Governor shuns media traditions, filters; uses social media for message control

Al Cross

By Al Cross, Director, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, School of Journalism and Media, College of Communication and Information,University of Kentucky – acros3@email.uky.edu

Gov. Matt Bevin’s communications director said Wednesday evening that “We don’t really find a ton of value” in general press conferences because the governor travels the state extensively and is interviewed by “the newspapers that want to cover the great things that are happening.” And she refused to answer a question about Bevin’s lack of response to news media he doesn’t like.

Speaking on a panel arranged by the University of Kentucky public-relations office, Amanda Stamper said social media allow the governor’s office to “take our messages directly to the audiences we are trying to talk to, being able to break our own news, being able to control the message without having to go through the different filters that the media puts on things.” Later, speaking of social media platforms such as Facebook Live, she said, “There is a transparency about that.”

Stamper said news stories about the governor that drive clicks on newspaper websites “aren’t necessarily the things we think ought to be covered. . . . We don’t necessarily worry about that.” Later, she noted that the Kentucky Civic Health index shows than less than half of Kentuckians trust the news media, down 13 percent from the previous survey, three years ago. She said the reach of Facebook videos can exceed the circulation of The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader in two hours.

Jay Blanton, UK’s executive director of public relations, said traditional media are still important, but are now just one of many platforms for public-relations professionals. He said UK’s social media audience is 530,000.

When moderator Carl Nathe of UK PR announced that the hour was up and panelists could answer audience members’ questions one-on-one, and the panelists began to rise, I rose from my front-row seat, walked toward Carl and asked, “Carl, how come no questions from the audience for the public? I mean, I’ve got a question I’d like to address to members of the panel.” He said “We can make an exception,” and handed me the microphone. Here’s what I said:

“As some of you probably know I wrote a column<http://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/columnists/cross/2017/04/14/bevin-craven-coward-cleanup-crusader-cross/100458634/> recently which questioned the governor’s lack of press conferences and his apparent policy of not responding to media outlets that he does not favor. And I can understand, Amanda, your wish to have things covered that you want covered, but you and the governor are public employees, and the media outlets that you’re not responding to have a significant circulation. I think Lisa [Deffendall of Fayette County Public Schools] at one point said you want to get your message out to people in the form that they’d like to receive [it]. There are a lot of people who read The Courier-Journal, the Herald-Leader, the Community Newspaper Holdings newspapers, who would like to hear a response from the governor’s office. And yet you won’t even show those reporters the courtesy of responding to their inquiries. Why?”

Stamper replied, “So, we are here tonight to talk to the students and answer their questions, so I will, um, take the chance to not answer that question.”

I replied, “I find that completely offensive for a person in a public position.”

I hope editors and reporters in all corners of the state will regard Stamper’s remarks about message control and supposed transparency as an insult to the intelligence of Kentuckians and the need for accountability in a representative democracy, and think about some accountability questions to ask the governor the next time he comes to your town.

7 responses to “Governor shuns media traditions, filters; uses social media for message control”

  1. Jerry Grasso says:

    To the readers of this one sided portrayal by this esteemed reporter:

    I was on the panel, sitting next to Amanda, participating in the discussion. Let me tell you this reporter was a bull in a china shop. He DID NOT act in a courteous, or professional, manner when addressing Carl or Amanda. Al was gruff, rude and actually yelled at Amanda. I would even argue the the word ‘uncouth’ might be appropriate. Is what he wrote above what was said? Yes. Is he providing the context of his reprehensive delivery to Amanda correctly? No he is not. He is providing to you the content without context. Don’t be snowed, reader. The discussion at UK was about the changing nature of public relations and the totality of the panelists agreed to the importance of the media in our message delivery. The media are just not the sole source. Amanda addressed the multiple ways that her team reaches Kentuckians, including talking to reporters on radio media tours, in market….I’m sure many of those reporters ask tough questions.

    I’ll finalize my comments with this, after the esteemed reporter finished his diatribe you could have heard a pin drop. I filled the void by asking him if he wanted to berate anyone else on the panel other than Amanda (and the rude way he addressed Carl). He sat down. I’ll also say his physical body actions as he addressed Amanda concerned me enough that I waked out with her standing between him and her…and I’m not the guy you want as your bodyguard, all five foot seven and overweight fella that I am. Yea, it was that bad readers.

    This reporter needs to look in the mirror and understand when it is the right time, and place, to take action like he did… and re-evaulate the way he takes action.

    This whole article is a shame on you to Amanda and the Governor. Let me say it should be shame on this esteemed reporter.

    By the way, so we can get political motivation of my response out of the ways…I’m a democrat. So I am not politically motivated with my posting.

    Jerry Grasso

  2. Dave Mikulec says:

    He’s an east coast con-man and a shyster. Of course the easiest way to get away with it is to just paint the media as the “enemy”. And the rubes who worship him will buy it. Every single time.

    Bevin’s taken a page out of the ol’ Drumpf handbook.

  3. shirlee says:

    I believe questions should be answered no matter who asks, if the answer is not known…just say, an answer will be given at 8am tomorrow and do it..no stonewalling for public servants.

  4. Bill Straub says:

    Al, there’s a name for what Stamper is practicing — propaganda. She’s doing nothing more than running Pravda on Capitol Avenue and protecting a coward who doesn’t have the courage of his convictions.

  5. Marc Emral says:

    Government officials – from all parties – are not for transparency, they are about making themselves look good. They all forget that they work for all of the people, and reporters, editors, photographers, everyone in the media, are people who they work for. Their job is hard, but it’s their job. Answer questions.

  6. William Cornett says:

    All of the republican politicians are setting themselves up as despots with absolute control of the people. This so far hasn’t worked out too well .

  7. Frank Brown says:

    The “insult to the intelligence of Kentuckians” is how today’s media is so blatantly biased against conservative politicians, and Republicans in general. I do not blame the governor for taking his message directly to the people without the very biased media misrepresenting what the message is by misusing sound bites and partial quotes taking out of context in which they were intended.
    The accountability needs to be among news sources that hold each other accountable for fake news and misrepresented topics. Get that right then perhaps the American people can regain trust in the press, and politicians.

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