Seeing through the media bias

I just came from a really great conversation with journalist/friend John Boyanoski, a writer for the Upstate’s Community Journals (covering Greenville, Anderson and Spartanburg, S.C.).  With it being Election Day and all, the conversation took on a political tone.

But what I found so invigorating about my talk with John, was how we were able to talk to each other with respect and tolerance towards each other’s views (something I can’t do even in my own family – it turns into a shouting match every time).  It was so nice to be able to listen to John’s opinions and be able to talk about mine without feeling persecuted or like I was in the wrong for my ideas.

But what really got me thinking was our conversation about the media bias that has (or hasn’t, depending on your opinion) taken place during this presidential election year. I watched a story on Inside Edition last night (I know, not hard core news, but I still enjoy it) about how ‘entertainment news shows’ like The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The View, CBS Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, were all skewed to support Barack Obama versus John McCain.

Inside Edition aired clips of the two Ellen shows where both presidential candidates appeared.  In the Obama episode, he danced and was able to show his more personal side.  When McCain appeared, Ellen grilled him about his opposing views on gay marriage (even though both candidates have openly opposed the idea). 

Likewise on The View, Barbara Walters openly flirted with Obama asking if she could call him, “sexy,” while McCain’s appearance turned into a full-on grill-fest from Whoopie Goldberg.  And statistics show the late night entertainment shows zinged McCain and party 475 times this year, while Obama only received 69 negative jokes. 

Obviously there’s a very real bias there.  But since those shows don’t claim to be, and have never been, hard news programs, are they held accountable to the same fair and objective coverage of the other news organizations?  Should they be held responsible for using the airtime to subliminally support one presidential candidate over another, knowing the weight it might hold with the viewer?

I’ll admit when I’m watching Ellen, I’m not really watching it to catch up on my news.  I watch it for the entertainment value.  Are we, as the general U.S. voting population, astute enough to see through the subliminal messages and still make an educated vote based on our own moral convictions? It’s easy to go along with people like Ellen because you feel like you know them.

Regardless of who you voted for today (and you DID vote, didn’t you?  Hey, I’m nine months pregnant and stood in line for two hours to do it – so no excuses for you!), it’s important that we, as Americans, take the time to do our homework, research the candidates and make a decision that best fits our lifestyle and opinions. 

But how far should these types of shows be allowed to carry their opinion to the viewing public?  And how can people see through that to make sure they’re making an educated opinion?

I look forward to camping out in my living room tonight watching election returns and enjoying our American democratic process. And don’t forget to vote today!

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How do you cope with the uncertainty?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past year, you’ve no doubt been watching the train wreck that is our global economy.  I’m an avid news junkie, and have a particular passion for business news.  So when the news about the failing economy started rolling in, I sort of felt like, “Yeah, and what else is new?”  I’d heard it before and things always turned out fine.

But the past few months have been unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.  All of a sudden I’m glued to the TV watching the Dow Jones drop like a lead balloon.  I read every news article I can find about the bailout, the subprime mortgage mess and more to try and decipher it all and try to make sense of it.  And I’m studying both of our presidential candidates with religious zeal to try and figure out how either of them are going to get us out of this mess. (Enough with the blame game already – everyone’s at fault here, so how are we ALL going to fix it?!).

What’s happening has left me shaken, and yet I can’t figure out if it’s me reading all of the news coverage that’s making matters worse.  Are we headed for the next Great Depression?  My husband and I talk about what to do with what little hard-earned money we have saved up. Luckily, we’re young, and everyone keeps telling us to ‘stay the course, it will bounce back.’  But it’s a hard pill to swallow when you watch that money you worked so hard to set aside go up in smoke. 

But I really feel for people who are close to retirement age.  Those people who’ve worked and saved their whole lives, just like they were told to do, only now to watch their 401(K) vanish into thin air. What happens to them?  Will they ever see that money again?  Will they have to work 20 more years past their expected retirement age? 

These are frustrating times, and I find it hard sometimes to stay focused.  Does anyone really care about the new product release or event announcement I’m promoting, when they’re scared to death about whether or not they’re going to be able to keep their house? 

As PR practitioners, how do we cope with the uncertain times in which we live?  Do you go about your business as usual and just wait for the storm to pass?  Or is what’s happening right now a game changing scenario? And how does PR adjust to continue to provide value to clients and organizations, knowing there are much larger issues to consider?

Has the current news and economic climate changed the way you view PR strategy?

Geek out about Blackberry Storm

I am not a tech gadget freak. I didn’t stand in line for hours to buy either iPhone. We do have a Wii, but only because someone gave it to us as a gift (thanks, mom!). I have a sensible PC laptop with the usual capabilities, but nothing fancy.

But I’m here to tell you I’ve been geeking out about the news I saw come out yesterday regarding the new Blackberry Storm Smartphone. Hi, my name is Liza, and I’m addicted to my Blackberry.

I had my first taste of “Crackberry” addiction about a year ago. Before that, I used my trusty cell phone to make and receive calls. It did not have e-mail or Internet capability and I could count on my hand how many text messages I sent on it.

But once I succumbed to the Blackberry last year, I was hooked. Before long, I had “Blackberry Thumbs” from typing so many e-mails, and my husband threatened to throw it in the trash if I didn’t put it down and have an eye-to-eye conversation with him every once in a while! Friends wondered if I ever left home without my phone firmly placed in front of my face (not much). You’ll be happy to know I’ve since toned down my Blackberry usage to more appropriate levels.

But my true ‘geek out’ moment came when I saw the announcement about the Blackberry Storm coming this fall to Verizon Wireless (my current carrier). The touchscreen! The 3.2 megapixel camera! Ah, the gloriousness of it all. Even though I’m not due for another “new every two” phone under Verizon’s plan until next August, it will take all of my willpower to not run out and buy one of these beauties when they hit store shelves. (Of course, pricing hasn’t been released yet, so this may cool my jets somewhat!).

I can’t remember the last time I was this jacked up about a product. Can you? What product did you geek out about recently? Did you bide your time or rush right out and buy said product? And more importantly, did it live up to your expectations? (All the marketing in the world is useless if the product doesn’t live up to the hype).

Tell me your best product geek out moment…..

Kim passed her APR!!

She was waiting to receive her official notification from PRSA, but now that she has, I want to be one of the first to tell you that Kim Simko Banks has passed her APR exam!! I know many of you have been following her journey through the APR process on our blog.

She studied really hard for the exam, and all of her hard work paid off. Congratulations, Kim!! I’m so proud of you!!!

I’m sure Kim will post something soon to give more insight about her exam experience, in case others are looking to possibly follow in her lead. Stay tuned for more details!

When life gets in the way…

Hi everyone,

This post doesn’t have anything to do with PR, marketing or social media, but rather is a quick update on me. As some of you may know, I’m eight months pregnant with my second child, another boy. I had my first son early at 35 weeks, after going into labor at 33 weeks. (Thankfully, he’s a happy, healthy two year old now!).

This pregnancy is proving to be a replay of the first, since I started going into labor again earlier this week, at only 32 weeks. After two fun-filled days in the hospital, they discharged me under strict bed rest orders to try and get me to go until 36 weeks.

If you know me, you know how it’s near impossible to make me sit still. I’m just one of those Type A personalities that’s always go, go, go. So obviously bed rest doesn’t really fit into my ‘neat little agenda,’ but I’m doing my best to comply so that I can give my baby a good start.

I’m fortunate that I have such great understanding clients, and a job where I can do most of my work from my laptop and phone. So for the most part, it’s been business as usual. But I won’t lie, it’s hard being cooped up in the house all day, not going to any meetings, not seeing that many people, etc. It makes it hard to stay focused and motivated.

I’m learning to roll with the punches and realize that you can’t always script everything out. I know the next three weeks are merely a blip in the time space continuum, and that it’s important for me to take it easy, for the health of my child. But I won’t say that it’s going to be easy. I’m used to do everything myself and now I’m having to rely on others to do things for me.

What do you do when life throws you a curve ball? Do you adjust well, or is it hard to make the change? What advice do you have for me so I can stay motivated over the next few weeks?

Journalist profile: Lillia Callum-Penso, The Greenville News

Kim and I had the fortune to sit down with The Greenville News lifestyle reporter Lillia Callum-Penso recently. Lillia’s a breath of fresh air, and really gave us some great insight into her job and what’s she’s looking for in terms of story ideas.

She agreed to serve as this week’s journalist profiles. Read on to learn more about Lillia.

o Please provide title and a brief description of what you do:
Features Reporter. I write articles primarily for the Lifestyle section of the paper, including subjects like food, family, fashion, home and garden and general features and trend stories.

o How did you become interested in journalism?
I always liked to write and used to make up short stories with my dad.

o Where did you get your career start?
I started as a reporter for link Magazine, a free weekly publication in Greenville.

o Who or what has had the most impact on your career to date?
Probably my father, one of the best writers I know (although not by trade).

o What piece of advice would you give to students possibly considering a career in journalism?
I would say make sure you can do more than just write. Journalism is really so much about ideas and having the awareness and curiosity to explore them.

o What changes have you seen in the industry that are the most interesting to you?
I’d say the Web-related changes have dominated the industry. Most stories now should include some sort of online component.

o Who is your target audience and how do you look for stories to appeal to them?
We try and reach all people but the 18 – 24 and 25 – 34 set tend to respond more to web-related content and the 50 and over set tend to respond more to print content.

o What is the best thing about your job?
Getting to meet so many new people and getting to here so many interesting stories. Everyone has one.

o What is the thing you like least about your job?
The fact that deadlines mean I don’t always get to spend as much time as I’d like with people I’m interviewing.

o How do public relations professionals assist you in your journalism role?
Sometimes they can present an interesting trend story idea or more likely they help me connect with a potential source.

o What things could PR professionals do better when reaching out to journalists?
It’s always helpful to have pitches that are specifically related to my paper’s coverage area.

o What Web sites and/or blogs do you read most often and why?
Honestly, I go to GreenvilleOnline.com first thing and I also read lots of other newspaper and magazine sites to get story ideas.

How do you stay strategic?

I came across this post from Todd Defren’s PR Squared blog: “I wish my PR firm was more strategic.”

What really struck me was how close to home the post’s message hit me. I have the pleasure of working with three really great clients right now, all of which afford me the opportunity to provide strategic and results-driven public relations counsel.

But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when I felt like I was simply going through the routine motions. I think we’re all guilty of this, especially if we’ve been working with a client, or even within an organization, for a long period of time.

This post reminded me why I love my clients, and it’s up to me to make sure I continue to provide them with the best, most strategic, most attentive PR service I can. I take Todd’s post as a great reminder to myself to continually challenge and exceed my clients’ expectations every day.

What about you? Now that summer’s over and we’re headed into fall – do you find yourself sometimes falling back on tried-and-true routines simply because you know how to do them and you know they’re ‘good enough’ to get by? Or are you constantly looking at ways you can show your expertise and prove your value to your clients or within your organization?

How do you get yourself out of a routine rut? I think we’d all love to learn some ways we can motivate our strategic sides!