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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Friday, February 3

Housing Authority public relations follow-up

I received a response to my queries as to whether the PR firm had been let go, as was alleged in an anonymous comment on my blog post Thursday.

Here it is in its entirety from Eric Wohlleber, VP of Gramercy Communications:

“Not sure about a rumor, but I can tell you that our engagement does end on Sunday. Our work was limited in time and focused on responding to a large volume of media inquiries and assisting with the dissemination of information to the public. I would like to add that our job was never to ‘spin’ information, and any suggestion otherwise is an insult to a profession we take very seriously. Our company has a long track record of success and is well regarded for our professionalism and our many community works.”

As for the insults he takes exception to, that had me a little confused at first. That is until I received a "friendly" call from Wohlleber yesterday. He was responding to my calling him a "flack" in a blog post yesterday.

We had a "lively debate" to quote Dennis Brunelle when he described the Housing Authority's public meeting last month in which residents shouted about not being able to speak.

Now first off, a flack is, to quote (which I also quoted to him):
noun Sometimes Disparaging.
1. press agent.
2. publicity.
verb (used without object)
3. to serve as a press agent or publicist: to flack for a new rock group.
4. to promote; publicize: to flack a new record.

Not to be confused with:
1. antiaircraft fire, especially as experienced by the crews of combat airplanes at which the fire is directed.
2. criticism; hostile reaction; abuse: Such an unpopular decision is bound to draw a lot of flak from the press.

Ok, so I admit it does say "sometimes disparaging," but the post was about him not releasing information as a public relations person.

He was pretty adamant that Gramercy was only on board to dispense information to the public and to help out the Housing Authority that was inundated by calls.

Of course, I reminded him the one thing he wouldn't release was how much he was being paid with public funds, i.e. taxpayer money.

He said the information would be "forthcoming" or would come "in due time" or something to that effect. I said I "eagerly await it."

Then he called into question my journalistic integrity for following up on "anonymous blog posts" which he found — as a former reporter — somehow insulting to the profession. I asked if he had ever responded to anonymous phone calls (you know, doing due diligence as a reporter?) he said he did, but he found that to be different in some way than following up on comments.

I don't know about when he was a reporter, but the internet is here now.

On an unrelated (or possibly related) note, Ed Spychalski responded to my FOIL regarding Gramercy's contract very quickly saying he will get the info to us Monday or Tuesday (and added "Go Giants," so his heart is in the right place).

So we'll get the info after Gramercy stops working with the Housing Authority. If it had come out in the first place, of course, it probably would have just been a line in the original story they were introduced in. Of course now it will likely be a story Tuesday or Wednesday.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, am a journalist. Similar to Mr. Wohlleber, I find that your style lacks professionalism and integrity. As a journalist, my job is not to blog on the internet about a confrontation that I may have with a Public Relations representative. I have the professionalism that you are in such dire need of; for example, if I were to have such a confrontation with someone like the Vice President of a Public Relations firm, I would not post it on my blog (which I wouldn't have to begin with since that's the lowliest form of journalism) because this need not be broadcasted to the public. It does not further your story or serve any purpose other than to portray you as someone who takes pride in writing as a glorified blogger.

What did you achieve? You projected yourself as an arrogant and combative person who sought to belittle a man who is just trying to do his job (I must add that his professional style far surpasses your own). You're voicing an opinion that SHOULD be in relation to the current situation with the Housing Authority-- it's main focus should not be upon a PR representative. But this should be expected of you since it only adds to your office's continuous trend of attacking every source possible (even those without any worthwhile connections to the basis of your story) in an effort to dramatize your series on the Housing Authority. Barbara and yourself clearly did not foresee that this would distort the very essence of your paper. With your expertise, the Saratogian reads more like a gossip tabloid than a respectable newspaper.

I commend you for citing, since your citation and the definition that you provided were some of the only factual, valid, and believable segments of writing that I have read from you thus far.

As a reporter, you have the power to use the internet to distribute your work in a more efficient manner. But please enlighten me, since I, along with Mr. Wohlleber, am apparently ignorant because I cannot figure out what you're reporting on in this expert blog post? Are you reporting that you consulted the dictionary to disprove a PR representative?

If so, well done.

February 3, 2012 at 1:00 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucian -

You are a nice man. Your method of letting this PR Flack speak for himself is most likely the best way to allow him to shoot himself in the foot.

But you know, this is crazy. Not only does this PR flack cry that you called him a flack (or a hack). Then he insults the newspaper of Saratoga by providing updates most likely first to the TU (letters to the Mayor). I have nothing against the TU - the TU may help this PR company the best (being an Albany based company). In my opinion for the Saratoga housing authority the press should go to the Saratogian first or even better if it goes to all media at the same time (so they are not playing favorites). The TU is a great paper but the local hometown newspaper of record for Saratoga is the Saratogian. All the PR has company has done is invite another Barbara L. editorial. (Nice job taking care of your client!)

Be a corporate citizen Gramercy - take the hit - come out with your pay - and remember that this pay is not helping with the bed bugs or helping disadvantage people get shelter.

I think many if not most would find Gramercy approach to public relations shameful. I doubt you would find Lewi Associates acting in this manner. Behan Communications certainly would not have their clients if they acted in this way. How about Shorey PR. It would be interesting if the Saratogian put together a number of PR professionals and maybe some academics and talk about how public agencies can handle the public relations of these situations. I doubt many would say that Gramercy did a good job. (Now that would be an enterprise story.)

Bottom line Gramercy put on your mature pants, stop picking fights with reporters and start helping the situation. You are either hurting or helping. My impression is that acting like a bedbug - sucking the blood and money out of the housing authority. I think the best public relations approach for the housing authority is an integrated pest management program.

February 3, 2012 at 2:14 PM 
Blogger Lucian said...

In response to the second anonymous post, I will say Mr. Wohlleber did deliver the letters both the The Saratogian and the TU at the same time, I just didn't get to it as quickly (I was working on a follow-up to SEMS coverage that will be in Sunday's paper). Further, he answered a couple of questions I had about the letters cordially.

February 3, 2012 at 5:36 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like Lucian is a small town reporter trying to handle a big town story and is getting in over his head. First he is mad at the housing authority, then the PR forks helping them out and now there is a conspiracy with the TU and "those big city papers." Sounds like he doesn't ever want to work for a real newspaper or in PR either.

February 3, 2012 at 8:23 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to work for Shorey PR, does the reporter know his facts? That firm does not exist anymore. His rant sounds like a Saratoga vs. Albany issue?

February 3, 2012 at 8:31 PM 
Anonymous Saratoga Emergency Corps said...

Hey Lucian, can you give me some info you your SEMS comment. You said you were working on something relating to them. I can't get a hold of anyone at SEMS to help me with a personal request as the grandchild of SEMS founders. Feel free to e-mail me Lucian.

February 3, 2012 at 11:16 PM 
Anonymous Milhouse said...

Lucian - Great work. Your job is not to make the PR guy look nice; your job is to cut through his spin. He wil deny to this grave that he's spinning anything, but he gets paid to distract from the ugly side of his client's actions. Keep up the good work.

February 4, 2012 at 9:43 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Increasingly believe that the mayor's office owes some political allegiance to the SSHA.

The Authority's By-laws, adopted in 2009, when the current administration was in power clearly give the mayor the power to remove board members for cause. Cause is defined in the By-laws (Article II, Sec. 3. The same By-laws state the SSHA is under the auspices of the mayor. Also that the Authority must comply with the State law. Yet the Authority chairman says that the State law does not apply.

Perhaps a story on what is in the By-laws may be helpful to your readers.

February 4, 2012 at 11:52 AM 
Blogger Lucian said...

Saratoga Emergency Corps, I haven't had any calls returned from SEMS so I can't give you any information about that. Sorry.

February 4, 2012 at 5:47 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This situation ,the bedbug infestation, how it was mishandled by the Exec.
director(don't you just love that title} and the
board of
comissioners {not to be confused with the City Council} another high sounding ineffectual group, has all the earmarks of the Raucci abuse scandal in Schenectady. Remember that guy strongarmed school employees and the school board and Supt. looked the other way. Finally Raucci was jailed. Now we have a bunch of misguided apologists trying to cover for Spychalski and themselves,puffed up with self importance as they are. Keep the pressure on Lucian and maybe the Mayor will wake up.

February 11, 2012 at 8:35 AM 

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