SPRINGFIELD, IL: The state of Illinois plans to launch a new Office of Communications and Information today in an effort to streamline its media relations activities.
While as many as 60 people in various departments had some media relations responsibilities in the past, the new office is being staffed by 28 full-time public information officers, explained Marybeth Johnson, deputy director of the office.
"This is an effort to be more effective, provide better access to reporters, and to save money," said Johnson.
The state Legislature and the governor have been wrestling with a proposed budget for the coming year, but the decision to open the new information office was made before the budget battle began, Johnson explained.
The office was authorized by an executive order from the governor in February.
It will provide public information on all state offices that report to the governor, except for the Department of Children and Family Services, military services, and the state police.
The communications operation will maintain staff in Chicago and Springfield, the state capital. Johnson is splitting her time between the two locations, running the new office.
In another PR move, Illinois' Transportation Department has created a Department of External Affairs to handle outreach done when various construction projects take place. The department oversees state highway construction.