Monthly Archives: November 2007

Return of the I-Man

Nearly eight months after being fired for comments about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, Don Imus returns to the airwaves on Monday as 77WABC’s new morning host. Author Dave Zirin recently wrote an intriguing op-ed on the I-Man’s return for the Los Angeles Times titled Why is Imus back in the game?

In a similar vein, I explore the recent controversy over fan behavior at Giants Stadium in a piece for the Hall Institute of Public Policy this week. In Mixed Signals from the World of Football, I suggest that the sports world maintains a double standard for women.

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A Picture is Not Always What It Seems


The controversy over the Asbury Park Press photo illustration on the Governor Corzine’s asset monetization plan reminded me that even an unaltered photo can lead to debate.

This photo, taken in Beirut in 2006, earned photographer Spencer Platt the 2006 Photo of the Year 2006 award from World Press Photo for capturing “the complexity and contradiction of real life, amidst chaos.” Indeed, the Getty Images caption that accompanied photo read: “Affluent Lebanese drive down the street to look at a destroyed neighborhood Aug. 15, 2006, in southern Beirut, Lebanon.”

It turned out, however, that the young women were not “disaster tourists” whose dress and demeanor was out of place. Instead, they were residents of the area returning to their neighborhood after it was bombed.

To learn more about their story, read World Press Photo Mix-Up. To hear photographer Spencer Platt comments on the issue, visit Award-Winning Photo Draws Criticism for Subjects on NPR.

A Chance To Speak Up

If you feel that television is shortchanging New Jersey residents, you’ll have a chance to let the FCC know this week. The commission will hold a public forum in Newark on Wednesday to receive input on WWOR’s request to renew its license. Several organizations are opposing the renewal, arguing that the station fails to adequately cover the Garden State. U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg is among those scheduled to testify. The hearing will run from from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Paul Robeson Campus Center at Rutgers-Newark, 350 Dr Martin Luther King Boulevard. More details are available in the official FCC announcement and on the Voice for New Jersey website.

The Power of the (Asbury Park) Press

The Senate Law and Public Safety and Veterans’ Affairs Committee is scheduled to vote on a resolution next Thursday (November 29) urging Congress and the President to reverse the decision to close the Fort Monmouth. According to the resolution, the decision should be reversed because of information uncovered by an Asbury Park Press investigation.

For a different take on the manner in which the Asbury Park Press covered the Fort Monmouth issue, read Media Coverage of Domestic U.S. Military Bases and How It Supports the Military Industrial Complex, the paper I presented at the National Communication Association Convention in Chicago last weekend.

For Christie, the Best Defense is A Good Offense

Anyone who has seen Chris Christie at a press conference outside a courtroom as part of his ongoing crusade to root out corruption in New Jersey knows that his PR skills may be just as sharp and his legal expertise.

Now he finds himself playing defense since the Star-Ledger today reported that the law firm of former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft (who previously was Christie’s boss) could earn more than $52 million because Christie hand-picked the firm to serve as a federal monitor in a case involving kickbacks by manufacturers of knee and hip replacements.

But so far Christie still seems to be succeeding in managing the press.

First he washes his hands by saying he wasn’t involved in setting Ashcroft’s fee.

Next he punts to Ashcroft to respond to questions and take some of the focus off his office.

Then he put the onus for the huge payout on the company that’s being monitored. “If they’re being cooperative and timely in their compliance as required in the agreement, there’ll be much less work for the monitor to do,” he told the Associated Press.

And in the Ledger story, he labeled the $52 million figure “a real bargain” because of what he expects it to save taxpayers if the industry changes its practices as a result of the case.

He also declined to make the agreement with Ashcroft public, citing privacy concerns.

Some of his quotes are provocative, to say the least:

“I certainly don’t think it’s a problem to hire somebody who used to be your boss but no longer is. What am I getting out of this exactly? I can tell you, I’m getting nothing, except the comfort in hiring people I know I can trust to do the job.”

“I picked these five people because I have worked with them and I trust them and I know that they will approach their job in a responsible way both in terms of the fees they charge and the effort that they put in.”

Christie may well be within rights. Ashcroft’s firm may in fact be the most qualified firm to serve as a monitor in this case. And perhaps its work will someday pay for itself in savings for taxpayers.

But for an individual who has made ethics and transparency a priority in his campaign against corruption and cronyism, it is disconcerting to hear him say that one of his reasons in awarding a $52 million no-bid contract was that he knew the people involved.

This story has just broken. It will be interesting to see how it plays out over the next few days. Will the media be aggressive in challenging Christie’s statements and attempting to unearth some of the details he’s keeping from? Or will he continue to be a Teflon public figure to whom no charge ever sticks?

Stay tuned.

More Than Her 15 Minutes of Fame

Back in September, I asked the students in my public relations class at Mercer County Community College how they would react to the following scenario:

You are in charge of public relations for Southwest Airlines. On Labor Day, Gerry Braun, a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune calls your cell phone to ask for the airline’s comment on a story he is writing for the next day’s paper. His story is about Kyla Ebbert, a 23-year-old woman who lives in the San Diego area. She clams that after boarding a Southwest flight from San Diego to Tucson, an airline employee escorted her off the plane and informed her she was dressed too provocatively and would not be able to take the flight unless she changed her clothes. Kyla contends there was nothing offensive about her outfit — a white denim miniskirt, high-heel sandals and a turquoise summer sweater over a tank top over a bra — and that it was similar to what many young women wear today. She said she was embarrassed by the manner in which she was treated and would like Southwest to apologize.

From a PR standpoint, I thought Southwest took a bad situation and made it worse by giving the reporter conflicting information and failing to follow through on a promise to call him back with the information he needed – after promising to do so. (His story is online at http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20070905/news_1m5braun.html.)

Now comes the latest twist. The young woman in question, Kyla Ebbert, came off as a victim when the incident first came to light. Now she is using it to gain additional notoriety by posing nude for Playboy.