Friday, January 28, 2011

Where is the media uproar about rising gas prices

Gas prices are now the highest they have been during the winter months, considerably higher than $3 a gallon in most parts of the country.  With rare exception, however, we aren't being deluged by media reports about the "pain at the pump," and no one is blaming the current occupant of the White House as the media did during the Bush administration.

Remember in the spring of 2006, a mid-term election year that saw the Democrats retake both the House and the Senate.  That year, the media blamed George W. Bush and the Republican Congress for gas prices that then were approaching $3 a gallon.  Where is CBS, ABC, CNN, PBS, or even Fox News Network with stories and polls about how the rising gas prices have made life difficult for the average American?  In the year 2011, the pain must be deeper than in 2006 because unemployment is certainly higher now than it was then.

Notice I didn't mention NBC or its cable news station MSNBC.  I think it has become obvious by now to any news media observer who has an IQ higher than a tire iron that NBC News has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee and would do nothing to tie the rising gas prices to the Obama Administration.

Wouldn't it be great if we really had an honest, fair and unbiased media in this country.  If we did, they all would report that gas prices have risen and fallen under both Democratic and Republican administrations, and that Barack Obama has no real power to stem today's rising prices than George Bush did in 2006.  That would require journalistic integrity, a commodity that is really in short supply.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bear quarterback Jay Cutler and the embarrassment of social media

Chicago Bear’s starting quarterback Jay Cutler played the first drive of the third quarter in last Sunday’s National Football Conference championship game and did not return because of a knee injury.  However, just because fans saw him standing on the sidelines, the social media networks, like Twitter and Facebook, lit up with critics claiming that Jay Cutler had no heart, and he should have played the rest of the game regardless of his pain.  On Monday, the Chicago Bears announced that Cutler had an MRI, revealing that he had a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee, an injury that would severely hamper any quarterback’s mobility.

 The announcement made all those who committed their opinion to the social media sites look foolish.  It also reminded me of what I have always counseled my bosses and clients during my career as a professional communications consultant.  I have repeatedly said, “Don’t commit something to the written word unless you will be comfortable with your words if they show up in the newspaper or are repeated in the electronic media.”  In other words, if you’re ready to write a letter, send an e-mail or make a posting on a social media site, put it aside for at least a few minutes and then read it again.  Will you be comfortable if it is repeated by someone in the media?  If the answer is no, don’t send it.

This axiom is especially true for anyone who is a public figure, like a politician, celebrity or sports star.  If it serves someone’s purpose to reveal what you wrote, even if you think it’s been done confidentially, it may be forwarded to a reporter who just might turn a simple opinion into a major controversy.  Of course, when you commit something to a social media site, you do so with the understanding that it will immediately become public.  I find that to be vexing because many people made very harsh statements about Cutler on Sunday without knowing the facts.  That will certainly put anyone in a vulnerable position once the facts are known.

It can be even more frustrating for a person who has written something in confidence, only to find the words on the front page of a newspaper.  This happened to Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, while I was a senior member of his communications and public relations staff.  Ernie Tucker, the then religious editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote what was meant to be a humorous front-page story, revealing that Cardinal George had declared Jesus Christ to be a meat eater.  Cardinal George made this declaration in a light-hearted letter when he responded to a correspondence he received from a vegetarian advocacy group.  The group wanted to get the Cardinal’s endorsement of Jesus as a vegetarian, but in his response, Cardinal George said that historical records tended to indicate that Christ did indeed eat meat.

Unlike many in the media, I can’t read anyone’s mind or heart, so I don’t know why the vegetarians gave a copy of the letter to Tucker, but the story was not meant as a mean-spirited jab at Cardinal George.  Nevertheless, he was miffed that a portion of what he thought was a private correspondence would end up on the front page of a newspaper.  When he asked me why anyone would do this, I told him it was because he is Cardinal George, a major public figure in Chicago, and when he says or writes anything, the press views it as fair game.

If you are a public figure of any renown, be careful out there.  Just remember the Miranda warning of communications.  You have the right not to commit something to the written word. Anything you write can and will be used against you in the court of media public opinion.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


It’s been more than two weeks since what appears to have been a lone gunman critically wounded U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six other people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl in Tucson, AZ.  Yet despite the fact that there is very little, if any, evidence to prove that accused gunman Jared Loughner was influenced by any political pundits to commit his heinous act, the media continues to dwell on vitriolic statements by politicians and political commentators as though doing so will prevent future violent acts.

I have been involved in the media for the better part of 37 years as a reporter, managing editor and corporate communications professional, and I have never seen such little devotion to fact finding or commitment to logical reporting as I see now.

Consider the discussion in the media over the past two weeks.  Pundits have been doing more finger pointing about what they consider inflammatory rhetoric on all sides of the political spectrum than they have in analyzing why this seemingly disturbed young man would want to commit such violence against people he appears to have not known well at all.  Those in the media who are attempting to show little or no connection between inflammatory political rhetoric and the Tucson incident have all but declared the accused shooter of being a total nut case even though there has yet to be a court-ordered psychological test ordered for the defendant.  While it may be hard for anyone to imagine a person committing such carnage without being somewhat deranged, that fact has not been established by anyone with the knowledge to make such a determination.

The way the media has been covering this story, you have to wonder if facts and logic mean anything?  Where is the cause and effect between any vitriolic political language and violence against public officials?  Are you paying attention, you folks in the political pundit world?  It’s going to be very difficult for any you to prove the cause and effect you have been claiming for weeks since the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, who was thankfully not killed, and the last U.S. Congressman to be assassinated in office was California Democrat Leo Ryan, who was killed in Guyana in 1978 while he was investigating the mass suicides of a religious cult founded by the notorious Jim Jones.

Let’s consider radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who is the target of many of the pundits blaming incendiary political talk for the violence in Tucson.  Limbaugh has had the top rated talk radio program in the nation for roughly two decades.  If the claims of all the liberal pundits who do not like Limbaugh are true, why haven’t liberal politicians been dropping like flies over the past 20 years?  And remember, Giffords is considered by many in the liberal punditry to be a “blue dog” Democrat, meaning a Democrat to tends to lean a little conservative.  She was targeted more by liberal web sites and blogs for not being liberal enough.

Let’s be realistic.  There is no real cause and effect connection between inflammatory rhetoric and violent acts against political figures, and, of course, the political pundits are always railing against only the vitriolic language they don’t find agreeable. Keith Olbermann, who recently left MSNBC cable news networks, regularly thrashed President George W. Bush during his administration, sometimes very viciously.  However, I don’t ever recall many in the media warning about violence against Mr. Bush. Was there even a failed assassination attempt against the former president?

I wonder how long this media idiocy and its corresponding political correctness are going to continue.  If it gets too far out of hand, it looks as though the Dayton Hudson Corporation in Minnesota will have to change the name of its “Target” department stores.