32 CFR § 705.6 - Releasing public information material to the media.

§ 705.6 Releasing public information material to the media.

(a) Methods of releasing information:

(1) Release at the seat of government and/or as approved by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs).

(i) Overall responsibility for release of information rests with the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs). The Chief of Information is responsible for coordinating with him releases of national and international interest (and in the case of audiovisual material of regional interest) and for arranging for local release of such material if considered appropriate by OASD(PA). Information of the above types and also information proposed for release at the seat of government, with the exception of “spot news,” as described in paragraph (b) of this section, following.

(2) Releases by local commands:

(i) News of purely local interest may be released by the command concerned. Higher and coordinating authorities (such as the District Commandant) will be informed, when appropriate, that the release has been made.

(ii) News of national or other wide interest may be released by a local command under the following circumstances:

(A) The Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), having approved a release, directs that it be issued by the command concerned.

(B) An event of immediate and urgent news interest, such as a disasterous accident, occurs at the command, and emergency announcements must be made as delay in issuing information would be against the best interests of the Navy. The officer in command will make a “spot news” release of all appropriate information considered releasable.

(1) Copies of spot news releases made (or a description if the announcement is made orally) will be forwarded promptly to the Chief of Information.

(2) If the situation is considered critical, the spot news release will be forwarded by telephone or message.

(b) Means through which information is released to media:

(1) Navy oriented information material (written, taped, motion picture, still photo) is regularly released to all media presumed to be interested.

(2) Similar material is provided in response to query from a news media representative. The material may be produced by the Navy, or the newsman may be assisted in researching, filming, etc. himself.

(3) Exclusive releases:

(i) Information concerning naval activities may be provided on an exclusive basis only when a specific request or inquiry is received from one news media representative for material not requested by other media.

(ii) In such cases, and assuming that the information is properly releasable, the following rules will apply:

(A) If prior to the time information is given to the newsman making the original inquiry or request substantially similar inquiries or requests are received from other newsmen, the first inquirer will be so informed, and subsequent inquirers will be advised that a prior request has been received. None of the inquirers will be told the identity of the individuals or media who have placed these similar inquiries.

(B) If not more than three similar requests are received, the information will be provided simultaneously to each inquirer.

(C) If more than three requests for substantially the same information have been received before any are answered, inquirers will be advised as soon as possible that the information cannot be given on an exclusive or limited basis, and a general release covering the subject will be issued to all media.

(4) News conferences:

(i) A news conference is held when a command has something specific to announce to the press that cannot be handled in a news release or by phone call. A news conference should not be called just to get together with the press. A request from the press is also a reason for conducting a news conference. Special events, significant operations or serious accidents are frequent reasons for calling news conferences. If requested, spokesmen may be made available to the press for questions without specific subject matter in mind, but the press should be clearly informed of the nature of this meeting. Technically, this is not considered a news conference.

(ii) When a news conference is held, it is essential that all interested media be invited to attend.

(iii) A record of what is said should be kept. Ideally, the news conference should be tape recorded and a public affairs officer should be present.

(iv) Official spokesmen will be prepared to answer questions in a frank and candid manner. If the answer would compromise military security, the inquirer should be so advised. If the answer is not known to the spokesman, he should say so and add that the matter will be checked and any available unclassified information provided later.

(v) Newsmen are not normally asked to submit their questions in advance. If this is considered advisable, as in cases where highly technical answers may be required, the answers are prepared in advance and given to all attending newsmen (not just the questioner) at the news conference.

(5) Interviews. These are similar to news conferences except that they involve a single newsman (who has usually requested the interview) and a single Navy spokesman.

(i) Required procedures are essentially the same as for news conferences. However, a public affairs officer should be present only if desired by the person being interviewed. The interview may be taped, if the newsman agrees.

(ii) Without penalizing initiative displayed by a newsman in asking pertinent questions, care should be exercised by the naval spokesman not to make a major revelation of news material to a single media outlet in the course of a routine interview.

(iii) If major areas of difficulty arise in the interview, the Chief of Information should be notified of them.

(6) Background briefings; “Not for attribution”; or “Off the record.”

(i) Since there is a possibility or risk of a misunderstanding arising in these briefings, it is important that all concerned understand and agree to the ground rules.

(ii) In general, information will not be made public unless it can be openly attributed to the Navy and disseminated without reservation. Occasionally, a backgrounder may be helpful. An example is a briefing of embarked newsmen in advance of an operation, providing information which may not be reported until the operation is over. The purpose is to help the newsmen understand the operation while it is taking place.