Rick Scott Communications Playbook Wide Open at Press Convention
Around the State
It’s a good day for journalism when a governor with a 29 percent approval rating serves as the warm-up act for a Pulitzer Prize winner, so thanks, Rick Scott, for showing up at Saturday's Florida Press Association (FPA) plenary convention session.
As the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Paige St. John, this year’s winner of journalism’s highest investigative reporting honor, booted up a power point on how she exposed the greed, corruption and incompetence surrounding Florida’s property insurance industry, Scott took the microphone at the Renaissance Vinoy Hotel for a short and self-congratulatory analysis of his first six months in office.
When it was over, A-list media executives lined up like the 747s at O'Hare for the rare chance to pose questions to the millionaire businessman who was elected to our highest office without so much as a single visit with -- never mind endorsements from -- a newspaper editorial board. The editors-in-chief and media chief executives posing questions at the FPA Q&A fared no better than their workaday political reporters in engaging the governor in meaningful dialogue.
Scott’s public communications playbook is by now familiar. He listens intently to questions and acknowledges them with a low-pitched, "Sure.” For a brief second, it’s possible to think that the governor is about to provide a real answer.
But as surely as night will follow day and Lucy Van Pelt will yank away the football that Charlie Brown is about to kick, Scott switches to tired talking points that usually begin with, “Step one ...” Even our most highly decorated journalists can’t move the governor off a communications strategy that defies parody.
In the Sherman Edwards-Peter Stone musical history lesson “1776,” Founding Father John Adams inveighs against a Continental Congress that can only “Piddle Twiddle and Resolve.”
What would Adams say about the twits and wisdom of Scott’s top flack, Brian Burgess, who has acquired a cult following for his tweet-length diatribes against reporters who displease him?
Burgess is paid $110,000 a year for his public service as a reporter-wrangler. According to a recent TaxWatch study, that’s a drop in a $12 million public relations bucket.
In his first state of the state speech, Scott bragged about selling the state airplanes. "Burdening taxpayers with these ongoing expenses is irresponsible and not a core function for government to meet the state's critical needs," Scott said.
One could say the same about taxpayer-funded media critics.
This is a guest opinion column by Florence Snyder. Florence is a corporate lawyer. She also consults on ethics and First Amendment issues. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.