Archive for the ‘Public Policy’ Category

Media: Blunders, Bumbles and Bungles

Monday, April 29th, 2013

By Neil Kuvin

My perspective on the media comes from having spent more than 45 years working at major network affiliated TV stations in cities including New York, Boston, Atlanta, Detroit and Pittsburgh. So I don’t come by my extreme opinions by way of a back road.

These past few years we’ve all witnessed journalism, both broadcast and print, at its best and recently its worst. There’s a plenteous supply

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of muddling, blundering and just plain screwing up to make us all sick and ashamed. Examples of shoddy media coverage is not just the mis-reporting of international events. Agree or disagree with network International reporters, we’ve been witness to a growing demonization of the Syrian state by the media. I disagree with the matter-of-fact reaction to their mistakes. Like the purposeful, planned and terribly reported Benghazi incident. In 2011, many news organizations misreported that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had died. Recently, in Newtown, Conn., many news outlets wrongly identified the shooter.

I’m sick of the fabrications and then the palms-up denials. The fingerprint of the current cycle is the blisteringly inadequate, unprofessional and embarrassing coverage & then the rush to release incorrect information, painfully surrounding the terrible Boston Marathon tragedy.

It all actually started for me in the last election cycle when WCPO, the ABC affiliate up I-71 in Cincinnati on Oct.19, 2012 declared President Obama had won Ohio. Ummm – wasn’t the election still two weeks away?

Put aside the blunders for a moment and focus with me on the other truly unforgivable media activities; the despicable language and browbeating verbiage being routinely spat forth by print members of the fourth estate. For what? A competitive edge? Competing with whom? “Hustler?” “Playgirl?”

Consider a very recent “Media Matters” column: “Kelley (as in Megyn Kelley) is the most despicable whore among a cast of despicable whores on the Fox Lies news.”

Recently, this same laudable member of the print journalism fraternity, in defense of President Obama and Planned Parenthood and against Fox News, emitted their typical foul-mouthed venom at Kirsten Powers, Monica Crowley and Megyn Kelly, calling them “despicable whores” and other open-minded, free-thinking smears. Tolerance indeed. And “Media Matters” says they are “the nation’s premier progressive media watchdog, research and information center.” Rrrrright!!

How about a recent Washington Post article published the morning after the Boston Marathon bombs left behind their devastating marks. The reporter said two men had been arrested. Even published their pictures! Ratings the evil one here?

Before I go on too long, let’s bring up those three once-proud broadcasting letters; the news brainchild of Atlanta’s beloved media culture tycoon, Ted Turner. I know Mr. Turner quite well. Almost went to work for him. Did you hear about the CNN reporter who mistakenly told us that there had been an arrest in Boston? There had been none yet.

A wonderful, unrehearsed reply went to a reporter by former President George W. Bush who was asked by Diane Sawyer: “Do you miss all of us?” “W” responded: “Well, I miss you as a person. But I don’t miss your profession.”

And I’ll close this rambling thesis with the award for the most ridiculous blunder of the year so far. A CNN reporter, covering the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings was in the immediate area where the bombs exploded. She looked around. Turned back to the camera and reported. “Oh… it looks like a bomb went off here!”

The bottom line: We oughta be ashamed. We who are still part of the once-proud and dignified fourth estate, and the rest of the unknowing, unaware general public. The average Joe and Jane in our country get their news from fewer than two sources each day. That’s downright scary. Don’t take it from me. I just work here.

Alcohol Sales: The Regulation Debate

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Indiana liquor store owners hope legislation allowing the sale of alcohol on Sundays won’t pass?

By Andrea Donaldson

In many states individuals don’t think twice about picking up a 6-pack to enjoy while watching Sunday Night Football. But in Indiana, alcohol sales on Sunday is more like a pipe dream. Currently, Indiana is the last state to uphold prohibition laws that ban the sale of beer, liquor, and wine on Sundays. In an effort to promote tourism some exceptions do apply for restaurants and microbreweries.  But don’t count on walking in to a liquor store to grab extra vodka for your Bloody Mary brunch.

In a time when most individuals feel this law is outdated, it is surprisingly the liquor store owners who are fighting to keep it.

Liquor store owners feel the abolition of the state’s prohibition laws will eventually lead to the closing of many small town liquor stores. The owners argue that people know to stock up on Saturday.  Therefore, if they were open Sunday their sales would not see a significant increase.  It is their perception that sales are likely to become distributed over the entire weekend, instead of condensed on Saturday evenings and afternoons.  This leaves smaller stores in a bad position. They may not have the funds to pay for the extra employee hours and other operating costs to be open for another day in the week.

However, stores considering their doors remaining shut on Sundays will be presented with another problem.  In Indiana, unlike some states, it is legal to sell wine and spirits at grocery stores. Big corporate chains like Walmart and Kroger could wind up stealing business from liquor stores who cannot afford to stay open the extra day of the week.

The president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, John Livengood, agrees.  In an article, Sunday Booze Restrictions Remain Stringent in Indiana, published in January, 2013, by USA Today. Livengood writes that new legislation allowing the sale of alcohol on Sundays will likely lead to the closing of at least 250 liquor stores and over 1,000 lost jobs in the state of Indiana.

Hoosiers that are just plain tired of the inconvenience of not being able to buy alcohol when they please will continue to push for the discontinuation of the ban.  However, they are sure to face heavy opposition from those lobbying to keep the liquor store owners’ best interests in the law books.

potus public relations assignment

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

By Neil Kuvin

Would I, if called by the president of the United States (POTUS), take on the heart-warming, always appreciated job of being his public relations rep?  A new communication and public relations client of this magnitude is waaaay more than a challenge. It seems more akin to training a twenty-foot great white shark to “fetch.”

Since watching the latest public relations Obamistakes fade into the background of our major media reporting, I’ve once again reached the place of acceptance: Acceptance that our current group of reporters, analysts, producers, editors and news directors are well versed in the nifty art of parsing.

The State Department wags are going to cover for POTUS no matter what. And why not?  That’s what they do every day and night.  And you don’t. That the media choose that path is reprehensible. But again, they do and you don’t.

After nearly five decades in broadcasting, in places like New York, Boston, Detroit, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Raleigh and Louisville, I surrender to recognizing that the message to media is the same wherever I’ve been: layer the top with redirected and reworded semantics that will positively position actions or explain a forehead-wrinkling statement.  For example: “The opportunity for improving relations remains alive.”  Or (Note that the parentheses ahead are my reactions.) “Ms._______    is balancing professional fear (‘expectation?’) with a political smile.” (‘pity?’) Whaaaat ?!!

I have arrived at the logical conclusion that this super politician doesn’t pay any attention to his public relations advisors & they don’t know what to do with him. The President, as usual and expected, positions himself as battling against the tide.  Can you think of any others in government or corporate annals taking this always defensive, “woe is me, all those big guys are against me” stance?

If you had a job with the public relations division of the US State Department you’d likely be wording stuff like this: “Sanctions are not a punitive measure, but rather a tool to impede the development of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs…”  And you’ll dress up everything Secretary of State John Kerry says.  Like, “Neutralizing the full scope of the terrorist threat in Mali, however, is a long-term effort.”  Oh.

If you decide to write for politics you could submit something as deep as this:  “Civic Activism and the Media.”  Actually this is a real assignment handed off to a friend of mine who gave journalism up for politics.  But this doesn’t look it.

Journalism and personal opinion are forever tied.  Journalism and reporting are also tied very tightly.  Media audiences many times can’t see the thin line that should be like a brick wall between them.  Isn’t it too bad we don’t understand how or especially why that wall exists.

Big Bird Gets a Beak Full of “Political Civility”

Monday, October 15th, 2012

by Neil Kuvin So

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the big yellow creature that’s been living in our TV sets since 1969 has a bump-and-run with Mitt Romney and now, President Obama. And social media has never seen the likes of the incredible traffic created as a result. So, what’s the big deal? In the life of just about every major National election, you can likely track the emergence of one comment, sound bite or event that may have changed not just the outcome of that particular election, but of the entire course of history for the WORLD (caps intended) from that moment forward. Think about it. When it comes to something this important, and millions of voters yet undecided are in play, it’s not the so-called “stakes” that get raised. It’s the unbelievable responsibility of the American voting public to use more than emotion and influenced opinion, before entering their voting booth on November 6. What’s Big Bird got to do with running a country? Mr. Romney says he would cut federal funding for PBS if he were elected. Nothing personal, mind you. “I love Big Bird,” he was quoted as saying. He just wants to find budget-balancing opportunities. The truth be told, “Sesame Street,” as just one of the many programs funded by federal dollars directed to the Center for Public Broadcasting, represents a very small percentage and amount of dollars in the overall budget. “Is it really necessary to have a military budget larger than every other country in the world?” asks Mr. John-Robert Curtin, who spent nearly two decades as General Manager of the PBS TV station in Louisville, Kentucky. Mr. Curtin goes on to note, “The cost (around $400 million) of one fighter jet could fund PBS for a year.” The day following the 1st debate, Mr. Obama is quoted as saying, in reaction, “He’ll get rid of regulations on Wall Street, but he’s going to crack down on Sesame Street!” As a former President and General Manager of WHAS-TV, I understand and appreciate the media’s role in all of this. However, when media exacerbate the situation by guessing and positioning this as the lead story at 6 or doubling-down on page one, it only creates a “I better pay attention to this” environment where every negative and demeaning word of embattlement will be underscored, capitalized and re-run. What we have here is the blooming into flower (or is that a weed?) of over a year of nasty, demeaning and downright derisive politicking. From both sides. And some of it very personal. When you disagree with your next-door neighbor, do you call him a liar and accuse him of making up his own facts? Who says this uncalled-for disrespectful, shameful rhetoric makes you any more worth voting for? Why is the immediate response from either of you to make the other appear to be a phony or otherwise less of an intelligent candidate for the office? I understand that most people just take all this pomposity as part of the theater that is politics. But, after more than 60 years of witnessing election dancing, I’ve never been this conscious of verbal battering. Consider the millions of children – many of them now adults – who can claim Big Bird as a major contributor to their early learning years. The influence of that seven-foot yellow carpet with a voice is incalculable. Mr. Romney, I wonder if your PR people, in prepping you for the debate, really condoned your use of that lovable creature as a target for your critical verbiage. I bet you wish you hadn’t taken their advice now. Mr. Romney: you are addressing the President of the United States. If you won’t show some respect for Mr. Obama, at least recognize and value the position of President which you are pursuing. And President Obama, the opportunities to find “gotcha” moments are not impressive or are they admirable. All those millions of “Sesame Street” fans are learning what? from your “got you back” moment? With the serious sobering conditions existing throughout the world, and certainly here at home, is this squabbling over a fictitious character getting us anywhere closer to finding solutions for the overwhelming problems we face? Sir, as leader of the free, indeed entire world, your tactics, demeanor, and show of respect for your challenger should be prominent and practiced in every instance. In the words of that famous PR practitioner from LA, Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Crisis Communication: Is It OK to Plead the 5th?

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

In a crisis communication situation, communicating who you are and what you stand for can either put you in a shark-filled tank or be an example of your integrity and class. Solyndra Execs and Crisis CommunicationThe most current illustration of this either/or condition is the case of the two major executives of the bankrupt California solar energy company, Solyndra, Inc. Subpoenaed to appear on Capitol Hill last week, Solyndra’s CEO, Brian Harrison, and the company’s CFO, Bill Stover, responded to lawmaker’s questions with a stiff, “On advice of counsel, I respectfully decline to answer any questions.” Now, that’s communicating what? While constitutionally protected, these two men have extremely valuable and important inside information that could inform the loaning institutions of the reasons for the declared bankruptcy, as well as give the thousand or so out-of-work Solyndra employees a sense of what went wrong and why they are now in unemployment lines. Communicating without fear of legal responsibility also is a possibility that their lawyers could work out with the congressional panel prior to their appearance. Years of experience with training clients in crisis communication conditions include imploring them to be open and truthful. Prepare answers to questions you know are coming. Prepare responses to possible questions you don’t want to hear but fear might be coming. Respond with brief, calculated and informative answers. Respond honestly to follow-up questions. Refer

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to already prepared response documents or statements available online or in news releases. And did I already say, tell the truth? The congressional committee examining the events surrounding the government-backed loan to Solyndra of over a half-billion dollars is now presented with an insurmountable barricade by these two men in their side-stepping of preparing true and honest answers to the downfall of their company. The committee chair called the bankruptcy a “heist” and said there might be “co-conspirators called the U. S. Government.” Those personal comments aside, the use of the 5th Amendment in this situation robs the Federal Government who entrusted these men with the financial resources they needed of ever knowing what really happened, not to say anything of the public’s right to know. Communicating truth, honesty, integrity and remorse in a crisis communication situation is the best way to help the cause of understanding. The pleading of constitutionally protected 5th Amendment rights is a major legal maneuver that, right or wrong, brings doubt to the equation. No matter how or when the truth ever comes out, these men and Solyndra, Inc. will forever be branded by their response. by

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Neil Kuvin

Shades of Green: Save Water – Save Money

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

save waterSave Water – Save Money.

Nearly the entire country is experiencing a significant heat wave. Here we experienced the first day at 100 degrees since this day in 1988. And while we suffer these temperatures, the water company is pleading with us to save water.

Our local water company is pumping nearly twice the normal volume of water daily, straining their systems nearly beyond capacity.

Water is THE absolute necessity of life. We cannot survive as a species or as a planet without it. We use water everywhere. In the house. Around the house. At the office. In all kinds

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of businesses everywhere.

Yet in many parts of the country water is becoming more and more precious and expensive. And while it’s renewable, we still have to clean it to use it. And in many parts of the country it more and more difficult to obtain. In coming few weeks we will demonstrate how to save water or use less

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of it. And thus, save money.

If you haven’t experienced a water shortage yet, you will. We waste clean water at a prodigious rate. Did you know that about one-third of the water we use during the summer goes on grass – not to people?! In the average large city we use 50-75 million gallons of water a day just to water our grass. Yet a few states away, water is scarce.

Did you know that most of the world gets by on only 2.5 gallons of water a day per person? Yet in the United States the average person uses 400 gallons a day!

Yet even in this country, Florida is experiencing fresh water shortages and they are common as well in the Southwest. Experts agree that if we don’t get a handle on this simple problem some cities will be importing water within 20 years. Los Angeles already has to import water to support its population. Las Vegas is a water sponge as well.

And spending on water continues to increase. Not just for the water, but for building and maintaining the infrastructure to deliver it. All of this costs increasingly more money. Anybody noticed their water bill actually going down lately? I didn’t think so.

Next Friday we’ll begin sharing some ideas on how everyone can help alleviate the water issues are – or will be – experiencing. Save water = save money.

By Julie Vincent, APR and Bob Dittmer, APR

From: Shades of Green, available at


The Media Conundrum

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Chet Huntley and David BrinkleyIs the media serving its public?

My previous life as a television station general manager was spent during a period of local newscast expansion. Costs of syndicated programs like “Oprah” contributed to the decision to “just add another half-hour of local news” to the schedule. The problem was always doing it with existing resources to save money. As more television stations followed suit an obvious (seems obvious) result was denigration of quality and coverage.

Now a recent federal study of the media soon to be published points out a serious decline in reporting on a local level. Particularly alarming in the study is the finding that coverage of state governments and municipalities has receded at such a quickening pace that it has left government with more power than ever to set the agenda and have assertions unchallenged.