Communication is key to Pima County’s economy

“Good Article. This firms up what Bill Risner, others and I know about our local media and its getting worse.”

          –John Brakey, AUDITAZ
pima county communications departmentWhen government becomes one of the largest employers in an area, the desire by the unemployed or underemployed populace to maintain and grow its size grows as well.

Pima County is not shy about expanding, and the desperate are happy to help it.

Last week, officials announced that Dave Hatfield, soon to be former editor of the failing Inside Tucson Business magazine, would be joining Pima County’s public relations team. Hatfield will be replaced at Inside Tucson Business with Mark B. Evans, editor of the failing, an online “community of bloggers.”

Hatfield joins a Pima County government communications team headed up by former small advertising business owner, Jeff Nordensson. Nordensson replaced Sam Negri in January of this year.
Prior to being hired by Pima County, Nordensson’s firm had previously held the contract for Pima County’s media buys.

According to Nordensson, the Communications department consists of “3 writers here. We had one, but she decided that Barcelona was more fun than Tucson. Her departure opened the job sometime in mid to late May. We have 2 1/2 graphic designers, 3 1/2 videographers, and 2 ½ art directors, 1 social media editor/creative director.”

Including Nordesson, Pima County Communications Department employs 9 ½ full-time and part-time employees, yet still has the cash and apparent need to farm out media buys to the Bolchalk Frey Marketing Agency.

Hatfield’s base salary will be $55K.

According to Nordesson, the writers spend “a lot of time trying to figure out what is going on at different departments and also make what Pima County is doing more transparent.” Nordesson offered an example of the thought process behind the writers’ work. As an example, he explained that one of his writers, Diane Luber, did not mention in a press release issued last week that the Pima County Board of Supervisors gave $10K to the Borderlands Theater Group because it would not be “of general interest to the public.” On the other hand, she did mention that the County would be able to keep its lease with the Tucson Padres for a little bit more time until the team leaves town for good.

“Lots of things go on that before I took this job that I was not aware of. We determine whether something is note worthy, by whether it is in the general interest. It’s all available online, but it doesn’t generate a lot of interest. It is not a matter of trying not to bring something up. I don’t know if we would bring up the Raytheon lawsuit; that would depend on the issue at the time. We have tried to publicize the Michigan left turn because we know people have to change behaviors. It may not be controversial but it is something people need to know about.”

Nordensson said that despite being a government entity, they were making “subjective decisions about general interest, and we depend on media to take a look at what they think is of interest. There is a difference between what is available to the public and what we think is important for wider distribution.”

Luckily for the County, local media is shrinking, and few writers want to “expose” the corruption of what might be their only future chance for employment in Southern Arizona.
Evans has overseen the slow death of the Citizen after it went out of print. Hatfield, not known for his accuracy, has overseen Inside Tucson through its steady decline in readership and relevancy. According to insiders, Hatfield was anticipating a turnaround by Inside’s owners, Wick Communications.

According to the, “Top executives at Gannett Inc. don’t have a contingency plan for Evans leaving. Evans described the Citizen as an “orphan” despite being part of “the largest media company in the world.”

The Sentinel reported that Evans’ last day working for Gannett is Sept. 20; he starts with the Wick Communications-owned ITB three days later.

According to Nordesson, he hopes Hatfield will begin working for the County by October 1.
From the communication department’s webpage:

“The Communications Office proactively supports Pima County’s mission and strategic objectives. The Office provides creative services including editorial support, graphic and web design, logos,
photography, publicity, and media relations for all departments. Our communications products enhance the County’s visibility, image, reputation throughout the state, U.S. and internationally.
Videos, brochures, press releases, maps, and bike helmet stickers for kids — if it has words, pictures, or graphics, we create it for the County.
Check out some our recent work below and use the tabs to discover how we promote the County’s identity, people, and programs.”

In one of his most ironic opinion pieces at Inside Tucson Business, Hatfield wrote in July of this year, “By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth…” and advised his handful of readers that “more of us should question what we’re being told.”

The Pima County taxpayers can at least say Dave warned them.


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