An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

It isn’t everyday that a situation comes up that is so interesting as the one that is happening right now.  There are three tales that are going to be told here, and they are all public relations nightmares.  Each of them is connected, not directly to one-another, but in what kind of problems they are, and the people who are involved, and the public reaction to what is happening.  This is the tale of three people who each have some very ugly sex scandals that have come up.

The first is one that is close to home.  On November 8th, the former mayor of Ketchikan, Jack Shay, was charged with having child pornography.  This came up when he took his computer into his office to be fixed.  After it was, by sheer accident, he had a large number of images in his que to be printed.  They did, and his dirty little secret came to light – having a huge amount of child pornography on his computer.  This was only the beginning.  After this came up, he was arrested.  The police searched his home, and found a lot more, including a video that Shay made with an unidentified girl.

For the community of Ketchikan, this is a large blow.  Shay was a very respected member of their community.  Almost everybody who knew him liked him.  He had a huge presence in this community, and the support the community has for him is reflected.  Go onto the Anchorage Daily News website and look up the articles that they have done on this story.  Then go down to the comments section, and you’ll see that there is a lot of outrage, as expected, but there are some people who are torn, who don’t want to just throw Shay to the dogs.

The next story is of what is going on at Penn. State University.  For those of you who didn’t know, it is reported that Jerry Sandusky was also found to be guilty of sexual crimes in relation to minors.  There are reports that Sandusy was guilty of sexually abusing, inappropriate conduct, and even rape of minors.  This is something that has rocked the very foundations of Penn State, because of how it has gone far beyond him.  It came out later that the head coach, Joe Paterno, was also aware of this.  As you can imagine, there was a very mixed reaction to this.  A lot of people came out in support of Paterno.  After it was announced that he was going to be terminated, effective immediately, there was a pretty large protest from the student body, along with the local community.  Like Shay, Paterno was very loved by his community.  Now it is being questioned if the head of the college is going to be asked to retire.

This is another area that has a lot of mixed feelings.  It has gotten a little violent, but still, the concept is the same.  Sandusky was quickly hung out to dry, but Paterno has had some very avid supporters, who are completely upset with what has happened.

The final story is the one that most people are going to be well-aware of.  It involves the potential Presidential candidate, Herman Cain.  Now, while the allegations against Cain are not nearly as serious as they are against Shay or Sandusky, how this has been handled is worth talking about.  It started out kind of small.  There was a woman who wanted to remain anonymous accusing him of sexual harassment.  Since then, 4 more women have came forward accusing Cain of sexual harassment.

Now, it is worth saying that there is a convenience of timing that is kind of making these allegations suspect.  Not to say that these women are lying, because we don’t know yet, it is worth saying that these cases came up at a very opportune moment.  Cain’s reaction to these allegations has varied.  First, he said the women are lying, and went on about how they were trying to attack him out of guilt (not a smart thing to do).  After that, he blamed the government, the liberal media, and all the other places that a conservative can point at in tough times.  He even saw fit to say that Congress was somehow responsible for this mess.

Now, what do all of these stories have in common – a HUGE public relations problem.  Let’s take a look at Cain first.  As Slate magazine pointed out in the link above, Cain is doing all the wrong things.  If he was going to do this right, he would have just denied it, and moved on.  Instead, he has been feeding the endless maw that is our media, and blaming everybody.  This is not good handling of a crisis situation.  Some of his responses have actually been more damning, like challenging his accusers to give proof, along with providing data to counter that was quickly proven to be false.

Now the question becomes – what is going to happen now?  Cain was running neck in neck with Romney as the front-runner to get the Presidential nomination.

The next we will examine is Penn State.  They quicky hung Sandusky out to dry.  They cut their losses with him.  But with Paterno, he originally wanted to retire at the end of the season.  It was almost expected that the Board of Trustees would demand his resignation sooner.  If the allegations of his knowing what Sandusky was doing are true, then he is in a very difficult position.  But this is a big blow to Penn State.  They are a football college.  They are well-known for their team.  This is a major discredit to that program.

The question now is if they will ask the President of the college to retire.  There are some questions of if he was aware as well.  If he is connected, this doesn’t bode well for him, either.  Regardless of what happens, it is going to be a very big blow to the repuation of Penn State, and they wil have to work hard to regain it.

Finally, Jack Shay.  This was such a shock to the small community of Ketchikan.  Truly, nobody saw this coming.  Nobody could have imagined that somebody wh owas so community-oriented like Shay could have done things like this.  The question with him comes down to – what will he do?  The legal question is a big issue, because he is currently 80 years old.  Not exactly the best person to find out what happens to child molesters in an American prison.  But regardless of what happens, Shay has to question what he will do.  Does he remain in Ketchikan, where everybody will know him as the man they trusted and loved, who turned out to be a horrible villain?  Does he move?  These are not easy questions.

Public relations is not the system that a lof of people believe it to be.  Questions like these come up quite often.  And these three cases are perfect examples of how being the PR advisor of some people is a very difficult thing to do.  There was a student in the JPC course at UAA where this was being discussed who said it best, when asked what he would do in this situation –

If I was Cain’s advisor, I would quit!”

It is a weird, twisted, and tragic little world that we live in, and this is some pretty good food for thought.

Peace out,



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