So Huffington Post lets the world know how it really feels about Trump

Trump on HuffPoThe Huffington Post has been making no secret of its distain for Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.  But this week they’ve either hit new records for transparency or contempt (you decide).  According to a blog post from Politico, the HuffPo will print the following at the end of all future stories about Trump:

Note to our readers: Donald Trump is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynistbirther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

What do you think? Is the HuffPo being:

  • honest,
  • transparent,
  • snarky,
  • biased,
  • offensive,
  • all of the above?
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“I need some muscle over here” – The rest of the story

Melissa Click, an assistant professor of communication at University of Missouri’s Department of Communication who became briefly last fall when she called for “some muscle” to help get rid of a student photographer and a videographer covering campus protests, has been charged with misdemeanor assault, according to a story from the New York Times.

According the Times report on a  a campus police warrant, Click “assaulted a videographer ‘ by grabbing at his camera with her hand and attempting to knock it from his grasp’ and ‘by calling out and asking for other people in the area at the time to forcefully remove him.'”

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What kind of cancer was it? And why do we care?

If you’ve been following the recent series of deaths in the entertainment world, you likely noticed that both Alan Rickman and David Bowie died of cancer.  What kind? The otherwise very specific obits did not mention that fact.

The Washington Post had an excellent article today examining the question of why the obits omitted the type of caner.  Post obituary editor Adam Bernstein told reporter Ian Shapira:

“If we pus too much, it carries the risk of sound to the family like we have a lurid obsession. But ‘cancer’ is very general. It’s like saying someone died of a ‘disease.’ Well, what kind of disease?”

There can be a range of reasons someone wants to keep information about the type of cancer private – especially when the type might imply something negative about the person.  For example, people with lung cancer are often blamed for their own death because they were smokers, or liver cancer because of alcohol or drug abuse.

I can understand that, but I also think that it is good for all of us to understand that these diseases are evil things and that we should not be blaming the patient for their own suffering.  And, as a cancer survivor myself, I think it is essential we focus on the detection and treatment of cancer rather than looking for people to blame. (I had a stage 1 melenoma on my upper arm about 14 years ago.)  I will also confess that as a journalist I am always curious as to why people die.  I always look for cause of death in obits, and I’m always sorry when I don’t find it, especially for a younger person.

For the rest of you who think too much a about these sorts of things, I highly recommend Carl Hiaasen’s comic mystery novel Basket Case, which tells the story of a somewhat disgraced obit writer who’s trying to track down the story of why singer Jimmy Stoma of Jimmy and the Slut Puppies has died.

(If you go searching, you can find reports that Bowie died of pancreatic cancer or of liver cancer.  None of this has been confirmed by multiple sources, at least as far as I can tell.)

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Martin Luther King, Jr. – A brilliant practitioner of public relations (and that’s a good thing!)

One of the greatest honors of my life was being invited to speak at the Martin Luther King, Jr. candlelight vigil last year at the UNK student union, along with Kevin Chaney, who was then UNK’s women’s basketball coach. 

This year’s vigil will be at 7 p.m. at the Nebraskan Student Union with UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen speaking.  If you are in the area, I urge you to attend as we honor Dr. King

Here’s what I had to say last year:

Visalli-11-10-13When we think of public relations, we think of a professional in a suit trying to persuade us about something related to a large corporation. But not all PR is practiced by big business.

Civil rights leader The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a brilliant understanding of public relations during the campaign to desegregate Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.

The goal of the campaign was to have non-violent demonstrations and resistance to force segregated businesses to open up to African Americans. What King, and the members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, wanted to do was stage a highly visible demonstration that would not only force change in Birmingham, but also grab the attention of the entire American public.

King and his colleagues picked Birmingham because it was one of he most segregated cities in America and because it had Eugene “Bull” Conner as police commissioner.

Conner was a racist who could be counted on to attack the peaceful marchers. Birmingham was a city where black protestors were thrown in jail, and the racists were bombing homes and churches. There was a black neighborhood that had so many bombings it came to be known as Dynamite Hill.

Dr. King and his colleagues had planned demonstrations and boycotts in Birmingham, but held off with them in order to let the political system and negotiations work. But time passed, and nothing changed. Signs were still up at the lunch counters and water fountains, and protestors were still headed to jail.

King and the rest of the SCLC needed to get attention for the plight of African Americans in cities like Birmingham.

They needed to do more than fight back against the racism of segregation. They needed to get Americans of good will in all the churches and synagogues to hear their voices.

Starting in April of 1963, predominantly African American volunteers would march in the streets, hold sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, and boycott local businesses in Birmingham. As the protests started, so did the arrests.

On Good Friday, King and Abernathy joined in the marching so that they would be arrested. While King was in jail, he was given a copy of the Birmingham News, in which there was an article where white Alabama clergy urged the SCLC to stop the demonstrations and boycotts and allow the courts to solve the problem of segregation.

But King was tired of waiting, and so he wrote what would become one of the great statements of the civil rights cause. One that spoke to people who were fundamentally their friends, not their enemies. This came to be known as the “Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Writing the letter was not easy. Dr. King wrote it in the margins of the newspaper. He wrote it on scraps of note paper. He wrote it on panels of toilet paper. (Think about what the toilet paper was like if Dr. King was able to write on it!)

The letter spoke to the moderates who were urging restraint. To them, he wrote:

“My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas…. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.”

He went on the acknowledge that perhaps he was an extremist, but that he was an extremist for love, not for hate:

“But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.

Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” …

Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” …

And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.”

And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .”

So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?”

King’s jailhouse writings were smuggled out of the jail and published as a brochure. His eloquent words were given added force for being written in jail. As he says toward the end of his letter, it is very different to send a message from jail than from a hotel room:

“Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?”

Once King was released from jail eight days later, he and his followers raised the stakes. No longer would adults be marching and being arrested, children would become the vanguard. And as the children marched, photographers and reporters from around the world would document these young people being attacked by dogs, battered by water from fire hoses, and filling up the Birmingham jails.

King faced criticism for allowing the young people to face the dangers of marching in Birmingham. But he responded by criticizing the white press, asking the reporters where they had been “during the centuries when our segregated social system had been misusing and abusing Negro children.”

Although there was rioting in Birmingham, and King’s brother’s house was bombed, the campaign was ultimately successful. Business owners took down the signs that said “WHITE” and “COLORED” from the drinking fountains and bathrooms, and anyone was allowed to eat at the lunch counters. The successful protest in Birmingham set the stage for the March on Washington that would take place in August of 1963, where King would give his famous “I have a dream” speech.[King, 1998 #552],[Kasher, 1996 #553]

We are now more than fifty years from King’s letter from Birmingham Jail. This letter was not one of his “feel good” speeches. It doesn’t raise the spirit the way his I have a dream speech did.

But it did give us a message that still matters today:

 “I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

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New Secrets: All media are social- Presidential Edition

When the second edition of Mass Communication: Living in a Media World came out as a CQ Press title back in 2007, one of the biggest new features was the introduction of the “Seven Truths They Don’t Want You To Know About the Media.” Other than the switch last year to calling them the Seven Secrets, they have stayed pretty much unchanged.  But lots has changed in the media world over the last decade.The old secrets are as relevant as ever, but we’re ready to think about some new ones.

There will still be just seven secrets, and most of them will stay the same, but I’ll be trying out a some candidates here over the next few weeks to see what you think. 

New Secret: All Media Are Social

Pam and Ralph waiting to see ObamaI was fortunate enough to go hear President Obama speak at the Baxter Arena near the University of Nebraska Omaha campus Wednesday, and predictably, I spent a fair amount of time sharing my experiences on social media.  I did quite a bit of my Facebooking and Twittering using my iPad as the battery on my phone checked out fairly quickly due to age and cold.

I got the expected reactions from friends to the selfie of my wife and I standing in line and of the crowd coming into the arena.

I also was passing on news about the president’s visit from social media guru Dr. Jeremy Lipshultz, and while I was on his Twitter page, Omaha World Herald weather reporter Nancy Gaarder got a great photo of me at work:

Now in this case, we were interacting because she was sitting behind me and we got to talking face-to-face.  But this was only the first of many social interactions for the day based on social media posts.

University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds was an opening speaker on the program, and since he’s the head of the university system I teach in, I sent out an image of him on the stage, which was then followed up by a favoriting of it by President Bounds while he was still at the event:

Again, a pretty reliable connection as I indirectly work for President Bounds and we’ve met in person on a couple of occasions.

As we all waited for the president to appear, I tweeted out a photo of the press corps area on the floor of the arena, along with the hashtag #POTUSatUNO, one of several in use at the event, and before long I picked up a response Marjorie Sturgeon, a multimedia journalist for Omaha’s Action 3 News, who had not been previously following me:

Meanwhile, as I was sharing my photos and observations, I was also sharing news from the Omaha World Herald, UNO student journalists, and other observers.

So this brings us to another New Secret candidate: All media are social. By this, I mean that no matter what media you are using – whether it be a legacy newspaper or television station or a social media channel like Facebook, we are always interacting with news through multiple forms of social media.  Media recall research tells us that one of the best predictors of the news we will remember are the news we talk about.  So nothing is going to make news more salient to us than sharing it socially – whether face-to-face, with friends on Facebook, or with the entire world via Twitter.

In the end, of course, it was all about getting to hear and see the president in person, but it was also a great opportunity to interact with media people at a wide range of levels.

(Yes, President Obama is there on the right hand side of the stage, thus illustrating why real photographers use big telephoto lenses!)


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Remembering Alan Rickman Singing “Pretty Women”

We lost another great performer to the Big C this week – actor Alan Rickman.  Although he is best known for playing Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films and the definitive villainous EuroNasty Hans Gruber in the first Die Hard film, for me one of his most memorable roles was as Judge Turpin in the dark musical Sweeney Todd.

Here he sings the duet Pretty Women with Johnny Depp.  Don’t worry, he the judge doesn’t get his throat slit …  in this scene:

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Farewell, Ziggy Stardust

David Bowie has died at the age of 69 from cancer. What a loss.  I can think of few musicians who could reinvent themselves more ways, more successfully than Bowie.  The Washington Post has a great obit this morning.

Here’s a set he did at 1985’s Live Aid concert.  Bowie, and Queen’s Freddy Mercury, both did absolutely incredible sets at the show:

And finally, here are a few frames from the great web comic Darwin Carmichael Is Going To Hell where Pat the Minotaur is obsessively watching the Bowie movie Labyrinth.

Pat watches Labyrinth

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Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

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Star Wars VII tops Avatar as #1 North American Box Office

And we’re back for 2016. Hope you all had an enjoyable holiday break!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

So it really isn’t any surprise that Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens is now the number one movie moneymaker of all time for the North American market, surpassing 2009’s Avatar. With all the pent up demand for a great Star Wars movie (Sorry, prequels, you don’t count as great Star Wars movies!), it was inevitable that it would take the top spot on the chart.

While I definitely expected Star Wars to take the top spot, what I didn’t expect was how fast it happened. It took Avatar seven months of its original run, along with a $10-milllion re-release to reach $760.5 million total.  Star Wars VII did it in only 20 days.

Now, one reason that SWVII jumped ahead of Avatar so quickly is that movie tickets cost more in 2015/16 than they did in 2009/10. On the all-time inflation adjusted listAvatar is currently #14 and SWVII is at #21.

The true box office champion will always be 1939’s Gone With The Wind, which brought in an adjusted grow of $1.7 billion domestically.  Remember, this was in the time before television when movie attendance was much higher than it is today.  Perhaps more interestingly, the original 1977 Star Wars is #2 on the all-time adjusted list with an adjusted box office of $1.5 billion.

I must confess I did my part to help with the first Star Wars by seeing it 13 times in the theater the summer it came out.

Reading the list in a bit more depth, it’s no surprise that 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs weighs in at number 10. It was, after all, briefly the all-time box office champ – up until GWTW came out in 1939.  But it’s #11 that has always surprised and delighted me – Disney’s 1961 version of 101 Dalmatians.


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Looking back at the original 1977 Star Wars

Star WarsThirty-eight years ago, in a movie theater not that far away, I saw the original Star Wars movie during the summer of 1977.  It was between my junior and senior years in high school, and the movie was the talk of everyone waiting to take their ACTs.

I ended up seeing the movie 13 times in the theater the summer it came out.  Don’t judge me – this was before VCRs were common, HBO was a new thing, and Netflix was still decades away. OK, judge me.  I would have gone that many times anyway.

I went every weekend that summer and watched the print at the downtown Waterloo, Iowa theater gradually deteriorate.   I took my eldest son to see the rerelease of the original trilogy in Special Edition form when he was five or six; we also went to Washington, D.C. to the Smithsonian to see the Art of Star Wars exhibit.

Today, Star Wars Episode VII opens in theaters nationwide, but I will not be going yet.  I’m holding out to go to a 3D IMAX screening in Council Bluffs, Iowa, about 180 miles from here, next week.

My friend Giles Snyder, a morning newscaster for NPR, shared this review from Tom Shales that ran on All Things Considered back in 1977.  Given that this pre-dates the Internet, this posting represents the first time Shales’ review has been published since it first aired:

Talking about the new Star Wars movie on Facebook earlier this week led to a lot of reminisences from a variety of my friends.  Here’s some of their memories:

  • Giles Snyder, NPR newscaster, who currently has a countdown going on Facebook till he goes to see the movie:
    “Anybody remember seeing the trailer? I do. If memory serves, I saw it before the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor flick “Silver Streak.” I was captivated and said to myself “I have GOT to see that Star Wars thing!””

    Giles recalls that he was 13 when the original Star Wars came out. ” My brother must have been about 8. He was white as a sheet just before the Death Star was destroyed and told me he didn’t feel well. I told him to go find Mom. I was not about to miss the finale.  Btw – looking back at that trailer, I wonder how I ever got excited.”

  • Brian Ibbott, podcaster & host of Coverville:
    “My Uncle George won tickets from a radio station for a sneak preview the night before it officially opened, and we saw it with our cousins John & George. We sat in the balcony of the Cooper Theater (which is now a Home Depot), at the time, one of the two biggest screens in Colorado.

    “I came home and filled sheets of typing paper with drawings of all the characters, and couldn’t wait to see it again.”

    Brian was 8 when he first saw Star Wars.

  • Brian Ibbott’s Uncle George:
    “So yes, that was a special night. We were among the first to see a movie that was technically unlike anything before.

    “I remember first reading about Star Wars in the fall of 1976. I had picked up an issue of one of Marvel’s showcase comics (Marvel Premiere, I think it was) and on the letters page, the editors were teasing upcoming features that would be presented in that comic. One that caught my eye was an adaptation of a soon-to-be-released movie titled “The Star Wars”.

    “Weeks later, I was in a book store looking for something new, when one cover stood out: The image was of a menacing looking helmeted character looming over much smaller figures, humans, robots and a shaggy alien. The title was “Star Wars” and I recalled the blurb in that comic. Knowing Marvel was about to put out a comic version, I bought it and devoured it. I read it again and used it for a book report in my high school science fiction class.”

  • Brian Bennet, Lutheran campus chaplain at Pittsburgh universities:
    “I was six. My dad who NEVER went to movies, took me after we got haircuts. To say it was life-changing is to understate.”

    Rev. Brian is now preparing to take his children to see the new movie. “We just ran our daughter (5 y.o.) through episodes 4-6, so we could take her to episode 7. Her main takeaway from RotJ was “EWOKS!” heh.

  • Dolores Hill Sierra, retired communications professor:
    Dolores admits she has not been that big of a Star Wars fan, but she has a grandson who certainly is. “My five year old grandson got into Star Wars because of Lego Star Wars cartoons. He’s quite passionate. He and his parents have watched all the movies in preparation for this Friday’s opening (which is his actual 5th birthday). The last time we talked to him, he was re-enacting the Return of the Jedi for us. The legacy continues.”

And in case you are interested, here’s an old post on why Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the Clones is a tribute to the films of Ridley Scott.

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