Shyne the media spotlight on Scott McInnis

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Scott McInnis campaign forks out $487 to an “appearance coach,” who reportedly advises McInnis to shave off his mustache and update his glasses, and it barely makes a blip of news.

Is this a sign of good journalism or cynical passivity on behalf of the Colorado media?

When the appearance-coach story broke (and was mostly ignored) last month, I first thought it was the former-a sign that maybe journalists were moving away from blowing up meaningless symbols into eyeball-grabbing news stories.

But now I’m thinking Colorado journalists let us down on this one.

I definitely thought it would be big local news when I first heard about it. Look what it had going for it, in terms of newsworthiness:

First, the expenditure was clearly listed on McInnis’ campaign finance reports.

It was also high on the infotainment index-involving hair, something we can all relate to. McInnis’ appearance coach was Denver native Patti Shyne, whose company name, “You’ve Been Shyned,” could have been invented in Hollywood. Her homepage states: “Within the realm of physical presentation, Patti understands the delicate symbiosis between vulnerability and confidence.”

McInnis’ visit to “You’ve Been Shyned” was paid by the McInnis campaign, not from McInnis’ personal funds, so there’s a public-interest benefit, for potential McInnis donors, in reporting where McInnis is spending campaign donations, especially if expenditures seem unusual or unnecessary.

And, of course, journalists are paid to present clues about the authenticity of political candidates and their judgment on money matters. Strange or exorbitant campaign expenditures could foreshadow crazy spending of tax money.

But despite these newsworthy elements, there weren’t any news stories about McInnis’ visit to You’ve Been Shyned-or at least almost none that took the Patti Shyne issue seriously. Even local TV news largely snoozed through this made-for-TV story.

The more I’ve thought about this story, the more I’m convinced it should have been taken seriously by journalists, with different views presented.

And McInnis himself should have been asked about it.

The Denver Post didn’t run anything in its print edition, choosing to post a piece on its blog, The Spot. While informative, this light-hearted post didn’t get at the authenticity or judgment issues involved. Emblematic of the approach was The Post’s query of Shyne regarding what advice she’d give to McInnis’ opponent John Hickenlooper. (She said Hick’s haircut and clothes still need help.) Later, the Spot ran a piece about ProgressNow’s lampoon of the McInnis’ mini-makeover, which the liberal group called the “McLobbyist Makeover.” (The Post ran a short story about McInnis’ mustache removal in January before the news of his $487 excursion to Shyne leaked out in February.)

The news void about McInnis’ $487 trip to the appearance coach contrasts with the avalanche of coverage Presidential candidate John Edwards endured in 2007, when he got not one but two $400 haircuts. Major media outlets across the country weighed in. As one story in the Washington Post put it in a story about Edwards, testifying to the public’s sensitivity to these issues, “the political damage was immediate.”

I know, Edwards was a presidential candidate whose hair was a lightning rod, and McInnis is a Colorado candidate with less of it, but still, his mustache had already made news and the public-interest issues involved are the same.

Post columnist Fred Brown, who’s written extensively on media issues, told me he thought The Post made the right news decision to place the story on its blog:  “This is the perfect kind of thing to report in the new media, and maybe old media are moving away from it,” he said. “It’s campaign trivia, sort of insider news, more than big picture stuff-although lord knows there’s plenty of crap that ends up in the mainstream media.”

Like Brown, Jennifer Duffy, political editor at The Cook Political Report, says that candidates work with appearance coaches all the time-so there’s not much new here.

Advice from an appearance coach doesn’t normally show up as a specific line item on a public campaign expense report, Duffy said, so we usually don’t know for sure how much is paid for this campaign activity.

“Usually, it’s passed to one of your consultants,” she said. “And then you and I aren’t having this conversation.”

To my way of thinking, that’s all the more reason Denver reporters should have jumped all over the McInnis-Shyne story, even if the dollars involved are small by campaign standards.

It’s the kind of activity that many candidates don’t want the public to see, and when it trickles out, candidates should be held accountable.

So when evidence crosses a reporter’s desk that a candidate spent $487 on an appearance coach, journalists shouldn’t get lost in their cynicism and accept it as part of normal campaigning.

I mean, maybe this is actually something that distinguishes Hick from McInnis, and voters want to know about the judgment and priorities reflected in this small, but certainly significant, decision.  

In other words, reporters have no business assuming that all candidates do this, just because most candidates apparently do.

Journalists should also look at the situation from the perspective of your average citizen. Do they understand the world where paying $487 for an appearance coach is, according to Duffy, not a bad price? I don’t think so, and it’s up to reporters to illuminate this world.

It’s not too late for a reporter to ask Scott McInnis about his trip to see Patti Shyne.

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63 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. TheDeminator says:

    You act like Political teams do not normally hire an image and speech coach.  Many elected officials hire these sort of staff to help with image, wardrobe, speaking, posture and mannerisms.

    There is nothing wrong with hiring someone to work on your image when you spend so much time in the public eye.  

  2. Aggie says:

    Really? Front Page?  

  3. HollywoodColorado says:

    Your posts are becoming rather pathetic, Jason. I admired the work you did when this was your job, but your criticism of the Post over McInnis and Norton increasingly sounds like sour grapes. Anybody who’s even remotely informed knows the papers barely have room any more for real news, let alone stupid stories like this. And similarly, everyone from the Governor to Ken Buck to Michael Bennet uses spokesmen to respond to reporters, it’s not some conspiracy to help Norton. If you want to reestablish credibility as some sort of ombudsman, maybe you should start taking a bipartisan, thoughtful approach to media criticism.  

  4. Danny the Red (hair) says:

    McInnis said he shaved his mustache because of a bet, when in reality he shaved his mustache because he was advised to by an appearance coach.

    What is that word that means you say one thing when you know the reality is actually something completely different?

  5. Gilpin Guy says:

    Edwards was a Democrat with a good head of hair.  He paid for his coiffured look with campaign funds and was viciously ridiculed by Republicans for his vanity and the mainstream media covered their outrage 24/7.

    McInnis is a Republican with good facial hair.  He paid for his coiffured look with campaign funds and was universally exonerated by Republicans for his vanity and the mainstream media buried the story as deep in the hole as they could.

    We all know how this plays out.  Democrat does it. Bad.  Republican does it.  No problem.  The standard mainstream media response is to parrot the Republican agenda and Republicans are still convinced there is a “liberal bias” which is as obsolete a concept as trickle down economics.

    • TheDeminator says:

      Edwards spent $400 each time he got his haircut. It was less about him looking good and being pretty and more about the fact $400 per haircut every 2 weeks? That is $9600 every year.

      The fact Scott has an image coach is not news. I am all about beating up about being a insane tool bag but come on folks… an image coach.

      Go beat up every federal elected official for working on their image then.  

      • sxp151 says:

        You keep saying this, but do you have any evidence for the assertion that every federal elected official has an image coach?

        I mean, that’s obviously false, so I won’t hold you to it, but do you have ANY examples at all?

      • Gilpin Guy says:

        should concentrate on how he intends to balance the budget with specifics instead of how much he is spending to buff up his image.  I could agree with you if that is your point.  

        Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the mainstream media focused on what he says to the different groups he speaks to including all his pandering instead of just reproducing his talking points and then pretending that they are doing something significant to not talk about his costly image make over.  I thought Republicans didn’t like unnecessary expenses.  Couldn’t he just look in the mirror and save his donors some bucks for their misleading attack ads?  If he squanders donor money so recklessly than how can we trust him to save taxpayers money?

      • Gilpin Guy says:

        so I looked it up and found that there were only two haircuts in Edwards financial filings.  I don’t know where you got the $9,600 but I suspect you pulled it from somewhere.  The difference between the two is pretty trivial (800/487) when you throw out the invented yearly total which makes your argument that Republicans were right to ridicule Edwards but applaud McInnis for hiring an “image coach” look dumb.

        • Fidel's dirt nap says:

          I think what Deminator was saying is that if the cornsilk flaxen-haired warrior got a $400 coiffure every two weeks it WOULD be 9600 per year.

          But John Edwards is a dick.  Now can we get back to the point of this thread and talk about my image coach now ?  I have a rodeo in Laramie this Sat and get this conundrum -should I feather the mullet or not ?  On top of that if I use product its just going to attract the dust.

          • RedGreen says:

            If you’re wearing the feed-store cap like you’ve been instructed, only your image consultant will know. I trust you’ve ditched those mirrored aviator sunglasses, though, if only because they’ll frighten the horses.

            That’ll be $85 please.

          • Gilpin Guy says:

            on his campaign filing were just the tip of the iceberg then how do we know that McInnis isn’t secretly having body hair removals that aren’t in his campaign filings.

            Can we assume then by extrapolation that bimonthly coaching sessions are going to cost $487*24=$11,688 a year.  Boy these image coaches really are more expensive than hair cuts.  If you are going to extrapolate one then shouldn’t you extrapolate the other or is that too fair to compare.  Edwards is a non-factor in national politics but if you are going to hold politicians to standards of vanity then shouldn’t it be the same for all politicians?  Demented tried to use a fabricated fact and pass it off as justification for treating too vain politicians differently.  What a joke argument.  No wonder Republicans are anti-intellectual when their arguments are so childish.

  6. allyncooper says:

    “Image” has been part of the political game since forever, certainly accentuated in the Kennedy – Nixon debates when Nixon didn’t wear makeup, Kennedy did, and the importance of the image projected in increasingly visual medias.

    In politics perception can be everything. Most who watched the Kennedy – Nixon debates on TV thought Kennedy had won. Those who listened to it on radio thought Nixon did better.    

  7. BlueCat says:

    This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen  here and that includes posts by Libertad.  Yaaaaawwwwwnnnnn….

  8. Born To Run says:

    Dan Maes will likely get between 40 and 50% tonight. Scott McInnis being unable to keep a nobody off the ballot is amazing and a sign of a campaign in total disarray. The Mayor will win by close to 20% in November.

  9. ngometer says:

    “I first thought it was the former-a sign that maybe journalists were moving away from blowing up meaningless symbols into eyeball-grabbing news stories.”

    This kind of reporting SHOULD be ostracized to the blogosphere. Since I am not a donor to McInnis’ campaign, I could give two shits where he spends his campaign money. In fact, I hope he wastes it all on image coaches and forgets to educate himself about the issues facing the next four years in Colorado.  

  10. Aggie says:

    Lets take a step back and look at these posts.  You are arguing about HAIRCUTS!  This sort of garbage is the worst part of Colorado Pols.  

    ColoradoPols–PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stop putting junk like this on the front page!

    • sxp151 says:

      when a Democrat did it.

      Sorry we don’t all play Republican Calvinball, I know that’s the only game you know how to win.

      Scott McInnis paying for a makeover doesn’t stop being funny just because you stopped laughing.

      • Aggie says:

        It was not a big deal when a Democrat did it either.  

        • sxp151 says:

          Republicans talked about it incessantly, and for quite a while it was the only thing anyone said about Edwards.

          The Mustache of Malleability can take a little more abuse.

          • Aggie says:

            sxp, do you think that Edwards’ hair was a valid topic?

            I will assume your answer is “no.”  So why is this a valid topic?

            Didnt your mom teach you the lesson about every else jumping off the bridge?  

            I actually think that the Edwards coverage was disgusting, and that regardless of the party, this type of stuff dumbs-down important debates.

            • sxp151 says:

              I was never an Edwards supporter, so I didn’t need to hear about it to make a decision on him. But such silly things connect with people, and you can’t really judge why a particular stupid issue will resonate with voters.

              There has to be something funny about it, but it also has to represent in a silly way something genuine about the candidate. This does. McInnis is malleable and superficial. Edwards was shallow and selfish. The stories illustrate that, and that’s why they catch on.

    • Danny the Red (hair) says:

      Which is very important.

      As a member of the American Mushache Institute, we are appalled by Rep. McInnis callus rejection of his lip broom after many years of support.


      To maintain his impressive Selleck me must have had to endure many taunts from his more cosmopolitan lobbyist colleagues in DC.  To walk away from his culture like this is heartbreaking to the mustached men of America.

      A sad day indeed.

      AMI Mission

      Bias is everywhere, and the deep discrimination against the Mustached American race in the United States has been pervasive since the 1960s.

      Acceptance of lip sweaters has ebbed and flowed, but the mustache’s glory years, of course, were the 1970s, when a man or woman could wear a mustache without scorn. Virtually overnight, as disco faded and Walter Cronkite left television, the cookie duster became a fad seen only on law enforcement, moto-cross drivers, and members of the Village People.

      Enter the St. Louis-based American Mustache Institute (AMI), with headquarters nestled in the shadow of the world’s largest mustache – the Gateway Arch. We are freedom fighters, civil libertarians if you will – working against the bias and stereotyping plaguing the Mustached American race.

      AMI promotes the growth, care, and culture of the mustache, and works to create a climate of acceptance, understanding, flavor saving, and upper lip warmth for all Mustached Americans alike. Read more about our history here.

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      we could discuss his plans but since he is not going to provide us with anything substantial about how he would govern we are reduced to comparing his vanity with John Edwards.

      If you want to talk about something other than Haircuts and Image Consultants then ask Scotty to put forward some proposals for dealing with our most urgent situations.  I would love to know where he intends to cut the state budget that is different from Ritters but alas Scotty is as secret about what he would do in office as he is about his chest hair removal procedures.

      The real issue that Jason is trying to bring up is the two faced media and how they cover these stories differently depending on the party affiliation of the politician.  Pretty obvious double standard when it comes to pedaling petty items about politicians in the press.

      • Aggie says:

        Let me get this straight, because it was petty for the media to cover John Edwards’s hair-cut, the media should cover McInnis’s mustache?

        Gilpin, your other points about McInnis dodging issues are valid.  That should be the topic, not facial hair.

    • Ralphie says:

      Maybe you’re the one who is out of touch.

      • Aggie says:

        If keeping in touch means arguing about stuff like this then count me out.

        I like Colorado Pols… A lot.  I like it because of the intelligent commentary and polemical topics.  This is neither of those things.

        On the other hand… I have posted several times on this topic.  Maybe I am just as bad.  

  11. H-Dog says:

    C’mon-makeovers are soooo American! Don’t like the way you look-try a new face. A crab catcher is a dubious affectation for those of us who are not Tom Selleck, and for whom the 80’s ended 20 years ago. Let’s welcome Scott to the new century, not pretend that he ought to remain mired in the mud of the distant past.

    And speaking of the past, scooters are so 2008. Lose the two wheeled nerdmobile, Hick! You’re rich enough to buy a mid-sixties 427 Corvette for fun, and an F 250 for daily use. Now that’d give all of us manly men in CS a reason to vote for him…  

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