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THE PRESS REFERENCE ROOM
The Press Reference Room exemplifies the way that a small part of an operation can assume pivotal importance in the functioning of an organization. The Reference Room was part of the solution to the critical problem of rapid transmission of the continuously changing regulations to the regulated sectors that needed them immediately. Economic Stabilization Program announcements were incorporated into press releases, printed in large members (usually "batches" of 5,000), and taken to the Press Reference Room. Representatives from trade associations and businesses would then come to the Press Reference Room for copies of the news releases when the latest information was needed.
The Press Reference Room, located on 2000 M Street, Washington, D.C., was directed by the thoroughly competent and tireless Mrs. Irma White. The records of Mrs. White's activities indicate the size and importance of her role in a dramatic fashion. During the 616 days from November 22, 1971, to April 30, 1974 (unfortunately, no Phase I records remain), she answered 36,015 telephone inquiries (an average of 58 a day) and received 63,954 visitors (an average of 103 a day) in search of information. Inquiries tended to cluster around times when there were new developments in the Program, and the busiest single month was August, 1973, which witnessed the beginning of Phase IV. During that one month there were 2,112 telephone calls (92 per day) and 4,345 visitors (189 per day).
The large number of inquiries reflects only part of the true importance of the facility. Many of the visitors to the Press Reference room were representatives of large corporations, trade associations, law firms, and accounting firms. The large corporations would distribute the information to their subsidiaries, the trade associations would channel information to member businesses, and the law and accounting firms would use the information for their myriad clients.
In addition to its primary function of rapidly distributing new information, the Reference Room had a secondary role as general information repository. The facility provided access to all of the published materials about the Economic Stabilization Program. These materials included news releases, Economic Stabilization Program Quarterly Reports, booklets, forms, instructions, decision lists and IRS publications.
During Phase IV a series of complex and product specific regulations were issued to try and hold back price increases in the petroleum area. Coincidentally, this elaborate set of petroleum price controls was in place when the OPEC oil embargo was imposed on the United States and other Western nations. This paper discusses the economics of the petroleum situation and the difficulties of constructing and enforcing the regulatory scheme.
This paper was prepared under contract by Charles R. Owens and Associates, Inc. Mr. Owens was formerly a Special Consultant for Energy to the Director of the Cost of Living Council.
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