Category: Journalism Education


How would you like to hold a thankless job in which your boss loathes the media, the media in turn hates your boss, and you’re stuck in between?

To top it off, the White House press secretary is never good enough to satisfy all of the internal and external critics. There is also one “critic,” who is the most equal of all and demonstrates all the signs of being insatiable.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S. July 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer just did Sarah Huckabee Sanders and by extension the entire nation a huge favor. He quit.

Please don’t let the door hit you too hard on the backside, Sean. You were overmatched for the job from day one. The only one who is crying is Melissa McCarthy of SNL.

As a former press secretary, albeit for a mere state (California), the author of Almost DailyBrett understands the pressure associated with being a message developer and voice for the administration, simultaneously charged with the caring, comforting and nurturing of the Capital Press Corps.

One of the major surprises in your author’s three-decade career in public relations is the inconvenient fact the majority of communications practitioners – particularly at PR firms — never come in contact with a living, breathing reporter/editor/correspondent.

These august professionals may talk a great game, but they literally run for cover when it comes time for on-the-record, stakes-are-high dialogue. Gasp … they  actually may be quoted/misquoted.

Standing Behind the White House Media Podium

Still remember sitting in the White House media center watching Ronald Reagan’s deputy press secretary Larry Speakes conduct the morning briefing with elite media — Helen Thomas (UPI), Sam Donaldson (ABC), Lesley Stahl (CBS) and Chris Wallace (NBC) — all sitting in the first row.

Serving as press secretary for the nation’s chief executive with a target on his or her back is the pinnacle of public relations. You have to be offensive without being offensive. Humor is a huge plus. Institutional knowledge is vital. Most of all you must instinctively know when to punt (e.g., “I don’t know”), buy time, and come back with a winning answer, which separates the enduring press secretaries with those who hide in the bushes.

Presidential press secretaries used to be an old boys club: Pierre Salinger, Ron Ziegler, Jody Powell, Speakes, Marlin Fitzwater, George Stephanopoulos …

Huckabee Sanders is now the third woman to hold the title of White House Press Secretary, serving as a lead on message development and delivering the daily briefings to the carnivorous media. Dee Dee Myers (Clinton, 1993-1994) was the first, Dana Perino (W. Bush, 2007-2009) was the second, and now Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Perino in her open-advice-to-Sarah-Huckabee-Sanders column implored her to embrace and enjoy the job, actually being thankful for the opportunity to serve.

As a woman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, 34, has already been viciously attacked for her appearance by Daily Beast columnist Ira Madison III. Madison tweeted that Sanders was a “butch queen first in drags at the ball.” Madison the Third later retracted the tweet and apologized, but his misogynist and homophobic digs have already left their mark.

To her credit, Huckabee Sanders has not overreacted to this insult. She knows more of the same, if not worse are in the offing. Think of it this way: she seems to be a natural for the job. After all she is the daughter of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and the contact sport of politics is not new to her.

Huckabee Sanders also understands that more heavy lifting is required for a Republican press secretary than those holding the same job for a Democratic incumbent. The media tilts heavily to the left, and appears in most cases to be incapable of being fair and objective to President Trump.

Life is not fair. Translated; the magnified challenges of this awesome responsibility under fire on an uneven playing field also provide tremendous opportunities for Sarah to distinguish herself as a good/great press secretary.

If Huckabee Sanders can turn the temperature down even just a hair, introduce a greater sense of professionalism to the White House briefings (e.g., turn the cameras back on) while at the same time, serving as an impassioned advocate for her boss and the administration, she will have done a great service to the nation.

More power to you, Sarah.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/07/26/dana-perino-advice-for-sarah-huckabee-sanders-from-one-female-press-secretary-to-another.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbpUcfpbnrs

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Huckabee_Sanders

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/two-of-three-female-white-house-press-secretaries-worked-for-republican-presidents/article/2629496

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-long-can-the-trump-tumult-go-on-1501106914

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/has-the-media-reached-the-point-that-it-can-never-cover-trump-fairly/

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been all downward-to-the-right for the media since the days of Walter Cronkite.

Quick: Name the Big Three Network anchors?

Can’t do it? Join the club.

Oh have times changed.

In 1972, the revered anchor of the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite, was the most trusted man in America.

In 2017, do we trust Sean Hannity of Fox News to be “fair and balanced” with the news?

Do we trust Rachel Maddow of MSNBC to be objective?

Do we trust the latest political “comedian” on Comedy Central to be thoughtful?

Do we trust what we read on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook to be accurate?

Fair. Balanced. Objective. Thoughtful. Accurate. Those were all words that applied to Cronkite. Do they apply anymore?

As Almost DailyBrett mentioned before, the public gave the media a 72 percent approval rating in 1976 and only 32 percent in 2016.

Gallup’s surveys reflect a corresponding slide by Democrats, Independents and particularly Republicans in the past two decades.

In 1997, 64 percent of Democrats reported a great deal/fair amount of trust in the media. In 2016, that figure declined to 51 percent, a 13 percent drop.

For independents, the erosion in the last 20 years was 53 percent (just above the Mendoza Line) to 30 percent last year, a 23 percent decline.

For Republicans, 41 percent of GOP voters expressed a great deal/fair amount of trust in the media in 1997. That figure was 14 percent in 2016, a stunning 27 percent erosion in two decades.

In a match-up between CNN and Donald Trump, 89 percent of GOP voters expressed confidence in the president while only 9 percent sided with the number three cable news network.

Is there any plausible reason to optimistically hope these results will improve in the Trump era?

For CNN, it has now dropped to number three in a three-way race of major cable news outlets having been surpassed by liberal MSNBC for the number two slot behind No. 1 conservative Fox News.

Liberal? Liberal? Conservative?  What happened to honest brokers of information?

From Reporting to Interpreting?

Want to make a slow Friday night even slower? Watch “Washington Week in Review” on PBS in which reporters interview … reporters.

It used to be that reporters/correspondents covered the news. Now we are all entitled to their “interpretation.”

Remember what Clint Eastwood as “Dirty Harry” said about opinions? Every reporter, editor, correspondent has one and you are privileged to hear what they have to say. Instead of covering the news makers, they see themselves as the real news.

Except … this Donald Trump character seems to get in the way, particularly with his nocturnal tweets.

Should university journalism schools abandon teaching the quaint notion of objectively informing the public that desperately wants straight news?

How about simply declaring the stakes are too high to be truly objective, and encourage future reporters/correspondents to openly display their partisan instincts and guide the public in affirming their own deeply held political philosophies?

And then journalists can write and broadcast about the deeply divided nation they helped foster.

Should journalism schools endeavor to generate more of the likes of Dan Rather and Brian Williams? Almost DailyBrett doesn’t need to regurgitate how the two elite former champions of CBS and NBC respectively brought lasting shame to the media.

What strategies should schools of journalism and communication adopt to restore professionalism to the profession? Surely the task is worthy, particularly bringing objectivity back into to the classroom discussion.

Is it time to inform the public once again?

Will we know that journalism has recovered when the next Walter Cronkite becomes the most trusted man/woman in America?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/07/13/daily-202-trump-is-the-disrupter-in-chief-in-an-age-of-disruption/5966a386e9b69b7071abcb23/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_daily202

https://www.wsj.com/articles/amid-turmoil-fox-news-holds-on-to-no-1-spot-as-msnbc-surges-1499601601

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31152849

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv/anchors-bring-new-era-network-stability-article-1.1922051

http://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/

 

 

Not exactly, Cogito, ergo sum.

In 1988, your Almost DailyBrett author had the privilege of spending a lovely Sunday Valentine’s Day lunch with Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters.

There was nothing romantic about our encounter. Dan was very interested in what was in my folder: a copy of the Democrat majority’s plan to conduct a Kangaroo Court hearing the following day to justify voting against former Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Long Beach) as state treasurer.

Each Democratic senator, one-after-another on the committee, was to serve as a “prosecutor” on an assigned issue (e.g., Lungren voting against reparation payments for families of Japanese WWII internees). Nobody who had successfully negotiated the riggers of second grade expected a fair-and-objective state Senate confirmation hearing. The memo made it clear the proceeding was indeed a “prosecution” in a stacked court case, meant to provide political cover for Democrats voting against Lungren.

And why was the majority so aligned against a mere member of Congress?

Five-term congressman Lungren was telegenic, articulate and represented an electoral threat to the Democrat majority in Sacramento. He was appointed to the state Treasurer position in 1987 by my boss, Governor George Deukmejian, after the passing of legendary former Speaker Jess “Big Daddy” Unruh.

Dan Walters naturally already had another column teed-up for Monday, February 15. Nonetheless, he instantly could appreciate how the publication of the infamous “Forsyth Letter” could result in collective knickers being in a twist at stormy state Senate confirmation hearing the following morning.

Almost DailyBrett compared the Forsyth letter – named after Senate Pro Tempore David Roberti’s press secretary and author, Robert T. Forsyth – to the Oklahoma Sooners game plan being published in the Lincoln Journal Star the morning of the big contest against Nebraska.

Walters’ piece was entitled, “A Game Plan for Democrats.”

Dan Lungren was outraged at the hearing, waving a copy of the Walters’ column at the Senate Democratic majority members on the panel. Lungren and by extension my boss, Governor Deukmejian, won the PR battle that day.

Alas, we were not ultimately successful. The Assembly confirmed Lungren. The Senate voted against Lungren. We did not prevail before the California Supreme Court on whether one house was sufficient for confirmation. Finis.

True to his battling form, Lungren recovered from the non-confirmation going forward to serve two terms as California’s attorney general, running for governor, and returning to Congress for another eight years. He is now lobbying on The Hill at 70-years young.

Number of People Knowing + Time = Leak

“If you don’t want to read about it in the Sacramento Bee, don’t put it down in writing.” – Often heard admonition in the State Capitol building

The Forsyth memo was prepared. Xerox machines started to hum. Copies were made. At least one of these game plans found its way to your author. Gasp, I leaked it to Dan Walters. The only stipulation: there would be no direct reference to me or my position in the Office of the Governor in his copy.

The column greeted Democrats the following day.

As the press secretary for Governor Deukmejian, my job in many cases was to deflect leaks targeting my boss and our administration. In this particular case, I was the leaker.

Every leak has a purpose. The practice is not new. And as long as the written word exists, particularly in digital form (e.g., leaked 2016 John Podesta campaign emails), leaking will remain intact until Armageddon.

As the New York Times defines the practice: “Generally, a leak is an intentional disclosure of secret information, often by an anonymous source whose goal is to make the information public.” Yep.

For example, the British provided a copy to President Woodrow Wilson of the secret 1917 (German foreign Minister Arthur) Zimmermann Telegram. The telegram was meant to entice Mexico to enter World War I on the side of Germany in exchange for U.S. territory. The subsequent publication of the telegram in March 1917, helped fuel the flames for the U.S. to declare war on Germany one month later.

Donald Trump has been known to fire off intemperate tweets condemning the widespread leaking in his administration, including one ironically posted on  Valentine’s Day 2017: “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?”

His predecessor Barack Obama conducted a “war on leaks” and yet these unauthorized disclosures continue.

Let’s face it, Washington D.C has always leaked like a sieve and always will. Ditto for state Capitals (e.g., Sacramento) and highly covered publicly traded companies. Putting this genie back in the lantern is simply not going to happen, particularly in our Big Data world.

As an admitted leaker, the author of Almost DailyBrett has also been on the receiving end of unflattering leaks on more than one occasion. My advice to any political or business entity: Practice discipline. Remember: Good government/good business is indeed good politics/good business.

And to the leakers/aspiring leakers, there is a responsibility to always ask yourself whether you are hurting the country, you purport to love with your leaking?

If the answer is “yes,” the end does not justify the means. There are legitimate reasons for confidentiality particularly in our increasingly dangerous world.

Almost DailyBrett notes: Belated congratulations to Dan Walters for his 8,000 columns for the Sacramento Bee during the past 33 years, and 57 years in service as a journalist … Still miss Bobby Forsyth, one of the nicest and funniest guys I ever met. He passed away in 1999. May Bob continue to rest in peace.

http://articles.latimes.com/1987-11-26/news/mn-24766_1_state-treasurer

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/dan-walters/

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Lungren

https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/?year=1988&country=1

http://articles.latimes.com/1988-06-24/news/mn-5908_1_senate-democrats-position

http://articles.latimes.com/1988-06-24/news/mn-5912_1_state-supreme-court

http://newlearningonline.com/new-learning/chapter-7/descartes-i-think-therefore-i-am

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/17/business/media/are-leaks-illegal-explaining-history.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/10/obama-leaks-aggressive-nixon-report-prosecution

https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/zimmermann

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/dan-walters/article154087854.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are not the best of days for American reporters, editors and correspondents, let alone journalism schools.

The American media is running eight points behind Donald Trump in national esteem.

This Gallup result was registered before CNN’s Anderson Cooper conjured up the impression of the president taking a “dump” on his desk. Ditto for the network’s Kathy Griffin holding up the image of the decapitated head of Donald Trump.

The glory days of Walter Cronkite, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are clearly in the rear-view mirror. The era of CNN and conjured presidential excrement and bloody heads are upon us.

More to the point, Newsweek ist kaputt. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is gone. Farewell to the Rocky Mountain News, The Tucson Citizen and so many others that depended on Gutenberg’s printing press for far too long.

Let’s face it: many Fourth Estate types (i.e., reporters, editors, correspondents, anchors …) are looking for jobs, any job that keeps them in the business.

The good news is China is hiring. The bad news is China is hiring.

Should these journalists succumb and work for Chinese-government-sponsored and operated media?

Dollars are dollars. Yuan are yuan. Right?

Ketchum, Putin and $55 million

Before getting knickers in a twist or bowels in an uproar, consider that Almost DailyBrett has posed similar questions about the august public relations profession, namely Ketchum PR.

For years, Ketchum served a provocative client, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, to the tune of $55 million cumulatively. The ostensible mission was to promote the Rodina’s “economic development” and the country as a great place for “investment.” The fact that Putin was behaving as one would expect from the former head of the KGB appeared to be irrelevant to the brass at Ketchum’s New York headquarters.

Reportedly Putin eventually terminated the nation’s contract with Ketchum, which may have been a blessing in disguise for the New York based agency. No longer would they have to register as foreign agents for Putin’s public relations nightmare in which he wasn’t going to accept Ketchum’s council anyway.

The advocacy side (PR) of the great communication divide is not the only one with moral dilemmas to confront. The same applies to the objective side (Journalism), particularly with so many journalists out of work or soon-to-be beating the bushes for another job.

According to The Economist, China expanded the number of foreign bureaus for its government-controlled main news agency, Xinhua, to 162 by the end of 2011. China’s goal is to establish a total of 200 Xinhua bureaus by 2020.Considering the many American media outlets are shutting down, does the Xinhua expansion – doubling its number of correspondents — provide new opportunities for employment?

Also consider that China completed the rebranding of its television network last year and has announced the formation of CGTN (China Global Television Network) to rival the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera to spread China’s “voice” and to “showcase China’s role as a builder of world peace.”

Just as Ketchum would be tempted to dismiss the concerns about Putin’s Russia with “a client is a client,” will unemployed or soon-to-be-out-of-work American journalists regard a potential opening at Xinhua or CGTN (e.g., major DC bureau) as “a job is a job”?

In a way that sounds just like the Yuppie Nürnberg Defense — “I was only doing it for the mortgage”  — as preached in the Christopher Buckley book/movie, Thank You For Smoking.

The author of Almost DailyBrett remembers the days at USC journalism school, and the protracted discussions about objectively and Joseph Pulitzer’s mantra of “Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy.”

Is Xinhua or CGTN, objective?

Are the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC or CBS objective, let alone MSNBC or Fox News? Many journalists employed by these institutions are miffed that  their “objectivity” may be somehow compromised by their employer’s corporate parent (e.g., NBC owned by Comcast).

What happens if your media employer is owned by the largest nation of earth, run by a single party, and established as part of that country’s $10 billion annual investment in soft power?

If objectivity and fairness are part of the personal DNA as a journalist, would she or he be predisposed to resign if the “editor” wanted to censure/delete submitted copy if it ran afoul with China’s policy toward Taiwan, the Dalia Lama, Tibet or some other hot-button issue for the totalitarian state?

Would the same journalist be comfortable that her or his objective copy was universally regarded as self-serving China propaganda by the vast majority of readers and viewers?

Some may be tempted to rationalize accepting a position with Xinhua or CGTN and following their “editorial” dictates as a job is job (e.g., Yuppie Nürnberg Defense).

Other journalists may not have these same flexible morals.

If the choice came down to aiding and abetting Chinese propaganda or maybe finding another job, maybe the journalist should even consider wearing a green apron instead?

“Was that a grande latte or mocha?”

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/has-the-media-reached-the-point-that-it-can-never-cover-trump-fairly/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2017/05/31/cnn-fires-kathy-griffin-over-offensive-trump-photo/102349176/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/russia-doesnt-give-a-particle-about-public-relations/

 https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/ketchums-new-client-in-1938/

https://www.ketchum.com/

https://www.economist.com/news/china/21719508-can-money-buy-sort-thing-china-spending-billions-make-world-love-it

https://www.cgtn.com/

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/

 

 

“If he (Trump) took a dump on his desk, you would defend it.” – CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewing Trump supporter, Jeffrey Lord

Do you think Anderson Cooper has reached the point (and beyond) in which he can’t cover Donald Trump objectively and fairly let alone his network, CNN?

According to Harvard University, the answer following empirical research of media coverage by CNN and several other major outlets during the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency is a resounding, “no.”

Let’s pretend Donald Trump did something really good for the country … and didn’t nocturnally crow about it on Twitter?

Before answering this interrogative, let’s first pose a relevant side question: Who do reporters, editors, correspondents respect more than any other living creatures on this planet? The answer is other reporters, editors and correspondents.

Taking this essential and undeniable truth into account, Almost DailyBrett must ask:

Can a reporter — any reporter, editor or correspondent — outside of the friendly confines of Fox News – write or produce a totally objective piece about Trump without triggering the wrath and disdain of his or her precious media colleagues?

Would that journalist be willing to take the risk of enraging the pack mentality, and maybe even jeopardizing a career?

It appears to be seemingly impossible for a CNN or NBC reporter/correspondent in particular to provide positive coverage of Trump as evidenced by new data harvested by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Harvard reported that 93 percent of CNN and NBC’s first 100 days of Trump coverage have been overwhelmingly negative.

Seven percent of CNN and NBC Trump coverage has been positive? It doesn’t seem that high.

Right behind in the race to the bottom is CBS at 91 percent negative coverage, surprisedly beating even the New York Times with 87 percent and Washington Post with 83 percent respectively thumbs-down coverage of The Donald and his administration.

Conservative media outlets tilt to the negative on Trump, but they simply cannot compete with the Clinton News Network (CNN) or the networks of Meet the Depressed or Deface the Nation. The Wall Street Journal’s coverage is 70 percent to the negative, and even Fox News is 54/46 percent to the downside.

MSNBC was not even measured.

The only Trump story that was covered in a positive manner by the newsies was the launching of cruise missiles at poison-gas Syria with 80 percent of the media on the Trump side of the ledger. Guess the remaining 20 percent may be secretly siding with Bashar Assad or more likely … can’t bring themselves to say anything remotely positive about Trump.

As a result, Trump hates the media. The media hates Trump. And Sean Spicer was last seen in the bushes.

The Donald claims he is not being covered fairly compared to his predecessors. Conservative bastion Harvard backs up this contention. Barack Obama’s coverage during the first 100 days was 59 percent positive; George W. Bush’s was 43 percent affirmative; Bill Clinton’s was 40 percent positive … Donald Trump, 20 percent to the positive.

Is the media not-so-secretly rooting for Trump to be impeached, while trying to implicate Mike Pence as well? Consider the instant parallel to Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” with James Comey’s firing.

Almost DailyBrett always thought that a massacre required more than one person.

Below the Mendoza Line

The media feasts on Donald Trump’s record 54 percent negative approval rating. According to the same Real Clear Politics average, Trump has a 39.6 percent positive approval rating.

Gallup reported last fall the nation’s approval of the work provided by the media stands at only 32 percent or 8 percent behind Donald Trump.

The same polling firm reported that 72 percent of Americans approved and admired the media’s standing and coverage in 1976, right on the heels of the Watergate busting Pulitzer Prize work of Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein. Since that time, public approval of the media has dropped 40 percent in as many years.

Could it be, the media has become more partisan, more “interpretive” and less objective (i.e., CNN, NBC, CBS, NYT, WAPO)? Do the media feed our nation’s divisiveness? Do they regale in the internecine warfare and bickering, while being above it all?

What’s next: Streaming video of the 21st Century version of a fatal Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton duel with tisk-tisk anti-Second Amendment commentary by Rachel Maddow?

If the media was a stock with a 40 percent sustained decline during four decades – essentially down to the right – a wise investor would have dumped these shares a long time ago. Putting this metaphor aside, does it sound like the American public with only 32 percent support (e.g., 14 percent among Republicans) has rolled their eyes in unison and washed their collective hands of the media?

Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America in 1972 in an era when the media informed the public. Today, the likes of Maddow on MSNBC and Sean Hannity on Fox News essentially affirm philosophies of entrenched political populations segments. Ditto for social media.

Anderson Cooper’s disgusting metaphor about presidential defecation can be dismissed as an unprofessional verbal assault in the heat of battle. CNN’s and NBC’s 93 percent negative coverage of Trump and his administration points directly to the fact the newsies have reached a point they can no longer be fair and objective to the president.

And who are the ultimate losers?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/05/20/anderson-cooper-apologizes-for-conjuring-image-of-trump-defecating-on-his-desk/?utm_term=.a458d852d72c

https://heatst.com/culture-wars/harvard-study-reveals-huge-extent-of-anti-trump-media-bias/?mod=sm_tw_post

http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx

http://www.edelman.com/executive-summary/

 

 

 

 

After at least four years of more lectures, labs, study groups, readings, papers and presentations than you would ever care to count, the prospect of taking up to another 18 months to attain a master’s degree or maybe even four years to earn a Ph.D is a prospect most graduating seniors would rather not even think about.

And yet the question still persists for some: Should you seriously consider taking the advanced degree plunge right here and now following graduation? Consider that even more employers are requiring advanced degrees; many want MBAs.

Before answering this perplexing interrogative: Consider the unmistakable NFW response by the author of Almost DailyBrett in 1978. Yours truly had just received his bachelor’s in Broadcasting Journalism from the University of Southern California. There was simply no way when it came to the question of signing up for even more college.

I was done, thank you very much.

Looking back at that easy-and-yet momentous decision, your author now regrets not pursuing a master’s degree right then and there, when he was as free as a bird … no spouse, no kidlet, no mortgage, no car payment … absolutely nothing.

Fortunately, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were right in Stairway to Heaven: “Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

A confluence of events in my life (i.e., widowerhood, adult daughter, real estate appreciation, fellowship) gave me that one-last-chance-in-a-lifetime opportunity in 2010 to pursue my master’s degree in mid-life at the University of Oregon.

The author of Almost DailyBrett was very fortunate, very fortunate indeed.

Died and Went to Heaven

When the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication offered me a fellowship, your author jumped at the opportunity in two nanoseconds or less.

You should do the same, if you are selected for an on-campus fellowship at a R1 university.

Becoming a Graduate Teaching Fellow (GTF) provides the following benefits:

  1. An absolutely free master’s degree or Ph.D … yep no-instate or better yet, no out-of-state or private school tuition;
  2. Medical, dental and vision health care benefits for at least the fellow, and maybe the whole family as well;
  3. A stipend of $1,000 or more per month;
  4. Invaluable teaching experience as a teaching assistant to a professor.

As Almost DailyBrett wrote before, I appreciated this unbelievable deal and thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was perplexing to say the least when the University of Oregon GTFs went on strike in 2014 … Patience, Kevin. Patience. Let’s not get started on this subject again.

Some have asked: Should I take an online master’s degree or Ph.D? My short answer is nein.

If one is pursuing an advanced degree in public relations, marketing, journalism, broadcast, film etc., it is best to be on campus to directly interact with your colleagues and Ph.D professors. Sorry to say, file sharing and texting just don’t cut it.

If one is pursuing an advanced degree in accounting, an online program may be appropriate. Having said that, communications requires – face-to-face interaction and diplomacy – no online program can help you advance these interpersonal story telling skills.

What about the necessary evil? The Graduate Record Exam (GRE)?

Brace yourself and come to full acceptance mode as quickly as possible. Any graduate school worth its salt (sorry University of Phoenix, that designation does NOT apply to you), particularly a Research One or R1 university, will require the GRE.

Your author took it twice, the second time after a prep course, and lived to talk about it. Take the prep course and do as well as possible on the GRE.

What About Grad School?

“No one does bull shit better than you.” – A compliment from one of my USC fraternity brothers

Trust me, bull shit does not work in Pro Seminar.

The two-night-per week, three-hours per class, was the most intense review of communications philosophy one can imagine (i.e., Kant, Marx, Althusser, Descartes, Hegel, Le Bon …). Don’t even think about going to class without doing the reading; you can’t hide in plain sight for three hours. Don’t even think about B.S.- ing a full professor with a Ph.D in Philosophy from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

And once you have navigated the benign sounding, but mind-numbing Pro Seminar class with its up-to-five hours per night of reading, you will be ready for … qualitative and quantitative analysis in the next quarter.

Sounds horrible? Right?

In reality, pursuing a graduate degree was an incredible and rewarding challenge. It soon dawned on me that I was only using a mere fraction of my brain. I made some great friends as well.

One of my profs said: “We are working on your intellectual growth.”

Intellectual growth? Me? Really?

Oh, did I mention that my master’s degree was an absolute prerequisite for landing a tenure track professorship in public relations and advertising at Central Washington University? Guess, learning about Immanuel Kant and his categorical imperatives was well worth it.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/taking-the-gre-again/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/are-striking-uo-graduate-teaching-fellows-certifiable/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/online-college-not-good-enough-for-pr/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/did-a-perfect-storm-lead-to-the-gathering-storm/

 

 

It’s not whose army wins, it’s also whose story wins. And we have to think more about narratives and whose narrative is going to be the most effective.” – Harvard Kennedy School Political Science Professor Joseph Nye, 2010 TED Talk

The U.S. ranks No. 1 for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at $18.56 trillion, and holds the top position in The National Brand Index.

When it comes to “hard power,” including its military and its economy, the U.S. has no rivals … at least for the immediate future.

Despite these clear hard-power advantages, the U.S. reportedly spent $670 million for “public diplomacy” in 2014, according to George Washington University professor of political science David Shambaugh.

In contrast, China spends $10 billion annually to project itself as a “soft power.”

China as a soft power? In essence, the answer is affirmative. China recognizes it needs more than the collective power of its 1.37 billion people, its second-ranking $11.39 trillion economy, and its growing military strength. China is trying to promote its distinct culture, its language and market its country as a place to invest and visit.

The aforementioned Professor Nye is widely credited with formulating the notion of “soft power” or projecting what you have in terms of culture, language, business, tourism etc. to those who may want the same.

Some contend as mentioned in the stately The Economist that a totalitarian state (e.g., China) may not effectively exhibit soft power as it may be interpreted as single-party propaganda. And yet China created The Confucius Institute in 2004 to entice the appreciation of its culture, to lure hundreds of thousands to study its difficult language and visit and invest in China.

Is the Politburo in Beijing trying to buy love?

From The Devastation of War, Occupation, Division and the Holocaust

The activities of the Goethe Institut improve Germany’s reputation abroad, enhance the quality of German-language teaching, contribute to the development of the German language, promote German artists worldwide, and attract talented youth and professionals to Germany.” – Tatiana Lanshina, “The Goethe Institute and Soft Power”

Germany experimented twice in “hard power” in the 20th Century … and lost big time, both times.

In 1951, Germany’s public relations (Öffentlichkeitsarbeit) were understandably at an all-time low … most likely the deepest nadir experienced by any country at any time. Interest in German Kultur, Sprache and Land was close to nil.

These facts did not stop Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the German government from creating the Goethe Institut in 1951. The mission of this 350-Euro non-profit organization, drawing the majority of its funds from the German foreign ministry, was to use the forgiveness of time to eventually and systematically regain interest in Das Land in der Mitte (The country in the middle of Europe).

Fast forward to today, Germany is No. 2 in the National Brand Index trailing only the United States. The country’s transformation from an international pariah to revered is nothing less than a public relations miracle (Öffentlichkeitsarbeitswunder).

The author of Almost DailyBrett has a framed Goethe Institut Zertifikat B1 for German language study in his office at Central Washington University. Is the Goethe Institut solely responsible for Germany’s resurrection? Of course not.

There are many other determinants including the reunification, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Economic Miracle, the Marshall Plan, Made in Germany, four World Cup wins, German business success, Germany’s hegemony in the European Union, the popularity of Angela Merkel and many other factors.

Germany understands more than other nations that hard power is not the answer. China obviously appreciates this fact as well. Ditto France with its Alliance Francaise, Italy with its Societa Dante Alighieri, Great Britain with its British Council, Spain with its Instituto Cervantes and Portugal with its Instituto Camoes.

All of the above brings up the obviously question: Who and what projects “soft power” for the United States? One other question: Are we satisfied with the answers?

Donald Trump, Hollyweird, American Media?

Certainly, the U.S. is nowhere near the lousy image that Germany endured – and still suffers – as a result of the 12 years of Hitler and the Nazis. Nonetheless, the U.S. image at home and abroad is less than ideal regardless of the nation’s military and economic hard-power advantages and the country’s number one ranking in the National Brand Index.

Who sets the tone for the United States of America?

Try traveling abroad and see how many times you are asked about Donald Trump once it becomes known that you reside in the Land of Uncle Sam? Does the intemperate, nocturnal Tweeter-in-Chief send the best of image of the red, white and blue across the fruited plain and across the ponds?

How about Hollyweird and the denizens of the TMZ?

The entertainment industry can’t even deliver the right envelope for its biggest announcement of the year (e.g., Oscar for Best Picture) at its most celebrated venue (e.g., The 2017 Academy Awards). Do we really want to entrust our soft power to this motley crew?

When it comes to our elite media, the American public sold the stock and voted them out of office. According to Gallup, the Woodward & Bernstein media of 1976 enjoyed a 72 percent approval rating. Last year, the same polling firm recorded a 32 percent approval rating for the boys and girls of the Fourth Estate, a 55.5 percent decline in the last 40 years.

If the American public is turned off by our nattering nabobs of negativism, why would those beyond our borders respect their interpretations of American soft power?

Maybe the time has come for a non-profit, soft-power Mark Twain, Will Rogers or some other American literary giant institute to celebrate American culture (e.g., baseball, hot dogs and apple pie), our unique take on the English language, and the USA as a wonderful place for investment and tourism?

Or maybe we can instead just leave the task to Donald Trump, Hollyweird and the failing American elite media?

https://www.economist.com/news/china/21719508-can-money-buy-sort-thing-china-spending-billions-make-world-love-it

http://www.ted.com/talks/joseph_nye_on_global_power_shifts

http://www.demdigest.net/tag/soft-power/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius_Institute

https://www.goethe.de/en/index.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/enemy-of-the-american-people/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx

 

 

Oregon will never be confused with Tuscany.

In Tuscany, thousands wait in line for hours to check out Michelangelo’s “David.”

In contrast, somebody in Oregon is named, “David.”

In Tuscany, one can queue-up for hours to admire Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” standing in her perfect sea shell.

In Oregon, one can find sea shells at the coast, not sure about Venus.

Frances Mayes’ book, “Under the Tuscan Sun,” and the movie with the same title tells the story of an American (e.g., actress Diane Lane) in search of a life change, and a little love too.

She made a totally impractical, impulsive decision. Seemingly on a whim, she bought a classic “fixer-upper” in Cortona, Tuscany and lived to talk about it. The book’s story and the heroine, who took the ultimate plunge, set off a series of similar decisions as literally hundreds of upper class Americans rushed to Central Italy to buy their own Italian villa in the sun.

Reportedly, some even asked the locals for the Italian word for “cappuccino.”

The author of Almost DailyBrett eventually made the trek to Tuscany with his new bride, Jeanne, to celebrate our honeymoon. We stayed in a 12th Century Italian villa on a bluff overlooking Il Duomo de Firenze, but we resisted the temptation to buy the Torre di Bellosguardo.

That does not mean your author is innocent when it comes to rash, impulsive decisions. In 2010, I came to Oregon at 55-years-young in search of a master’s degree, Oregon football games in the fall, and maybe a little love too.

The impulsive part comes into play when one asks: Why would a middle-age widower (being kind here) decide to buy a three-bedroom, two-bath 2,000-square-foot “tree” house for himself and his American shorthair feline, Percy?

Wouldn’t renting make more sense, particularly when one contemplates widespread academic prejudice: my chances of landing a teaching job at University of Oregon after graduation would be next to none? Renting easily made more sense, except for the George Carlin “stuff” factor.

Carlin’s comedic monologue about the never-ending acquisition of “stuff” (i.e., beds, dressers, chairs, tables, washer/dryer, fridge …) results in a predictable crisis. Can the author of Almost DailyBrett downsize from a 2,200-square-foot Monopoly (ranch-style) house in Northern California to a 1,000-square-foot apartment, and still find sufficient space for his stuff?

Let me interject right now: your author does not do orange metal doors surrounded by Berlin Bunker concrete (e.g., storage units = unintelligent loss of legal tender).

So what did all of the above make me? A displaced Californian with equity to transfer, looking for a tree house to display his stuff, and live and study as well … Under the Oregon Clouds.

Spider and The Fly

On more than one occasion, it has been questioned why would a single-at-the-time, follicly challenged mature dude acquire a 2,000-square foot house with a deck, hot tub and occasionally serving prosciutto and melon with Sangiovese? Was my Eugene house the human equivalent of a spider’s web, looking for “some little girl to fly on by” as suggested by Mick Jagger in The Spider and The Fly?

Almost DailyBrett will piously declare the primary purpose for the turn-key Eugene house with next to zero backyard maintenance was to serve as a place to study, research and finish a master’s degree in Communication and Society. The next steps were finding a full-time teaching gig. The wonderful new wife came later, even though my eyes were always surveying the horizon for both.

The aforementioned Jeanne became Mrs. Brett on her own recognizance, and yours truly was offered a doctoral fellowship to Arizona State University and a tenure track professorship at Central Washington University, taking the latter position.

What that on-the-one-hand and on-the-other-hand decision meant was transporting my new bride, two alley cats and our  “stuff” to a townhouse in Ellensburg, Washington and renting out the house Under the Oregon Clouds. That plan worked for two years until the renters (e.g., Stefanie and George) decided to move.

Considering that our move back to Eugene was not coming anytime soon, we made the decision to sell the house Under the Oregon Clouds. Think of it this way, a house is bricks and mortar or some variation of that theme. We can always buy another house, another day maybe with sun above. Right?

And yet, the house did not sell as the rain fell during the winter. The house Under the Oregon Clouds is quirky (e.g., it has character). It has three flights of stairs, a car-port instead of a garage (for your stuff). Das Haus ist nicht für Alles.

It did not sell. We couldn’t be happier.

Someday, we will once again visit the 12th Century Firenze villa Under the Tuscan Sun.

More importantly, we will surely move back to that special tree house Under the Oregon Clouds.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_the_Tuscan_Sun_(film)

http://www.francesmayesbooks.com/under-the-tuscan-sun/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0CSs4Nf-64

“ … The old divide between left and right is growing less important than a new one between open and closed.” – The Economist, March 4, 2017

During the Cold War, the communism vs. capitalism divide was referred to as a contest of wills between “East and West.”

Even today, we use directions to describe the dangerous world of dark-and-foreboding North Korea and the bright lights of cosmopolitan-industrial powerhouse South Korea.

For more than 100 years, there were the Democrats from the left (e.g., Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and Republicans from the right (e.g. Ronald Reagan).

Reagan just turned over in his grave.

Reagan will be forever remembered for his controversial call, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this (Berlin) wall.” The eternally optimistic Republican president embraced neo-liberal open markets, globalization and free enterprise.

In contrast, Reagan’s “Republican” successor Donald J. Trump wants to build a wall. He implores American governments and businesses to his brand of populism, calling for them to “buy American” and “hire American.” There is open talk of “border adjustment taxes,” a taxing concept which would be an anathema to Reagan.

Against this backdrop, guess who is coming to visit The Donald this Tuesday? Frau “Open” (Offen) Angela Merkel, the chancellor of the nearly $300-billion world’s largest account surplus, export-powerhouse Germany.

Making the proceedings even more tender and sensitive is the fact that Americans buy 107 billion Euros worth of German goods each year, while Germans purchase 57 billion of American output per annum.

Translated: Americans consume German cars (e.g., BMW, Mercedes, Audi, VW) and down German beer, while Germans favor their own automotive companies and refuse to drink “dishwater” (e.g., Anheuser Busch products).

Using old thinking, one would conclude that moderate-conservative Christian Democrat Angela Merkel would be to the left of a right-wing Republican president. Instead, we need to recalibrate how we view our divided world with Merkel serving as the neo-liberal (open) and Trump as the isolationist (closed).

Global F.U. Votes?

“Trump’s election is going to be the biggest ‘fuck you’ ever recorded in human history — and it will feel good.” – Liberal film-maker Michael Moore.

International public relations pros, journalists, pundits and campaign managers need to change their ways of thinking. Left vs. right used to be so simple – oh so simple. Those thoughts are no longer operative as a populist “Human Molotov Cocktail” took over the Republican Party and the White House and dared the party (and Wall Street too) to follow in his protectionist footsteps.

No respectable elite on the Old-World side of the pond saw Brexit coming, until it did. The Midlands overwhelming sent an F-U message to London, Brussels and Berlin. Score a major win for the “closed” crowd.

Surely, the same would not occur in the United States or so we were told our Harvard-heads pundits and pollsters? They missed the F.U. vote with the “Blue Wall” falling in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Looking forward to the next month, France will be making a similar choice between “open” Emmanuel Marcon of the En Marche! Neo-liberal, pro-trade, pro-competition, pro-immigration and pro-EU stances and “closed” Marine LePen of the National Front, who not-so-secretly wants an exit referendum on the EU and the reintroduction of the French franc.

Will France be the third industrial economy F-U vote in a little less than one year?

Undoubtedly, this undeniable trend is on the radar screen of Angela Merkel. Will she enter the White House this week from a position of strength or weakness?

Keep in mind that Almost DailyBrett and many others originally thought she was a shoe-in to be elected for her fourth term as Kanzlerin this coming September. The same thinking applied to the inevitability of Hillary Clinton becoming the first Frau President of the United States.

Merkel’s decision and subsequent pull-back to welcome (e.g., Willkommenskultur) more than 1 million Syrian refugees to Deutschland appears to be a political loser. Her re-election after 12 years in office is anything but secure now as she trails Martin Schulz of the Social Democrat Party, and the (closed) Alternative für Deutschland is gaining strength.

Could France and Germany be the latest in a string of F.U. votes? Will that mean the end of the European Union as we know it? Is this trend the end of traditional left vs. right?

Welcome to a new way of political thinking.

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21717814-why-french-presidential-election-will-have-consequences-far-beyond-its-borders-vote

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/merkel-prepares-for-difficult-visit-with-donald-trump-a-1138244.html

http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21716641-not-reasons-donald-trump-thinks-it-germanys-current-account-surplus-problem

http://www.salon.com/2016/10/26/michael-moore-people-will-vote-for-donald-trump-as-a-giant-fk-you-and-hell-win/

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/766256/Angela-Merkel-Martin-Schulz-SDP-CDU-German-election-polls

By Dr. Stacey Robertson

For many people, mental illness is an uncomfortable topic …

But four public relations seniors from our Department of Communications (from left to right with me in the photo below) – Hunter Ventoza, Nikki Christopherson, Taylor Castillo, and Meghan Lynch – eagerly met the challenge, when last September they found out that promoting mental health awareness was their assignment for the next eight months. 

The student PR team was charged with initiating a campus-wide and community conversation about mental illnesses including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

These four students comprise the 2016-2017 Central Washington University “Bateman” public relations collegiate competition team. The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) annually sponsors this contest in honor of the late PRSA president Carroll Bateman. There are more than 50 schools nationally competing each academic year to most effectively focus attention on an assigned subject.

In this case, student teams were also charged with promoting two non-profits: The Campaign to Change Direction (mental health issues) and Give An Hour (assisting veterans returning from war with PTSD and other maladies).

The Campaign to Change Direction has drawn upon the dynamism of former First Lady Michelle Obama and others, identifying the five signs of mental distress: Personality Change, Agitation, Withdrawal, Poor Self Care, and Hopelessness.

Our four students were wise enough to know that virtually every effective Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) campaign – earned, owned, and paid media – requires collaboration with allies, in this case other CWU departments, student organizations, and a downtown Ellensburg art gallery.

In particular, our Bateman team coordinated interdepartmentally within the CWU College of Arts and Humanities, reaching out to our Art Department. They also teamed with the Department of Psychology from CWU’s College of the Sciences and its student Psychology Club and Neuroscience Club.

Our Bateman team staged an entire week of awareness events and activities, each day focused on one of the five signs of distress mentioned above. The week began with a panel on mental health moderated by Psychology Assistant Professor Meaghan Nolte.

Flanking Nolte were (from left-to-right below): Ruben Cardenas from our Veterans Center; education student David Sturgell, reflecting on post-war anxiety and PTSD; Rhonda McKinney from our campus Counseling Center; and public relations student Andrew Kollar, discussing depression.

It required great courage for these two students to openly discuss their illnesses, and to serve as thought leaders for others suffering from mental illness.

The week’s activities also included a campus march, two-days for students to sign a petition board and finally a combined Department of Art/Department of Communication mental health art exhibit at the John Ford Clymer Museum and Gallery.

 

The art exhibit, which coincided with Ellensburg’s First Friday celebration, showcased the collaboration between Art and Communication. Two student “artists in residence” – Krista Zimmerman and Lee Sullivan – painted and sketched representations of mental strain in a series of evocative and compelling images.

The four Bateman students were in charge of promoting the entire week to traditional media (e.g., Daily Record, Observer) and digital media (e.g., Facebook and Twitter #EBURGSPEAKS). They also lit a fuse for a student and community discussion about a very difficult subject.

Will we all have the courage to join the conversation?

http://prssa.prsa.org/scholarships_competitions/bateman/

http://www.changedirection.org/

https://www.giveanhour.org/

http://clymermuseum.org/

 

 

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