Monday, January 30, 2006

At least we know where they stand on selling nonfiction books that really are true...

Jeffrey Trachtenberg's second-front story, "Publishers Say Fact-Checking Is Too Costly," in today's Wall Street Journal, describes a remarkable scene in the offices of Random House.

After appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show -- and not having a very good answer as to why they published as nonfiction a book Frey had shopped to other publishers as fiction -- Nan Talese, the publisher of the now-discredited fake memoir by James Frey, walked into her office to what Trachtenberg describes as "a standing ovation from her colleagues." This was followed by a supportive phone call from the chairman of Bertelsman, the big German conglomerate that pays her salary.

An aside: Let's not forget that Bertelsman's BMG music group is also connected to Sony and its ill-fated attempt to sneak spyware onto consumers' computers on the presumption that everyone who buys a Sony/BMG CD is a criminal.

So let me recap here: The company's employees give a standing ovation to lying to us about the books they publish, and another division of the company wants to spy on our computers.

The whole thing has haunting parallels to the Hitler Diary hoax about 20 years ago.

Back then, Newsweek magazine paid gazillions for what turned out to be forged diaries by Der Fuehrer. Then, instead of apologizing for hyping the forgeries in its magazine, they turned around and wrote a story about the forgeries that even said straight out, "Real or not, it almost doesn't matter."

In other words, the big media companies give their audiences so little credit for ethical behavior that they figure the truth "almost doesn't matter."

Sounds a lot like the way Nan Talese and Jim Frey were spinning the story last week. "So what if he lied, it's a great, true-sounding story."

That's why Oprah tried to get away with defending the book in her call to Larry King, until some common sense prevailed among her fans, and they took her to task for the lapse in ethical standards.

She was forced to backtrack -- not because the truth was so important to her -- but because she realized that her audience was unhappy with her lapse in ethical standards and she had to protect her brand's value.

The only real question left is why we keep enriching companies with questionable moral compasses by buying their tainted products?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

LOBP #15: PRSA/Philadelphia Presentation, PR in the Military: Maj. Sean Clements, USMC Reserve

The term "war zone" took on a whole new meaning for Philadelphia PR professional Major Sean Clements, USMC when he left on a seven-month tour as a director of public affairs in Iraq.

Maj. Clements discussed the role PR plays in the military, especially during wartime, captivating us with stories of leading a team of combat journalists and photographers, managing embedded media during the battle of Fallujah, and even supervising an Iraqi polling site on election day.

Download the Podcast here. ( 70 mb stereo MP3 file, 49:48 duration).

Maj. Sean Clements with Michele Chierici, APR, Philadelphia PRSA Chapter President, after Clements' presentation January 19.

Podsafe theme music: "Resolve," by Simpático, from

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

RutgersQBO: Rutgers University School of Business at Camden Quarterly Business Outlook Podcast #1

Lubetkin & Co. Communications is pleased to present the first podcast of the Rutgers University School of Business at Camden Quarterly Business Outlook. This quarterly forum, presented by Rutgers University in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey and sponsored by the law firm of Flaster Greenberg, features South Jersey area business leaders who assess the Southern New Jersey economy in their business sectors.

This program was recorded on Tuesday, January 24, 2006, at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Cherry Hill, NJ. Technical specifications regarding our production of podcasts is available here.

Download the podcast program here (Stereo MP3 file, 85.6 mb, duration 1:00:54.)

The program was introduced by Stephen M. Greenberg, shareholder in Flaster Greenberg, sponsor of the QBO panel.

The panel includes five leading experts in economics, health care, manufacturing, retail/consumer products, and real estate who discussed current and six-month outlooks in their respective fields:

Economy: Dr. Joel Naroff, Chief Economist, Commerce Bank

Health Care: Richard Murray, President & CEO, Kennedy Health System

Manufacturing: Keith Campbell, Chairman of the Board, Mannington Mills, Inc.

Retail/Consumer Products: Ronald Wilson, President & COO, The Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Company

Real Estate: William Hankowsky, Chairman, President & CEO, Liberty Property Trust

The Moderator is Roger Dennis, Provost, Rutgers University-Camden.

Special thanks to Samantha Collier, director of external affairs, Rutgers University School of Business, Camden, and Michael Sepanic, Director of Public Information, Rutgers University, Camden, for their interest in promoting podcasting technology.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Critical Mass is Approaching...whoops, it went hurtling right by us!

I was pleased to see this blog ranking 9th amonth PR blogs tracked in PubSub Community Lists: The PR List. We dropped two notches from yesterday, but hey, it's the top 10, isn't it?

Blog readers obviously go for quality...we'll try to do even better! Thanks for your support.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Lubetkin's Other Blog Podcast #14: Interview with Katie Delahaye Paine

Katie Delahaye Paine is one of the leading experts on statistically supportable measurement of public relations results. The CEO of KDPaine and Partners, Katie is a founder of the Institute for Public Relations special commission on measurement and evaluation, and she has served as the US liaison to the European Standards Task Force on international standards for media evaluation. Recently, she has put forth a concept paper on her blog about a new approach to public relations measurement, the "Public Relations Value Ratio," or PRV. We spoke with Katie this week about the new measurement tool.

Download the podcast here. (19:20 duration, 27mb stereo MP3 file.)

Podsafe theme music for this program: Soliloquy, by Omni, courtesy of

Monday, January 09, 2006

Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss him...if you are old enough to remember what the fuss was all about.

The most humorous thing in the Wall Street Journal's column 4 evergreen today, "Behind the Music: Sleuths Seek Messages In Lyrical Backspin," is not that some computer geek managed to convince them to trot out a story about this old, tired 1960s gimmick in a new, digital way on the front page of the largest circulation paper in the US.

What's really funny is the generation gap that seems to have developed between multibillionaire Paul McCartney and his publicist.

Some of you old enough (and sober enough) to remember the 1960s will recall the "Paul is dead" rumor that swept through Beatle fandom (as much as it was possible for rumors to sweep through something in that pre-Internet era). Also see Paul Is Dead, Is Paul McCartney Dead?, and countless other conspiracy-busting websites you can find by doing a Google search on the terms "paul mccartney dead."

Everyone was playing Beatle records backwards. Shure Electronics certainly saw a spike in sales of stereo turntable styli (ask your parents about diamond needles against vinyl) that were damaged from twisting the records backwards.

In today's article, reporter Dionne Searcey notes that

The search for hidden messages in music first gained popularity decades ago after Michigan disc jockey Russ Gibb, prompted by a caller, put a Beatles song, "Revolution 9," on his turntable and spun it backward. He said he thought he heard: "Turn me on, dead man." His observation fed rumors that Paul McCartney was dead. Mr. McCartney eventually turned up very much alive, but that didn't stop music fans from finding all sorts of alleged backward messages when they spun their other records in reverse.

Then, the account goes on to report that

Mr. McCartney's spokesman said the ex-Beatle was unavailable for comment, but he noted he had never heard the subject of secret messages come up with Mr. McCartney. "There's a lot of Beatle folklore out there," he added.

Paul's PR guy never heard of the secret messages? How old is this guy, and why is Paul paying a publicist who doesn't know about this particular piece of "Beatles folklore"?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Waiting for confirmation

All the discussion about the mining disaster (double disaster because of the poor handling of the tragic news) reminded me of a smaller incident back when I worked in radio news on the overnight shift.

It was in the mid-1970s (yes, before the Internet and nonstop news cycles), and on the West Coast, LAPD had arrested a suspect in the notorious Hillside Strangler murders. By middle of the overnight, around 2am eastern, Associated Press wires had moved a story and a mug shot with the name of the suspect, for the AM-Cycle papers to use. For some reason, probably because I had to be awake to do hourly newscasts during the overnight, I fixated on the fact that this poor bastard was being named as the Hillside Strangler before even being charged with the crimes. I thought, "what if he's not guilty?"

So I didn't use his name on my overnight newscasts. I also alerted the overnight news editor at the co-owned newspaper so that we at least waited to see...and by 6am, the police had released the suspect and said he was no longer a suspect. But thanks to the AP, I believe most newspapers in the AM editions carried his photo and his name, and probably ruined the rest of his life (not much to ruin, he was a career criminal anyway, as I recall, but he wasn't the Hillside Strangler).

The best rule of thumb is the one Dan Rather attributes to Walter Cronkite's UPI training in The Camera Never Blinks: "Get the story. Get it right. Get it out first."

Too many people not picking up on the second sentence in that advice.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

NY Times Admits Reader Misrepresented Metro Diary Story

Correction in today's NY Times ( reads:
A reader's contribution in the Metropolitan Diary on Monday misstated the origin of an anecdote about a cellphone conversation in a restroom that ended: "I'll have to call you back. There's an idiot in the next stall who keeps answering my questions." It has circulated for years; it was not based on the contributor's personal experience.
So it's the reader that "misstated" the origin of the anecdote.
I thought the Metropolitan Diary editors went to some extent to confirm that the stories they print are real life experiences.
Now we know that you can send them the hack gags you pick up off the Internet, and if the editors are bored enough with sifting through real stories, they might print the jokes.
Comedians, start your engines.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

SweatShops for Tech People: Blog writer for tech site (US) (craigslist | writing/editing jobs in new jersey)

Someone is posting a job on Craig's List seeking a blog writer for a tech
website, and they think that $7 an article is a worthwhile amount to pay.
They've got to be kidding, or maybe the website is in a third world country.

Well, here's the link to the job posting. All of you communications pros and
freelance writers looking for extra income, please form a line at the cyber

Note to the job poster: You'll get what you pay for. Or not.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Check the New York Times on page A2 for what should be a very entertaining Editor's Note tomorrow...

The Metropolitan Diary Column in today's New York Times apparently has been fooled by an Internet con artist.

The lead item in today's column, allegedly by a reader named Dorothy Seeber, recounts her experience in a public rest room answering questions posed by the occupant of the adjoining stall. At the end of the conversation, the other person supposedly says: "Listen, I'll have to call you back. There's an idiot in the next stall who keeps answering all my questions."

The only problem is, this isn't a first-person story. It's a joke that's been circulating on the Internet for years!

A simple Google search of the words "idiot next stall answer questions" brought up several references to this joke, and it's frankly surprising that the editors of the Metropolitan Diary column never received an email from a friend including this joke (look at Joke #2 under September 30). I've gotten it several times over the last several years, including from my Mom (sorry Mom, but your friends sent it to you)!

Some other references to the same joke:

University of California, Berkeley Commencement Convocation: Faculty Address by Professor Alan Dundes, Professor of Anthropology and Folklore, 17 May 2002, where Professor Dundes claims it happened to him.

Bathroom Conversation at JokesEveryDay.Com

It really makes you wonder who is vetting what gets sanctified as real life by the New York Times these days.