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Zoo employees warned not to feed the media

The panda cam is shuttering -- along with the government. (REUTERS/Smithsonian's National Zoo/Handout) The panda cam is closed down — along with the government. (Smithsonian National Zoo via Reuters)

The Washington media’s ravenous interest in the state of the National Zoo’s panda-cam has apparently ruffled some fur.

An e-mail sent this morning from a Zoo official warns volunteers that if they find themselves confronted with journalists trying to report on how the Zoo is handling the government shutdown, they should react much the way one might when interacting with an escaped animal: Don’t make any sudden moves, don’t speak, and baaack away slowly.

“We heard today that many volunteers were approached by media asking for comments about the potential government shut down,” the e-mail read. “In some cases the reporters did not identify themselves up front.”

(Bad reporters! No treats for you!)

The missive continued, warning folks that whatever they might do, they should NOT feed the hungry beasts. “Our policy is that media interactions are channeled through our Public Affairs office, but if you are in the middle of a conversation with a Zoo visitor who reveals himself or herself to be a reporter, please remember that only Smithsonian Institution-designated staff should represent the Zoo,” it read.

At this point, workers are advised to adopt the stance of someone faced with a dangerous creature. Retreat, they are told. But carefully.

“If this happens to you, stop the conversation, walk away and notify your program supervisor or the NZP Public Affairs office.”

We reached the sender of the e-mail by phone. Alas, she said she couldn’t comment — we’d have to go through the Zoo’s public-affairs office, she said.

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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