Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dan Wolter Leaves 

the University of Minnesota

to go to  Pfizer

A match made in heaven...

Mr. Wolter's reign at the University of Minnesota has been an unmitigated disaster. 

University News Service Director Daniel Wolter urged those contacted by Daily reporters to call him before agreeing to talk. He expressed concern about problems “that will result from using this particular venue for that purpose,” and said he’d be “happy” to offer a no comment on their behalf.

A similar e-mail was distributed just more than a year ago, complaining of “numerous uncoordinated administration comments giving too much information” to the media. The message directed all who receive press inquiries to route them to the News Service to ensure “the University’s reputation is both protected and advanced through the news media.” In other words: Don’t talk so that we can spin.
Professional journalists usually aren’t forced to communicate with public information offices only through e-mail, as Wolter generally demands of Daily reporters. It’s a system that inhibits good-faith communication and reasonably quick access. Most professional journalists aren’t pressured to go through one office to cover, on a daily basis, a community of more than 60,000 people — only to be chastised for being a burden on that office.

Wolter’s e-mail policy does give him plenty of chances to scold reporters for doing their jobs. Take the recent e-mail sent to a reporter after she politely explained her role as a journalist and said she hoped to forge “a more professional and collaborative” relationship with his office. Wolter responded in part by criticizing her calls to other University offices, saying “there’s nothing in their job description about talking to the media.” He complained of how “most people who have been at the ‘U’ for more than a couple of years also have a story of how the Daily wasted their time in some way.”

 I understand that the Daily has/had a fish named Wolter. Easy to understand why.

Less than a month before the University’s president and a slew of vice presidents step down, Dan Wolter is also leaving after more than six years as the University News Service director.

As head of the office responsible for filtering daily requests from local and national media, Wolter is the main link between the University’s administration and the public.

Prior to coming to the University in February 2005, Wolter’s career was heavily concentrated in politics, when he spent years as a spokesman for various political figures, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Next he’ll tackle private industry — he’s leaving the University for a similar job at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc.

Contacted daily by the media, Wolter said his office works to accommodate all requests and keep the University open.

“I think we do a relatively good job of that,” Wolter said.

But some disagree.

Chris Ison, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a former reporter in the Twin Cities, said the News Service has been more obstructive than helpful to the media.

Instead of allowing easy access to all the information, Ison said, the News Service has tried to funnel everything through its office, often stymieing reporters from getting public information — especially in controversial issues.

Paul Hassen, vice president of public affairs for the Association of Public Land-grant Universities, said that a spokesman’s job in controversial situations should not be to explain what happened, but only to release facts “as they are known at any given point in time.”

“My job is about telling the University’s story,” Wolter said.

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