There’s a rule of thumb in the communications business, particularly when a communications professional has to deal with requests from reporters—you restrain your frustration even when you might think the reporter is asking an idiotic question. Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Communication Director Colleen Flanagan would be wise to follow this generally recognized approach.
Flanagan has apparently been besieged by reporters asking her about Malloy’s boat, anchored in Stamford, and the fact that it has to be moved by month’s end. It seems a Wall Street Journal reporter’s question about it was the last straw for Flanagan. WSJ reporter Shelly Banjo received an emailed response from Flanagan that read, “Seriously?! The fact that he has 11 days to get his boat out of a yard is news? 11 days from now there will have been legislative hearings, a special session, Halloween, a trip to DC to talk about Paid Sick Leave and the official raising of the Russian flag over the CT State Capitol, all of which strike me as more newsworthy than this.” She may very well be right. But the governor’s spokeswoman doesn’t get to tell reporters what to ask. Media outlets have a funny habit of deciding for themselves what is news and what questions they will ask.
It’s also possibly true that Flanagan isn’t to blame. Her boss, chief strategist and chief spokesman Roy Occhiogrosso, told me that not only is he OK with a response like Flanagan’s but that he encouraged it and is happy it wound up print. Wow. There is a certain arrogance, just under the surface, in the Malloy administration (and as anyone who reads The Hanging Shad knows, I’m a supporter). In this case, it’s bubbled to the surface. Emailing a response to a reporter that starts, “Seriously?…” immediately implies, “You idiot. You don’t even know what’s news!” And remember, this isn’t the Brookfield Blabber or the Portland Penny Saver. It’s the Wall Street Journal. I’m not aware that either Flanagan or Occhiogrosso has ever worked as a journalist at any meaningful level—maybe that’s the problem.
Flanagan is a smart, accomplished and energetic communications professional. I know. I hired her as a press aide in the state Senate Democratic Caucus. She’d be wise not to take Occhiogrosso’s advice on this one. Arrogance and condescension can be your downfall.