The Antidote to Hateful Speech is More Speech

February 3, 2017

by Dan Ward

When I first read about the violent protests at UC Berkeley over a planned speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, I was prepared to respond from the viewpoint of the middle-aged curmudgeon I’ve become.

I started a post about free speech coming full circle, with the birthplace of “the Free Speech Movement” now serving as a location for protests against speech.  Why is it, I was about to write, that young people today (“those darn kids”) seem less interested in protecting free speech than being protected from it?

But then my hope was restored by a Berkeley freshman, Shivam Patel, who was quoted at the end of this CNN story about the protest.

“It’s a sad irony in the fact that the Free Speech Movement was founded here and tonight, someone’s free speech got shut down.  It might have been hateful speech, but it’s still his right to speak.

Thank you, Shivam, for recognizing that the First Amendment protects even speech that makes us uncomfortable.


The Proof About Proofing

December 27, 2016

by Roger Pynn

We all make mistakes.  My pastor reminded us of that in his sermon on Christmas Eve.  He also reminded us that forgiveness is important.

So is taking responsibility.

Just as you can’t rely on a spell-check utility in your word processor to proof your work, a priest in Sri Lanka learned that you can’t count on a “young boy” you ask to download lyrics to be sure he got the right song.

As CNN reported, the priest wanted the words to the traditional Christian prayer “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” for printing in the program for a Christmas carol service.  Instead, churchgoers found the lyrics to rapper Tupac Shakur’s trashy “Hail Mary.

I hope, Father Da Silva, whose apology included laying blame on the young boy, remembers that the buck stops here.  Proofing is an art almost lost for many – as I found out when I caught a typo in our family Christmas card after Shutterfly had already shipped it to us.  It was my fault.


The Space Between the Ads

March 13, 2015

by Roger Pynn

We often tell clients that a modern definition of news could easily be “the stuff that fills the space between the ads” as media are more and more limited in the space they have to devote to news.  I’m growing accustomed to bottom banner ads on section fronts of our newspapers even though my first and perhaps most revered journalism professor told us “it will be a cold day in hell when you see an ad on Page One.”

But now comes CNN to prove our point.  As if those scrolling news updates weren’t annoying enough, Variety reports that the home of Wolf Blitzer and other around-the-clock newsies may be toying with ways of inserting advertiser logos in the bottom-of-the-screen scrolls.

Next up:  intravenous advertising.


Brian Williams: #Trending or #Toast?

February 11, 2015

by Roger Pynn

Brian Williams is damaged goods and as much as I am a believer in forgiveness and second chances, as a business person I can’t imagine him coming back from six months of unpaid leave.  This morning’s mumblings on CNN even included a suggestion that Williams would be the ideal replacement for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, the “New Day” team laughing about the irony of a real journalist trending for fake journalism and a fake journalist trending for retiring.

There’s a difference between the penalty box in a hockey match and the punishment Williams has been given.  He wasn’t sentenced for a one-time mistake.  He was put on ice for the most fundamental error in his craft.  If you are interested in news, you want the reporting to be honest (and, by the way, there’s only 100 percent when it comes to honesty).

All journalists bear a special responsibility to earn trust.  They operate with special constitutional protection and their audience should expect no less than a total commitment to earning and keeping their trust.

Ask yourself, “Will I ever be 100 percent sure that I can trust what he’s telling me?”


Brace Yourself

November 5, 2014

by Roger Pynn

If you got up Wednesday feeling like the weight of the world was off your shoulders because the elections were over, think again.  Not only will you be reading and hearing and seeing post mortems ad nausea (why who won/lost/almost/nearly, etc.?), but this CNN interview with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie proves the 2016 race began a long time ago … at least in the minds of newsheads.

Two minutes and 54 seconds into a post-election analysis with Christie he was being pushed to make an announcement of his intentions.

They can’t help themselves.  It is their crack.  It drives them to frenzy. And then they lash out at candidates and committees and parties for all the money they spend to win.

Perhaps it isn’t the politicians and their attack ads we should despise, but rather the junkies who stir the pot years in advance.


Stand by for Robo News

July 23, 2014

by Roger Pynn

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Associated Press introduces automated news writing.  As if CNN (the Commentator News Network) hadn’t already reduced the business to moronic, now AP – the bastion of hard news – is basically using robot reporters.

You can mark this as the day journalism went to hell in a hand basket.  Said AP Managing Editor Lou Ferrara, “What I’m trying to get out of is the data processing business.  I can’t have journalists spending a ton of time data processing stuff.  Instead I need them reporting.”

He can’t be serious.  How can a reporter report if he or she hasn’t first processed data?

Journalism is basically broken into two elements:  news gathering and news writing.  Back before any of us had ever heard the term big data, reporters had been processing data for years … sifting through facts and figures, truths and lies, old stories and new in order to know what they would then write about.

Ferrara has confused writing for reporting.


Ask Different Questions, You’ll Get Different Results

May 6, 2014

by Dan Ward

Once the search for MH 370 is over, CNN might want to search next for its polling credibility.

Its latest CNN/ORC Internal Survey asks voters entirely different questions based on their political views.

Since early this year, CNN has been asking voters who they would most likely support for president in 2016.  Republican and Republican-leaning voters are asked for first and second choices among a list of 10 potential candidates, with an option to name another candidate. Democrat and Democrat-leaning voters are asked to choose between Hillary Clinton and this impressive list of contenders:  “More Liberal Democrat; More Conservative Democrat.”  No option for another choice.

Is it any wonder that Jeb Bush and his fellow Republicans show support in the teens while Clinton (even with falling numbers) is showing support from more than 60 percent of voters?

To draw a valid comparison, CNN should either ask all voters to choose between unnamed “more conservative or liberal” candidates, or ask all voters to choose between a list of potential contenders.

CNN Polling Director Keating Holland says, “The poll suggests that some rank and file Democrats are shopping for an alternative but have not found one yet in the list of potential candidates offered to them in other polls.”  Here’s a question … why didn’t you offer that list in your poll?

The lesson for those of us who communicate for a living and rely on research to drive strategy – if you’re going to draw conclusions from research, you owe it to your companies and clients to ask questions that provide valid comparisons.  Anything less is a disservice.


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