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U.S. Geological Survey Manual

500.5 - News Release and Media Relations Policy


OPR: Office of Communication

1. News Release and Media Relations Policy. As an integral part of its mission, the USGS has a continuing responsibility to keep the public informed of its various programs, activities, and research. Information provided to news media representatives should refer to data and information that is in published format or to data that are publicly available.

  1. This policy covers all communication to the news media including:  news releases, media advisories, formal statements, interviews, press conferences and briefings, letters to the editor, opinion pieces that are opposite the editorial page ("op eds"), technical announcements, and other information or material given to news media representatives, a collective term that includes, but is not limited to, reporters, editors, and writers for newspapers, magazines, scientific journals, and trade publications; radio or television stations or networks and online news services; and any other electronic or print media related to news distribution that could serve as an information outlet.

  2. Non-Advocacy. The USGS reputation for science excellence is based, in large part, on its neutrality and the unbiased and impartial nature of its information. All USGS products, materials, and communications with the media must remain neutral and not advocate, persuade, advise, recommend, sanction or prescribe actions. For additional information contact the bureau ethics counselor (SM 500.9 & SM 500.14). Media issues regarding appropriations, program funding, and pending legislation must be referred to the Chief, USGS Office of Communication who will coordinate with the Office of Budget.

2. Delegation of Authority.

  1. Headquarters, Director's Office-USGS Office of Communications:  The USGS Public Affairs Officer at Headquarters has primary responsibility for all USGS news media relations, including the review and approval of news releases, letters to the editor, and other material released to the general public through the news media. The Department of the Interior's Office of Communication has delegated this responsibility to the USGS Public Affairs Officer.

  2. Regional Communication Offices:  Each USGS Region has a designated Communications Chief who is responsible for news releases and media relations within the Region. The Chief, USGS Office of Communication, has delegated this responsibility to the Regional Communications Chief.

  3. Field Offices/Centers/Districts:  All cost-centers are responsible for following the review and approval procedures of Headquarters and their Regions in accordance with the USGS News Release and Media Relations Policy.

3. Notification of Release and Required Copy. An advance copy of all approved news releases must be provided to the Headquarters and Regional Offices of Communication no less than 24 hours before distribution and as much in advance as possible. See "Review and Approval" for clarification.

  1. Exceptions (when timeliness of release is critical to issues of public health and safety):  Timely, efficient release of breaking news and information during crises, such as natural disasters or personnel tragedies, often requires swift publication and/or dissemination of information in support of public confidence. The originating office may issue a brief statement or media advisory to the news media in place of a news release. In such cases, the originating office acts at its own discretion in approval and release, but must provide Headquarters USGS Office of Communication and the appropriate Regional Communication Office with copies of any such release of information concurrent with its release to the news media.

  2. Opinion Pieces ("op eds") and Letters to the Editor:  The special nature of opinion pieces and letters to the editor require approval at the national level. Any opinion letter or letter to the editor, written in an official capacity, must be sent to the USGS Public Affairs Officer in the Headquarters Office of Communication for approval before it is submitted to the media outlet. These communication pieces may require further approval at the Department level, and sufficient advance planning and coordination time is required.

4. Review and Approval.

  1. National-Level News Releases:  National news is defined as information dealing with national or policy issues and/or citing the Director, Deputy Director, other members of the Executive Leadership Team; involving Presidential or Secretarial policy or initiatives and/or quotes from the Secretary, any Assistant Secretary, other DOI bureau head or non-DOI official; involving pending legislation before Congress; or if widespread media coverage is anticipated regarding major policy statements, controversial issues, breaking news, or scientific studies that are priorities for the current Administration. The USGS Public Affairs Officer, who will determine if any higher-level approval must be obtained, must approve all national-level news releases. The USGS Public Affairs Officer will forward all news releases that require DOI approval to the Director, and as appropriate, to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, the Deputy Secretary's office, and/or the Department's Office of Communication.

  2. Region-Level News Releases:  Regional news is defined as information dealing with regional issues, citing the Regional Director or Regional Executives, or if widespread regional coverage is anticipated. Regional Communications Officers are responsible for the approval and coordination of the release of news releases for the Regions. An advance copy of all approved news releases must be provided to the Headquarters and Regional Offices of Communication.

  3. Local-Level News Releases:  Local news is defined as information dealing with issues specific to the cost center and having no national or regional implications. Center Chiefs have final approval authority for local news releases, unless they address controversial region-wide issues or USGS policy, in which case, the Regional Communications Officer has final approval authority. An advance copy of all approved news releases must be provided to the Headquarters and Regional Offices of Communication.

5. News Release-Style, Format

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Last modification: 13-Feb-2013@15:35 (dk)