Despite Kilpatrick's Sarcastic "Thank You," We Owe Real Gratitude to Journalists

20100525124943_2010-0525-dm-kilpatrick2I saw some Twitter buzz on it this afternoon, but I guess old news practices die hard. I had to confirm it for myself. Did former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick really say a sarcastic “thank you” to my former TV news colleague, WDIV-TV reporter Kevin Dietz at the moment handcuffs were slapped on him?

Kevin answered my email right away. It’s true, he said. In the courtroom, before even acknowledging his own family, Kilpatrick tried to verbally jab Dietz (along with a strong glare), apparently blaming him for the probation violation that today led a judge to sentence the disgraced former Mayor to at least 14 months in prison. Dietz’s investigation of Kilpatrick, after a court filing showed he only had “$6 per month” to pay the City of Detroit $1 million is restitution, revealed Kilpatrick and family living a life of excessive luxury in Texas. You can see that pivotal story here.

In an age of extreme traditional media cutbacks, we should all be thankful that WDIV spent the money to send Dietz to Texas. That budgetary decision, like a series of spends the Detroit Free Press made leading up to a Pulitzer Prize for its Kilpatrick coverage, did the community a great deal of good.

Throughout Kilpatrick’s tenure as Mayor, he evaded the media while blaming the media for his problems. Obviously, that attitude persisted long beyond his term in office and lingers until today – a great day for journalism and a reminder of the important role that it plays in our democracy. This should serve notice to corporate bean counters who continue to order newsroom cuts – journalists’ jobs are unlike any others inside your organizations. While journalists may receive corporate paychecks, they also serve their communities.

As great of a day as this was for journalism, it was that ugly for PR. The Mayor’s latest in a string of unsuccessful spokespeople, the self-proclaimed “Reputation Doctor” (whose name I won’t mention in this blog as I don’t want to aid in his SEO efforts) issued a deplorable statement that I find an embarrassment to the Public Relations profession. He compared today’s sentencing to Apartheid in South Africa, playing the race card in irresponsible fashion. The Mayor once testified that he pays this so-called professional a $1 retainer. At that price, he is grossly overpaid.