State Dept. Briefing

For many years, the U.S. State Department has done a full day of issue briefings for editorial writers at State HQ in Washington DC. Senior diplomats, including the secretary of state in person some years, present info and do Q&A entirely or almost entirely on-the-record.

Beginning in 2017, the ASNE Opinion Journalism Committee is arranging the briefing, and it will be open to all ASNE members. Seating capacity has risen from about 30 to comfortably 50.

Cost may be as low as a box lunch. A limited number of stipends are planned toward travel expense.

Current plans, as of January 2017, are for the event to occur on October 11, 2017, the Wednesday when the ASNE convention wraps up nearby with limited morning activity. Details will be circulated via the ASNE weekly email newsletter and other means.

Beginning in 2017, as a follow-up from the 2016 briefing, select ASNE leaders occasionally receive and may pass on to the discussion-list email invitations to call-in for State Department briefings that ASNE members may dial up.

Diplomats sometimes state advance ground rules limiting the agreed-upon uses of information they convey. The call-in briefings by officials, rather than on-record spokespersons, may tend to be “on background,” allowing veiled attribution only to “a senior State Department official” or such. A copy of a 2015 handout on the long-standing usual rules is a pdf online here. Commentary in Masthead is here (2013) and here (2015 briefly).


The Masthead contains articles pertaining to the briefings:

  • 2012 Masthead Reports:
    • Arab awakening affects U.S. policy strongly but unpredictably
    • State Dept: Pan-Pacific rivalry & cooperation OK
    • Hillary's whiz kids
    • War, democracy, free media...
    • Afghan women still apprehensive as life improves
  • 2013 Masthead Reports:
    • Kerry: credibility, budget are keys
    • Afghans live longer, better
    • Aid guru sees bright sides
    • Africa expert exudes optimism
  • 2014 Masthead Reports:
    • Diplomats frustrated by media performance
    • Afghan election encourages State Dept.
    • Strategic rebalancing to continue
    • Climate-change briefing was timely
    • Poverty breeds security threats
  • 2015 Masthead Reports:
    • Cyber-world now a policy-security-plus issue
    • Back to you, State staffers; AOJ leaders' op-ed tips
    • Trade gurus point to jobs not lost to agreements
    • Iran deal no sell-out, president's aides insist
    • Another look at State's off-the-record ground rule
    • Disaster relief unending: Ebola, Nepal, ~68 more
    • In U.S.-Cuba relations, nitty-gritty grinds slowly
    • Russian aggression called worst since Cold War
    • On low-profile front lines of immigration and safety
    • State Dept has its reasons for protecting journalism
  • 2016 Masthead Reports:
    • State Dept asserts: progress and crises
    • Against terror, focus shifts to roots
    • It's a global refugee crisis
    • Public leads legislators on renewed Cuba trade
    • Iran nuke deal may be 'break it and you own it'
    • Trade and strategy: facts and emotion
    • Cyberworld: probe, intrusion, attack, war?
  • 2017 Masthead Reports:
    • Official: China key to restraining North Korea
    • Kavalec: U.S. must remain firm with Putin
    • General: Defeating ISIL will take time
    • Nafta: No progress on ‘rebalancing’
    • Business diplomacy: The power to convene