Publishing the other F-word

The Boston Globe and the Washington Post have committed the media unthinkable: They called a flack — journalists’ uncomplimentary moniker for a politician’s or company’s public relations hustler — a flack. In print! As we noted in our Journalese Dictionary definition of flack: “Never used in a story, however. Disrespecting a flack in print or on the air doesn’t win drinks at the press club bar.”

The journalism law-busting usage in the story published in the Globe March 6, 2022, below, is a half-truth: It’s about a career State Department official, named as a flack, being replaced by a real political flack, who is not identified as a flack, but as a “political communications specialist.”

“Security Council flack leaving post

“The spokeswoman for the National Security Council is leaving the White House after a year of handling communications during a string of turbulent geopolitical events, including the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 variants, and responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Emily Horne, a former career State Department official, will be replaced on March 25 by Adrienne Watson, a political communications specialist who worked for more than four years at the Democratic National Committee. Watson joined the National Security Council last year as the administration fended off a wave of criticism for the withdrawal from Afghanistan. (Washington Post.)”

File under: A flack is not a flack when he or she is a friend or a source.

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