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The 15-Seconds Blog

  • Canon Fail Run

    Doncha hate it when you accidentally fire a cannon ball through someone’s house? The TV show “MythBusters” did that on Tuesday while taping their program for Discovery Channel.

    If you missed the details of the science experiment gone wrong the video is below:

    The projectile escaped a testing ground, flew through a nearby neighborhood, ricocheted around one home, bounced off another and ended up in a parked mini-van.

    The next day the show’s hosts showed up on scene, hats in hand, to express regret to the folks whose homes were unintended targets.

    According to the San Francisco Chronicle, after assuring one family that the program “would never again blast a home with heavy ordnance” the hosts, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage said the incident was “the worst thing that had happened during thousands of experiments over eight years on the Discovery Channel show.”

    It appears that despite their near miss, the MythBuster crew did a good job of damage control.  They promised that they would not air footage shot of the errant cannon blast (avoiding the possible perception that they might capitalize on their mistake.)

    More importantly, they said and did the right things. They met with the affected families privately and then met with the press.

    The Chronicle quotes the apologetic Savage saying:  “Honestly, the feeling of embarrassment is not something we’re indulging in right now.  We feel for the families and the people affected by this.”  The hosts agreed to pose for pictures with neighbors saying “You’ve forgive us for not smiling.  It’s not smiling time.”

    Give the MythBuster crew credit for decent aim with their response.  They could have stayed away for fear of saying something that might be used against them in a future lawsuit.  There WILL be lawsuits.  But the hosts were on target with appropriate expressions of concern.

    There are PR lessons in this for all institutions.  Sure, you are unlikely to fire a cannon into unsuspecting neighborhoods — but unexpected things happen all the time.  The military even has an acronym for one subset of the problem:  TFOA, which stands for “Things Falling Off Aircraft.”

    Despite your best efforts, dramatic unforeseen things can happen to any organization.  These events can blow a hole in your public persona.  How you react to the incident will impact whether the damage is fatal to your reputation.


  • Dare to Be Boring

    Sharp spokesmen occasionally need to be really dull.  Press Secretary Jay Carney offered Lester Kinsolving, quirky correspondent for  WorldNetDaily, a chance to ask a question at Monday’s White House briefing.

    Normally spokesmen try to duck Kinsolving questions because they tend to be pretty wacky.  But saying he was full of “holiday spirit” yesterday, Carney let Lester have a shot.  He quickly regretted it.

    Here is what Kinsolving asked:

    “The Family Research Council and CNS News both reported a 93-to-7 U.S. Senate vote to approve a defense authorization bill that, quote, “includes a provision which not only repeals the military law on sodomy, but also repeals the military ban on sex with animals, or bestiality.”  Does the Commander-in-Chief approve or disapprove of bestiality in our armed forces?”

    Vladimir Putin & Horse

    Carey quickly responded that he didn’t have any comment and tried to direct the questioning to Jake Tapper of ABC News. Tapper decided to torment Carney by asking if he was sure he didn’t want to “take any more questions on bestiality.”

    Jay was sure.

    The spokesman did a good job of moving quickly to an easier subject (the next question had to do with anti-semitism) but his smirk let him down. PETA subsequently attacked Carney for laughing off the question.

    Let the record show, however, that Carney wisely did not fall into the trap of joking along with Kinsolving.  It would have been easy to come up with some snappy response…e.g.  “Lester, what you do in your private life if your own business” — but he’d be in deeper trouble with PETA than he already is.

    The Kinsolving-Carney exchange is in the video below courtesy of CSPAN


  • The Pedo File: Dumb Interviews Continue

    Jerry Sandusky’s lawyer must want him convicted.  That is the only plausible explanation for why he continues to facilitate media interviews for the accused Penn State pedophile.

    Someone needs to tell Sandusky that the Freedom of Speech includes the right to shut up. No doubt it is disturbing to have most of the public assume you are a creepy old man — but it makes no sense to open your mouth and remove any doubt.

    The New York Times has a lengthy story (accompanied by some video and audio) from four hours of interviews conducted over two days at the home of Sandusky’s lawyer Joseph Amendola.

    As bad as the written interview is, the video is worse.  Sandusky laughs inappropriately and engages in long pauses reminiscent of his stupefyingly dumb interview with Bob Costas.

    There are so many things wrong with Amandola’s approach to defending his client it is hard to know where to begin.  Some situations are so serious and so troubling that the accused should never try to justify their actions through the media. This is one.

    It is rarely a good idea to sit down for four hours of interviews.  The most articulate and innocent person (which Sandusky doesn’t appear to be) will say something stupid given that much of an opportunity.

    Even when trying to generate sympathy, Sandusky only succeeds in convicting himself.  Toward the end of the article he is quoted as saying:

    “I miss coaching,” he said. “I miss Second Mile. I miss Second Mile kids. I miss interrelationships with all kinds of people. I miss my own grandkids. I miss, I mean you know I’m going to miss my dog. So, I mean, yeah, I miss, yeah. Good grief.

     “I’m going to miss my dog”?  Sounds like Sandusky has figured out that you can’t take your pooch to prison.