DISD Trustees's Magical Thinking: A PR Firm Will Make Them Look Better

Oh, goody. I see the Dallas school board has a "request for proposals" out, seeking a public relations firm to come in as a private contractor and help the public school system (meaning the school board) with its relationship with the public. That's a big idea. But they need to make sure they write that contract the right way.


The first thing, right at the top of the contract, should be a provision like this: "In exchange for several million dollars to be paid on a basis of fairly often, said contractor doth warrant, guarantee, affirm, resolve and promith that the public image of the school board in Dallas, instead of being bad all the time, will be good for a change."

Why not?

Why else would a public entity pay vast amounts of tax money to a private company to come in and manage its public image? They have an understandable and not inaccurate perception that their image sucks. They have an entirely human and forgivable wish for their image to not suck. They feel that they have tried everything else under the sun, and every day when they wake up and look in the papers or on TV they still look really, really bad. So they're ready to try magic.

It's a big move. Notice, if you will, that the Dallas City Council does not engage the services of a private public relations company to make it look better. Why? Because the council, whatever else bad we may say about it here, still has a little bit of pride. The City Council isn't ready to admit that it needs the political equivalent of plastic surgery. Plus, if the City Council hired a private p.r. company, people would laugh at the City Council.

Very few people laugh at the school board. Most people look at the school board, and it looks awful, and people feel awful. So most people think, "Go ahead, whatever, plastic surgery, trip to Neiman Marcus, medical marijuana, whatever will help ease the pain." I say most people. Yeah. With the exception of us. The damn media. The press. The problem.

I shouldn't even admit this in public, but I will because I know that every other reporter in town will have the same reaction. See, for us it's one thing when people look honestly bad. It's just how they look. It's sort of not even their fault really. It falls under the category of what it is, it is. You snap a photo, slap it up on the web, your day is done.

But when a private PR person in a conical wizard hat trots the school board out on stage all got up in embarrassing makeup and beads, and when the PR person waves a wand at us and says, "Count slowly backwards from 100, and you will see that the school board is becoming better and better looking, slowly, 88, 87, 86, now they are becoming very very beautiful. ..." You know what that is to us?

A dare. In fact it's kind of a double-dare. Well, wait. It's really a double dog dare. Here's the thing. We in the news business are not what you would call intellectuals. Waving a magic wand and telling us that the school board looks really, really good? That's kind of like running a stick down a chain-link fence between you and a pit-bull. Better hope that fence is tall enough.

And here's another secret I'll let you in on. The pit bull loves it. As he or she backs up, half sits, looks up to gauge the height of the fence while loading piston-like hind legs for the explosion, the dog is thinking, "This, my students, is about to be a lesson in the law of unintended consequences."

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