In case you didn't know this, when an elected official, a top business executive or a very big celebrity puts their name on a newspaper oped submission or a think piece shoveled into the Huffington Post, they probably didn't write it themselves. Same for many tweets — perhaps especially for tweets. But only rarely does the fakeness (or flacked-ness) become an issue. But it has with Councilman Paul Krekorian, whose name goes on a column published every so often on Patch sites in his Valley district. Patch and the Huffington Post, both under the AOL flag, are known in the politics and PR business for their willingness to pretty much run anything from someone who has a name that helps the sites keep up their illusion of informed localness.
In this case, Krekorian's "Ask Paul" column in the Studio City and North Hollywood Patch sites supposedly answers questions posed to the councilman by real people. But Krekorian communications director Jeremy Oberstein admitted to the Daily News that he made up a recent question from a constituent named "Tracy" about an unflattering Los Angeles Times editorial that accuses Krekorian of doing the bidding of billboard companies.
"I've always known you to be a good, honorable person and wanted to ask you if that's true," the fake "Tracy" wrote. "Did you do their bidding and is the Times' allegation that the council members only `respond to power and money' true?"
"Tracy, thank you for your question," Krekorian replied in his column. "I did see that editorial from the Times and appreciate you allowing me to respond." In a lengthy reply, Krekorian goes on to refute claims made by the paper's editorial board.
On Friday, Krekorian spokesman Jeremy Oberstein defended the letter, saying he frequently crafts letters for the column based on "aggregations" of letters, email and comments received by the councilman's staff.
An hour later, he clarified that statement, saying the office in fact received no emails after the Los Angeles Times editorial ran.
Late Friday, he said the Tracy letter was an "aggregate of folks who called our office on a few occasions and of the general tenor from some people in the community."
He added that the Ask Paul column is posted online by himself, and answered by Krekorian.
He didn't respond to a question about whether Krekorian, who served on the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, knew the Tracy letter was an aggregate.
After the Daily News inquired, Patch added clarifying language to the Krekorian column.
Noted: Former LA Times arts writer Diane Haithman and her dog Heidi have a regular Patch column.