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Friday, June 26, 2009

Welcome, Trader Joe's!

Trader Joe's opened in St. Paul today. New development in this economy is big news - as evidenced by the story making the Pioneer Press front-page this morning (the only non-Michael Jackson front page story in either Twin Cities daily). We were proud to work with Stuart Simek of Meridian Management and Stephani Sundry of Told Development on this project. Welcome, Trader Joe's, to the great city of St. Paul!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Location, location, location

It's not just for real estate. Location is also an important consideration for news conferences and media interviews. The New York Times illustrates how the location of the President's news conference today affected the tone of the questions and answers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

When everyone zigs, keep on zagging

The Highland Villager is one of the most influential news sources in Saint Paul. The paper has reporters who actually go to community meetings, city council hearings, and district council events. They cover Highland Park in a way that harkens back to the days of stronger daily newspapers.

Yet you can’t get the stories on your Blackberry, Google News, or any other on-line resource. The paper has made the decision to keep its print-only focus until there is a viable business model for on-line publications. This approach ensures that people who buy ads actually know that people see the ads in the printed form. It also frustrates webophiles who want all things on-line all of the time.

So much so that someone has decided to create a blog that lists stories from the most recent issue of the Villager.

While hands continue to wring with news about the two daily papers losing readers, cutting staffs, and stretching budgets, the Highland Villager continues to be a strong, active news source. Jane McClure, a veteran reporter, continues to cover her many beats while daily newsroom counterparts continue to change.

Can the Villager stay this way? There are a few other papers in the country that are not on-line. The Villager is fortunate to cover an area that craves information and has far more than its share of resident community activists. But at a time when the STRIB is badly trying to emulate television in the form of video newscasts, here’s an example of a newspaper trying to actually be a newspaper.

Monday, June 15, 2009

How many English words are there?

If you answered one million, you are correct – according to at least one source.

The Global Language Monitor, a Web site that uses a mathematical formula to estimate word creation, last week estimated that “Web 2.0” became the millionth English word. The site also indicates that the English language accumulates 14 new words daily.

Some linguists, as well as this writer by trade, think that counting words is futile. Personally, I question whether “Web 2.0” should be added to the dictionary.

CNN talked to several experts on the subject, who raised points that even non-linguists will find interesting. And, for more on the subject The (London) Times online also ran an article over the weekend and posted the entertaining related column.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

60 years of “Nineteen Eighty-Four”

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” The novel’s impact on popular culture and politics is difficult to underestimate. In large part because of it, Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) has become one of the 20th century’s towering literary and journalistic figures.

Orwell the novelist created and used “Newspeak” in his final major work to show us how language is manipulated in a totalitarian regime, and his work challenges us to think about how the same forces of manipulation may be used in a freer society than that of his fictional Oceania. The appendix, in which the author explains the principles of this new mode of expression, is a masterful warning about what public speech may become -
perhaps even more relevant today than it was 60 years ago.

So today, you oldthinker, be sure to put down your prolefeed for a moment to fullwise reflect on the doubleplus goodthinkfully malreported "Nineteen Eighty-Four" without a hint of facecrime before it goes down the memory hole and your own life is packed off to Room 101.

Those of us who are practitioners in public communications should be especially grateful for Orwell's dystopian tale of political, linguistic and thought control for his warning about the special responsibilities we owe to the public and our clients.

But it should be noted that Orwell the citizen and man was concerned with language's misuse well before his famous masterpiece. In a 1946 essay, "Politics and the English Language," he said,

"..the English language...becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts."
[George Orwell, Why I Write (New York: Penguin, 2005) 102]

But not content to just diagnose a problem, the veteran working journalist also suggested small ways to improve our thinking and expression:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other fugure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use a passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

[ibidem, 119]

Good, practical, everyday advice - which we at Goff & Howard generally follow - from the man who wanted to make sure that our words, our thoughts, and ultimately our politics would not lead to oldthinking unpersons being vaporized by Big Brother in joycamps.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Georgacas contributes to Governor conversation

Now that the Twin Cities is abuzz with speculation about our next governor in light of Pawlenty's announcement, Goff & Howard President Chris Georgacas has been called on to contribute to the conversation. (Chris is one of the state's premier experts on gubernatorial politics, having served as GOP chairman during Arne Carlson's stormy but overwhelmingly successful re-election in 1994, campaign manager for Norm Coleman's 1998 race, and campaign chairman of Pawlenty's uphill-climb 2002 victory.) Chris is quoted in the AP story today, "Pawlenty's exit reshapes 2010 race for MN governor." You can also hear Chris on Minnesota Public Radio on Kerri Miller's "Midmorning" show on Friday, June 5, during the 9 a.m. hour.