Kim Genardo of NBC-17 is following a well-trod path from capital reporter to Governor’s communications director. Most every governor hires a capital reporter to tame the savages. I made that switch from the N&O to then-Lt. Governor Hunt in January 1976 – 37 years ago! (As I recall, I was about 13 years old.)
Two issues arise here – one past and one prospective. First, the past: Was she talking to the Governor about the job when, as the N&O noted Saturday, “she did a one-on-one interview with McCrory for WNCN 10 days ago”? If she was, she shouldn’t have done the interview. It puts her coverage in question.
Second, looking ahead: Which master will she serve – Governor or media?
It’s a tricky task. Some Governors think that, since you were one of them, you should have some kind of mojo that insures positive media coverage. But some journalists think you’ve sold out and gone over to the dark side.
Some hacks-turned-flacks turn into media scourges. They block reporters’ access to the great man, yell and scream at reporters who write tough stories and thereby poison the relationship.
I made my share of mistakes, but learned one big lesson: Your job is, in fact, to serve two masters. Yes, you work for the Governor, but your paycheck comes from the taxpayers of North Carolina and you have a unique responsibility to serve the public.
So you have to respect the role journalists play in getting information to the public, even if your boss and the people around him get mad. You have to help both sides: help the governor tell his story and help the reporters write their stories.
Fortunately, I had a boss who understood the role of the media, liked to read newspapers and watch the news and – most of all – didn’t hold a grudge. Oh, he got mad about stories. But he vented his anger with me, not them, and he was willing to talk to the reporter again. After all, there will be another paper and another broadcast tomorrow.
Governor Hunt also found that reporters’ questions alerted him to problems his own people wouldn’t tell him about. Never in history has a gubernatorial appointee volunteered: “Governor, you know that assignment you gave us? Well, we have made a total hash of it.”
So good luck, Kim. All you need is a cool head, a thick skin and a sense of humor.