Blog: The Gatekeepers

By Tom Garrity


Before venturing into the world of public relations and public information, I had an opportunity to be a part of the news media.  This included work in a number of print, radio and television newsrooms located in Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Billings, Miami and Albuquerque.

During my time as a reporter, there were many gatekeepers, or public information officers (PIOs), who tried to handle and intimidate me, dodge questions and answer questions I didn’t even ask.  A leader of a doomsday cult called our media gaggle “Agents of the Dark Central Sun.”  In separate events, I led a media pursuit of a uniformed Sheriff (emerging after a consecutive grand jury proceeding) and jailed by an undersheriff who didn’t like the tone of my story. 

In fairness, there were also a number of PIO’s who understood the role as gatekeeper.  Anne Monson with Lovelace Health, Rigo Chavez with Albuquerque Public Schools and Richard Draper with Intel (all back in the day).

John McKean was a solid PIO. A press secretary for Governor Bruce King, his effectiveness was related to proximity.  He was at the table, providing insight to policy and issues.  That provided context and insight on how to present complex issues to reporters.

The PIO’s role is one that demands trust with his “client” and credibility with the “public.” The Santa Fe New Mexican did a good job illustrating that unique balance in their June 2024 series: Government Gatekeepers.  The stories and editorial provide good insights to the conflict and professionalism of the PIO.

Santa Fe New Mexican – Government gatekeepers series

June 23, 2024 – Ensuring public’s trust’: APD spokesman helped shift communications By Gabrielle Porter

June 24, 2024 – Government gatekeepers: PIOs often more beholden to bosses than the public by Daniel J. Chacón

June 24, 2024 – Government gatekeepers: Santa Fe struggles with revolving door of PIOs By Carina Julig and Nicholas Gilmore

June 24, 2024 – What government spokespeople earn

June 25, 2024 – Our View: So why aren’t communicators communicating?

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