Apr 10

Political correctness rides again

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NBC’s decision to suspend Don Imus is yet another nail in the coffin of free speech, hipness and edgy humor.

Imus, like other shock jocks, rose to fame and fortune because he was willing to say and do what others wouldn’t. What set Imus apart, however, was his intellectual bent, his politically incorrect view on life and his A-level guest list. For me, Imus was the thinking man’s Howard Stern.

Now, though, Imus has been shut down for a fortnight because of a racially insensitive slur. As Imus was quick to point out, he’s offended every possible race, religion and creed. Yet, this time, he apparently went too far.

I don’t condone his bizarre ways, but I do support Imus in his free-thinking and free speech. Political correctness may have won with the Imus suspension. But, we all lose when a true original like the I-man is shut down.

I hope advertisers don’t follow NBCs lead and pull their spots from the I-man’s show. After all, he was merely living up to an image and reputation he’d carefully crafted for years.

Here’s hoping the I-man rests up and comes back from his forced hiatus bigger and badder than ever.

Apr 04

Will newspapers go the way of the Pony Express?

The Newspaper Association of America is launching an aggressive advertising campaign to convince Newspapers marketers that newspapers remain a relevant source of, well, news.

Quantitative and qualitative research, however, points in different directions, especially among younger audiences. In fact, most of the ‘younger’ people I know, as well as many ‘professionals’ opt for online news and information solutions. And, while the digital versions of, say, The Wall Street Journal and New York Times will always remain relevant, their print brethren face a bleak future.

I also find it rather ironic that one beleaguered industry, publishing, is reaching out to another, advertising, to prove its relevance. I’m not sure what the solution is, but embracing the opportunities of new media as opposed to beating its collective chest about traditional print, seems to me a smarter approach. So, rather than pointing to its multi-platform flexibility, I wonder if the newspaper industry would be better served by positioning itself as the logical solution for ‘Generation Next.’ The latter appear to have abandoned traditional and digital newspapers for a variety of new and alternative sources. Figuring out how to play in that new sandbox while remaining relevant to its core readership will accomplish far more than an advertising campaign.

Thanks to Greg Schmalz for the idea.

Mar 07

Was there this much fuss when Edward R. Murrow covered the Battle of Britain from the top of a London building?

I admire NBC’s Brian Williams and his decision to cover the Iraqi War from the front lines. But, Bw_2 based upon what I’ve seen, read and heard, it appears the network’s decision to send the nightly news anchor into harm’s way may have been ratings-inspired.

If so, it’s shameful in so many ways. For one, it will really tarnish NBC’s image. For another, it will further decimate so-called ‘legitimate’ journalism’s remaining respect and credibility.

Intrepid correspondents and photojournalists have always put themselves in harm’s way to report from the front lines. So what’s so different this time around? Why are so many so obsessed with Williams’ sojourn? In my mind, it’s just another example of the superficial tabloid stories our society seems to revel in.

The war should be the news. Not the debonair ‘reporter’ who’s off to cover it. Could anyone imagine this sort of fuss when Walter Cronkite went to Vietnam or Ernie Pyle shipped off to cover WW II? Were entertainment reporters writing about Edward R. Murrow’s health and well-being when, in the midst of the nightly bombings of London in September, 1940, he signed on with the now-classic line, "This is London"?

I wish Brian Williams Godspeed. And, I wish our tabloid press would find different, more relevant items to report on.

If the late Mr. Murrow could comment on today’s coverage, I’ll bet he’d sign on by saying, "This is sleeze…"

Thanks to Gene Colter for the idea for this post.

Feb 26

February 22nd was just another day in the ongoing dumbing down of America

I had the opportunity to watch the first 15 minutes of Good Morning America and then listen to Harry National Public Radio on Thursday, February 22nd (which, ironically, happens to be the anniversary of George Washington’s birthday). Anyway I thought their respective lead news stories provided an interesting snapshot into the continual dumbing down of society. To wit, NPR’s lead stories were as follows:

– Anti-Iraq War protests in Sydney, Australia, against Vice President Cheney’s impending State visit

– The latest machinations in the Scooter Libby trial

– The capsizing of an Indonesian ferry boat with significant loss of life

– Prince Harry’s posting to Iraq as a member of the British military services

Conversely, Good Morning America focused solely on Prince Harry, and devoted its first 15 minutes to the ‘breaking story.’

As we slide further and further into a sleazy, tabloid-obsessed society, it’s sad to see GMA stoop to National Enquirer-type levels.

So, where are the remaining bastions of legitimate news? Aside from NPR, CNN, the Times and Journal, I’m hard pressed to think of many.

It’s a sad trend that augers poorly for our children’s future and our country’s global competitiveness.

As a quick postscript to this ‘dumbing down’ blog: the Today Show devoted the first 25 minutes of its Friday, February 23rd ‘edition’, to the Anna Nicole Smith nonsense. What a disgrace.

Jul 25

I, journalist

David Carr’s excellent column (subscription required) in Monday’s New York Times highlighted an increasingly prevalent trend in journalism. As newspapers and magazines continue to downsize, consolidate or disappear entirely, more and more journalists have embraced "web 2.0" and created their own blogs or eBusinesses. Carr cites Fortune Magazine’s Nina Munk, who has her own web company called Urban Hound, as a great example of the trend. There’s also Om Malik and Rafat Ali, erstwhile journalists with Business 2.0 and the Silicon Alley Reporter, respectively, who have their own news sites/blogs.

Carr believes that more and more journalists will be creating their own blogs and eBusinesses in order to compete and survive as the digital revolution continues to wreak havoc on traditional communications channels.

Carr’s column got me wondering why the more progressive PR firms aren’t creating their own information-based eBusinesses. Why shouldn’t Edelman, Weber, CRT/Tanaka or Airfoil provide "insider" perspectives on the industry in which they operate? While we are obviously client and new business focused, we could just as easily create content driven thought pieces that would rival anything published by the current trade journals. And, our eJournals would carry the first-hand "I was there" immediacy the trade journals lack.

Sure, there’s the question of objectivity, but, if the top management consulting firms like Bain and Accenture can do it, why can’t we? And, why can’t we connect directly with prospective clients in the process?

Malik’s gigaOM.com and Ali’s paidContent.org cover technology and digital media news. Both have broken a number of stories and received funding from venture capitalists.

So, why can’t a public relations firm also create a separate revenue stream by creating a Web site that provides analysis, fresh content and an "insider’s view of what’s really what?" Hey, maybe David Carr would be interested in becoming editor?