Apr 09

How do I love BBC America? Let me count the ways

I am seriously fed up with domestic news coverage. It's banal, repetitive and parochial. And, that's on a good day.

April 9 If one were to watch a batch of NBC, Fox, CBS, CNN and MSNBC coverage, one would think the world begins in Hawaii and ends somewhere in Maine.

It doesn't. That's why I've wholeheartedly embraced BBC America as one of my primary sources of news and information.

Where else would I learn of the Iberia Airlines/British Air merger? Where else would I learn about the unrest in Kyrgyzstan? And, where else would I see commercial plugs for the latest installments of 'Dr Who'?

There are many reasons why the sun is setting on the U.S. empire. One of the prime drivers is our incessant and myopic view of life. We believe the rest of the world, if not the entire universe, revolves around the United States. Sadly, the inverse is true. America is increasingly less relevant. As our global deficit rises, our relative importance declines.

That's why it's so important for those of us in communications to understand what the REST of the world thinks is newsworthy. They're not concerned about Charlie Sheen's latest spousal abuse charge. Nor do they care about American Idol, the start of yet another major league baseball season or the Tea Party's views on what's wrong with Washington, D.C.

With BBC America, you'll see far less coverage of Obama's game of HORSE with CBS's Harry Smith and far more insight into what really matters: namely, the latest Middle East news as well as what's happening in emerging First World powers such as Brazil, India and China. You'll see little, if any, mention of the latest Hollywood scandal (think: Sandra Bullock) and nothing about the latest murder/suicide in Boynton Beach.

It's far too late for America to turn back the clock. But, American PR types like you and me still have a window of opportunity with which to understand how dramatically the world has changed (and how we can continue to play a key role in the dissemination of news and information).

Whether you're a student, a PR professional or, heaven forbid, a medical supplies executive, do yourself a favor: pick up a copy of the F.T., listen to BBC Radio or, better yet, tune into BBC America's nightly newscasts. I guarantee your P.O.V. will change faster than Ms. Bullock's marital status.

Mar 16

I Wish I Had Done a Better Job

Today Deb Brown, Partner and Managing Director Strategic Development, has written the following special guest post.

That’s one of the now infamous sound bites from CNBC’s “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer as 928_Medium
Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” hammered him Thursday night. This show created a lot of buzz, which I’m sure has been a home-run for “The Daily Show’s” ratings, and many reporters called Stewart the clear “winner.” However, there’s one topic that I haven’t seen covered in the articles I’ve come across (although, admittedly, so much has been written on the topic that I might have missed it).

The topic I find the most interesting is how a show that’s on a comedy channel turned one of the supposedly most respected financial news networks in the country upside down. Now, I happen to be a fan of Jon Stewart’s and I think he’s very smart, but what does this say about CNBC and the experts we allegedly trust?

We know when we’re watching Jon Stewart that he is what he is– a comedian. And, to make sure we know, he’s on Comedy Central. But, how are viewers supposed to feel and act when Cramer is basically apologizing for CNBC’s mistakes (and there seemed to be quite a few mentioned Thursday night) while Stewart underscores “the gap between what CNBC advertises itself as and what it is.” 

What does this say about not only Cramer’s reputation, but CNBC’s reputation as a whole?  What does this say about journalism when Cramer hides behind the fact that he didn’t know someone was lying because he was a CEO or he was Cramer’s friend? The showdown may have ended at 11:30pm last Thursday night, but can it take Cramer’s show down with it?  Or the cable network?  It will be interesting to see if this just completely blows over or if this is the start of a serious reputation issue for CNBC.  At last count, more than a thousand articles, blogs or TV segments wrote or aired segments about Cramer cowering under Stewart’s passionate attacks that “it’s not a (bleeping) game.”

But, come on… Stewart is a comedian.  What kind of lasting damage could he possibly do? 

Crossfire, anyone?

Mar 25

Up Next on Fox Business: We Throw a Rock in a Glass House

Guest blog by Gene Colter.Fox_2

The marketing folks at Fox Business have violated one of the most important Commandments of
Advertising: Never talk about your competitor. Their sin, a print ad that pokes fun at CNBC shouter Jim Cramer’s bad call on Bear Stearns, can be seen here.

Some rules (if not commandments) are made to be broken. This is not one of them. Talking about your competitor – good or ill — at best muddles your message and at worst reminds the consumer who else is selling whatever it is you are making.

The Fox Business ad uses a trio of famously wrong prognostications as a lead-in to a quote from Cramer imploring folks not to pull their money from Bear, because Bear will be fine. (Bear wasn’t.) The ad’s bottom line? “Turbulent Times Call for a Credible Network.” That’s Fox Business.

This takes the worst-case scenario described two paragraphs ago and finds ways to make it worst-case-to-the-nth degree. Let’s document just a few, starting with the oh-so-obvious.

The day will come when Fox Business pundits make their own bad call. In fact, that day has already passed, with the upstart network’s anchors getting dinged in the earliest days for factual errors and mischaracterizations. News organizations, especially new ones, are allowed to make mistakes. But they shouldn’t gloat about it – in a paid ad – when their compatriots stumble.

And about that CNBC “mistake”: James Cramer’s catch-all bag of admonitions, predictions, protestations and discount Dadaism are his own, not CNBC’s. (Full disclosure: My wife previously was employed by Cramer-founded Web site The Street.com.)

Finally, hubris and Schadenfreude mixed together make for a particularly venomous cocktail coming from an established leader, much less a network that’s been on the air for all of 12 minutes.

Some readers will deem this commentary naïve, pointing out that I should expect as much from Fox. I don’t see the world that way: Fox is part of media leader News Corp. and worthy of analysis that doesn’t resort to simplistic stereotyping.