We never thought we’d see the day that seasoned and tenacious Washington trade reporter Ted Hearn would go to the “dark side”—the affectionate term journalists use to describe the public relations profession. But in the trade business, we’re all either hacks or flacks. And Ted has been one of the best hacks out there for years. He began working at Multichannel News in 1994 and almost immediately began scooping the competition and displaying an almost savant-like understanding of obscure footnotes and subtext buried in complicated government documents. And watching him pepper FCC chairmen, Senators and Congressmen about things he understood better than they did… was a guilty pleasure for all of us “sparkheads” (Another affectionate term that Washington telecom trade reporters assigned themselves years ago).
But today, the ACA—run by equally seasoned and tenacious chief Matt Polka—announced that Hearn will become VP, communications to shore up its DC-based communications strategy. Polka summed up the reasoning best: “"He knows the issues, he knows how Washington works, and he knows how to tell people about it. His work will be invaluable to telling the story and unique challenges of independent cable operators and their customers.”
On one hand, we’re sad to see journalism lose a great reporter. But then again, we’re happy that Hearn will remain fully steeped in the world of cable, flacking for a group that has gradually beefed up its Washington presence in recent years. Hearn’s hire will likely lead to an even more cohesive DC strategy at a critical time for the only advocacy group focused specifically on small cable operators. After all, the Obama Administration and Congress have pushed through a massive stimulus bill that includes billions in new funding to help extend broadband throughout the nation. Many of the rural areas targeted for broadband deployment are, in fact, ACA members’ main stomping grounds. Making sure that small ops get a fair shake (ie, ensuring that the big telcos don’t snap up all the goodies) will be a big part of ACA’s mission over the next couple of years. Conveying all of that to policymakers and consumers all starts with making a strong case to the trade and mainstream press, which will shape much of the public perception. Of course, we don’t expect Hearn to change much. He’ll just be applying his craft from the other side of the ballpark.