Friday, October 26, 2007



(10-26) 08:06 PDT WASHINGTON (AP) --
One way to get decent coverage in this rough-and-tumble city is to arrange to have your own employees interrogate you at your news conference.
That would seem to be the strategy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, much maligned for its sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina over two years ago.
FEMA scheduled an early afternoon news briefing on only 15 minutes notice to reporters here Tuesday to talk about its handling of assistance to victims of wildfires that were ravaging much of Southern California.
But because there was so little advance notice for the event held by Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy FEMA administrator, the agency made available an 800 number so reporters could call in. And many did, although it was a listen-only arrangement, The Washington Post reported Friday.
It said that at the news conference itself, some FEMA employees played the role of reporter, asking questions of Johnson — queries described as soft and gratuitous.
"I'm very happy with FEMA's response," Johnson said in reply to one query from a person the Post said was an agency employee, not an independent journalist.
Asked about this, Mike Widomski, FEMA's deputy director of public affairs, said, "We had been getting mobbed with phone calls from reporters, and this was thrown together at the last minute."

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