How NOT to do media relations: Fake-friendly pitches

Just because someone posts something personal online doesn’t mean it’s OK to use that to manufacture a faux-personal connection in order to persuade them to do you a favor.

Case in point: Yesterday a clueless media relations professional whom I do not know sent me an e-mail with the subject line: “I sent a poem to a wannabee crotchety old bitch.” He was alluding to my recent birthday post, in which I reflected on aging.

The comment this person attempted to append to that post — which I did not approve — was the poem When I am an old woman I shall wear purple. That was in itself a mistake, though not a fatal one. If ever there was an overused, reflexive cliche response to any woman who mentions aging in a positive light, that poem would be it.

So this PR guy e-mailed me to let me know he’d tried to post that comment. Here’s the start of his message, and where he really screwed up…

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Continental 1404, Pan Am 103, and thoughts on dodging bullets

This morning, before I’d even had my tea, I learned via e-mail that at my local airport last night a Continental flight 1404 veered off the runway and crashed, injuring 58. AP reported that local resident Mike Wilson tweeted his experience immediately after he escaped the burning plane.

Two tweets from Wilson especially caught my attention:

Mike Wilson's first post about the Denver plane crash he survived

Mike Wilson's first post about the Denver plane crash he survived

And then, a couple of hours later…

Mike Wilson reflects on a similar bullet he dodged earlier

Mike Wilson reflects on a similar bullet he dodged earlier

…Next I was making breakfast, listening to Colorado Public Radio, which was (of course) reporting on the Denver airport accident. They followed that with a story that stopped me cold for a bit: Witnesses, Families Remember Lockerbie Bombing. Yes, today is the 20th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 — a terrorist attack that killed 259 on the plane and 11 on the ground.

On the evening of Dec. 21, 1988, I was a 22-year-old journalism student packed up and ready to head back home to NJ after spending a semester in London. I’d been at the office Christmas party for the business magazine where I’d been interning. When I entered the house I’d been sharing since August with five other students, my housemates who hadn’t yet departed for home were sitting in the living room, crying. Mindy said, “Diane’s plane crashed”…

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Jon Stewart: What’s black and white and completely over?

The myth of the creative class (Jeff Jarvis)

Just now, Jeff Jarvis posted something that resonates strongly with me. See: The myth of the creative class:

“We have believed – I have been taught — that there are two scarcities in society: talent and attention. There are only so many people with talent and we give their talent only so much attention — not enough of either.

“But we are shifting, too, from a culture of scarcity to one of abundance. That is the essence of the Google worldview: managing abundance. So let’s assume that instead of a scarcity there is an abundance of talent and a limitless will to create but it has been tamped down by an educational system that insists on sameness; starved by a mass economic system that rewarded only a few giants; and discouraged by a critical system that anointed a closed, small creative class. Now talent of many descriptions and levels can express itself and grow. We want to create and we want to be generous with our creations. And we will get the attention we deserve. That means that crap will be ignored. It just depends on your definition of crap.”

This is so, so true…   One of the things that I find most encouraging about this era of media evolution is that every day I encounter a wider variety of unexpected jewels. Many of them are rough, or nascent. But they’re there, and I can find them if I look for them.

Even more importantly, I get to discover what resonates with me — and with other individuals. I don’t have to just settle for the kind of content I’m “supposed” to like (i.e., serious objective journalism, crisp professional audio, slickly produced video). I can focus on what I really like — and what has meaning to me. By getting to define my own criteria for “quality content,” I get to challenge my assumptions and expand my concept of who I am, and who I could be. My world is much richer for it.

This is exactly why I’ve always enjoyed going to see local music performances practically at random, while abhorring commercial radio for music discovery.


Why I keep talking about Nokia’s US Service

Some people have asked why I keep talking — on this blog and elsewhere — about Nokia’s US service problems. This video explains my motives. In a nutshell, it’s because I want to keep options open for journalists. Tools like the Nokia N95 represent a way for journalists to make their own opportunities, regardless of the fate of news organizations. But if Nokia continues to mishandle its US market, it could easily lose out to the Apple iPhone — which, while slick, is not the best tool for mobile reporting/blogging.

Journalism: A Toxic Culture? (Or: Why Aren’t We Having More Fun?)

Despair, Inc.
Remind you of any journalists you know?…

(NOTE: I originally posted this article on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits. But I thought Contentious readers might be interested in it, too.)

Most of what I do is help journalists and news orgs wrap their brains around the Internet. Generally I enjoy that work. Lately, though, I’ve been getting quite aggravated at the close-minded and helpless attitudes I’m *still* encountering from too many journalists about how the media landscape is changing. Those attitudes are revealed by statements, decisions, actions, and inaction which belie assumptions such as:

  • The only journalism that counts is that done by mainstream news orgs, especially in print or broadcast form. Alternative, independent, online, collaborative, community, and other approaches to news are assumed to be inferior or even dangerous.
  • Priesthood syndrome: Traditional journalists are the sole source of news that can and should be trusted — which gives them a privileged and sacred role that society is ethically obligated to support.
  • Journalists and journalism cannot survive without traditional news orgs, which offer the only reliable, ethical, and credible support for a journalistic career.
  • Real journalists *only* do journalism. They don’t dirty their hands or distract themselves with business and business models, learning new tools, building community, finding new approaches to defining and covering news, etc. As Louisville Courier-Journal staffer Mark Schaver said just this morning on Twitter, “[Now] is not a good time [for journalists] if you don’t want your journalism values infected with marketing values.”
  • Journalistic status and authority demands aloofness. This leads to myriad problems such as believing you’re smarter than most people in your community; refusing to “compromise” yourself professionally by engaging in frank public conversation with your community; and using objectivity as an excuse to be uncaring, cynical, or disdainful.
  • Good journalism doesn’t change much. So if it is changing significantly, it must be dying. Which in turn means the world is in big trouble, and probably deserves what it will get.

There’s a common problem with all these assumptions: They directly cut off options from consideration. This severely limits the ability of journalists and journalism to adapt and thrive…

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Twitter Up, Blogging Down

Yes, I’m Twittering more than I’m blogging here lately. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Just a few minutes ago, Jeremiah Owyang posted to Twitter:

“Is your blogging reducing due to Twitter usage? It has for Adam Stewart.”

…So I hopped over to see what Adam Stewart had to say. This part of his post rang true for me:

“Generally, one line of thought often turns into a blog post. With Twitter, that one line of thought becomes a small post that speaks for itself, and it feels like old content once I release it into the Twittersphere.”

So I commented:

“Yeah, I’ve definitely noticed this effect re: my personal blog Contentious.com. Hasn’t hurt the blogs I run for clients, but the cobbler’s children has no shoes. Honestly, I generally find Twitter more personally useful and satisfying than blogging. Can’t sum that one up in 140 characters, so I guess I’ll have to blog it. But at least now, while I’m wrangling with a heavy workload, Twitter gives me a way to vent some of my compulsion to converse and share with the people who seem to be the core audience of my blog anyway.”

…As I imbibe more green tea and think this through further, I remember that blogs have always been an awkward tool to satisfy my deepest desires for conversational media. Yeah, I love to write — but I tend to find quality conversation far morerewarding and satisfying than merely writing. Despite all Twitter’s limitations and weaknesses (which are many) I find it to be a superior conversational media tool. In many ways.

Of course, I’m sure that whatever conversational media tools crop up in the next few years will be even more versatile, robust, and usable. I’m looking forward to being part of that evolution. What about you?

Tools of Engagement: Links and Notes for Discussion

Idea
Minnesota Public Radio got a lot of things about online community right with this "Idea Generator" project.

As I mentioned yesterday, tomorrow I’m giving a session about online political coverage called "Tools of Engagement: It’s a Conversation, Stupid!"

I’ve been collecting a lot of "string" for this talk, and I won’t pretend I have it thoroughly organized. That’s fine — I tend to mostly improvise my sessions based on what the attendees need and want most at that moment.

Here, then, are a bunch of links to site I’ll probably want to mention tomorrow…

READ THE REST OF THIS PIECE, and comment if you like, over at my other blog The Right Conversation

Online Political Coverage: Communities Matter More than Elections

Night2
View of downtown L.A. from my hotel window. This town looks better at night.

I’m in Los Angeles right now, where on Thursday I’ll be giving a session at a Knight New Media Center seminar on Election ’08: Covering Politics in Cyberspace.

My session is called: "Tools of Engagement:  It’s a Conversation, Stupid." No, I didn’t come up with that title, but I really like it. My audience will be a mix of journalists, online-media pros, geeks, and political experts. I hope they’re ready to talk, because I don’t really do lectures; I start conversations.

I’ll admit, in my journalistic work I’ve generally avoided covering elections — for good reason. Generally, the way most news orgs handle that assignment bugs the hell out of me.  The press conferences, the pundits, the posturing, the race metaphors… in all that, communities, issues, and the real workings of government tend to get pushed into the background. It feels fake and even counterproductive to me. I’m tired of it, and for the most part I tune it out.

That’s not to say I tune out politics. On the contrary, I follow certain aspects of politics very closely: local, state, national, and international. And I do note how elections affect the politics that interest or affect me. However, I don’t believe elections should garner the lion’s share of political coverage.

It seems to me that the best political coverage is ongoing, not cyclical. Ideally, coverage of elections or other political events should support and enhance the public conversation about issues and communities.

To accomplish this with online political coverage, I think we need to get our priorities straight. Here are some thoughts on how we might do that, so we might collectively avoid turning the 2008 election season into a complete three-ring circus…

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE, and comment if you like, over at my other blog The Right Conversation