Michael Baum, 21, is a senior at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., majoring in economics…
Ari Adler Press Secretary and Cat Herder Extraordinaire
As the communications director for Michigan’s Republican speaker of the house, media guru Ari Adler has the job of keeping the message on point for his boss with the state’s sometimes wily media corps. Like keeping lawyers in line, controlling reporters has been compared to herding cats. To that end, Adler, 43, has lassoed RT quite nicely.
RT: How did a nice Jewish boy from Waterford end up as communications director for the Michigan speaker of the house?
AA: I worked as a newspaper reporter and editor at weekly and small daily papers throughout Michigan after graduating from MSU. One day in the mid-’90s, on the job as a newspaper editor, apparently a frustrating day, I applied for a position at the House Republican Communications Office on a whim. I never expected to get a call, assuming they wanted a PR person not a journalist. It turns out they wanted to hire a journalist to beef up their media relations. Once you’re in state government, you tend to stay, and I did. Despite working for the House, MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation), the Senate and now the House again, I have always moved forward in my media-relations career.
RT: How “partisan” are you? (Would you ever consider working for the other side?)
AA: I’m not as partisan as people might think. I see my role in media relations as being a fountain of information, a source for the media of all types to fulfill their role within society. Certainly, I am more ideologically aligned with the conservatives than the liberals. That’s why I’d never feel I could do a good job for Democrats, not that they’d probably want me after all the years I’ve played the role of the enemy.
RT: Between the time you worked for Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema (who served 2002-06) and now-Speaker Jase Bolger, how has the way information is disseminated changed?
AA: There is so much more information available for everyone to make educated decisions because of the Internet in general and social media in particular. It’s made my job both easier and more difficult. It certainly has increased the volume of work and the hours needed to accomplish my job.
RT: How does the mouthpiece for a politician unwind when your words are always being monitored?
AA: It’s difficult because of the constant attention and interpretation of what I’m saying at work and on my own time. Because of the 24-hour nature of social media, it’s tougher to strike a work-life balance. I tend to unwind only when I can stop talking and tweeting so I enjoy the solitude of listening to music while riding my bike or even just mowing the lawn.
RT: Has the business of politics (in Lansing) changed since Rick Snyder became governor?
AA: The attitude has changed and is much more positive. It’s not just because we have one party in charge. There’s a new feeling that the Legislature can take action and move on, and that just because we have a whole year to pass a bill, we don’t have to take that long. It’s the first time I can remember when people are in awe of our speed because it’s so fast and not because it’s so slow.
RT: What would you do if a “Weiner-gate” happened on your watch?
AA: I’ve been pretty outspoken about [former N.Y.] Congressman [Anthony] Weiner because I’m frustrated by the media coverage of the incident. Social media isn’t his issue, integrity is. Politicians are human and they make mistakes. People are willing to forgive human frailties but not dishonesty. In any public relations crisis, a quick and sincerely honest reaction is key to surviving in the court of public opinion.
RT: Do you have any political aspirations of your own?
AA: I don’t have any aspirations to hold office myself, but I would like to continue advancing my career as a media-relations professional. If I stay in politics that means moving on to serve a governor. An office on Pennsylvania Avenue might be nice, too.