Wednesday, January 10, 2007


187 Spokes-o-Mania

Recent news item: Suzanne Somers’ Malibu home was destroyed by fire, a spokesman for the former actress said.

This leads to the question “why does a FORMER actress need a spokesman?

But an even broader question is why does anyone, and are there too many.

A search of Google News on the same day showed the term “spokesman” was in more than 237,000 relatively current items, “spokeswoman” in about 100,000 others and “spokesPERSON” (a double abomination both for the term itself and what it signifies,) added another 18,000 mentions.

To be fair, a check of Yahoo News followed. The results: “Spokesman” 134,000, “Spokeswoman” 57,000 and “spokesperson” 14,000.

Assuming there is plenty of duplication between the news services, there are still more than a quarter of a million spokes-mentions in recent news items.

Contrarians in the news business tried for a time to solve the dual problems of gender neutrality and truth by labeling all of these people “publicists.” That works to a point, but only a point.

Telephone caller: “Is this the home of Bill Smithers?”

Answerer: “Yes it is.”

TC: “may I speak with him? I’m calling from the Knights of the Bulbous Tuber, we’re having a recruiting drive in the neighborhood.”

A: “I’m sorry, but Mr. Smithers unavailable right now. I’m his spokesperson. May I help you?”

TC: “I really need to speak with Mr. Smithers directly about his joining the Knights.”

A: Well, Mr. Smithers isn’t presently available. I’ll be happy to answer any questions I can, though.”

Yes, today, everyone can have a spokesman to handle the little daily annoyances that previously required personal attention.

Have your spokesman tell the IRS that you are not free to comment right now about the 30-thousand dollars in income you failed to report in 2001.

Have your spokesman tell the cop that you weren’t going 80 in a school zone at 7:30 on a weekday morning, and that you are unavailable to personally accept the ticket he’s writing.

This could get complicated, since the cop sees you behind the wheel and is talking right to you, and the dufus in the back is talking for you. If the cop isn’t thoroughly modern and up to date on his communications skills, he’s likely to call for backup and haul the both of you to the slammer.

A spokesman for Big Cow Supermarkets denies you were overcharged for scallions.

If the president has Tony Snow, why can’t you hire your own ex-fox anchorman as a spokesman?

Or woman.

Bill Smithers’ spokeswoman, Linda Vester, said Mr. Smithers was in a meeting and unavailable to attend the audit, and neither confirms nor denies any wrongdoing.

(Smithers is in high demand. The IRS wants him. The Knights of the Bulbous Tuber wants him. He’s GOT to have a spokesperson.)

Most of the time we can tell whether the publicist is male or female.

Sometimes the term “spokesperson” is used because the person doing the job is of dubious gender.

He’s Wes Richards, and his opinions are his own, but you're welcome to them, according to a spokes-being.

(c) 2007 WJR

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