Monday, January 18, 2016

Will non-profits save community newspapers?

Posted by Greg Matusky
The news last week that the Philadelphia Inquirer and its sister properties, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com, would in essence become a non-profit set off a national debate as to whether this new corporate structure is a panacea for all that ails the chronically ill newspaper industry.

The transformation was made possible by the paper’s owner, philanthropist and ex-cable TV exec Gerry Lenfest. His largesse, which includes seed funding of $20 million, is to be admired. The Inquirer quotes Lenfest as saying, "Of all the things I've done, this is the most important. Because of the journalism."

How true. With 20 Pulitzers, the Philadelphia Inquirer has long-served as the pine tar that binds us together as Philadelphians. Lenfest’s gift is unique unto itself, a savior’s model, unlike the non-profit/trust models underpinning The Tampa Tribune or the U.K.’s Guardian. In both cases, the papers were intended to serve as cash engines for funding the public good of their parent entities. Lenfest believes that his non-profit will secure the necessary funding to keep the patient alive and breathing long enough to figure out how to monetize new digital channels.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Forget Ricky Gervais, the funniest thing I saw this weekend was Sean Penn acting like a journalist

Posted by Greg Matusky
It’s bad. Really bad. Written with made-up words, rambling for pages, and using language that could win The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for wretched writing.

I suffered through Sean Penn’s Rolling Stone secret interview with Mexican drug lord El Chapo to understand how the magazine could allow a celebrity to take on the complicated issue of drug trafficking, murder, corruption, and the cartels that have destroyed the Mexican government and threatened its people. I never really got an answer.


What I did learn is why no self-respecting publication should ever agree to allow the subject of an article to review its content before publication, and why no subject should ever even ask. The upfront disclaimer on the article lets readers know that Rolling Stone allowed Penn to share his work with the drug lord prior to publication to assure approval. Penn brags his murderous subject made no changes.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hey Al Jazeera: Next Time You Slam Peyton Manning at Least Present Some Evidence

Posted by Greg Matusky
Over the holidays, I was rudely interrupted when my cell phone flashed a report naming Peyton Manning as a doper by Al Jazeera America, the Arab-backed news network. I have been a long-time student of Al Jazeera America, studying it to learn how the Arab network tries to shape US opinion. At times, I have seen it as savvy propagandist. Not this time. Rather, its Peyton Manning hatchet job was such a bad piece of investigative journalism as to render it laughable.



First off, the story relied on a proven fraudster to serve as an undercover agent hellbent on ensnaring drug pushers and their athlete customers. As the story went, Liam Collins claimed to be the world's fastest age-group intermediate hurdler who was on a global prowl to improve his Olympic chances by copping the best of the banned.

In a quirky turn of events, I ran the 400 hurdles in college and have followed the event for decades. Never heard of Liam. A quick Google search revealed he had once run a ponzi scheme that cheated British investors out of $6 million, and performed on a U.K. TV talent show as part of the dance duo, called Faces of Disco. Now I have nothing against disco dancing, intermediate hurdlers, and I might have been one in my day. It's just not the strongest resume from which to launch a sting operation targeting American sports heroes.  

Never mind. It only got worse. For all their intent, Liam seemed to have a hard time finding doctors willing to sell him drugs. He started in the Bahamas with two doctors who flatly refused to prescribe him anything.

Al Jazeera soldiered on and flew to Vancouver to meet two 30-something wannabe, drug-peddler entrepreneurs/witch doctors. The so-called Naturopaths, whatever that is, presented Liam a PowerPoint business plan they claimed would allow them to sell banned drugs to NFL players. Comical and still not enough to raise any red flags for Al Jezeera.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Before you start unfriending friends who Like Donald Trump, better understand how many of us use Facebook

Posted by Greg Matusky
How ridiculous: Last week’s viral blurb urging us all to unfriend our Facebook friends who Like Donald Trump. It came courtesy of the link friendswholiketrump.com. Go to it and automatically, you discover Facebook friends who Like The Donald, and urges you then to unfriend these people.



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

How the ‘normal guy’ narrative infects reporting

Posted by Greg Matusky
So it happened again. Some psychopath goes on a killing spree, and the media is quick to report that no one saw it coming and that he or she was just a regular guy or gal. It’s a narrative set early and often. Yet, it’s usually dead wrong. Just about every in-depth study of the “normal guy” defense shows it to be a red herring, advanced by neighbors and acquaintances who don’t want to get involved and by family with a vested interest in shielding any blame. It seems more likely than not that there are always clues, yet the media is quick to advance the “normal guy” narrative. Why?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

News jacking is out. News Hacking is in.

Posted by Greg Matusky
A couple of months ago, my colleague Mike Lizun announced the end of one of the most overused concepts in all of PR, news jacking. For the outsider, news jacking is nothing more than a PR person who does their job, follows the news, and then injects a client into trending stories by working their contacts and knowledge of beat reporting. Mike believes it also belittles public relations, our professionals and processes by suggesting that all you need to do is ride the coattails of a breaking news story.

Mike believes the industry has moved well beyond that to a more skilled take on the complexities of media and our work within it. He terms these advances news hacking, or the reverse engineering of news cycles to uncover optimal opportunities to position clients while simultaneously eliminating reputational risk.

We loved the concept so much that we named our newest blog after it. TheNewsHackers.com takes the concept of reverse engineering news cycles to a whole “nother” level. It looks behind the simple PR platitudes to apply a more scientific and granular point on PR. It also sets forth a manifesto of sorts, which identifies the key steps to news hacking…such as:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Melissa Click just doesn’t get it and should be fired now!

Posted by Greg Matusky
As of this morning, the much-maligned assistant professor of mass media from the University of Missouri Melissa Click still has a job. She shouldn’t. She should have been fired, and made an example of for failing to understand the most treasured and principled ethic of journalism: Access breeds truth, and the world is best-served by open ideas and a free media. Instead, this fine woman, who has dedicated her life to studying Lady Gaga and 50 Shades of Grey rather than real reporting, defaulted to the very steady state used by fascists since time immemorial, she called for some “muscle,” and sought to blot out the truth.

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