.... my 2 cents ....
musings on marketing, media, public relations....and life,
by David Reich
Reich Communications, Inc.
Reich Communications, Inc. is a boutique public relations agency in New York City offering full service in a variety of areas, with specializations in business-to-business; advertising, marketing and media firms; transportation safety; non-profits, and select consumer products and services. . . .
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USA Today has been both praised and criticized for running the fact-deprived op ed by the president last week, where he talked about Medicare.
Some criticized the paper running it, since, as The Washington Post's fact-checkers said, virtually every sentence contained inaccuracies, exaggerations or straight-out fallacies. Others criticized the paper for including links to fact-checking sites.
I understand that reputable papers usually fact-check op ed submissions when statements are presented as facts rather than opinion and if they are off base, the piece would be rejected or returned to the writer for corrections.
The editors at USA Today faced a tricky choice. They had in their hands a piece by the president of the United States. But they knew it was full of lies or errors.
Do they refuse to run it? Do they give it back and insist the White House correct it? Or run it, with lies exposed and corrected?
I think the paper did the right thing by running it, with links to other reports that showed the real facts. It let readers see the president's words while exposing them for the lies that they are. False statements side-by-side with clear facts. Let readers make their own judgement as to what's fake news.
Leslie Stahl also came under criticism from the right for her interview with the president, which aired on "60 Minutes" last night.
From what I saw, she was doing her job as an objective journalist, trying to get at the truth. She asked the president some tough and direct questions and didn't let him squirm out of them by changing the subject or throwing more falsehoods into the mix. But now there's meme going around on Facebook saying how slanted the interview was. "FOX & Friends" whined that the president was "peppered endlessly with questions" during the interview, as if Stahl was doing something bad by asking questions and repeating or following up on them when they weren't directly answered.
When the fake news comes from the president, whether as an op ed or in answer to interview questions on TV, it should be called out for what it is -- lies.
Finally, the media is doing that. Good for them and good for us.
Bob Woodward, talking about his new book, quotes his former boss, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, about the decision to publish the Watergate stories 46 years ago. He said those words remain in his mind as his new book is being published.
Media people, as well as all Americans who cherish our freedoms and our democracy, have been troubled by the president’s ongoing war on the media. His tweets and his rants at his rallies about the media being “the enemy of the people” raise fears among many of us that he is trying to move this country toward a fascist dictatorship. A free and unfettered press is a key element in keeping a democracy a democracy.
The Boston Globe has launched a campaign to battle those destructive words from the White House. It is urging other papers nationwide to run editorials on Aug. 16 that condemns the president’s anti-media rhetoric. So far, more than 100 papers have joined the effort, including major market dailies like TheMiami Herald, The Denver Post, The Houston Chronicle and The Star-Tribune in Minneapolis. Small town papers are also joining.
Marjorie Pritchard, the editorial page editor at The Globe said it’s not a political move. “It’s not about being a Democrat. It’s not about being a Republican. It’s about the importance of a free press, enshrined in the Constitution. It’s something we should all get behind.”
In an editorial yesterday, The Globe reminded readers about a 1974 book by political theorist Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism.” “A people that can no longer believe anything cannot make up its mind,” Arendt was quoted. “It is deprived…of its capacity to think and judge. And with such a people, a leader can do what you please.”
Thus, the editorial continues, an ill-informed, frightened public is precisely the audience an authoritarian president hopes to cultivate. Losing public trust in a free press leaves unprincipled leaders with unprecedented powers and control.
Does anyone still not understand the importance of a free press here in the U.S.?
The papers have been reporting some mixed media news...two encouraging items and one discouraging, although not at all surprising.
On the positive side, Tribune Media has called off its pending sale to Sinclair. I'm happy to see that, since the sale would have created an enormous media company with a strong conservative bent to the news it broadcasts.
Sinclair already forces the local TV stations it owns to air brief news updates within local newscasts that have strong right-leaning and not always accurate opinion disguised as real news. The purchase would have added 42 more stations to the the 181 it already owns, giving it coverage in 70 percent of the U.S., plus cable outlet WGN Worldwide, which Sinclair planned to convert to a FOX-like conservative channel.
The deal was called off after the FCC chairman voiced concerns about side deals Sinclair was making to enable it to continue to control the content of several stations the company had agreed to sell off in order to meet FCC standards for competition in some major markets. Sinclair was trying to bypass rules that encourage competition and help prevent one media company from controlling content -- in this case, news content -- in individual markets.
Another encouraging piece of news is the report from the New York Times that its digital subscription base and revenues are continuing to climb, offsetting losses in print advertising.
The Times says digital subscriptions went up by 20%, to a total of 2.9 million. Add the 900,000+ print subscribers, and the total is now up to 3.8 million subscribers. The increased subscription revenues helped the Times have 2nd quarter profits that exceeded analysts' expectations. "Failing" New York Times? Hardly, thank goodness.
On the disappointing front, a new poll by Axios shows how the White House's constant demeaning of the media is having the desired effect, on his supporters at least. Forty-three percent of Republicans, the survey shows, believe the president should have the power to stop media he feels are "behaving badly." One could reasonably assume, based on the president's tweets and rhetoric, that bad behavior includes being critical of the president, his policies and his allies. "Bad behavior" might also mean reporting on possible presidential misbehavior such as conflicts of interest, conspiring with enemies of America, and telling just a few lies to the American people and to Congress.
Permitting that sort of presidential power moves us another big step toward fascism or tyranny be rather than democracy... something the president and his supporters seem to prefer, based on action and tweets.
It's scary indeed, but we need to keep reminding ourselves that 43% of Republicans still means only about a third of all Americans, when you factor in independents. The majority still has the power, but we need to remember that the power exists only if we vote. Otherwise, we will continue to be held up by a powerful minority.
Despite the endless and increasingly desperate taunts by the president about fake news, network TV remains the most trusted source for political and major breaking news, according to a new study by the Video Advertising Bureau, reported by MediaPost.
Regardless of political affiliation, more than two-thirds of Americans surveyed said television is their primary and most-trusted source of information.
Newspapers appear to be the second-most popular source of information, slightly ahead of social media for most demographics except "blue collar," where social media takes a slight lead.
Social media continues to be a leading source of 'fake news,' fueled by political entities (Democrats and Republicans alike) and, as we now know, foreign powers like Russia who have been using misinformation online to fuel discord here and even impact our elections. While the president constantly rails against the legitimate media, he has done absolutely nothing to have our government try to deal with that misinformation -- propaganda -- coming from our enemies via social media.
That propaganda, and those putting it out there, are the "enemy of the people," not our media.
When I saw the news reports and then began seeing clips of the statements and news conference by Putin and Trump following their secret meeting, I was, like probably most Americans, shocked. Our president stood there in front of the world and said he believed Putin over all of our law and intelligence agencies and committees from both our Senate and House. He told the world that the U.S. is equally to blame for bad relations between us and Russia’s government. He then devolved into his tired litany of people to blame – the Democrats, Hillary Clinton, President Obama. And, as the world watched, he said the biggest threat to U.S. – Russia relations has been the “witch hunt.”
I was heartened when I saw responses from our nation’s leaders. Even Paul Ryan said, in a statement, that “the president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.” A few other Republicans called out the president - albeit gently, for the most part.
Watching the network news and then CNN and MSNBC last night, I saw the dismay voiced by not only political pundits, but by international relations experts and past national security and CIA leaders.
Out of curiosity, I jumped over to FOX News to see how they were reporting this incredible story. The first time, they were reporting on something else – a crime story, I believe. I tried again, and I got the Laura Ingraham show. There she was, with two or three pundits, mocking the nation’s and the world’s reaction to the president’s remarks. She showed clips of reporters and analysts on CNN and MSNBC and one of the major networks voicing their dismay and their concerns over how this can impact us on the world stage and at home. And then Ingraham and her guests smirked and laughed, saying this is much ado about nothing and that Trump has done a wonderful thing by sitting with an enemy and trying to be friends. They called the concern by Democrats and others as simply overblown hysteria and more partisan politics to try to hurt the president.
No wonder we have such disconnect between left and right in this country! Many on the right rely solely on FOX for their news – certainly Trump’s base does – and they are being fed information and comment that is simply wrong. Talk about fake news!!
So thanks to FOX and the other far-right media like Breitbart, Sinclair TV and Limbaugh, many people will simply continue believing there’s some “deep state” that’s trying to undermine the president and that he is doing amazing things on the world front as he, in reality, harms relations with our friends and allies and ignores what may have been the most significant attack on our nation since 9/11 – an attack that didn’t kill people but instead is part of an ongoing attempt to kill the basic principles and core beliefs of this great nation.
The president is not making America great again. It’s always been great. Rather, he’s working to chip away at that greatness because it doesn’t align with his vision of America as a place that favors the wealthy over the poor and a place where people from certain countries (like Norway) are more welcome than those who come from nations where the predominant skin color is black or brown.
We can only hope that, despite the hate-filled rhetoric spewing from the likes of FOX and Limbaugh, more of our elected officials, on both sides of the aisle, come to their senses and forcefully speak out and – better yet – initiate some action to censure the president for what he’s done. Former CIA chief John Brennan, who Trump just moments ago called “a very bad guy,” is right when he called Trump’s actions yesterday “nothing short of treasonous.”
Journalists who cover the White House seem to be tiring of conflicting or incorrect information they often get from the Press Secretary. I think much of the public, too, has come to put little stock in what they hear these days from official White House sources.
Sarah Sanders is in a very tough job, made untenable by a boss who often changes his mind or, in plain language, lies. Yes, it’s a PR person’s job to try to put a positive spin on information he or she gives out. But it’s not – or shouldn’t be – part of the job to lie.
If you work for the White House, you can be sure that reporters will do their jobs and try to verify and fact-check what you tell them. If they didn’t, those reporters would merely be puppets of the Administration. That would make any President very happy, but it would do a vast disservice to the American public. The free press is, by design, part of the system of checks and balances that our founding fathers put forth in the Constitution and its Amendments. It’s especially important now, when the Legislative Branch is doing a questionable job – if any – to balance the system.
Ms. Sanders said yesterday, out of frustration at a news conference, that she was more accurate than the media. A study reported in MediaPost found that she has an accuracy rate of 52 percent. That means that almost half of what she tells the media is wrong or misleading.
Half the time she’s right. So which half should the media – and the public – believe?
Ms. Sanders, I’ve learned a lot in the 40+ years I’ve been in the public relations business. One of the most important lessons is always try to be truthful to the media.
We all make mistakes. We all get things wrong sometimes. Reporters may give you a pass if you make an honest or even a careless mistake. But their jobs and their credibility depend on the honesty of what we give them. If they see you’re lying or bending the truth, you’re dead in the water.
Of course, doing PR for a company or an organization is very different from doing PR for the White House. Tell some lies and the media will still come to your press briefings at the White House. After all, what the White House does is, or can be, of national and international importance.
But continued lying to the media will only prompt even closer scrutiny of every word you tell them.
For a PR person, credibility and a reputation for telling the truth is the most important thing you can have. That should hold for the top PR person in the U.S. as well.
Despite what the guy at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue says, The New York Times is not failing.
Both subscriptions and revenues are up for the first quarter of this year. It’s up thanks, in part, to the guy in the White House. People are looking for real news.
Overall revenue for the company went up by 3.8 percent for the first quarter. The Times added 139,000 new digital-only subscribers, bringing it to a whopping 2.8 million online subscribers. Those new subscribers, plus those buying the print editions, grew by 7.5 percent, accounting for about two-thirds of the company’s total revenue.
Ironically, even as online readership grew, digital ad revenues fell by 6 percent. Print ad revenue, which accounts for two-thirds of the company’s ad income, dropped by 1.8 percent – much better than print revenue drops at many other major papers.
The paper also derives revenue from special editorial products like online crossword and cooking apps. It also just announced plans for a daily newscast in partnership with FX network, as a way to expand reach and applications of its news content to other platforms, which will hopefully bring added revenues.
So it looks like The New York Times is not failing. But we already know that much of what comes out of the White House these days is incorrect. Some might even call it “fake.”
Today is World Press Freedom Day, following an annual tradition since the UN General Assembly voted to approve it as an official designation back in 1993.
In the 1990s, no one would have considered the United States as a nation whose press freedoms were under threat. That would have been more rightly aimed at so-called banana republics or authoritarian nations like Russia, China and some places in South America, Asia and Africa. But the U.S.? Never.
And here we are, 25 years later and the media here in "the land of free" are under attack. Under attack by, of all people, the very person whose job it is to uphold and protect our Constitution, whose wise words recognize, very specifically, the importance of a free press to keep those who govern us honest and working in the public interest.
Who among us would have ever thought we'd be hearing daily attacks on our press, coming directly from the White House and from some top leaders in our government?
It's a dangerous path we're on.
The theme of the 2018 celebration highlights the importance of an enabling legal environment for press freedom, and gives special attention to the role of an independent judiciary in ensuring legal guarantees for press freedom and the prosecution of crimes against journalists.
At the same time, it addresses the role of the media in sustainable development, especially during elections - as a watchdog fostering transparency, accountability and the rule of law. The theme also aims to explore legislative gaps with regard to freedom of expression and information online, and the risks of regulating online speech.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, "On World Press Freedom Day 2018, I call on governments to strengthen press freedom, and to protect journalists. Promoting a free press is standing up for our right to truth."
Freedom of the press is a very important issue everywhere, including here in the United States. We cannot allow ourselves -- or our leaders -- to lose sight of that.
About a month ago, I wrote about some things happening on the "fake news" front. One was that Sinclair Broadcasting, the largest owner of local TV stations in the U.S., was planning to have its local news anchors read scripted editorials implying that much of the mainstream news media are not truthful in their reporting. Sounds a lot like what we hear from the White House and its occupant, as well as from the conservative movement's mouthpieces -- Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh and, of course, FOX News.
It finally happened the other day ... dozens and dozens of local anchors at Sinclair's 193 stations read the same message, fomenting distrust in our news media.
It made the news -- at least the media that report real news. It's also gone viral as someone put together a video that shows anchors from stations around the country voicing exactly the same thing. I'm not sure if FOX did anything on it.
From what I've read in trade journals, many local news anchors were upset, but most read the pieces because their livelihoods -- and their families -- depend on them. A few refused to do it, and I haven't heard if there have yet been any repercussions.
I'll repeat what I wrote about this a few weeks ago...
Even though these pieces are being labeled as “opinion,” it is still extremely harmful to our democracy and to the public interest to have on-air reporters and anchors demeaning other media and promoting the idea of them being fake news.
It’s unfortunate and it’s dangerous, since it further pushes the concept of our news media doing fake news, ironically from one of the media companies that has been most guilty of disseminating fake and biased news.
My advice… check to see which station in your market is owned by Sinclair and be forewarned.
Wayne Friedman, who covers TV for MediaPost, has an interesting take on it. Worth reading what he has to say.