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Archive for the ‘Media Literacy’ Category

My previous blog post pointed out that news media are really businesses. I follow-up here by suggesting that the entire topic should be dealt with in newspapers and on television as important public interest news.

Stories about big changes in major media organizations, the inside workings of biased news organizations, profiles of extreme talk show hosts and writers, sources of domestic fake-news, social media as weapons, foreign government generated fake-news, and much more, are all sources of potential audience-grabbing news stories.

Some news organizations already have media reporters. Brian Stelter at CNN is one of the few with high visibility. His program on Sunday mornings reports inside news about organizations, people and places, and also deals with the hot issues of the week.

Beyond reporting news media news stories, it is also in their self-interest for news organizations to invest heavily in media education. For them, promoting media literacy should simply be seen as essential immediate and long-term audience development.

 

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It’s not fake news. But it is a business.

Television cannot resist making drama, and newspapers cannot resist writing provocative headlines. After all, they both must deliver audiences to their advertisers.

Both newspaper and TV news organizations develop journalists and anchors with star power because it’s good for business. Both are attracted to covering the outrageous over the mundane because it’s good for business. Tweets become attention-getting headlines and are also good for business. And a government in chaos and out-of-control is certainly good for the news business.

When NBC producers designed their approach to the recent debates, they clearly had the nature of their visual medium in mind.. After all, TV likes drama, and the colors, set design, use of music, staging, and even the anchor’s introductions and questions were written with this medium’s power in mind. Some pundits even thought the program resembled a game show! But however you saw it, it certainly was good for the TV news business.

Bottom line: It’s difficult to imagine how news media organizations will fix things for us anytime soon… especially when the daily headlines are so good for their businesses.

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Communication is impossible in an environment of lies and confusion. Problem-solving processes simply shut down.

Even when our president begins with a smidgen of truth, he grossly exaggerates it, and then embellishes it with fictitious additions until it all becomes a sea of lies and mass confusion.

Whether it’s about what’s going on in Iran, the treatment of children on the Mexican border, the actual status of his wall, the true impact of Chinese tariffs, his love for North Korea’s dictator, his strange behavior with Putin, his attraction to the Saudi crown prince, his comfort in the company of any dictator, his disrespect for U.S. allies, his total rejection of climate change science, or all of the promises he hasn’t kept… whatever he says is intended to dominate the headlines, but it also produces widespread fear and unrest.

This is not about political ideology. It’s about how communication works… and as a result, his need to make it “all about him” has also made us vulnerable to social upheaval everywhere.       

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There is no such thing as a communication expert… only professionals like me who chose to spend an entire career struggling every day to make it work. One proven communication truth, however, is that people hear what they want to hear.

Some pundits thought both evenings were disasters for the Democrats because there was so much challenging and so little unity. Socialism charges were now easier to make. But others thought that aggressive challenging was a good thing because in “mass” debates like these each person must find a way to stand out. Unity will come later in the process.

So here’s my take. I actually dreaded these debates. I was convinced that we would learn nothing and only add to information overload and confusion. I shrugged them off as “debating games.”

But I must confess I did see some talented, informed, and articulate people. And it was easy to see who was informed about what… healthcare, or tax reform, or climate change, or the military, or foreign policy, or racism, etc.

I can now imagine how time on the road might produce some strong candidates for president, vice president, and cabinet slots… and all without regard to age. I can also see how message guardrails against charges of socialism can easily be built.

When all is said and done, I came away from these debates encouraged that we actually might have the talent and political strength in this country to oppose autocracy, and to bring back American values-based leadership to the world. Please don’t tell me I’m fooling myself.

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If you think an autocracy is not right for America, here are some strategies and tactics that could be used when carrying out “congressional oversight:”

  1. The Mueller Report provides enough material to support both a “foreign government collusion” and an “obstruction of justice” investigation. So hold a series of “public reviews” under a simple theme like, “Congressional Oversight Review.”
  2. Make an annotated list of those already indicted and/or headed to prison, those who are still under investigation in the southern district of New York or elsewhere, and those in cabinet positions with ethics violations pending. Tell each of these stories in some detail during the oversight reviews.
  3. Identify the key findings that the Mueller report intended for congressional review. Select committee members and other available witnesses to give reports on each finding during the reviews.
  4. Now design a comprehensive strategic communication plan to roll out review conclusions, a few at a time. Include big ads in key states and other markets, and social media messages strategically targeted to selected voter groups.
  5. During these roll-outs, the presidential candidates must keep their campaigns focused on their programs for improving job and career opportunities, access to quality healthcare, access to quality education, training programs for an automation-changed workforce, etc.
  6. Most importantly, candidates must stress their biggest and best idea for the future… the one that differentiates them from the rest. In this age of imagery, they must also come off personally as the one voters simply admire and trust the most.

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The original purpose behind the European Union was simply to keep member countries from starting wars with each other. At the time, competing economically as a unified entity was seen as a secondary bonus.

But now the recent spread of populist nationalism, presidents emerging with autocratic ambitions, the Brexit blow-up in the UK, and Trump’s affection for dictators and daily generated chaos, are all coming together to threaten the existence of the EU… and much more.

Add to this U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a new Trump dictated military relationship with nationalistic Poland, an unstable Israeli government, a provoked and dangerous Iran, a nuclear-loaded maniac in North Korea, a festering and disintegrating Venezuela, an energized and politically meddling Russia, a determined and aggressive China, a still very frightening Syria, and more… and suddenly you have a world literally on the edge of destroying itself.

All this has been analyzed in past posts. So all I can say now is someone better do something… and quick.

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Sometime ago I wrote a book about internal politics in universities. The project included a study of leadership styles. Among those styles was the “autocrat.” I found that some people simply feel more secure working under a leader who makes all the important decisions, even when that security often turns out to be imagined.

Many of these people have military experience, or at least admire military-type organizations. They are willing to follow directives on a daily basis, and embrace a culture of disciplined personal behavior… one that defers to a chief executive’s mandates and the instructions of managers and supervisors.

Apparently, we have a White House today that attracts people who prefer feeling this kind of security… that is as long as the commander in chief’s wrath is not being felt directly, and the work situation feels important enough.

After the Iraq war, and Saddam Hussein was finally deposed, many small businessmen said it was actually better for them before the war. The tyrant did not bother them and their businesses were moving along just fine. If there is a place that feels secure enough, many people decide they are just fine with a dictator.

When he was a presidential candidate, Senator Lindsey Graham said very nasty things about Donald Trump’s character. But now he supports him. Graham always admired the military, so maybe many of us just missed noticing that he always has preferred autocratic environments. Maybe now he even has his eye on ending his career in a secure-feeling executive position in such a White House. And maybe we even have an Attorney General who has the same kind of future in mind for himself.

Most management experts, however, think that a democratic approach to leadership results in much better problem-solving. In institutions and governments, these leaders prefer to seek out the most experienced minds they can find, and arrive at decisions based on their best collective thinking. These leaders facilitate participatory processes, listen before acting, and believe in strong teams.

In a democratic organization, the leader generally assumes the role of articulating the vision. But a talented executive team is always counted on to help find the best ways to make that vision real. Loyalty is earned this way… and it is always returned with sincere gratitude.

The current White House, with the help of a significant portion of the Republican Partly, has become a dictatorial autocracy. And while a few Americans might prefer this type of governance, we are the United States of America… and have a Declaration of Independence that flatly rejects autocracies in any form. You see… it’s the lies, chaos, greed, and cruelty that come with them that make them so divisive. And history clearly teaches that over time, autocrats always end up destroying their nations.

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