According to a new memo obtained by Vice News, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has ordered its employees not to speak with members of the press and warned them that nosy customers could be sneaky reporters.
Citing two memos obtained by Motherboard, VICE News reported that the memos were sent to employees in two districts.
“The memos are nearly identical, with different language only about who employees should contact if they receive a media inquiry. They were sent to employees in the last few days, following a spate of articles about the changes Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has made that have put the post office under major scrutiny,” the report noted.
“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 memo begins. “It is imperative that one person speaks on behalf of the Postal Service to deliver an appropriate, accurate and consistent message to the media.”
“Avoid the temptation to ‘answer a few questions,'” the memo advises. “Keep in mind that, while most media representatives will identify themselves up front, sometimes they do not. 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?’ Asking this specific question will help ensure your interaction is not used as the basis for any kind of ‘official’ Postal Service statement or position.”
As VICE notes, “the memo misleadingly frames identifying oneself as a reporter when seeking information as a choice most reporters make but others don’t. It also seems to suggest that asking questions is itself suspicious behavior, a line at odds with the deep concern many Americans have over the future of the postal service.”
“In recent days, two Motherboard employees separately went to their respective post offices for personal reasons and overheard other customers asking the clerks about the state of the post office, seemingly out of normal human concern for working conditions at a critical public service. (Ironically, per these guidelines, the clerks ought to have asked these ordinary customers if they were members of the media in front of two members of the media trying to mail things.)”
In response, VICE’s Aaron Gordon wrote: “If you’re an employee with the USPS and know something the public ought to know, my email is email@example.com, and provided instructions on how to contact them securely.