Will Kwame sack a flack?

Sep 3, 2003 at 12:00 am

Rumors abound in press circles that Jamaine Dickens, spokesman for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, is on the verge of being canned. Asked by News Hits if he’s headed for the unemployment line, the usually blunt Dickens turned cryptic and danced around the question, saying only that the mayor is expected to announce some major staffing changes soon.

Speculation about Dickens’ dismissal follows months of shouting matches and terse battles with local reporters, some of whom have created a pool in which participants attempt to guess the exact date Dickens is shown the door.

We’ve talked to a number of reporters and other media types, all of whom agree that Dickens is far too ham-fisted in attempting to gain positive coverage for his boss’ administration, and that he’s far too quick to vent his anger at those who ask probing questions.

A prime example occurred in May when Kilpatrick held a press conference to denounce press coverage of his firing of a deputy police chief and to deny widespread rumors about a wild party that was supposed to have taken place at the Manoogian Mansion.

Sources tell News Hits that Dickens refused to answer repeated questions from reporters after the mayor left the podium. When the Detroit News’ Darci McConnell — who has been dogged in her coverage of Kilpatrick — pressed Dickens to answer queries, reminding him it’s his job to do so, the two got into a heated shouting match. Dickens, we’re told, ordered a nearby security officer to kick her out of the press event. Luckily, the security guards had more sense than Dickens, and served to calm down the situation, eyewitnesses say. Had the high-profile reporter been 86ed, it would have made headlines.

Several reporters — who wish to remain anonymous for fear their bosses or the Kwamster come down on them — say shouting matches with Dickens are commonplace, as are his attempts to coerce more positive coverage by freezing out journalists who fall into disfavor.

As reported here earlier this year, when UPN 50’s Tara Wall put the mayor in a room with one of his least favorite people, namely Councilwoman Sharon McPhail, Dickens had a fit and later barred Wall’s cameraman from a press conference in City Hall.

“I don’t think Jamaine has a clue how to deal with the media,” says one longtime Detroit television reporter. “He just doesn’t get it.”

Of course, if the rumors are wrong and Jamaine remains, then News Hits is farther on the outs that ever, which puts us on Pluto. So allow us to hedge our bets a bit and say that, unlike other journalists in town, we here at News Hits hold Mr. Dickens in the highest esteem and would be absolutely crushed — crushed, we tell you! — should we no longer have the extreme pleasure of having Dickens berate us whenever we deign to ask questions that he’d rather not answer.

The weather on Pluto, by the way, is warm compared to Dickens.

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