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Thursday, January 05, 2006

John McGauley on Disasters and Yapping Officials

John McGauley has some interesting observations about the horrid circumstances surrounding the news of survivors in the West Virginian mine disaster. Yesterday he commented:
Somebody will be able to write a thesis about how the communication process here got messed up. I hate to say this, being a spokesman for elected [officials], but I think this is the disastrous result of a new trend in which elected [officials] swoop into disaster scenes and take over the communications. The mining company never announced this, the governor and the Congresswoman did (over and over again), granted they did it after hearing the story from family members.

Reporters know this better than anyone - you don't say something like this until you know it for yourself or you have it confirmed and re-confirmed.

Rudy Giuliani made this an art form by showing up at every bad accident, fire and crash and taking over communications from the professionals. They're quotable, they exude leadership in tough situations, but they don't always know what "confirmed" means.
He added the following today in writing to Indiana Parley:
It's an issue that really bothered me a great deal during Katrina, as well. Some of the most horrible, unfounded rumors (like dozens of bodies in the Convention Center freezer) were launched by electeds seizing the mic and passing along things someone told them on a street corner.

There is a great deal of implied credibility that comes with being an elected leader. Things that would be checked and re-checked from any other source go straight onto air or into print out of the mouth of a mayor, governor or Congressman. This is a fact that I don't think most elected [officials] realize, but one that they need to become cognizant of.
Mr. McGauley is Public Information Officer to the Board of Commissioners of Allen County (IN). He previously worked in the same capacity in the office of Fort Wayne Mayor W. Paul Helmke. He is a former reporter for the Muncie Evening Press and Ball State Daily News. He is a candidate for Allen County Recorder in the 2006 Republican primary election.

Photo of Mr. McGauley: Aboite Independent

If I understand this position, the solution is to make certain that are government officials are more like the angels. Never mind that the mass media has abandoned its founding role and come to depend on officially driven news. The Federalists made clear that without the checks of a free press we would be better off under a monarchy.
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