AL-JAZEERA AMERICA TO CLOSE SHOP IN APRIL

Ending a novel experiment that some saw as doomed from the start, Al-Jazeera America, the US television news arm of the Arab based network, announced it would be signing off in April following a disappointing rollout and inability to attract viewers.

Al-Jazeera America began its run two and a half years ago by hiring some top-notch journalists with long backgrounds at established US broadcast networks.   In recent months, however, there were some high-profile exits - publicity around which seemed only to exacerbate what industry observers saw as an intractable branding problem.  Courtesy Deadline Hollywood.

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HOW CHARLIE BROWN ESCAPED THE GRINCH

This year marks the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the animated special that represented the first foray into television for Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz.  But behind that well-known story is another:  one about how CBS (the network on which the program originally aired) almost allowed A Charlie Brown Christmas to die before it was born - because of nervousness over a Bible passage at the high point of the narrative.

"Charles Schulz had some ideas that challenged the way of thinking of those executives," writes talk radio executive and producer Lee Habeeb.  It leads us to ask - to paraprhase Charlie Brown himself - "does anyone know what TV is all about?"  Courtesy National Review.

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DI BLASIO AND ROOM 9: A deteriorating relationship

New York mayor Bill DiBlasio taking questions from reporters in the Blue Room at City Hall.  Photo by Yana Paskova for The New York Times.

New York mayor Bill DiBlasio taking questions from reporters in the Blue Room at City Hall.  Photo by Yana Paskova for The New York Times.

They are known as the "Room 9" crowd:  credentialed reporters who cover the political beat at New York City Hall - where the press room (Room 9) is just down the hall from the Blue Room, where press conferences are usually held. 

The denizens of Room 9 have seen mayors come and go, but rarely have such high hopes for transparency been laid so low as with current New York Mayor Bill DiBlasio.  "While the mayor does hold news conferences, he frequently limits questions to a predetermined topic. The shift has not gone unnoticed," writes The New York Times.  "The New York Press Club has publicly objected to it, and reporters have started to ignore the restrictions."

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WHEN PRESENTING, LEAD FROM THE HEART

"Aristotle believed that the greatest speakers don't just persuade audiences to accept an argument," notes New York Times columnist David Brooks.  "They get people to trust their judgment...they use emotion and logic to establish their character." 

An interesting corollary to Aristotle's way of thinking is on display in this reflection on leadership communications from the President and CEO of the American Red Cross.  "Somewhere along the line, the process changed me," she writes.  "At the make-or-break meeting to put the final plan in front of the chapters, I found myself delivering a deeply emotional talk."  Courtesy the Harvard Business Review. 

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YOGI AND THE POTATOES

When baseball legend Yogi Berra passed away at the age of 90, he was remembered almost universally for his kindness, his wisdom, and his ubiquitous malapropisms.  Dunlop Media founder Steve Dunlop remembered him for the potatoes. 

On a visit to North Dakota, a leading potato producer, Berra famously said, "You don't have enough potatoes to fill my front lawn." Watch what happened below. Steve Dunlop reports. From WNYW-TV Channel 5, November 26, 1985.


EUROPEAN PUBLISHERS TAKE ON GOOGLE

While for much of the Western world, Google has become as ubiquitous - and indispensable - as water, a growing number of publishing entities in Europe are increasingly cautious.  They are looking for ways to reclaim revenue lost to the digital economy, and Google is one American company that appears to be in their collective sights.

"The goal is clear," writes The New York Times.  "Find ways to make more money, by strengthening copyright rules and limiting Google’s power as an advertising platform."

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MAKING THE DIFFERENCE IN A PR DISASTER

Subway, the iconic fast food brand, is weathering a serious blow to its image after law enforcement authorities raided the home of company spokesman Jared Fogle in connection with a child pornography investigation.  The company has been in damage control mode ever since word of the probe first surfaced. 

"When drama unfolds, it's easy to freeze up," notes FastCompany magazine.  "Who makes the decisions? Who puts out a statement? What media outlets do you respond or reach out to?"  Lessons learned in the school of hard knocks are painful, but provide some valuable insight - and practical answers to those questions.

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The key, says FastCompany, is to act before your reputation gets crumpled.   Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The key, says FastCompany, is to act before your reputation gets crumpled.   Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

WE LOVE THE FIRST AMENDMENT - Whatever that is

"Congress shall make no law..." many Americans ignorant of First Amendment content.  Photo by Susan Walsh, AP, via USA Today.

"Congress shall make no law..." many Americans ignorant of First Amendment content.  Photo by Susan Walsh, AP, via USA Today.

A sobering study from the Newseum Institute finds that while Americans are broadly in favor of the First Amendment - many aren't familiar with just what is in it.  One-third of Americans can't name any of the rights it guarantees.

"Less than two-thirds of survey respondents – 57% vs. 68% a year ago -- were able to cite freedom of speech as one protected by the amendment," reports USA Today.  "Only 19% were able to cite the freedom of religion, down from 29%."  

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WILL "MINI MURDOCH" INHERIT HIS DAD'S GOLDEN GUT?

Rupert and James Murdoch at an Anti-Defamation League conference.  Courtesy The Gateway Pundit.

Rupert and James Murdoch at an Anti-Defamation League conference.  Courtesy The Gateway Pundit.

"Tabloid media moguls like (Rupert) Murdoch do not create public taste: they reflect it," wrote British journalist James Delingpole in 2013.  Whether that taste whets your appetite or makes you nauseous, the question arises: what's James Murdoch's reflector like?  

With reports surfacing that the 84-year old media titan will soon pass the baton at 21st Century Fox to his 42-year old son (with sibling Lachlan to take charge of the far smaller News Corporation subsidiary), it's a fair question: will James Murdoch share his father's famous instincts?   One early gambit: Murdoch The Younger apparently views TV as the "real killer app" in the digital world.  Courtesy The New York Times.

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FINANCIAL JOURNOS WANT EXPERTS, NOT PR "SPOKESPERSONS"

The landscape is brightening for companies looking to get heard in financial media - with a major caveat: don't expect your PR people to be credible as interview subjects.  That's the major takeaway from a survey of financial journalists commissioned by Gorkana Group and conducted by communications professors from Chicago's DePaul University.

CEO's, whose credibility tanked in the wake of the 2008 financial debacle, scored a credibility rating of 61 percent, up 10 percent since 2012.  Technical and subject matter experts came in at 58 percent.  But PR spokespersons remain stuck in the cellar, with a mere 13 percent credibility rating - trailing the CEO's by a nearly 5-1 margin, and providing more proof that reporters want to interview news makers, not people they see as gatekeepers.  Courtesy The Bulldog Reporter.

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INTERNAL REPORT SLAMS VATICAN MEDIA OPERATIONS

Satellite trucks and television riser seen near The Vatican.  Courtesy The Catholic Telegraph.

Satellite trucks and television riser seen near The Vatican.  Courtesy The Catholic Telegraph.

Pope Francis continues to break eggs to make omelets at the Vatican, and the latest yolk is on the Catholic Church's media operation.  

A top papal adviser asked Lord Christopher Patten, the former BBC chairman best known to Americans as the last British governor of Hong Kong before its handover to China in 1997, to study changes to the Vatican's sprawling media holdings.   The committee Lord Patten assembled has now responded with a scathing critique of the Vatican’s current media structures, saying they were unfit for the digital age.  Courtesy The Catholic Herald.

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OUR BRAINS "HARD WIRING" FOR PARTISANSHIP

A scan of author Brian Resnick's brain as he researches the differences in response between liberals and conservatives.  Courtesy The National Journal. 

A scan of author Brian Resnick's brain as he researches the differences in response between liberals and conservatives.  Courtesy The National Journal

Do liberals and conservatives see the world differently because of differences in how their brains work?  And if so, what does that portend for the increasingly rare art of political compromise?  Those are two provocative questions being asked by researchers at New York University's Brain Imaging Center, which is measuring subtle differences in the neurological responses of liberals and conservatives.

The findings suggest yes:  conservatives and liberals have brains that look and act differently.   "Using MRI, scientists can see what areas of the brain are using more blood than others.  The more blood in an area, the more activation," notes the author.  The findings of a study involving 90 liberal and conservative participants may surprise you.  Courtesy The National Journal.  

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"CULTURE OF FEAR" CITED AT AL-JAZEERA AMERICA

Hopes were high when the deep pocketed Arab news network Al-Jazeera opened an American news service in 2013.   Talking heads would be out - impartial, investigative journalism would be in - and a significant number of career journalists signed up, taking US chief executive Ehab al Shihabi at his word. 

But those heady days are far behind the network.  Its latest struggle is the departure of a number of the big names who joined on that promise.  One of them, former CBS news executive Marcy McGinnis, said she didn't want to be at Al-Jazeera America anymore because of a "culture of fear...people are afraid to lose their jobs if they cross Ehab."  Courtesy The New York Times.

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NEWS MEDIA STUDY EXAMINES "THE MOBILE MAJORITY"

The Pew Research Center's annual State of the News Media report contains a finding that seems sure to affect how news web sites engage with their growing audience of smartphone consumers.   "Call it the mobile majority," the study summary says. 

Not only do mobile visitors outnumber desktop users in 39 of the top 50 news sites in the study, but they appear to be spending less time on site.  In half the sites studied, "visitors from desktops stay longer than those coming through mobile," the report concludes.

Elsewhere, the study contains some surprisingly good news about growth in local TV and network news programs - but it is less sanguine about cable news.    The study courtesy the Pew Center.  The article courtesy The Neiman Journalism Lab. 

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UK POLITICAL LEADER RE-EMERGES AFTER "EXCRUCIATING" INTERVIEW

Natalie Bennett, leader of Great Britain's Green Party.  Photo courtesy The Independent. 

Natalie Bennett, leader of Great Britain's Green Party.  Photo courtesy The Independent

Natalie Bennett, the leader of the UK's Green Party, is starting to venture back into the media spotlight two months after an aggressive interview with a London radio station that she called "absolutely excruciating."  

Bennett appeared stumped and developed a frog in her throat in the February interview after Nick Ferrari, an interviewer/host with LBC, asked her to explain the costs behind a housing policy supported by her party.

"Good Lord, where would you get the money for that?" Ferrari asked, when Bennett explained the policy called for the construction of 500-thousand homes at a cost of just £60,000 each.  "What are they made of, plywood?"  Ferrari demanded. 

Bennett is giving interviews again after a hiatus from media appearances, during which she underwent media training prior to upcoming elections. 

Article on the original interview courtesy The Independent.   Clip from interview requires free Audioboom account. 

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US CATHOLICS GET MEDIA TRAINING TO PREP FOR PAPAL VISIT

When Pope Benedict XVI visited London in 2010, it "was supposed to be a disaster," writes Catholic journalist Mary Rezac. "Several people were calling for his arrest upon arrival. No one was expected to show up for his audiences, except maybe a few protestors."

But Catholic Voices, a new organization to help rank and file Catholics become more articulate in dealings with the news media, was starting to have an impact.  Coverage of the UK visit was largely critical before the event, but became more positive during the visit and afterwards.  

The training initiative has now spread to 12 countries, and is helping prepare American Catholics for Pope Francis's upcoming visit in September.   Courtesy Catholic News Agency.

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THE REBIRTH OF HANDWRITING

For many years at Dunlop Media, we've insisted that our clients take handwritten notes during our training sessions, rather than bang away on a laptop.  The reason: better learning.  Looks like we've started a trend.

"People who handwrite reframe the content, and understand it better. On a computer, they write it all down without thinking about it,” Pam Mueller, co-author of “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard,” a 2014 study published in Psychological Science, told personal technology columnist Joanna Stern.   And thanks to new styluses, smart pens, and tablet technology, Stern brags, "I wrote this entire column by hand."  Courtesy The Wall Street Journal.

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IS YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PLUGGED INTO THE WRONG SOCKET?

"About a year ago, if you posted a question, complaint or compliment on one of Olive Garden's social media pages," writes marketing blogger Andy Sernovitz,  "the company probably would have ignored you."  It's not that Olive Garden didn't care—it just had the wrong part of the company trying to do the job.

By moving responsibility for social media engagement from marketing area over to public relations, Oliver Garden turned around its online customer service strategy in just six months.  It also equipped the restaurant chain to join tougher consumer conversations that have little or nothing to do with traditional promotions.   Full disclosure:  Olive Garden is a Dunlop Media client.  Courtesy SmartBlog on Social Media.

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MADONNA ON SOCIAL MEDIA: LIKE A VIRGIN

Since first bursting on the music scene in the early 1980's, pop legend Madonna has made a name for herself as a quadruple threat: she can sing, dance, act, and provoke.   Her music videos became a prime fixture on MTV, and she has kept critics off guard over the years by constantly reinventing her persona, first in legacy media, and later on the Internet. 

But then social media came along - and "the image Madonna spent three decades refining has begun to unravel," says pop critic Peter Robinson.  She described online leaks of her new album as "terrorism" and "artistic rape," causing even her fans to cringe.  She misspelled the name of "Avicii," one of the top producer/DJ's on the contemporary music scene.  An online spoof imagines her daughter disconnecting Madonna's Internet, in the hopes of salvaging her career. 

"These attempts to be down with the kids," says Robinson, "have instead hinted that, actually, at 56, she might be completely out of touch."   Courtesy The Guardian.

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LEARNING SOCIAL MEDIA BOOSTS WELL BEING OF ELDERLY

You may still think your teenager spends too much time on Instagram, but social media is a boon for the mental well-being of older people, a new study suggests.

According to a new study by the University of Exeter, getting senior citizens comfortable with social media platforms can boost their sense of self-competence and enhance their cognitive capacity.

"Human beings are social animals," noted one of the study's authors.  "It's no surprise that we do better when we have the capacity to connect with others."

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