Aug 06

Disaster is the crack cocaine of broadcast journalism

As could be predicted, the broadcast media went on a pure feeding frenzy after the horrific Minneapolis bridge collapse. 806_image_3

The disaster was dissected and deconstructed time and time again. Eyewitnesses, experts and anyone else who could walk and chew gum were interviewed and asked what they saw, thought and felt. Sidebar stories showed local bridges that, like the one in Minneapolis, had structural defaults.

Intrepid reporters strapped themselves into crash simulators and walked us through best practices for escaping a submerged vehicle.

I’d list all of the above as sound, responsible journalism. Where the media beast went over the line, though, was in the showing and re-showing of the bridge collapse itself. I wish I had a dollar for every viewing.

Spectacular calamities have become the crack cocaine of TV news coverage. How many times have we seen JFK and Jackie hanging a left-hand turn into Dealey Plaza? Or, how about the Challenger hurtling skyward until it explodes into a thousand pieces? And, of course, the Twin Towers come crashing down each and every time Al Qaeda issues a new warning.

It’s all about the ratings and, sadly, shock sells. So, the media continues to cross the line and show too much negativity too many times. The end result is that, like JFK, the Challenger and the Twin Towers before it, the images of the Minnesota bridge collapsing into the Mississippi River are now seared into our collective memory banks. And, to what end?

Jul 16

Let’s rename this service ‘DieBlogComments.com’

With the traditional and digital worlds still buzzing about the bogus posts of Whole Foods CEO John Mackay on his own company’s site, comes word of a 100 percent unabashedly ersatz new service called Buyblogcomments.com.

As the name implies, bloggers who want increased traffic and improved search rankings pay this service to generate "authentic" comments that link back to the blog. The service essentially spams the comment pages of other blogs and inserts backlinks to drive traffic and Google juice. The site says:

"Finally, you can purchase quality blog comments without the stress of finding someone to write the comments, or buying some high priced automated program. BuyBlogComments is NOT spam! When you purchase blog comments from us, you are getting quality blog comments. They wont be saying stuff like "nice site, check out these free insurance quotes".. the blog comments will be about the blog post that we are commenting on. You won’t even be able to tell our blog comments apart from the rest. So the blogger is safe, it will look completely like a legit comment that someone reading the blog post wrote. In fact, most bloggers will like the free comments to help with their community…"

How clever. As if bot spam wasn’t annoying enough. Now blog readers have to endure a new, more disguised layer of spam. Sadly, I’m guessing a few unethical firms will experiment with this service. Hopefully BuyBlogComments will die a quick death.

Jul 03

Making a difference

Fresh from defeating his dad in two straight games of one-on-one basketball, Chris ‘Repman, Jr.’ Cody was tooling along Middletown-Lincroft Road yesterday when his car pulled up behind a town garbage truck, painted green and covered with various pro-environment slogans.

Stenciled across the truck’s rear were the words, ‘Making a difference.’ That’s when Chris, noticing the acrid smoke and pungent odors spewing forth from various parts of the vehicle, noted, ‘Yeah, they’re making a difference all right. A difference for the worse.’

I’m always amazed when an organization says one thing, but does another. The fast food chains are a great example of this sort of double talk: their slogans boast about fresh, fast, delicious food, but we all know their calorie and fat-laden lard is adding inches to America’s collective waistline every day.

The best way to keep these organization’s honest is to post complaints on their web sites or ‘out’ them in blogs like this. Hopefully, together, we’ll be making a difference.

Jun 14

You can fight City Hall

It’s heartwarming to see Kellogg’s pull its Saturday-morning advertising support of six food products, Fruitloops_2 including Apple Jack and Fruit Loops.

The products, which are chock full of sugar and other nasty stuff that can contribute to childhood obesity, may also be removed from the market entirely if Kellogg’s can’t re-constitute them and make the gook less, well, gooky.

I’d gladly stand-up and salute Kellogg’s for this seemingly strong statement of corporate social responsibility, but based on the New York Times article, their actions seem to be based more on self-preservation and less on altruism.

So, the actual ‘hats off’ salute goes to the two consumer activist groups who made sure their message and multimillion dollar lawsuit threats reached the corner office in Battle Creek, Michigan. It’s nice to know that average people still can make a difference.

Thanks to Rob Longert for the idea.

Apr 23

Revenge is a dish best served cold

As an agency owner, I was pleased to read that Draft FCB had managed to recoup its massive Wal-MartWalmart
loss by nailing the account of arch enemy Kmart.

By now, the known marketing world is up to speed on the soap opera-like details of how Draft FCB first won Wal-Mart and then, based upon alleged shenanigans by Wal-Mart’s Julie Roehm and Sean Womack in the search process, was summarily fired. Wal-Mart went on to hire the Martin Agency, fire Roehm and Womack, be sued by Roehm for wrongful dismissal, counter sue her for ‘conduct unbecoming’ and so on and so forth.

In the meantime, Draft FCB was left to pick up the pieces and overcome a huge image and reputation challenge created by the Roehm/Wal-Mart fracas: did FCB look the other way when it came to proper business conduct? Did they ‘buy’ the new business via lavish gifts and entertainment? Were they engaged in discussions to set up a separate business for Roehm and Womack in exchange for being assigned the Wal-Mart account?

Draft FCB’s parent company, Interpublic, conducted an internal audit and found no instances of wrongdoing. Cleared of any breaches of ethical conduct, Draft went on the offensive and, bingo, nailed the Kmart account.

I’m not privy to what really went down at Draft, Wal-Mart or Kmart, but as a guy who’s been through more than one ‘wrongful’ dismissal by clients, I rejoice in Draft’s being able to not only recoup a good percentage of the lost Wal-Mart billings, but to do so through the auspices of a direct competitor of the company who’d publicly humiliated the agency in the first place.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Apr 12

Where are the apologies?

Dukescandal_2While Imus is apologizing nationwide to the Rutgers women’s basketball team and to the African-American community at large for his stupid comments, where are the apologies from the African-American leaders to the Duke lacrosse students who "went to hell and back" as one of them stated today? Where are the apologies to the innocent students for presuming them guilty and for ruining their reputations?  Where are the apologies to the country for creating a racial incident when none existed? 

Why is no one — at the very least — saying sorry?

And, why do we allow this to happen in our country?  It’s criminal for us to just let anyone get on a soapbox — and shout to the world — without having hard evidence as to someone’s guilt or innocence.  In the Imus case, the disgust is justified and the evidence is as hard as it gets.  But, in the Duke case, which is now similar in many ways to the Tawana Brawley case, there was no hard evidence that these boys were possibly guilty. 

On April 19, 2006, Al Sharpton was a guest on the Bill O’Reilly Show on the Fox News Channel.

The topic was the Duke case. Toward the end of the interview, Sharpton admitted that he didn’t know yet what really happened, and said, "I don’t know yet and I think that the proper thing to do is to support those that want justice."

OK, Al, what justice now do the boys get? Don’t they, at the very least, deserve an apology.

Apr 11

Civility on the web? Fuggedaboudit!

Tim O’Reilly’s well-intentioned, but incredibly naïve, suggestion to create a set ofManners guidelines to shape online discussion and, ultimately, bring civility and manners to the web has about as much chance of success as the proverbial snowball in hell. (Click for article in NY Times.)

O’Reilly, along with Wikipedia Founder, Jimmy Wales, are asking bloggers to, among other things ban anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.

Had this dynamic duo suggested such a set of guidelines say, two or three years ago, I’d give it a better than 50-50 chance of success. But, with 60 million-plus bloggers around the world doing and saying whatever they please, the chance of even a small percentage playing by Messrs. O’Reilly and Wales’ new rules is slim to none.

The genie is out of the bottle as far as online boorishness, poor manners and inappropriate postings. In fact, the Blogosphere reminds me of the Old West where lawlessness reigned supreme and the quickest gun (or, in the Blogosphere’s case, the quickest typepad) won the day. So, hats off to O’Reilly and Wales, but the guys with the Black hats can’t and won’t be controlled.

Jan 10

Every now and then the system works

 

Mark McGwire’s near unanimous rejection by baseball writers voting which
players should be named to the uber prestigious Hall of Fame is a victory for
fans everywhere.

It shows that, in this case, words sometimes speak louder than actions. The
‘words’ were McGwire’s Congressional testimony a while back when, asked directly
if he’d ingested steroids, said, "I prefer to not look at the past."

Fans knew McGwire’s prestigious home run records, which seemed so amazing at
the time, were achieved via his bulking up on illegal substances.

Now, baseball writers have made McGwire pay the ultimate price. He’ll sit on
the bench while two902
somewhat lesser luminaries, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr,
scoot into the Hall.

If he is to ever be inducted into the hallowed Hall, McGwire needs to embark
on a significant image and reputation rehab program forthwith. I’ve suggested in
the past that he consider a grassroots Little League program aimed at educating
kids on the dangers of steroid use. Whatever he does, McGwire better act fast.
His chances for future induction rest on his ability to admit fault, ‘find’ the
right pitch and then launch it out of the park.

In the meantime, it’s nice to know that, for once, the system worked as it
should.

Dec 13

Who’s the predator and who’s the prey?

I’ve been meaning to weigh in on the NBC Dateline Predator series for some time now. Like many others, I’ve been captivated by the show, whose premise is to lure Internet predators to a sexual rendezvous with an underage boy or girl.

Instead, when they arrive at the ‘victim’s’ house, the men (and they’re always men) encounter anTt9321  NBC Dateline film crew and correspondent. They’re immediately interrogated, usually reduced to a tearful confession and then told they’re free to leave. Instead, a group of burly, local cops, skulking right outside the home, toss the bad guys down on the ground and arrest them.

Now, this obviously makes for great television. And Dateline and its partner in the show, Perverted Justice, which helps identify and invite these guys to the "teen’s" home are providing a genuine public service.

But, the more I see the show, the more I see the lines being blurred. The Perverted Justice actors are so good at portraying young and willing sexual partners that, in my mind, they come mighty close to entrapment. Most of the predators are sleazy guys who’ve had a history of scrapes with the law, etc. Others, though, are seemingly upstanding citizens. There have been Iraqi War veterans, smart and seemingly sophisticated white collar workers and loads of guys who seem to be your normal, well adjusted family man caught in the Predator trap. And, now, courtesy of Dateline and Perverted Justice, their lives have been turned upside down. One public official actually committed suicide just as his house was being surrounded by local law enforcement officers and Dateline.

So, who’s the predator and who’s the prey? Is Dateline going too far in doing good? They’re clearly helping to put bad guys away and, hopefully, deterring others from entering chat rooms and trying to hook-up with kids. But, are the methods they use kosher? Is it cool to ruin people’s reputations and, in at least one case, a person’s life?

It’s an interesting image and reputation question since, in my mind, there is at least a suggestion/possibility of entrapment going on here. I’d be interested in knowing what others think.

Oct 03

The devil made me do it is simply a cop out.

In a world with little or no personal accountability, it should come as no surprise to see Florida Congressman Mark Foley blame his sending sexually explicit e-mails to underage pages on the effects of alcohol. And, following in the politically-correct footsteps of such other recent bad boys as Mel Gibson and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Foley immediately checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic for "treatment of alcoholism and related behavioral problems."078partyfacegesichtfaschingkarnevalcarni_1 

As we now know, Foley was one of the most active advocates in the battle against Internet predators who use the web to meet and engage in sexual activities with underage kids. So, while Foley talked the talk in public, he most assuredly did not walk the walk in his personal life.

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But, hey, it wasn’t his fault. Just like it doesn’t seem to be anyone’s fault for anything anymore. Foley, like every other "victim," blames someone or something else for his actions. In Foley’s case, it was the demon rum that made him send those provocative e-mails to pages. And, now he’s being "responsible" by seeking professional help. Yeah, right.

Gimme a break. Clinics have become the new surrogate for personal responsibility and accountability. If anything, Foley should stand up, admit the mistake and offer to go on a speaking tour to high schools and colleges nationwide, warning our kids about the dangers of e-mail. Any and all money he’d make on the tour would be donated to some clearinghouse for counseling underage victims of this horrific crime.

Instead, Foley will disappear inside the walls of some high-class clinic, wait for the heat to die down and then re-emerge to pursue some sort of lucrative business career. He’ll probably also pen his personal memoirs for a cool "mill" or two.

It’s time our leaders and role models stop blaming artificial substances for their actions and, instead, step up to the plate and beginning admitting fault. If memory serves correctly, admitting fault is the first step towards recovery.


Tip of RepMan’s hat to Gene Colter for his thoughts.