Runyon Responds p. 11

By: Debra Gersh Hernandez In the wake of SPJ complaint, Postmaster General advises postal
inspectors that they are no longer to pose as journalists sp.

POSTAL INSPECTORS HAVE been advised by Postmaster General Marvin Runyon that they are no longer to pose as journalists.
Runyon's edict came in the wake of complaints from the Society of Professional Journalists over reports that postal inspectors in Saginaw Township, Mich., had posed as reporters from the fictitious Small Business Quarterly to gather information for an investigation (E&P, July 29, p. 9).
The issue was brought to the attention of the postmaster general in a letter from SPJ president Reginald Stuart, Knight- Ridder assistant news editor in Washington.
Stuart asked the postmaster "to issue a strong policy statement making it clear that such activity is unacceptable and is not to be repeated."
In his letter to Stuart, Runyon agreed that "while the assumption of false identities was legal, the ethical questions you have raised require serious evaluation."
"Accordingly," Runyon continued, "postal inspectors were advised on August 11, 1995, to not assume the identity of journalists for investigative purposes."
SPJ, said Stuart, was "very glad Mr. Runyon took prompt and appropriate action to stop this kind of nonsense behavior."
"We only hope that six months or a year from now, when this incident has faded from the radar, that this kind of conduct is not repeated."
Stuart told E&P that: "There was quite a bit of outrage over this situation, as word spread that postal inspectors were engaging in this kind of conduct. So I was hoping that the sort of sense of outrage would bring the Postal Service to its senses.
"I gather from reading Mr. Runyon's letter that he certainly didn't think it was appropriate conduct, given all the resources that they have at their disposal," Stuart continued.
"The other thing I'm very pleased with, in terms of the outcome, is that this did not become a long, protracted" battle, he said.
"It's still incumbent on us to be as vigilant as the reporter in Saginaw," he added, referring to David Osborn, who broke the story in the Saginaw News. "We have to be sure that after the coals cool off, this does not creep into postal conduct again."
And as a final word, Stuart added, "The next time somebody tells you they're from the Small Business Quarterly, watch out."
?(We only hope that six months or a year from now, when this incident has faded from the radar, that this king of conduct is not repeated.) [Caption]
?(Reginald Stuart, president, Society of Professional Journalism) [Photo]


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