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Throw those public relation bums out
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    It's time for Congress to do something actually worthwhile for the citizens they supposedly represent. Something for the common good.
    It's time to ban all public relations persons from corporations, governments and government agencies.
    As individuals, I'm sure these are very nice people but their job is nothing short of unnecessarily filtering information. Not so much getting accurate information out, but making sure that nothing damaging is released.
    Accuracy is sacrificed for safety.
    Considering I'm now part of the fourth estate, I take very seriously the chore of keeping our elected and appointed officials, as well as our city employees, honest. Publicly traded corporations or those that work with the public, too. If you're going to take a dime from any us, you're going to be held accountable. Local, state federal, corporate — all are accountable.
    But the public relations office has become nothing more than the office of truth obfuscating.
    Let me be clear. This is not about Statesboro's public information officer. It's about information blockades at the state and federal level.
    For instance, when I went to find out about the recent lane switching on the bypass, I received a press release containing a phone number for the public to call if they needed more information. When I called, I was told to wait for the engineer. When he called me back (after my second attempt), he said I'd have to talk to the press person — who sent the press release to begin with. When I called her, she said she didn't have that information, that she needed to check some information with the engineer (whom I'd already called — twice) and would get back to me. The next day, she faxed me virtually the same press release as the day before.
    Are you dizzy yet?
    Ironically, the DOT didn't move the lanes on Wednesday as they said. Maybe I should have talked to someone in charge. Hmm, engineer maybe?
    Now my other run in with government public relations happened when I called the Department of Justice's Civil Rights division while investigating the Statesboro redistricting issue. The first thing I did was check the DOJ Web site for basic information. Then I talked to a senior civil rights analyst who would be reviewing Statesboro's redistricting plan. She walked me through some confusing language on the Web site and clarified the review process.
    After that first conversation, I was forced to go through the DOJ's press office.
    My first email to the press person was met with "Go read the Web site, loser" (not an exact quote). Then, after I explained I had already read the Web site and talked to an analyst, I politely requested some specific clarifications of confusing Web site verbiage. After two days, I finally received an email that said, "I thought I told you to read the Web site, loser (loose interpretation)." Oh yeah, did I mention I received the communique on Friday around 4:58 p.m?    
    I'm about to fall down.
    Bottom line: if I want to talk about the steps for redrawing lines, who better to talk to than the analyst who processes the application?
    If I want to talk about the progression of a road or building project, who better to talk to than the construction manager, the engineer or the architect? Even if I talk to the press person, there is no way their liberal arts degree — complete with Rocks for Jocks (Intro to Geology), Earth Science (biology without a lab) and Lying to the Media (PR 201) — is going to be able to prepare them to answer difficult technical questions.
    In fact, the PR lackey will likely pick up the phone and ask the very same people the very same questions I would have asked in the first place. Except they will be able to filter the information.
    For example, if the architect says that incorrect ordering of product has caused unnecessary project delay, the PR person will say that materials delays have held up construction. Accurate, but misleading.
    And that's my point. The whole job of a PR person is to whitewash the information.
    Just let me talk to the coach, manager, player, engineer or whomever. I don't need you to give me permission or prevent me from asking probing questions.
    Especially where the public is concerned. Publicly held companies or traded companies, elected officials and government agencies all are answerable to the public and by extension the press. To have someone filtering information only prevents the public from getting truly accurate information.
    That's a disservice to us all.
    Phil Boyum wants it to be known he does love Georgia Southern's Marketing & Communications department and all the help they give him. He may be reached by calling his public relations agent or you can try him at (912) 489-9454.
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