Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on August 17, 1975 · Page 61
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 61

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 17, 1975
Page 61
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Page 61 article text (OCR)

PUBLIC RELATIONS A BIG BUSINESS Information Rolls Out at the Government Printing Office In This Case, It's the Congressional Record Being Prepared Billion a Year? Government's Information Not Cheap By Don McLeod WASHINGTON (API-Business is booming for federal information and public relations officers who spend millions ol dollars telling the taxpayers what their government is doing and how well it is doing it. An Associated Press survey indicates, government information and public relations efforts cost taxpayers $1 billion a year or more. Exact figures are difficult to come by. Many information costs are hidden under other names and types of expenditures change each year. A similar, but less extensive survey by the AP eight years ago showed federal public relations and information operations costs of $425 million. This year's survey shows 6,391 full-and- part-time public relations or information officers on the payroll of the federal government agencies and branches. The information-public relations mill in Washington turns out millions of press releases a year, holds countless news conferences, publishes books, magazines and pamphlets and produces movies, television and radio broadcasts. Government offices across the country and around the world perform the same functions on a smaller scale. The Associated Press checked every identifiable government, office or agency in the executive, legislative and judicial branches. The AP found that the various federal agencies and departments under the executive branch spend at least $329.9 million a year in public information and public relations. THE SAME study showed at least $10.6 million is spent by the offices of the 435 representatives and 100 senators, and the L.T. Anderson Aunt Leonard's Honest Line In Pocatello, Idaho, at 1:48 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 10,1 saw a West Virginia state car, license No. 007, driven by a man wearing a floppy hat with fishing lures in the hatband. With him were a woman, who seemed to be sulking, and two children, one of whom was whimpering arid asking for a drink of water. Camping equipment was lashed to the top of the car. I questioned the driver and he said he was on official state business. Was he lying to me? Arabella W. Clendenin Yes. Does the State Department of Highways plan to repair the South West Lick Hollow Branch road? M.P. Charleston Rt. 94 No. Is Rep. Ken Hechler profiting from a publicity stunt when he works a day or two at such jobs as garbage hauling and waiting on tables in a restaurant? R.L.S. Belie Yes. Are the other West Virginians in the House of Delegates as clever as Ken Hechler? Winston K. Leewood No. If Aunt Leonard goes on a nice trip and sends stories back to the paper, does she write off the expense of the trip on her income tax return? J.CX. St. Albans Yes. If I go on a nice trip and send stories back to your paper, will your paper publish my stories so I can write off the expense of the trip on my income tax returns? Consuela P. South Charleston No. Did Ashland Oil Co. give money to politicians because of a desire to participate in the decision-making process or because it was seized by generous impulses? ZeldaT. Loudendale Yes and No. Wren is Elvis Presley returning to Charleston for another concert, or does Aunt Leonard care? P.R.D. MaMen Aunt Leopard doesn't care. * congressional committees in public relations and constituent cultivation. The unwillingness of some officials to talk about public relations expenditures and the difficulty in separating such costs make it impossible to sort out with any precise accuracy and other expenses involved. Comparisons of available figures and the best guesses of experts place the cumulative total in the neighborhood of $1 billion. Congressmen spend some $33 million a year on free mailings under their franking privilege. Some figures reported by congressional offices in the survey included mailing costs. Most did not. Congress also spends a half-million dollars a year on telegrams, many of which announce to news outlets in the home districts the glad tidings of federal grants and other patronage plums. The figures reported by the executive branch generally omitted mailing costs. But the smallest figure that experts on franking will give is at least $30 million a year spent in mailing informational materials from the government to the voter. All this material needs printing, and the Government Printing Office spends an estimated $400 million-directly or through private subcontractors. Experts feel that at least that much more printing is done within government offices without ever reaching the GPO. This means a total printing bill of about $800 million this year. The GPO says there is no way of knowing for sure how much government printing covers information intended for the public either directly or through the media. Half would be a conservative estimate. Last year the printing office distributed 100 million documents directly to the public on behalf of members of Congress. The total included such items as the Department of Agriculture's Year Book and committee reports. GPO also distributed 12 million documents free to 1.100 depository libraries. It sold an additional 83 million to the public for ?33 million, but this represents only Sll million profit against the over-all S400 million budget. Most of the product goes out free. In addition to distributing information to its own citizens, the government spent some S222 million disseminating information and news around the world through iiie i'mled States Information Agency and its broadcast arm. Voice of America. The figures given so far include money- spent directly by the government. More is sjant by private corporations for public relations on work they do for Ihe'govern- Press Secretary (Standing, Center) Briefs Reporters at White House Ron Nessen's Information Operation Has a Staff of 49 People ment under contract, mainly in the areas of defense and space. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to pin down the public relations line in all the contracts signed by the government each year, but in a similar AP survey in 1967 a knowledgeable source estimated it at $200 million annually. No competent source could be found to even make a guess this time, but other information gathered in the survey indicates that the $200 million figure would still be consistent with other government spending. There are 5.942 full-time public relations or information officers and others working in information services on the public payroll and 419 who spend at least part of their time in such work, according to the AP survey. This does not include the 8.500 em- ployes of the Government Printing Office. The survey figures, provided by the agencies involved or public records, probably do not include all information or public relations employes. The latest official government effort al counting them was in 1971. a f t e r then- President Richard Nixon had ordered a cutback in PR operations. The count then was 6.144 persons engaged in full-time public relations work throughout the executive branch. The 1967 AP survey found 6.858 federal employes from all branches engaged full or part time in public relations or information. The Civil Service Commission, going solely by job titles, says there were 2.375 information specialists and 1.892 writers and editors, for a total 4.267. in the Civil Service as of 1973. One problem in counting government information employes is that many of them have changed titles since Nixon's cutback order in 1970. even if they didn't change jobs. That makes them harder to identify. Another problem is a 1913 law providing that "no money appropriated by an act shall be used for the compensation of any publicity expert unless specifically appropriated for that purpose." As a result, the government hires its publicity experts under other names. The bulk of the information put out by this machinery is important, and to some essential. The news media depend heavily upon it for their reports to the American people about their government. Much of the information is in the form of official announcements--appointments, presidential veto messages, contract awards, grants, and so on. would be doing anyway for its own information or official record making. Copies are merely released to the press at the same time. I · Sunday Gazette-Mail A LARGE VOLUME goes directly to the public in mailings from congressmen or to regular subscribers to government bulle- ·tins. Included in this type of information are government-produced "public service" announcements for radio and television as well as some paid advertising. Government information is sent to libraries, schools, scientists, businesses, contractors, farmers and others. It tells how to grow better turnips, how the economy is doing, how to get scholarships, grants, loans or contracts or what caused an air crash. The size of information activities varies. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare leads the list with an estimated $150 million spent each year reaching the public with some message. The Pentagon, once the leader, is now second with $25.5 million. But it is still first in personnel with 1.755 in the Defense Department and the armed services. Agriculture spends $18 million a year by its own estimate on information services, the Department of Transportation over $12 million and NASA $8.6 million. At the other end of the spectrum, the Supreme Court operates on one of the smallest budgets, about $50.000 a year, and limits itself almost exclusively to giving newsmen copies of its decisions. Historically, public relations throughout the government has taken its lead from the White House. In 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson called for "more lines of communication" between the government and the public. Five years later Nixon decried the "inappropriate promotional activities by- executive branch agencies" and ordered a crackdown. A year later, however, a study- by the Office of Management and Budget showed PR spending had grown by $1 million since the cutback order. PRESIDENT Ford's White House press office is presided over by Presidential Press Secretary Ron Nessen. who earns $42.500 a year and has a staff of 49. That doesn't include six persons manning an office that distributes White House press releases to the public or to the National Archives which puts together the "Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents." Nessen's staff also includes six persons C urrent A t l Q M V O . O I I W OV V I * - · ivw^" »* » / » « » » wiw -.-·*·- -- »--- ~ r are sort of thing the government * ^ponsible for preparing President Charleston, West Virginia I ! IE --August 17,1975 Ford's daily news digest, an internal document that is not distributed to the public. The President's speech-writing department has six writers and five secretaries. And First Lady Betty Ford has a press secretary, who has two assistants. White House officials are elusive about the cost of this operation, but based on its size in comparison with the total White House budget, the annual cost of information activities at the White House probably exceeds $1.7 million a year. The government operates a number of facilities almost solely for the benefit of the press. The congressional press galleries cost the taxpayer $232.000 a year and this doesn't include separate galleries for radio and television, magazines and photographers. Most information contacts with the media work two ways, through such things as the daily briefings at the White House. Pentagon and State Department. These briefings give the government an opportunity to present its views and give reporters a chance to question official spokesmen. Sometimes the information given out by the government comes from the least expected quarters, such as the CIA documents released through the Library of Congress. The CIA released 43 studies last year and 15 so far this year. An atlas of China produced by the CIA proved a best seller for the GPO and a commercial publisher has now put out a version. Other government information is of interest only to the specialist. A release from the Agriculture Research Center in Peoria. 111., last March started out: "Birds, milky disease and dry weather drastically reduced Japanese Beetle grub number in trial plots in Vermont last year. * (Please Torn to Page T^k. I

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