Kevin Briski, the city's new parks superintendent, calls it "a standard business communications protocol," but it differs from past practice and other city agencies. Reporters could once get prompt information from knowledgeable and articulate front-line Parks Division staff. Now they must route their inquiries through the division's spokeswoman, Laura Whitmore.
"We're trying to organize a coordinated, correct, communications-based response," says Briski, unwittingly giving an excellent example of why reporters would rather talk to front-line staff than their bureaucratic overseers. He says the goal is to be "organized, clear and concise."
Briski and Whitmore both say reporters may still end up talking with front-line staff. But, says Whitmore, "We just need to be aware of it before it actually happens."
This spokesperson-first approach, which interferes with longstanding reporter-source relationships and complicates the delivery of "communication-based responses," a.k.a. answers, is the norm at most state agencies. Ironically, the one exception is the state Department of Natural Resources, the parallel agency to city parks, where workers are free to field media inquiries.
Most city agencies, from planning to police, similarly let employees field inquiries from the press, a practice that has served the city well. Let's hope no more of them feel the need to adopt "standard business communications protocol," a.k.a. putting obstacles in reporters' way.