Columns

Rick Scott Communications Playbook Wide Open at Press Convention

And, BTW, governor's top flack Brian Burgess paid to tweet insults at reporters
By: Florence Snyder | Posted: July 6, 2011 3:55 AM
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Florence Snyder

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 lawyerflo@gmail.com.
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Comments (4)

6:30PM JUL 6TH 2011
I was there. I ambled the hallways before the event watching reporters gnosh on buffet, wander around, get coffee, sit on the veranda. The attitude was casual, the dress was not, the overall vibe, as always with "journalists," was puffed up and self-congratulatory. I even hid from an old colleague, who worked at a newspaper I wrote for years back, in another life. There she was, with her press credential in a little card dangling from her neck Look at me, I'm a "journalist" then as now, spoke her manner. Then, do you know what I did? I went outside and I joined the protesters screaming into megaphones against the pink stucco facade of that luxury hotel where this event was taking place. I screamed until my lungs burned and was better for it. And there on the veranda appearing during breaks in their event, were the "journalists" looking at us as though were curiously exotic zoo animals of some sort. How strange to them is, this sweaty activism; how odd this business of heart, guts, sacrifice must seem to a group of slap-d&cks who can't even muster the courage to sue the damned tyrant in the governor's mansion over sunshine laws he is obviously breaking. Who can't muster the stones to stand on principle and demand the damned records he is trying keep to himself by charging them fees that would shame a Persian rug merchant. Instead we are offered more accounts - good accounts, nonetheless - like this one, about how tough it is to be an editor, to be a newscaster, to be a (what was the word again?) to be a "journalist."
Marc Caputo's Conscience
9:57PM JUL 7TH 2011
The editors and reporters don't sue because the governor isn't breaking the law. The dirty little secret here is that the media only whines about the half of the law saying they are entitled to the records...they conveniently ignore the half that says they have to pay the cost to produce them.

There are no lawsuits because the governor is following the law.
tohan
10:05AM JUL 6TH 2011
Burgess should be paid more. He did good by Rubio as his comm. director and is doing a great job for Scott
Gag o Burg
12:23AM JUL 13TH 2011
Gag. Burgess is lame.

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