By Denny Gulino

(Part Three)

Fillichio told the conference call that in two years two reporters
have been temporarily suspended because of violation of the current
rules. No details were provided on one of the instances. The other was a
cable news network reporter who took a picture of other reporters queued
up to collect the printed reports at 8:00 a.m.. The reporter said the
picture was to embellish the company’s Web site and he was not aware of
the ban on cameras. Other reporters in the lockups said they were not
aware of the camera ban either.

The lockup format for data releases debuted more than 20 years ago,
first at the Commerce Department, to secure the data and to give
reporters time to read and digest the information before presenting it
to subscribers.

At one point an investigation by then Commerce Department Under
Secretary Sidney Jones found a White House staffer was improperly using
advance data.

The Office of Management and Budget issued formal rules for the
dissemination of government data, to authorize the issuing departments
and agencies to institute whatever security measures they deemed
necessary, including the data lockups for both reporters and separately,
for government officials.

Under the new Labor rules, it’s possible not all the firms
currently credentialed for the lockups will continue to be allowed in.
Fillichio said the final judgment as to which firms will be
re-credentialed is up to a panel of career government employees without
interference from any political appointees.

He told the news media that in its consideration of necessary
changes, one Department option was to entirely discontinue data lockups
and the advance preparation time they provide the media and instead
simply post fresh data on the Internet at release time.

“We decided the best option is to ‘reinvent’ and continue our press
lockups rather than abolish them all together,” he said. “We have given
it careful planning and deliberation” involving the staff from the
Office of Public Affairs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Employment
and Training Administration (which issues the weekly initial claims
reports), the Office of Solicitor and the Office of the Assistant
Secretary for Administration and Management.

The Labor Department server will provide standard software to be
used by each news firm, primarily consisting of the word processor
Microsoft Word, and a file transfer protocol (FTP) program, WinSCP.
Files will be able to be translated from Word into the HTML language,
encrypted and transmitted to customers.

Some news firms asked to be able to use the Microsoft Excel program
to create spreadsheets. A decision on that is pending.

Yet paramount among the new rules from the perspective of the news
services is that no files or software from any outside source will be
permitted in the lockup room, preventing the use of proprietary
formatting and transmission mechanisms custom tailored by individual
firms.

Reporters will not be allowed to bring anything but paper
notes into the lockups after July 6, and USB thumb drives, compact disks
— even pens and pencils — will be prohibited. The economic data and
any guidance material will be distributed to reporters electronically
via the Labor Department server and paper copies will become a thing of
the past.

Any firms or reporters found to be violating any of the new rules
will be permanently barred from the Labor Department lockups, with no
possibility of appeal, Fillichio said.

One veteran wire service reporter, after hearing of the new rules
outlawing any outside materials after July 6, had an immediate and
negative reaction: “What, no donuts?” he asked.

No, no donuts for early-rising reporters.

(end – 3 of 3)

** MNI Washington Bureau: 202-371-2121 **

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