What they say, and don’t

    Two stories about communication illuminated the ways of Washington this week. One was about saying too much, the other about saying very little.

    In the Too Much Information category, we have New York Senator Charles Schumer, who thought he was waiting for reporters to join him and four fellow Senate Democrats in a media conference call Tuesday.

    Schumer didn’t realize that reporters were already patched in when he gave his Senate colleagues the spin for the day.

    “The main thrust is basically that we want to negotiate and we want to come up with a compromise but the Tea Party is pulling [House Speaker John] Boehner too far over to the right,” Schumer said, according to the New York Post.

    “I always use the word ‘extreme.’ That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week,” he added. At some point he apparently realized reporters were listening and went silent.

    Once the teleconference got underway, the Senators used the word “extreme” a lot.

    I’m sure reporters were shocked to discover they were getting a packaged message. Read the Post’s account here, and the New York Times here.

    The Too Little Information story involves Republican Congressman Doc Hastings of Washington. As chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, he was working on legislation to promote offshore drilling and he wanted to keep details away from the prying eyes of critics.

    According to this piece by Patrick Reis of Politico, Hastings was so determined to keep the provisions of his bills secret that he discouraged staff from sending e-mail about it, even to other Republicans.

    The staff discussed the bills largely through face-to-face conversations, a spokesman said.

    Hastings went public with his package of three bills Tuesday.

    They would require the Interior Department to act more quickly on applications for drilling permits, accelerating safety reviews of drilling proposals. They would require a restart within 30 days of approved drilling projects halted after the Gulf oil spill.

    And they would require four lease sales in the Gulf and off the Virginia shore that had been delayed or cancelled after the BP spill.

    Read the New York Times coverage of the proposals here.

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