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How to Screw the Press in One Easy Lesson

Recently, the organization I work for hosted an event with a very important person.  You know him as the former President of the United States, Bill Clinton.  The organization hosted the event, but didn’t put it on.  Essentially the Clinton campaign rented the facility and ran the event.

Poorly, I might add.  I wanted to assess the situation from a PR aspect and figure out what they did wrong, and what I would have done to prevent it.  While a lot of these events are supposedly geared for the party faithful, I think they should be designed for the broader audience, the one that can be reached by the mass media (still reaching more people than bloggers and new media, although the new guys are slowly catching up) and the Clinton camp blew this opportunity.

Let me start off by saying this isn’t a critique of the campaign of either presidential campaign, outside of how this particular event was held.  Let me also state for the record I used to be a big fan of Billy C.

That said, this was the worst example of media relations I’ve seen in my (admittedly short) career.  And I’m not saying that flippantly, as the event took place I was keeping notes in my head about what I wouldn’t do, if I were in the position of the campaign.

The event started off a couple of hours early, with the press standing outside in 30 degree weather waiting for the campaign to get media sign-up sheets to the crowd, so they could then stand around more until an area was set up for them.  If you’re involved in presidential politics, you want to keep the members of the press happy, because a happy press is more willing to listen to your pitches.  You might think this is not important in a presidential campaign, but I heard one reporter tell another “This is ridiculous, I’m going to go and volunteer for the Obama campaign after this event is over.”  So, in clear response to how the press is treated, at least one reporter was ready to go volunteer for your opposition.  That’s not good, especially with the race as tight as it is.

Then once the press was allowed to enter the area they had found that the crack PR team had located them in a little cage-like enclosed area as far away as possible from the president, yet still located on the same level.  The press was the length of a basketball court away from the president, behind the mass of people waiving signs all over the place.  Not a problem for much of the press, they were used to this kind of “press paranoia” I guess and the photographers were packing some serious 300 and 400 mm lenses to get a picture of Billy C. as he spoke.  That’s not the position you want to put the media in, again because they have the capability to spread your message further than you can alone, and why make it hard on them.

(Are you paying attention Darren White?  In your case, you have to at least let the media into one of your events.  Anyway…)

I was tasked with taking pictures for my organization, and suffice it to say, I don’t have 300 mm lenses so we were kinda screwed out of any decent pictures.  And I could understand how some of the photographers without the fancy equipment felt, talk about a waste of effort.

Billy C. got up and gave his speech.  And gave it…. and gave it…. and kept giving it until I wondered when the wind-up rubber band was going to run out .  He’s a great speaker, and it was the first time I got to see him speak live.  But after about 40 minutes I was ready for him to smash his guitar on the stage, wriggle his tongue and scream ‘Thank you Albuquerque, good night!’

According to Mark Bralley at What’s Wrong with This Picture, the photographer from the Trib got out of the media cage, shed his press pass, and started going to different locations throughout the building to get better pictures.  Mark did the same thing, confident in his rights as an American citizen and not allowing the PR team to interfere with his work.

In a moment of clarity, the Clinton campaign’s crack PR team jumped into action.  Harassing the photographer, standing in front of him to ruin his pictures, and trying to get security to “escort” him out of the room.  All the time, the same PR team allowed every drunk 18-year-old frat boy with a cell phone to get better visual access to the president than the media.  I’m sure that didn’t piss them off even more, no not at all.

I know the Clintons aren’t big fans of the media, expressing a fear of the media and a Bushian desire to control media access, but when you step into the public light like this you have to be ready to deal with it.

Yours truly dared to step out of the media cage as well to try and get a decent picture of the ex-president shaking some hands.  Nope, not gonna happen. “Back into the media cage with you.  We can treat you how we like, you need use more than we need you.”

Wrong.  I just go back to what I had heard earlier, “After this I’m going to work for Obama’s campaign.”

The same thing happened to a reporting team for the Guardian of London.  London, England, not London New Mexico.  

What the Clinton campaign needs to do is change their attitude towards the media.  And that needs to start at the top, Billy C. and Hilary need to come down off of their high horse and realize that butting heads with the press.  Yeah they got raked over the coals in the 90’s, some of which was by their own fault. 

One thing I would do is give the press better access, visually at events and afterwards. Now you have people in the press saying they are going to work for her opposition, as a direct result of that treatment. 

 

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“It was so cold one winter, she froze to death.”

There are two homeless, or home-challenged, guys who came by our house every couple of weeks this summer to pick our weeds for $15 or $20.  My fiancee and I didn’t have a problem with this, they were willing to work and we were willing to pay for their services.

As these guys came by, we would start to learn about one of them.  He was the more talkative of the pair and I picked up bits and pieces over the summer.  He and his wife moved to Albuquerque from Roswell, he had been out of work for a while, they were living with his step-sister while he walked around the city looking for odd jobs, he had been a car detailer before he was jobless.  I have to give him snaps, he hadn’t been coming around looking for a cash handout.

The summer moved on, and his pal stopped coming by the house to work (although I still see him every few days panhandling on Lomas), but he kept coming by.  However, he’s been coming by more often, and not just to work, but to ask for a ride when he missed the bus (which he did this weekend) or to ask for an advance on work to be done later (which, to his credit, he remembers the next time he comes back – which he has done a few times).

I don’t usually mind giving him a little bit of money, because I consider myself very lucky to have a few bucks to give him.  I’m lucky enough to have a home, food in the cupboard, clothes in my closet, a fiancee I love very much and who loves me back, a sweet dog who has been with me through my separation and divorce, and my return to college and graduation.  All in all I’m a very lucky guy.  I realize that for the grace of God/Goddess/Buddha/Sam, the bad breaks could have hit me and I could be in his shoes.

He was making a B-line to our house today when I was biking home and we bumped into each other across the street from my place and he was telling me he didn’t have any cash, and had gotten a message from one of the car wash/detailing places he had applied for a job at.  They wanted him to come in to talk with them, and he was looking for some money for a haircut and shave – trust me, he needed it.  But I didn’t have any money to help him out this time.  After talking a few minutes he moved on and went to another house where he works at to see if they had work (or money).

I felt bad for the guy, and I hope he gets his money and gets his job, that would make things easier on him.

What does this have to do with the title of this post?

Well I’ll tell you…

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The Albuquerque Tribune

I’ve been a little hesitant to comment on the closure of the Albuquerque Tribune.  For those readers not in the greater Albuquerque area (Hi Dad!) the Tribune is/was our afternoon paper.  It’s never had the vast readership of the Albuquerque Journal, or the advantage of running in the mornings. For what it lacked there, it worked with aggressive journalism, local news focus, a tech and gaming section (which I liked), and great photography.

I have previously worked at the competition (the Journal) and the photography at the Tribune was amazing!  They put a lot of emphasis on the visual presentation of the pictures in the Tribune.  At the Journal the photography was the last thing they would talk about in the editorial meetings.  Usually the photo editor would be asked for his picture ideas at the end of the meeting, after all of the stories and where they would be in the paper were already selected.

The Trib doesn’t have to pass away.  It has been in Albuquerque for 85 years. But now it is on the edge of the cliff, about to be pushed over by Scripps – the company that owns them.  Interestingly, one of my sources inside the Trib told me that Scripps will keep receiving money from the Joint Operating Agreement, even without producing a product.  The company gets to keep the cash flow and doesn’t have to pay expenses.

Must be nice. But looking at this from a different angle, this could be the best thing to ever happen to the Tribune.  If someone else gets the newspaper with no JOA to constrain it, they can be financially sound and competitive at the same time.

I took media management in college.  I’ve toyed with the idea of running a news outlet before, but that takes a decent amount of cash and time.  The first I don’t have, and the second I only marginally have. 

But, in keeping with the persona of William de Worde – who ended up creating a newspaper in the Discworld’s city of Ankh Morpork  – if I had the money and time, here is how I would revamp the Tribune.

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Live Earth Letdown

I was watching the Live Earth concert on Bravo today when a couple of things hit me:

  1. The lead singer for one of the bands I was watching pulled out a bottle of water (like Evian or something) and opened it up. After taking a swig he threw the cap on the ground in the middle of the stage. I guess littering isn’t that important compared to global warming… 😉
  2. There are supposed to be “Live Earth” viewing parties all over the world. If I’d have known about it I would have had one at my place. I got on line this evening and looked for the closest party to my place. Nothing in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho or Santa Fe (which surprised me, I figured they would be all over it). The closest party to my home was located in Dallas! Dallas! So no one within 800 miles of my place is meeting to watch the concert? Wow! If I’d have known that, and not had a birthday dinner to go to, I might have flown out there (wasting CO2) and visited my dad at the same time.  What a bummer.

And what is it with all of the “Live” concerts? “Live 8” “Live Aid” and “Live Earth.”

Although AFI and Linkin Park did rock! Plus the band made up of scientists at Antarctica! They were cool, and the penguins were a nice touch.

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Still Hiding Out

Those readers of this humble blog might remember the name Terry MacKillop. MacKillop is the “Animal Control Officer” in Roscommon County, Michigan. If you’ve read this blog for a little while, you would have read this post about a site called Thor’s Warriors that is dealing with MacKillop and his lack of action when it comes to a group of starved dogs and someone by the name of Larry Baumgart.

Well, more and more the press is starting to notice what is going on. Not to the speed I’d like them to, but it’s better than nothing. One thing that has been constant in this press coverage is Terry MacKillop’s refusal to talk with the press about his actions, or lack thereof.

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How Very Cool

According to this article from CNN, scientists in Wales have determined that dolphins living off of the coast of Wales communicate in a different dialect than dolphins living off of the coast of Ireland.

(Apparently, the Welsh Dolphins spend a lot of time discussing the value of sheep, while the Irish Dolphins talk about how many ways they can drink Guinness, repeatedly say “Kiss me Blarney stone, the damn tuna nets got me again!” and debate how to the get the English out of Northern Ireland.)

That said, the best thing in the article was the dateline. Bangor, Wales. I stayed in the town while on tour with a rugby team many years ago. It’s the coolest little college town! Actually, all of Wales was amazing! I miss being there, it’s so green and lush and beautiful. If you ever get the chance to go, do it!

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The Grilling Buddha

I love our wonderful New Mexico springtimes. The birds singing, the breeze through the trees… and the chance to fire up the grill.

Grill??

As my dog says,

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“Grill?? As in Food??? For me!?!? Oh boy!”

I love to grill. I’d grill every day if I could, as it is I’m going to start grilling every weekend until probably November. However it’s been a while since I had a grill. Not since I started living in apartments about 6 years ago (it’s a long story). But this year, living in my SO’s house, I could finally get a grill. It’s not the biggest or the baddest grill…

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But it’s mine! And it only cost me $10 at Home Depot!

It was the last one, a display model!

(more pictures to follow)

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A Day at the Park

A couple of weeks back I visited Phil Chacon Park in Albuquerque to check out the Albuquerque Aardvarks rugby team in their match with the Glendale, Colorado Raptors. Following are some of the picture I took at the match. The action was so fierce and fast paced that some of the other images came out blurry.

Aardvarks’ Warming Up The Aardvarks started with a warm-up huddle. Focused on a single goal, winning.

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