prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Archive for October, 2010

Apple PR v Student Journalist

Posted by prof e on October 27, 2010

An online spat with Apple may have contributed to a student journalist’s invitation to cover the release of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. Chelsea Kate Isaacs, a journalism major at Long Island University, received a class assignment that involved finding out more about an initiative at her college to buy iPads for all incoming students. As any good journalist, Chelsea contacted Apple requesting a quote about using iPads in an academic setting. But after the Apple PR department failed to return multiple phone messages, she sent an email to Steve Jobs…who, in hindsight, probably wished he hadn’t responded. But he did respond, leading to a back-and-forth that quickly deteriorated. A final email from Jobs reportedly said, “Please leave us alone.” You can read more about the reported email exchange here.

That might be the end of the story, except that Microsoft saw an opportunity to promote its Windows Phone 7 by selecting Isaacs to travel, all expenses paid, to the Microsoft launch event. According to CNET news, “Despite two radically different experiences, Isaacs said she has no plans to cover either company any differently.
Read more.

What corporate PR lesson, if any, should we take away from this incident?


Posted in advertising, journalism, media industry, PR | 26 Comments »

NPR fires Juan Williams over comments about Muslims

Posted by prof e on October 21, 2010

Last evening National Public Radio fired commentator Juan Williams for a comment he made on Fox News. Williams was being interviewed by Bill O’Reilly when he admitted to feeling “worried” and “nervous” when flying with people dressed in Muslim garb. For the remainder of the interview Williams defended the Muslim faith against those who failed to distinguish moderate Muslims from extremists.

You can watch a segment about the initial comment, and the aftermath, on YouTube.

Juan Williams responded to his firing in an essay posted at Fox News, his new employer. You can read it here.

Here’s a quote from his statement…

Now that I no longer work for NPR let me give you my opinion. This is an outrageous violation of journalistic standards and ethics by management that has no use for a diversity of opinion, ideas or a diversity of staff (I was the only black male on the air). This is evidence of one-party rule and one sided thinking at NPR that leads to enforced ideology, speech and writing. It leads to people, especially journalists, being sent to the gulag for raising the wrong questions and displaying independence of thought.

Posted in 1st amendment, journalism, tv | 15 Comments »

Global Feel-Good Story May Take Turn for the Worse

Posted by prof e on October 15, 2010

The rescue of 33 Chilean miners, who had spent 70 days under more than 2000 feet of solid rock, was the feel-good story of the month…perhaps of the year. It was a tremendous feat of engineering and a testimony to the power of human endurance. The world gathered around TV sets (audiences were estimated at 1 billion) and watched in awe as the miners were hoisted to the surface and into the arms of their waiting families, friends, and, in one awkward case, a mistress. It was worthy of the celebration that ensued…and the national festivities that followed.

But there may be a dark side to this story…one that is coming to light as the media executives and attorneys sweep in to fight over the goldmine that is not in the ground, but in the story. News reports tell us that the miners made a pact while underground that they would act together to sell their story, and share the revenue equally. So far so good. Rumors are that each miner could stand to make tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars for their stories…quite a bit more than their average annual salaries that range from $4,000 – $19,000 US.

According to, the media attention was anticipated.

Chilean authorities gave the men some media training before their rescue, conducting classes over phone lines. They have been invited to make appearances in Spain, England and Greece, and mining entrepreneur Leonardo Farkas gave each 5 million pesos ($10,400).

A book deal is already in the works with an early 2011 publication date. TV rights could bring in tens of thousands of dollars and movie rights could easily bring in hundreds of thousands. Oh, and Steve Jobs reportedly sent each miner the latest iPod! According to one report the miners are quoted as saying, “If we do this properly we won’t have to work for the rest of our lives.”

No one would argue that the miners deserve to share in the revenue that others will make by marketing this wonderful story to the world. But before we get too excited we might consider the sad stories of instant millionaires, lottery winners mostly, who come to realize that money often brings as much pain and suffering as it does happiness.

And speaking of pain and suffering, personal injury lawyers are no-doubt looking for ways to parlay the miners’ 70 days underground into something that they can take to the bank.

What started out as a heart-warming story of hope, faith, courage, endurance, and, finally, deliverance, may now turn into a story of greed and exploitation. Some might argue that’s what happens when the TV/film cameras focus their attention on people who start out with good intentions.

Posted in journalism, media effects | 13 Comments »

Supreme Court Wrestles with Despicable Speech

Posted by prof e on October 6, 2010

We all know that most speech is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. There are a few exception, e.g., obscenity, defamation (libel and slander), and incitement to imminent lawless action. But the general consensus is that the First Amendment also protects crazy and hateful ideas like those espoused by Fred Phelps, who, with his small group of followers, pickets military funerals and spews hateful rhetoric about military deaths being divine retribution for America’s tolerance of gays.

In Snyder v. Phelps, the father of a slain soldier is asking the Supreme Court to rule against Phelps and speech that includes the waving signs outside the funerals  of a fallen serviceman that proclaim, “God Hates America” and “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”

The road to the Supreme Court involved decisions both for and against Phelps.
Snyder sued Phelps and his followers for “defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.” Snyder was awarded nearly $11M in damages in the original court case. Phelps appealed and the damages were reduced to $5M. Then a federal appellate court overturned the decision, thus setting up the battle in the Supreme Court.

Support for the families of fallen soldiers is widespread among veterans groups. Also, politicians from both the right and the left have spoken out in favor of a ruling that would restrict this sort of speech. However, there are plenty of folks, e.g., the ACLU and most media companies, on the other side of the issue who are holding their noses while voicing support for a decision that would allow Phelps and his followers to continue their antics.

Whose side are YOU on?

Posted in 1st amendment, politics, regulation | 19 Comments »