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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Fake Press Releases Article & the PRSA Response– Thoughts?

Fake press releases are a public service

By Jack Shafer
November 28, 2012

Yesterday, an enterprising clown used PRWeb to publish a fake press release about the purported purchasing of WiFi provider ICOA by Google for $400 million. The Associated Press, Business Insider, Forbes, TechCrunch and other websites ran stories about the transaction — without gaining confirmation from Google — and shortly after AllThingsD unmasked the release as fraudulent, the hoodwinked news organizations donned hair shirts in penance for their journalistic malpractice.

The pranked news organizations were right to self-flagellate, and the apologies and self-recriminations appeared to be sincere. “We were wrong on this post, for not following up with Google and the other company involved but posting rather than getting waiting [sic] on a solid confirmation beforehand from either source. We apologize to our readers,” confessed TechCrunch.

You don’t even have to be a talented liar to fool the press into publishing one of your lies. You just have to have gumption. In February, the Madison Capital Times got taken in by a phony press release about Representative Paul Ryan pressuring the Smithsonian to delete posters from its archives. A bogus April press release about the Bank of America’s seeking advice from customers on how to run its operation fooled the Dow Jones Newswire, and in June, a fake press release about General Mills got play in the Dow Jones Newswire, WSJ Online, and Fox Business News before the ruse was uncovered. In August, the Los Angeles Times got doubly duped when it ran a story about a nonexistent San Diego pharmacy crackdown that relied on two prank press releases.

The fake Google-ICOA press release may have been part of a “pump-and-dump” stock scheme, theorizes Technology Review, designed to boost the price of ICOA stock fivefold for a few hours, just enough time to reap quick profits. Thanks to the Web, it’s pretty simple to pollute the news stream with a counterfeit press release, as this PRWeb page on pricing indicates: You can send your release to “thousands of news outlets” for as little as $159 a release.

Did a pump-and-dumper really produce the Google-ICOA release? Surely such stock transactions would produce an incriminating paper trail and lead investigators back to the perpetrator, whom they could charge with stock manipulation. Could anybody be that stupid? I’m hoping the Google-ICOA release and others similar to it are minor acts of guerrilla press criticism by folks who have sufficient talent to mimic the press release template but insufficient talent or initiative to explain their low regard for the reporters covering the tech, political, business and crime beats. When a prank press release gets published, it identifies the outlets and journalists who were too lazy to make the single phone call that would have defused the joke. I consider that a real public service.

Or maybe I’m giving the prank press-release crowd too much credit. Perhaps their releases are an adult version of the “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?” phone calls that most of us made as kids.

Every prankster wants you to laugh, but some want you to laugh long enough to swallow their political point. The Yes Men excel at this technique: In 2011, they snookered the Associated Press with a release about GE repaying the government for a $3.8 billion tax break, and in 2010 they scored with a campaign against Chevron. In 2010, an unidentified person or group spoofed Koch Industries by distributing a release about climate change that was designed to look like it came from the company. (I don’t think any news organization bit.)

Theoretically, journalists should be the last people to fall for press releases, phony or otherwise. They’re lied to day-in and day-out on the phone by the people who write the genuine press releases I worry more about getting , and a good many of those genuine press releases aren’t exactly honest. I worry about counterfeit press releases, but I’m more suspicious about the real things, which claim to be true.

As much as some critics would like to blame the warp-speed of the Web for their mistakes, the reality is that such hoaxes and their victims have long been with us. Fake press releases are like the viruses that infect vulnerable computer systems; until you fix the system, they’ll continue to work.

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If you must send press releases, send only fake ones to Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com. All of my Tweets are genuine. Sign up for email notifications of new Shafer columns (and other occasional announcements). Subscribe to this RSS feed for new Shafer columns.

November 28, 2012

PRSA Responds to Reuters Article Concerning Fake Press Releases

 PRSA today responded to an article by Reuters columnist Jack Shafer titled, “Fake press releases are a public service.”
In a comment posted to the article, PRSA’s Vice President of Public Relations, Arthur Yann, wrote:
Of course, the claim can be reliably made that journalists lie day-in and day-out to the audiences they serve, fabricating sources and quotes and making up information to fit the narrative they wish to tell.
My point simply is that liars and thieves exist in every profession, not just in public relations. And while the stereotype of public-relations-professional-as-liar is a reliable applause generator, any public relations professional who regularly misleads journalists (vs. a press-distributing bot) is not going to last long in this profession. And shouldn’t.
It’s the obligation of every public relations professional to serve the journalist community, which means helping them ferret out the facts and get their stories correct. The PRSA Code of Ethics (www.prsa.org/ethics) requires PRSA members and encourages all public relations professionals not only to “act promptly to correct erroneous communications for which the member is responsible,” but also to “investigate the truthfulness and accuracy of information released on behalf of those represented.”

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

A Look at Charitable Giving in the US- Thoughts on the results of this research survey?

Razoo Infographic: A Look at Charitable Giving in the US

November 26th, 2012 by Christian Brink

As we enter the season of giving, Razoo has partnered with Harris Interactive to conduct an online survey that looks at the charitable giving behavior of Americans.

As it turns out, more than 9 in 10 U.S. adults have donated to others (94%)! Doing so is actually one of the top three “feel good” activities behind being in love (56%) and hugging your children (48%), but ahead of eating gourmet meals (27%) and working out at the gym (24%).

Check out the infographic below to see how Americans give!

 

In general, Americans have positive feelings about charitable giving and believe they are making a difference. However, some feel frustrated, wishing they could give more.

  • A majority (60%) of those who have ever donated to those in need feel hope in that they are making a difference
  • Nearly half of U.S. adults (48%) feel satisfied after donating
  • Just under half of U.S. adults (43%) feel good about themselves after donating
  • Over a quarter of U.S. adults (28%) feel excited after donating
  • Some U.S. adults (17%) feel frustrated because they wish they could give more
  • A small group (6%) of U.S. adults feel guilty that they have what others do not

The survey also reported that most Americans believe there are causes they can relate to, and that they’re more likely to donate as a result.

  • Almost all (98%) U.S. adults think there are causes that people can relate to and in turn make them more likely to donate to
  • A majority of U.S. adults (67%) think people relate especially to child welfare causes
  • Nearly half of U.S. adults (49%) think people relate especially to animal causes
  • Over half of U.S. adults who have ever donated to those in need feel that their giving truly will make a difference, with women (65%) feeling even more so than men (54%)

 

For more information, read the full press release here.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on November 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Online schools spend millions to attract students- Thoughts?

By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

Virtual, for-profit K-12 schools have spent millions in taxpayer dollars on advertising, an analysis shows.

5:17PM EST November  28. 2012 – If your local public high school has empty seats, the district might lay off teachers. If it’s operated by K12 Inc., the company will take out an ad on CNN, The Cartoon Network or VampireFreaks.com and fill those  seats.

An  analysis by  USA TODAY finds that online charter schools have spent millions in taxpayer dollars on advertising over the past five years, a trend that shows few signs of abating. The primary and high schools — operated online by for-profit companies but with local taxpayer support — are buying TV, radio, newspaper and Internet ads to attract students, even as brick-and-mortar public schools in the districts they serve face budget crunches.

Virtual schools have become lightning rods for critics who say their operators are profiting from students’ dissatisfaction with neighborhood schools, but don’t produce better results. Supporters say the schools, operating in more than 30 states, are giving kids and families second chances.

Nationwide, about 275,000 K-12 students  attend school online full-time, according to the Evergreen Education Group, a Colorado consulting firm. Many virtual students are former home-schoolers  taking advantage of the schools’ public funding — virtual schools typically get most of the per-pupil allowance that a local school does.

The USA TODAY analysis finds that 10 of the  largest for-profit operators have spent an estimated $94.4 million on ads since 2007.  The largest, Virginia-based K12 Inc., has spent about $21.5 million in just the first eight months of 2012.

The analysis is based on ad buys and  rates compiled by Kantar Media, a New York-based provider of “media and marketing intelligence,” but the figures are only estimates. In an interview, K12 spokesman Jeff Kwitowski wouldn’t say whether the  estimates are accurate or provide actual K12  figures. But he said the company’s agreements with local school districts and charter school authorizers require K12 to publicize its programs, often over large geographic areas.

“We try our best to ensure that all families know that these options exist,” Kwitowski said. “It’s really about the parents’ choice — they’re the ones that make the decision about what school or program is the best fit for their child.”

A look at where K12 is placing the ads suggests that the company is also working to appeal to kids: Among the hundreds of  outlets tapped this year, K12 has spent an estimated $631,600 to advertise on Nickelodeon, $601,600 on The Cartoon Network and $671,400 on MeetMe.com, a social networking site popular with teens. It also dropped  $3,000 on VampireFreaks.com, which calls itself “the Web’s largest community for dark alternative culture.”

Kwitowski declined to say what percentage of K12’s per-pupil expenses goes to advertising, but Kevin Welner, a University of Colorado professor who tracks virtual schools, estimated that K12 is on pace this year to spend about $340 per student on advertising, or about 5.2% of its  per-pupil public expenditures.

Welner, who directs the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, which has been critical of virtual schools, said that  “will put immense pressure on other schools to compete by diverting similar amounts of money to advertising.” He estimated that if every public school spent just $250 per student, taxpayers would pay more than $12 billion annually. “That’s a lot of tax money spent on something so far removed from actually helping children learn,” he said.

So far, 2012 has been a rocky year for K12, which operates in more 32 states and over 2,000 school districts. In spite of healthy earnings, it has been the subject of several investigations. The Florida Department of Education’s inspector general is looking into whether K12 illegally used uncertified teachers and whether it asked others  to lie about how many students they oversee. One U.S. lawmaker, Rep. Corrine Brown,  D-Fla., last month  called for a federal investigation into the charges.

“We’re leaders in the digital learning space and with that comes additional scrutiny,” said Kwitowski, “but we welcome that.”

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

No Such Thing as ‘Bad PR’: Fox Chief Compares Angus T. Jones’ Comments to Nicki Minaj’s Latest ‘Idol’ Feud

Fox Chief Compares Angus T. Jones’ Comments to Nicki Minaj’s Latest ‘Idol’ Feud

3:24 PM PST 11/28/2012 by Alex Ben Block
Angus T. Jones Nicki Minaj - H 2012
Getty Images
Angus T. Jones and Nicki Minaj

“It’s part of the world we live in,” network entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly told a Wednesday crowd. “You want stars to represent themselves, but sometimes they freestyle a little bit.”

Fox Broadcasting entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly put in his two cents on Two and a Half Men‘s latest public woe, star Angus T. Jones condemning it as filth. And while he and his fellow panelists at Wednesday’s HRTS newsmaker luncheon noted that the actor’s remarks could hurt the show, they also thought it might help it.

“It’s part of the world we live in,” said Reilly, drawing comparison to American Idol judge Nicki Minaj’s public feud with series alum Steven Tyler. “You want stars to represent themselves, but sometimes they freestyle a little bit.”

PHOTOS: Hollywood’s Memorable Mea Culpas

In the case of American Idol, Reilly said he thinks news is ultimately “going to be good for [the network]” because of the publicity it generates and the interest it raises in the new season that starts in January.

“There’s a point where it can get out of control,” he added, turning back to Two and a Half Men. “[That] is where the PR people come in and tell Angus to apologize in a statement.”

Peter Benedek, co-founder of the UTA talent agency, piped in that he would bet it is Jones’ agent who is suffering the most from this, calling him “the most tortured individual of all.”

“Yes, there is an apology, and yes, you hope it moves through the news cycle as fast as possible,” said Benedek. “But there is somebody with a thing in his ear telling the client: ‘Yes, you are right. Of course I agree with your position.’ ”

Katherine Pope, president of television for Chernin Entertainment, said with a shrug that it depends on the talent’s work ethic. “Are they showing up for work?” she asked. “Everybody now has an outlet to express everything at any given moment, and that may change. … (But) if the work isn’t impacted, everybody has their moments, and you let it pass.”

What are you going to do, joked Reilly, “get a new ‘half man’ on the show?”

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Homophobia, Homomisia, and the Associated Press: Why Lingo Counts- Thoughts?

By Robert Epstein, Ph.D.

The recent move by the Associated Press to ban the use of the word “homophobia” by its reporters is smart, long overdue, and indicative of media and cultural trends.

The term “homophobia,” introduced by psychologist George Weinberg in 1972, is an unfortunate euphemism.  People with strong reservations about homosexuality don’t fear gays (a phobia is an irrational fear); rather, they often have an aversion to them.  And that’s a euphemism too.  Many people actually hate gays and even the very idea of homosexuality.

Anti-gay feelings vary from time to time and culture to culture.  In the U.S., surveys suggest that the proportion of the population that’s anti-gay has been decreasing gradually over the years, but it’s still likely well over 50 percent.  In the Netherlands, that proportion is under 20 percent, whereas in Uganda, legislation is now being considered that would make homosexual behavior punishable by death.

Anti-gay sentiment in Western countries is rooted in the Bible, which contains strong language prohibiting males from “lying with” other males (see Romans 1:26-27 and Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, for example).  But the Bible also contains other prohibitions – against getting tattoos, for example (Leviticus 19:28) – which are largely ignored these days.  As cultural norms change, people are often willing to set aside Biblical proscriptions.  The growing number of states in the U.S.that allow gay marriage or domestic partnerships – now 19 – is indicative of such change.

Language changes too, although sometimes very slowly.  In recent decades, the trend toward using politically correct language – that is, language that does not demean particular cultural groups – has gained traction.  Although the correctness shift itself is offensive to many people, it appears to be unstoppable, in part because groups that were previously denigrated by harsh language – women, blacks, and Latinos, in particular – now play more important roles in mainstream society.  Demographic trends in the U.S.assure that various minorities will play even greater roles here in the future.

Shifting toward neutral, inoffensive language is, one hopes, part of a larger cultural trend toward tolerance and understanding.  It also has commercial value, because people are more likely to buy when the language directed at them by vendors is neutral or positive rather than objectionable.

So how should we describe people with strong anti-gay sentiments?   The Associated Press is right in setting aside the homophobia lingo, but what do we have to replace it?  In an article I published in 2003 in Psychology Today magazine when I was editor-in-chief there, I suggested that the Greek root misos, which means hatred or aversion, was the way to go.  That gives us homomisia for the noun and homomisic for the adjective.

From both the communications and correctness perspectives, homomisia and homomisic are better terms than homophobia and homophobic.  They’re more honest, for one thing, and they rightly put a weightier burden on the haters.  When you fear something, it’s often because the object of that fear is genuinely frightening.  When you hate, however, it’s often because of ignorance and bias, which is clearly the case with homomisia.  Violence against gays is a hate crime, after all; it would be absurd to call it a fear crime.  Suggesting that gays are in any sense objects of fear was ludicrous from the beginning, in my view.

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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Hostess Executive Bonuses: Twinkie-Maker To Seek Approval For $1.8 Million In Bonuses- Thoughts?

Hostess Executive Bonuses: Twinkie-Maker To Seek Approval For $1.8 Million In Bonuses During Liquidation

11/29/12 07:55 AM ET EST AP

Hostess Executive Bonuses

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NEW YORK — Hostess Brands Inc. plans to ask for a judge’s approval Thursday to give its top executives bonuses totaling up to $1.8 million as part of its wind-down plans.

The maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos says the incentive pay is needed to retain the 19 managers during the liquidation process, which could take about a year. Two of those executives would be eligible for additional rewards depending on how efficiently they carry out the liquidation.

Hostess is also seeking final approval for its wind-down, which was approved on an interim basis last week.

The process includes the quick sale of its brands, which also include Wonder Bread. Hostess says it has received a flood of interest in the brands.

The company’s bankruptcy means loss of about 18,000 jobs.

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

For Elmo, Perseverance in the Macy’s Parade– Do you think this will apply to the ideal that there is no such thing as bad publicity?


November 22, 2012, 1:23 pm

For Elmo, Perseverance in the Macy’s Parade

By BRIAN STELTER
Elmo and Big Bird made their way through the streets of Manhattan during the 86th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday.Andrew Kelly/Getty Images Elmo and Big Bird made their way through the streets of Manhattan during the 86th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday.

As they watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, some viewers may have wondered: would Elmo make an appearance?

The beloved “Sesame Street” character has been in the news this month because the puppeteer who plays him, Kevin Clash, has been accused of having sexual relationships with minors.

Mr. Clash resigned from “Sesame Street” on Tuesday, the same day that one accuser filed a lawsuit against him. But the show’s producers affirmed what they have said since the allegations surfaced — that “Elmo is bigger than any one performer” — by having the character appear on the “Sesame Street” float in the parade on Thursday.

Elmo, played by an unnamed performer, appeared alongside Big Bird on the float, which was sponsored by the Web site, Cardstore. When the float appeared on NBC’s telecast of the parade, the co-hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie made no mention of Elmo or the recent headlines about Mr. Clash. But hundreds of people commented about Elmo’s presence on Twitter and Facebook, with some cracking jokes and others expressing relief that the character wasn’t sidelined by the scandal.

Sesame Workshop, the organization that produces the show, declined to comment on Thursday. But a Sesame Workshop executive said on condition of anonymity that the organization never considered pulling Elmo from the float.

As it turns out, the cast of the show, including Mr. Clash, recorded audio for a performance for NBC’s telecast of the parade weeks before before the accusations against Mr. Clash were made public. (Participants in the telecast lip-sync when they’re actually in the parade.)

The song recorded by the cast, “What I Am,” was originally performed by Will.i.am on a “Sesame Street” episode in 2010. In the version for the Thanksgiving parade, Elmo had one solo line, “Nothing’s going to bring us down” — coincidental but appropriate, in light of Sesame Workshop’s resolution not to let Elmo be hobbled by the scandal surrounding Mr. Clash.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2012 in Uncategorized