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Archive for the ‘Strategic Communication’ Category

Confrontational questions, limited time for responses, previously promoted arguments, and the use of cameras to enhance the dramatic potential of the situation, is how television makes it all feel super exciting. But to what extent have these television debates simply become more “reality TV?”

Film critics long ago pointed out that when cameras are pointed at any event, the primary producer, or “author,” is actually creating a whole new reality. These critics pointed out that what is not shown simply doesn’t exist for the viewer. But, people who are actually at the event are able to determine their own reality.

In other words, whoever points the cameras becomes the “author” of a totally different experience. “I am seeing it with my own eyes,” can make it seem real… but the cameras are really creating their own reality.

Making dramatic moving pictures is the very heart of television. It does not like details, and hates boring talk, Rather it prefers images, which will always lead to more drama. Authors, producers and directors almost instinctively use editing, pacing, camera movements, sound enhancements, colorful backgrounds, and picture montages, to capture audience attention… and keep it.

And with respect to the last debate, what about the topics (foreign policy, role of allies, defense guardrails, immigration, autocratic presidential behavior, etc,) that were never addressed? TV debates have all the elements of reality TV… and serious issues will usually be slighted.

 

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When someone enters a primary election late, or when a candidate begins to emerge as significant, the news media will naturally begin to investigate their past. News professionals will describe this practice as essential and responsible journalism. But it’s also great “copy!” Aggressively investigating the past of political candidates always energizes the business side of news.

It is therefore very important for media consumers to understand that the same media revolutions that created our current state of chaos and confusion will also make it impossible to be sure that investigative journalism will uncover the “real truth” about the past.

Choosing the most reliable information sources possible has become critically important. After all, it’s possible that past transgressions were settled at the time, and times do change. And some people really do learn from their mistakes.

No matter how many viewers, listeners, readers, and “profits” these investigative news reports generate, in a world of ongoing media revolutions we can never be sure we are learning the whole truth. Getting “close” is the best we can do… and we must even work at that.

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A communicator’s view…

Being a liberal has meant that your focus is on the needs of the working class and supporting government programs that provide for their welfare.

Being a conservative has meant that your focus is on making government smaller, keeping welfare programs at a minimum, building a strong military, and having a very dim view of deficit spending.

When a balance of liberal and conservative voices can be found, balanced reporting should be expected.

But Trump’s activities and pronouncements have nothing to do with conservatism. Rather they are filled with lies, gross exaggerations, cruel attacks, and building an autocracy.

It should therefore be the focus of professional journalism to call out this divisive behavior, to remind people that freedom of the press is protected in the constitution, and to explain the founding “idea of America.”

This is not about political ideology. It is about the communication responsibility of the news media. 

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I am frustrated with both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats have handled their long primary campaign poorly, and the Iowa caucuses will not fix that. And the Republican party has been reduced to “the party of Trump.”

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander rightly stated that the democrats produced so much factual content that there is little need for witnesses. Other Senators are now agreeing with him. But where they are wrong about acquittal is their assertion that it will properly allow the matter to be decided by the people in an election.

This is wrong because the president has already been attacking and making fun of adversaries, declaring that he alone can fix things, and asking foreign nations to help him get re-elected. This is the behavior of an autocrat, and acquitting him now will only allow this behavior to continue.

I have asked colleagues why they think the Republican Party has become the party of Trump. Fear of him they think is the reason. They listed fear of Trump’s Twitter attacks; fear that voters in their home districts will turn on them; fear that McConnell will take them off his list for PAC and lobby money; and in some cases even fear of physical harm. Maybe some Senate leaders even see a safe and powerful place for themselves in an autocracy.

When watching the State of the Union address, I suggest that you look for and evaluate details. How clearly does he give real substance to his claims? Also compare the tone of this “written for him” speech to his off-the-cuff and rambling pronouncements as president. Who is the real Trump?

This much is clear: With this acquittal the checks and balances system that our founding fathers designed to save us from a dictatorship could be coming to an end.

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Are Democrats positioned to win the 2020 election? Here is what the party should have done before the primary season ever began:

  1. The national party should have begun with a “nation branding” statement about the founding of America, their vision for how to unite the country, and steps to recapture world leadership.
  2. Basic talking points should have been written early on about why the current president must not be re-elected. These should have been used by every Democrat all season long.
  3. Each candidate’s team should have been asked to shout the party’s branding statement and never-Trump talking points at every event.
  4. Each team’s plan for addressing bread and butter issues would still have been central to the campaign… i.e. healthcare, climate change, middle class wages, education, safety, energy, etc.
  5. Town hall briefings, covered by news media, should have replaced the crowded and too frequent debates.
  6. National debates between front runners could still be staged later in the spring.
  7. And criteria could still be developed to determine exactly what it will take to win, and also get things done.

Without this kind of coordinated planning can Democrats still get their act together? Maybe so. But my analysis suggests that party leadership and democrats everywhere should be worried.      

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Here is a list of comments from an interesting conversation with two lifelong Republicans:

  1. Many of Trump’s actions have helped business: Eliminating environmental restrictions and reduced taxes.
  2. An increase in overall number of jobs happened on his watch.
  3. The economy is doing well overall.
  4. He reduced the number of immigrants, who have been taking our jobs.
  5. He also increased what NATO allies pay for their membership.
  6. As lifelong Republicans, we see no reason to change now.
  7. As for ethical issues, every president has carried lots of baggage. This one is no different.
  8. Every politician that made it to the presidency did so because God had a plan for them. This president supports “right to life,” and speaks in support of Evangelical groups.
  9. But, admittedly, we hate his tweets.

For the above reasons, these Republicans found it easy to overlook:

  1. Asking foreign countries to help with his re-election.
  2. Treating his staff as a dictator would.
  3. Delaying aid to a foreign country that was specifically approved by Congress.
  4. Lying constantly, even when it is not necessary.
  5. Making comments every day that further divide the country.
  6. Increasing the country’s deficit without concern.
  7. Personally profiting from the presidency.
  8. Denying scientific findings about the ravages of climate change.
  9. Declaring that only he can fix the world.  

After winning a hard-fought revolution against a monarch the last thing our founding fathers would want is an autocrat in the White House.  So no matter your politics… and even more than agreeing on impeachment, maybe what we all really need right now is a president who will make good things happen at home and abroad, and never cozy up to dictators.

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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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