Gerth, Cross and Ellis – Not men in my grandfather’s eyes
By JEFF JOBE
It seems Joseph Gerth, a liberal political commentator for the Louisville Courier-Journal is taking bullying of government workers to a new level.
He used his assigned space in the Courier-Journal to attack a young woman who works for Governor Matt Bevin. Apparently he and a few of his fellow CJ employees and other like-minded liberal writers are upset that Amanda Stamper will not take their calls or respond to their questions.
He suggested the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists do away with the Jennifer Schaaf Award and instead create an Amanda Stamper Award.
The Jennifer Schaaf Award is presented in honor of Jennifer Schaaf who was a state government spokeswoman who died in 1999. The award honors a recipient for excellence in communications while the suggested Amanda Stamper Award would be for someone who just doesn’t want to communicate.
Gerth’s attack on Stamper isn’t her first in print and certainly not in person. In April, another Republican nemesis, CJ columnist and University of Kentucky Rural Journalism Professor Al Cross detailed his account of a panel in which Stamper sat on at the university. Cross wrote that an exception was made for him to ask a question from the audience only after he stood and asked why none were taken. He asked why the large number of readers of The Courier-Journal, the Herald-Leader, and the Community Newspaper Holdings newspapers (Glasgow Daily Times), were not permitted to hear from the governor’s office because she wouldn’t show those reporters the courtesy of responding to their inquiries.
Stamper replied to Cross that she was there to discuss issues and answer questions from students and that is all what she will do.
A panelist sitting beside Stamper, Jerry Grasso, the VP of Corporate Communications at Lexmark and Chief Marketing Officer at the time, felt Cross was so angry and aggressive towards Stamper that he walked her to her car following the event. He wrote on his social media and on the commentary Cross shared with the Kentucky Press Association, “I was on the panel, sitting next to Amanda, participating in the discussion. Let me tell you this reporter was a bull in a china shop. He DID NOT act in a courteous, or professional, manner when addressing Carl or Amanda. Al was gruff, rude and actually yelled at Amanda.” He detailed that Cross was attempting to ‘snow’ readers because the discussion at UK was about the changing nature of public relations and the totality of the panelists agreed to the importance of the media in our message delivery and Amanda addressed the multiple ways that her team reaches Kentuckians, including talking to reporters on radio media tours, in market….
I have written before and referenced numerous other community newspaper owners, publishers, and editors who have not only Amanda’s business hours contact but after-hours phone number as well.
Grasso wrote that after Cross’s diatribe you could have heard a pin drop and he filled the void by asking him if he wanted to berate anyone else on the panel other than Amanda?
He wrote that because Cross’s body language and actions seemed so aggressive towards Stamper that, “I walked out with her standing between him and her…and I’m not the guy you want as your bodyguard, all 5’7” and overweight fella that I am. Yea, it was that bad readers.” And added, “I’m a Democrat, so I am not politically motivated.”
Cross tried to influence other press members to be tough on Stamper in his column just as Gerth did regarding the journalists’ society.
I agree with Gerth – there does need to be a new award and the Amanda Stamper honor has a nice ring to it but she isn’t the first communications person for a Republican to be bullied in this manner.
Heck, it is a reality that behind the scenes anger, verbal attacks, screaming, spitting, profanity and down-right aggression has become an expected response for Republicans from the Frankfort Bureau Reporters.
I found this week an example dating back to Carla Blanton and Governor Ernie Fletcher’s administration. Apparently, she found herself up against a wall in the capital press room by a group of male Frankfort Bureau Reporters and questioned, yelled at to the point of tears.
Another when former Governor Bevin Communications Director Jessica Ditto was chased, screamed at, and called a liar numerous times by CNHI Frankfort Reporter Ronnie Ellis.
With all the front page news of how women being disrespected regarding sexual harassment in government someone might want to stand up for these ladies regarding workplace bullying. Honoring one of them by the Journalism society might be a nice start.
I have tried to help both Ditto and Stamper reach out to other reporters in these companies by going around these aggressive individuals with no luck. Seems these out of state corporate-owned newspapers have only one person assigned to cover Frankfort news and too bad if it just happens to be a bully.
Of course, she doesn’t want to speak to these kind of men, and why would Governor Bevin subject himself or his staff to it?
My grandfather, Joseph Miller, shared with me as a young man, “son, any man who picks on a woman isn’t a man!”
Jeff Jobe is founder and CEO of Jobe Publishing, Inc. His commentary reflects his personal views and does not reflect the views of personal or professional associations and affiliations. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his previously published commentary at www.jobeforkentucky.com
As I told another journalist who considered publishing Jerry Grasso’s account, and wisely chose not to do so, it is false and defamatory. He and Ms. Stamper seem to be unfamiliar with tough questions, and with the responsibility of public officials to be responsive to the public and the news media. Here’s what happened at the UK event:
When moderator Carl Nathe announced that time was up and panelists could answer audience members’ questions one-on-one, and the panelists began to rise, I rose from my front-row seat, walked toward Carl and asked, “Carl how come no questions from the audience for the public? I mean, I’ve got a question I’d like to address to members of the panel.” He said “We can make an exception,” and handed me the microphone. Here’s what I said, first addressing the audience and then Stamper:
“As some of you probably know I wrote a column recently which questioned the governor’s lack of press conferences and his apparent policy of not responding to media outlets that he does not favor. And I can understand, Amanda, your wish to have things covered that you want covered, but you and the governor are public employees, and the media outlets that you’re not responding to have a significant circulation. I think Lisa [Deffendall of Fayette County Public Schools, a panel member] at one point said you want to get your message out to people in the form that they’d like to receive [it]. There are a lot of people who read The Courier-Journal, the Herald-Leader, the Community Newspaper Holdings newspapers, who would like to hear a response from the governor’s office. And yet you won’t even show those reporters the courtesy of responding to their inquiries. Why?”
Amanda replied, “So, we are here tonight to talk to the students and answer their questions, so I will, um, take the chance to not answer that question.” I replied, “I find that completely offensive for a person in a public position.” At no time was there any yelling. Grasso asked if I wanted others to respond. I said “Feel free,” but no one did, and that ended the event.
Afterward, Herald-Leader reporter Daniel Desrochers, who is doing a story on Bevin’s media strategy, tried to question Stamper and she wouldn’t answer his questions. He told me earlier that the governor’s office communicates with him only when they’re unhappy with him.
I got a text from businessman Alan Stein, who was in the audience. He wrote, “Bravo. Thanks for asking the question we all wanted to be answered.”