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The 15-Seconds Blog

  • Err Gingrich

    Like it or not (usually not) political campaigns need the press. The Gingrich campaign apparently hasn’t figured that out yet.

    Yahoo! News reported on Saturday that Team Newt has kicked a bunch of reporters off their press plane for refusing to pay more than $2000 a seat to accompany the candidate from Orlando to West Palm Beach to go to a dinner.

    News organizations traditionally chip in for the costs of bus or plane trips on the campaign trail. The travel can be pricey.  When some reporters figured out how costly this particular flight might be — they opted to skip the dinner and drive themselves to the next event. 

    A small number of reporters who were willing to pay the two grand were then told that since the number of participants was shrinking — their actual costs would go up to $3,000 a seat. Some, understandably, thought that was too steep – even if the campaign promised that “bags fly free” and there might be something in each seatback pocket from Tiffany. Most of those who had agreed to pay two grand tried to cancel their reservations – only to be told by the Gingrich campaign: “too bad, this ticket is non-refundable” that their credit cards would be charged the higher price anyway.

    A number of journalists threatened to protest the charge and direct their credit card companies to refuse to pay — which resulted in  the campaign  announcing that no reporters would be permitted to accompany the candidate on his flights today — which are expected to cover more that 1000 miles across the state.

    When asked why the media were nixed from the manifest — Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said: “I don’t have to give you a reason.”  We are guessing “R.C.” doesn’t stand for “Really Competent.”

    Gingrich scored some points when he got feisty with CNN’s John King in a recent debate.  But when he tried the same tactic with the much savvier Wolf Blitzer in a subsequent debate he came across looking like a petulant loser.

    It is never a good idea picking fights with the media. Their barrels full of ink and unlimited airtime are bound to outmatch whatever spin all the “R.C. Hammond’s” of your campaign can invent.

    For the record — we have been wrong about the Gingrich campaign in the past. As far back as May and June we predicted the imminent collapse of Newt’s presidential ambitions in large part because of his abysmal handing of the media.  You can win some skirmishes by attacking the journalists covering you – but in the end, bad press relations are likely to result in coverage which will doom your campaign.

    It is a pretty fair bet that the management of news organizations are now rooting against Newt.  If he wanted to charge $3000 for the 150 air mile flight from Orlando to West Palm Beach – imagine how much a seat on the press charter to his colony on the moon would set you back.


  • Facebook Discloses Incompetence

    “Don’t be evil” is the unofficial corporate motto for Google. Apparently Facebook’s unofficial slogan is “Do Be Dumb.”

    Seattle NPR station KPIU reports that the social network and the Washington State Attorney General’s office scheduled a joint press conference today at Facebook’s Seattle office.

    Invited reporters got an email from the AG’s communications staff this morning saying that if they want to get in they’ll have to sign a “non-disclosure agreement”:

    “Facebook asked me to pass this on to you. They require it of all visitors to their facilities. It only applies to things that you might accidentally stumble upon while you are there and covers nothing discussed during our news conference. Please either bring a signed copy or be ready to sign upon arrival.”

    The document is full of convoluted, boiler-plate legal mumbo jumbo which may make sense on some occasions — but sends entirely the wrong signal to media invited to the press conference.

    Zuckerberg’s boys may be whizzes at social networking but they are zeros when it comes to PR.  You don’t invite a gaggle or reporters into your workspace and tell them “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” 

    Lots of organizations have trade secrets, products, and methods they want to keep under wraps.  But if you can’t literally throw a sheet over secret stuff reporters might “stumble upon” when media visit — then take them somewhere else.  Rent a hotel ballroom.  Do something other than ask the media to sign a silly, over-lawyered document which makes you look paranoid — and dumb.

    After a few news organizations such as the Seattle Times and Associated Press refused to sign the non disclosure document, Facebook wisely scrubbed the requirement.

  • Taco (Dumb) Bell

    Joe Maturo is a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Well, perhaps that is not the best fast food metaphor but the East Haven, CT Mayor delivered a whopper of a bad interview the other day.

    While being questioned by WPIX-TV about the arrest of four police officers who were charged with unlawfully targeting Latinos in town for searches and abuse — the mayor was asked what he was doing for the Latino community. Kind of a broad open question. The Mayor opened his mouth and stuck his foot in it by saying “I might have tacos when I go home.” Yeah, that will help.

    In the video below Maturo can be seen digging himself in a deeper and deeper hole. He turns away from his questioner to stare directly at the camera to utter one inanity after another.

    Eventually the mayor figured out that he might have erred and issued a written statement apologizing. But then he went on camera trying to explain what he was trying to say. He might have been better off letting the written apology stand.

    h/t Jim Brooks