For years, and with mixed results, reporters trying to make their stories relevant to average readers have struggled -- sometimes as a result of news-chain editorial edict -- to get "real people" into their stories.
Public relations firms long ago realized that they could capitalize on this trend -- and improve the length and "play" of stories they're pitching -- by having a few real-people on hand for reporters to call on their issue. In many cases, press releases today come with handy lists of (carefully vetted and often coached) real people to call and weigh in the matter. They're often photogenic or have particularly heart-rending tales.
Now comes a new trend, it seems. Some Washington lawmakers are issuing state-paid press releases that not only quote themselves, but also their friends -- while mentioning those folks' businesses.
Rep. John Ahern's press release (see post below), for example, not only has him weighing in on the budget. It's also got "Diana Wilhite, owner of Safeguard Business Printing and Promotional Products, and Mayor of Spokane Valley" expressing her concerns about unfunded mandates.
And there's Curt Fackler, owner of U.S. Tax Credits (and Spokane County GOP chairman), questioning the priorities of the House budget. And Robin Ball, owner of the Sharp Shooting Indor Range and Gun Shop -- and former Spokane County GOP chairwoman -- joining Ahern in slamming Democrats.
Ahern's not unique in this new strategy. Yakima-area GOP Reps. Mary Skinner and Charles Ross also sent out a budget critique that incorporates local citizens who sound a lot like lawmakers already:
"Only government would get an 18 percent increase in its budget and still complain," added H.E. `Jerry' Maggard, owner/broker of Advanced Real Estate in Yakima.
"Skinner and Ross said they're also concerned that the budget spends $2.2 billion on new policy additions, while Democrats do little to address public safety. It's a concern echoed by Jar Arcand, owner of Santiago's Gourmet Mexican Restaurant in Yakima."