Acting for the CO, the command PAO has the
authority to release routine Navy information to the
media and public. Releasing news can be a tricky matter
for the PAO. He must balance each release between the
principle of maximum disclosure with minimum
delay and the constraints that come with security,
accuracy, propriety and policy considerations.
Whether the information is volunteered or
demanded by a media query, the PAO, with your
assistance, must answer yes to the following questions
before it is offered to the public:
. Is the information unclassified?
l Is it accurate?
l Is the information free of privacy act violations?
. Does the command have the authority to release
If you and the PAO cannot give a firm yes to each
of these questions, seek the advice of the PAO in the next
highest command in the chain.
After you have checked the information for
classification, accuracy, and so forth, the next step is
releasing it to the media. There are several commonly
used methods you should consider, including the
following: news release, news advisory, oral release,
interviews, news conference, media embark, visual
release and marketing.
The news release is the most common method of
distributing news to the media. It is an economical, but
not the most reliable method. Its role in getting an
organization into print for a low cost of production and
distribution makes the news release a borderline
nuisance to editors. Usually referred to by editors as a
handout, it clogs the editors in-basket and is often
resented, though the mass media save millions of dollars
in reporting expenses through this distribution method.
A news release must be worthy of an editors
attention, space and time. Accuracy, professional
preparation and timely delivery are essentials. Releases
should be identified clearly with the source, subject and
what the originator wants the editor to do with it
(immediate release, hold for release, and so on).
The name, address and telephone number of the
organizations PAO should appear on the news release
in case the editor wants to verify or get additional facts.
Most public affairs offices use preprinted release forms.
Editors most often complain that news releases are
like meals served by indifferent housewivesmerely
dishing out the canned goods. Therefore, you must avoid
the following common pitfalls of news releases:
Mentioning the name of the CO in every news
release no matter how insignificant his involve-
Using cryptic military terminology or acronyms
when it is not essential to the story or even
understandable to a civilian audience.
Using subjects that only interest the military-for
example, sending an internally oriented story to
a city editor.
Sending exactly the same release to all types of
media regardless of their unique requirements.
Writing news releases in a magazine style or
using too much space for what needs to be said.
Releases more than one page in length frequently
end up in the wastebasket.
Despite its shortcomings, the news release does find
its way into print. It can be mailed, hand-carried or
telephoned, depending on the circumstances.
The following comments of one city editor
emphasize the importance of letting the news release
speak for itself once you have sent it to the editor:
Please, if that is a handout, just give it to
me. If we can use it, I will ask a reporter to
rewrite it. If we cannot, I will throw it away. Do
not hold it under my nose and read it to me with
your finger tracing every line. I can read. And
do not suggest that we have a little talk about it.
I do not have the time for conferences. No use
standing there. There are 17 more press agents
waiting to see me.
Most editors and news directors prefer a simple fact
sheet to an artfully contrived news release.
A news advisory is an abbreviated form of a news
release that is intended to get the news media to cover
an event themselves. The news advisory is usually a
page in length and includes the following information:
. A compact description of the event the command
wants the news media to cover.
. The date, time and place of the event.