The Dunleavy administration is getting some much-needed communications help with the hire of Matt Shuckerow, who’s held communications jobs in the offices of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Rep. Don Young and most recently with U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan.
Shuckerow will serve as press secretary for the administration starting on Jan. 2, 2019.
With a long history of working for Alaska’s congressional delegation, Shuckerow has developed working relationships with many of the state’s journalists that should come in handy for a governor who’s been somewhat standoffish with the media so far.
Why it matters
Nothing puts journalists (dirty bloggers included) on alert quite like an administration that appears to be hiding something whether it be intentional or a rookie mistake. We took particular issue with the administration’s failure to notify the public about or even post an administrative order that consolidated power in the administration (for the record, the idea could be a good one).
Opening up lines of communication, particularly with the more combative reporters, does a lot to at the very least take the edge off potentially bad press or unfavorable coverage. It’s more difficult to be nasty when you’ve had a conversation with someone.
Skepticism in both directions is healthy, but it can get you into trouble.
Take the story that led to the 2017 stairwell slap delivered by Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, to then-Alaska Dispatch News reporter Nat Herz for example.
The original story by Herz examined a bill by Wilson that would have cut most state grants to Mat-Su social-service groups (but happened to leave his former employer unaffected). Wilson refused to comment on the original story, leading to a story that essentially left the whole thing looking shady.
Wilson felt that the coverage, which he refused to offer any input on, was unfair enough that he felt it fair to slap the reporter. He should have been slapping himself.
You want to know how he could’ve likely avoided the whole thing? Invite Herz for a sit-down with the staffer who’s running the bill, give him all the boring details of the legislation and explain why the bill does what it does (unless, of course, you don’t have a good answer to why your bill has preferential treatment for your former employer and then, perhaps, you shouldn’t be running it in the first place).