Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tips to help you ace a media interview

1. Make a plan for the interview.
What would you like to see in the resulting media coverage? What two or three key messages do you want to relay? If you go into an interview and just answer questions without a thought for what you want the audience to know, you yield control of the interview to the journalist. Be prepared and know in advance what your goals are for the interview.
2. Ask the question you want to answer.
Don't wait for the reporter to ask the question you want to answer. She might not ask it. Instead, segue into the topic you want to discuss. For example:
"What really matters is ______."
"The most important issue is ______."
"The more interesting question is ______."
3. Avoid technical answers.
When you talk above people's heads, you drive them away. Answer as simply as possible, and without jargon.
4. Stick to what the reporter asks and what you want to say.
There's no need to volunteer additional information. This goes back to planning what your goals are for the interview. You should know what you'd like to communicate from the start, and stick to that information as much as possible. More is not better; answer questions briefly. When you give long-winded answers, you give the journalist the power to choose which parts of your answer to use and omit.
5. If you don't know the answer, just say so.
There's nothing wrong with saying you don't know, that there hasn't been decision yet or that you aren't sure of the answer and will report back
6. Don't say "no comment."
There are very few exceptions to this rule. When you say "no comment," you almost always look like you're hiding something. Anticipate difficult questions, and plan an answer that won't hurt you. It's your PR team's job to prep for such questions, with your input, of course.
7. Don't repeat a negative question.
There's no reason to needlessly hurt yourself by repeating a negative question. Simply answer it briefly and bridge to what you want to say.
8. Watch for "gotcha questions."
Gotcha questions are loaded questions that paint you negatively no matter how you answer. The trick is to answer as briefly as possible, and create a bridge from the negative question to the message you want to convey.
For example, say a reporter asks, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" Answer with, "I never started."Think about it: If you answer, "I didn't beat my wife," the headline could easily be, "X denies beating his wife." This is also an example of why you don't want to repeat something negative.
9. Have facts to back up your points.
If you can provide facts and cite the sources, you'll sound much more credible.
10. Don't ask to approve the story before it's published.
This will make you look unprofessional. Journalists will sometimes fact-check information with you, so you can volunteer to be available for any further questions or fact-checks if the journalist wishes.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tips for preventing electronic communication blunders
Ever been in a video conference where you can’t get a word in edgeways? Been forced to mediate as a staffer misinterprets the intent of an email? Had to firefight after a worker publishes a throwaway comment on social media? While virtual communication tools exist, many staffers – and managers – use them poorly. In her recent study, Dr Karin S Moser of Roehampton University says, to prevent these situations from arising, managers need to set clear rules to make sure virtual media is used effectively. This smoothing of communication lines is vital. Trust is the “social glue” of all electronic communication, says Moser. This trust is costly and difficult to regain if lost.Social cues, such as tone of voice and body language, play major roles in human interaction. But because electronic communication does not use these resources, miscommunication can occur. Moser’s tips on virtual collaboration:
1. Know your medium
Staff should be trained in the differences between face-to-face and virtual collaboration. What is implied in human interaction needs to be explicit in electronic communication.
2. Show an example
Leaders should have both experience and understanding of the differences in these forms of communication.
3. Set the tone
Clear rules must be set on how employees should use electronic communications.
4. Mix it up
Lack of informal contact in virtual collaboration must be counterbalanced with more regular communication.
5. Finger on the pulse
Communication should be monitored and changed if necessary.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tips For Staying Calm Under Pressure

·         Strive to not catastrophize
It's easy to dramatize and make something a bigger deal than it is. When you are relating the problem to yourself, avoid the urge to magnify the negative. Strike the words always and whenever. You might feel like Stuart Smalley, but it can really help to re-frame the problem in your mind by saying things like "I can cope," "It's not that big  deal," and "I'm bigger than this."
·         Think before you Share
Don't describe or blog or tweet about the problem. Don't talk it over with your friends right away; let it stew a little in your mind so you can settle down a little. Sometimes, well-meaning friends will sympathize too much, which may only add fuel to your fire and get you even more upset.
·         Discover metaphors and visualizations that help you stay calm
Here's one that helps me: I try to imagine my problem as a knot. The more I panic and pull on the ends, the tighter the knot cinches. But, when I adopt a singular focus, a calm takes over and I can loosen one strand at a time. It might also help if you can visualize yourself acting with patience and focus. Lower your voice and try to move as slowly as possible. Speak slowly and softly. Become the calm, unflappable person you see in your mind. Here's another technique: Do you know anyone whom you would describe as unflappable? Try to think of what this person would do in your situation.
·         Note your patterns of exasperation
Are there any specific situations that cause you to lose your cool? Look at specific patterns -- from time of day, to level of stress (or level of boredom), to blood sugar levels. Do you tend to lose it when it's too noisy – or too quiet? Knowing about your own patterns can go a long way in helping you keep your cool throughout the day.
·         Realize that you can control your emotions
Reflect on times when you were able to successfully stay calm in a frustrating situation. Maybe it was a time when you wanted to yell at your spouse or your kids, but then the doorbell rang and you were able to instantly shift gears. Consider that you might be able to do this repeatedly, as long as you know your triggers and some tips for keeping a calm mindset.
·         Create a calm environment with peaceful rituals
If calm music soothes you, use it. If silence soothes you, use it. Maybe you'll play some soothing instrumental music or maybe you'll dim the lights and light some scented candles. When you are coming home from work, give yourself a few moments to calm your mind before you go charging into an evening at home with your kids. Sit in the car for a few minutes and take some deep breaths. Kick off your shoes and sip a glass of water. Rituals can also be tremendously soothing during the transition periods of your day.
·         Take care of the essentials
Make sure you are getting enough sleep and getting enough protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. I tend to lose my temper way more often  if I'm low on blood sugar. But, get a little protein in me, and it's (relatively) smooth sailing .Also make sure you are getting  physical exercise. A daily workout can give you the physical release that can help you control your anxiety. If I'm feeling particularly stressed, I trade my half-hour run for a half hour of kickboxing. This helps. Stay away from too much sugar and caffeine and stay hydrated. Drink a tall glass of water and see if you feel better, more calm and alert.
·         Focus on the mind and spirit, too
Depending on your spiritual tradition, engage in a routine of meditation or prayer. Practice yoga - or just sit quietly for awhile. Developing peace of mind is a skill that will serve you well your whole life through. Take a meditation class, and learn techniques to help you get control over your monkey mind.
·         Distract yourself
Instead of ruminating, find something fun, engaging, and constructive to do. Try to laugh (or laugh at yourself.) Watch a funny movie or read a blog that always make you laugh. When you lighten up, it's a lot easier to keep your cool.
·         Take a day off
I always know I really need a day off when I fight like crazy to not take one. If I can force myself to take an entire day away from my work, I always come back more calm, assured, and filled with fresh ideas.
·         Don't forget to breathe
When my kids were very small, we helped them to calm down by teaching them belly breathing, and it still works  for them and for me. Diaphragmatic breathing helps you alleviate your stress in the moment and it gives you a minute or two to calm down, often just long enough for you to assess the situation and help you regain your sense of control .In a good belly breath, your belly will actually rise and fall. To practice, put your hand on your belly. Inhale through your nose and see if your hand rises as you breathe in. Hold the breath for a few counts and slowly breathe out.
·         Reflect on quotes that can help you calm your mind

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Media: Preparing a winning strategy – Managing a media crisis
As much as we all like to deal only in good news, things can and do go wrong.  Mistakes, problems, slip-ups, errors of judgement, political controversies or accidents come along once in a while and with them can come the media spotlight.
If your group finds itself in the midst of a media furore the last thing that you want to happen is for an incident to build into a full-blown crisis.
Having such a crisis on your hands can cause long-term damage to your group, mainly through the loss of public confidence. This can lead to a loss of public support, fewer members, supporters, volunteers or helpers and can also hit your group's bottom line through people being reluctant to donate to your group.
Whatever the reason was for the incident, the first priority for your group is to fix it. Make sure there is no ongoing risk to the public and that there are steps in place to ensure there is no chance if the same thing happening again.
The next things your group need to do is deal with the media and prevent a media crisis.

Prepare for the Crisis
The best way of preparing for media frenzy is to have developed a plan on how your group is going to deal with such situations.That way, if something does happen and the media come calling, you will have a crisis communications plan prepared.
That plan should make sure your group has:
An appointed spokesperson (or, possibly a couple of spokespeople, in case one is unavailable) to whom inquiries and the media should be referred.
A definite process in place so your group's members know who is going to speak to the media if an incident occurs. It is vitally important all group members are clear on procedure and who to refer the media to in case they receive calls or inquiries from them.A method whereby senior group members or leaders can quickly get together and gather information so they are well-briefed for media inquiries on any situation or issue.A way in which spokespeople can quickly respond to the media with accurateinformation. The aim of this sort of plan should be to allow clear and accurate communication to the public and to your group's members, donors, stakeholders, supporters, volunteers and fundraisers through the media. It should also aim to stop any long-term damage to your group or any erosion in its public confidence.What should you do when the media contacts you about something that has gone wrong and it involves your group?

Don't run. Don't hide.
The first and most instinctive reaction for many groups, especially those not used to having the media spotlight shone on them with any intensity is to run from the situation and hide.

Simply put – don't do it.
Trying to avoid the problem, or ignore it, in the hope it will go away will not work and you risk damaging your group's good name in the process.
The reality is that the media will run the story with or without your input. So it makes good sense for you to positively influence that story by addressing the issue quickly, accurately and in a proactive manner. What you want to do is influence the nature of that story, as much as possible, to ensure that what is run is accurate and fair. It is difficult to complain about not having your side of the story aired when you have refused to provide it. An important aspect of any media crisis is getting across strongly and clearly that your group is doing everything in its power to address the issue.Organisations that come out of a media crisis with their reputations intact are those that deal with the issue quickly, effectively, honestly and, just as importantly, are perceived to have done exactly that. So how does a small non-profit organisation with no money for public relations expertise deal with the situation?
Tips on handling the media through a crisis

·         Acknowledge there is a crisis.
If you can't acknowledge there's a problem, how can you find a solution?
By recognising early on that you actually have a crisis on your hands, gives you more of a chance of handling it successfully and rectifying it quickly. The sooner you take action, the better your chances of coming out with your reputation intact.
Decide who will be your group's spokesman or public face.
Where possible ensure it is the highest-ranking person in your group who has the important mix of authority and access to all the latest information.
You also need to have someone who is accessible and readily available to answer the media's questions. Your group needs to stay on top of a crisis, not create a vacuum where yours is the only voice not being heard.

·         Stay calm.
It's important you stay calm under pressure, if you can't swap places with someone who can. Anger makes good copy for newspapers and great footage for television but it can spell disaster for your group.Remember, you have developed a crisis communications plan for this very reason – so stick to it and you can remain calm.

·         Address your "real" audience through the media.
The media may be chasing you for a comment, but it's the public – the general public as well as your members, donors, volunteers, helpers, supporters and stakeholders that you want to address and have hear your side of the story.Remember you are not speaking to just the media, they are a conduit to the wider public. So speak constructively, positively and frame your responses with the real audience in mind.

·         Make first impressions count.
First impressions count both the public and the media and are vital in getting your message across.   If you are honest, sincere, open, committed to resolving the issue and project a positive attitude it will go a long way to dispelling any negative or preconceived notions about your group.

·         Work out what you can legally release.
If there are legal issues that come into play, be aware of where the line is drawn on what you can say and don't step over it. Also be aware that many legal advisers will advise you to say nothing at all – that advice should be questioned, if not challenged. You have to publicly address the issue; it is only the manner or amount of information that is up for discussion.

·         Release as much as you can as quickly as you can.
Linked to the last point is the need for your group to get as much information out into the public arena as quickly as possible.Your crisis communications plan should cover the procedure for quickly gathering accurate information about the issue at hand. Once you have the information, it is vital that it is passed on to your nominated spokesperson and communicated through the media.  The more information you can release quickly, which accurately conveys your side of the story in context, the better. The sooner you respond and show that you are acting in a sincere, honest and reliable manner, the sooner your voice is listened to and trusted.

·         Say only what you know to be true.
If you don't know the answer, don't guess at it.Stick to confirmed information only and facts you know to be accurate and correct. If necessary, tell the reporters you don't know but will check it out and get back to them.

·         Avoid speculation or answering hypothetical questions.
Often you are asked to speculate, even if it is in a subtle way, for example: "What will your group do if this is proven to be true?" Don't speculate - stick to the facts and what did happen, not what might have. You can fend questions off by saying things such as "I don't want to speculate on that" or "I would prefer not to deal in hypotheticals. What we do know is ….."If you have to use these types of quotes repeatedly to fend of questions, that's fine, the assembled media will soon realise you are not going to speculate.

·         Challenge information you know to be wrong.
When dealing with information you know is wrong, challenge it strongly.  If something is published that is incorrect let the media organisation know their information is wrong and let other organisations know also, so they don't repeat it.This is particularly important if the problem revolves completely around a wrong or malicious story. To deal with unfounded allegations and emerge with your credibility and standing intact, it is crucial to act quickly to clarify your group's position on the matter.Wrong "facts" left unchallenged are often more damaging than the truth.

·         Speak in common, easily understood language.
Avoid jargon. Speak so that people can actually understand the message you are trying to send them.

·         Show concern.
As a community group, your main mission is to care for, service and support the community.  Because of this, it needs to be mindful of the feelings as well as the issues. If something has happened that has caused injury or distress, show concern and show it publicly through word and deed.

·         Ban the words "no comment".
Repeating this phrase makes it sound like you know the answer but just do not wish to give it.
Phrases you can use instead include:
"All I can say is ……."
"I can't provide that information until I have all the details …."
"I can't answer that until I have a full report."
"I am happy to try and answer those questions once I have spoken to the right people ……."
Don't bother blaming the media.
Your first priority is to address the problem at hand, not to "shoot the messenger".
Certainly, if there is something wrong in the coverage, point it out and seek to have the record amended.  If it is a serious issue you want to be seen to be treating it seriously and dealing with it

·         Consider bringing the media into your organisation.

Hold frequent media briefings rather than have reporters camped on the nature strip.It lets them show how you are dealing with the crisis and the difficulties and problems you face, that you are human and that you have nothing to hide.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Working with the media
Reporters want newsworthy stories. Generally, this means that they are looking for controversy. Lobbyists and politicians on the other hand generally are trying to build consensus. Controversy and consensus work against one-another. The best way to manage the opposing forces is to build relationships with reporters and share with them the stories you can in plain terms. The benefit is hopefully that you can build support for your issues in a positive way and move your lobbying agenda forward.
Identifying Media Contacts:
You need to find the right reporters for the right stories. Contact different media outlets that you think would be useful and find out who the best reporter is for your issue. Unfortunately, there is a lot of turnover in the media so you need to keep you contacts updated every few months. Make sure that you are aware of deadlines and the reporter's preferred method for receiving information. For example, a reporter may prefer a fax to an email. You have to ask.
Building Relationships with Reporters:
Keep people in the media on your good side. They have the power to set lobbying and advocacy campaigns back months. Get to you the people who report on your issues. Meet with them, plan site visits for them, etc. If possible, always do interviews face-to-face and know the angle the reporter is taking with respect to the story he or she is writing. You can and should ask. Everything you say to a reporter is on-the-record. You must be honest and you must know what you are talking about. You can and should tell a reported that you need to track down an answer rather than shoot from the hip. Keep the story simple and always thank the reporter for their time.
Traditional Communication Vehicles:
Press releases
Information packets and fact sheets
Press conferences
Individual briefings with reporters or editors
Op-ed articles and letters to the editor
Radio and television appearances
The Internet
Press releases are factual statements. They need to clearly state who, what, where, when, and why accurately, professionally and succinctly.
Op-ed articles and letters to the editor are statements of your point of view on a topic. Op-eds get placed opposite the editorial page and are move visible, but both are useful tools. They are persuasive writings. You want the reader to agree with you. Op-eds combine a newsworthy event topic with your opinion about it. Write the piece in simple, interesting terms and support your opinion with specifics.Letters to the editor are direct responses to news or events. They must be written within a day of the news or event. They should be written in the same way as an op-ed.
Preparing for an Interview or Media Appearance
A reporter will call you and ask for an interview about a topic. You should respond as soon as you can or risk that they will contact someone else. Check the reporter's deadline and try to meet face-to-face. Be friendly. Make sure you have good simple talking points and be relaxed. Remember that you are speaking to the public and if you don't know the answer it is acceptable to say so.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Social Media Safety Tips For Women, Girls

1.      No Such Thing as Private The internet is like an elephant -- it never forgets. While spoken words leave little trace and are quickly forgotten, written words endure in the online environment. Whatever you post, tweet, update, share -- even if it's deleted immediately afterwards -- has the potential to be captured by someone, somewhere, without your knowledge. This is especially true of social networking sites including private messages shared between two people and postings to a private group. There is no such thing as "private" in the world of social media because anything you put up can potentially be grabbed, copied, saved on someone else's computer and mirrored on other sites -- not to mention hacked by thieves or subpoenaed by law enforcement agencies.

2.      A Little Bird Told Me Every time you use Twitter; the government keeps a copy of your tweets. Sounds crazy, but it's true. According to the Library of Congress blog: "Every public tweet, ever, since Twitter's inception in March 2006, will be archived digitally at the Library of Congress.... Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets every day, with the total numbering in the billions." And experts predict the information will be searched and used in ways we can't even imagine. (This gives new meaning to the phrase "A little bird told me...")
3.      X Marks the Spot Be cautious about using geo-location services, apps, Foursquare, or any method which shares where you're at. When it was first introduced, Face book’s "Places" feature gave tech writer Sam Diaz pause: "Guests at a party at my home could turn my home address into a public 'place' on Facebook and my only recourse is to flag my address to have it removed... If we’re all at a concert...and a friend checks in with Places, he can 'tag' the people who he’s with - just as if you were tagging a person in a photo." Unlike Diaz, CarrieBugbee -- a social media strategist -- had fun using these services until a cyber stalking incident changed her mind. One evening, while dining at a restaurant she had "checked in" at using Foursquare, Bugbee was told by the hostess that there was a call for her on the restaurant's phone line. When she picked up, an anonymous man warned her about using Foursquare because she could be found by certain people; and when she tried to laugh it off, he began verbally abusing her. Stories like this may be why far fewer women use geo-location services as compared to men; many are afraid of making themselves more vulnerable to cyberstalking.
4.      Separate Work and Family Keep your family safe, especially if you have a high profile position or work in a field that may expose you to high-risk individuals. Some women have more than one social networking account: one for their professional/public lives and one that's restricted to personal concerns and only involves family and close friends. If this applies to you, make it clear to family/friends to post only to your personal account, not your professional page; and don't let the names of spouses, children, relatives, parents, siblings appear there to protect their privacy. Don't let yourself be tagged in events, activities or photos that may reveal personal details about your life. If they show up, delete them first and explain later to the tagger; better safe than sorry.
5.      How Old Are You Now? If you must share your birthday, never put down the year in which you were born. Using the month and day are acceptable, but adding the year provides an opportunity for identity theft.
6.      It's Your Fault If its Default Keep track of your privacy settings and check them on a regular basis or at least monthly. Do not assume that the default setting will keep you safe. Many social networking sites frequently update and change settings, and often the defaults tend to make public more information than you may be willing to share. If an upcoming update is advertised in advance, be proactive and investigate it before it launches; it may offer a window during which you can privately edit or remove content before it goes live. If you wait until your account automatically switches over, your information may go public before you have a chance to deal with it.
7.      Review Before Posting Make sure your privacy settings enable you to review content in which you've been tagged by friends before they appear publicly on your page. This should include posts, notes, and photos. It may seem tedious, but it's much easier to deal with a small amount each day than to have to go back through weeks, months and even years to ensure that any and all content related to you puts forth an image you're comfortable living with.
8.      It's A Family Affair Make it clear to family members that the best way of communicating with you is through private messaging or email -- not posting on your page. Often, relatives who are new to social media don't understand the difference between public and private conversations and how they take place online. Don't hesitate to delete something that is too personal for fear of hurting Grandma's feelings -- just make sure you message her privately to explain your actions, or better yet, call her on the phone.
9.      You Play, You Pay...in Loss of Privacy Online games, quizzes, and other entertainment apps are fun, but they often pull information from your page and post it without your knowledge. Make sure that you know the guidelines of any app, game or service and do not allow it unfettered access to your information. Likewise, be cautious about responding to notes shared by friends along the lines of "10 Things You Didn't Know About Me." When you answer these and post them, you're revealing personal details about yourself that may enable others to figure out your address, your workplace, the name of your pet or your mother's maiden name (often used as an online security question), or even your password. Do enough of these over time and someone who is determined to learn all about you can read the answers, cross-reference information obtained through your friends' pages, and glean a surprising amount from these seemingly casual revelations.
10.  How Do I Know You? Never accept a friend request from someone you don't know. This may seem like a no-brainer, but even when someone appears as a mutual friend of a friend or several friends think twice about accepting unless you can concretely identify who they are and how they're connected to you. In many professional circles involving large organizations, all an "outsider" has to do is obtain one friend on the inside and it snowballs from there, with others thinking that a total stranger with no personal connection is an unfamiliar co-worker or occasional business associate.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Social TV: How to Build a TV Audience

A new Nielsen study involving Twitter shows that social media can help a TV show's ratings, not hurt them. While that was  more  true for reality TV than serious dramas, Nielsen found that in nearly one-third of the TV program episodes studied, Twitter had an effect on ratings.
In the beginning, TV networks started putting Twitter hash tags on screen as a way to generate conversation. Usually it was just a "#" followed by the name of the program in a corner of the screen.

That has evolved into putting a show's stars Twitter handles on the screen, or even their personal tweets or those of viewers. Twitter seems especially geared toward the social TV blending, because hash tags and tweets are easy to display.

Media pros who use Twitter to build their brand now need to focus on ways to generate conversations from others. That may mean asking a question on screen to get people talking. It could be as simple as a local station asking its viewers to tweet about how much snow they have outside their homes to generating a discussion about a prime time network drama's plot twist.

Just like with the 2013 cable TV movie phenomenon Sharknado, people start seeing a conversation on Twitter, then flip on the TV to see what people are talking about. If you can get a star to tweet about the show while it's on air, that's an extra bonus.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Election Night Coverage Tips For Reporters

Do Your Research to Interpret the Incoming Election Returns
In the months leading up to election night, critics often blast the media for offering only horse race coverage of the candidates. That is, just sticking to saying who's up and who's down and never taking the time to find out the real issues that matter most to voters. That's sometimes a fair criticism. But on election night, the numbers are what's important, and you can offer interpretation to help your audience understand what is happening as the votes are counted. Before starting election night coverage, know where the candidates are the strongest and weakest. In a presidential election, that means concentrating on key states. But even if you're covering a race for mayor, there's bound to be a side of town where one candidate is strong and another is weak. By having that critical information, you can report that a candidate who was expected to do poorly on the south side of the city did much better than expected. Or you can say that a candidate who is running behind at the moment is still waiting on returns from precincts in her neighborhood, which give her a chance to mount a comeback. This analysis depends on your knowledge of the territory and what the numbers really mean.

Present Unemotional On-Air Election Night Coverage
A reporter standing in a candidate's election night campaign headquarters will be surrounded by highly emotional people. It's important to never let that infect your on-air reporting. If the candidate is winning big, there will be a party atmosphere. Don't get so caught up in the moment that you appear to be part of the campaign by saying, "We're having a great time," "We're winning," or by dancing along to the music. On the flip side, if the candidate you're covering is losing, keep your normal vocal delivery. Don't sound disappointed or sad. By keeping your professional distance from the mood of the room, you will avoid accusations of political bias by not appearing to be too chummy with the candidate. You can report on what everyone is feeling during your election night coverage, just don't let it be reflected in your voice or actions.

Move the Story Forward Once the Results Are Known
Usually before the night is over, you will know who has won the race. As long as you have enough awareness of the political process to realize there won't be a runoff or a recount, you can shift to reporting on the future. That means you can stop asking the winning candidate and his supporters if they are happy they won the election and start asking about his administration. You are getting a jump on tomorrow's headlines by finding out what he wants to do in his first 100 days on the job and who among his campaign team he'll hire once he gets into office. A losing candidate can certainly be asked what's next, whether he'll ever run again and why he thinks he got beat. If you have to cover both the winning and losing candidates, mention which issues decided the race, which demographic groups determined the outcome and how government will change based on the new faces taking leadership roles. Election night coverage can be both exciting and intimidating. You'll end up the winner by doing the necessary homework to give you the confidence you need to think on your feet.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Is There Liberal Media Bias

Liberal Media Bias: The Claim
Because politics is a blood sport, any time the news media reports a story perceived to be negative against a candidate or government leader, there's often an immediate accusation that the reporter, her managers or corporate owners are "out to get" the helpless politician who's simply trying to help the people. It's more common to hear accusations of liberal media bias, rather than conservative media bias .The media misconception that some want to create is of secret meetings taking place, in media companies across the country, where reporters are given orders on how to slant the news so that there's a liberal political benefit. Before a story is published on-air, online or in print, it is distorted so that liberal political viewpoints are promoted, while conservative beliefs are suppressed.

Liberal Media Bias: The Evidence
Claims of liberal media bias go back decades. The Nixon administration said the news media was biased against the U.S. war in Vietnam and the constant negative reports were taking a toll on U.S. military efforts. Then-presidential candidate George H.W. Bush called reporters "mournful pundits" for describing his sputtering 1980 campaign. Then there's the 2008 presidential election. Media outlets were criticized for helping Barack Obama win the White House, while portraying the John McCain/Sarah Palin ticket as badly as possible. The Katie Couric interview that skewered Palin is one example they say backs up their point.

Liberal Media Bias: The Counterclaim
News reporters did indeed criticize U.S. military efforts in Vietnam. CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite, one of the 10 TV legends, returned from a trip to Vietnam to say the war was not winnable. It was one of 12 events that changed news coverage. But President Lyndon B. Johnson, a liberal Democrat, was still in the White House. Not only has that, but evidence shows Cronkite had not set out to doom U.S. chanced in Vietnam. In fact, his earlier reports had been positive. As for the 2008 presidential campaign, media attention focused on the Democratic race for president because of its historic nature -- the nominee was either going to be Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. The storyline was more exciting than the contest on the Republican side .But while some say Republican nominee John McCain did not get favorable coverage, he had long been considered a favorite of news reporters. Part of that was because of his "Straight Talk Express" bus during the 2000 election. Reporters had nearly non-stop access to McCain as they all traveled the countryside during that year's Republican primaries.

Liberal Media Bias: The Bottom Line
When discussing allegations of liberal media bias, it's important to define the media. Hollywood stars, like liberal George Clooney aren't shy about expressing their political views or working to elect candidates. Oprah Winfrey is credited with giving Obama the boost he needed to overtake Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primaries, although she faced a backlash from some viewers for turning her back on a female candidate. Neither Clooney nor Winfrey is bound by the same ethical standards of traditional news reporters, who are well advised not to get too chummy with political candidates. Talk show hosts, like Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, present slanted TV programs that shouldn't be considered straight news. While she's politically liberal, she's offset by Sean Hannity and other conservatives on Fox News Channel. Traditional news media outlets sometimes present news stories that are critical of presidential administrations or campaigns, as Cronkite did generations ago. To avoid accusations of bias, those reports must meet standards of accuracy and balance. For those working in news media, part of being a watchdog over government officials is withstanding criticism. For viewers, getting news from a variety of sources, even from talk show hosts with opposing viewpoints, assures exposure to all sides of political issues.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

News Writing For Twitter

Keep Your News Tweets Short
This sounds obvious because no tweet can go beyond the character limit. But look at a page of tweets to test your own eyes. How many times do you stop at a post that is 130-140 characters? Look at the posts that are 50-75 characters and notice the white space around the tweet. That blank space can be as important to your tweet as it is in print media. While the tendency is to use every pixel of the 140-character space that is available to you, your tweet will stand out more if it's shorter, especially if it's sandwiched between other tweets that reach the character limit.

Use All-Caps to Introduce Your News
Capital letters don't count against you when Twitter calculates the number of characters in your tweet. Yet those capital letters can set your tweet apart from all the rest, provided they are used carefully. Treat them as a headline or a dateline in your tweet to grab attention:"BREAKING NEWS: A fire off Interstate 10 has closed several lanes of traffic.""WASHINGTON, DC: Pres. Obama has laid out his economic proposals."The key is to keep it short. You don't want your users to think you're yelling at them. By creating this type of prefix before the main content of your tweet, you may find you can save a few precious characters. You don't have to write, "This is breaking news" or "From Washington, DC".

Look at Your Logo
Technically, this isn't part of writing a tweet, but it is a critical element in making Twitter more effective for you. Scan a list of tweets and some logos stand out, while others fade into the crowd. Just as there is a tendency to cram too much writing into a tweet, it's not hard to spot a logo that is way too detailed for Twitter purposes. Simple is best. Even if your media outlet has a long name, like the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper, fight the urge to put the entire name in your Twitter logo. In the case of this paper, the logo is a lower-case "ajc" inside a simple blue circle, not the intricate script used for the print edition's masthead. Newsweek uses a capital "N" in the same font and color scheme that you'll find on the cover of the magazine. You can make Twitter an effective tool by going against the grain of how most people use it. Simple, bold and visual are the three aspects of Twitter writing that will keep your characters from being lost in the clutter.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Writing business retail stories without sounding like a commercial

Decide the Focus of Your Story
If you're doing a vague, unprepared story on car sales, you can bet every dealership will tell you that sales are great, inventory is low, prices are down and shoppers better act quickly to get the car they want. Sound like a commercial? That's because you didn't ask focused questions. Decide what information you want to get from the car dealership. Is there a type of vehicle that is selling better than another? Is the recent credit crunch having an impact on shoppers getting financing? Those specific questions will give you newsy information and not just the standard sales pitch. If the manager wants to talk about how sales are up across the board, that can be news also. Just ask for some data to back it up. Its okay to report good sales news as long as it is accurate and not just an empty statement.
Look at the Big Picture
You may be assigned a story on Christmas shopping, but only have enough time to go to Target to produce your taped report that you'll introduce Live on the 6:00 news. You can unknowingly make it look like your story is "Christmas at Target", rather than Christmas shopping in general. That's because your videographer shoots your Live shot with the store's large lighted sign in the background. Then your taped piece features all the hot items at Target, clips of Target shoppers, and an interview with a Target manager who says it's the best holiday shopping season in Target history. Viewers may be led to wonder how much the store paid for the story. The easy excuse is, "Well, I only had time to go to one place." But by using the telephone or the Internet, you can do a story on the big picture of Christmas shopping, rather than a narrow story on one store. By calling around, you could say in your story, "Business isn't just brisk at this Target. We found that Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Sears are equally crowded." That one line broadens your story and makes it appear more complete. Using the Internet as a research tool can accomplish the same thing, especially to get information on the national level -- "While Target expects its sales to be up 3% nationwide, executives at Wal-Mart are more optimistic, saying they forecast a 5% boost in Christmas spending."
Talk to Plenty of Shoppers
A mall manager may tell you the economy has rebounded and sales are the highest in years. If you want to find out whether that rosy outlook is simply spin, talk to the shoppers. They will validate or contradict what the manager has told you.  Look around a mall on Mother's Day weekend and you'll see plenty of people carrying shopping bags. But by talking to shoppers, you may find they are buying cards and candy instead of jewelry or other expensive items. So there's more to the story than just "sales are up."Shoppers will be more candid with you because they have nothing to gain or lose. Use them as the backbone of your story, then take the information they give you to interview the manager. That will give you some meaty information like, "While crowds are hitting the mall for Mother's Day weekend, they are choosing less expensive gifts this year." Then, the mall managers will tell you if they are content just to get foot traffic, even if they don't achieve the sales dollars they had hoped. Retail business stories often turn into commercials because of a lack of preparation. That lazy approach is what gives store managers the opportunity to use you for their own gain. Taking effort before and during the newsgathering process will give yourself specific information you need to write a compelling news story.