On the beat: Best PR folks can give and take 'flak'

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 1, 2014 - 7:10 PM

When reporters want to speak with the person in charge, they can rarely dial direct.

Just like corporations do, politicians and government agencies have vast taxpayer-provided communications staffs that control the message.

In newsroom speak, they’re called “flaks,” a term originated because they block any brickbats aimed at their bosses.

The best are knowledgeable and responsive. The worst don’t return calls or e-mails.

Reporters become friendly with some flaks and stay in touch as they move from job to job.

In a direct attempt at sucking up, here is a list of favorites who handle a cranky reporter with invariable aplomb:

Jeff Anderson, an Iowa native who started as an intern for the Minnesota Vikings, now the team’s director of communications. He brings out the best in everyone around him, while still being able to take a wicked joke at his expense.

MNsure’s Joe Campbell, who started in U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s boot camp and moved to St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s before moving to the state gig. Campbell can digest complex topics quickly. One colleague considers him the best in town. He’s always quick to forward irreverent Internet memes.

Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority’s Jenn Hathaway, who first impressed in Ted Mondale’s 1998 gubernatorial campaign. Her quickly returned calls and political savvy set the standard when I met her early in my career.

Former longtime Pioneer Press reporter Chuck Laszewski in Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s office. Laszewski never loses his calm and treats everyone with the same unfailing respect.

St. Paul Parks guy Brad Meyer and Como Zoo’s Matt Reinartz, who indulges macabre jokes about what those adorable polar bears would do to a human interloper in their enclave. Both are incredibly knowledgeable about their work, quick with the jokes and insight.

And now I await miffed e-mails from those not on this far-from-exclusive list.

 

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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