A Day in the Life of a Journalist in Washington, D.C.: Why I think the PR industry are the equivalent of Cold War era Soviet apparatchiks’
By Nate Thayer
August 20, 2014
“Yes, I guess my real question is why, while trying to get a hold of an obscure economist who specializes on Caribbean issues on your staff at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, I have just spent 45 minutes calling more than a dozen human beings–more than half your employees–at your Washington-based think tank, which lists 21 people on staff (each with personal phone extension numbers), a telephone number for the “operator” for ‘general inquiries; two numbers for media inquiries–one for ‘domestic communications director” and another for an “international communications director and even a “development director” whose job is to take cash “donations”, all purportedly working from physical offices in the tony high rent district of Connecticut avenue in Northwest Washington, and I can’t get a hold of a fucking human being to talk to. You really are not that important to me, but my name is Nate Thayer. I am a journalist My number is 443 205 9162. I am trying to speak with Jake Johnson. Call me.”–phone voice mail I just left at the the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington think tank established in 1999 “in order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy” and “committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner” because citizens “should be informed about the problems and choices that they face.”
I just spent the last 45 minutes trying to talk to a human being in Washington, D.C. The proverbial ‘they’ make this aim very difficult to achieve, for no good reason.
This entire town seems populated by a cabal of perky young public relations minions–who comprise a metastasized tumor whose job is to play interference and manipulate and control how and what information reaches the public.
80% of the funding of The Center for Economic and Policy Research comes from foundations , which in 2013-14 included the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP); the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE); the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); Annie E. Casey Foundation; Arca Foundation; Atlantic Philanthropies; Bauman Family Foundation; Ford Foundation; International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; Moriah Foundation; National Association of Letter Carriers; National Education Association; George Soro’s Open Society Foundation; Public Welfare Foundation; Rauch Foundation; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Rockerfeller (sic) Family Fund; Russell Sage Foundation; Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Sloan Foundation; Streisand Foundation; Tides Foundation; and the United Steelworkers
The Center for Economic and Policy Research cites its “excellent track record for efficient use of donor funds” citing its own “in-house analysis” of the 25 most-cited think tanks in the nation, where “CEPR was again the most cost-effective, ranking first in media citations per budget dollar for the fifth time in a row. CEPR also ranked first in web traffic per budget dollar.”
Here is some unsolicited advice: Why don’t you consider taking a sliver of that multi-million dollar budget and hire an actual human being to answer the damn telephone on a late morning on a Wednesday, in the middle of the work week?
You might pay chunk of your change to a PR consultant, who I am confident will conclude it would benefit your larger strategy to remain relevant if there was some indication that you actually existed to random inquiries from the average Joe who isn’t in your irrelevant and pompous “inside the beltway loop” and to whom you haven’t awarded the debatable privilege of having personally bestowed your personal cell phone number upon.
OK. Rant over. Now I feel better.
Back to work for me.