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.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin
Dave Walker