The love-hate relationship of “flacks” and “hacks”

A year ago, the Houston Chronicle railed against the plans of interim Harris County district attorney Kenneth Magidson to hire a small PR staff.  The editorial, “Bad PR: Beware the district attorney’s creation of a media office to manage the flow of public information,” likened the office to “erecting a sound wall.” The newspaper said the PR department would “obstruct (the public’s) ability to find out what government officials are doing.”

The Chronicle denigrated PR practitioners, calling them “flacks,” and depicted a system not even in place as “inefficient, time consuming and frustrating for reporters…”

Not so fast, hacks.  PRSA Houston shot back with an op-ed, saying that as newsroom staffs shrink, journalists will increasingly rely on PR professionals.  The Society defended professional communicators, who are trained not to stonewall reporters.  PRSA advised that “until proven otherwise, the Chronicle should give the DA’s office the benefit of the doubt.”

So, who was right? The hacks or the flacks?

Brian Rogers, beat reporter at the Chronicle covering the DA’s office, said in late May that he works with the media office everyday and “positive things have come to fruition.”  While acknowledging the Chronicle editorial, he said that “instead of adding a layer of bureaucracy, the (PR) office as it stands now, works hard to get information to me after hours and before my deadline.”

Note to Chronicle and other major dailies: We PR flacks aren’t such bad guys and gals after all.  Just give us a chance.  You may need us more than ever now with a rock-bottom economy that threatens to further shrink your editorial-staff levels, circulation, advertising and readership.

Besides, we are actually pulling for you.  Without you, we wouldn’t exist.

Contributed by Mike Wysatta, Business Development Manager, Ryder Scott Co.

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