501/2–453: Circular airgram
The Acting Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic and Consular Posts1
Certain Changes in the Wireless Bulletin
Recent communications from USIS field posts and the recently completed field trip by the Director of the International Press Service (IPS) indicate an immediate need for:
- A restatement of the basic purposes of the Wireless Bulletin and its role in the overseas information program.
- Certain adjustments in style, content and technique to make this product more effective as the program’s fastest channel of communication to the field operations.
Most Public Affairs Officers and their staffs are familiar with the history of the present Wireless Bulletin, but a brief recapitulation might serve as useful background. The Wireless Bulletin was started in 1946 as a combination of the former State Department daily overseas file for the information of Foreign Service personnel and the news and features file sent abroad by cable and wireless by the former Office of War Information. Thus, it was designed to [Page 1659] serve a dual purpose: (a) To provide USIS staffs with fast official news and background material for placement in the foreign press, and (b) To keep post staffs informed of daily domestic and foreign developments to assist them in their official duties.
The Campaign of Truth brought two significant changes: (a) Increased field staffs, both U.S. and local personnel, so that Department products such as the Wireless Bulletin could be edited, adapted and translated locally, and (b) A greater program emphasis on awakening the world to the dangers of communist aggression. This latter responsibility brought an increase in the amount of negative or anti-communist material carried in the Wireless Bulletin as well as throughout the program generally. Simultaneously, the USIS field need for a greater selection of material from the Department necessitated a certain reduction in the Bulletin’s Foreign Service or “information only” section so that more wordage could be sent overseas for local adaptation, translation and press placement.
During the past year, and more notably during the past six months, there has been another highly significant and commendable change relevant to the Wireless Bulletin and its field usage. As the enlarged field staffs have become more experienced and more familiar with their local problems, there has been a decided trend away from the mass-distribution or “assembly-line” type of field operation and toward the selective-servicing, personal-influence method of operation.
On his field trip, during which he visited 24 overseas operations, the Director of IPS found that some USIS posts had discontinued entirely a bulk daily distribution of the Wireless Bulletin and several others were contemplating similar moves. In many countries, he found, the availability of foreign exchange had enabled local editors to purchase more commercial news and feature services, thus decreasing their former dependence upon USIS for daily official news and background material about the U.S. This situation, of course, does not apply world-wide, but it can be viewed as a significant trend.
Several USIS posts had discovered that editors no longer had time to read several thousand words of daily USIS “packets” and that the more important items in the Wireless Bulletin were being lost in the daily flow of words crossing editors’ desks. Further, the daily processing of the complete Wireless Bulletin for mass distribution was found in some countries to be: (a) Costing more in terms of staff (for editing and translation), reproduction and distribution than could be measured in comparable results of audience impact, and (b) Keeping key U.S. staff members desk-bound during much of the working day and thus preventing them from carrying out an [Page 1660] effective personal-contact program with influential editors and opinion leaders.
The effectiveness of local Wireless Bulletin usage cannot be—and should not be—measured in terms of column inches of material placed in the local press. The same applies to press features and other printed materials serviced by the International Press Service. Frequently, it may be more effective—from the viewpoint of audience impact—to assure the printing of a single paragraph of important policy material in a newspaper’s editorial page than to place an entire column of less significant material on some other inside page. Whether the material is or is not attributed to USIS depends entirely upon local circumstances. The Director of IPS found on his trip that an increasing number of USIS posts were finding unattributed material more effective.
It is recognized that conditions and circumstances vary greatly from area to area and post to post. However, IPS has noted—from recent reports and field trips—a trend on the part of many posts toward some version of the following “formula” in the use of the Wireless Bulletin as a file of source material.
- Press Releases: Instead of editing, adapting and translating the entire Wireless Bulletin file (of 5,000 to 7,000 words), an increasing number of posts are reducing their daily output to the issuance of several press releases, the number depending entirely upon the available material. Press Officers in these posts select carefully from the Bulletin material those items of immediate importance and edit, adapt and translate them for priority-rush distribution—as single items. These posts have found that editors will give more attention to single, shorter items than to the bulky package-type complete Bulletin. There is also the advantage in this system of being able to process each important item as it is received instead of awaiting the transmission of the final Bulletin article. Distribution of these press releases is confined to newspapers, radio stations and possibly some selected periodicals; i.e., only those outlets which carry fast-news material. There is no distribution of these press releases from USIS direct to the general public. Some posts report they do not issue a press release every day, but on some days the number may reach four or five, depending entirely on the urgency of the available material. Important official texts always are handled on the fast press-release basis, or as supplements to summary leads, which are released immediately.
- Official Bulletin: The second daily product of this “formula” is the daily “official Bulletin.” On the average, this will consist of about 2,500 to 3,000 words of Wireless Bulletin (and perhaps locally-prepared) material distributed to a select group including the Embassy (Legation, Consulate) staff, key local government officials, [Page 1661] other foreign diplomatic missions and a small number of important opinion leaders. This generally is distributed only in English and may include selected portions of the Foreign Service Section clearly marked “Not For Publication.” The “official Bulletin” is distributed generally in not more than 100 copies and is designed for official information and background usage. It may or may not be sent to local editors as a later supplement to the press releases, depending upon the local situation. Those parts of the Foreign Service Section concerning only the U.S. “official family” such as foreign service changes or “information only” articles are reproduced and distributed separately in sufficient copies to meet Embassy (Legation, Consulate) needs.
- Weekly Newsletters: More and more posts are finding that their most effective means of reaching their priority audiences directly is through a locally-tailored (and largely locally rewritten) weekly or biweekly newsletter. Instead of reaching this audience with the full daily Wireless Bulletin, many posts have found it is more effective to prepare a weekly or biweekly background and summary product to give not only the “what” but the “why” element in their written output. These newsletters are now appearing in several different forms: (a) Australia produces a weekly mimeographed “American Newsletter” locally written and edited by the Information Officer from material saved during the week from the Wireless Bulletin, plus certain airmail feature material and articles originated locally to conform with policy directives; (b) India produces a biweekly tabloid-size newspaper (proposed distribution 600,000 copies) complete with background articles on the news, editorials and a letters-to-the-editor column with staff-written replies; Lebanon produces a weekly small-magazine size “U.S.A. News Review” combining pictures and features and a news roundup. All of these weekly and biweekly roundups, according to the posts, have enabled USIS to focus more attention on the longer-range significance of official U.S. news developments and tie their output more closely in with policy guidances. They also have the secondary advantage of not being competitive with local daily newspapers or with commercial press agencies. Some other larger posts (specifically Germany) have a series of such weekly newsletters, including those designed for special-interest groups—women, labor, youth, farmers.
- Special Article Placement: The discontinuance of the large-scale servicing of the full daily Wireless Bulletin has enabled several posts to devote more staff time to the placement in key local newspapers and periodicals of important special articles with outstanding success. From the daily Bulletin file, these posts select certain policy-keyed background and commentary items (including [Page 1662] the bylined commentaries) and place them through personal contact with influential local editorial writers, commentators and the free-lance writers. An increasing number of posts are finding that the U.S. policy story can be told most effectively by providing well-documented background material to respected local writers whose articles then appear in various publications under their own names with no attribution to USIS. This technique has been employed successfully by many posts for some time, but other posts have not given the personal-contact operation sufficient emphasis largely due to lack of time and staff. Some posts also are finding that influential local citizens are willing to write letters to newspapers for letters-to-the-editor columns if provided with sufficient background information. The Press Officer in one post manages to have luncheon with at least two editors or writers weekly. As a result of these luncheons, background articles are provided the editors on key policy subjects, and the placement rate has been reported at more than 90 per cent. Other posts have developed on their staffs qualified local employees who visit the offices of local editors regularly with feature and article materials. If the proferred features and articles are not accepted, the editors generally make special requests for certain other material, these posts report.
Again, the Department recognizes that the foregoing “formula” cannot apply to every post. But it requests all posts to reexamine the present method of operation to determine whether greater results could be achieved from a more selective, personal-contact type of service. One post which recently discontinued the daily mass distribution of Wireless Bulletin material reported that it now gets nearly 100 per cent usage of Bulletin material (through the “formula” outlined above) whereas less than 30 per cent of the Bulletin was found to be effectively used previously.
Consistent with field needs to meet the new placement and usage trend, the Department desires to emphasize that it does not consider the Wireless Bulletin to be a “package product” ready for unedited and untailored field distribution. Instead, the Bulletin should be regarded as a fast service file of source material for careful field selection, editing, adaptation and translation to meet local needs. The Bulletin represents a fast transmission facility; in other words, it is the facility by which the Department can put into the hands of USIS posts overseas that official material which, in the judgment of the Department, the field most needs during a 24-hour period to strengthen and explain the policies of the United States. If the most important policy development of the day is a lengthy speech by the President or the Secretary, the entire Bulletin may be devoted to the text of that speech. The Department is in no way obliged to carry in any Bulletin a great variety of material, and [Page 1663] thus the Bulletin can in no sense be considered to be in competition with U.S. or other commercial wire services, nor will the Wireless File ever attempt to “beat” commercial wire services. Major policy stories will be handled as speedily as careful, responsible reporting and editing will permit. They will be transmitted in time to follow as closely as possible actual news developments to assure maximum timely impact abroad.
For such major posts as Bonn, Vienna, London, Paris, Rome and New Delhi, the daily Bulletin now is supplemented (five days a week) by a special fast file. Army Signal Corps facilities, where available, and commercial communications facilities supplement the Bulletin to all posts, including those listed above. To meet specific field needs for special material, the Bulletin transmissions are supplemented by IPS facilities for special request articles and background stories.
All of these supplementary services, plus the regular flow of airmail features and reprints, should, the Department believes, provide the posts with sufficient source material from which to fashion their own press and publications output to meet specific local needs consistent with the policy guidance. The Bulletin itself is carefully keyed to the policy lines of the information program. During his trip, the Director of IPS was told by responsible USIS officers that the past year’s reorganization of IPS had resulted in improvement in the Wireless Bulletin, ranging from “some” to “100 per cent.”
There may be instances when a post will elect not to use a certain item in the regular section of the Bulletin due to local circumstances. However, all “discretionary” or “for information only” items generally are confined to the Bulletin’s Foreign Service or “Not For Publication” Section so that the posts may determine how they shall be used.
This Airgram will be followed shortly by a formal Foreign Service Information and Educational Exchange Circular restating the purposes and intended uses of the Wireless Bulletin. Meanwhile, the posts should note carefully the following list of proposed changes which are being made to meet current field needs as detailed in recent reports and as stated to Department personnel during recent field conferences and tours:
Change from “Bulletin” to “File”
Effective February 15, 1953, the “Wireless Bulletin” henceforth will be known as the “Wireless File” consistent with the accepted concept that it is not a package product but a fast file of up to 8,000 words maximum daily of source material from which the posts design their own local output. There will be four completely different regional files five days a week (European, Middle Eastern, [Page 1664] Far Eastern and Latin American) and a single world file on Sunday. There will be no Wireless File on Saturday. Those posts which now are operating only five days a week are urged to reexamine their staffing schedules so that a skeleton staff may be available on the sixth day (Saturday in the Far East, Sunday elsewhere) to give immediate attention to important policy material. As a general rule, IPS editors are attempting to balance the present ratio of positive to negative material on a 70–30 basis; i.e., 70 per cent positive material supporting the policies and goals of the U.S. and the free world as against 30 per cent negative or anti-communist material.
Types of Material in File
The Wireless File will consist, as previously, of two basic sections: (a) The regular “for publication” section averaging 5,000 to 7,000 words, depending upon the news flow, and (b) The Foreign Service or “Not For Publication” Section averaging 1,000 to 1,500 words. These sections will include:
- Regular Section: There will be seven types
of material in the regular “for publication” section as follows:
- General Items: These, ranging from 150 to 750 words, will cover in accepted wire-service news style the general range of U.S., UN and foreign developments which strengthen, clarify and explain U.S. foreign policy. Efforts will be made to keep these items shorter and crisper to meet field requirements. They will be date-lined as to source and identified as to time by the use of “today” in the lead, or by the use of the day of the week if referring to prior or future dates. All IPS editors have been alerted to field requests—as stated in reports and during recent field conferences and trips—for a more “tightly written” Bulletin.
- Newsbriefs: These will consist of a series of brief items, 50 to 100 words each, which support U.S. policies and can be used as “fillers” or as each post elects. This addition to the Wireless File during the past year has met with widespread field approval.
- Commentaries: Since repetition is
the key to effective emphasis of those policy points the
program is designed to make with audiences abroad, the
commentary offers a valuable technique for reviewing and
recapitulating after the “spot news” elements have been
exhausted. Field reports show that many regular newspaper
and periodical “customers” have been developed by important
posts for these commentaries, largely through the
personal-contact technique described earlier in this
Airgram. Certain posts also receive special regional and
country-targeted commentaries in the regional Wireless File
serving their area or via radio-teletype, Army Signal Corps
or commercial cable facilities. A separate Airgram on
commentaries will reach the field shortly. Meanwhile, the
following commentaries will continue to reach all posts
regularly in the Wireless File: [Page 1665]
“The World Today” (By Paul L. Ford)—A general background and commentary column dealing with world developments consistent with U.S. policy. Three columns weekly, one of which will replace the discontinued weekly David C. Brooke column.
“The U.S. This Week” (By John Kerigan)—A summary commentary dealing with major developments in the United States. One column weekly.
“Economic Letter from the United States” (By Guy Sims Fitch)—A discussion of economic trends and developments. One column weekly.
“Behind The Curtain” (By Benjamin West)—A semi-intelligence report of how the police state system is affecting the peoples, economies and cultures of the Curtain countries. One column weekly.
- Backgrounders: To meet field needs for more background and factual material for locally written articles and for use in the personal-contact programs, the Wireless File will carry a minimum of three items weekly identified as “Backgrounders.” These will be keyed closely to policy developments and will be designed to meet stated field needs for more “unclassified guidance” type of material. It is planned to run two such background pieces in each Sunday’s Wireless File, and the other when wire space permits. They should be found useful particularly for local editorial writers and commentators and for speech material.
- Editorial Roundups: Nearly every post has, from time to time, requested a greater flow of world editorial comment on major U.S. policy issues and developments. The Wireless File now carries and will continue to carry such roundups whenever sufficient pertinent editorial comment is available. Many posts have requested that more non-U.S. editorial comment be carried. This, of course, depends upon the filing to IPS by the posts of all available editorial comment which could be used in such roundups. Key paragraphs of direct quotes are required—not summaries or paraphrases. The editorial roundups filed to the Department by Political Sections are not often usable because they do not include enough direct quotes, and, due to cable processing, frequently do not arrive on time. It is the responsibility of each post to provide IPS with a regular flow of editorial comment, utilizing Signal Corps channels where available. A daily roundup would be desirable, but material frequently is not available. In this connection, the Wireless File will, from time to time, carry at the end of a major policy speech or statement (or following a significant policy story) an “Editor’s Note” requesting that the posts file collect to IPS subsequent local editorial comment. These “Notes” should be regarded as reminders and are in no way intended as a reflection on any of the posts which faithfully file local editorial comment—and other important local coverage.
- Texts: The Wireless File will, as a standing rule, carry the full texts of all major foreign policy speeches by the President and the Secretary of State. These texts will be supplemented by summary leads of up to 750 words. Other texts will be carried in full depending upon their policy importance. Major excerpts and summary leads will be carried on all those key speeches where it is decided [Page 1666] not to carry complete texts. The text treatment will vary according to the importance of each speech or statement to a particular world area.
- “X” File Material: The regionalization of the International Press Service and the four completely-regional Wireless Files five days weekly enable IPS to deliver more area and post-tailored items. The Wireless File thus will continue to carry, in each of its area editions, certain items considered of interest only to one or two posts. So that field operators and editors are not burdened with handling items of specific interest to one or more other posts, IPS will identify such items as “X” File Material. Thus, the Far East Wireless File may carry an item of specific interest only to Manila, and such an item would carry the heading: “X” File Material—Manila Only.” Radio operators at other posts would then not be required to monitor this item. The use of the “X” File identification will vary according to the amount of such material available, the urgency of getting such material to the post or posts concerned and the availability of other transmission facilities. When other transmission facilities are available, special single-post request articles ordinarily will not be included in the Wireless File.
- Foreign Service “Not For Publication”
Section: There have been recent field requests for certain
expansions in the Foreign Service “Not For Publication” Section to
keep the “official family” more fully informed of news and policy
developments of importance to Foreign Service personnel in
discharging their official duties. This Section was reduced somewhat
because of a one-hour reduction, for budgetary reasons, in the total
wireless transmission time. By shortening certain items and more
carefully editing others, it will now be possible to expand certain
parts of the Foreign Service Section. Effective February 15, 1953,
there will be five types of material in the Foreign Service “Not For
Publication” Section of the Wireless File as follows:
- Newsroundup: The Newsroundup will be expanded to an average of 600 to 800 words daily and will include brief items of importance covering the day’s domestic and foreign news developments, including major sports results. These items are taken from commercial news agencies and major U.S. newspapers, and the Department does not guarantee their accuracy any more than it can guarantee the accuracy of items in the daily press. This roundup is only for the information of Embassy (Legation, Consulate) staffs abroad and must in no way be included in the material serviced by USIS to the local press or public.
- Newsletter: The Newsletter, averaging 500 to 600 words, will be carried five days weekly (Monday through Friday). This will be an IPS prepared summary of what U.S. columnists are saying, what significant articles U.S. magazines are carrying and reports of “behind-the-scenes” developments in the U.S. and abroad. It will be designed primarily for the background and information of Foreign Service personnel abroad, but should find a certain usefulness in the USIS personal-contact program with editors and opinion leaders. [Page 1667] It is not, however, designed for general distribution as part of the regular USIS output and should not so be used.
- Opinion Summary: This weekly review of opinion trends on major policy issues in the U.S. will be carried regularly in the Foreign Service Section of the Sunday Wireless File. It is prepared by the Department’s Division of Public Studies and is intended for the field’s background and information use only.
- FYI Items: These “For Your Information” Items can and will cover a wide range of subjects—and, in each instance, it will be for the Public Affairs Officer and his staff to determine how they will be used. They will include, for example, reports of Congressional action on Departmental and program appropriations, accounts of speeches by program officials on new program techniques, and certain background items which may require discretionary treatment in the field. In this latter category, for example, IPS will make available background material setting the record straight on issues which may be deliberately distorted by the opposition. The Public Affairs Officer and his staff, after gauging the effectiveness of the opposition’s campaign, then may elect to use or discard the material as the situation requires.
- Foreign Service Changes: Beginning February 15, the Wireless File will carry Foreign Service changes including both assignment and grade changes.
On the basis of the above, USIS personnel may wish to review the present system of distributing the Foreign Service “Not For Publication” Section of the Wireless File to see that it will reach all key post personnel. Every post should make certain that this section is clearly marked “Not For Publication.” Failure of certain posts in the past to identify this material as being only for the “official family” has brought complaints from commercial news agencies that USIS was in the competitive news field.
The Department has given careful consideration to certain field suggestions and requests that the Wireless File carry more “unclassified guidance material,” perhaps in the form of a regular column (identified with a byline such as “By Our Diplomatic Correspondent”) in the Foreign Service “Not For Publication” Section. Consideration also has been given to suggestions that this section of the Wireless File carry regularly a feature called “Today’s Headlines” and listing in order of importance the current developments which require priority policy emphasis by the field. It has not been found feasible to include either of these suggested guidance items in the Wireless File as of February 15. These two suggestions will be thoroughly reviewed in the light of the recommendations made at the recent conferences of Public Affairs Officers. The Wireless File closely follows information policy guidance as transmitted to the field in classified telegram form. Wireless File material is prepared in close consultation with the Department’s information policy staff and, to this extent, may be considered unclassified guidance.[Page 1668]
The Wireless File can only serve field needs effectively if the field keeps the Department informed regularly of those needs. It must be recognized however, that each of the four regional Files must serve a number of countries, some of which have needs unlike others. Decisions as to content, style and the handling of each Wireless File item are made for each of the regional files on the basis of how the majority of countries needs can best be served, giving all high priority countries foremost consideration.
The Department’s attention has been invited to the fact that some USIS posts are sending the present Bulletin (except for the “Not For Publication” Section) directly to newspapers, radio stations and periodicals before it has been checked or edited by a U.S. editorial staff member. This practice should be discontinued, since certain Bulletin items are carried to meet only the specific policy needs of certain countries or of similar language areas. These items, if given general distribution in other countries, might lead to unnecessary friction or even embarrassment. No Bulletin item—or any other USIS material—should be permitted to reach a local editor or the local public without first having been checked and approved by a responsible American staff member.2
- Drafted by Charles P. Arnot of IIA, cleared by various offices in IIA, and sent to 69 missions and 33 consulates. Secretary Dulles was in Western Europe at this time on a tour of various capitals. For documentation on this visit, see vol. v, Part 2, pp. 1548 ff.↩
- Department of State file 501 contains several lengthy and detailed comments on this circular airgram from posts abroad.↩