Category Archives: media

Breaking down coverage of the war in Ukraine

By Richard Lee

The long-standing journalism mantra “If it bleeds, it leads” holds true for the media’s coverage of the war in Ukraine, according to data compiled by students in a journalism course at St. Bonaventure University.

The data showed that, during the month of April, stories about military action and atrocities in Ukraine outnumbered reports on diplomatic efforts to end the war, humanitarian items and debate and discussion about the conflict.

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How terribly normal to be 70

By Richard Lee

Motion pictures such as La Bamba, The Buddy Holly Story, The Doors, Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody tell the stories of some of rock’n’roll’s most influential artists.

In these films and other rock’n’roll biopics, audiences see individuals growing into celebrity and coping with all that fame and fortune brings – the good as well as the bad.

What audiences do not see are the issues entertainers confront when they grow old and struggle to remain successful and relevant in an industry whose biggest stars often are its youngest.

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CDC’s Walensky puts media training to the test

By Richard Lee

Last week, CNN reported that Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been receiving media training from Mandy Grunwald, a political consultant and media advisor.

Outside of the political and media worlds, Grunwald is not a household name. But in 1992 she was instrumental in a strategic decision that altered the dynamics between politicians and the press.

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Some thoughts on Crain’s list of ‘Most Powerful Women’ in NY State

By Richard Lee

Crain’s New York Business published its list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in New York this week.

Letitia James

Attorney General Letitia James is tops on the list, one slot ahead of Gov. Kathy Hochul. Crain’s criteria for “powerful” helps explain why the state’s first female governor is No. 2 on the list.

“To compile the 2021 version of the list, Crain’s editors picked the women making the biggest waves in their respective fields,” the business news site wrote in its introduction to the list.

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One question with Jesse Jackson

By Richard Lee

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who turns 80 Friday, has been a civil rights leader, a candidate for president and an international activist. And a few minutes of his 80 years were spent with me.

We had very brief conversation in 1988 when he was seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. Though short, the conversation taught me a valuable lesson about journalism.

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An enduring lesson from Walter Mondale

By Richard Lee

Walter Mondale, who passed away Monday at the age of 93, will be remembered as a U.S. senator, a vice president and a presidential candidate. I’ll remember him for another reason.

Mondale is the subject of a story that’s been a part of several of the classes I’ve taught over the years.

Chris Matthews’ 1999 book Hardball: How Politics Is Played Told By One Who Knows The Game describes the strategy Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign employed to successfully spin the results of the Super Tuesday primary. With the help of a clever campaign manager, Mondale emerged as the winner in news reports, even though he lost seven of the nine Super Tuesday contests.

Here is what happened, as described by Mathews in his book:

Mondale, who entered the 1984 primary as the Democratic frontrunner, was rapidly losing ground to U.S. Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado. A poor showing on Super Tuesday would be devastating.

So Mondale’s campaign manager, Robert Beckel, made the race about one state – Georgia. Beckel spent hours on the phone with reporters delivering a singular message: If Mondale loses Georgia, the race is over. If he wins, the nomination is his.

Then he went to work on the optics. Beckel turned to the phone again and told Mondale supporters to come to the Capitol Hilton on primary night. He used a partition to cut down the size of the room and make the crowd look larger than it actually was. When news of Mondale’s victory in Georgia broke, network television cameras captured images of an overflow crowd celebrating the victory.

The following morning, a triumphant Mondale appeared on the Today show and accepted congratulations from host Bryant Gumbel.

“Mondale lost seven lost seven contests out of nine. But that was just the arithmetic,” Matthews observed in his book.

This episode from the 1984 Democratic primary helps when I teach strategy and messaging in public relations courses. It helps journalism students learn how to recognize when someone is trying to spin a story. And in seminar courses, it provides an illustration of the relationship between media and democracy.

Not a bad way to remember a man who spent his life in public service. RIP, Mr. Vice President.

Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, covered politics and government as a reporter and later served as Deputy Director of Communication for two New Jersey governors.

Josh Allen, Donald Trump and the WNY news cycle

Photo by Erik Drost
Via Wikimedia Commons

A search of the Buffalo News website to see how many times Josh Allen’s name was included in stories on Jan. 15, the day before the Buffalo Bills’ playoff victory over the Baltimore Ravens, yielded 11 articles. A similar search for Donald Trump showed the president appeared in just two more articles than the Bills quarterback. Continue reading

Word of Lennon’s Death Traveled a Path Similar to Today’s News

By Richard Lee

When John Lennon was murdered 40 years ago, news of his death was delivered in a format that was unconventional for the time.

Instead of a network newscast or a daily newspaper, it was sportscaster Howard Cosell who broke the news to the American public during the fourth quarter of a Monday Night Football game. Continue reading

The camera is pointing at us

By Richard Lee

At the start of the start of the HBO Max West Wing Special, Bradley Whitford, the actor who played Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman on the NBC series, spoke directly to the audience and acknowledged entertainers may not be the best choice to do deliver messages on public policy.

“We understand that some people don’t fully appreciate the benefit of unsolicited advice from actors,” Whitford said.

But then he explained why he and the West Wing cast had decided to offer some unsolicited advice: Continue reading