New Mexico PRSA’s Member Spotlight features the amazing professionals who make up our chapter. You’ll get to the know the people behind Public Relations and Communications in NM and what makes them tick. We’re happy to introduce you.

 

Rick De Reyes

Karli Massey

For the past 20 years, Rick has heard nothing but praise for Denver, Colorado; its attractions, economy, lively art scene. But while he was living in Denver and Los Angeles before that, he always had his eye on Albuquerque and New Mexico. “I not only have family here, but I also love the sunsets, the mountains, the food, the climate, and I always wanted to live here.”

But he needed a job in New Mexico before he could leave Denver. That’s how Rick got hired at KOB-TV as a weatherman in 2004. Since 2007, he has been with the City of Albuquerque. And since 2011, he has been Public Information Officer for ABQ RIDE/City of Albuquerque Transit.

Rick began college studying for the Catholic priesthood, sponsored by the Diocese of El Paso, his hometown. But early on he realized a career as a cleric wouldn’t be his forte, so he transferred to the University of Texas at El Paso. He seemed destined for a career in his father’s business (selling propane and oil) until he accompanied his younger brother to a local rock radio station, where his brother recorded a report for El Paso’s Ysleta High School. “That’s when I first experienced the adrenalin of communicating with people in a very intimate way, and I was hooked.”

Rick enrolled in UTEP’s Mass Communications program, which exposed him to print and broadcast journalism, public relations and other media-related arts. While still a junior and only 20 years old, he was hired to report and then co-anchor weekend news at KVIA-TV in El Paso. After graduation, he moved onto such TV markets as Beaumont-Port Arthur, Oklahoma City, Denver and Los Angeles. During his 14 years in L.A., he won numerous awards, including two Emmys for news reporting. However, while working as a weatherman and reporter at KABC-TV, ABC’s West Coast flagship, he decided to fulfill a lifelong dream. He took off four years to broadcast baseball play-by-play on radio, calling the games of the Lancaster JetHawks of the California League from 1997-1999 and the Albuquerque Dukes in 2000 (he’s the last person to ever call a Dukes game on radio or any other media). “Many of my colleagues and supervisors thought I was committing ‘career-suicide.’ I was trading in a job that paid me 95 percent more than I could earn in baseball.” But Rick adds, “I didn’t want to look back on my life and say I didn’t have the guts to follow my dream. So I jumped at the chance.”

It was his exposure to Albuquerque than cemented his desire to move to New Mexico. So after four years at KOB-TV (and 30 total years in TV journalism), the city hired him to market and be the spokesperson for homeless pets at what was becoming the separate Animal Welfare Department. “Since I wasn’t brought up in public relations, I had to reverse-engineer everything. I had covered well over a thousand news conferences in 30 years, so I knew what worked for my story purposes and what was extraneous. I also had read several thousand news releases and knew what got my attention.” Rick also got to know some of New Mexico’s P.R. professionals during his four years at Channel 4, including such well known pros as Joanie Griffin and Tom Garrity.

As a Marketing/P.R. professional, Rick also ran into something he didn’t account for: a political battle of wills between city council, the administration and the newly formed department. “It seemed like almost every day, the department was in crisis mode; with accusations and counter-accusations flying around that weren’t true, but I had to address them all. I even had a former colleague whom I had known since he was four years old ask me if I was lying.” He knew enough to apply the lessons of journalism to the lessons of public relations, that one never lies and that a set of ethics has to predominate any career, especially one in journalism or public relations.

He did have mentors along the way who encouraged and guided him through rough times, such as Jeanine Patterson, his first director at Animal Welfare and the recently retired Annette Paez, former deputy director at Transit. “They helped me to see that through it all, I have to remember my humanity as I work to preserve the humanity of others.”

And although Rick is no longer working in news media, he believes a free press is key to preserving our democracy. “I’ve had just a few battles with news media over the past 13 years, mostly over accuracy or flawed perspective or inexperience. But I believe once you put restrictions on journalism’s right to hold people accountable, then civil rights are the next thing to go.”

If you know someone who should be featured in our Member Spotlight, or would like to be featured yourself, please contact Nancy Salem at mnsalem@sandia.gov.