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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Media Business in the News

And one more Christmas commercial to go with those tear jerkers from yesterday.

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Sentimental Twaddle – A Host of Christmas/Holiday Ads That Will Make You Cry

Advertising Age’s morning newsletter had a lot of interesting news this morning, but none better than a story on a number of Christmas and holiday themed ads guaranteed to make you blubber like a baby!

Among the best/worst is a German ad of a family too busy to visit their aging father on Christmas:

And here’s a holiday ad from Tylenol that features “peace, love and families of all races, creeds and sexual orientation.” In other words, it features people… And don’t get upset by the word “holiday,” It features Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu families (at least – I may have missed some).

And I will not spoil this adorable (sentimental twaddle, stop to wipe my eyes) entry from Toys “R” Us.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to us all!

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Trying to Control the News

There’ve been several stories over the last few days of governments attempting to control the news.  Here are links to two of them:

  • Judge forces Florida paper to “unpublish” information
    According to Columbia Journalism Review, a judge in Florida has forced the Palm Beach Post to take down from its website portions of a transcript of telephone recordings “in which a jailhouse snitch bragged about his ability to elicit confessions from fellow inmates and how he had arranged a deal with prosecutors for a lighter sentence.” There is no evidence that this story meets the level of danger to our country established in previous prior restraint classes and no evidence that the paper acted improperly to get the transcript.  Keep your eyes open for updates on the appeals process for this story. Note that the judge was only able to get the transcript off the newspaper’s web site, not off the internet
  • Thai publisher of International New York Times redacts story on “Sagging Thailand”
    According to a story by reporter Sasiwan Mokkhasen of Khaosod Englis, the Thai edition of the International New York Times had a story about the sagging Thai economy under the current ruling military junta.  The paper contained the following message where the story had been scheduled to run:

    “The article in this space was removed by our printer in Thailand. The International New York Times and its editorial staff had no role in its removal,”

    The story remained available online.


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Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

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