The Spokesmouth

If you head down to the ACTV Silver Anniversary Party on Saturday, June 6, it's a good bet the most energetic and exhausted man on the scene will be ACAC's Public Relations Coordinator Jim Ellinger. As the grand PR poobah, he's the guy responsible for scheduling events, alerting the press, and making sure everyone involved is fat, satisfied, and serene. (Well, maybe not fat.) And while it's bound to be a hot one, with enough sun to sap the strength from the legs of even the heartiest, don't be surprised to see Ellinger up and about 'til the very end, handing out refrigerator magnets and silver balloons (we got ours), and talking faster than anyone should be required to listen about the importance of public access television in a democratic community. If you've got a moment, give him a listen: He knows whereof he speaks.

ACAC Public Relations Coordinator Jim Ellinger

photograph by John Anderson

While he's probably best known publicly for his role as the PSA Dude - the ACAC savant who gallivants around Austin landmarks reading public service announcements - Ellinger has a hard-earned reputation as one of Austin's most persistent media activists. In addition to steering the
11-year battle to bring KOOP Radio (91.7) to the airwaves, Ellinger has punched the proverbial clock in a number of high-profile roles: as public relations and membership coordinator at Wheatsville Food Co-Op; as "spin doctor" on the Daryl Slusher council campaign (his words); as disc jockey at KOOP and KAZI; and as a columnist for The Austin Chronicle (his "Austin Airwaves" column ran for several years in the early Eighties). Over the years, he claims, he's developed both "a big mouth and a big Rolodex," both of which have come in handy in shouting out the news about the ACAC anniversary.

He's more than happy to do so: When the PR job came open a few years ago, he jumped at the chance to represent an organization he had long admired. While his roots are in radio, he acknowledges television's greater public power: One of ACAC's goals, to his mind, is to put that power in the hands of the disenfranchised. Calling ACAC "the great leveling field," he champions ACAC's commitment to give people the time and access to "talk [at length] about issues that are either being slighted, ignored, or distorted by the mainstream media."

Ellinger compares ACAC to the old-fashioned soapbox, upon which any old citizen - esteemed aristocrat or stark-raving lunatic - could stand and declaim his or her views on the state of the world. "Even if you have opinions which are wrong, morally suspect, racist, sexist, homophobic, or intolerant, we have to put them on. But there's a value to that diversity - even if it is unpalatable." Unpalatable diversity: Perhaps not the most bumper-sticker friendly of possible ACAC slogans, but an ideal Ellinger is willing to fight for. Just ask him.

- Jay Hardwig

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