By BERRY CRAIG
AFT Local 1360
If Donald Trump is the field marshal in the Republican war against the media, Matt Bevin, Kentucky’s tea party-tilting GOP governor, is at least a brigadier.
Veteran Bluegrass State journalist Al Cross unloaded on Bevin and Amanda Stamper, his communications director, in LEO Weekly, Louisville’s alternative paper that is proud to feature “colorful local commentary.”
Stamper was part of a panel arranged by the University of Kentucky’s PR office. She advised, “We don’t really find a ton of value’ in general press conferences because the governor travels the state extensively and is interviewed by ‘the newspapers that want to cover the great things that are happening,’” according to Cross, who like this old reporter, ended up in academe.
The governor’s chief flack also “refused to answer a question about Bevin’s lack of response to news media he doesn’t like,” added Cross, who for years covered politics for the Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky’s largest paper.
Cross heads UK’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. He’s also a UK journalism prof.
Bevin’s “great things” include busting unions, deep-sixing Kentucky’s successful state health care exchange under the ACA, and pushing charter schools that undermine our public school system.
Papers that pine to cover the governor’s “great things” — and commonly print, word-for-word, Stamper’s self-serving releases--tend to be smaller, rural, Republican-friendly sheets.
Also like President Trump, Bevin loves social media.
“Stamper said social media allow the governor’s office to ‘take our messages directly to the audiences we are trying to talk to, being able to break our own news, being able to control the message without having to go through the different filters that the media puts on things,’” Cross wrote.
”Later, speaking of social media platforms such as Facebook Live, she said, ‘‘There is a transparency about that.’”
LEO—short for Louisville Eccentric Observer—couldn’t resist some “colorful local commentary” in an editor’s note to Cross’s story:
“We at left-leaning, socialism-curious LEO would never expect Gov. Matt Bevin to return our calls. But apparently Bevin and his spokesperson are not answering calls or emails from any news-gathering media that they find critical. Also disturbing is that Bevin rarely holds press conferences, choosing instead to spend hours tweet-storming away and posting bumptious videos on Facebook of his alleged accomplishments. He is like President tRump’s Kentucky Mini-me. That makes us wonder: Why is Bevin so scared of the media? “
I doubt the folks at LEO are on the governor’s Christmas card list—or Trump’s.
Anyway Cross concluded with a plea: “I hope editors and reporters in all corners of the state will regard Stamper’s remarks about message control and supposed transparency as an insult to the intelligence of Kentuckians and the need for accountability in a representative democracy, and think about some accountability questions to ask the governor the next time he comes to your town.”
If editors and reporters at more than a few small-town papers—all of them non-union—heeded Cross’s call, they’d likely jeopardize their jobs. Their publisher-bosses are way cool with Bevin’s—and Trump’s—“message control.” They bash the big-city “liberal media” and its “fake news” with the same ardor the governor and the president muster.
And this old reporter would bet the farm that the small-town, rural GOP-friendly media elsewhere in the country is also all in for “message control” from the White House and Republican-run statehouses.