William & Mary

Policy Dialogues in DC- The Press and Public Policy

students at policy dialogueMedia and organizations interact, each with separate goals. Organizations use the media to broadcast their message, and the media investigates organizations to inform the world. On Friday, November 7th, we were fortunate enough to sit down with William and Mary graduates working in Washington DC as press secretaries and to speak with an acclaimed investigative journalist from National Public Radio (NPR).

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Laura Keehner, Department of Homeland Security; Dan Mitchell, Senate Committee of Aging; and Ben Jenkins, Distilled Spirits Council of the US, joined us at the William and Mary office in Washington DC to speak about their experience working with the press. Ms. Keehner spoke of working in a high-pressure position and the challenges of staying informed, of making intelligent, quick decisions, and of knowing when to refer questions to experts. Mr. Mitchell, a DC veteran, shared the tactics he uses to encourage the press to print the story he wants printed and how the press can be used to motivate other organizations to act. Mr. Jenkins spoke of the need to act quickly to correct errors in the press and the importance of networking. All of our panelists agreed that before speaking with any reporter, they set ground rules about what is on or off the record to prevent their messages from being misconstrued or misunderstood.

Daniel Zwerdling of NPR has received the Peabody, DuPont, and Edward R. Murrow awards for investigative journalism. In 2006, he broke the story that Army officers at Fort Carson were punishing veterans returning from Iraq who were suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder. After the story broke, a group of Senators, including Barack Obama, took up the matter and investigated the actions of the Army. Mr. Zwerdling spoke about his process for identifying ideas, finding sources, and earning the trust of those he interviews.

Knowing the inside scoop of the relationship between the Media and Organizations helps craft our views as policy students and helps our decision-making process as we identify internships and careers we would like to pursue. All of our speakers provided useful insight, and we thank them for taking the time to speak with us.