Once, there was a time when media sources would call the local police for details about a crime, for instance. But that’s not the standard anymore, at least on the SouthCoast.

More and more, we’re seeing South Shore municipalities outsourcing their news, from drug busts, shootings, fires, and lawlessness to public school puff pieces through the private public relations firm, John Guilfoil Public Relations.

Collectively, the PR firm has billed taxpayers more than $390,000 so far, for services to 14 South Shore towns and a regional school, and the meter is still running. Guilfoil also maintains school and department websites and even conducts investigations.

There’s nothing quite like having your own PR firm performing an investigation that involves you! I guess the public doesn’t demand accountability anymore?

The towns really enjoy the luxury of having a PR firm that will word releases correctly, handle the tough questions from the press and get the stories out to the media. Every town says the PR firm takes a burdensome task off their plates.

But from my point of view, answering media inquiries with news releases concocted by professionals who know how to spin an issue is the opposite of what accountability and truth are all about.

Let me clear, I’m in no way saying this particular PR firm spins things, but I have a serious problem with citizenry money being used perhaps as armor, protecting public officials from directly confronting their bosses, the taxpayers. I can spot a story that’s been fabricated and whitewashed because of the years I have in broadcasting. But to the average person, the story sounds fine, even after they put lipstick on it.

Some departments – not all by any means – are difficult to work with because there’s no communication coming from them. But given the choice between a spin doctor sending out a sugarcoated press release and the tight-lipped public officials, I’m better off taking the secrecy and the closed-mouthed silence.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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