SMC public information officer retires
After 24 and a half years of being the public information officer at Santa Monica College, Bruce Smith is all smiles. Since retiring from SMC, Smith has been going to the gym, taking French classes and planning a trip to France, and focusing on his theater projects. He also started a new public relations business, Smith Writing & PR.
Smith has dealt with public relations at SMC since 1988 — writing weekly newsletters, issuing press credentials and clarifying the news of the college for the media.
Smith has always been fond of news media and relations. After graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, he wrote for newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily News for the next decade.
"I loved being a reporter, but it's really high stress," Smith said. "After a while, I just felt that I needed to do something different, but I wanted to do something related, so I went into public relations."
Smith had looked into SMC before and had loved the location and its academic reputation.
"I answered an ad in the [Los Angeles] Times," Smith said. "As I got here and learned more about [the college], I realized it was such a special place."
In his time at the college, he has had to work his PR magic in some difficult situations, like the pepper spray incident last spring.
"That was clearly my biggest [challenge]," he said.
The 1994 earthquake was another PR milestone for Smith. SMC was severely damaged, but the focus was entirely at the epicenter in the Valley; Santa Monica was being ignored, Smith said.
"That was a very old-fashioned PR crisis in the sense that I would literally create little handwritten one-page flyers giving updates on earthquake recovery," Smith said. "I'd literally walk around campus and hand them out — I felt like a newsie." Once the media realized how bad the damage was in Santa Monica, the college was able to start getting Federal Emergency Management Agency money.
Other monumental moments in Smith's career were the opening of new structures, when former President Bill Clinton spoke at SMC a month after his inauguration, and when then-California-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was the 2005 graduation speaker. While at SMC, Smith has worked closely with the theater department, where he has written plays for production such as "Heart Mountain" and "Butterfly Wings." Smith will continue to pursue this passion.
Another aspect of the college that Smith said he holds in high regard is The Corsair newspaper. Smith has worked closely with the student journalists, and said he appreciates all the coverage he has received from his theatrical experiences.
"The Corsair reporters have been really very nice and appreciative of my work when all I'm doing is my work," Smith said. Smith said he wants his replacement to have a background similar to his.
"I am of the opinion that whoever handles media relations at SMC should ideally have a journalism background because that person understands deadlines, understands what the media needs and understands the institution," Smith said.
Smith will stay on as a consultant through the end of June.