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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service



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 Quick Reference Guide


Chapter 6
Media Contacts and Public Relations

PA employees must promptly notify the ARS Information Staff of any contacts by the media. The ARS Information Staff will then immediately pass the information to the USDA Communication Office.

It is ARS policy that BEFORE anyone does an interview with "major media," no matter what they are calling about, they need to call the ARS Information Staff before agreeing to do the interview. If the subject matter is considered controversial or a prominent issue (high profile, special interests topic, dual use), a call needs to be made to the ARS Information Staff before agreeing to do the interview.

If the subject matter is not "controversial" or not a "prominent issue" and the media outlet is local/small (local TV station or local radio station), it's OK to do the interview and then contact the ARS Information Staff. If there are any doubts/concerns as to whether the subject matter might be considered "controversial," or whether the media outlet should be considered "local" versus "major," check with the ARS Information Staff prior to doing any interviews.

After the interview, the following information needs to be immediately provided to the ARS Information Staff (via email):

  • Date of contact
  • Name of contact
  • Media source (newspaper, magazine, radio, etc.)
  • Subject matter
  • Information given
  • Any other pertinent information                                                              


See Chapter 2 for a comprehensive list of commonly used acronyms.


DR 1440-2 - Communications Coordination and Review Policy

Cross Reference:

Chapter 10 - Manuscripts (List of High Profile Topics)

Points of Contact:

Tara T. Weaver-Missick 
Chief, Information Products and Services Branch
USDA-ARS-Information Staff
5601 Sunnyside Ave., Room 1-2251
Beltsville, MD 20705
Telephone: (301) 504-1663
Fax: (301) 504-1648

Sharon D Drumm 
Chief of Staff
USDA-ARS-Administrator’s Immediate Office
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC  20250
Telephone: (202) 720-4465

Forward a copy of your e-mail to:

Olga Lee
Management Analyst
2150 Centre Ave., Bldg. D, Suite 300
Fort Collins, CO 80526-8119
Telephone: (970) 492-7057
Fax: (970) 492-7065

The Information Staff is organized into two branches:  “Current Information Branch” and “Information Products and Services Branch.”  The Current Information Branch is the group that includes the writers who come to visit you and write about your work for the ARS New Service and Ag Research Magazine.  “Your” writer is also the person who works with you on getting the media to your lab or location event; just think of them as your full-service “press agent.”  The Information Products and Services Branch (IPS) can help you design a brochure, publish a book, or develop a display for your location for a specific event; they’re specialized in technical publication as well as graphic design.

The Information Staff has two daily news services, one in English and one in Spanish. The English-language daily news service is called “ARS New Service,” and the Spanish-language daily news service is called “El Servicio Noticiero.” The ARS New Service has approximately 2,200 subscribers. Of that 2,200 subscribers, more than 1,000 are “anybody who’s anybody” in the new business: CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, U.S. News and World Reports, etc.

It is very easy to subscribe: If you go to the ARS website (, click on the “News and Events” link on the left. Once you get to the News and Events page, the current day’s story is right in the middle of the page, and underneath that first sentence of the story, there’s a hyperlink for “Subscribe.” Click on that link, and you can then choose whether you want to get the “news” in English or Spanish, and daily or weekly.

The Information Staff also produce videos for you – anything from a 90-second “video news release” to a longer “video feature.” They take care of the entire process, from script development to making duplicate copies of the finished video…but you need to be aware that your location pays the cost on videos, and it’s typically $1,500 per minute for finished running time (so a 10-minute video would probably cost in the neighborhood of $15,000).

If you’re not sure who “your” writer is, it’s easy to find out. Go to this website: On the page that appears, click on the red box (left side of the page) that says “Research News.” Then, on the next page that appears, click on the hyperlink “CI Writer.”From there, you should have no trouble finding out which Info Staff writer “covers” your lab, and how to contact them. And yes, it’s fine for you to contact your writer to propose a story idea-either a story for Ag Research Magazine or for the ARS New Service.

Sandy Miller Hays, Director

USDA-ARS-Information Staff

Last Modified: 5/7/2015
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