It was a semi-swanky affair when Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick introduced his new press secretary, a corporate PR flak named Regina Strong. Held at the St. Regis Hotel last Thursday, there was an open bar and a buffet featuring fresh fruit, quiche, egg rolls and prosciutto-wrapped melon.
So the gathered media were a happy bunch, and there was a partylike vibe going when KK brought Ms. Strong to the podium. There was so much feel-good going round, in fact, that no one but us seemed to bristle when the mayor boomed that one of the things he liked most about his new spokesperson was that she “knows how to keep secrets from the media.”
What an accolade to utter to a gaggle of reporters. In fact, the notoriously thin-skinned NewsHits crew was downright insulted. And so, as our colleagues lobbed a few softballs toward Strong, we changed the pitch.
“Will you continue the current policy of funneling all questions through the mayor’s office, or will department heads be allowed to respond to questions directly?” we asked. When Strong said she wasn’t sure, that she hadn’t really started yet and those sorts of things would have to be worked out, we put the question to the big man himself. Away from the mic, Kilpatrick mumbled with a canary-eating grin, “I know, but I’m not saying.”
Screw that. Our question was not, as a reporter from one of the dailies joked later, “impertinent.” It is entirely pertinent, because Kilpatrick’s frequent policy of putting a gag on people who know answers, and forcing most questions to a single source, dams the information flow.
Which is why News Hits, never very adept at the social graces and perhaps hyped up on a little too much caffeine, went on a mini-rant, greeting Ms. Strong with an outpouring of frustration over the way her new boss’ administration often fails to respond to queries, and entreating her to be more forthcoming. It was at that point the whole room went silent, and there was a long and uneasy stillness, like when someone cuts a loud fart in church.
Well, stink is stink, and we’ll quit raising one as soon as this administration stops boasting about its ability to keep secrets and becomes more responsive.
Oh, by the way: Welcome to the job, Ms. Strong.Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or firstname.lastname@example.org