The thing about newspaper journalism is, we have to have labels for people. It’s just how it’s done. Laura Miller’s label used to be “Dallas Observer columnist.” Then it was “former journalist and city council member.” For a long time it was “Dallas mayor.” Up until recently she was “former Dallas mayor.” But it’s always gotta be something.
In a missive to Unfair Park earlier this week, she went on a bit about what her duties will entail at the coal company, in order to show that she will not be doing PR or lobbying. She said she will “find off-takers for the plant's byproducts” and “get the permit applications for the power plant and the carbon sequestration through the process, and obtain standard business incentives.”
The other thing about newspaper work, we have to figure out what people mean.
Because of where I grew up in the Detroit area, I figured off-takers were sons of bitches. I know how I’d feel if they off-took my damn stuff. But then I figured out she was talking about something else.
Some Unfair Park readers have pointed out that the stuff she says she will be doing for the coal people sure sounds like PR and lobbying. But she says absolutely not and we are not to label her that way.
She sent me an e-mail yesterday in which she said:
“We are still putting the final details together on the plant -- funding, location, etc. When we have a fully formed project and are ready to go public with it, we will, of course, need to start getting in touch with state legislators in the areas that are affected. I will be reviewing the state lobbying rules and registering the company for that once we figure out who is going to be responsible for what aspect of the project.”
So, anyway, here’s my dilemma. I am asking for help from the Friends of Unfair Park. If one-time Dallas Observer columnist, former Dallas city council-member and recent Dallas mayor Laura Miller cannot be labeled now as coal company publicist Laura Miller or coal lobbyist Laura Miller, then what the hell can we label her as?
Is she “off-taker-finder Laura Miller?” I don’t think that label works. I’ve never seen it.
Sequestration processor Laura Miller? Just as bad. Lobbying rule reviewer? Look, I’m sorry, but she’s gotta have a label, or we can’t work the deal here.
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Coal company executive? But she says she’s not on their pay-roll. How about gasification consultant? Sounds too redundant. Coal consultant Laura Miller? Coal person?
I have another question. I didn’t remember that people actually got to pick their own labels. Is that a rule just for Laura Miller? If we all get to pick our own, then I want my label to be “Rockefeller heir.” Or, in a longer reference, “Rockefeller heir and excellent credit risk even without collateral” Jim Schutze. But I don’t believe we all do get to pick our own labels. Just Laura.
What happens to us if we call her a flak? I always liked the term, “fixer.” Maybe a combo. Coal company fixer and flak, Laura Miller.
Wilonsky, you’ll protect me on this, right? I haven’t had a chance to bait Laura in a long time, but it still has the same effect on me: extreme exhilaration, followed by stomach cramps. --Jim Schutze