Unforced Error With The Press And The Public

February 5, 2013 13:00 pm

by Charlie · 11 comments

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

When we elect our government officials, it’s usually at the end of a campaign promising bold leadership and straight answers.  What we get after the fact often is…a bit less than that.

There seems to be an annual ritual at Georgia’s capitol now of one of those elected or appointed to serve the general public who not only avoids the press, but runs from them.  While there are times when a full public statement may not be warranted, a  “no comment” or “we’ll have a statement ready for you later” said directly to the reporter or waiting camera is often better than hiding.

State Senator Bill Heath provided this year’s example of “what not to do” when being sought by the press, especially when the reporter is being followed by television cameras.  Last Friday, WSB TV political reporter Lori Geary was seeking explanation from Heath as to why Georgia Public Broadcasting hired former Majority Leader Chip Rogers as the organization’s second highest paid employee. 

Heath, obviously, didn’t want to talk about it.  So instead of talking to Geary, he ignored her and eventually hid in an office;  saying through the Senate’s press secretary that he didn’t have time to talk because he was on his way to a committee meeting yet remaining in partial view of Geary’s camera for about 45 minutes according to her report.

Heath was the subject of Lori Geary’s attention because he was replying to those signing a petition requesting Rogers be fired with a form letter informing those expressing their concerns that they had been conned, their letters were annoying, and asking for responses was an abuse of his resources according to the report.

Generally speaking, telling constituents that they are too dumb to avoid signing something they didn’t understand and that bothering an important person while he tries to work is annoying is probably more important than not running from cameras and reporters.  Doing so, especially in large volumes of pre-printed response letters is quite likely to draw said reporters in the first place.

Heath, like many Republicans in the new super-majority, are themselves falling into a con of their own making.  By condoning actions such as allowing golden parachutes for some special state employees while the vast majority have endured furloughs and flat or reduced salaries is hard to justify.  It’s better if the questions aren’t asked.  Because it’s hard to answer a lot of them.

The group behind the petition is Better Georgia.  While they have made much of their name pushing ethics reform, the group has more recently admitted that they are pushing for a “progressive” while still being hesitant to outright claim they are a new PR wing for the state’s troubled Democratic party.

Regardless, their agenda is apparently to show Republicans in the most extreme and embarrassing light possible.  Republicans appear all too eager to assist.

So when caught rewarding an insider to quietly go away with a $150,000 newly created but nebulously defined position, it’s something Republicans would rather not talk about.  Better Georgia, requiring only a bit of media savvy generates a petition to have Rogers removed.

Instead of addressing the matter head on, Heath inflames the already existing problem by telling those on the petition that their concerns aren’t valid and he is annoyed by them, presumably because Better Georgia was the vehicle used to collect them.  This allows the media that too many fear are out to get them from the start to have a credible hook to ask about the matter on a new level.  And instead of responding directly, the annoyed Senator who believes his resources are being wasted ends up sitting next to a copier for 45 minutes hoping a reporter – and this story – will just go away.

There are individuals and groups who very much want to work at cross purposes for the Republican majority in Georgia’s government.  Being annoyed with that is no reason to give them or the press the ammunition with which to fire.

This entire situation was avoidable.  But of course, that would require actions in the first place that withstand public scrutiny.

LauraGraceB February 5, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Started reading PeachPundit because of Stefan’s Tuesday Read N Rhymes; but I’ve stayed because I really do learn a lot from your posts. I am a progressive, and I generally find what I read here to be from a balanced and fair perspective. (to coin a phrase)

This one in particular is right on the money.

Kudos.

David C February 5, 2013 at 2:58 pm

The easiest way to avoid the entire situation would have been to not give Rogers a golden parachute in the first place.

Lea Thrace February 5, 2013 at 3:02 pm

OR at the very least give him a NON-TAXPAYER funded parachute. That’s the part that stinks the most.

GAgadfly February 5, 2013 at 3:15 pm

As embarrassing as this incident is on its face, it also seems to show that Sen. Heath apparently has a consistency problem when it comes to standing up to the shenanigans that come from unprincipled one-party rule. He was one of only three Republicans to vote against S.B. 24, the “it’s not really a bed tax but we’ll punt it to the bureaucrats anyway” fiasco that will soon become the law of the land. Whatever credibility he gained from that vote just followed his dignity out the door…

Trey A. February 5, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Nice work, Charlie. I really hope people are paying attention to this stuff.

greencracker February 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm

There was no way for charlie to know it before his deadline, but dig this, so, there’s a federal investigation into either state Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D) and/or the organization of which he’s president, the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials.

Brooks gave a long press conference this afternoon. Took every “tough question.”

Let the jokes begin about Dems being used to being on the wrong side of the law … but anyhow, there he was in front of the lights.

Spacey G February 5, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Walking away from the press always gets on-air. Running away gets you right to the top of the story. Hiding from the press behind a printer gets you in the top block of the show. So yeah, the faster and squirrelier the behaviors the better chance you have of leading-off a whole TV news broadcast. Go for it!

John Vestal February 5, 2013 at 5:56 pm

If only the printer had been in an apartment building set on fire by copper thieves…and then it began to snow.

Will Durant February 5, 2013 at 6:51 pm

It could have been worse for Lori Geary:
Reporter punched asking the tough questions…

While I neither endorse the senator’s evasion or this man’s actions I’ve often wished this result on some of the on-camera ambush tactics resorted to by some “journalists”. In Ms. Geary’s case the Senator’s asinine written response and subsequent evasion deserved some doggedness. This man wasn’t even the one accused of a crime but the father of one. Sometimes when you go overboard asking the “tough questions” you deserve a tough answer.

Bob Loblaw February 6, 2013 at 8:13 am

Man that guy knows how to throw a punch. If that reporter needs a lawyer, I’m here!

Jackster February 6, 2013 at 12:56 am

I see this and think, If only he was prepared.

I will be opening a Kiosk at the Gold Dome selling personal EMP devices. When used correctly, they will knock out the surrounding electronic devices of reporters, lobbyists, consituents, and most importantly, political arsonists.

Here’s an example: http://www.amazing1.com/emp.htm

We’ve seen the matrix. Now we need to have these legislators defend themselves against this sort of scrutiny. Why it could be a jobs bill!

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