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For ex-reporter, a lucky turn of events
By Jonathan J. Cooper

January 7, 2006

A former reporter who attended plenty of press conferences during her stint at a local newspaper is now finding herself on the other side of the podium.

Once a staff writer at the East Valley Tribune, Nikki Ripley is Tempe's new communication and media relations director, responsible for helping local reporters ferret out the same kind of news that she used to pursue so diligently.

“It is odd to think that I’m now at the other side,” Ripley said. “I definitely have to pinch myself sometimes. I’m very lucky.”

Communicating almost daily with Tempe “beat” writers for local newspapers, and sporadically with local television/radio stations and national media, Ripley is responsible for answering reporters’ questions and guiding them to a singular goal: informed coverage of the city.

Since starting in the new position about a month ago, Ripley has found the coverage to be generally fair and accurate, she said. In that time, she’s fielded many calls about Fiesta Bowl, held for the last time in Tempe on Jan. 2, in addition to the normal daily media inquiries.

“All of you beat people (local newspapers) do a good job approaching the city from a well-rounded perspective, and it’s pretty fair usually,” she said.

“When it’s not, we sit down and discuss it.”

Ripley also said she feels reporters are content with the level of support they find from Tempe, calling the city “a pretty open place to do business with.”

“Mayor (Hugh) Hallman is extraordinarily accessible and knowledgeable, and willing to share that with whoever asks,” she said.

“That makes my job really easy. And the whole council is well-spoken and open.”

City staff also has proven itself to be willing and able to step up and use its expertise to accommodate media requests and questions, Ripley said—a considerable asset to her, both as a reporter and media relations director.

In addition to providing media assistance, Ripley works with staffs of the city’s graphic design and Tempe 11 (public access television) departments to “get word to the community” through various non-news media channels.

Ripley’s transition from journalism and into the world of public relations was anything but accidental, however.

“I had always known that public relations was where I ultimately wanted to be, even though at heart I still feel like a journalist a lot of the time,” she said, noting that her Arizona State University journalism degree carries an emphasis in PR.

“I gave journalism a try. I’m so glad that I did.”

Ripley began her employment with Tempe as an aide in Hallman’s office, where she worked on constituent relations and wrote various communications pieces, including speeches, newspaper editorials, letters and proclamations.

Her time at Tempe was preceded by a stint doing PR at Banner Medical Centers, first at Banner Mesa Medical Center, and later at the corporate office. Before that, Ripley worked on high-tech PR at a Scottsdale public relations agency after leaving the Tribune.

“I dabbled in a lot of different worlds,” she said.

In her new role, Ripley said she looks forward to seeing where new technology takes the city and the field of public relations.

“The way we reach out to residents is constantly changing,” she said. “Five to 10 years ago the Internet wasn’t there. What’s going to be here in 10 years that isn’t here now, in terms of methods of communicating?”


Photo by David Stone





























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