A Fresh Start for Al

al_franken2A keen observation from Captain Obvious: Al Franken has an image problem.

During the campaign voters heard and read the recovering comedian using naughty words, brainstorming jokes about rape, and occasionally stretching the truth in relentless criticism of his opponent. And there is residual damage. Lots of it.

Well, New Years is the season of renewal. So, today Al Franken should start his post-campaign reputation transition from campaign attack dog to thoughtful leader of all Minnesotans. He can begin that process by issuing a statement that goes something like this:

Based on my narrow lead in the recount, many of my supporters in Washington and Minnesota are calling for me to be seated in the Senate.

While I appreciate their support, I would ask them to cool their jets.

I have said from the beginning that we should be respectful of this process, and let it play out completely. I have said the integrity of this process is more important than whether I win or lose.

And I meant it. Sincerely. My concern for the integrity of our democratic processes doesn’t change just because I have a slim lead, and just because there are bad feelings left over from a brutal campaign. We still have to let this process play out completely, and that includes Senator Coleman’s legal challenges. Legal challenges are a legitimate part of this process. While I strongly dispute the content of those challenges, I strongly support the Senator’s right to make them.

So, let’s count the votes, and let the entire judicial appeal process play out. Believe me, nobody is more anxious about bringing this process to an end than me. But to bring Minnesota together, it is much more important that we have a complete and fair process that Minnesotans can believe in than whether I enter the Senate next week, the following week, or ever.

Exhibiting a little statesmanship and selflessness would go a long way for Franken right now. Frankly, I’m not sure he has it in him. Jesse Ventura never had it in him, and it cost him in the long run. Franken would be helping both himself and the state by calling off the partisan dogs for another few weeks.

Now just like the salad I’m having for lunch today won’t make up for my gluttonous sins over the past month, such a statement wouldn’t make up for all the gripes Minnesotans have with Franken. But like all New Years resolutions, it would give him a shot at a fresh start.

– Loveland

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Ask Not, You Know, What, You Know, Your Country Can, You Know, Do For, You Know, You…

Verbal crutches. We all use them. Many of us are susceptible to overuse of “ums.” Young people famously favor “likes.” Even great orators such as Barack Obama sprinkle their interview responses liberally with “ahs.” Obama is also among those prone to the use of “look,” to start answers, which can sometimes make him sound condescending and lecturey.

We don’t use these verbal crutches because we’re stupid, necessarily. We use them as a nervous habit, to calm ourselves. We use them to compose our thoughts. We use them to catch our breath.

But they can get out of control, and distract from what is being said. They also can make the speaker sound like a lightweight, which is something to avoid when you are the offspring of an oratorical legend auditioning for a spot in an institution often called “the greatest deliberative body in the world.”

In this 30-minute interview, Ms. Kennedy reportedly used her “you know” lifeline over 200 times. It’s tough to listen to.

The ever helpful New York Daily News suggests, “Caroline Kennedy, you know, might need, you know, a speech coach, um, if she, you know, wants, um, to be a senator.”

I was thinking a shock collar.

– Loveland

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Will Hawkish Obama Spin Lead to Afghanistan Chagrin?

karzaiThroughout the presidential campaign, whenever Barack Obama opposed the Iraq War he would quickly point out that he would direct significantly more military might to stop al Quaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Maybe broader involvement in the ‘Stans is what Obama sincerely believes is necessary. But I always wondered whether it was perhaps the liberal’s way of putting a tougher, pragmatic edge onto his foreign policy communications. It seemed like a way to effectively say to foreign policy moderates, “I’m against the Bush’s war, but that doesn’t mean I’m a wimpy Democrat against ANY use of military power.”

Whatever Obama’s motivation for being a hawk on Afghanistan, I worry this could develop into a quagmire for the boy President. After all, so far things haven’t gone particularly well for us in this tricky mountainous terrain. And you may recall things didn’t go particularly well for our Cold War dance partners either.

Yes, the world would be a better place if we could wave a magic want and get rid of Afghanistan’s terrorist camps, poppy fields and anti-democratic thugs. But we should know by now that the Pentagon has no such magic wands in its arsenal. The Pentagon is darn good at winning wars, and darn poor at winning the peace. Military occupations just haven’t gone well for super powers over the last century, so why should we believe this occupation will work any better?

A need to appeal to moderate voters may have led Obama into proposing an expansion of the Afghanistan War, but that tough stump spin may well lead to foriegn policy chagrin.

– Loveland

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Michael Moore and Peggy Noonan Up for the Same Award?


The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan is hosting voting on his blog for some fun year-end awards, including my favorite:

The Yglesias Award is for writers, politicians, columnists or pundits who actually criticize their own side, make enemies among political allies, and generally risk something for the sake of saying what they believe.

Would it be nice to see some more of that? View the nominees and vote for this and the other slates here. marketing strategy nice

The Gift of Light and Hope

The greatest gift I can feel all around me this Christmas is the shifting of the wind.

After way too many years of reading the papers and listening to news and shaking my head, feeling the sinking in my soul of hope buried under another day’s layer of evidence of bad decisions that harm most people and most of the planet — the wind is starting to change.

This Christmas Day, I’ve been reading several days’ New York Times and, while the news is bad and getting worse, there’s a sprite on my shoulder saying, “Not much longer.”

“Pick-a-Pay” mortgages hustled to the middle class, mortgages with payments that don’t even cover the interest, so the principle grows larger with each payment? These mortgages, IEDs about to explode under an already-shattered economy, started with the Reagan deregulation of the financial industry. Not much longer.

Universities, charities (even Ellie Weisel’s) and middle-class folks swirling down the Bernard Madoff toilet along with rich speculators? Today’s Times: “Federal officials are bringing far fewer prosecutions as a result of fraudulent stock schemes than they did eight years ago, according to new data, raising further questions about whether the Bush administration has been too lax in policing Wall Street.” Ya think? Not much longer.

“Coal ash spill revives issue of its hazards,” the headline reads, showing a result of policy that says the hell with conservation, we can drill baby drill. The Bush administration allowing mountains to be decapitated for coal mining and the spoil dumped into streams in the valleys? Not much longer.

Princeton political economist Larry M. Bartels says the US economy has done better under Democrats than Republicans for the last 60 years. “For middle-class families, incomes have risen more than twice as fast under Democrats as under Republicans.” The wind is shifting.

Too many years of policies that benefit the few, the wealthy. That hurt the commons, the planet, our future, our children’s children. Enough. Change is coming. It has started. Yes we did.

Buried on page B7 of the Times on Christmas Eve (should have been on 1A) is the story of a new Cathedral opening in Oakland, in the middle of the distressed downtown of a city plagued by murder and poverty. “A Light-Filled Cathedral Radiates Hope,” the headline read.


Things can change. Light can return — we’re past the Winter Solstice. Hope is alive.

Merry Christmas to all, and to BushCheney, good night.

— Bruce Benidt

Photo from The New York Times investment options nice


driftless1Apparently Christmas is coming up pretty soon. If you’re looking for a gift to give someone, or something to ask for, consider a wonderful novel from Minneapolis’s Milkweed Editions — Driftless, by David Rhodes.

Reading Driftless, I had a weird assemblage of writers come to mind — a little like the bar scene from Star Wars. How do you get Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the great Nebraska writer Jonis Agee,  Alice Hoffman, Larry Woiwode, Sherwood Anderson, Edgar Lee Masters and Lee Smith all in the same room? And then a hip Willa Cather walks in. And she’s reading W.P. Kinsella. Latin America, North Dakota, Appalachia — what’s going on here? It’s just good storytelling, with rich evocations of life in rural America. Rhodes looks small-town and farm life straight in the face, and sees the radiance and the darkness. He writes of the people who live in and around a small Wisconsin town: “Like people who refuse to update their wardrobes, they simply ignored all evidence that their manner of life had expired.” And, “The town stood in its own shadow of better times…” Of one character, whose dairy farm is on the edge, Rhodes writes, “His inner life felt like a theatrical production in which the major players did not even bother to show up and the minor players attempted to continue without them.” I have days like that.

This sounds dark, but it’s more than that. It’s a lark, in some ways, and gives the feel of spring wind blowing across new green. People’s fortunes rise and fall, and all those words you read in book reviews apply — resonant, redemptive, perseverance, enriching, poignant…

Rhodes wrote three previous books in the 1970s, then was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident and didn’t publish again. If I recall the story correctly from my friend Jorg Pierach, who’s on Milkweed’s board, someone from Milkweed heard about Rhodes, or thought about him again, or ran into him, and asked if he’d been writing. Yes. Did he have any manuscripts? Yes. In the desk drawer. And the good people at Milkweed read Driftless and now it’s between covers. And would fit nicely into your hands. I saw copies at Barnes & Noble, and you can buy from the Milkweed link above.

Rhodes’s title refers to the part of southwestern Wisconsin that the glaciers missed. It’s a land not scraped flat and dull by the ice sheets, also not left drifted with the earth bulldozed down from Canada by the ice. It’s original territory. Worth a journey.

Three other books I’ve mentioned this year on this blog would also be good presents — Dave Mona’s lively local tales, Beyond the Sports Huddle, Mona on Minnesota; a collection of road stories published by my buddy John Gaterud with his daughter Abbey called Stardust and Fate, The Blueroad Reader; and City of Parks, the Story of Minneapolis Parks, by Dave Smith, insightful local history and a beautiful book.

Books. They’re what’s for dinner.

–Bruce Benidt marketing salary nice tax settlement nice

Spinplications of Recount News

black-holeToday, Al Franken pulled ahead in the U.S. Senate recount. A couple dozen steps still need to play out before we have a winner, but this is a milestone. After all, Franken has been behind in the media counts for weeks.

We at SRC are not recount experts, but we are spin savants. So let us ponder the milestone’s spinplications. For weeks, Senator Coleman has been vigorously arguing against counting illegally excluded absentee ballots, judicial involvement and the recount in general. Now that he’s behind, he assumably will be forced to attempt the most difficult PR move known to man, the dreaded Reverse Spin.

The Reverse Spin requires one to completely unsell that which he or she has aggressively sold. With a complete straight face, Senator Coleman will have to Reverse Spin from “it would be a crime to burden the taxpayers with a recount!” to “common decency demands that every vote must be counted, no matter the duration or expense!” From “absentee ballots must never be counted!” to “the future of our democracy depends on absentee ballots being counted!” From “we must keep the lawyers out of this at all costs!” to “let’s remove this from the filthy political arena and resolve this in a fair, impartial court of law!”

And it could get even more interesting. If subsequent phases of the recount lead the Senator to retake the lead in the media counts, he may need to attempt the never before executed Double Reverse Spin. The DRS calls for the spinner to return to the original positions he took before he RS-ed out of them. Astro physicists have long postulated that a successful DRS could lead to the creation of a black hole and End Times, leaving the recount forever in doubt.

– Loveland

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Not the Top 10 Albums of 2008

This is about the time of year I wish I wrote for a music blog so I could write one of those clever little year-end music critic retrospectives.

But I don’t. So in a shameless attempt to shoehorn music into this space, I’ll just share my favorite intersection of music and the news media from 2008, in which John McLaughlin and Pat Buchanan debut as indie rock lyricists (“At last!” I hear you cry).

– Hornseth

P.S. Oh, whatever. My favorite album of 2008 was I Woke With Planets in My Face by the ridiculously talented, Cincinnati-based, do-it-yourself indie-rock chap Peter Adams. If you buy one CD this year featuring a song written from the perspective of a continental-shift-weary Antarctica, make it this one. Stream it, or download it (paying whatever you choose), here business loan nice

Deadliest Place to Live in America

Although we’re suffering with minus-zero temperatures this week in Minnesota, it could be worse, couldn’t it? I mean wouldn’t it be awful to live where there are hurricanes, like Texas or Florida? Or how about California where people are always fighting wildfires while waiting for the big one? And don’t even get me going on the south. The south would be a horrible place to live because..well, because it’s got huge insects and cottonmouth snakes, or watermouth snakes, or whatever they’re called. And it would be like living in a 7th-hour high school locker room all the time.

Well, fear not. I really do know the best places and THE DEADLIEST PLACES TO LIVE IN AMERICA. And now you can know them, too, if you click this link. Just remember, you’ve been warned. small business finance nice

You Can Go To Hell. This Is Not Florida.

Well, attorneys for Coleman and Franken made their arguments before the Minnesota Supreme Court Wednesday. And from the sounds of it, one of Coleman’s attorneys rubbed at least one of our justices the wrong way.

According to CNN, the upstart was Roger Magnuson, who represented the Florida senate in Bush v. Gore.

If the state’s canvassing board includes any of the “improperly rejected absentee ballots” at the heart of the dispute, warned Magnuson, this race could easily turn into the debacle that ensued in Florida eight years ago.

He was immediately interrupted by Associate Justice Paul Anderson, who appeared to take serious issue with the analogy.

“I know you’ve been to Florida,” Anderson said. “This is not Florida. And I’m just not terribly receptive to you telling us that we’re going to Florida and we’re comparing to that. This is Minnesota. We’ve got a case in Minnesota. Argue the case in Minnesota.”

You’ve got to love Minnesota and its men named Anderson. They never let you down.

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Election System Enema

ballotBy national standards, Minnesota has a very good election system. And for all our griping about the U.S. Senate recount, this recount will serve to make our elections even better.

First, over the years well-meaning but misinformed election judges apparently have been rejecting legal absentee ballots, inadvertantly disenfranchising thousands of Minnesotans in the process. We learned this when the recount uncovered over 1,600 absentee ballots that were rejected for no valid legal reason. The recount is serving as an seminar for election judges on this issue. Also, I would imagine absentee ballots will be redesigned by policymakers to make them easier to fill out correctly.

Second, we’re identifying technological weak links, such as the outdated Eagle scanning equipment in St. Louis County, which, the recount revealed, had been error prone. The embarrassing publicity around that should lead to those machines being replaced.

Third, we’re clarifying standards for ruling on ambiguous ballots. The work the State Canvassing Board and the State Supreme Court will be doing in the coming days clarifying standards will be instructive to election judges statewide, and make future counts more accurate. It also will give us an improved roadmap for the next statewide recount.

Finally, we’re identifying dumb laws. For instance, based on an outstanding AP analysis released yesterday it looks like a significant number of ballots will be rejected because voters made an identifying mark on them, such as an initial or signature. That law apparently has roots from the days when party bosses were selling votes, and were using signed ballots as a proof-of-purchase.

These voters are being disenfranchised, and I’d be surprised if a single one is involved in a vote scanning scheme. If they are, the identifying mark would seem to make it easier to catch the scoundrels. I imagine many made their mark out of some sense of ballot security, to ensure their ballot was not lost or destroyed. Others may have been simply doodling. Others perhaps assumed that they should sign this official document, just as they sign almost every other official document they encounter.

But I suppose there is an outside chance that someone is running a vote-selling scheme. So if there are an unusual number of signed ballots in a particular jurisdiction, election judges should still have the ability to call for an investigation to see if there is a vote auction happening. But voters should have a presumption of innocence.

Before the next election, one of the best election systems in the nation will have significantly better technology, standards and laws. Call it an election system enema, something that only happens when we stumble through a historically close recount where every vote REALLY matters. It’s been an unpleasant procedure, but here’s hoping it is, ultimately, a cleansing one.

– Loveland

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When PR Ghostwriters Get Busted

Are there ethical lines that we cross when we write an “authored article” for our clients? Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa thinks the Wyeth pharmaceutical company and its writing PR firm went too far in ghostwriting articles for doctors in medical journals supporting a Wyeth hormone replacement drug. The New York Times ran a story on Saturday in which Grassley said “any attempt to manipulate the scientific literature, that can in turn mislead doctors to prescribe drugs that may not work and/or cause harm to their patients, is very troubling.”

From the Times story:

Doug Petkus, a Wyeth spokesman, said Friday that Mr. Grassley was recycling old arguments.

“The authors of the articles in question, none of whom were paid, exercised substantive editorial control over the content of the articles and had the final say, in all respects, over the content,” Mr. Petkus said.

Officials for DesignWrite, a Princeton, N.J., firm, and its parent company, JMI, a medical information company in New York, did not return multiple phone calls and e-mail messages requesting comment.

According to the Times story, quoting internal Wyeth documents from Grassley’s probe, DesignWrite wrote the articles under a Wyeth communications plan, completing the manuscripts before they were “sent to the putative author for review. Any revisions were subject to final approval from the company.”

“Such activities would seem to run afoul of medical journal guidelines,” the Times writes. “The World Assoication of Medical Editors, for example, says ghost authorship — which it defines as a substantial contribution not mentioned in the manuscript — is ‘dishonest and unacceptable.’ “

So the Wyeth spokesperson says the docs have final say, and the Grassley documents, which include a “publicaton plan tracking report” from Wyeth, say the company has final say. There’ s one PR problem.

But overall, what’s Kosher in writing articles for someone else? I thought of all this when, for the second time recently, I offered to write an op-ed kind of article for friends who are too busy to do for their own companies what their companies do for their clients.

I have an internal gut measurement. If I’m offering to do a first draft, after interviewing the person whose name will be on the piece about what he or she wants to say, and after reading other things that person has written, and then turning the draft over to that person, I feel fine. I’ve been a pump-primer. I’ve gotten something going. It’s close to what the person would have written if he or she had time to sit in front of a computer for a few hours, and the final draft is in that person’s hands.

But occasionally in my PR career I’ve been around programs where pieces have been written entirely by PR people to support a client’s cause and then the PR team goes looking for people to sign the piece, whether an op-ed or a letter to the editor or a bylined article. And that’s made me feel queasy. Greasy. Clearly, in that case, the ideas and viewpoint are coming from the PR people, not the person who signs the piece. And that I don’t want to be part of. It comes down to where the piece is initiated. If it’s hatched in the mind of the person who signs it, and that person goes looking for a writer, that seems Kosher. If not, not.

I was a little surprised, when I moved from the newsroom to a PR agency and wrote a few op-eds with and for clients, that the op-ed editors fully understood that PR people help write these things. They expect that the piece will accurately reflect the executive’s views, they understand that execs get help writing speeches and other things, and they were OK with the process. And so was I.

What about you, PR folks and journalists out there? What do you think is ethical? What crosses a line?

— Bruce Benidt
Continue reading “When PR Ghostwriters Get Busted”

The Ford Story as Told by Ford

If you want to see masterful use of a corporate website to tell its story, visit Ford Motor Company’s. You’ll find Ford using every application of the Web in trying to convince the public, its stockholders and, of course, Congress that, as Ford puts it:

“We get it. We need a new way of doing business.”

What a stunning admission from the genesus of automobile design, engineering and manufacturing.

Featured front and center is a video with Executive Chairman Bill Ford, who in 3 minutes is able to cover the future he envisions for his company. It doesn’t have problems; it has challenges. The company wants to direct your attention to the new business plan it has and the progress it has already made in reaching new goals.

Of course, one major hurdle in redesigning this site, I would imagine, was what to do with President and CEO Alan Mulally’s testimony before Congress. Ignore it? Pretend it didn’t happen? Nope, in a major victory for transparency, you can watch CNN video of Mulally or read the entire text of his comments.

Via Scribd, you can read the letter Reid, Pelosi, Dodd and Frank sent Bush urging funds from the bailout be released to the auto industry.

Then you yourself are recruited to help. You’re urged to tell others about Ford’s plans for the future. The site supplies a widget so you can “Share This via email, AIM, social bookmarking and networking sites, etc.” by merely clicking on a button.

And if you really want to prove you are serious about the cause, just go to the tab marked “Governmental Affairs.” There Ford thoughtfully provides you with the names and phone numbers of your representatives and senators (via your zip code) plus talking points — about “the bridge loan” Ford is requesting — so you don’t sound like a doofus when you phone them.

The professor in me must say she was shocked (SHOCKED) to find editing errors on the site. My favorite boo-boo was right there on the ol’ main page:

“You’ll be glad to know Ford has been making great progress�we’re sure you will agree.”

There are other links, gadgets and gizmos I could try to describe, but it’s best if you visit the site and see them for yourself. It’s an interesting study in how to get your story heard.

But then, why should you care? Well, as Ford puts it: “We’re not just a Detroit company. We’re an American company.” tax consultants nice

Circumstantial Journalism

myfox-twin-cities-exclusive_-coleman_s-renovation-project-coincides-with-lawsuitWhen a Republican CEO from another state alleges that a Minnesota Republican Senator has received $75,000 in laundered money from a supporter, that allegation is newsworthy. But when the alleged event happens to have occurred in the same time period when the Senator was investing in his home, that strikes me as irrelevant information.

The local Fox affiliate sees it differently. It did a breathless story last night noting that Coleman had been remodeling his home and had encountered a cost overrun at the same time as the cash was allegedly being funneled from Texas-based Deep Marine Technologies to Coleman. Fox’s follow-up story, and the hyped versions of it on places like Huffington Post, are unfair to Coleman. Pointing out the remodeling timing tells us nothing about whether the original allegations are true or false. It is good grist for the conspiracy mongers, but this circumstantial evidence sheds more heat than light.

breaking-news-and-opinion-on-the-huffington-postIn an even bigger stretch, Fox pointed out that the interior designer who worked on the remodeling project was, gasp, a friend and supporter of Coleman. The odd inclusion of this irrelevant fact inferred there was something unsavory about that. Am I missing something? Is there something illegal or unethical about people hiring friends and supporters for home projects? If so, lots of us are guilty of the same crime.

Holy hyperventilation. The Texas CEO’s allegations are very serious, and reporting that actually helps us understand whether the allegations are true or false is welcomed. But reporters should stick to evidence directly relevant to the allegations, instead of hyping the allegations with lighter than air motive theories. This didn’t pass the smell test.

– Loveland

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The Importance of The Right Messenger

Most of the public relations around the U.S. Senate recount has come in the form of dueling flack attacks. The Franken campaign has been at least as over-the-top as the Coleman campaign, including its gratuitous mention in today’s recount briefing of the Kazeminy-Coleman FBI investigation. (Holy kitchen sink strategy, what does Kazeminy have to do with the recount??)

But I have to say the Franken campaign did some kick ass communications work yesterday when it released this video of voters who allegedly had their absentee ballots rejected illegally.

Whatever you think about the substance of the issue, this shows the importance of using the most sympathetic available messenger. When Franken’s lawyers make a legal argument about these ballots, eyes roll. But when average Minnesotans tell their personal stories around the very same issue, more eyes are opened.

Instead of using legal abstractions, this tactic uses human reactions. Instead of coming from courtrooms, it comes from livingrooms. Instead of using spreadsheets, it uses stories. Instead of coming from the head, it comes from the heart.

The messenger is the message. This is what good communications work looks like.

– Loveland

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Dale and Jim Ed Go Out With Wisecracks and Wise Critiques

There’s wisdom in humor. Mark Twain, considered a humorist, was the sharpest social critic of his time — and his criticism is still sharp and fresh today. The humor makes the critique sound less like a hectoring lecture, and easier to take in.

As The Morning Show went dark this morning, after 26 years on Minnesota Public Radio, Dale Connelly and Jim Ed Poole (Tom Keith) left the air with one of the sharpest insights on traditional journalism I’ve ever heard.mpr

Jim Ed took on the persona of a reporter asking people why they’d come in the wee hours of the morning to attend the live last Morning Show at the Fitz in St. Paul. “Are you insane?” he asked one fan. Then Dale asked Jim Ed what all this meant, asked him to help listeners understand what was happening.

“I’m in the reporting business,” Jim Ed replied, “not the understanding business.”


Traditional journalism reports the facts but too often fails to give us context and meaning. I cheered on this blog last week a piece by Jay Weiner in MinnPost.com about the Minnesota senate recount that provided more understanding than all the daily coverage of the horse race and who said what. Journalism needs to be in both the reporting business and the understanding business. Traditional journalism is afraid of admitting bias and subjectivity and so pretends to report “just the facts.” Stories that provide understanding are labeled “analysis,” as if analysis, which means critical thinking, isn’t welcome in the rest of the news.

So, out of the mouths of babes, and humorists, comes wisdom.

Jim Ed reported from the Fitz that hundreds of people had lined up in the cold for the live last broadcast of a radio show to see, for the final time, something that they could never see in the first place. Lovely.

The Morning Show kept me sane as I drove from Minneapolis to Mankato weekday mornings to teach college journalism in the early ’80s. And Dale Connelly was nice enough to put some of my radio commentaries that I did for KMSU in Mankato on the Minnesota Public Radio air, giving me the odd thrill of hearing my own voice coming out of my car radio one morning. It’s been a great and quirky show. I’ll miss Mr. Sports, Mr. Action, Mr. Jim Ed Poole’s sports reports, which are the lineal and honorable descendants of Dave Moore’s Bedtime Newz reports on WCCO TV. God I loved hearing Dave report the sports scores, occasionally including “Shirts 11, Skins 10.”

Connelly is going to do a show called Radio Heartland on the internet starting tomorrow, and Keith will stay part of A Prairie Home Companion broadcasts. Dale’s bound to do great on the internet — he reported that some MPR folk were live blogging during this morning’s final show, “as if any of us knows what that means,” he said with his bright laugh, which will be missed now every morning on FM.

Good work, thou loony and faithful servants.

— Bruce Benidt

(photo from Flickr.com) doing business nice

How to Get A Job: Part II

A couple of weeks ago, I posted “How to Find a Job in Public Relations,” a piece that grew out of concern for graduating seniors at my university who are hitting the job market this month. Many of you kindly commented with great advice.

Tomorrow I’m going to be addressing a women’s leadership class through the Mankato YWCA around a slightly different topic: “How to Use Social Media to Get a Job.” Any job, really.

Now, I’m no expert at social media. The last time I posted an image of “the new social media prism,” Benidt quipped that it looked like a turkey on steroids. And it’s true: it does.

But it seems to me that one of the ways you can get through the loss of a position or even prepare yourself for the worst of times is to reach out now to others in your industry or profession, to long-lost colleagues and best friends, to new people who share your interests. Put together a safety net, so to speak, so if you fall you might have a softer landing spot.

Look. You already participate in the social media set. That’s why you’re reading this blog. (And we at the SRC thank you.) But if you actually comment on the posts, you become a public part of the social media landscape and we get to “know” you.

Actually, what we at the SRC don’t want to tell you is how easy it is to set up your own blog. Just go to http://www.blogspot.com or http://www.WordPress.com and if you can follow three steps, you’ll be blogging. Write about your field, your profession, your passion. (Let us know where you are and we’ll send you some “link love.”)

Do you twitter? Why not? In 140 characters or fewer, you can carry on mini-conversations with others around the world about industry openings, helpful articles, best practices in any profession (try #journchat on Monday evenings for great discussions among journalists, public relations people, students and nerdy professors.) WARNING: twitter may be addicting.

Are you on LinkedIn? Think of it as a grown-up version of MySpace. Or, how about MySpace or Facebook? Those are certainly ways to build contacts. Just remember: what you put on the Web lives forever.

What other ideas do you have for helping each other out during these uncertain economic times?

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For Sgt. Alex Funcheon

This is the story of a true American hero, 21-year-old Army Sgt. Alex Funcheon, killed in Baghdad in April 2007. The Witchita (Kansas) Eagle is running a 7-part series on the life, service and death of this young man. As I read the first three installments of this story, I was proud it was being presented by a professional journalist, Roy Wenzl. No blogger, citizen journalist or blowhard bloviator would have the resources nor probably the talent to tell Sgt. Funcheon’s story with such care. Wenzl took 18 months to prepare this tribute.

The Witchita Eagle web page also illustrates the intriguing ways newspapers can present stories now. If you choose to, you can see video of Alex’s parents talking about his troubled teen years, read excerpts from his emails home and or his kid sister’s journal or, most heartbreaking of all, can watch a YouTube Alex made of himself two years ago as he practiced his German lessons.

He called the video: “I Can’t Believe I’m Doing This.”

God bless you, son. You were too young.

(Thanks, Soren, for this link.) small business start up nice

God Save Our Sport Utility Vehicles


Dear God, somebody has moved our cheese, and we pray that you will bring it back.

Dear God, somebody is killing off the dinosaurs, and there’s all these furry little mammals skittering about underfoot. Please bring T-Rex back.

What an amazing image — from the front page of Monday’s New York Times. Margaret Mead, trekking through the Samoan jungles, couldn’t have come across a more bizarre rite, nor one that more clearly symbolizes, as ritual does, a society’s values.

The caption reads: “Praying for a miracle: S.U.V.s sat on the altar of Greater Grace Temple, a Pentacostal Church in Detroit, as congregants prayed to save the auto industry.”

Watch out, Galileo, the church is at it again.

— Bruce Benidt tax consultant nice

You Be the Judge…

ballot-challengeKudos to the Star Tribune for giving us regular folks a peek at what a ballot challenge looks like. They have scanned all 2,633 challenged ballots and presented them in an easy-to-use, “You Make the Call” format. I reviewed 42 ballots and gave 18 to each Franken and Coleman and put six others aside as either ineligible, indeterminable or voting for another candidate.

– Austin multi level marketing nice

Jay Weiner of MinnPost Goes Deep on the Recount

I am loathe to put a post on top of Ellen’s, just below, which has something that looks like the NBC peacock on acid.

But I’ve got to point out a great piece of journalism from MinnPost — Jay Weiner, one of the best writers in town, writing about covering the recount. Weiner’s a sports guy, but I’ve watched him cover the Twin Cities’ Olympic bid and saw a solid reporter who can dig through boxes of material as avidly as a dumpster diver going after pizza shards and who can hold his own with anyone writing about anything in Minnesota.

So Jay, calling himself  “a 54-year-old political campaign virgin. Love hurts,” wanders down the yellow-brick road of the recount.  “I am a passenger on The Forked Tongue Express. It’s a grimy ride,” he writes. He describes dueling press conferences, where strategists try to get the edge by steering coverage: “I quickly got the drift. We were fish. Barr was an angler with tasty, quotable bait, and we were to bite.”

Read it. It’s long, but it goes down smooth and fast and funny. Irreverent and insightful — what more can you ask for? You could ask for honest and transparent — and Jay nails that, telling the reader where he’s coming from, what his history with Coleman is, for example. Right on. If MinnPost did more of this, it would be a must-read.

Way to go, Jay. And the editors (probably Roger) who were smart enough to put him on the story.

–Bruce Benidt business expense spreadsheet nice

Are You Part of the Social Media Prism?

Had a wonderful lunch today with a great local writer, John Gaterud. He’s an even greater friend I first got to know in the early 80s when he, Benidt and I molded young minds at then-Mankato State University. I tell you, those young minds have not been the same since.

(A recommendation: For those not familiar with John’s work, I’d invite you to check out the beautiful Stardust and Fate, a collection edited and published last year by John and his daughter Abbey. If you value words, stories and typography you’ll value this book.)

John and I were laughing about the brave new world of social media we aging hipsters are tip-toeing into these days..blogs, twitter, facebook, LinkedIn. And it reminded me of a posting by Brian Solis, who some say is the guru of social media networking. Solis believes we’re all going to have to learn how to navigate our way around and through this social media prism unless we want to become extinct in the 21st century. (Not really. I’m making that last part up.)

Take a look at this prism. Like your secret crush in 8th grade who didn’t know you were alive, it’s both pretty and intimidating. It’s pretty intimidating.


Wow. Staring at this social media prism intently, as if for the first time, I wonder… If I take it just one little bit at a time, could I do it? Could this 35-year-plus baby-boomer, who’s quickly losing her short term memory, possibly learn and then keep up with it all? Let’s see. There’s pownce. ning. Twiki. flickr. Zimbra. Furl. del.icio.us. Bacn.


Did I tell you I had a wonderful lunch today…

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Auto Execs’ PR Stunt Can’t Hide the Weight of Their Wallets

As I write, the Big Three auto execs are driving their hybrid cars to Washington so they can line up at the federal bailout trough on Thursday and not be laughed out of town. The last time they came with their hands out, they flew in their corporate jets, and that didn’t sit well with the theater reviewers in congress.

So this time their PR folks have these guys driving in a cross-country stunt (see NYTimes story). Driving hybrids. They’re five years late. Tim Robbins and a few other actors pulled up to the 2003 Oscars in Priuses. That was making a statement. What the execs are doing today is also making a statement — how late they are to the party. Being so out of touch, being decades behind the times, is exactly why they’re in Washington asking for help.prius

A publicity stunt (remember, that’s what they used to be called, instead of “positioning” or “branding”) can’t put convincing lipstick on this pig. The auto execs have run their companies as if it’s still 1958 and big tailfins are cool. And gas costs a quarter. These guys can drive up to Capitol Hill in their hybrids, but it’s their salaries, not their mileage, that’s the problem. Rick Wagoner, GM chairman, made $14.4 million in 2007. Alan Mulally of Ford made $21 million. This is their reward for ignoring global warming, politically perilous oil supplies, air pollution, the calendar, news, Economics 101, progress, morals, responsibility, the future, Japan, their grandchildren and anything resembling reality. They’ve pumped out gas-guzzlers and hoped for the best.

For this they’ve made millions.

It’s not just their fault, of course. Nor is it the fault of the UAW, as many conservatives would have us believe. UAW contracts have gotten too rich for the times — but why wouldn’t the union ask for what they can get when the execs are grabbing such big piles of doubloons? It’s partly our fault — we consumers, who thought Jimmy Carter was wacko when he put on a sweater and tried to tell us the oil party couldn’t continue. We’ve ignored reality ourselves, and now we smugly scapegoat the automakers. Trouble is, the auto execs make themselves such easy targets. For many years in crisis training programs, we used video clips of the dour tobacco company execs testifying before congress that the world was flat and nicotine was a fine thing to put in your bloodstream. The car guys are going to take the tobacco reapers’ place in the “don’t do this” segment of PR crisis training.

What do you Crowdies think of the PR advice that has the biggies driving hybrids to DC? Good move? Silly? A wrong turn?

— Bruce Benidt purchase order software nice

How to Find a Job in Public Relations?

Friend and former student Soren Erickson, who’s now a senior account exec at Padilla Speers Beardsley, sent me an interesting link today from the IABC newsletter, a post entitled “How Social Networks are Changing Job Search and Career Management.” It laid out what I see as quite a dilemma for job hunters.

It seems many companies are asking job applicants not to contact them electronically or submit resumes as Word docs. And yet, you and I both know that sending in snail-mail resumes feels so, well, 20th century. (Will anyone see my resume? Is it in a pile on a desk, sitting in an unopened envelope? Would it have stood out more if I’d had it printed on ecru linen?)

The post suggests using social media sites — such as LinkedIn and Facebook — in pursuit of job leads. While this might help those of us who already have positions and, thus, contacts in public relations what about those just entering the job force?

In ten days, I’ll watch dozens of my current public relations seniors walk across the stage and enter into the magical place they’ve so euphimistically called “the real world.” And I wonder what sort of chance they have starting out in the profession of public relations now?

So, I’m asking any of you who care to comment and would be so kind: What advice would you have for students just starting out in the profession? How can they find job leads? If you’re in a position to hire new people, how do you prefer to be contacted?

What sort of approach do you prefer re: resumes. Electronic? Paper? Or do you expect new hires to send you a URL of their personalized Web page where they present the story of their education and training, complete with links to videos they wrote, shot, edited and posted on YouTube and others to their podcasts on iTunes?

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Franken Sense and Blur

Where's the Franken viewpoint? (Source: startribune.com).
The outlook of the Minnesota U.S. Senate election recount is obviously blurry. The source of much of the confusion is related to how challenged ballots should be characterized during the period before the State Canvassing Board rules on them.

FRANKEN VIEWPOINT. The Franken campaign says their count now shows them 22 votes ahead of Senator Coleman. They say that count assumes that the call the local election judge(s) originally made for each challenged ballot will be upheld by the Canvassing Board. For instance, even if a local election judge originally called a ballot a Coleman vote, and the Franken campaign has challenged that local judge’s original ruling, the Frankenistas’ count reportedly assumes that vote will end up as a Coleman vote.

COLEMAN/MEDIA VIEWPOINT. The Coleman campaign and the major media outlets are counting challenged votes differently. They are using raw data released by the Secretary of State’s office. These data are the most “official” data available, but their use effectively assumes that every challenge will be upheld by the State Canvassing Board. This is certainly a debatable assumption. By this count, the major media outlets and the Coleman campaign show Coleman with a lead of over 300 votes.

Putting aside for a moment the issues of which counting assumption is more reasonable and how the rejected absentee ballots play into all of this, I’ve been surprised and disappointed the Franken campaign’s interpretation of the count has often not been reported by reporters. I’ve seen the Franken count and arguments on liberal blogs, analytical blogs, and Franken campaign emails, but not in many mainstream news stories.

Including the Franken claims makes mainstream news stories more murky, and reporters, for very good reason, strive to give their consumers clarity and certainty. But in this case, the reality is much more blurry than the daily count released by the news media leads the public to believe. Reporters should characterize the Franken count as a “claim,” “contention” or “assertion,” because it can’t currently be verified, but it deserves to be included in the reporting, so Minnesotans are aware of both sides’ viewpoints and rationale.

– Loveland

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Satirical Seer

politeness-bookYesterday, Governor Pawlenty said “thanks but no thanks” to that bridge to economic recovery.

Our state and national economies are in deep doo-doo. The private sector is not stimulating the economy with private investment and consumption, because of lack of consumer confidence and credit. At the same time, state governments aren’t able to spend enough to stimulate the economy, because of huge deficits and statutory budget balancing requirements. No stimulus, no recovery.

Fortunately, Franklin Roosevelt taught us that the federal government, with its ability to deficit spend during national emergencies, can jolt an arresting economy back to life. That’s why both conservative and liberal economists are urging the federal government to pass a stimulus package that includes lots of federal spending, much of it flowing through cash strapped states.

But Goveror Pawlenty is having none of it. Yesterday, the Governor of the state with a deficit reportedly in excess of $4 billion was biting the federal hands trying to feed him.

Maybe Pawlenty’s stand is borne of conservative conviction. Maybe. It should be noted, however, that the good Governor is neither saying he will return Obama bucks, nor the billions the state annually receives from the federal government.

Then again, maybe the Onion was prophetic almost four years ago…

State Of Minnesota Too Polite To Ask For Federal Funding

ST. PAUL, MN—Although many of its highways and bridges are in severe disrepair, the traditionally undemanding state of Minnesota isn’t comfortable asking for more interstate funding, sources reported Monday.

“Oh, we wouldn’t want to bother the U.S. government—they’ve got more than enough on their plate as it is,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. “Most of the potholes on I-90 are less than four feet wide. We get by just fine. I wouldn’t want anyone all the way over there in Washington to be worrying about little ol’ us.”

According to U.S. Department of Transportation records, Minnesota has not requested an increase in highway funds for 10 years, in spite of the fact that the majority of their roads are plagued by rutted or uneven surfaces, cracked pavement, potholes, and other deterioration.

“If it were a life or death situation, you can bet your bippy we’d ask for it, but since it isn’t…” Pawlenty said. “Well, we can make do with the transportation-department budget they decided to give us back in 1995. That was more than generous.”

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