FACEBOOK'S PR BLITZ

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"The best defense," goes the old saw in crisis communications, "is a good offense."  Doing its best to stay ahead of the fake news blame game, Facebook has doubled down on a no-holds-barred public relations effort. 

The company has hired three crisis communications firms and embarked on advertising. It's also reaching out to the elected officials who shape policy around them, and the reporters who write about them.  The question is, with user growth slowing, will it be enough?  Courtesy The New York Times.

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WHEN GOING GETS TOUGH, THE TOUGH GO SKYPING

White House press secretaries have long been known for playing favorites within the Washington press corps.  But when you work for a president who believes the establishment media represents "fake news" and suffers from permanent bias against you, where do you find favorites?

Sean Spicer has found a partial answer in technology.  Wijth the introduction of "Skype seats" to White House briefings, he's finding ways for reporters from places like Kentucky and North Dakota to ask questions that aren't on the radar of journalists stuck in the "D.C. Swamp."  Courtesy USA Today. 

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YOU'RE A CEO AND WANT A RAISE? GET ON CNBC

How exactly are CEO's paid?  Compensation specialists sought by boards of directors at public companies employ a wide variety of metrics, many of them tied to stock performance.  But in the real world, is one of the most obvious factors being overlooked?

Two business professors respond in the affirmative.  They say they've found a relationship between the raises in CEOs' paychecks and their willingness to appear in the media spotlight - especially CNBC - and that the effect on pay is greatest for executives who are the least well-known.  Courtesy The Wall Street Journal.

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RESENTMENT OF MEDIA TAKES AN UGLY TURN

A quick visit to the news alerts site of the Committee to Protect Journalists shows that members of the fourth estate face death and injury around the world on a routine and ongoing basis.  By those standards, the body-slamming of a reporter for The Guardian by Greg Gianforte, a conservative candidate for US Congress, might pale by comparison.

Greg Gianforte from his Wikipedia page.

Greg Gianforte from his Wikipedia page.

It should not, argues syndicated conservative columnist Mona Charen. "Those whose moral compass has long since been stashed in the bottom drawer defending the indefensible piled on to applaud Gianforte’s thuggishness," she wrirtes.  But "none of this is a gray area...some who call themselves conservatives have shown they are nothing of the kind."  Courtesy National Review. 

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PUTTING THE "HOSPITAL" INTO HOSPITALITY

Illustration from a Bloomberg Businessweek article, "United Airlines' Quest to Be Less Awful," a full year prior to the latest PR crisis.

Illustration from a Bloomberg Businessweek article, "United Airlines' Quest to Be Less Awful," a full year prior to the latest PR crisis.

Millions around the world were astounded by the viral video showing a United Airlines passenger being injured while forcibly dragged off an overbooked flight.  What was equally astounding to PR observers was the tone deaf response of the airline that has described itself for more than half a century as the "friendly skies."

"Had United shown compassion and intent to make things right, they could have come out of this at the very least looking like an airline that cares," said crisis PR expert Ed Zitron. "Instead they've just made it even worse."  Courtesy CNN Money.

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SHOULD MEDIA SUE WHEN ACCUSED OF FAKE NEWS?

Floyd Abrams in his office in 2006, in an image from his Wikipedia page.

Floyd Abrams in his office in 2006, in an image from his Wikipedia page.

Floyd Abrams, the New York attorney, has made a career of defending the First Amendment.  Last year, when then-presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested making it easier to sue media organizations for so-called fake news, Abrams proposed fighting fire with fire: the media, he said, should consider suing its opponents for libel - something the mainstream fourth estate has long avoided doing. 

But now a small daily newspaper in Colorado may act on that advice, reports APM's On The Media.  But does the strategy risk backfiring on the rest of journalism?   Courtesy WNYC. 

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HAROLD DENTON: Everyman in a watershed crisis

It may not be front and center among life's concerns, but we've all wondered if it could happen to us.  Could we be yanked out of our normal workaday routine at a moment's notice and find ourselves in the center of a transcendent crisis that define's our company's future - our industry's - or perhaps our own?

Harold Denton (left) tours the Three Mile Island facility with President Jimmy Carter, April 1979.  Public domain photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Harold Denton (left) tours the Three Mile Island facility with President Jimmy Carter, April 1979.  Public domain photo courtesy Wikipedia.

It happened to Harold Denton.  In the late 1970's, he ran an obscure federal agency responsible for the inspection and licensing of nuclear power reactors.   Then, on March 28, 1979, came the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.    It remains the worst nuclear accident in American history. 

Denton passed away last month at the age of 80, and the resulting coverage made a new generation aware of his calm, steady leadership in a near disaster.  Courtesy The Washington Post.

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APPLE CEO: FAKE NEWS IS "KILLING PEOPLE'S MINDS"

Apple CEO Tim Cook visiting the Brit School for Performing Arts and Technology.  Photo and full article at The Daily Telegraph. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook visiting the Brit School for Performing Arts and Technology.  Photo and full article at The Daily Telegraph

At 56, Tim Cook is old enough to remember how environmental awareness first started to achieve a critical mass of supporters in the 1970's.  He was 9 years old when the first Earth Day celebrations took place in colleges, primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States - the result of a concerted public education campaign by environmentalists and political activists. 

Now, the CEO of the world's largest company says a similar campaign is necessary to stem the tide of take news, saying technology firms and governments need to lead the charge against unscrupulous firms that profit from fabrications. “It’s killing people’s minds in a way,” he says.  Courtesy The Daily Telegraph.

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DOES CALLING OUT "EVIL" AMOUNT TO EDITORIALIZING?

A still frame from the video that the Chicago teenager's abductors streamed live.  Via WBBM-TV.

A still frame from the video that the Chicago teenager's abductors streamed live.  Via WBBM-TV.

A mentally disabled teenager in Chicago is abducted, tied up, beaten, and made to drink toilet water by his captors.  By any reasonable definition, that's evil - and in our everyday lives it's an easy conclusion to reach, one that can be based on readily available and widely reported facts. 

But we live in an era when the very definition of truth seems to be up for grabs.  So perhaps it's a sign of the times when both elements of the media and our nation's leaders have difficulty calling this episode what it so clearly is, writes columnist Elizabeth Scalia.  And the issue comes into sharper focus when we are able to stream the episode on our own laptops and decide for ourselves.  Courtesy aleteia.org. 

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THE BIG NAME BRANDS THAT INADVERTENTLY FUND FAKE NEWS

The journalism field has been waking up to the reality of fakery.  Fake news - stories with little or no basis in fact - can quickly acquire a life of their own on the Internet, probably for the same deeply human reason that motorists slow down to gawk at a car wreck.

Fake news (the item about Yoko Ono and Hillary Clinton is a complete fabrication) appearing alongside an ad from a major automobile manufacturer.   Illustration from The Wall Street Journal. 

Fake news (the item about Yoko Ono and Hillary Clinton is a complete fabrication) appearing alongside an ad from a major automobile manufacturer.   Illustration from The Wall Street Journal

What's escaped notice, until very recently, is who's footing the bill.  It turns out that ads for major, well-known brands frequently appear alongside fake news items.  It's a reflection of the complexity of online advertising.  "Multiple middlemen are often involved, leaving both publishers and advertisers uncertain about which ads will appear where."  Courtesy The Wall Street Journal.

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TRUMP'S DATA TEAM SAW THE DATA DIFFERENTLY

Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Phoenix, 2016.  Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons. 

Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Phoenix, 2016.  Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

The 2016 presidential election is already being described as the race where "data died."  But did it die - or was it just hidden because no one was looking in the right places? 

It's early, but a preliminary analysis indicates that Donald Trump's team of data scientists, based in San Antonio, Texas, "picked up disturbances—like falling pressure before a hurricane—that others weren’t seeing. It was the beginning of the storm that would deliver Trump to the White House." 

In the end, it appears Trump tapped into an angry class of voters that no candidate has spoken to for decades.  Courtesy Bloomberg News.

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POLITICAL JOURNALISM DEEMED "BROKEN" IN TRUMP VICTORY AFTERMATH

A Trump rally in Cincinnati, October 2016.  Photo by By Bill Huber from Goshen, Ohio, via Wikimedia Commons.

A Trump rally in Cincinnati, October 2016.  Photo by By Bill Huber from Goshen, Ohio, via Wikimedia Commons.

The nation's newspaper of record called it a "Dewey Beats Truman lesson for the digital age."  How could so many reporters across so wide a swath of territory have missed the movement that propelled Donald Trump into the Oval Office?  The answers to that question are as much cultural as journalistic, and no doubt will be studied by pollsters and academics for years to come. 

"The misfire on Tuesday night was about a lot more than a failure in polling," wrote media columnist and former political reporter Jim Rutenberg.  "It was a failure to capture the boiling anger of a large portion of the American electorate...political journalism is broken, for sure."  Courtesy The New York Times.

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APPLE RETHINKING COMPUTER KEYBOARDS

The earliest typewriter keys in the 1860's were arranged in the order of the Latin alphabet, but were found lacking for a variety of mechanical reasons in the earliest machines.  The origins of the QWERTY keyboard that succeeded it are murky - and appear to have lasted this long only because so many people have learned to touch-type that way for generations. 

Technology appears to be on the verge of allowing alternatives to QWERTY that would cut the keyboard loose from its Latin moorings.  Apple Computer is said to be developing a new keyboard for its laptops that will be able to operate in any alphabet, and carry an unlimited number of emojis.  Courtesy The Wall Street Journal.

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WHEN THE NUMBERS DON'T TELL THE STORY

As the election season enters the home stretch, expect politicians to argue over worldviews and policies, claims and counterclaims, summoning countless facts and figures as support.   The problem for those of us listening to the litany is only increasing:  How do we sort through which numbers actually mean something, versus those that score primarily rhetorical points?

"Even if the statistics themselves are absolutely accurate, the words that describe what they are measuring can be grossly misleading," writes economist and political theorist Thomas Sowell.  For some media, however, the alarming statistics can serve a transcendent purpose: they make for a better story that way.  Courtesy National Review.

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AN UNCEREMONIOUS END FOR AN UNSCRUPULOUS SITE

In this case, the G in the Gawker logo stands for "gone."

In this case, the G in the Gawker logo stands for "gone."

Gawker.com, the media gossip site, will officially go dark next week after 14 years in operation - unable to withstand a $140 million judgment following an invasion of privacy lawsuit by former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan.

Although some First Amendment defenders felt Gawker's demise sent a chilling signal about press freedom, many critics cheered.  "(It's) a satisfying comeuppance for a blog that not only didn't pull punches but sometimes aimed below the belt," writes USA Today.

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TRUMP'S MEDIA STYLE EMERGES AN UNLIKELY WINNER

Donald Trump accepts the GOP presidential nomination in Cleveland.  Image from Reuters.

Donald Trump accepts the GOP presidential nomination in Cleveland.  Image from Reuters.

Not many people saw it coming just eleven months ago, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.  But now, as the GOP convention wraps up with the New York real estate billionaire as its nominee, it's time to ask - how exactly did Trump win by breaking all the rules?

"As Trump has invented stories, offended Americans and made arguments that reveal his ignorance of the separation of powers...he has done so in a style that remained convincing to millions of voters," writes media specialist and former CNN correspondent Allan Chernoff.   "The vocal and visual qualities of his presentation tell an audience he firmly believes every word coming out of his mouth, and so should they."  Courtesy Fortune. 

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A LIVE STREAM WORLD - and what it means for newsgathering

Police take cover behind a vehicle outside a parking garage in downtown Dallas early Friday, July 8, 2016. (AP Photo)

Police take cover behind a vehicle outside a parking garage in downtown Dallas early Friday, July 8, 2016. (AP Photo)

This might not be the best time to invest in a cable news network, says New York Times media arts columnist Farhad Manjoo.  Last week's police shootings, he says, crystallized a trend in which anyone in the right place at the right time can grab their smartphone and become an instant journalist. 

The events, he argues, amounted to "live streaming’s Gulf War, a moment that will catapult the technology into the center of the news — and will begin to inexorably alter much of television news as we know it."  But other media critics question whether this is such a good thing: if the shootings demonstrated the power of live streaming, are we ready for live murders?  Courtesy The Indian Express.

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REMEMBERING ELIE WIESEL

Steve Dunlop outside Elie Wiesel's Manhattan office, October 14, 1986.  Courtesy WNYW.

Steve Dunlop outside Elie Wiesel's Manhattan office, October 14, 1986.  Courtesy WNYW.

"It was drizzling when I arrived for work and my mind was elsewhere," recalls Dunlop Media president and former New York television reporter Steve Dunlop of a remarkable morning in October 1986.  "My thoughts were mostly about the Mets," who were battling the Houston Astros at the time to go on to the World Series. 

Then word crossed the wires from Oslo, Norway, that Elie Wiesel, the first-person chronicler of the Nazi Holocaust, had won the Nobel Peace Prize.   As a local reporter, Dunlop had known little about Wiesel, who died on July 2 at the age of 87.  He learned of the author and Holocaust survivor only the year before, when Wiesel stirred controversy by publicly pleading with President Reagan not to visit a Nazi cemetery on a visit to West Germany. 

Elie Wiesel accepting calls of congratulation in his office after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, October 14, 1986.  Courtesy Fox Television/WNYW. 

Elie Wiesel accepting calls of congratulation in his office after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, October 14, 1986.  Courtesy Fox Television/WNYW. 

When WNYW's assignment desk discovered that Wiesel was at his office in New York, Dunlop had to forget about the Mets.  He quickly read up on Wiesel's life and landed a one-on-one interview with him. 

"My crew and I arrived no more than an hour or two after the news broke," Dunlop remembers. "Wiesel was already on the phone, accepting messages of congratulations from around the world, switching effortlessly back and forth from one language to another.  It was pretty impressive."

But what impressed Dunlop most was Wiesel's humility and sense of serenity in the face of the worldwide acclaim.  "He told me how the Nobel Committee woke him up with the news.  He genuinely wasn't expecting it," he says.  "He struck me as a deeply spiritual, gentle and learned man.  I left feeling honored to have met him." 

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WHAT JEFF BEZOS IS TEACHING NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS

This fall will mark the third anniversary of the purchase of the Washington Post by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.  It's a good time to take stock: Have Bezos's improvements at the paper been primarily driven by the money he's brought in?  Or is he doing things in a fundamentally different way that even career media people can learn from?

"There are areas — some specific, some more attitudinal — from which newspapers could in fact benefit by studying the Bezos model," writes Northeastern University media professor Dan Kennedy.  Among them: the significant benefits to private ownership; the Post was a publicly traded company prior to the Bezos takeover.  Courtesy the Neiman Lab. 

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