When I started my career, I worked a few years as a professional journalist. On balance I enjoyed it, except for days like the one when I was ordered by an editor to call the fiancée of a well-known local suicide victim and ask “do you have a comment?” Short answer: yes, yes she did. And I deserved every outraged syllable of it.
Most of my career I’ve been a public relations counselor and practitioner. It’s hilarious when you see PR pros portrayed on TV as vacuous, slightly evil sycophants. Perhaps that’s why “Seth,” the vice president’s press secretary on the delightfully devious House of Cards so freely owned his moral bankruptcy, stating to CNN’s Candy Crowley “I don’t know anything about professional photography, I’m just a flack.”
It’s considered clever, I suppose, for some members of the journalism profession to refer to PR pros as “flacks.” A cursory Google search reveals no clear etymology for the word, though a fellow PR practitioner I know reveals his take by proudly referring to himself as a “flack catcher.” Meh. Like him, I suppose some think the term is acceptable and not meant derisively, but I disagree.
I frankly chafe at this word being used about a profession that does, on balance, help people, companies, organizations and causes effectively tell their story. It stings a bit when we’re written off as disingenuous toadies. Yes, there are bad apples in the profession–in any profession, but to tar us all with that same tired brush? No. I mean, if you were to call a journalist a hack, she might try to bean you on the head with her rotary phone.
Back to CNN’s Candy Crowley: what the heck is she doing appearing on House of Cards, anyway? Does she care about blurring the lines between entertainment and credible journalism? I was totally taken out of the moment on the aforementioned House of Cards episode when I saw a steady stream of journos (who I assume wish to at least project an air of credibility) appearing as fictionalized versions of themselves on a TV show.
Sure, I expect that from those in the punditocracy such as Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity; but when a legend like Morley Safer eagerly deigned to feign lobbing hardballs at fictional modern day Machiavelli Frank Underwood, all I could do was sigh and shake my head.
Of course, take my gentle criticism with a grain of salt. It’s coming from a flack, after all.
By Alex Greenwood
That’s me on the right, making small talk with Mike Brown of The Brainzooming Group at the recent Building the Gigabit City 2.0 sessions. Behind us are numerous thought leaders doing some serious brain zooming to figure out practical ways to make the most of ultra-high-speed Google Fiber internet service in Kansas City.
We’re always excited to work with Mike and his team, doing our part to help publicize initiatives he and his team helped start (like Gigabit City).
Beyond the PR work I do for Mike’s company, I must confess I particularly enjoy our occasional lunches or meetings where he shows me how to approach challenges from a different direction. It’s something at which Mike is a bit of a genius (don’t tell him I said that). I can’t count how many times Mike has helped me shift focus from my regular (usually frustrated) problem-solving tactics to an ultimately more productive path to resolution. Mike shows me how to use my native tools–logic, information, intuition, experience–to figure out the best way forward.
Google Fiber is a brilliant tool for Kansas City. We’re lucky to have it and as a citizen and business owner, I’m glad our community is taking it seriously and working to make the most of it.
However, visionary, smart, openhearted people like Mike Brown are our community’s true assets. Building the Gigabit City 2.0 was a showcase for numerous people who share Mike’s attitude and spirit.
“More fun than a barrel of monkeys,” describes Kevin Ryan, owner of Governor Stumpy’s Grill House in the Waldo neighborhood of Kansas City, to a “T.” This descriptor only scratches the surface of this high-energy, fun-loving restaurant proprietor.
After 20 years of learning the ropes of the industry, Ryan opened Governor Stumpy’s in 1997, but not until he’d done his homework, including talking with neighborhood folks and other business owners about what they did and didn’t want in their neighborhood. That friendly, home-town feel is still evident today in the warm and caring environment he and his staff have created.
Kevin is a member of the Missouri Restaurant Association, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Knights of Columbus, and Our Lady of the Presentation Parish, in Lee’s Summit. He has been a golf tournament sponsor for Operation Breakthrough, and for SIDS Resources, Inc., and has entered teams and raised money for the Lung Cancer Society to honor his twin sister, who died in 2009 of the disease. His restaurant also includes some special menu items, of which a portion of the proceeds are donated directly to FIRE (the Foundation for Inclusive Religious Education) and Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
These and the numerous other causes to which Kevin is affiliated earned him the “Irishman of the Year” award in 2009, as well as the “Southtowner of the Year” award in 2011.
Kevin is very excited to be involved in this fund-raising event for Cristo Rey, especially since some of his primary interests are children, faith, having fun and making people laugh! He told us, “I am very much looking forward to the 2014 Dancing with the Kansas City Stars so that I can demonstrate to the world what’s made me famous: I am the five time national Twister champion…with the flexibility and footwork to prove it. Bring it on!”
Kevin is dancing with Tamara Sanders, owner of Allegro Ballroom.