Big Flack Attack

Hank Brown sidelines CU's public-relations team.

According to Gomez, the contents of that report didn't deserve to get lost in one more PR debacle. "I think it's the road map, the key to the future at CU," he stressed. "I hope they look very carefully at the strategy we developed and give it the highest priority."

But that seems unlikely.

With Hesse, co-author of the report, sitting across the room from him, Brown said he hadn't read the plan yet, and while he'd like to do so someday, "my sense is that even the best folks in public affairs cannot change the reality, and that our problem was in the reality of what was going on, not in the way it was packaged. That doesn't mean better packaging isn't important, but the substance is our major challenge."

To that end, CU must establish a reputation with the media for being "open, accessible and accountable," Brown continued. "It's basically a way of changing our thinking, so that instead of responding to what reporters ask for in an open-records request, we try to provide the information they want, as well as people to help interpret it. With that mindset, we can run the university in a truly open, transparent manner, not just comply with the law."

And if more bad news comes down the pike? Rather than catalogue CU's calamities, as Gomez and Hesse did, Brown prefers to concentrate on turning the university into a no-whining zone. "We can lament the fact that so much attention has been given to our shortcomings and so little attention to the wonderful things that continue to happen on our campus," he said. "But that's what a free and open society is all about. The strategy on our part is to be open about those shortcomings, address them where we can and move on, knowing that coverage and attention to our accomplishments and our pluses will come. They may not be on the front burner, or the front page, but they'll come."

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