Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Saying "spin" in class will cost you $1 for the beer fund

The word "spin" from politics and public relations has not been my favorite term. In my graduate classes I suggest that the use of the word requires a $1 contribution to the "beer fund". The word does require explanation to my new Chinese and international students. The word has ethical and legal implications. It also contradicts the newer notion of transparency where organizations and individuals are more open about their values, background, policies and actions. The term suggests that the role of public relations and communications is to deflect, distract or otherwise mislead the reader or listener with messages that obscure the truth. However, this note from a political friend on the "other side of the aisle" is too funny not to share. I can't vouch for its precise validity but it rings true. If you want to have an intellectual discussion about it we might be stretching it's value, but here is a "spin".

"This is how you learn to spin things when you are in Washington .
It just all depends on how you look at some things...

Judy Wallman, a professional genealogy researcher in southern California, was doing some personal work on her own family tree. She discovered that Congressman Harry Reid's great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. Both Judy and Harry Reid share this common ancestor.

The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows in Montana territory:

On the back of the picture Judy obtained during her research is this inscription: 'Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.'

So Judy recently e-mailed Congressman Harry Reid for information about their great-great uncle.
Harry Reid:

Believe it or not, Harry Reid's staff sent back the following biographical sketch for her genealogy research:

"Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory . His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed."

1 comment:

Marc Jordan Paxton said...

My boss had a similar thing when I worked in a mail room; for every minute an employee was late for work, they had to put a quarter in a jar we all called "The Pizza Fund." The boss used the money to pay for pizzas at staff meetings.

Everyone was late occasionally, but yours truly was late by AT LEAST one minute every day. It got to the point where I was putting in a couple of dollars every week. Eventually, the jar was overflowing every time staff meeting came around; fortunately, that was only once a year!

When I graduated from BYU, I left the mail room a gift: a new pizza fund jar. It was twice as big, and had a really nice label on it that read: "Marc Paxton Memorial Late Jar." People thought it was funny then, but all the current employees think it's weird to have a pizza jar to honor a dead employee!