Redefining Communications and PUCs
Tom Charles is Director of Communications of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Nils Hagen-Frederiksen is Press Secretary of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
When long-serving Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission spokesman David Bramson retired, the Commission presented him with a unique farewell gift: his manual typewriter, mounted on a plaque.
For forty-four years, that typewriter, along with a rotary telephone, served as the communications channel between the PUC and the news media of Pennsylvania. And by extension, the twelve million citizens of our Commonwealth.
Fast forward to today. Typewriters are now a novelty for writers or decorators. Reporters covering utility issues are a rarity outside trade publications and a few major news outlets. The media landscape includes a myriad of channels and options for agencies and consumers. The constant landslide of information makes it extremely difficult for a single story to gain interest, especially public utility matters.
In the typewriter age, it was standard practice (at least in Pennsylvania) for the PUC press secretary to walk a stack of press releases over to the Capitol newsroom. There you could personally discuss the issue with a room full of reporters, who had the time and space to explore the details of public utility issues.