Washington report; Press relations and politicians
From the nation's capital the radio network presents a Washington report. Our continuing examination of vital currents in issues which affect the conduct of government and are of direct concern to each of us. Your any commentator is John Lewis with the return of Congress to Washington the activity of thousands of people who work in and out of government is thereby celebrated. There are many whose work is dependent upon the Congress. Our guest today is in this category one of a new breed of American specialists the political public relations A. In this case the advisor is an attractive young woman who won her major in political science at the University of Michigan and has worked up from the grass roots of U.S. politics to her present position in a few short years. Cynthia Harvey is an independent contractor in the field of publicity and public relations in Washington. She handles press relations for several members of Congress
and does specialty work in radio programming and television for politicians during key campaigns back in the late 1950s and began working at the precinct level in Maryland politics. And in 1960 helped handle the public the first statewide campaign in West Virginia. She recently participated in the New York City mayor ality campaign but is now back in her favorite haunt the capitol of the United States. Cynthia how do you define political public relations. Basically John I think it's an adaptation of the tools of industrial and commercial public relations to the needs of the new type of political campaigning and political life. With the advent of the mass media of communications the politician has had to alter his basic methods of campaigning and staying in office. Before it used to be primarily a personal contact based on organizational efforts as well as hand to hand house to house campaigning now with radio and television the
newspapers he has to alter his means of reaching his constituents. Well there are two types of people involved in politics those who are in those who are out there. Is there a difference in the approach for them. There's a very great difference the problem of those that are the INS is perhaps a little easier because you have more time you can start a campaign from the day of election who can start campaigning for re-election. And the coverage is perhaps easier to obtain because you are an elected public official. By the same token you have other serious problems sometimes of justification sometimes of explaining certain votes. The out's ability to gain wide coverage in the mass media depends on the day that he files for nomination and his ability to criticize and the perhaps the leeway that he has to criticize. Well now you work on both campaigns and the day to day operations here in Washington move the Congress.
Give us some of the differences involved there. I should think that a campaign would be an entirely different story in terms of the work during the campaign it's a matter of quantity. You get out as many releases as you can possibly get and hope for a fairly good batting average during the off years as we call them it's a matter of shall we say quality careful decisions of what we shall release to the papers and the knowledge of what the needs of the constituents may be so that those can be so they can be told what progress is being made in their behalf. Well now Congressman every congressman has different set of problems and a different type of district. Just what do you do to cope with these varieties of problems that you handle. That is a serious problem many times as far as a person in my position is concerned. You do rely heavily upon the congressman's own
good and tried and true knowledge of his own district. Then you can adapt from what you know of what's going on in the Congress and your own ability to decide what is newsworthy and what is not. It takes. We don't get to know a district in a period of a week or a month or sometimes even six months. It's a long process that involves reading newspapers and talking to people who live in the district and analyzing it from there. But takes us into the question of the background for someone in your line of work. There aren't too many people in the political public relations professional level. Just what do you think are the background and education requirements. Well of course a basic journalistic ability is important but more than that is a sound and often complementary feeling towards this whole process of politics you have to like it to
begin with. You can't stand up and say what politics is is wrong or that it's dirty you have to appreciate the process. And so therefore an academic knowledge of legislative process and real feet tiring activity on the precinct level is is the most important. Well you've actually worked around campaign headquarters you worked in polling else level so that you do have the feel of politics as well as an educational background for you. Are there any parts in your own background educationally that you would like to redo or perhaps you would not have studied certain subject areas that you might not have studied had you known for certain that you were getting into this field. I'm thinking as a young person who was in college today and trying to make some decisions. Well John probably I would have taken a few more courses in dramatics than I did but
of course political science is the basic field and I in many instances the education that you receive on a college level in the field of political science does not begin to compare to prepare you for what is the hard cold actuality of a political campaign. Perhaps if more institutions were to offer courses in what could be called practical politics it would be better in my case. I was fortunate to attend a school that had an internship program in precisely this in practical politics we were sent out on campaigns to do everything from stuffing envelopes to making speeches. And this gives you a feeling for the for the entire process that is most important I'll say by way of the historical record that was god for college. Are you is correct attended before you went to the University of Michigan and graduate. So what about the problem of partisanship.
Certainly you represent both Democrats and Republicans on occasion. Is this schizo Franek somehow or other. Well it could be. You have to have a love for the system first job. My basic philosophy is this. The theory of representation is that four hundred five hundred thousand people go to the polls and elect a man to be their voice in the Congress of the United States. They deserve a man who will echo their own sentiments and who will represent them in the true sense of the word. When you are convinced that a man is representing his own district in the very best way possible then it is not at all the phrenic to work for both Republicans and Democrats. Practically I doubt very seriously that I would ever work for two men from the same state of opposite political fates because that is more or less of a conflict of interests. But you have to have a tremendous respect
for the man for whom you work and an understanding of this business known as representative government. You find the committee staff people the congressional secretarial help these technicians so to speak at the capitol of the United States are particularly helpful. In almost every single case yes they are all people of tremendous ability and tremendous loyalty and of tremendous intelligence and they are extremely helpful committee staffs in general are composed of people who will bend over backwards to be of help to you no matter what their own partisan affiliation may be. Most Washington reporters say that if they had to rely on congressmen and senators for information they'd be in deep trouble so they turn to the staffs of these members and also those on the committees who are charged with this responsibility. I might insert at this point that I don't think that's quite fair. I think that the
congressman is. Does a tremendous job considering all of the demands on his time and considering all of the things that he must keep in his mind at all times to legislative work as you know is actually a relatively small percentage of the duties of a congressman. Would you care to cite some of those duties. Perhaps the most important duty and the thing that perhaps takes the most of his time and of his staff's time is liaison work between individual citizens in his district and this labyrinth known as the federal government. With them they call this the vernacular call it case work. This is perhaps the most unsung duty of a congressman people don't realize how much he does for his own constituents committee work is of prime importance committee work takes up a tremendous amount of a congressman's time and then of course he is expected to be back in the district which of course makes it very difficult for him because if he's there people
will often say why aren't you back in Washington if he stays in Washington they say well why don't you come and see us. He must be an excellent budgeter of his time to be an effective congressman. Therefore he must depend on his staff for much of the research work and much of the groundwork that has to be done how many of these congressmen have occasion to meet work or perhaps not even work for but just get acquainted with. You really have some grasp of the public relations problem. But the very virtue of the fact that they're elected John is I believe proof positive of the fact that they are public relations conscious especially in this day and age where the word image is practically a household word. They have an excellent knowledge of the techniques and in many cases they prefer to do their own personal contact work themselves. They sometimes feel that since they've been elected that their they don't need to be told what to do. And in many cases this
is right and others feel that they have been elected and they need to keep up this public relations and it's something for which they do not always have the time themselves so they must turn it over to someone who knows how to do it and has an appreciation of their districts probably more often than not. This must be competitive to you. They hire people from their home districts. They take. A friend from college days a young congressman and bring him along as a kind of press aide and so forth. How good a system is this rather than marrying someone like yourself a professional. Well if I were to be perfectly selfish about it I could probably say it's not a good system at all but being true about it in many cases it's the only way to do it. In many cases the district is such that you must have someone from home. Certainly it is easier for a person on my level to take the as a client a congressman who represents urban or suburban
areas. This is the field in which I'm perhaps most familiar. I don't know very much about land reclamation for example and these are specialized problems which often do need someone from the home base. And two it is not impossible in many cases this works that both. Arrangements can be made by the same congressman he can have someone from home and he can have someone on a local no Washington level to handle his legislative work. Someone who is imported from the home district is as much at a loss on the workings of the legislative process as a freshman congressman himself may be. And in instances like that a person such as myself can be of help to both the press a full time press aide and the congressman. Thank you very much Cynthia Harvey a political public relations advisor on Capitol Hill from Washington this is John F. Lewis reporting. You have been listening to another in a series of weekly reports from Washington produced
- Washington report
- Press relations and politicians
- Producing Organization
- National Association of Educational Broadcasters
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Episode Description
- John F. Lewis interviews Cynthia Harvey, a political publicist.
- Series Description
- A weekly news report produced in Washington, D.C. for stations of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters.
- Media type
Host: Moyle, Will
Interviewee: Harvey, Cynthia
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 4944 (University of Maryland)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- APA: Washington report; Press relations and politicians. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-69700x99