Stars and Stripes staff upset by order to move

The Defense Department told DC-based Stars and Stripes staffers this week that they’ll be moving to the military’s public affairs headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland this November.

“Most of us see this as an obvious attempt at censorship by the Pentagon, which has grown increasingly aggravated with our critical coverage of the Defense Department in recent years,” a Stripes employee tells me.

“Putting us in the same building as top public affairs officials – and next door to the building where they train future public affairs officers – will damage our credibility as an independent voice for the troops. Worse, it will give the military the chance to look over our shoulder as we try to remain an aggressive investigator on defense issues.” My tipster continues:

The stated reason is to save money, but our front office folks say the financial situation is far less dire than military officials are portraying. They were given no opportunity to find equal savings on their own.

The fact that this directive came down as a complete surprise was unsettling enough, but the timing is also suspicious. Our ombudsman’s term ended this week, just two days after the paper’s management was ordered to start preparing for the move.

My source says the directive came from Defense Media Activity acting director of the Defense Media Activity Mel Russell.

I asked Stripes publisher Max Lederer to confirm the report, and here’s what he emailed: “Stars and Stripes has been directed to move its Headquarters’ operations in Washington DC to Ft Meade, Md. As your comments [in the email I sent to Lederer] indicate some staff have expressed their belief that this is an attempt at censorship by the Pentagon and damages Stripes’ credibility as an independent voice.”

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  1. Jonathan Austin said:

    RE: Stars and Stripes

    Department of Defense Directive No. 5122.11, Part 6.1.1., says: “Authority to establish or disestablish S&S operations is from the Secretary of Defense through the ASD(PA) and the Director of the AFIS.”

    So, it seems like the Public Affairs IS in their chain of command.

    Dozens of non tax supported newspapers have downsized – or even closed – so the sole act of moving their offices may not qualify as a ‘problem.’ What S&S must do is make sure – to the best of its ability – that no undue influence comes from the office move.

    Perhaps they would like it better if they could look on it as being “embedded” with the PAO…