Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Service of Two Sides of the Story

Monday, November 11th, 2019

Photo: hvinnovationgroup.com

A news story should represent both sides of a story and a reporter owes it to readers to attempt to shoot for this balance. Let the readers decide. As a public relations practitioner there are times where the most I can hope for in a negative story is the chance for my client to share his/her point of view and I am grateful when the reporter gives my client the chance.

That’s why this debate at Harvard caught my eye and surprised me.

Marc Tracy wrote “Harvard Newspaper Faces Backlash Over ICE Article” for The New York Times. Criticism against the 146 year old daily was made by campus groups Act on a Dream and Harvard College Democrats. They reprimanded The Harvard Crimson for writing that the reporter had contacted for comment Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] for the article “Harvard Affiliates Rally for Abolish ICE Movement.”

Photo: thecrimson.com

The editors wrote: “ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.”

Act on a Dream had organized the rally described in the Crimson. Furious, the group launched a petition “demanding that The Crimson vow to never contact ICE again and to apologize for the ‘harm it has inflicted.’ ” They gathered 650+ online signatures.

One grievance by Act on a Dream was that ICE had a “long history of surveilling and retaliating against those who speak out against them.”  Even though the rally had already taken place when the story ran, they claimed that tipping off ICE could endanger undocumented immigrants on campus. Harvard College Democrats said “It’s very much in line with our values. It lines up with our commitment to protecting these movements, making sure people’s voices can be heard, that intimidation from ICE doesn’t prevent these students from exercising their right to mobilize and organize.”

Photo: wsaz.com

Tracy wrote “It is one of the first tasks a journalist learns on the job, a routine aspect of reporting: asking for comment from people or organizations that are mentioned prominently in an article, especially those cast in a harsh light.”

The Crimson “stood by its reporting.” The paper’s president and managing editor “wrote that ‘every party named in a story has a right to comment or contest criticism leveled against them.'” They cited approval of the practice by the Student Press Law Center and Society of Professional Journalists.

Tracy quoted University of Michigan law professor Margo Schlanger “who specializes in civil rights and prison reform.” He wrote about Schlanger that “while she understands the protestors’ concerns, the paper had done nothing unethical.” Quoting Schlanger: “They’re trying to make ICE a pariah agency” and that it was “not responsible journalism not to call the agency to ask them to respond to things.”

Where do you stand: Should a newspaper reporter always try for comments from people representing all sides of a story or are there exceptions and have the rules changed?

Photo: tes.com

Service of Reporting to the Public New–Dire–Drug Side Effects When There Are No Alternatives for Chronic Ailments

Thursday, August 29th, 2019

Pill organizer Photo: tripsavvy.com

I get that people want to make smart decisions about their health, especially these days when many doctors don’t have time to explain the pros and cons of the meds they prescribe. And in spite of thorough vetting by the FDA before a drug is approved there often are discoveries of adverse side effects over time when patients take new drugs.

But when there are no alternatives the information we read and hear via consumer media can serve to frighten more than enlighten, and to what purpose?

Here’s the headline that inspired this post: “New Study Adds to Concern About Certain Drugs and Dementia Risk.”

Lisa Field wrote: “As people get older, they’re more likely to need medications on a regular basis to manage one or more chronic conditions. Some of these medications fall into a class known as anticholinergics and may not be ideal to take for long periods because they could increase the risk of dementia.” In an article on nextavenue.org Field highlighted results of a study published in a recent issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

Photo: attorneygroup.com

She continued: “If there are no effective non-anticholinergic medications or other non-drug interventions, then I think whether the benefits of taking the medication outweigh the potential risks depends very much on the individual circumstances and the severity of the condition for which treatment is needed,” said the professor of medical statistics in primary care at the University of Nottingham’s School of Medicine.” Carol Coupland authored the study.

Tell me the point of worrying patients with this information if their chronic condition forces them to take an essential medicine for the rest of their lives which, one hopes, is longer than the time a dreaded side effect like dementia might set in? Should consumer editors and bloggers, TV and radio news producers table articles and programs that spotlight dire drug side effects until alternatives exist for these patients?

Photo: medshadow.org

Service of Drastic Measures that Saved a Newspaper Section: How Long Can It Last?

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Sarah Mervosh’s New York Times article about the creative marketing measure The Portland Press Herald took to preserve its regional book reviews intrigued me as much as I worried that the rescue will last only a year. The dwindling number of these sections around the country is appalling and indicative of the poor health of the newspaper industry.

After reading that the largest circulation newspaper in Maine was going to cancel the section, best-selling author Stephen King, known for his horror books, asked his 5+million Twitter followers to “tell the paper DON’T DO THIS,” according to Mervosh. The paper challenged King—who worried that the lost publicity would rob local writers of the ability to buy bread and milk—to ask “his followers to buy 100 digital subscriptions.” They would reinstate the local reviews if he did and they did.

The Press Herald ran with the ball and this Twitter conversation took place with King:

  • TPH: “We’d be willing to bet a retweet by @StephenKing would get us over the threshold.”
  • SK: “Sales pitch? Blackmail? Either way, 71 people have subscribed so far. Are there 29 more Twitterheads out there who want to ante up? just asking.”

Photo: pinterest

The paper’s staff created a deal—for $15 you get a 12-week subscription. Chief exec of the Press Herald‘s publisher Maine Today Media, Lisa DeSisto “credited her employees for asking the community to pay for the journalism they want.”

They ended up with 200 new subscriptions in two days. The paper “pledged to continue the reviews of books about Maine or by Maine authors.” In addition, Joshua Bodwell with the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance raised enough money to pay for ads to cover the book reviews for a year.

This rescue happened as the newspaper reporter hemorrhage in this country continues unchecked. Mervosh wrote “the number of journalists across the country dropped by nearly half from 2008 to 2017, according to the Pew Research Center.” Recently 20 reporters were axed by the Dallas Morning News and almost all reporters are gone at The East Bay Express, she wrote.

A reporter with The Sun Journal in Lewiston, Steve Collins, wrote that it was “encouraging” that people saved local book reviews “But seriously folks, the chief reason to read your local newspaper is you need local news.” He added “Imagine a Maine where you know nothing about anything that goes on. That’s a real horror story.”

Given that most communities don’t count a popular author like Stephen King among their citizens to tout their cause, would such a tactic have legs elsewhere? Would crowdsourcing work for other newspaper sections? Should a community’s residents have to pay to ensure the survival of their favorite newspaper sections? Was the tactic blackmail or business today?

Photo: tulsahistory.org

Service of While We Were Distracted by Stormy, Omarosa, a $15K Jacket & Michael Cohen…

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Photo: nationofchange.org

Cable and social media are obsessed with Stormy, Omarosa, the $15K Paul Manafort jacket, the Cohen admissions and other almost daily forehead-slapping bits that distract from and mask crucial changes by the current administration none of which are topics around the water cooler.

Daniel Nelson wrote in sciencetrends.com that the administration cut out the yearly budget for NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System which measures greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and “will likely stymie efforts to combat global climate change.” The savings was $10 million/year. [By comparison, the Mexico wall is estimated to cost $70 billion to build and $150 million/year to maintain.]

Photo: NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory

According to Nelson, “Kelly Sims Gallagher, the director of the International Environment and Resource Policy Center at Tufts University says that the decision was ‘a grave mistake.’”

The program supported research big and small. It:

  • ensured that countries adhered to the Paris climate accord because it measured reductions in emissions
  • provided data for 65 projects to understand how forests keep carbon out of the air
  • prevented deforestation of tropical forest in developing nations
  • tracked dissolving carbon flowing from the mouth of the Mississippi River into the Pacific Ocean
  • helped Providence I. reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Meanwhile Betsy DeVos was busy unraveling consumer protections in another sector—for-profit colleges. [Examples: chains which train automotive mechanics, cosmetologists, cyber security techs and, like the now defunct Trump University, real estate investment specialists.]

Photo: economicdevelopment.org

According to Erica L. Green, DeVos “formally moved to scrap a regulation that would have forced for-profit colleges to prove that the students they enroll are able to attain decent-paying jobs.” In her New York Times article, Green described the sector as “scandal-scarred” noting that the now rescinded gainful employment safeguard was made during the previous administration.

Photo: autotraining.edu

The rule under Obama “revoked federal funding and access to financial aid for poor-performing schools” where graduates were left drowning in debt with poor job prospects. Green reported that since 2010, when the Obama administration began to tighten the rules, almost half the career programs and schools have closed and the student population shrank by more than 1.6 million. The president of Career Education Colleges and Universities, the industry’s trade group, admitted “The sector today is so much better.”

Who will be left holding the bag to pay defaulted loans under the DeVos change? Taxpayers.

“‘The Trump administration is once again choosing the interests of executives and shareholders of predatory for-profit higher education institutions over protecting students and taxpayers,’ said John King, the Obama-era education secretary charged with enforcing the rule, who called the move ‘outrageous and irresponsible.’”

Attorney generals of 18 states have sued to delay enforcement of the DeVos reversal.

Here are the reasons her department gives for rescinding the gainful employment rule:

  • Research ignored by the Obama administration “undermined the ‘validity of using the debt and earnings comparisons.’”
  • They found that “‘a troubling degree of inconsistency and potential error exists in job placement rates’ that ‘could mislead students in making an enrollment decision.’”
  • It was “burdensome” for schools to disclose their data.
  • “the Obama regulations ‘reinforce an inaccurate and outdated belief that career and vocational programs are less valuable to students and less valued by society, and that these programs should be held to a higher degree of accountability than traditional two- and four-year degree programs that may have less market value.’”

Maybe someone can explain these arguments to me.

Is there a chance that these reversals—and their negative impact–will be part of voter decisions at the November midterm elections? Do you think that they are widely known? Are the extraneous headline-grabbing distractions deliberate to keep our eyes off the many far bigger birdies? They sure are working, don’t you think?

Photo: pinterest

Service of Statistics and Studies: Tablet Sales, MPA on Magazine Ad Sales & Gallup on the Public’s News Sources

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Statistics

I like to tease out the significance of statistics, studies and findings and check them against my instinct and anecdotal observations. One place to find plenty of material is Mediabistro.com, a superb aggregator. From this site, in coverage about Barnes & Noble’s chief executive stepping down, I also read a digest-size update about the tablet business for books.

What a Pill

Book TabletsBarnes & Noble’s Nook and Amazon.com’s Kindle, among the best rated tablets for books, aren’t doing as well as expected and neither come near the iPad. Linking to TechCrunch’s coverage, Mediabistro noted that the Nook division’s income dropped 34 percent from last year at this time.

I imagine one reason for the disappointing results for Nooks and Kindles is that people think of them delivering “books exclusively”–maybe magazines, comics, a few games and kid’s flicks too, options that are just a start for the remarkable iPad with its apps and multiple functions.

On a recent visit to Barnes & Noble I saw the latest versions that do far more–almost everything an iPad can–email, tweet, access apps, minus the picture-taking function and for hundreds of dollars less. But who knew? A crucial breach in getting out the info to the hoi polloi perhaps?

Based on my observations on NYC subways, busses and Metro area commuter railroads, I thought the book tablet industry was booming. Shows yet again how unrepresentative of the rest of the country NYers are; how commuting by public transportation vs. private car must impact the need for and therefore the national sales of such devices; that the reading demographic uses iPads or still reads books on paper or simply that fewer are reading.

Galloping Along

Town CrierThe same July day Mediabistro shared highlights of a Gallup poll of almost 2,050 adults who said that they get their news from TV in 55 percent of cases followed by the Internet at 21 percent. They voiced their responses without the help of options provided by the survey taker.

I thought that the Internet would have done better if not best. According to Dylan Byers on Politico, “For all the focus on ‘social,’ including Facebook and Twitter, only 2 of the 21 percent mentioned such networks as their primary source for news,” he wrote in “Gallup: TV dominates as U.S. news source.” Newspapers or print material came in at nine percent with radio at six.

How Does This Add Up?

Vintage magazine adMediabistro picked up FishbowlNY.com news which covered a Magazine Publishers Association report about the decline by five percent of consumer magazine advertising pages in the first quarter of this year compared to last. Wish this was a revelation.

The exceptions with “double digit ad page growth,” are also of little surprise given the health of the pharma/OTC health remedy and fashion industries: Prevention, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, and Women’s Health; Vogue, GQ and Elle. Only one, Saveur, was about food and one about decorating—HGTV Magazine 

Unless you already own one or both, were you to buy a tablet, would you buy an iPad or one of the others that cost $300 less? If you own a tablet, do you still read traditional books?  Where do you get news? Are you surprised about the magazines rich with ad pages or that some categories or titles are missing from the list?

Surprised

Service of Looking Back

Monday, April 9th, 2012

look-back

I’ve covered nostalgia and old fashioned things. Based on recent developments and observations, it’s time to do so again.

News in the News

This headline and subhead in an LA Times story by James Rainey caught my eye: “Scott Pelley helps CBS carve an old-school identity: The anchor has assisted in pushing the network’s ‘Evening News’ toward hard news, especially on foreign affairs and domestic economic distress. That offers promise it can escape the ratings cellar.”

scott-pelleyRainey wrote: “The old-school approach offers at least some promise that the nightly newscast, long mired in third place among the three networks, might finally claw its way out of the cellar. The ‘CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley’ is the only one of the three network nightly news shows to score a small year-to-year increase in three ratings categories for the season that began in September. In one recent week, it finished second – behind NBC but ahead of ABC- among the 25-to-54 age demographic prized by advertisers. That hadn’t happened since 2006.”

What’s Boss [Translation in 1960s Speak: Cool]

It’s back to the ’60s as “Mad Men” returned to TV sets across the nation. The show inspired headlines from White & Warren that touted “shirt dresses” new for spring and a line of 60s period fashions at Banana Republic–you’ll see them all over.

When Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth

Inspired by an earlier state of mind, one candidate for US President is attracting plenty of votes for antediluvian positions that in this country predate 1775.

Listen to the Conductor, Children!

rr-conductorThere was a time children were told to hush in public so that as adults, they naturally respected other people when out and about. Funny: The railroad is rewarding such comportment now.

Ad man Hank Goldman sent me the link to this news from Metro-North railroad: “Due to popular demand, Metro-North is expanding its ‘Quiet CALMmute’ program to all inbound AM and outbound PM Peak trains on the Hudson, Harlem & New Haven Lines starting Monday, April 2nd.”

In the quiet cars, passengers may not use cell phones; must disable sound features on computers and other electronic devices; must conduct conversations in a subdued voice and use headphones at a volume that cannot be heard by fellow passengers. Good Friday morning over the loudspeaker the conductor advised all passengers to conduct themselves this way in every car!

spring-chickens2Spring Chickens

Jerry Stiller at 85 is starring in Capital One commercials and 91 year old Bob Wolff was entered in the Guinness Book of Records for “Longest Career as a Sports Broadcaster”-73 years!

Is looking back for direction and inspiration a trend?

 

1776

Service of Sound Bites

Monday, September 26th, 2011

soundbite1

A radio newscaster reporting on the hour from a reputable network Saturday morning explained the stock market dip last week as having been caused by Europe’s shaky economy and banking industry, then dashed off to another subject.

Am I Rip Van Winkle? What about grievous problems in the US on both the job and real estate fronts with solutions batted back and forth by politicians whose eyes are no longer on the ball but frozen in simplistic party slogans or directed toward their own reelections?

How many more seconds would it have taken to say, “….on top of stagnant job stats and decreasing real estate industry sales here at home.” [It’s always easier and more palatable to blame someone else, but that’s not the point.]

Television and radio news helped hone the sound bite syndrome that’s been cut in half by Twitter, Facebook and texting. Concurrently we’ve watched the national attention span reach the depth of a photo caption or length of a one-column headline. Under such constraints, accuracy is especially important. Increasingly, people believe what they hear and rarely question.

irs1The “make it simple and be quick about it” trend may be the feather that sinks our shaky ship. Millions accept positions such as “Tax the rich and jobs are doomed,” without thinking through the ramifications. Wouldn’t it be grand if true? Leave things as-is and life will be back to dandy while we face zero pain to get there?  Tax wise nothing’s changed of late and we’re still in an economic mess with no new jobs. Proof enough?  

The scariest part is that all a person-any person–with a microphone, computer or pulpit has to do is repeat a slogan often enough and it becomes fact.

Past nodding “That makes sense,” the “don’t tax the very rich” proponents haven’t dug deeper. Do they question the motives of most of those who chant the phrase? My bet is that the loudest voices don’t want to pay $1,000 more of their $ half million a year income. Let some dummy who can’t afford a canny accountant pay!

Isn’t another missing part of today’s education learning to question what you read and hear? Is that because there’s no time for either teaching or doing that?  Are my observations as simplistic and inaccurate as my criticisms of our sound bite mentality and shallow thinking process?

 question-what-you-hear

Service of News that Makes Kerfuffles

Friday, September 10th, 2010

kerfuffle

The strangest things make it to the top of the news pile and even though I’ve been related to this business most of my life, I’ll never understand why some big news lands on page 12 or on the cutting room floor and how insignificant tidbits stagnate in headlines and on the tips of talk show host lips for days and weeks.

I’m thinking of the Quran-burning Reverend Terry Jones. [Quran is the new spelling of Koran, I’ve read.] How did he get heard to begin with? Slow news period? A fellow like this with few credentials and an insignificant following who is up to no good would hardly get the ear of the editor of a weekly in most towns. Had he burned Qurans in Florida on September 11, who would have known-10 of his 50 congregants? Yikes: The Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates is involved. Next, Jones will make millions on a book and no doubt will run for office. He’s so successful in getting out his message and [hateful] brand that he could join a PR/marketing agency.

cameraDoes the photographer Andres Serrano ring any bells? He’s known for “Piss Christ,” an image with a crucifix in a glass container filled with urine. He shot it in 1987, according to Wikipedia. It has appeared in exhibits around the country. Read much about an outrage? Heard any famous people chime in? Neither did I.

Remember Chris Ofili’s “The Holy Virgin Mary,” a painting that was part of the exhibit called “Sensation”? The painting, featuring dung on the Virgin Mary, went unnoticed in London but when it was hung at The Brooklyn Museum from fall 1999 to early 2000, some, such as Mayor Giuliani, protested while others shrugged. 

skyscrapersTo lighten up a bit, I’ll close by reminiscing about a grownup game of telephone with huge impact that closed offices in New York City within a matter of hours. It happened in the 1980s, years before email and cell phones. Staff in skyscrapers at companies large and small told their bosses that they had heard from friends in other companies that their offices were closing early due to a forecast of dangerously high winds described by meteorologists in feverish weather reports. I was one of the many directed to leave work early that day. When I returned to the usually windy street near my then apartment, my hair barely moved–the air was so calm. I remember thinking, “Why can’t I get my client’s messages to move around NYC this fast?”

Two examples of public disrespect of one religion hardly make a ripple. Any ideas why? It’s enough to make one think that only victims who are bullies get any attention around here.

Please share instances of big stories that generated small play or stories–and people–blown up far bigger than they should be by media. Tell us about local news that you’ve seen take off, fueled by unwarranted panic.

 tallshort

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