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Archive for the ‘Media Literacy’ Category

Information Wars,  a new book by former Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel, explains how disinformation is threatening our democracy and free society. At the conclusion of an appearance at the Texas Book Festival, he suggested that traditional and new media organizations should come together to support an ambitious nationwide media literacy education project. This would be a project so massive that it will require hundreds of millions of dollars… but not out of reach for today’s media organizations.

First, citizens will need to understand where they can find and trust professional journalism, which also means how to see through the competitive pressures and temptations of media organizations… which are also businesses. Citizens will also need to come to understand their new role of “personal editor,” as they sort through the chaos of constant disinformation flowing daily from inside and outside the U.S.

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History teaches that most who followed autocrats in the past were initially attracted to their basic ideas, and accepted that some control from the top was inevitable.

History also teaches that when autocrats become dictators only those willing to carry out their cruel and arbitrary orders survive. All others are cut loose without a political future… and often viciously and personally attacked.

What does the current behavior of the president teach you?

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Recent debates introduced talented candidates to the American people. But these entertaining TV shows did not determine who is capable of winning a general election. In the end, impractical program proposals are simply not likely to find the needed support.

Also, cries in the House of Representatives to impeach the president will likely lead to very little. The Mueller report, however, yielded enough evidence of corruption and White House misdeeds to be helpful in a general election.

With all this in mind, here is a game-plan for winning:

  1. This general election will require the winning candidate to be realistic about what can actually get done. Eventually, this will mean compressing the best primary election ideas into one compelling, future-shaping theme.
  2. That said, I believe that preparing for this election will first require conducting focus groups in each major market to develop and refine market-specific messaging. Mueller report material can and should be an important part of this message development.
  3. Each of these groups should include grassroots opinion leaders, not just people with fancy titles. And campaign facilitators should listen for new and imaginative phrases to use in ads and materials.
  4. After each session, the best and most experienced campaign thinkers, writers, and graphic artists should gather together to clarify what was said. Graphic artists should be included because how words and images come together can make all the difference. Authentic and imaginative materials in new and traditional media will be needed to win.
  5. Individual focus group results, together with the best primary election ideas, should now make it possible to shape an authentic and winning overall campaign theme.

I believe that an “integrated marketing” approach that includes grassroots participation in message development will be the best way to win the presidency in 2020.

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When you get right down to it, the U.S. Constitution reminds us that when it comes to leadership, morality is what provides America’s best guiding principles. Even when some leaders have faltered over the years, morality-based ideas are what best define who we are.

For example, moral principles are why citizens and nations alike have always looked to U.S. leaders to find the ideals and ideas that best bring people together. Policy matters such as race, climate change, immigration, healthcare, and even poverty, are important… but they still require fundamental guiding principles. Our talk should therefore always begin with big constitutional values such as equal opportunity, human rights, freedom, or justice.

Morality really does matter. It is the essential ingredient of our precious and universally admired, “American experiment.” It’s what always made it work at home. And it’s what also makes it so appealing to much of the rest of the world.

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In a digital media world, a steady stream of tweeted lies and personal attacks can quickly add up to a mindless universe of make-believe. Once people become immersed in their own digital clutter they can quickly lose touch with the real world.

It appears that our president’s non-stop erratic behavior, especially over the past several weeks, has put him in such a state.

It’s a scary thought, but in today’s new media ecosystem, combining social media, 24/7 news cycles, and information overload, with a self-centered personality, can enable immoral leaders to create imaginary and dangerous worlds.

This might explain how so many politicians have come to see lying incessantly, attacking adversaries, snubbing longtime allies, and accepting questionable characters as admired colleagues… as normal professional practice.

Someone better step up and stop this nonsense soon! Make-believe leaders are very likely to do stupid things!

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Words matter. They really do.

A colleague of mine once told me, “Your problem Lauer is you think every problem is a communication problem.” Upon reflection, I said, “The problem is that you, sir, make every problem a communication problem.” We are facing that right now in the White House.

The president this week made contradictory word-salad nonsense out of every issue facing the world. Right now, bringing about “word order” in an insane swamp of “word-salad garbage” is the thing that matters most. We will have no national security without it!

That said, you better think seriously about “word order” during the 2020 election, if not sooner.

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To save our democracy, should TV news change it’s traditional approach to reporting political news? For example…

  1. Should TV news today report lies, cruelty and divisive rhetoric for what they are… and not as one side of a two-sided controversy.
  2. In other words, is a growing autocracy in Washington, and admiration of dictators around the world, the only real news story now?

In this age of emotional imagery, lies, and cruelty, TV journalism might have to change what it means to be freedom’s watchdog. It might now be necessary to conduct real time fact checking and reporting for each and every news story, and to stop using the power of celebrity and drama to compete for ratings. Truth or what? The soul of America is at stake.

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