Tag Archive: Rathergate


“In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.” – Walter Cronkite, CBS anchor from 1962-1981

When asked what sports historians would take away from his record (e.g., five home runs) performance in the 1977 World Series, Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson paused and humbly proclaimed: “The magnitude of me.”

What about the “magnitude” of former CBS anchor Dan Rather?

The question is particularly relevant today as former CBS anchor Dan Rather is attempting a relevancy comeback at 86-years-old.

With his new book, “What Unites Us, Reflections on Patriotism,” Rather appears to be trying to escape the embarrassing details of his bitter 2005 termination … err resignation.

More to Almost DailyBrett’s point: Should Rather be seen as The Father of Affirmational Journalism?

Affirmational Journalism? Do these two words constitute an oxymoron?

Affirmational Journalism (e.g., Rather) is the mirror opposite of Informational Journalism (e.g., Cronkite).

Under the tenets of Informational Journalism, a news outlet will sift through the relevant facts and information – including both sides of every story — and deduce a logical conclusion for readers or viewers to decide.

Is there any wonder that Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America in 1972?

The esteem for American Journalism peaked in 1976 at 72 percent (e.g., Gallup survey), shortly after Woodward and Bernstein’s Pulitzer Prize reporting and the demise of the Nixon administration. The same poll revealed that public trust for the media plummeted for four decades to 32 percent in 2016.

What happened to the days when the vital First Amendment mission of the media was to inform and enlighten?

Enter Rather as the successor to Cronkite in the CBS anchor chair in 1981. Shortly thereafter, the seeds of today’s Affirmational Journalism were planted.

Certainly, there were outlets in 1972 and beyond that editorially represented the left (e.g., New York Times) and the right (e.g., Wall Street Journal), but the news pages of these publications were essentially straight.

Rather: Keynoting the GOP National Convention?

“(Rather) stepped on his own dick.” – Ronald Reagan, 1988

Two celebrated incidents involving Republican presidents (not Democratic) clearly demonstrated how Rather’s aim was to “affirm” preset narratives, not to totally “inform:”

  1. His rudeness against then Vice President George H.W. Bush in a cataclysmic 1988 live interview, which included Bush reminding the world that Rather stormed off his set one year before, when a U.S. Open tennis match ran too long.
  2. Rather’s ill-fated 2004 60 Minutes piece (e.g., Rathergate), confusing the fonts of an IBM Selectric with those offered by Microsoft. The forged 1972 document reportedly proved that President George W. Bush received special treatment as a member of the National Guard. Alas for Rather, the letter was written with a Microsoft font.

Microsoft was not founded until 1975 – three years later. Oops.

Dan Rather was exposed for his eagerness and glee to accept any “fact” that fit a preordained narrative about George W. Bush and his National Guard service. More importantly, he and his producer, Mary Mapes, were terminated at CBS for practicing Affirmational Journalism, which sought out tidbits (e.g., the forged letter) that affirmed and fit the story and excluding those (e.g., Microsoft font) that did not.

Rather’s mission was to “affirm” through selective reporting the predisposed reigning political philosophy of elites residing east of the Hudson and within the confines of the Beltway:

Democrat John Kerry was good; Republican George W. Bush needed to be excused from office.

Today, the list of affirmational elite media on the left is long: New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC. The list of affirmational media on the right is shorter: Fox News.

Whether these major media outlets reside on the left or the right, their mission is to affirm, sustain and enhance entrenched narratives that advance a chosen political philosophy.

Is Dan Rather solely responsible for this movement toward affirming, whether through interpretation or presenting, preordained narratives? No. There are others.

Is he the poster child for affirmational journalism and with it a record 32 percent low in national esteem for the media? Almost DailyBrett is making that assertion.

Affirmational Journalism Schools?

As a college assistant professor in a school of communication, the author of Almost DailyBrett worries that future journalists will be trained to seek facts and figures that fit a preconceived narrative, and ignore those inconvenient points that potentially contradict the “story.”

Are the ends of supporting an adopted political philosophy more important than the means of not presenting both sides of a story? If that is indeed the case and we are no longer informing the public about the positions of both sides, can we call this behavior Journalism?

There are some of us who yearn for the better days of a free-and-fair media.  The Fourth Estate can potentially come back; just the same way Rather is trying to revive his tarnished reputation.

Can the media return to the days of Informational Journalism? Or is Affirmational Journalism here to stay, contributing to and hardening our divided society for years to come?

Maybe if the media moves to adopt the model of Walter Cronkite — not Dan Rather — we will all be better off as an American society.

We can only hope.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2017/12/12/this-has-to-be-unacceptable-dan-rather-on-media-attacks-and-politics-in-america-under-trump/?utm_term=.6cdffc95176a&wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=82268&page=3

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

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/from-affirming-back-to-informing/

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Walter-Cronkite

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

 “All I’m saying is that the idea that there’s one set of rules for us and another set for everybody else is true.” – Former President William Jefferson Clinton

What is it about that Clintons that draws elite media into their gravitational pull?

Last year, we learned that Brian Williams’ (remember his heroic military exploits?) NBC News provided Chelsea Clinton with a $600,000 annual salary for four news reports. Wonder why Chelsea of all people landed this big-time six-figure job with the left-of-center network?.

This week (no pun intended), we read that ABC’s chief anchor and This Week host George Stephanopoulos made three donations to the Clinton Foundation totaling $75,000, but did not report these contributions to either the brass at ABC News or more importantly to his hundreds of thousands of viewers.clintonstephanopoulos

Why not disclose that you were ostensibly assisting the 501 (c) (3) foundation in championing AIDS prevention and battling deforestation, George? You do care about these subjects, right George? Is the Clinton Foundation the only non-profit addressing these issues? Why not write checks to other NGOs?

PR pros have long urged clients to adopt a policy of radical transparency. They would urge you (George) to be fully transparent in your financial contributions to your former employer, William Jefferson Clinton. Instead George, you took the stealth route until you were indeed caught by news aggregator, POLITICO.

In the aftermath of disclosure by the media, Stephanopoulos issued the de rigueur apology and ABC circled the wagons and defended their guy, but the damage was already done.

Can we now reasonably expect that ABC News will fairly and accurately cover the Clintons, including probable Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, when its chief anchor and former Clinton disciple knowingly hides his contributions to the massive Clinton Foundation?

Keep in mind, the Clinton Foundation is not your grandfather’s 501 (c) (3). It is not even the Carter Center. Instead, it does some good on the surface while deep down it is an avenue for those who need “advice” and cherish “access” to and through the Clinton’s, and make a nice donation to save Haiti as well.

ABC, NBC …

Power corrupts, and absolutely power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord John Dahlberg-Acton

Guess that absolute corrupting power applies to the ultimate gatekeepers, big-time media.

Almost DailyBrett questioned the decision of NBC’s brass to hire Chelsea Clinton for the outrageous sum of $600,000 per year, even before the Brian Williams implosion. Chelsea departed NBC prior to her mumsy throwing her proverbial hat into the presidential ring. Still the questions persist: Why Chelsea? Did NBC practice “checkbook journalism”? And once again, can we now reasonably expect that NBC News will fairly and accurately cover the Clintons, and by extension the Clinton Foundation?chelseanbc4

Another question that comes to mind as the presidency is an open seat in the 2016 quadrennial cycle is whether the networks and other left-of-center media can be expected to even be remotely fair and objective in covering the Republicans.

Whattyathink George Stephanopoulos?

Whattyathink Brian Williams?

Whattyathink Dan Rather?

ABC and NBC are not the only sinners in this drama. CBS lost its objectivity virginity when it comes to favoritism of the Clinton’s favorite political party with the infamous 2004 Rathergate and the phony military documents about George W. Bush’s National Guard duty. The documents were exposed as forgeries; Bush was re-elected and a bitter Rather decided to spend more time with his family.

This week, we learned the University of Virginia is suing Rolling Stone magazine for deliberately doctoring a photo of Associate Dean Nicole Eramo to make her appear to be a villain in the now-retracted 2014 “A Rape on Campus” story.rollingstonestory

The sensational account that came after the deliberate attempt to target a wealthy fraternity on a rich campus has been labeled as “impact journalism” by the Washington Post.

One must wonder what other forms of “impact journalism” the media elites have in mind.

Can hardly wait to check out the coming plethora of stories that “objectively” cover the Clintons.

Wonder if there will another standard of reporting for those who dare to disagree with Bill, Hill and Chelsea?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2015/05/14/george-stephanopoulos-donations-to-clinton-foundation-immediate-crisis-for-abc-news/?wpisrc=nl_popns&wpmm=1

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/15/us/politics/george-stephanopoulos-discloses-gifts-to-clinton-foundation.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0

http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/05/george-stephanopoulos-discloses-contribution-to-clinton-207120.html?hp=rc1_4

https://nonprofitquarterly.org/philanthropy/24491-the-philanthropic-problem-with-hillary-clinton-s-huge-speaking-fees.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2015/05/13/lawsuit-against-rolling-stone-claims-doctored-photograph-cast-dean-as-villain/?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/lying-to-the-new-york-times/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/chelseas-nbc-600k-tv-gig-and-aspiring-journalists/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/youre-so-vain/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/its-like-deja-vu-all-over-again/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/impact-journalism/

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/lordacton109401.html

http://rove.com/articles/585

 

 

“What happens in Vegas…will probably end up on YouTube.”

Since the onset of truly interactive computer-mediated communication more than a decade ago (Web 2.0), pundit questions mainly revolved around whether digital social media could ever be effectively monetized.

Wall Street finally responded last May 19 with enthusiastic institutional and retail investor response to the initial public offering (IPO) of LinkedIn.com. Securities for the business networking oriented social media outlet were offered on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: LNKD) and the results that day constituted the biggest IPO since search engine Google Inc. debuted in 2004. LinkedIn was initially priced at $45, but opened at $83 up 84%. The stock eventually peaked at $122.70 before closing at $94.25, a 109% gain for the day, representing $8.9 billion in market capitalization.

linkedin_logo_11

Despite the impressive results for the initial offering of publicly traded securities for LinkedIn and the fact that there are no longer questions about whether social media has authentic monetary value, the IPO was widely seen by financial and market analysts as preliminary at best.

LinkedIn capitalized on being the “first mover” among social media companies, prompting many to ask what will happen when Twitter, Groupon and most of all, Facebook with its 600 million subscribers, (any or all) decide to take their respective shares to the public marketplace. Will they trigger a second Internet bubble?

Underneath all of the euphoria (irrational exuberance?) about digital interactive media, the use of ones-and-zeroes, transmitted in packets across switches and routers or wirelessly via the satellite, are troubling questions about this relatively new means of communication.

There are publicly traded and privately held companies with products to sell, non-profits with missions to fulfill, governments with essential services to provide, and politicians with electoral messages to deliver. Most are using digital publishing in an attempt to reach their target audiences, but at the same time (and maybe truly for the first time) these very same audiences, some with competing agendas, have unprecedented capability to target the messengers. Instead of “vertical” one-communicating-to-many, it is increasingly “horizontal” with the “audience” participating in the conversation. The game has changed and the rules are still being developed.

Today, we can look back upon a growing litany of examples of how ease-of-use interactive publishing and related conversations are upsetting the best-laid public relations and marketing plans of those charged with reputations to protect and brands to manage.

Consider that one blogger ultimately prompted the recall of Intel’s vaunted Pentium processor; bloggers repudiated a “60 Minutes” story extremely critical of former President George W. Bush, leading to the “resignation” of Dan Rather; a BART passenger video-taped and posted footage of the 2009 New Year’s evening shooting of Oscar Grant, leading to a conviction of the officer in question and setting off civil disturbances in Oakland; undercover cameras and super-sensitive microphones discredited ACORN and NPR;  Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) was pressured into resigning in the wake of his Tweeting of his “junk” to selected females across the fruited plain. Train Station Shooting

What, where, when and who will be next to experience the loss of reputation and branding control to interactive media? Has the digital playing field been leveled to an unprecedented effect? Is this an unintended consequence of Web 2.0?

Think of it this way, reputations and brands are now traded commodities in the marketplace of public opinion. And just like securities, reputations and brand equities can rise with “shareholder” approval or they can crash under pressure from this same audience.

The question is not whether there are unintended loss-of-control consequences of Web 2.0, but instead what are the strategies to safeguard reputations and brands, and how they should be implemented? The birth of micro-blogging/content sharing sites: LinkedIn in 2003, MySpace in 2003, Facebook in 2004, Flickr in 2004, YouTube in 2005 and the 140-character-per-message Twitter in 2006, rapidly accelerated the growth to a staggering number of Web 2.0 subscribers.

The power of each of these social media sites and the ones that will inevitably follow (e.g. Google+) is magnified by the number of friends, connections, contacts that can be reached with a short message and a few key strokes. Will publicly traded and privately held companies, non-profits, governmental entities, appointed and elected officials ever regain hegemony over their cherished reputations and hard-fought brands or must they learn to live with a permanent loss of total control?

The answer is undoubtedly the latter. If this is indeed the case, then what are reasonable techniques and strategies that can be employed in this Web 2.0 era of digital self publishing with ease-of-use software tools? Here are five reputation-and-brand protection strategic recommendations for consideration by public relations practitioners, marketing/brand management professionals and social media evangelists.

1.)   Quality Products; Credible Messaging

The keys to success will be the specific relevance of the message, and the effectiveness of the delivery of the message or program in the time and space where the potential customers want to receive it, not where the marketers want to shout it out,” Irene Dickey and William F. Lewis. 

The point being made by academics Dickey and Lewis is the best way to defend a reputation or a brand is to deliver credible messages in a timely and effective way to customers. Doing the right thing at the right time deserves to be rewarded regardless of the unprecedented speed of global communications. Is a good offense the best defense?

Take Zappos.com as an example. The $1 billion online shoe seller has a distinct philosophy of under-promising and over-performing for its customer base. The company’s leadership is constantly exploring way to sustaining the high quality experience it is known for – to deliver “wow” to its customers, suppliers and partners. The targeted result: Positive and consistent word-of-mouth advertising. Said Alfred Lin, Zappos chairman, CFO and COO: “…Word of mouth works a lot faster on the Internet than it does person-to-person because you can just e-mail out a bunch of your friends and say ‘hey I just had this amazing experience.’ That was one of the reasons that we wanted to keep upgrading shipping.”

lin Erik Qualman in his Socialnomics cited a study by the Strategic Planning Institute that 96 percent dissatisfied customers don’t bother to complain, and 63 percent of these silent dissatisfied customers will never buy from the vendor again. Through networked customer feedback, it is much easier for a company to respond and make things right. Douglas Rushkoff offered very simple advice: “Marketers need to learn that the easiest way to sell stuff in the digital age is make good stuff.” 

2.)   Treating Reputations and Brands As Tradable Equities 

“More young people will learn about IBM from Wikipedia in coming years than from IBM itself,” New York Times Columnist Thomas L. Friedman 

Qualman was just as direct as Friedman when he stated that if you maintain a large, well-known brand you can rest assured (or not rest assured) that there are online conversations, pages and applications being constantly developed around a brand. He cited an August 2008 Facebook search for lawn-care equipment provider, “John Deere,” and discovered 500 groups dedicated to John Deere; more than 10,000 users total in the top-10 groups. Chief competitor, Caterpillar, also maintained a page in John Deere’s top-10 listings and one simply called “John Deere Sucks!!!” also made the top-10 list on the social media site. Along with the ascent of interactive social media has been a corresponding decline of consumer trust in brands.

According to advertising agency, Y&R, consumer trust in brands dropped from 52 percent in 1997 (generally agreed upon birth year of Web 2.0) to only 22 percent in 2008. It should also be noted that the worldwide recession began in 2008, but that does not alone explain the 30 percent drop in brand trust.

Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell wrote that Facebook and other social media sites are extremely effective at building networks, which he said “are the opposite, in structure and character, of hierarchies. Unlike hierarchies, with their rules and procedures, networks aren’t controlled by a single central authority. Decisions are made through consensus.”

3.)    24/7/365 Monitoring and Response

“The digital bazaar is a many-to-many conversation among people acting in one or more of their many cultural roles. It is too turbulent to be directed or dominated,” Author and columnist Douglas Rushkoff. 

What is the direct effect of Rushkoff’s assertion about the turbulent seas of social media with its many-to-many discussants in the conversation? For those charged with protecting a reputation and safeguarding a brand, it means that the most carefully laid marketing and public relations plans can be shattered in record time.

It means that just as global equities are traded virtually every day of the year as the sun moves over the Nikkei in Japan, the Hang Sang in Hong Kong, the DAX in Germany to the FTSE in London to then to the NYSE and NASDAQ in New York, the same is true for brands. The sun never sets on global markets and brands; in fact brands are being traded on a 24/7/365 basis in the digital interactive marketplace of public opinion.

Consider the infamous sucker punch by Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount against Boise State’s Bryon Hout immediately following their game in 2009, and captured in all of its intensity by ESPN’s cameras. Today, there are 17,400 search engine optimization (SEO) results on Google for the keystrokes, “LeGarrette Blount sucker punch.”

blountpunch

For the University of Oregon Athletic Department and its carefully crafted image, the damage from Blount’s actions was swiftly demonstrated in cyberspace with an immediate YouTube video, Wikipedia post and literally thousands of comments on Twitter and Facebook. A reputation and brand can come under pressure at any time of day or night, requiring constant vigilance and assigning individuals specifically charged and authorized to respond on behalf of a company, governmental entity, appointed or elected official or an educational institution.

4.)   Fiduciary and Corporate Social Responsibility

“Can companies do well by doing good? Yes – sometimes.” Aneel Karnani.

Publicly traded and privately held companies and by extension the public relations and business development firms that counsel them must worship at the altar of fiduciary responsibility. Karnani in his 2010 Wall Street Journal piece stated the global movement for better corporate governance dictates that executives must seek the best return possible for their investors. He said that managers who sacrifice profit for the common good also are in effect imposing a tax on their shareholders and arbitrarily deciding how that money should be spent. If push comes to shove between fiduciary responsibility and corporate social responsibility, the former will usually prevail…but still there are benefits for society.

Wrote Karnani: “Consider the market for healthier food. Fast-food outlets have profited by expanding their offerings to include salads and other options designed to appeal to health-conscious consumers. Other companies have found new sources of revenue in low-fat, whole-grain and other types of foods that have grown in popularity. Social welfare is improved. Everyone wins.”

Should companies spread this fiduciary responsibility (and by extension improving society) message via social media tools? The risk is being accused of “green washing” or something worse by detractors of the brand. Companies do not have a choice about participating in this on-line discussion. The question is how well they do it.

In particular, publicly traded companies have a fiduciary responsibility to generate the best return for their investors – in many cases their own employees – and why shouldn’t they triumph their activities on behalf of shareholder value? If communities, workers and the environment benefit from healthier foods, less-power hungry devices, more fuel-efficient cars, while at the same time related companies are producing returns for investors, then let there be a race to use social media tools for the gratification of the companies as well as their detractors. Truth should be the defense against “greenwashing” charges. Let the conversation commence.

kfc

5.)   Honesty, Openness and Transparency

Companies don’t have a choice on whether they do social media; they have a choice in how well they do it,” Erik Qualman, Socialnomics, 2009

In the case of social media, someone is always watching YouTube videos, posting JPEGs on Flickr, sending Tweets via Twitter, inviting connections on LinkedIn or friending or unfriending on Facebook. There are frankly millions of netizens and they are always on, around the clock and around the world. And the rate of innovation is accelerating at a pace never seen before in human history. It took 38 years for radio to reach 50 million users;  television 13 years; the Internet, four years; iPod, three years; Facebook added its first 100 million subscribers in just nine months.

Publicly traded and privately held companies, non-profits, governmental entities, educational institutions and appointed and elected representatives live in a fish-bowl world. The rules of the game have changed, and yet there are still rules of engagement. Ghostwriting of executive blogs should to be publicly disclosed. Companies need to focus on quality products, under-promise and over-deliver.

Statements need to be credible and respectful or as John Madden once said: “I will never say in private what I wouldn’t say in public.” The Web 2.0 digital world is demanding accountability, honesty and transparency. If these simple rules are followed the consequences associated with the loss of control should be benign. However, if the conduct is not becoming of a reputation that has been hard-earned and brand equity that has been built, both of these can come tumbling down in just a matter of mouse clicks.

Should we even be asking this question?

Deep down I wish we weren’t even discussing the personal opinions of reporters and editors, no matter how valid or repugnant; they should be irrelevant to the beats and the stories they are covering.

Isn’t it the duty of the media to report the news, not be the news?

If reporters or editors want to be news makers then they should run for public office, sing for a touring rock-and-roll band, dance on Broadway, play big-league ball…do things that warrant coverage…by someone else.

helenthomas

This may sound naïve, but I yearn for the notion of covering the news and not interpreting the news, and certainly not expressing personal opinions. Reporters interviewing reporters still has the same effect on me as someone taking their fingernails to a chalk board.

Helen Thomas of Hearst News Service has long been regarded as the dean of the Capitol Press Corps, and close to a legend to those who follow the Fourth Estate. She was always given the privilege of asking the first news conference question to the President of the United States.

However, her earlier question to the Leader of the Free World about “so-called terrorists” may have been one of the first clues about her true feelings (a daughter of Lebanese immigrants) about the Arab vs. Israeli conflict. Her most recent comments about getting the Jews “the hell out of Palestine” and sending them “home” to Germany and Poland ended her half-century-long career. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/07/AR2010060701493.html?wpisrc=nl_pmheadline

My purpose here is not to blast Thomas for un-arguably anti-Semitic remarks (there are plenty who will do just that), but to express concern about reporters and editors not being satisfied in just merely reporting the news.

Dan Rather is now an (largely) unemployed former anchor because he and his “60 Minutes” producer Mary Mapes embarked upon a 2004 campaign to discredit George W. Bush and remove him from office. Whether W. was a good president or not, worthy of re-election, was for the people to decide…I know this sounds quaint, but it is not. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killian_documents_controversy

The trend has been toward “setting the agenda” for the nation to follow. Huh? I thought that was the president’s job and the leadership in Congress and the governor’s mansions…not the paper of record or the major networks.

Today is a sad day for American journalism. It is a day in which the White House ripped the comments of a reporter as “offensive and reprehensible.” Wonder how many reporters harbor similar views?

I hope we never find out.

%d bloggers like this: