Reporters who go to work in public relations often encounter a bit of skepticism from their former colleagues (see Wolffe, Richard.) But that skepticism may be especially pronounced when the company on whose behalf the former reporter is spinning is a mysterious private security force that has won a contract to take over an empty jail and won’t reveal the source of its backing, and whose leader shows up in town wearing a military-style uniform, offering three Mercedes SUVs for use by local law enforcement, and dragging a long criminal record, including jail time for fraud, behind him.
Meet Becky Shay, the American Police Force’s new director of public relations. Shay had been a reporter for 20 years, and had been covering the APF story for the Billings Gazette. She filed her last story Thursday night, apparently without telling her editors that she had been in negotiations for a job with the company she was covering. Then she abruptly quit the paper and announced that she had signed on with APF.
In an interview yesterday with Montana news channel KULR, Shay seemed to have no regrets. “Here I am feeling the best I’ve ever felt about myself,” she said. “At a great point in my life.”
Shay downplayed the spate of negative publicity her new employer has received in recent days, saying she had done her own vetting of APF and learned things the company won’t say publicly. “I am absolutely positive I made a great career choice,” she said.
What did it take to walk away from her reporting career? “My terms were: I don’t want the moon and the stars, but I’d like to be able to see them from the patio,” Shay said. KULR adds that she’s making $60,000 dollars a year, and received a signing bonus, a brand new company car and help making the down payment on a new home.
Shay said she’ll strive to provide her old colleagues in the media with as much information as possible. “I will always answer any question that is posed,” she said. “It may be a response, not an answer.”
Asked by KULR who APF’s parent company is, Shay offered just such a response: “I feel that story line has spun out. Right now the heart of the story is we’re here to open the facility to spur economic development in Hardin.”
Shay made clear that part of her will always feel like a reporter. “I’ve got printer’s ink in my blood,” she said.
Late Update: We tried to leave a message for shay, but a recording said her mailbox is full and can’t accept new messages.