo.

A DoD spokesperson didn’t immediately return the Loop’s call.

Reporters have long been used to government media handlers using such tactics to minimize coverage of more embarrassing developments. But it looks like they’re even burying the good news now.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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Emily Heil · August 6, 2013