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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Good television and great media strategy

Tuesday was a significant day for the Obama administration’s effort to get its message out. Obama’s team achieved both “quantity” and “quality” in audience impact.


To reach a quantitatively significant audience the President took advantage of a prime time television audience and the millions of people who come with it to give his first address to a joint session of Congress. The speech was well received and has given the media and policy wonks plenty to analyze.


Earlier in the day before a significantly smaller audience yet one that is of significant “quality,” the Obama administration strategically brought the media into the White House communications department. MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough got an informal White House tour from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Gibbs showed off his office, the staff that works with him, and even showed the hosts where he keeps the flak jacket that is passed down from one press secretary to another.

“Morning Joe’s” audience is a mere fraction of a prime time network broadcast yet the show is popular with audiences in Washington, D.C., and New York City. Yet allowing a live news-focused show into the inner sanctum of the communications department sends a clear message that this White House intends to have a different and more open relationship with the media.

During the election cycle, the Obama campaign was effective in strategically getting its message out. When you combine this with the impact of the prime time speech and the “Morning Joe” appearance, it’s clear that the team has brought the same approach to the White House.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Abbreviations – period or no period?

With complex and often contradictory rules, the English language can confound even the most careful practitioners.

One recent topic discussed in the writers’ corner at Goff & Howard was abbreviations. When are periods used, and when are they not?

Our most frequently used style guide, The Gregg Reference Manual, tells us that it depends on the situation. (Imagine that…)

Here are a few examples that we come across regularly:
• For the most part, uppercased abbreviations do not require periods. Examples include IRS, VIP, CEO, NFL, URL and CST. Favorite exceptions include academic degrees, like M.D. and B.S. And, according to at least one style guide (United States Government Printing Office Style Manual), CST should be c.s.t. We defer to The Gregg Reference Manual unless the situation dictates otherwise.
• Most lowercased abbreviations require periods. Examples include a.m., p.m., i.e. (that is to say), and e.g. (for example).
• When more than one letter is included per word in an abbreviation, use periods – Ph.D. and Lt. Col., for example.

Goff & Howard takes pride in getting the answers right on abbreviations and all kinds of other confounding grammar and usage questions. Then, on the most difficult occasions, The Gregg Reference Manual throws us a bone, telling us it’s okay to sometimes “manipulate the principles of style with intelligence and taste.*”

* William A. Sabin, The Gregg Reference Manual, Ninth Edition, Glencoe McGraw-Hill, New York, 2001, p. v.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New measure of press conference success

How many news cameras does it take to claim a news conference a success?

In the past, four cameras (channels 4, 5, 9 and 11) was a grand slam. But today, one camera is the new gold standard. That is, if you get the golden video-pooler camera. . .

MinnPost reports in the story, “Happy together: TV newsrooms begin regular video-pooling.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Newspapers not yet extinct

It’s widely held that the format of news content and advertisements printed on thin paper, delivered to our homes or offices, and lying around the local greasy spoon or barber shop – something which used to carry the dignified name “newspaper” – is like a dinosaur near the end of the Cretaceous Period. We’re just waiting for the massive asteroid to hit News Media Earth.

Well, old fashioned newspapers aren’t quite dead yet. For an interesting example, see this post on the Cato Institute’s blog on hardcopy’s superior ability (compared to online content) to generate web-based reader responses:


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Failed newspaper biz model

Most of us lament the slow death of traditional print journalism. Here’s an interesting piece by Walter Isaacson, former managing editor of Time magazine and chief executive officer of CNN, on the failed newspaper business model in the Internet Age and how it might be fixed.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Facebook: not just for kids

At first, I thought Facebook was just for the loners hacking away on computers in their mothers’ basements. Then, an old friend who lives a thousand miles away lured me to sign up just so I could see the photos of her kids she posted. I signed up . . .became quickly overwhelmed . . . and swiftly deactiviated my account. Weeks later . . .I tiptoed back and joined again. And I haven’t looked back since. At first it was simply a photos swap with old friends . . .but now it’s more than that; it’s also a business tool. But, if you are considering joining all the cool kids on FB, be sure you know how to use it. While you can set some pretty tight privacy settings, it is also pretty easy for many to call up your profile picture. Or, for friends to “tag” you in a photo album . . .and the next thing you know you’re sitting across the meeting table with someone who just called up a picture of you at a party you’d rather forget. (Just ask Jon Favreau, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2008/12/04/one_more_question.html)

So . . .give it a shot. But proceed with caution . . .and discretion.