Nov 10

Jimmy, forget about being the next Woodward or Bernstein. Mommy and daddy are buying you a slide rule for the holidays

November 10 - newspaper-in-trash-can I knew the newspaper business was tanking, but I had no idea how horrific the current landscape was until checking the stats in a recent O'Dwyer's news piece (See "Newspaper Circ Drops Some More," Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter, November 4, 2009, Vol. 42 No. 43).

Did you know there are 44 million newspapers sold each day? That sounds impressive until one learns it's the lowest level since the 1940s!

Subscriptions at papers like the San Francisco Chronicle, Dallas Morning News and Boston Globe are dropping faster than the post-season hopes of Giants' fans after Sunday's last-minute collapse (the papers reported circulation losses of 25.8, 22.2 and 18.5 percent, respectively).

The Wall Street Journal now has the largest daily circulation at 2 million (it actually increased 0.6 percent). USA Today's circulation plummeted more than 17 percent as it fell to the number two slot. (Note: the same issue of O'Dwyer's carried reports about the Journal's closing its Boston bureau and Forbes laying off 40 more staffers).

I wonder how undergraduate and graduate journalism programs are spinning these dismal results to current and prospective students. I'm proud to say I was a journalism major at Northeastern University and learned many skills that have since stood me in good stead. But, I wouldn't advise any young person to pursue a career in a dying profession.

Pundits disagree about the future of journalism, newspapers and magazines. I'm sure some form of neo-journalism will emerge in another decade or so. But, for the immediate future, I'd counsel any serious writer to run away from Columbia, Missouri, and the other great J-schools. The cost-benefit ratio no longer exists. There are few, if any, new jobs being created, and those that are pay less and provide no security whatsoever.

Instead of reading 'All the President's Men,' it might be wiser for Woodward and Berstein wanna-be's to, instead, crack open a biography of Einstein, Galbraith or Keynes.

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the keyboard is no longer the meal ticket it once was. Look for calculators and slide rulers to replace reporter's notebooks and press badges as parents' stocking stuffers of choice this holiday season.

Nov 09

Talk about the client from hell

How'd you like the task of rehabilitating Joseph Stalin's image and reputation? Well, 
according to O’Dwyer’s, Russian Information Agency Novosti is searching for an international PR firm to do just that.Stalin

According to the report, the goal is to re-position the Soviet despot who, some historians say, may be responsible for more than 30 million deaths and, instead, highlight his role in defeating Nazi Germany and rebuilding the Soviet Union into a super power.

This is so wrong but, in a perverse way, kind of hilarious as well.

Can you imagine media training the lead 'Stalin' spokesperson?

Agency trainer: “Sergei, baby, you need to stay focused. Put the vodka down. Now, you need to be mindful of negative or irrelevant questions in an actual interview and 'bridge' to the talking points we just developed. Let's practice. Let's say I'm a Reuters reporter and ask you this question: ‘Sergei, how can you possibly call one of history's greatest mass murderers one of Russia's greatest leaders instead?’ ”

Sergei (downs a shot of Stoli): “On the contrary, we're saying Comrade Stalin saved hundreds of millions of lives by defeating the Nazis. Imagine how many Russians might have died if Hitler had won?”

Agency trainer: “Nice Sergei. OK, question number two: ‘How do you explain the way in which Stalin's rivals such as Leon Trotsky not only disappeared, but were air brushed out of official state photographs? Is that the way a great leader behaves?' ”

Sergei (pops another shot): “On the contrary, comrade reporter. We've done some homework and discovered that Trotsky, Molotov and others who you Western media types said were murdered simply took extended sabbaticals. They asked that their likenesses be removed. They'd had enough of the limelight.”

Agency trainer: “Smooth Sergei. Very smooth. One more toughie: 'How do justify the gulags?' ”
Sergei: “How do you justify Gitmo?”

Agency trainer: “You are so ready Sergei! After we're done, the Western press will be listing Stalin right alongside Alexander the Great and Caesar.”

If the chosen agency succeeds with the Stalin image program, I could see them building an entire practice around the emerging discipline. Were we were to do it, we'd call it PepperDespot and probably market it on our Website with such wording as:

“Are you the brand manager of a former Soviet Republic? Or maybe the CMO of an erstwhile member of the Axis Powers? Do you need to burnish the reputation of your local Mussolini, Hitler or Tojo?”

PepperDespot can help. Our efforts saved Joseph Stalin's name from the scrapheap of history (link to AP story: 'Stalin described as warm and fuzzy in new poll.'). And, we can do it for you as well. Just think of the tourism dollars that will accrue to your beleaguered brand once consumers understand the softer, human side of your dead despot.  ‘PepperDespot: Making yesterday's scum tomorrow's rock stars.’ "

Mar 07

Would journalists do the same for us?

Lloyd Trufelman, president of Trylon SMR (a PR firm) told O’Dwyer’s Newsletter that PR people need toCpj
step up to the plate and provide financial support to The Committee to Protect Journalists.

The committee, which tracks harassment of journalists worldwide, reports that at least 65 journalists were killed around the world in 2007 because of their work.

Trufelman says "…there would be no such thing as PR without journalism." He also thinks "…PR needs to show greater interest in journalists as dedicated professionals and not just vehicles for pitches."

With all due apologies to the family and friends of slain journalists, give me a break. Does Trufelman not read the various and sundry bashings of the PR industry by the media? Does he not see the journalism-PR relationship as a mutually beneficial one? Would journalists ever contribute money to a ‘Committee to Protect PR People’ who might also work in high-risk zones? (I’m joking, btw). Last, but not least, is Trufelman’s plea not akin to slapping a PBA sticker on one’s car windshield to avoid paying speeding tickets?

Me thinks he’s sucking up big time to the working press.