Posted by Amanda Chapel
“And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him an adulteress. And they said unto him: ‘Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act! Now Moses commanded us, that such should be stoned. But what sayest thou?’ And when they continued asking him, he said unto them, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.’ And they being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one. – John 8:3-9
Forgetaboutit. Today... she’d so be a goner. Not for respect for the Law, rather, for the mere sport. Today, forget the career in “plastics;” sell stones for Christ’s sake.
Well, obviously, I am known to exaggerate a little. There are some vestiges of His ideal that remain. I can call my brother a total douche bag; but let someone else say that. There’ll be hell to pay and at least one stone upside an ear.
I am reminded of this as last weekend I spent the day with my dear friend Ellen, a producer over at Channel 7. We were out having a grand-ole time until we ran into a few of her colleagues. You had to see the uncomfortable grimace on Ellen’s face as she dropped the bomb that I was a "PR person." Then, of course, the judgmental little acknowledgments, “Oh... that's great.” Spiteful little vipers.
EXCUSE ME! No one judges me; and no one judges mine. I'll absolutely pick up the first stone.
With that in mind, here are four stones for the PR Business. Put at least one in your pocket for the next time the media gives you a sneer.
Katie Couric, (Soon to be former?) CBS Evening News Anchor
What on earth was Katie Couric thinking giving an interview to New York magazine?
Forgetting for a moment that the magazine wrote a biting article about her being a "diva" two years ago, there are several hard facts that argued for a strong "decline" to the interview request: Her ratings as anchor of The CBS Evening News are an embarrassment, her whopping $15 million a year has siphoned off enough of CBS's news budget to make bitter, jealous enemies of her much lesser-paid colleagues, her ghost blogger got caught plagiarizing the Wall Street Journal, she's making headlines for getting slap-happy over "sputum" and, judging (albeit in hindsight) by her comments to the magazine, she doesn't have much of a vision to turn things around.
No surprise, the article was as one would expect (well, everyone except Katie) de facto defensive. The folks at CBS were no doubt second-guessing her decision to grant the interview the moment they saw last week’s cover photo of their solemn, ill-lit anchor with a deer-in-the headlights look on her face with the prominent words "Oh my God, what did I do?" scratched below. What a coincidence: CBS News boss Sean McManus is asking himself the very same question.
Fortunately for Couric, New York readers are just too hip to watch a network nightly newscast even after reading such bold, confidence-inspiring assertions such as "I mean, of course, I'm human. I'm not going around, 'Dee-da dee-da dee'. I have days when I'm like, "Oh my God, what did I do?" (As an aside, who did her pre-interview prep work -- a Valley Girl?) Truth is, without Couric's participation, chances are rather strong that New York would not have had a story to run, much less a cover story. You know, sometimes it really is ok to decline to comment.
Let’s just say that if Ed Bernays were alive today and read Couric’s interview in New York, he would have developed a very severe case of sputum.
Don Imus, Former Syndicated Radio Host
I’m still mesmerized by Don Imus and the PR train wreck he created with the Rutgers University women's basketball incident.
Let's face it, had he not been such an ignoramus -- or more accurately an ignorimus -- from the get-go, it never would have turned into such an unnecessary, undeserved feeding frenzy. Don't get me wrong, what Imus said was distasteful, repugnant, and every other synonym my thesaurus can come up with for the word "offensive." But I’m not buying the notion that the incident proves him a racist.
Imus essentially sealed his fate when he agreed to go on Reverend Al Sharpton's radio show to plead for forgiveness. You never accept an "I double-dog dare you" invitation if you don't have anything to gain or a good chance of gaining it. But Imus had no such shot at being forgiven, for making the Sharpton media circus pack up its tent. Sharpton didn't want Imus' atonement; he wanted relevancy and Imus handed it to him free and clear.
The one comment I would have given when Sharpton started his condemnations? "As I'm sure Steven Pagones would agree, Al Sharpton is hardly the best one to go to for moral guidance." Done. Goodbye, relevancy.
Imus could have saved his job – and probably boosted his ratings – had he done his mea culpa on his own show, and then voluntarily gone for sensitivity training with his cohorts. As part of his rehabilitation, he could have invited some university professors to his show to talk about how slang can be used to reinforce stereotypes and foster ill-will and hate. Almost anything would have been a better way to manage that crisis.
Imus stumbled because he allowed Sharpton to trip him. Say what you want to say about the guy, but Reverend Al could teach a master's course on spotting media opportunities and exploiting them to maximum advantage. I can hear the Learning Annex dialing him now…
CNBC Anchor Maria Bartiromo and CNBC news programming head Jonathan Wald
Word has it that Bartiromo herself was among those responsible for nixing a report one of her own CNBC colleagues was chasing about her unusually close relationship with Todd Thomson, at the time the head of Citigroup's global wealth management division, and the waves it was creating within the banking company. (I can’t help but imagine Thomson roaming the halls of Citigroup singing the West Side Story classic “Maria, I’ll never stop saying Maria,” at the top of his lungs.)
The story, of course, came out anyway. CNBC got scooped on its own exclusive by the Wall Street Journal, which The New York Times (and others) then ran with for weeks on end. Had CNBC allowed its reporter, Charlie Gasparino, to break the story, the network could have taken control of the controversy and made it one of CNBC's prouder moments. Media pundits would have hailed CNBC for breaking a story that was damaging to its own interests.
When the news hit – including coverage of how CNBC killed the story -- CNBC news programming head Jonathan Wald could have gone on air saying some errors in judgment were made, measures have been taken to ensure they don't happen again, the network firmly stands behind Maria, yada yada yada.
Instead, Wald said: "We did not air (Gasparino's story) because it was not adequately sourced. It didn't meet our criteria from a journalist's standpoint, and it clearly wouldn't have met our lawyers' criteria." Thank God Wald wasn’t head of CBS News in the days of Edward R. Murrow.
Hey, Jonathan, I just can’t help but ask: If you were so worried about the sourcing of Gasparino’s story, why didn’t you just ask Maria if the story was accurate?
Jared Paul Stern, former columnist New York Post’s Page Six
You got to have a pair of really big cajones – or be incredibly desperate – to send a veiled threat to Col Allan’s New York Post.
Stern sent the Post a…oh, let's avoid litigation and just call it a "request for money" along with a list of alleged naughty deeds by Post staffers that would embarrass them and the paper itself should those misdeeds ever become public knowledge. Rather than capitulate to the request for funds or worse, risk Stern taking his laundry list to their cross town rival The Daily News, the Post flipped the scandal back on Stern and broke the story itself. While the Post didn't print every allegation, it printed enough of the juiciest ones to thwart Stern from trying to pedal the rest of them elsewhere.
If Col Allan ever decides to switch to a career in PR, look out Michael Sitrick!
Judge me not.
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