EDITORIAL: Media pays PR a compliment by asking why HealthSouth employed Hervey to begin with

Even The Wall Street Journal could not resist gleefully exposing the background of HealthSouth's head of marketing and PR. Jason Hervey, former child star of The Wonder Years, was elevated to the post of head of marketing and PR by the company's celebrity-obsessed CEO, with credentials seemingly no more compelling than familiarity with the media.

Even The Wall Street Journal could not resist gleefully exposing the background of HealthSouth's head of marketing and PR. Jason Hervey, former child star of The Wonder Years, was elevated to the post of head of marketing and PR by the company's celebrity-obsessed CEO, with credentials seemingly no more compelling than familiarity with the media.

His comfort level with the glare of the cameras may come in handy now. He and his former employers will face more of a media frenzy than they ever imagined, as details continue to emerge about the company and its allegedly fraudulent management team. Meanwhile, the PR industry now faces an embarrassing example of a high-level practitioner's spectacular demise. In some ways, the profession was left remarkably unscathed by the myriad corporate scandals that tarnished the images of everyone from CEOs and financial analysts to the media that aggrandized them. It's hard to say whether Hervey is facing increased scrutiny because of his "celebrity." But the Journal was clearly rolling its collective eyes over his senior role at the company, given his complete lack of experience and training. In fact, according to the paper, Hervey was seen as little more than the CEO's "sidekick." Access to the C-suite may be a highly sought-after position for corporate communicators, but it is doubtful that there was much strategic counsel being offered in those face-to-face meetings. Communicators should be encouraged by the tone of the Hervey coverage. Few, particularly those in the media, seem to understand the capabilities and responsibilities of professionals heading up corporate communications teams. The Journal, in particular, has a tiresome habit of relying on the most hackneyed terminology to define the PR industry, with words like "spin-doctor" popping up in the most inappropriate context. But the paper played it straight with the Hervey piece - questioning the wisdom of a company that would hire someone like him to take on this crucial and public function. True, Hervey would still be employed had HealthSouth not hit an iceberg. But the business media clearly knows the difference between an appropriate PR executive and an inexplicable hire. 'Flack' hubbub prompts healthy discussion Speaking of hackneyed terminology, we allowed a couple of "flacks" into our coverage during the past month, prompting criticism from readers who believe the word belittles and undermines the entire profession, especially when it appears in the pages of an industry journal. For the record, in both cases the word was used by PR professionals - our Hollywood columnist Lawrence Mitchell Garrison, and Jim McCarthy, who was the subject of our March 17 profile. The latter also used the word as a verb rather than a noun, sparking a small conjugational debate (i.e. What is the past tense of "to flack"?). The sensitivities connected with the word are understandable, and we do not take the decision over "to flack or not to flack" lightly. But especially in the case of McCarthy, where it is a direct quote, we are reluctant to change it. However, words are powerful, and we appreciate the reminder.

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