Hack and Flack: Still Adversarial

Image via Wikipedia

From Andra Bennett, APR – Chapter President

My journalist husband and I have considered starting a blog called Hack and Flack, taking off on NPR’s Click and Clack but more like Mary Matalin and James Carville. Remember TV’s “Odd Couple” intro: “Can two divorced men {hack and flack} share an apartment without driving each other crazy?” Neil Hefti music up now.

Those sentiments were all in play at last week’s GFW PRSA luncheon when four publishers/editors of local weeklies [Lucie Allen, publisher/editor of the Spanish-language Panorama News; Lee Newquist, publisher of the Fort Worth Weekly; Blake Ovard, managing editor of The Star Group Newspapers, and Kay Pirtle, editor of the Wedgwood News] and an ex-ombuddy were corralled in a room of PR practitioners.

The weeklies were invited because Greater Fort Worth PRSA members wanted to hear how they were doing financially and how we could work together on news stories.

Oscar, meet Felix.

During the Q&A, Lee Newquist, publisher of Fort Worth Weekly, was asked how PR practitioners could be of the most value to the weeklies. As part of a longer response, Newquist answered, “PR companies, at least on the journalism side of what we do, are problematic because they’re in between (us and) the person with the real answer. I don’t want to talk to a PR person whose sole role in their career is to spin it and make it sound good.” There was nervous laughter from the audience, and several Tweets.

Blake Ovard, managing editor of The Star Group weeklies, echoed: “All of the cities have a PIO, and their job is to keep you from getting the story, so they don’t understand why I don’t want to talk to them. They say, ‘Well, I have all your information.’”

At this point, neck hairs began to bristle. Marc Flake, Tarrant County PIO, took umbrage with those statements and stepped forward. He related how he had facilitated the Weekly’s requests for a recent cover story by Peter Gorman that examined issues related to the medical examiner’s office.

“I was very helpful with Mr. Gorman,” Flake said, “and told him who he needed to talk to, gave him background, gave him all the documents (and) contract information he needed. I don’t stay between you guys (and county sources). I help you get the information you need.”

Spontaneous applause erupted from PR crowd.

I found the exchange refreshingly candid — and disturbingly enlightening. It brought home to me that the adversarial relationship between hacks and flacks is still alive and well.

Some may dismiss weeklies (and indeed all newspapers now) as non-influencers or think their constituents don’t read those papers, so who cares what they think? But with the market share of dailies falling and weeklies currently increasing, we need to have this honest dialogue to bridge the gap of misperceptions.

Maybe the panelists didn’t realize they were in a room with cream of the crop PRSA practitioners, who hold to a PRSA Code of Ethics,which state in part:

 

HONESTY – We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests ofthose we represent and in communicating with the public.

LOYALTY- We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest.

FAIRNESS- We deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media, and thegeneral public. We respect all opinions and support the right of free expression.

PR practitioners are obligated to our organizations / clients and their stakeholders as well as to the public interest. Journalists are obligated to the public’s right to know, their readers and advertisers. (Yes, advertisers were mentioned several times by the panelists as being quite an important audience.)

Here’s the rub: being honest and ethical doesn’t always translate (in the private sector, anyway) to being as “open” as some of us would like. This is due to a number of reasons, including proprietary information, SEC regs, security concerns and political sensitivities.

As PR practitioners, we have to weigh the benefit vs. risk of responding to certain media inquiries. Brave responders will answer even a hostile reporter in order to provide balance. But cautious ones will favor silence if media objectivity is questionable and they are mischaracterized or taken out of context repeatedly.

In our changing media landscape and diminishing dailies’ prowess, it would behoove PR practitioners to eschew derogatory terms for alternative or community weeklies (punk rags, podunk papers) and appreciate their financial strength and scope of influence among many constituencies.

By the same token, journalists should re-examine their broad-brush generalizations about PR practitioners as spinners and blockers. In light of shrinking news staff and resources, ethical PR pros provide information, assistance and access to high-level sources that will only become more critical for journalists who want to report the truth.

Read about the financial status of the dailies and the hack’s take on it here.

Related articles by Zemanta

HTML Styles

Image aligned left & right

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.rum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Read more

Diversity Without Opportunity is Just Talk

(This post fist appeared Thursday, August 14, on the Next Communications Blog

I attended the Greater Fort Worth Chapter PRSA’s August luncheon and meeting where the group heard from a panel on diversity.

The topic, Working Diversity into the Workplace promised to be at best, an interesting approach to something that seems fundamental OR at worst, a nice way to get out of the office and have some pretty good fajitas.

Personal aside: It was kind of funny that we had our diversity session at a famous Mexican restaurant in Fort Worth.
(Thanks, Terry.)

Photo credit: chrisjfry

The People
We were introduced to a panel that included:

  • Mitch Hill, Baylor Hospital (social worker)
  • Leah King, Chesapeake Energy (community relations)
  • Tom Burke, IBM (communications/public relations)
  • Dora Tovar, Tovar PR (public relations)
  • Ken Reeves, Bell Helicopter (human resources)

I was immediately struck by the make-up of the group. Aside from the obvious male/female/ethnic differences, our chapter diversity chair had an interesting mix of PR and non-PR professionals. I had an idea of how PR can help address diversity to build and maintain relationships. What I was looking forward to was seeing how this group would approach the topic.

Thoughts on diversity vs. culture
Here are a few of the thoughts that resonated with me:

Mitch Hill thinks we wear many masks and take on multiple cultures.

“There is diversity within myself,” he said. “Once we understand this about ourselves, we can move forward.”

Leah King said she lived oversees and takes a much broader approach to diversity.

Tom Burke pointed out how IBM approaches diversity.

“[IBM is] welcoming everyone to the workplace regardless of differences un-related to their job functions.”

Letter from IBM’s Vice President of Global Workforce Diversity, Ron Glover

Tom also made what I thought to be an excellent point about our topic.

“Diversity is not created, it already exists.”

Dora Tovar spoke more on culture, telling the group that culture in the U.S. is very individual and is in constant change.

“Those that can adapt and change will be the most marketable.”

She also pointed out that diversity is about representation and culture is about identity.

Ken Reeves followed Tovar and gave his perspective on diversity stating that it is not just about representation, it’s about opportunity. He explained how as an ex-NFL player he had to develop a strategy to diversify himself and about the corporate strategy at Bell Helicopter related to diversity.

“Until [diversity] translates into opportunity for everyone, it’s just talk.”

Moving forward
Each of the panelists brought an enlightened perspective on diversity that went beyond the typical race, ethnicity, sex, religions, etc.

Also, going back to Mitch Hill’s reference, the mask metaphor, in my opinion, is fundamental to human communication. It is a great explainer for the different roles we play on a daily basis. We are different (diversity within ourselves) depending on our audience. When I am at home, I play the husband and father roles. At work, my mask is that of a communications/PR professional. With friends…With other family members…With new people…etc. These are all roles that are within me. We all have the different masks to wear. It’s not hiding. It’s playing the role of a human.

Lastly, the notion that diversity without opportunity is a significant next step. It is not about checking off boxes to make sure your company has this many women or that many Latinos. It is about recognizing the business strategy, objectives, and benefits behind a diversity opportunities.

What do you think? Do you consider yourself to be personally diverse? Do you think you wear masks? Can diversity translate into opportunity?