Energy Department Work on ‘Problem’ Reporters Surfaces
Energy Department media specialists were told to develop a list of “problem publications and reporters” to be singled out for special attention, according to internal documents made public Friday.
The documents were publicized by two House subcommittees at a hearing where Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary spent more than three hours explaining why she allowed the hiring of a private company to analyze media coverage and rate individual reporters.
She said she regretted having hired the company and was embarrassed by the controversy that has surfaced over the $46,500 contract with Carma International.
O’Leary told the lawmakers that the department neither created an “enemies list” nor gave special treatment to favored reporters as a result of the data.
“Interviews and internal documents have revealed no evidence of any retaliatory action toward any reporter,” O’Leary told the lawmakers.
The subcommittees, however, produced several internal department memos suggesting that considerable attention was paid to the monthly media reviews by public affairs staffers and that, in at least one case, staff members were told to assemble a list of “problem” publications and reporters.
“We’ll discuss what we’ll be doing with those lists at strategy sessions next week,” Jana Prewitt, then deputy public affairs director, wrote on May 12. The outcome of the sessions, or whether they were held, was not known.
But in a separate memo on May 12, Prewitt wrote to O’Leary: “The press officers are contacting ‘unfavorable’ reporters and editors to offer information and access including interviews with assistant secretaries or top officials.”