Columbia Accident Investigation Board Press Office: Not Ready for Prime Time

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The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) holds a regular series of weekly press briefings in Houston. They also employ a 'phone bridge' whereby reporters who are not in Houston can call in to ask questions. I have been attempting to participate via this phone bridge and have had less than satisfactory success thus far.

The first time I made a call to the CAIB to see how I could participate, no one called me back. The second time I called (a week later), they called me back - but only after that week's press conference was already completed.

The third time I called the CAIB, Lt. Col Woody Woodyard called back and gave me a dial-in number (to access an FAA teleconference system) and pass code to use. As the press conference began I dialed in - but the code he had given me did not work. I called Woodyard and he said that he'd call me right back with a new code. He did not call me back. I called Woodyard again towards the very end of the press conference as other reporters were asking questions via the phone bridge (which was obviously working) and Woodyard said "oh yea I got it here on a piece of paper". I then dialed in, used the new code, and was able to ask a question.

Yesterday, In advance of today's press conference I called Woodyard to make arrangements to get on the phone bridge for today's press conference. He would not say 'yes' or 'no' as to whether I would be allowed to participate and he noted that they like to 'rotate it around'. Last time there were only 3 of us on the phone bridge. I asked Woodyard how I would find out whether I would be allowed to participate. He said "I'll probably have to call you". He did not ask for my phone number. I then said "do you have my phone number?". He said "I am not sure" and I gave it to him (again).

Today's press conference is now completed. Despite saying that he would do so, Woody Woodyard never bothered to call me back to tell me whether or not I would be allowed to participate. Moreover, only after two failed attempts to call on reporters, was the phone bridge operational.

I realize that personnel resources are tight at the CAIB, that teleconference systems can be balky, and that there are reporters from publications with many, many more readers than NASA Watch which have to be taken care of. As such, I am trying to convince myself that the folks at the CAIB press office are simply new at all of this and that they are not deliberately trying to minimize my participation.

However, the least that representatives from the CAIB press office could do is have the professional courtesy to call me back or send me an email - and tell me whether or not I will be allowed to participate instead of leaving me guessing up until the last minute.


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