Tag Archives: New York Times

Why creativity gets squashed like a bug

Oh, everybody says they want something new and creative. But as this article from Slate shows, even places that are supposed by be hotbeds of artistic and creative genius, like magazines and ad agencies, are often machines built to squash the life out anybody who dares think outside the box.

Now, that's creative. I salute you, random dad.

Now, that’s creative. I salute you, random dad.

You see this in so many places.

Newspapers, which I adore, all did the same thing in reaction to the Series of Tubes: “Hey, let’s not let this train pass us by. How about we innovate by doing what every other newspaper is doing. We’ll put all our stories on this Interwebs for free, then money will pour through the windows from all the banner ads.”

They didn’t question the fact that other papers doing this were bleeding more money than Kim Kardashian on a 12-hour shopping spree.

All these newspapers and magazines did the same thing everybody else was doing. But expected different results.

People who thought outside the box, who said (a) make people subscribe to the paper to read it online or (b) don’t put it online at all, because then people won’t subscribe and advertisers won’t advertise and America will lay off 15,000 journalists, well those people got ridiculed as crazy. They weren’t hailed as creative prophets, avoiding doom. They were seen as nuts and the people in charge ignored them.

PETA and the creator of Dilbert, Scott Adams take a different approach. Instead of doing the safe thing, and what everybody else is doing, the guerrillas at PETA and this random nerdy looking man who worked at banks figured out you can’t plan on hitting a grand slam on your only at bat. You can’t even count on hitting a single, or getting the baseball over the plate.

On paper, getting the gall over the plate looks easy.

On paper, getting the gall over the plate looks easy.

Successful creative types are idea hamsters who try dozens, or hundreds, of different things. Because you can’t predict what will be a world-smashing success, and you certainly won’t somehow break through while doing the same thing that 185,892 other people and businesses are doing.

Scott Adams didn’t have a master plan to become a syndicated cartoonist. In his books, he writes about having dozens of long-shot ideas, and that for somebody who couldn’t draw when he started out, being a cartoonist wasn’t exactly a sure thing. He kept swinging for grand slams and kept missing until Dilbert took off.

PETA doesn’t have the bazillion-dollar advertising and marketing budget of corporations like Coke and Ford, or even non-profits trying to cure cancer and such. PETA gets all their publicity from free ink and airtime. Do they guilt magazines, newspapers and blogs into covering their cause? No. They try dozens and dozens of wild, creative long-shot ideas, most of which fail spectacularly. Why? Because the one idea that takes off can get them free press around the world.

I wrote a series of posts about PETA and publicity stunts for about.com, back when The New York Times owned that blog. (Related: I can say that, as a journalist, I cashed checks every month from the NYT, then got fired, though technically all of the contributing writers got axed, so it’s not as romantic as going on strike and getting replaced by the staff of the Lower Kentucky Valley Register, then walking into the editors office and handing in your resignation via a punch to the nose, which every journalist does dream about at one time. I had fun, and they were kind to me, and I learned many things by writing them down.)

Here’s one of those posts showing how PETA makes it happen.

Social media is the other big area where you FEEL like you’re being creative and different, when actually, you’re doing the same thing, oh, about 1 billion other people hooked up to the Series of Tubes are trying to do. Except you’re expecting a radically different result. While that may be magical thinking, it is conventional, safe and boring–not creative.

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

 

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Filed under Fiction, Romances; also, novels with Fabio covers, Speechwriting, Thrillers and mysteries

Top 10 Myths of Journalism School

Oh, if I could go back in time, and whisper in the ear of my younger self during journalism school.

Not that I was busy screwing it up. Editor-in-chief of my college newspaper, graduated No. 1 in my class, won a bunch of awards, blah-blah-blah. (Related: Who is this Guy?)

But the traditional things that most journalism students think they SHOULD be doing — well, often those are seven separate kinds of wrong.

And there are other things Serious Journalism Majors scoff at, things that you actually should not only embrace, but hug tightly to your bosom.

So here we go with the Top 10 Myths of Journalism School.

Myth No. 10: Hard news is the only true love of a Serious Journalism Major

Sure, unfiltered Marlboros and Jim Beam come close. But nothing beats a scoop about an amazing scandal. You laugh at people trying to make the words flow for their feature story on dumpster divers, a story packed with all these photos, which are for nancypants who don’t have the stones to write more words.

Here’s the truth: hard news is all about news gathering and using the inverted pyramid, which is a horrible structure for any sort of writing and needs to be taken behind the barn and shot.

Hard news is worthy, and does the public a great service. Yet if all you do is hard news, you won’t truly learn journalism — or how to write.

Related posts:

Myth No. 9: Journalism school will teach you how to write

Once you get that pigskin from j-school, and land your first journalism  gig — at The Willapa Valley Shopper or The New York Times – you’ll go home after 12 hours of banging on the keyboard to stay up past midnight, banging on the keyboard some more while smoking Gallouise Blondes and drinking cheap whiskey sours as you write (a) the next Great American Novel, (b) a Broadway play involving a debutant who falls in love with a struggling young reporter or (c) a Hollywood screenplay about a vast government conspiracy unraveled by an intrepid young intern at CBS.

This will be a lot of fun, and you’ll remember this as being the Best Thing Ever until you’ve been doing it for seven months and turning every draft of your extra-curricular writerly fun into three-point attempts. Also, you will miss this thing we call “sleep” and these other things we call “money in the checking account” and “a social life that does not involve typing on a keyboard chatting with a person who may, or may not, actually exist.”

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Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, Journalism, publicity and scandals, Old Media, which is still Big and Strong, Speechwriting, The Twitter, the Book of Face and the Series of Tubes

The automatic shotgun: born for a zombie apocalypse

Anyone who watches zombie movies knows the scene I’m talking about: the chainsaw massacre.

A hero grabs a chainsaw and starts wading through the zombie hordes. Sure, a Husqvarna  450 is loud and impressive, but it’s not a serious zombie killer. The sucker is heavy, requires gas and makes a lot of noise, which only attracts more zombies. Also, you’ve got to get all up close and personal, with black zombie blood spraying everywhere and infecting anybody with an open wound or an open mouth. I mean, the more you think about it, the more you say, “Hey, you take the manly chainsaw, and I’ll stick with the wussy little Glock.”

By the same token, a machine gun is bad, because it’s super loud and wastes all kinds of ammo, since zombies have to be hit squarely in the head.

HOWEVER: an automatic shotgun, like this, would actually be amazing useful. Every man secretly wants two of this mounted his in car, 007-style.

Sidenote: every man also wants a working lightsaber, a red one (blue ones are nancypants) because Darth Vaderwill always be epic, except when George Lucas turns him into a whiny little kid named Annie, which I believe was some kind of comic and a movie about a red-headed orphan girl who went to live with Lex Luthor. Also, (1) I’d rather watch Vader grab a cart and go shopping at Safeway than see the latest movie Sylvester Stallone puts out, because I saw THE EXPENDABLES on an airplane and it was quite expendable and (2) we men of the world would happily pool our beer money to raise the $59.3 million in CGI that George Lucas would require to make a five-minute short where Darth Vader takes apart Jar-Jar Binks in the Thunderdome, with Mel Gibson on deck after. Also, Carrot Top, who for some reason has turned into a Oompa-Loompah steroid monster. And Snooki fourth. Then all of the Kardashians and Kanye West, with special guest star Taylor Swift getting a front row seat to watch it all. OK, I believe that’s it.

Back to the automatic shotgun, which is amazing: With one of these and a lightsaber, an action hero would be ready for any form of apocalypse, be it (a) zombies, (b) insect-like aliens, (c) zombie aliens or (d) hordes of blood-thirsty and shirtless werewolves who are all upset that some random, whiny high school girl — who is not remotely pretty enough to fight over — picked some boring sparkly vampire instead of their leader, the Blue Power Ranger.

blue power ranger taylor lautner

Yes, werewolf lover boy was a Power Ranger first.

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

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Filed under 1 Survival Sunday, Zombie apocalypse

PR case studies about the POLITICS

The New York Times

For two years or whatever, I blogged three times a week about publicity, speechwriting, public relations and scandals for The New York Times’about.com.  If you are an author, actor, director, politician, professional athlete, rock star, user of social media or otherwise in the public eye, THESE POSTS ARE USEFUL TO YOU. If you live in an ice cave, you can safely ignore all this stuff and go back to tanning that elk hide.

Case studies about the POLITICS

Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminates His Good Public Image

The Arizona Shootings: Reacting to a National Tragedy

How a Press Conference Finally Killed the Birthers

Trump for President: a PR Stunt that Backfired

Walking Off a Live TV Show: Terrible Gaffe or Brilliant PR Move?

The Kerfluffle Over Newt Gingrich and His Allegedly Fake Twitter Followers

When Coming in Third is Worse than Finishing Last

The Public Relations Battle About the U.S. Debt Limit

Political PR: Race for the White House

Weinergate: The Fall of a Promising Politician

How Rep. Weiner Lost Control of His Own Press Conference

Palin Goes Rogue on Paul Revere’s Ride

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

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Filed under 7 Media Strategy Saturday, Journalism, publicity and scandals, Old Media, which is still Big and Strong

PR case studies about millionaire jocks; also, case studies from around the world

The New York Times

For two years or whatever, I blogged three times a week about publicity, speechwriting, public relations and scandals for The New York Times’about.com.  If you are an author, actor, director, politician, professional athlete, rock star, user of social media or otherwise in the public eye, THESE POSTS ARE USEFUL TO YOU. If you live in an ice cave, you can safely ignore all this stuff and go back to tanning that elk hide.

Case studies about millionaire jocks

Jorge Posada: Why Pro Athletes Can’t Be Seen as Quitters

The LeBron James PR Disaster

Lessons Learned from LeBron James and the Miami Heat

Case studies from AROUND THE WORLD

Egypt: The First Twitter Revolution?

The PR Battle for Libya

Rescue of the Chilean Miners

China’s PR blunder with the Nobel Peace Prize

Will Al-Queda Die with Osama Bin Laden?

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

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Filed under 7 Media Strategy Saturday, Journalism, publicity and scandals, Old Media, which is still Big and Strong

PR case studies – OK, you’re doing it right

The New York Times

For two years or whatever, I blogged three times a week about publicity, speechwriting, public relations and scandals for The New York Times’about.com.  If you are an author, actor, director, politician, professional athlete, rock star, user of social media or otherwise in the public eye, THESE POSTS ARE USEFUL TO YOU. If you live in an ice cave, you can safely ignore all this stuff and go back to tanning that elk hide.

Case studies – OK, you’re doing it right

Betty White Named Most Trusted Public Figure in U.S.

How PETA Targets A Global Audience

How PETA Uses Publicity Stunts to Spread Their Message

PETA.XXX – Brilliant Move or Insanely Dangerous PR Stunt?

Thank You for Suing Us

NFL Draft Picks Live and Die by Publicity

The Synergy of the Super Bowl

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

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Filed under 7 Media Strategy Saturday, Journalism, publicity and scandals, Old Media, which is still Big and Strong

Name recognition is KING; also, famous peoples doing it wrong

The New York Times

For two years or whatever, I blogged three times a week about publicity, speechwriting, public relations and scandals for The New York Times’about.com.  If you are an author, actor, director, politician, professional athlete, rock star, user of social media or otherwise in the public eye, THESE POSTS ARE USEFUL TO YOU. If you live in an ice cave, you can safely ignore all this stuff and go back to tanning that elk hide.

Name recognition is KING

Why Name Recognition is Key in Public Relations: Name recognition 101

How Name Recognition Works: Name recognition 201

Four Ways to Boost Name Recognition: Name Recognition 301

Case studies – You’re doing it WRONG

3 Key Lessons from the Charlie Sheen PR Debacle

Facebook Gets Caught in PR Scandal: A Whisper Campaign vs Google Boomerangs on Facebook

The Gallagher Brothers Go to Court – Against Each Other

Pay No Attention to the Clown Holding a Shaving-Cream Pie

Hacking and Bribery Scandal Destroys The News of the World

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

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Filed under 7 Media Strategy Saturday, Journalism, publicity and scandals, Old Media, which is still Big and Strong

Doing battle with rumors, lies and propaganda, which are EVIL

The New York Times

For two years or whatever, I blogged three times a week about publicity, speechwriting, public relations and scandals for The New York Times’about.com.  If you are an author, actor, director, politician, professional athlete, rock star, user of social media or otherwise in the public eye, THESE POSTS ARE USEFUL TO YOU. If you live in an ice cave, you can safely ignore all this stuff and go back to tanning that elk hide.

Doing battle with rumors, lies and propaganda, which are EVIL

Defending Against Rumors, Lies and Propaganda: Defense Against the Dark Arts

How to Fight Rumors, Lies and Propaganda

Why Rumors are So Viral and Damaging

Rumors Can Plant False Memories

Examples of Rumors and Public Relations

How to Fight Rumors

How Lies Work

Fighting Back Against Lies

What is Propaganda, and How Does It Work?

How You Can Defeat Propaganda

British World War 2 posters

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

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Filed under 7 Media Strategy Saturday, Journalism, publicity and scandals, Old Media, which is still Big and Strong

How to write KILLER headlines and hooks

The New York Times

For two years or whatever, I blogged three times a week about publicity, speechwriting, public relations and scandals for The New York Times’about.com.  If you are an author, actor, director, politician, professional athlete, rock star, user of social media or otherwise in the public eye, THESE POSTS ARE USEFUL TO YOU. If you live in an ice cave, you can safely ignore all this stuff and go back to tanning that elk hide.

How to write KILLER headlines and hooks

Killer Headlines and Hooks: Headlines and Intros 101

Hit Them With a Hard Headline and a Soft Hook: Headlines and Intros 201

Cut Your Headlines and Paragraphs In Half: Headlines and Intros 301

Writing Hard Headlines and Intros: Headlines and Intros 401

Soft Intros Aren’t for Sissies: Headlines and Intros 402

Writing Advanced Intros: Headlines and intros 403

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

5 Comments

Filed under 7 Media Strategy Saturday, Journalism, publicity and scandals, Old Media, which is still Big and Strong

Publicity shebangs that ACTUALLY WORK

The New York Times

For two years or whatever, I blogged three times a week about publicity, speechwriting, public relations and scandals for The New York Times’about.com.  If you are an author, actor, director, politician, professional athlete, rock star, user of social media or otherwise in the public eye, THESE POSTS ARE USEFUL TO YOU. If you live in an ice cave, you can safely ignore all this stuff and go back to tanning that elk hide.

Writing stuff that ACTUALLY WORKS

Why Most PR Products Get Ignored: How to Avoid the Slush Pile

How To Write A Fact Sheet

How To Write A Statement

How To Write A Letter To The Editor

How To Write An Oped

Three Kinds of Opeds

Before You Start Writing An Oped

Reaching Your Audience with Public Service Announcements

How to write and wield TALKING POINTS

Three Blueprints for Talking Points

Talking Points Need Structure and Discipline

Curing the PR Disease of Talking Paragraphs

Using Talking Points

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

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Filed under 7 Media Strategy Saturday, Journalism, publicity and scandals, Old Media, which is still Big and Strong