Sep 28

Fair, balanced and well compensated

TODAY'S GUEST POST IS BY PEPPERCOMMER BETH STARKIN.

A post in Monday's POLITICO highlighted an interesting issue in that four of the anticipated  GOP candidates for the 2012 election are currently on FOX’s payroll.  This raises several concerns from both a communication and reputation standpoint, with the overarching issue that this essentially gives each of these potential candidates the opportunity to be paid to disguise Fox-news-gop their campaigning as news.  Despite the “fair and balanced” tagline, being on FOX’s payroll offers these politicians an opportunity that is anything but. 

Unlike other candidates, who will have to answer to reporters who may question their stances and proposed policies, these individuals have free reign to spread their messages without needing to answer to anyone but themselves.  In fact, no-compete clauses in the contracts of each pretty well guarantee that they won’t have to answer tough questions from other journalists, as they are forbidden from appearing on other stations.  When no one can challenge you, it’s pretty easy to keep your reputation intact and make the case that your solutions are best.

And what about the other candidates?  Is it fair that they will be up against a competitor who has unbridled access to the media, who in fact is being paid to share his/her opinions and publically stump?  I dare say, no.  They will have to fight that much harder to gain even the same level of recognition as their commentator competition, much less support for their stances and agendas.

As for all the other media outlets, they are stuck between a rock and a hard place.  How can you cover an election when you don’t have access to many of the expected candidates?  Is it fair to throw down the gauntlet and openly question stances and positions when the person being questioned isn’t available to answer?  Can you just ignore legitimate concerns because someone can’t appear on your station? 

Unfortunately, it’s the American people who are ultimately hurt because they can’t get access to the full picture about our candidates for the most important job someone can hold in this country.

Apr 21

The S.S. RepChatter sails into unchartered waters

Since its origins a few years back, RepChatter, the bastard podcast offspring of RepMan, has bravely sailed through turbulent waters to examine such controversial issues as:

– The relevance of the Catholic Church (with guest Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League)
– The very existence of God (with guests Darryl Salerno and Dawn Lauer arguing nay and yay, respectively)
– Toyota’s self-inflicted wounds (with a top Fordham professor)

First Officer Ted ‘Ludacris’ Birkhahn and I have navigated these controversial and often heated discussions with our usual combination of bluster, bravado and complete ignorance (we’ve also ducked and covered when things have gotten totally out of hand. Listen to the Salerno v. Lauer podcast and you’ll know what I mean. But, Ted and I must admit to a certain trepidation in anticipation of our upcoming podcast with Andy Sullivan.

April 21 Andy, you see, manages public relations for bluecollarcorner.com, and is one of the Tea Party’s 365 founding members. To say that Tea Party members are outspoken is like saying the Rolling Stones occasionally tore up hotel rooms in their heyday. The S.S. RepChatter will be sailing straight into a Category Five hurricane named Andy.

To prepare for the epoch-making event, I’ve boned up on the Tea Party and studied the recent CBS News/New York Times poll. As most of you know, the Tea Party’s goal is to reduce the role of the federal government in our lives. That I knew. What I didn’t know was their make-up. The average Tea Party member watches Fox News (Surprise. Surprise). Most are men. Nine in 10 are white. Half describe themselves as middle class. Three in four are age 45 or older. Nearly three-fourths consider themselves conservative (another ‘no duh’) and 39 percent identify themselves as evangelicals (So, I have to believe they aren’t fans of Darryl Salerno’s P.O.V. on God). They despise Obama and the current Congress and adore W and Sarah Palin (although most don’t think the erstwhile Alaska governor should run for president). Last, but not least, nearly 60 percent keep a gun in their households (which is why we’ve asked Andy to join us by phone as opposed to in-studio).

I plan to ask Andy a whole range of questions, including:

– How come you dig Sarah, but don’t think she belongs in the Oval Office?
– What’s with all the guns?
– Is Fox News really ‘fair and balanced’ as advertised?
– Describe the ideal society
– Do a bunch of middle-aged white guys really represent the views of the average Americans (Some 84 percent of Tea Party members say they do)

I’ll have other questions based upon Andy’s responses. And, I’m sure the Ludacris one will weigh in with his usual few non sequiturs. But, what about you? What questions would you like me to ask Andy? Let me know and I’ll be sure to represent my constituents. As for now, it’s full steam ahead. First Officer Birkhahn: be on the alert for icebergs.

Jul 14

Is full transparency always the smartest move?

Is full transparency always the smartest move?474910328_2a788caeff

Crisis communications 101 teaches us that full disclosure of an ‘issue’ early and often is the best course for mitigating negative fallout.

The approach seems to work especially well in politics. How many politicians have short circuited such potential career disasters as drug use and infidelity by pre-empting an investigative reporter with a hastily-called press conference? The announcement is followed a feeding frenzy of short-term coverage but, usually, life goes on.

As we know, the pre-emptive, full disclosure strategy is aimed at defaming the media in particular. So, I found it fascinating last week to see a top reporter employ the very same technique in his own behalf.

The reporter was David Carr of The New York Times. His subject: the alleged ‘pit bull’ media relations strategies of Roger Ailes and his Fox Network. Sensing that his kiss-and-tell column would engender a spiteful retaliation, Carr ‘outed’ his own prior drug and alcohol abuse. Fair enough, such an admission may well have pre-empted a Fox counter offensive. But, at what personal cost?

I’ve long admired Carr and his work. Now, though, I’ll always think of him as David Carr of the Times, the recovering drug and alcohol addict. And, all future news searches will pull up the same information. Is that a good thing? 

The Web 2.0 world in which we live enables us to create and manage our personal image and reputation. So, my question is this: by disclosing his past problems in order to prevent a future Fox assault, did David Carr win the image battle, but lose the war?