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DCPS press strategy: 'Just stop answering his emails'

Reader Comment: Erase to the top.

Another reader observed that probably Michelle Rhee biographer (and former USA Today editorial writer) Richard Whitmire had plenty of press access.

The high-powered strategy didn't work. See Gillum's story here. Also posted on my site, where I offered kudos kudos.

By Bill Turque

If you wondered about some of the high-powered strategic advice former Obama White House communications director Anita Dunn offered during her stint as a consultant to DCPS last year, check out this e-mail string [pdf filel slow-loading] in the documents that came with Mondayâs USA Today's test score story.

It started with reporter Jack Gillum's request in October to visit Stanton Elementary and Noyes Education Campus, two schools with elevated rates of wrong-to-right erasures on DC CAS answer sheets. The answer was no.

"Allowing reporters in to do their research distracts our staff and affects the quality of education we can offer our students," said spokeswoman Safiya Simmons.

Except when the story places the system in a positive light, Gillum responded, citing then-recent stories about enrollment increases and a dinner program to fight hunger that allowed reporters access to schools.

"Has DCPS media policy changed this week?" he asked.

Answer: Yup.

"We evaluate each reporter request independently, weighing the topic, the access the reporter is requesting, and how it will impact everyone involved -- teacher and students alike," Simmons said. So while I appreciate your reply, our decision stands."

On this went, with Gillum refusing to take no for an answer, until Simmons appealed for help from Dunn and Marrianne McMullen, another former senior communications hand.

Simmons: "Jack Gillum isn't going away quietly. Uggh."

Dunn: "I think you just disengage."

Simmons: "Plan to; that was my last-mail to Mr. Gillum. Aaah...THIS is what closure feels like! I like it! :-)"

Dunn: "Yes, just stop answering his emails."

McMullen: "You got the power. (As the song goes.)â

— Bill Turque
Washington Post blog





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