CATHOLIC EDITOR TO U.S. BISHOPS: DITCH THE LAWYERS

 Theodore McCarrick, who resigned in disgrace from the College of Cardinals following charges of sexual abuse.  Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Theodore McCarrick, who resigned in disgrace from the College of Cardinals following charges of sexual abuse.  Image via Wikimedia Commons.

If anyone should know how to speak to the public with a human touch, you would think religious leaders would have it down pat.  But as the Roman Catholic Church struggles with yet another sex abuse scandal - this one directly involving an American cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, whose egregious behavior led him to resign in disgrace - the hierarchy's handling of the matter is making some wonder if any public relations lessons were truly taken to heart during the previous debacles.  

"When the bishops make statements, it is clear that they have all been lawyered,"  says a British moral theologian and editor of a major Catholic weekly.  "Trouble is, the lawyers remove any trace of humanity too."  Courtesy The Catholic Herald.

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THE UNEXPECTED COST OF SAYING NOTHING

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It's a truism of media relations that "no comment" is itself a comment.   Not only does it leave viewers and readers with the impression that you do not challenge the allegations against you, but refusing comment on a negative story forfeits an important opportunity to respond and correct inaccuracies.  And you never know how big that story will get.

Case in point:  the travails of a former "Shark Tank" contestant, the owner of a woodworking company in Vermont.  A local paper wrote a story about his company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy, noting that the owner "was unavailable for comment."  The story got picked up by a national newspaper, and now that local "no comment" has gotten a far larger audience.  Courtesy USA Today.

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STUDY: AVOID THE "TRUMP TRAP" AND STAY TRUE TO YOUR BRANDS

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When it comes to the current occupant of the White House, many companies feel they're caught between the devil and the deep, and a new study gives credence to that belief.  The technology research and consulting firm  Morning Consult finds that brands should expect backlash if they bring the President into the conversation, either positively or negatively. 

There is good news in the report, however.  Brands that stick to what they know best - their corporate values - face less risk.    Courtesy Axios.

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LOCAL TV NEWS: A LONG FADE TO BLACK

"Old soldiers never die, they just fade away," noted General Douglas MacArthur.  Sadly, the fade continues for local television news, a longtime staple of America's media diet. 

A fact sheet released this month by a major media research organization details the uninterrupted long term decline.   The report notes that the decline is cyclical - viewership and revenue both tend to spike in election years - but the overall trend is downward.   And while stations try to squeeze more productivity out of staff by adding more news programming, salaries in newsrooms remain flat.   Courtesy The Pew Center.

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WHEN ADVOCATES BECOME JOURNALISTS

Your local newspaper has shut down or is on life support.  Its muckraking staff has taken early retirement, moved away, or simply left the field in despair.   It's not an unusual story in the first part of the 21st century.   But nature abhors a vacuum, and what is unusual is who is rushing in to take up the investigative role:  advocates for specific causes. 

In an age when journalism is no longer yoked to an expensive printing press or transmission facilities, organizations like Human Rights Watch and the ACLU are embarking on complicated projects that look a lot like what investigative reporters do.  The question is... is that a good thing or not?  Courtesy Columbia Journalism Review.

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THE HIGH PRICE OF LABELING YOUR EARNINGS CALL "BORING"

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Elon Musk has rightly developed a reputation as the auto industry's outspoken maverick - so he was completely in character when he chided a stock analyst on Tesla's recent earnings call for asking "boring questions."  But while that line may earn you great media attention, it simultaneously repels a group you really need in your camp: your investors.   Tesla's stock price fell more than 5 percent after the call, costing the firm more than $3.7 billion in market capitalization. 

"The first 'rule' of being a public company is that if you seek investor capital, you owe them the courtesy of answering their questions," wrote Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter on Twitter.  "If Mr. Musk wanted to run a private company, he should have done so."   Courtesy USA Today.

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HOW TRUMP'S FAKE NEWS MANTRA SPREAD

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It isn't just the Collins Dictionary that voted "fake news" 2017's Word of the Year.  Millions of social media users seem to agree.   And because one of the simplest uses of the term is meant to imply that reporters are biased, malicious, careless, or all three, as the term has moved around the Internet it's spelled trouble for the Fourth Estate.

"All that makes it hard for honest reporters to do their job in America," writes veteran foreign correspondent Christopher Dickey.  But it's made life "even more difficult - and dangerous - for reporters around the globe."  Courtesy The Daily Beast.

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WHEN THE TWITTER MOB CAME FOR KEVIN WILLIAMSON

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Conservative writer Kevin Williamson is witty, colorful, and controversial.  You would think traits like that are tailor made both for the Twittersphere and magazines of opinion.  But Williamson's recent experience demonstrates that in today's overheated social media environment, the two don't always mix.

Just three days after being hired away from National Review, Williamson was fired by his new employer, The Atlantic.  The problem?  A six-word, four year old tweet on abortion and capital punishment.  The lesson?  Choose your words on Twitter carefully - or you could be next.  Courtesy The Wall Street Journal.

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JOURNALISM SCHOOL APPLICATIONS RISE

 The Columbia University School of Journalism saw a 10 percent increase in applications in the past year.

The Columbia University School of Journalism saw a 10 percent increase in applications in the past year.

For years, pundits have been predicting the slow death of traditional journalism.  Fewer and fewer Americans get their news from newspapers.  Venerable daily outlets are closing, and staff reporters are being put out of work - or hired back as freelancers at a fraction of their former salaries.

Despite this dismal backdrop, applications at journalism schools have increased across the country.  Just as the Watergate scandal encouraged many young people to consider journalism as a field in the 1970's, so the onslaught of "fake news" seems to be doing today.  Courtesy the New York Post.

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HOW TO MONITOR FAKE NEWS

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The Mueller investigation may not have pinpointed collusion between the Trump Administration and Russia, but for months evidence has been accumulating that the Kremlin did try to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential race.  Facebook alone claims some 80-thousand Russian backed posts may have reached as many as 126 million Americans during the election season. 

Those posts are created and distributed using privately held social media algorithms, so arcane that even the creators don't know for days or weeks who they reached and how.  Making the results of those formulas public, argues the author, would go a long way toward shining a light on the shadowy fake news industry.  Courtesy The New York Times.

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THE MOST STRESSFUL JOBS OF 2018

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You'll have to deal with pressure, wrote Billy Joel.  But how much?  In the workplace, it's no secret that some jobs are more stressful than others, but attempts to measure stress levels across a range of occupations have been spotty.

Now, comparing metrics across a wide variety of fields, comes a list of the Top Ten Most Stressful Jobs of 2018.   Not surprisingly, newspaper reporter, broadcaster, and public relations executive all make the cut.   Courtesy Benefit News.

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THE LATEST CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE: LA WEEKLY

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LA Weekly, a free "alternative" newspaper serving the Los Angeles area, made news itself last week following an unusual ownership change.  The new owner, a private company known as Semanal LLC, declined to disclose the identity of its backers - prompting outcries from press freedom groups. 

"It is an absolute outrage that the public doesn't know," said the Society of Professional Journalists in a press release.  "No media outlet should hide who its owners are,"  the orgaization said.  Meantime, the new owners fired most of LA Weekly's staff and asked for "unpaid contributors" to help provide content - spurring calls by some readers and former employees for a boycott.  Courtesy The Wrap. 

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TIME INC. REPORTERS HAVE A KOCH AND A SMILE

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The Sulzbergers.  The Grahams.  The Murdochs, and more recently Jeff Bezos.  The wealthy have a long track record of buying - then running - influential media outlets.  So what's the big deal when Charles and David Koch announced their backing of Meredith Corporation's most recent attempt to buy Time Inc.?

The big deal, of course, is the Koch brothers' libertarian politics.   But the news industry's travails in recent years have derailed the careers of a great many journalists.   So many who would normally criticize the Kochs' involvement are viewing them as something of a savior.   Courtesy Vanity Fair.

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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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AND NOW THE NEWS, BROUGHT TO YOU BY A ROBOT

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It seemed far fetched, 30 years ago, when journalists would joke about the news gatherer of the future: a camera with a long, extendable robotic arm holding a microphone.  The camera operator would push a button and the robo-microphone would ask its subject, "What happened?"

It's not going down in quite the same way those reporters envisioned a generation ago, but robo-reporting is here.  Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the way routine stories, such as earnings reports, get covered.  And some newsrooms, who can now free reporters up for more challenging assignments, are actually happy about the practice. Courtesy PR Week.

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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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