The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently removed its list of media representatives by beat, replacing it with a handful of email addresses and phone numbers, with names only for the media office’s two top officials.
In response to AHCJ’s inquiry, Barbara Reynolds, director of CDC’s division of public affairs, said in an email that the change was an attempt “to improve [CDC’s] media request response times and ensure that it more accurately accounts for the volume of work it is doing.”
Reynolds wrote that the new system was intended to be more efficient. “The beat system could not keep pace with the media demand and changing topics of news importance in the agency and was frustrating for media when beat contacts were out of date,” Reynolds wrote. “We continue to be only a phone call away and respond to routine media inquiries 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, M-F, and continue to respond to urgent and breaking news media requests 24/7.”
The old beat list can still be retrieved here, but Reynolds’ comments indicate that it is probably not up to date. Although many reporters prefer to contact a named individual rather than a generic inbox, this is how CDC has chosen to respond at a time of high media demand on federal agencies.
Health and Human Services officials have advised AHCJ that reporters who are dissatisfied with the response they receive from an agency should contact the top public affairs official at that agency. In the case of CDC, that’s Reynolds, who can be reached at 404-639-0575 or Bsr0@cdc.gov. If you are still unsuccessful, contact Dori Salcido, firstname.lastname@example.org, the HHS assistant secretary for public affairs.
Additionally, please let AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee know how this is working out and whether CDC is making good on its promise of efficiency and responsiveness. You can send your observations to me at email@example.com or to RTK Co-Chair Irene Wielawski at firstname.lastname@example.org.