Yesterday the US Navy accidentally sent an internal memo on how to dodge a Freedom of Information Act request directly to a reporter with NBC4, the same reporter who made the FOIA request. The memo calls the reporter’s request a “fishing expedition” and that it’s “too broad.”
Sending the wrong email to the wrong person – the ultimate “ohhh sh…” moment – is all too commonplace in this modern era. That moment when your face flushes, your heart leaps in your throat and you realize there’s no undo button has happened to the best of us. Even the US Navy’s top PR folks, apparently.
Here’s the thing. Sometimes those requests really are fishing expeditions and sometimes the request really is too broad, opening up an organization for more scrutiny than it can handle. But you have to treat the request with as much transparency as possible.
Why was this a one-day story? For one, the Navy apologized immediately. And, I personally don’t think it’s that outrageous for an organization, including a government agency or the military, to be cautious about releasing scads of documents.
Grumble behind closed doors if you must. Think about the best way to respond to the open records request that is transparent yet in the best interest of your organization. But for the love of God, don’t put it in a memo.
Kate Venne is the Director of Public Relations at Capstone National Partners.
The views in this blog post represent the viewpoints of individual team members, not Capstone National Partners as a whole.