- Motherboard reported on two memos Thursday that told USPS employees not to speak to members of the press.
- “It is imperative that one person speaks on behalf of the Postal Service to deliver an appropriate and consistent message to the media,” the Greater Michigan District’s memo said.
- Employees are warned of ‘undercover reporters’ posing as customers and told to defer media requests to a district representative.
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Memos from the US Postal Service, leaked to Motherboard, reveal that employees are being told not to speak to members of the press.
Two memos were released, one to the Appalachian District and one to the Greater Michigan District, Motherboard reported.
The memos, titled “Guidelines for Handling Local Media inquires,” detailed instructions to USPS workers for dealing with media requests.
In the memos, employees are given guidelines to defer media inquiries and requests for information to a single USPS representative for their district and are additionally discouraged from sharing too much information with customers.
“The Postal Service continuously strives to project a positive image, protect its brand, and present a unified message to the customers and communities it serves,” the Greater Michigan District’s memo said.
Demonstrating concern that reporters might exploit USPS employees for information, the memo said that employees should exercise caution when speaking to individuals on the phone.
“It is imperative that one person speaks on behalf of the Postal Service to deliver an appropriate and consistent message to the media,” the memo said.
USPS employees are advised in the memo to limit how much information they provide to customers out of concern that the might be undercover reporters.
“Avoid the temptation to ‘answer a few questions,'” the memo said. “Keep in mind that, while most media representatives will identify themselves up front, sometimes they do not.”
—Aaron W. Gordon (@A_W_Gordon) August 20, 2020
While the memo warns USPS employees of reporters disguised as customers, the practice of misrepresenting oneself to gather information is widely considered unethical in journalism.
“If you are dealing with a customer, especially one who asks a series of questions, it is perfectly appropriate to ask, ‘Are you a member of the media?'” the memo said.
—Robert Zacny (@RobZacny) August 20, 2020
The USPS did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
This most recent move from the Postal Service comes during the controversy surrounding cuts to operational services by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Changes in recent weeks have included such cost-cutting measures as removing hundreds of mail-sorting machines throughout the US.
Though DeJoy has since promised to pause all changes to the Postal Service until after the election, concern over the USPS’s ability to handle mail-in voting and suspicions of Trump tampering with their operations for electoral gains remain high.