musings on marketing, media, public relations....and life, by David Reich
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I happened across a post on Facebook yesterday that asked "If you could visit a place in time, where would you go?"
An interesting idea, and the person said the 1950's. With the post was a link to a site that has an assortment of photos from various decades.
It was fun to look through the pix. Many had those beautiful cars of the time...attempting to look futuristic but now looking classic. There were pictures of people at the beach, people enjoying Coca-Cola in the classic Coke bottle, teen girls in gaudy sunglasses that were the style back then. Pictures of families having a roadside picnic. Old-fashioned buses. Gas stations where the attendant actually came out to pump your gas and wash the windshield. Shoveling out of a snowstorm. Quiet small-town streets lined with mom & pop stores and no shopping malls and Walmarts.
The 50's were a good time to be a kid. Not much to worry about.
Would I trade it for 2016?
It would be nice to go back for a visit so I could again see people in my family who are long gone. It would be so sweet to hear my grandfather, in his Russian/Yiddish accent, ask me if I'd like another bowl of his home-made split pea soup, so thick that the spoon would stand upright. It would be so nice to see my parents, as I saw them when I was young, dancing in the living room to Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra on the radio. Or playing a seemingly endless game of ringoleevio in the back yard of the apartment building with Ben and Mel and Tommy and Jimmy and Carol and my sister Shari. The family picnics on Sundays, literally surrounded by aunts, uncles and tons of cousins now either gone or moved to faraway places.
Lucky us, we had no worries.
Looking at the photos from the 1950's, though, I see a skewed version of reality. Only one out of 77 pictures showed a black person, and no Latinos or Asians at all. No Jews, either.
I enjoy the diversity of today. It makes life much more interesting on so many fronts. Today's technology enables us to be in touch constantly and instantly, pretty much anywhere in the world. We can get answers to just about anything just a few finger-touches away. And we can drive anywhere without having to stop for a map or to get directions. With jet travel a routine thing, it's no big deal to visit other coasts...of these United States or foreign shores.
Life is pretty good here in 2016.
We have our challenges, for sure. War and hatred, poverty, prejudice are still rampant. But we've come so far, accepting others for who they are and not hating or being suspicious because they don't look or love or pray like us.
One troubling thing today is the tone of our presidential campaigns. They are bringing out the worst in us, showing that there are many among us who would like to go back to the 1950's, but not for reasons I mentioned above. Instead, they'd like to take us back to a time where Jews, blacks, Asians and Latinos were marginalized, where America was lilly-white and people of color -- black or brown -- were kept "in their place," and we all pretty much had to think and act alike.
That's not a time I'd like to revisit, and I hope our leaders and future leaders don't try to take us back there.
An article on the Opinion pages of Monday's Wall Street Journal is headlined "We Need Better Presidential Debates."
I couldn't agree more.
The writers, head of debate organization Intelligence Squared U.S. and an ABC News correspondent, make the case for us to use the standards of the classic Oxford-style debate, where the debaters have more time. They say this format would expose candidates who only use carefully canned responses, and it would force them to be more knowledgeable on issues.
I think I know why the current short-response format is used. Very simply... it makes for better TV.
Longer responses, which should bring more depth to what is being said, can test viewers' attention spans. So the current format, with its loose and unenforced rules, becomes a great reality TV show rather than a forum to inform and persuade voters. The Republican debates drew big audiences not so much for what was being said as for the potential spectacle of seeing candidates, particularly Trump, name-call, mug and make outrageous statements designed to be perfect attention-stealing sound bites. What have we learned, other than this one's a loser and that one's low-energy?
The WSJ article suggests the debates begin with each candidate having a 7-minute opening statement. With the initial field of seven or eight candidates, the Republican debates would have spent nearly an hour just on opening statements -- a surefire recipe for tune-outs. The networks carrying the debates sell commercial time, so they need the huge audiences in order to get good ad rates.
So 7-minute opening statements will never fly on commercial TV.
But here's a solution -- air all the debates on C-SPAN and public TV, where audiences and ad rates don't matter.
The other way to improve the debates in the future is to set ground-rules and stick by them. Candidates should be told in advance that they will have a 15-second overtime limit. When the bell signals time is up, they must know that their microphone will be turned off exactly 15 seconds later -- mid-sentence or not. And the mic should not be turned on again until it is their turn to respond. This will prevent interruptions by whoever is the loudest or rudest.
Ground-rules for behavior should also be set and enforced. No personal name-calling -- it belittles the candidates and the process. Each candidate can get one "pass" for bad behavior, but after a warning by the moderator, if a candidate violates the rules of decency and decorum, he or she should have their mic shut off and be asked to leave the stage.
Maybe then the candidates will be able to stick to a real discussion of the issues at hand, rather than forcing us to endure stupidity like a candidate calling another a loser, ugly or fat, or a mamma's boy.
Candidates can do and say whatever they like in their stump speeches and various campaign appearances. But the debates are supposed to be a chance for we, the voters, to size up the candidates, see where they stand on issues, and get an idea of their depth of knowledge and how they handle the verbal and mental challenges of a proper debate discussion.
The police and city officials hardly had a chance to breathe a sigh of relief after the Pope departed for Philadelphia last Friday. They still have to protect and transport some 170 heads of state here for the annual General Assembly Week at the U.N.
Yesterday and today President Obama is in town and speaks to the General Assembly. Russia's Putin and dozens of others -- friends and not so friendly -- will have their say at the General Assembly podium down the street from my office.
We New Yorkers are used to traffic, congested sidewalks and the seemingly constant shrill of sirens from police, fire and EMS vehicles. It's just part of living in this wonderful city that we love.
But it all ramps up during General Assembly Week. First Avenue and the cross streets in the east 40's have become parking lots. Some blocks, like East 44th Street, are barricaded, with police and bomb-sniffing dogs checking vehicles heading East toward the UN. Pedestrians aren't exempt from the inconveniences, often having to wait several minutes to cross a street as official caravans with foreign delegations drive past, preceded and followed by police cars and big SUVs with dark windows, with lights flashing.
People throughout the world will be seeing stories with the dateline UNITED NATIONS, New York, and photos from General Assembly proceedings will be beamed globally on TV.
With all its faults, I still believe the UN serves an important purpose. It's a place where nations, who often have very different and opposing interests, can sit down across from each other and hash it out, raising voices sometimes, but not raising arms.
The diplomacy doesn't always stop the fighting or the abuses of power or the denials of personal freedoms around the world. But sometimes it does. And the annual meeting here in New York puts the world's focus on not only the differences and disagreements, but also on the honest attempts to find ways toward peace and dignity. And for those fleeting times when it does work, the UN is worth it after all.
Last night's cable TV schedule included two notable shows.
The first, while termed by most as a political debate, seemed at times more like a much-hyped reality show. It had all the elements of reality shows that we've come to expect -- outbursts and outrageous name-calling by contestants, teasers by the hosts (in this case, moderators posing as journalists) before going to commercial breaks, and above all, the chance to win a really big prize. I have to admit, it was great theater when moderator Megan Kelly went after the rich guy from New York about his flip-flopping on positions and parties.
I caught only the second half of the program, but it was enough to convince me that I am not one of the target voters the candidates are hoping to enthrall. It seems they're looking for Christians who talk to God, believe women should have no choice when it comes to their own bodies, and that this nation built of immigrants should close the door on them -- or at least, build a wall.
A couple of the candidates, even though I don't agree with their position on most issues, did come across as dignified and potential leaders of this great nation. Jeb Bush and John Kasich both presented themselves well, I think.
The hype and the nastiness of some candidates served to make this a bonanza for Fox, which probably drew ratings to rival past presidential rather than party debates.
The other notable TV moment last night was Jon Stewart's final Daily Show.
I've never been a regular follower of the show. I like Stewart, but if I'm up at 11, I'm watching the local news, Charlie Rose or Seinfeld reruns.
Stewart's final piece seemed a perfect balance to the GOP debacle (er, debate) that had just wrapped. Stewart's parting words, before protégé Stephen Colbert introduced Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, were a caution against misinformation -- or in Stewart's words, bullsh*t.
Journalists being manipulated by political candidates and elected officials is nothing new. The term "pack journalism," in fact, goes way back to the early 1970s when Timothy Crouse published "The Boys on the Bus" in 1973, detailing the reporters covering the most recent Presidential campaign. Hunter S. Thompson touched on it the year before in his "Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail."
I've come to expect the tabloids and the "Access Hollywood"-type gossip shows to pander the to the exploits of crazy wannabe politicians. Look at all the coverage Sarah Palin got a few years ago. As unqualified as she may have been for the VP job, she at least had some experience as a governor. But Trump... come on.
I was disappointed to see his planned visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas as one of the lead stories on today's CBS This Morning, the one morning news show that touts "real news." This is just another campaign stop for a loud-mouthed candidate, but even CBS News is giving it coverage (and thus credibility) over what so many of the other candidates are doing and saying.
It's truly a shame that the media are letting one kooky candidate hijack the campaigns and important discussions of real issues by other real candidates.
Even conservative Rupert Murdoch has said he doesn't like Trump's style and self-aggrandizement. But he's not above using his name and antics to sell papers and get ratings on his TV stations.
I thought some of the other major media were above that, but hysterics get eyeballs on the page and on the screen... and that translates to money.
If I were advising any of the other candidates, I'd say to simply ignore the ranting and taunting of the crazy rich New Yorker and stick to the issues and platforms that you've identified as important. Don't get drawn into the fray, because it only validates and brings more exposure to the crazy one.
I've always found it difficult to take Donald Trump seriously.
Over the years, he's been exposed many times for exaggerating or maybe even outright lying about things. He has boasted how he's never gone bankrupt, yet his casino properties went bust while he still controlled them.
He exaggerates his wealth, which has now been exposed with his sketchy financial disclosures as he announced his run for the White House. Yes, he's a very wealthy man (much of it thanks to the business he inherited from his father). But if he's worth "only" $350 million or so, that's a lot, so why does he need to tout himself as a billionaire?
Plain and simple -- Mr. Trump is a tacky guy. Does a real billionaire like Michael Bloomberg or Warren Buffet constantly remind us how wealthy he is?
Now it's come out that he paid actors $50 each to come to his campaign announcement and cheer for him. For him, money talks.
The media don't seem to be taking Trump seriously in his latest political bid. Here are links to two examples – from columnist Phil Reisman at The Journal News in suburban New York, and from media and ad critic Barbara Lippert at MediaPost.
I wouldn't be surprised to see him come up with some flimsy excuse for dropping out so he can stay on TV with his "Apprentice" show, with a message and an image he can control. Total control over your message just doesn't work that way in the world of politics. See what happened to Trump's pal Sarah Palin. (Maybe, like Palin, Trump's just looking to ramp up his speaking engagements, which get him a reported $1.7 million per speech. (Jeez, maybe he's not as crazy as he seems.))
Donald might be very nice in person, one on one. I wouldn't know. He certainly can be generous, donating big bucks to various charities, even if he does undermine some of that generosity by insisting his name be plastered all over things he donates or supports. (See what columnist Phil Reisman says about his donation of land for a state park in Westchester.)
But Trump's public persona, accurate or not, is hardly stellar. His public feuds with others over the years have shown him to be petty, thin-skinned, nasty and, in my opinion, a blowhard -- not traits this country wants or needs in a President.
If he stays in the race, he might have the support of some of his "Apprentice" viewers. But even at its peak, the show had some 6 or 8 million viewers, which is hardly enough to form a real base for a national election. And we haven't even talked yet about his experience. Running a family business -- however large -- is not like running the Government, leading a nation and dealing with other nations whose interests don't always mesh with ours. Would the domestic policy and international diplomacy of a President Trump (oooh, the words "President" and "Trump" together are very scary) be based on attitudes like "Take it or leave it," "Money talks," "We want it all, our way" or "You're fired!"
If nothing else, we and the media are sure to be scratching our heads and having some fun for a few weeks or a few months as we Trump-watch to see what zaniness comes from his camp.
Some excerpts from today's press are shown below...
Earlier this week he finally revealed how he will defeat ISIS: He will bomb them, surround them and then send in ExxonMobil to take their oil.
Sounds like a plan.
Up until now, his greatest success in fighting international terrorism was to inadvertently rent out his lush Bedford estate to Moammar Gadhafi. This was in 2009 when the Libyan dictator was in the neighborhood to give an incoherent speech to the United Nations.
Word got out, though. There was an uproar and the mad nomad from hell was sent packing along with the camel he rode in on. A couple of years later, Trump triumphantly claimed he "screwed" Gadhafi out of the rent money. – Journal News columnist Phil Reisman
Let’s face it: Donald Trump’s presidential announcement (otherwise known as throwing his hairpiece, or clown-nose, into the ring) was the gift that keeps on giving (in premium gold lettering, with signature molding, lit-up-in-neon and then set on fire.)
From its very first moment of optical pompitude, the launch achieved heights of comedy platinum that defied even Candidate Trump’s newly silver (but still differently abled) signature combover-whirligig hair-chitecture. That’s when, rather than choosing to deliver his address from on high, the Donald instead rode the TrumpTower’s escalator down into the bowels of his announcement pit, while waving to his fans Kim Jong Il-style. An unwitting reference to an Austin-Powers joke; all he needed to do after that was arrive by the pretend power of canoe-paddling.
Some theorized that the rambling announcement/45-minute speech/pre-made "Saturday Night Live" skit was so stupendously over-the-top, even by the Donald’s super-mogul standards, that it might actually be enough to keep Jon Stewart in his job at "The Daily Show." -- Barbara Lippert, MediaPost
(Trump's) discursive, pugnacious announcement was one of the more bizarre spectacles of the 2016 political season thus far — and one of the most entertaining. – Adam Lerner, Politico Click here to read the 10 best lines, true and funny.
Nothing in Donald Trump's funhouse-mirror presidential campaign announcement Tuesday made sense. Why did he ride down an escalator to get there? Why did he pick Neil Young for his entrance? Why did Neil Young play again over the tepid applause that greeted his official announcement? And: Why did he stray so far from his already amazing prepared remarks?
The unsatisfying answer to all of those questions is the same: Because he's Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is un-fact-checkable. That's his gift and his angle. As he made clear today, he says whatever he wants for as long as he wants, because, why not? If I sat down with him and said that he was wrong on GDP or wrong on premiums, he would call me a hater and a loser and disparage my dog or something. Who knows? Who knows?!
He's programmed to talk about how he's the best and President Obama is the worst and he can fix everything. "Donald, what time is it?" "I can tell you because I own the biggest, most luxurious watch in the world," etc. etc.
So here's the fact-check: Much of what Trump said is nonsense. If nothing else, let his candidacy serve as a reminder that no matter how rich or powerful you are, it's useful to have someone around who can say "no." – Philip Bump. The Washington Post
We're waking up this morning to scenes of devastation and heartbreak in Oklahoma.
The media are talking about the difficult and heroic work being done by first responders -- police, firefighters, EMT and medical personnel, and neighbors helping neighbors, strangers helping strangers. Bad things often bring out the best in us.
It's clear that there's another group of heroes who deserve our praise and thanks -- teachers and school personnel. With two schools hit during yesterday's tornado, it was teachers who stood the front line for our children.
We entrust the most precious things in our lives -- our children -- to teachers. In normal times, they do the heroic job of teaching our kids the 3Rs and lots more ... teamwork, good behavior, self-esteem.
But in the face of danger -- be it yesterday's tornado or last December's terror at a school in Newtown, Conn. -- the true heroism of our teachers shines brightly. We're hearing stories of teachers who shielded their students from falling debris with their own bodies and teachers who stayed with their kids until they were reunited with their parents rather than rushing off to check on their own families and homes.
We don't thank them enough, these everyday heroes.
It's really pathetic how fearful politicians are of the National Rifle Association. I guess, though, when you think of how much money the gun lobby controls, it's understandable. But where are the
politicians' balls when it comes to making real progress on an issue that brought the nation to its knees only a few months ago with the senseless shootings in quiet, little Newtown, Conn.
The President spoke about finally getting tough, and most of us cheered.
Our leaders in Congress were moved to tears when they met with families of victims from Connecticut... and Colorado and Arizona and so many other places where guns (I know, I should say people with guns) shot and killed innocent people just going about their everyday lives in movie theaters and shopping malls and walking down the streets. So how, then, did we get to where we are now, with such toothless, watered-down legislation being brought to the table for our lawmakers to consider?
Some more background checks. OK, that's good. But what happened to legislation that would make it illegal -- or at least more difficult -- for citizens to get things like assault weapons and clips that hold multiple rounds of ammunition? Do hunters really need military-style weapons to kill deer and ducks? Who needs to be able to shoot dozens of rounds in a matter of seconds? Certainly not hunters. That sort of equipment is for trained police, soldiers and security personnel, but not for our next-door neighbors.
I'm generally anti-gun, but I've tried to be understanding of those who want to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights. But I just don't get why some people -- led by the NRA -- feel they need such high-powered killing machines.
And I just don't get why our elected officials are acting like scared followers instead of the leaders we elected them to be.
Attorney General Eric Holder re-ignited the discussion about some banks being too big to fail with his comments last week.
Andrew Ross Sorkin, writing in today's New York Times, seems to support the idea by pointing to some examples of business failures that had a substantial impact that went beyond a paper loss in the stock market. He uses as an example the case of Arthur Andersen, the accounting giant that got caught up in the Enron debacle. When the company was indicted and then went under, 28,000 people lost their jobs.
I can see Holder's point that some businesses might need to be immune to indictment or prosecution because of the
overall economic impact that might ensue. But if companies can't be prosecuted, then certainly people should be -- especially those whose greed or arrogance caused them to do things in a company's name that are illegal or unethical.
Big fines and penalties should be imposed on companies who behave badly, although perhaps not so stiff that they might knock the company out of business. But the people doing the bad things and those knowingly allowing them to happen -- even at the very highest management levels -- should be held accountable with the real theat of huge fines and real jail time. Perhaps those threats will make businesspeople think carefully before treading close to or over the line of legality and ethics.