Our jaws dropped when news of Linda Turley's new gig broke. She's leaving an anchor job at Channel 5 to become head information wonk for Maricopa County. Salary: $72,000. This coming during a time in which our county government supposedly is broke and basic services to young, old and poor people are in peril.

Why, we wondered, did the county's honchos feel compelled to hire this longtime news reader? And why weren't we asked to apply?

Then we got to thinking about all the local folks we know who have made the leap from watchdog to showdog--from the newsroom to the highest stations of corporate or governmental power.

You know them as press secretaries, public information officers and "spokespersons." We know them as flacks.

To catalogue the traitors among us, we asked each a series of questions and scrawled down their replies--then added some of our own spin to the spin doctors' own bleatings.

After a few calls, it became depressingly obvious that almost every one of these people is happier than we are. Though few of these spinners distinguished themselves during their days in the media, they've found themselves a damned niche--and, in most cases, healthier paychecks--and they just love it!

Fifteen of the 19 flacks we contacted eagerly shared their thoughts with us, though a few were shy about saying how much they make/earn/collect for doing whatever it is they do with their days.

Steve Tseffos was one of the four who declined this rare opportunity to gab about themselves instead of their masters. We placed a call to Tseffos--publicist for radio personality and Arizona attorney general Grant Woods--at 3:12 p.m. on November 19. Haven't heard back yet from the diminutive shill.

Hot dog!
Now, to the dark side!

Flack: Lisa Allen.
Place of flackery: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Official euphemism for "flack": Public Information Officer.
Flack's boss: Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Time in: Four months.
Job description: Dealing blackjack at the jail guards' annual Vegas night.

Average media calls per day: "Sometimes, it's one call after another; other times, it's not."

Preflack job: Part-time reporter for KTSP, Channel 10.
Flack salary: About $40,000, "and I'm on call 24 hours a day."
Preflack salary: "Put it like this: I wasn't getting rich working part-time."
Memorable spin job: Anytime Arpaio speaks.

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: "One door closed and one door opened. I always loved cop reporting, and this job fell right into place."

Dumbest question from former colleague: "This guy always hits me with the question, 'How could your agency have prevented such a tragedy?' Say what? I mean, someone shot his girlfriend or something like that."

Call-return: One hour, 12 minutes.

Flack: Mike Arra. "A lot of reporters use that word [flack] with me and I don't care for it. A flack is a guy with a big, toothy grin who takes you out to lunch and plays golf with you."

Place of flackery: Arizona Department of Corrections.
Official euphemism for "flack": Public Information Officer.
Flack's boss: DOC director Sam Lewis.
Time in: Since November 1984.

Job description: Maintains shoelace collection at prison intake office, dresses well for executions.

Average media calls per day: Depends.
Preflack job: Reporter, KTSP, Channel 10.
Flack salary: "Low 50s."
Preflack salary: "Quite a bit less than that, believe me."
Memorable spin job: Danny Ray Horning: bad.

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: "I was in my mid-30s at the time and saw the writing on the wall. I wasn't going to be like Mike Wallace."

Dumbest question from former colleague: "We went on Media Alert a few years ago, after the escape of a prisoner who had climbed into a trash Dumpster. The guy got 'compacted,' crushed to death. Someone asked me, 'Do you know if the prisoner was already dead when he got into the Dumpster?' I went on to the next question."

Call-return: 32 minutes.

Flack: Nancy Blair.
Place of flackery: Arizona Department of Education.
Flack's boss: C. Diane Bishop.
Time in: Dunno.
Job description: Same as the others, more or less. Plus recess duty.
Average media calls per day: Dunno.
Preflack job: Reporter, KTAR-AM. Flack salary: Probably in the 40s.
Preflack salary: Probably not in the 40s.
Memorable spin job: Diane's domestic disputes.
Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: Dunno.
Dumbest question from former colleague: We wouldn't know.

Call-return: Failed to return numerous calls. "She always returns her calls," a woman named Olga told us. "I don't understand it."

Flack: Frederick Bermudez.
Place of flackery: Salt River Project.
Official euphemism for "flack": Media Relations Representative.
Flack's boss: SRP media relations chief John Egan.
Time in: About two months.

Job description: Hasn't figured it out yet. Probably involves warning kids that it's certain death to mess around in canals.

Average media calls per day: "It varies. Some days it's well over 20." Preflack job: Reporter, Arizona Republic.

Flack salary: "I'd rather keep that personal."
Preflack salary: Probably in the 30s or 40s.
Memorable spin job: Deflects requests for tours of SRP corporate palace, offering copter rides instead.

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: "SRP contacted me and offered me the job."

Dumbest question from former colleague: "I haven't come across anything like that."

Call-return: Two minutes.

Flack: Howard Boice.
Place of flackery: Arizona Department of Revenue.
Official euphemism for "flack": Public Information Director.
Flack's boss: DOR director Harold Scott.

Time in: Several years of saving receipts. Job description: Personally audits yearly tax returns of all local TV-news anchorwomen. Average media calls per day: Not many.

Preflack job: Reporter and state editor, Arizona Republic, 1965 through 1973. Worked as corporate flack for big hospitals for a while in 70s, also was private PR practitioner, but "found it unfulfilling." Flack salary: "About $42,000."

Preflack salary: About half of that, probably. Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: Was ready to move on. Call-return: One hour, seven minutes. Flack: Mary Budinger.

Place of flackery: Maricopa County Superior Court.
Official euphemism for "flack": Communications Director. Flack's boss: Presiding Judge C. Kimball Rose.

Time in: Since 1989.
Job description: Makes sure judges wear something under their robes.
Average media calls per day: "It can be a bunch, or a handful." (Never a plethora?)

Preflack job: Last job in television was at KMGH-TV, the CBS affiliate in Denver.

Flack salary: Won't say, though says it's less than what she made in Denver.
Preflack salary: Won't say. "I did pretty well up there."
Memorable spin job: Judge Marquardt really didn't inhale.

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: "I outgrew it." Dumbest question from former colleague: "Someone calls about a trial date for someone. I gave it to her. Then she asked, 'Does this mean that they've pled not guilty?'"

Call-return: She answered her own phone!

Flack: Brad Christensen.
Place of flackery: Arizona Department of Health Services. Official euphemism for "flack": Public Information Officer.

Flack's boss: DHS director Jack Pillenberg.
Time in: Started in September.
Job description: Handles scale duties at bimonthly DHS staff weigh-ins. Average media calls per day: "At least a half a dozen."

Preflack job: Staff writer, then managing editor, Arizona Capitol Times, 1978 through 1993. Flack salary: In the 40s. Preflack salary: In the 40s. Memorable spin job: Hantavirus: bad.

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: "The potential for growth" was limited at the small Capitol Times shop. Dumbest question from former colleague: A Yuma reporter asked if lead-poisoned water in some local tanks would be safe if citizens boiled it: "I had to explain to her that lead is not bacteria." Call-return: We got right through. Flack: Bill FitzGerald.

Place of flackery: Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
Official euphemism for "flack": Media Community Relations Director.
Flack's boss: Rick Romley.
Time in: Since September 1989.
Job description: Cooks and cleans for Rick Romley.
Average media calls per day: Can be dozens, or just a handful.

Preflack job: Reporter, KTVK, Channel 3. Flack salary: Wouldn't say, but "it's more" than his salary at 3.

Preflack salary: Wouldn't say.
Memorable spin job: The one that lies ahead, after the Bob Crane murder prosecution bites the dust.

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: "I looked around the newsroom one day and saw only three people out of about 85 who were older than me."

Dumbest question from former colleague: "Those calls from someone who asks, 'Anything happening?' I always say, 'Just another day,' which means that all kinds of things are happening."

Call-return: 19 minutes.

Flack: Dan Galvin.
Place of flackery: Arizona Department of Transportation. Official euphemism for "flack": Director of Community Relations.

Flack's boss: Deputy director Tom Warren.
Time in: Two and a half years.
Job description: Putting together a cookbook for road kill.

Average media calls per day: Three to four. Preflack job: Anchor and news director, KYEL-TV in Yuma. Also an assistant producer at KTSP, Channel 10, in Phoenix. Flack salary: About 40.

Preflack salary: $19,500.
Memorable spin job: Oops. Sorry we paid billions for more than 200 miles of freeways and got fewer than 50.

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: "I felt I had paid enough dues in my life to be paid more than about what an Arby's manager makes." (Yeah, but those guys have to work with hot grease.)

Dumbest question from former colleague: "Do you need any help?"
Call-return: 54 minutes.

Flack: Don Harris.
Place of flackery: Arizona Department of Commerce.
Official euphemism for "flack": Flack.
Flack's boss: DOC director Sara Goertzen. Time in: A couple of years.
Job description: Helps everybody but New Times.
Average media calls per day: Dunno.
Preflack job: Reporter, Arizona Republic.
Flack salary: Too much.
Preflack salary: Probably in the 50s.
Memorable spin job: See page 22, this issue.

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: His soul was empty. Dumbest question from former colleague: "Can you answer a few questions for me?"

Call-return: Answered phone, said he'd get back to us, didn't. Flack: Gordon Helm.

Place of flackery: U.S. House of Representatives. Official euphemism for "flack": Press Secretary and Legislative Assistant. Flack's boss: U.S. Representative Sam Coppersmith. Time in: Almost a year. Job description: Stirs famed navy-bean soup in Congressional mess.

Average media calls per day: "Some days none, some days a dozen." Preflack job: 16 years at KJZZ-FM, finishing as senior producer and news director. Also worked as newscast editor at Christian Science Monitor Radio for a while after leaving KJZZ. Flack salary: Somewhere in the 30s. Preflack salary: Somewhere in the 40s. Memorable spin job: Sam won, didn't he?

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: Wife took job on East Coast. Dumbest question from former colleague: "I always worked on the premise that there is no dumb question, so I hear no dumb questions." Call-return: We got right through. Flack: Dave Howell.

Place of flackery: Bank of America.
Official euphemism for "flack": Vice President, Corporate Communications.
Flack's boss: BofA director of marketing Robert Lutz.
Time in: Eight months.

Job description: Is the voice talent who records the "beep, beep, beep" noises heard at BofA's ATMs.

Average media calls per day: "It averages about 15 a week." Preflack job: Vice president, news, KTSP, Channel 10, in Phoenix. Flack salary: High five figures. Preflack salary: High five figures.

Memorable spin job: Toasters: good.
Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: Approaching the 20-year mark in TV news and starting to experience the "been-there, done-that" feeling, realized he had never rolled around in millions in bills in a bank vault.

Dumbest question from former colleague: We forgot to ask. Call-return: Approximately five hours. Flack: Jack Lavelle.

Place of flackery: Arizona State House of Representatives. Official euphemism for "flack": Flack of the House. Flack's boss: You and me, pal. Time in: A couple of years. Job description: No one seems to know.

Average media calls per day: Probably none.
Preflack job: Legislative reporter, Phoenix Gazette.
Flack salary: Upward of 50K.
Preflack salary: Upward of 50K.
Memorable spin job: Joe Lane.

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: Didn't have much of a choice.

Dumbest question from former colleague: "Busy?"
Call-return: He never called back.

Flack: Frank Lopez.
Place of flackery: Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. Official euphemism for "flack": Director of Public Information. Flack's boss: AHCCCS deputy director Linda Redman.

Time in: Since June 1988.
Preflack job(s): City editor and investigative-team leader at Arizona Republic. Also an editor for the Mesa Tribune. Also some private-sector flacking.

Job description: Gives out free aspirin to anyone who calls.
Average media calls per day: No average day.
Flack salary: $46,000.

Preflack salary: Probably $50,000-plus as city editor. Memorable spin job: Most doctors now learning English.

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: "There were a number of reasons."

Call-return: One hour, 28 minutes. (Mitigating factor: We called during lunch.) Flack: Rick Martinez.

Place of flackery: City of Phoenix Aviation Department. He works at the airport.

Official euphemism for "flack": Public Information Officer. Flack's boss: Neilson Bertholf, Phoenix Director of Aviation.

Time in: 11 years. Job description: Measures daily rainfall accumulation while maintaining stable of white paging phones.

Average media calls per day: Depends on the day.
Preflack job: Sportswriter, Arizona Republic.
Flack salary: $50,000. Preflack salary: "Less than that." At the time of Martinez's employment, a Republic sportswriter of his experience could expect to make about $30,000. Memorable spin job: Regional airport: bad.

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: "One of the reasons I got out of it was, I was basically writing the same stuff all the time, with different names. . . . I couldn't get out of the formula." Call-return: 20 hours, seven seconds. (Mitigating circumstance for delay: We called during the big Sky Harbor blackout two weeks ago.) Flack: Doug Nick (formerly Doug St. James).

Place of flackery: U.S. House of Representatives. Official euphemism for "flack": Press Secretary.

Flack's boss: U.S. Representative Jim Kolbe.
Time in: Two months.
Job description: Tucson-based, he manages reversible lanes on Speedway. Average media calls per day: "Maybe a dozen."

Preflack job: Reporter, KFYI-FM in Phoenix.
Flack salary: In the 30s. Preflack salary: In the 20s.
Memorable spin job: Keeping Jim from being confused with John.

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: "I read somewhere the other day that there were 4,000 jobs lost in radio in the last few years. I'm 31, and I wanted to find myself in a better position when I'm 40. I know plenty of guys in their 50s and 60s who are working for $5 an hour, 20 hours a week."

Dumbest question from former colleague: Nothing yet.
Call-return: 65 hours, 3 minutes. (We called on a Friday afternoon, while Doug was en route back to Arizona from NAFTA-shredded Washington, D.C. We didn't reach Doug until Monday morning.)

Flack: Maura (formerly M.A.) Saavedra.
Place of flackery: U.S. House of Representatives. Official euphemism for "flack": Press Secretary.

Flack's boss: U.S. Representative Ed Pastor.
Time in: About nine months.
Job description: Snaps towels at Ed's monthly deficit-reduction car wash out back of the Lincoln Memorial. Average media calls per day: "On a slow day, two to three. During NAFTA, 30 or 40."

Preflack job: Reporter, Arizona Republic.
Flack salary: "I'd rather not comment on that." Preflack salary: Probably in the 40s. Memorable spin job: Ed sees the light: NAFTA.

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: "My reason wasn't money." Call-return: We got right through.

Flack: Bruce Sankey.
Place of flackery: Arizona Department of Economic Security.
Official euphemism for "flack": Director of Communications.
Flack's boss: DES director Linda Blessing.

Time in: At DES since January 1993; at the Department of Commerce in same capacity for 15 months before that.

Job description: Makes sure people don't use food stamps to buy tires at Park n' Swap. Average media calls per day: Two or three a day during slow times, but about 15 to 25 a day during recent flurry of child-abuse cases. Says he works 12 hours a day, six days a week (sometimes seven days, splitting 12 hours between Saturdays and Sundays). And he took a pay cut for this.

Preflack job: Business editor, Arizona Republic.
Flack salary: $62,000.
Preflack salary: "More than I earn now."
Memorable spin job: You're reading it!

Forsook noble pursuit of truth for flackdom because: "I was ready to make a change, and Jim Marsh [ex-director of Arizona Department of Commerce] asked me to come on board and help get things back on the right track. I had always considered the public sector a career alternative."

Dumbest question from former colleague: "I'll get back to you on that one." (He didn't.)

Call-return: We got right through.

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