For 40 years, a stretch of the Pentagon’s E-ring, where reporters maintained their desks and Pentagon press officers helped them do their jobs, was known as the Correspondents Corridor. There were humble, but tasteful signs, declaring it so.
No longer. It’s been rechristened the OSD Public Affairs corridor (OSD as in Office of the Secretary of Defense). We’ve asked OSD public affairs to explain the change.
It’s apparently part of a redesign of the corridor. Old newspaper front pages and magazine covers displayed on its walls have been replaced with newer versions. The press, which used to have prime real estate along the E-ring – with outside windows! – was pushed toward the interior awhile back.
So perhaps it’s only fitting that the corridor be renamed in honor of the spinners instead of the spun.
But not everyone might agree. Then-defense secretary Don Rumsfeld spoke fondly of the hallway in a 2004 talk before newspaper editors:
Our Pentagon briefing room is on what we call Correspondents’ Corridor. The corridor has long had a memorial to those who died as war correspondents. Sadly, some new names will be added to that list…A correspondent…said of the working Pentagon news bureaus — he called them a wonderful crowd, and he’s right. And he said, `I do hope that they remain as surly, suspicious, aggressive and thirsty as always.’ It seems to me that’s about right.
Back in 1996, Ken Bacon, at the time the top civilian spokesman for the Department of Defense – and before that a longtime Pentagon correspondent for the Wall Street Journal – opened a press briefing on a historic note:
Twenty-four years ago, 1972, November 21st, Melvin Laird named the Correspondent’s Corridor down here in honor of a free and strong American press.
Sadly, Ken Bacon died three years ago. But that defense secretary he mentioned is still around. He shared his opinion of the change late Thursday in a telephone chat from his Florida home.
I think it’s really a disaster – I don’t understand why they would do that. Public relations is not the reason we set that corridor up. We set it up to honor reporters.
So Mr. Secretary, Battleland asked, are you upset?
“I’m not upset about anything,” he countered. “At 90 years, you don’t get too upset.”