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The 15-Seconds Blog

  • Playing the Trump Card

    Lots of people have their hair on fire over provocative comments made by Donald Trump after the election.

    Trump says  he has no regrets for going on a Twitter rant after the election calling the Obama win “a travesty” “a total sham” and “a disgusting injustice.”  The Donald really needs to learn how to not hide his feelings.

    NBC News anchor Brian Williams wasn’t buying it saying on the air: “Donald Trump, who has driven well past the last exit to relevance and veered into something closer to irresponsible here, is tweeting tonight.”

    The problem is that people are “misunderestimating” and “misoverestimating” Trump.  They treat him like a serious commentator and are shocked when he gets a little wacky.

    He is not Edward R. Murrow and he is not Bozo the Clown.  Trump is a promoter and a damn good one.  He knows how to say things which push people’s buttons. The result is more twitter followers, more people tuning in to Celebrity Apprentice and more people watching to see what provocative thing  he says next.

    He is not the only troll out there but Trump towers above most of the rest in terms of audacious success.  People like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter on the right — and Bill Maher and Al Sharpton on the left have perfected the art of tossing verbal cherry bombs.

    If newsmongers annoy you — the way to deal with them is to ignore them.  Not tweet back and call them idiots.  They’ll love it if you do.


  • Off-the Record: Go Screw Yourself

    Remember when PR people were derided for being purveyors of happy talk?  Those were the days.

    Politico has an interesting article today about the increasingly toxic relationship between reporters and the spokesmen for organizations they cover.

    Dylan Byers and John Harris provide plenty of examples of the un-civil war that is being waged between journalists and flacks.

    Phillippe Reines, a senior State Department official, famously engaged in an email flame war with Michael Hastings of BuzzFeed with Hastings calling Reines responses “bullshit” and Philippe flipping him off by calling the correspondent an “unmitigated asshole” and finally telling him to “F— off.”

    It is not just prickly officials like Reines and hotheaded reporters like Hastings tossing the f-bombs. White House officials, Capitol Hill spokesmen and experienced correspondents are all letting it fly.  Why?

    In large part we think it is due to the changing nature of the news media. Economics and the pressure of the internet mean that there are fewer and fewer reporters filling more and more news holes.  There was a time when a reporter would have days to work on a single story.  Now he or she is expect to blog, tweet, and post multiple stories in a single day — sometimes in a single hour. Print reporters are expected to make TV appearances to promote their work.  TV reporters have to write “explainers” for the web.

    Grouchy reporters and surly spokesmen are nothing new but the phenomena is growing.

    In the past reporters would often meet their sources face-to-face or at worst have lengthy phone conversations.  Today much of the communication is done by email and direct messaging.  Politco quotes N.Y. Times reporter Peter Baker as saying:

    “People will say things to you in emails that they would never say to you to your face. They’ll go further in emails than they would have on the phone or in person.” He added: “There is something liberating about typing. You get these emails full of words that wouldn’t be acceptable in the family newspaper.”

    So, what can an organization do about this?  First, recognize the new reality.  Reporters are going to be much more agitated when you hear from them now. They will more easily be offended and think the worst of you and your organization.

    Second – remember the old reality.  You can’t win if you get into a pissing contest with someone who buys ink by the barrel (or bytes by the terabyte.)

    Third – with reporters under increased pressure to report nearly instantly — the organization which beefs up its corps of spokespeople — even in a time of media downsizing — will be rewarded by having a better chance at getting a fair shake. It will always be an adversarial relationship – but it need not be one laced with obscenities and mutual disrespect.  Reporters on deadline will inevitably default to thinking they are being stonewalled when they don’t get timely responses.  That doesn’t mean you have to tell them everything they want to know, but if you fail to respond or respond with only spin,in the modern environment, you can expect to field more than a few “F. U.’s.”

    Update: Journalist David Shuster reportedly tells Congressman and/or his spokesman to “Go F*** himself” this past Saturday. 

    Watch 15-Second’s Fred Francis on CNN’s Reliable Sources Sunday November 11.