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The Messsge

PR 101

In Gomez's view, shooting straight is the best way to alter the media's preconceptions about CU. Still, the university continues to send out mixed signals, as I learned this spring when I attempted to follow up on a column about CU professor Adrienne Anderson, who was told in February that her classes had been stricken from next year's schedule. After Anderson appealed this move in March, I contacted CU spokeswoman Pauline Hale and asked that she share the final decision in early May, when it was anticipated. She said she'd do so, but after I contacted her numerous times over several weeks, she finally wrote in a May 19 e-mail that she'd "recently been advised that the results of Adrienne Anderson's appeal would constitute a Œpersonnel matter' and therefore we will not be able to release information about it." To complicate matters further, Anderson won't divulge the fate of her appeal, either.

Is this an example of CU's new commitment to openness? Gomez won't comment on the exchange specifically, since Hale "doesn't work for me," but in general, he says, "we need to be much more forthcoming, and when we commit to getting a reporter information by a certain time, we ought to do that." By handling things "more quickly, more openly, and facilitating rather than barricading the information flow to the media," he believes that the university can re-establish an atmosphere of trust with the press.

The Camera contretemps hasn't helped matters. Scribe Elizabeth Mattern Clark, who covered the regents get-together at which the draft report was distributed, asked CU for a copy, but Gomez, who wasn't thrilled with Clark's story about the meeting, felt she should be given a "cleaned-up version" of the document, sans the introduction and summary. In a June 8 e-mail to Hesse discussing this strategy, he added, "As we saw last weekend, this reporter isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, so I agree with your recommendation yesterday that we walk her through this." Hesse then accidentally forwarded this exchange to Clark, and when she let him know what he'd done, he initially claimed the reporter in question wasn't her. For his part, Gomez says he learned what happened about an hour later and, "I called her immediately and said, ŒI understand there's some doubt about who it was about. The subject of the e-mail is you, and I want to apologize for having said that.'"

Ray Gomez wants to help CU take its foot out of its 
mouth.
Anthony Camera
Ray Gomez wants to help CU take its foot out of its mouth.

This "I'm sorry" didn't squelch the matter. The Camera detailed the incident in a June 9 article that spread from coast to coast after being linked on the nation's most widely read journalism website, found at www.Poynter.org, as well as in a column by the Camera's Clint Talbott (he railed about "lies and censorship") and another by editor Sue Deans (she called Gomez and Hesse "clowns"). Gomez isn't complaining, though. "I pretty much deserve everything I get," he says, "because it flies so counter to what we're trying to accomplish. All we can do now is to try and show our good intent."

In other words, he's going back to the PR rulebook. Better late than never.

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