Tag Archive: Ex-Cathedra


The words, “Public Relations Pros” and “Journalists” would be labeled by many in the Fourth Estate as either an oxymoron or an obscene contradiction of terms.

Emerging from Journalism school back in the desultory late-1970s, the author of Almost DailyBrett would have surely agreed. Walter Cronkite never flacked for anyone. Woodward and Bernstein might be interested in selling books, but they would never stoop to representing a mere politician or corporation. Analytical Thomas Friedman would never risk his reputation for impartiality by serving as anyone’s advocate.

woodwardbernstein

Yes, the perception is that journalists are reporters, editors, correspondents, columnists, anchors, news directors and managing editors. This thinking is oh-so-analog.

Let’s pose this question: Are digital bloggers for TechCrunch, Gizmodo, The Huffington Post, Politico and many other influential weblogs, journalists? Don’t think so?

Think of it this way: They have an obligation to get their facts right. They may not always write, complying with AP Style or using the inverted pyramid – heck many of their posts are feature “thumb suckers” – but they still must have a sense of what is newsworthy and what is not. Why? Because a blog is the most discretionary of all reads. No one requires you to read her or his blog.

Bloggers need to include in their posts the essential facts or the five W’s and the one H… What, When, Who, Where, Why and How…and one more: Who the hell cares? If these questions are not answered quickly, the reader will turn elsewhere. Isn’t that what a traditional analog journalist does?

Is Jon Stewart, a journalist?

Heck no you say? He is a comedian. Right? Or Left? Yes, he is…but in many respects he is a journalist.

stewartcramer

His 21-minute public undressing of CNBC’s Jim Cramer was masterful, and it went viral (more than 83,000 page-views). Harvard-trained “Mad Money” Cramer is a virtual encyclopedia of all things, Wall Street. If you are skeptical, just check out his evening “Lightning Round” or read his latest tome, “Get Rich Carefully.”

And yet Stewart nailed him with his careful research, facts and figures to skillfully argue that CNBC was essentially in bed with institutional Wall Street, and was not doing enough to protect the average retail investor, who relies on the market to grow nest eggs for future dreams through IRAs and 401k’s.

Another question immediately comes to mind.

Is the above-average Jane or Jack with a cell-phone camera and an internet connection, a journalist?

Your immediate reaction would be to the negative…and in most instances you’re right…but not in all cases.

Train Station Shooting

A cell phone camera turned BART’s world (Bay Area Rapid Transit) literally upside down when the fatal 2009 early New Year’s morning shooting of Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale station went viral. A passenger taking photos through a subway car window “covered” the story, providing many of the five W’s and the one H, prompting the mainstream Bay Area media to follow and putting the BART public relations operation into damage control. The “Who Cares” question was already answered.

Just as the binary code of ones-and-zeroes has forever changed the business models of analog media types (e.g., those still using a later generation of 1439 Gutenberg’s printing press), the definition of who is and who is not a journalist is changing as well.

Rarely does Almost DailyBrett speak ex-cathedra, but it will in this case: The public relations industry grasped digital communication – blogging, microsites, digital handhelds – much faster than the majority of conventional journalists, some of which are still kicking and screaming.

Naturally, traditional journalists and the newly minted digital journalists (e.g., bloggers) are skeptical of public relations pros. Why? Flacks are advocates. They have a point of view. They present the truth and tell the story in the best interest of their respective clients.

This advocacy position puts them in a synergistic relationship with the reporter-editor-analyst crowd, and in many cases these recipients of PR industry information are antagonistic to the provider. In the final analysis and there is no denying this point: They need each other. Reporters need public relations pros because they provide information. In turn, public relations pros need access to their target audiences.

And what about this information? It has to be researched. It has to be accurate. It should always be presented professionally (e.g., AP Style). It has to be newsworthy (or a credible newsworthiness argument has to be advanced). It has to include all the salient facts, including those five W’s and one H. And it must conclusively respond to the skeptical, bordering on cynical, who cares question.

Some have suggested that public relations should be taught in business schools rather than journalism schools. The reason is that the majority of agency and all corporate public relations professionals are working on behalf of business. That’s true.

Here’s where Almost DailyBrett disagrees. Public relations is telling the story on behalf of a newsworthy client. Even though PR pros are advocating, they still must research the story and get it right. They must present this information professionally (e.g., inverted pyramid, AP Style) and it must be newsworthy for news disseminators in order to reach target audiences. That requires the journalism taught in J-Schools.

invertedpyramid

Even if public relations pros are bypassing or not exclusively using conventional and digital media outlets, and strictly utilizing self-publishing instead, they still need to practice solid journalism and ensure the story is told accurately.

And what did Joseph Pulitzer write on the walls of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch? “Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy”?

This sage advice applies to public relations practitioners as well, particularly in our fast-moving digital age.

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-12-2009/jim-cramer-pt–1

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-12-2009/jim-cramer-pt–2

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Blame-in-Oscar-Grant-BART-death-may-shift-4713100.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg

http://www.apstylebook.com/

http://www.onlineconcepts.com/pulitzer/endow.htm

College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can … get going with life.” – Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.

It used to be so easy.

Junior or Little Ms. reached his or her 18th birthday and out-the-door he or she went to face the cruel, cruel word.

leavingat18

It’s not so sophisticated today.

One of the more popular features of the unpopular 2,300-page Obamacare is the provision that offspring up to 26-years-old can be covered by their parent’s health insurance. One wonders why the specific age of 26 was chosen? Twenty-five seems like a more natural stopping point. Ah, the mysteries of the infinite-wisdom crowd, residing and regulating from inside the Beltway.

As a parent of a very independent 23-year-old daughter trying to build her life in the über-expensive San Francisco Bay Area, I keep on thinking about “old” 23-year-olds and “young” 23-year-olds (let alone “old” 18-year-olds and “young” 18-year-olds). Not everyone matures and grows up in exactly the same way. One may be ready to conquer the world at 23, while another of the same age may still require the sanctuary of mom and dad’s house.

Was the system that was so prevalent during the era of the so-called “Greatest Generation” the way to go? “Happy Birthday! Out the door you go…!”

This particular practice comes across as rather heartless to the modern ear. At the same time hundreds of thousands succeeded because they had no choice but to swim to avoid sinking. Many of them grew up big time in the fields of Europe or the islands of the Pacific, and came home to a college education paid for by the G.I. Bill.

Fast forwarding to the era of the Millennials one must ask: If we show our kids “tough love” and push our kids out the door, even in the direction of a four-year college, do we run the risk that a “young” 18-year-old is simply too young to survive, let alone succeed?

When is early, too early?

Conversely, if we acquiesce in the face of a rotten economy to offspring in their early 20s to staying at home, are we potentially retarding their independence? Are we fostering a “taker,” when the individual has all the ability to be a “maker?” Do we want our homes to become “crash pads” for our offspring, and quite possibly their live-ins?livingwithparents

When is late, too late?

Confounding this dilemma is an undeniable fact: We are talking about adults here. This is not entirely our decision to make, even though we may pay ze mortgage or ze rent. Do the purse strings control the decision, the heart strings or a combination of many factors?

As I have mentioned before in writing these cyber pages, I have not taken any classes in psychology or sociology and don’t plan to do so. I have taken real world “coursework” in being a parent of an aspiring beauty products marketing Wunderkind.

This issue came to a head three years ago when I was offered a graduate teaching fellowship at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. This was a great opportunity to earn my master’s degree. My basic thought was: “If not now, when?” There was also the question of my then-21-year-old daughter. She always wanted her independence. Beware of what you want.

Let me make an ex-cathedra statement right here: If my daughter was only 18-years-old…and a young 18 at that…I would not have pursued graduate school, particularly at a university located out of state. Three years later, she was old enough to order vodka with a twist. Shouldn’t she be able to pursue her professional dreams with a little help from me…but without me directly providing a roof over her head?

Mumsy and dad-in-law raised some eyebrows, and I listened to their “concerns.” I also contemplated that I was the one that was monetarily assisting my daughter. I made the decision to sell the house, pack-my-bags, and pursue my M.A. I also decided to seek out housing for my daughter, affording her first taste of real independence.

Three years later, my daughter is making a go of it in a corporate setting in downtown San Francisco. She is endeavoring to be a maker, not a taker. She clearly understands “Buy low, Sell high.” That is a great recipe for never starving.

If I had bypassed my pursuit of a master’s degree, I would not have grown the way that I have in the immediate years north of the midpoint of life. And I afraid my daughter would still be at home. Instead of a fading Obama poster, she would be staring at her “Hello Kitty” poster.

She will never be a taker (I told her repeatedly that dad is not the federal government), but I am not convinced she would be as far along in becoming a maker, and applying her Darwin-given talent when it comes to marketing and keeping customers happy. You can make big bucks when you can do that, and maybe give a little back to society.

Here’s to leaving home when it’s time.

 

 

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