NPR Steps in it with Juan Williams Firing

God I love a good media hissy fit. The current finger pointing, backbiting and name-calling of the NPR/Juan Williams/Fox News scandal is just too delicious to ignore. At this juncture of the scandal, it appears that NPR is the clear looser and Fox News comes out smelling closer to a rose than reeking like a titan arum.

One day before NPR decided to give Juan Williams the boot, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller was quoted saying this in an interview in the Wall Street Journal about NPR, “No, we don’t have a particular political persuasion.” Funny how authoritative statements like that do have a way of coming around and biting you in the rectum. Talk about bad timing.

Regarding Juan Williams now infamous statement on Fox News, it’s interesting how few news organizations have really pointed out the pure irony of its full context. The pretext of his statement dealt with how political correctness stifles journalism and the news industry. Quoting Juan Williams: “Political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality.” Williams then illustrates his observations about feeling a bit unsettled when he sees Muslim’s boarding an airplane, as an example of the kind of story journalists steer clear of, due of the social implications and the backlash from discussing that kind of “politically correct” story. So essentially NPR fires Williams for discussing and giving an example of the kind of news story that has created an environment of self censorship in journalism.

The next day NPR Borg queen Schiller reacts in a full interview saying that Williams’ comments should have been “between him and his psychiatrist or his publicist.” Hold on here a moment. Even a rookie  journalist knows the basic golden rule of libel and slander, “You can say anything you want, as long as it’s true.” It’s certainly not a stretch for any lawyer worth his or her salt to whisper possible slander here. If Mr. Williams does not have a psychiatrist or indeed have clinically verifiable mental illness, the quip smells like slander to me. How does the CEO of NPR make a mistake of such monumental proportions? Reading between the lines of her interview, it’s obvious to me that Schiller reacted emotionally, not logically to Williams’ statements on Fox News. Not smart at all. Check that at the door girlfriend. How in the wild, wild world of sports does the CEO of NPR make a error this egregious. It’s unforgivable.

No, Juan Williams firing by NPR’s Schiller isn’t about the First Amendment. After all, any corporation, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, can pretty much fire anyone they damn well please, if they feel the employee isn’t acting in the best interest of the corporation. (Although the fact that NPR does receive funding from taxpayers does muddy the waters a bit) To make the charge that NPR is trouncing on Juan’s First Amendment rights is a bit of a leap.

Who comes out smelling like a rose in the end? Well, Fox News for jumping on a PR opportunity of Gotham proportions, signing Williams to a multi-million dollar contract. (Hell, you can’t buy that kind of press… well, I guess you can) Of course Williams keeps his cool and emerges looking like a pro. NPR manages to hit this pothole just as fall funding begins, Vivian Schiller? Well, I believe it is in the best interest of the corporation, to sever their relationship with a leader that handled this cluster fark like a two-year-old throwing a hissy-fit.

FaceBook is the New AOL

Last week I read an interesting post on Slashdot, although I must admit, I can’t remember exactly what the post was about. But it must have been somewhat interesting, as I did read it. On one of the comments on this post that I was so enamored with, the commenter had a great sig, it read: “Facebook is the new AOL.” It gave me a chuckle because in my humble opinion, it pretty much sums it up. It’s the hula-hoop of the moment. Man, remember when everyone had AOL, or when MySpace was the shiznit. How quickly the mighty do fall.

This morning I came across a brilliant post on Advertising Age, entitled “Why Do So Many New-Media Startups Ultimately Commit Suicide?” The gist of the post is in a nutshell, even though “old media” is always being targeted as “doomed,” it’s really the new media johnny-come-lately’s that have the history of crashing and burning. Where are Friendster, MySpace, TheGlobe, GeoCites or Tripod? Either gone or on the way out. The article pontificates that the real corpses are new media start-ups, who come out of the gate flush with venture capitol cash, no real plan for even a revenue trickle, and run by boneheads. The author makes the point that “old media” is in a much better position of having a real handle on the media marketplace and actual balance sheets, and because of their maturity, have the ability to use new media for what it actually is, a media tool, not the latest hula-hoop.

Just because FaceBook is the darling of the moment, doesn’t mean that it too can’t crash and burn. As quickly as it took off and built momentum, it too can whither on the vine if the users feel it has burned them or outlived its usefulness. Once upon a time DIGG was the social media darling to emulate. Recently DIGG has found itself with a loss of 26 percent of its traffic. Facebook in many ways is doing its best to shoot itself in the foot with what seems like a continuing saga of privacy issues. And Twitter, well last week it was announced that nearly three quarters its twits are well, unread. And of those roughly 25 percent active tweets, well over 19 percent of those were re-tweets. How is that for mature reach?

The lesson for broadcasters?

We are the media experts. Do what we do best and use social media as a tool, not the divine game changer that the social media trend jumpers pretend it is.

Honestly, I too was swept up in the new media frenzy early on, I saw this Internet thingy as something that was going to “change everything.” It has, but not in the way many expected. Nostalgia nor the future is never what it used to be.

Broadcasters have a device that is simple to operate and mature, try walking a novice or even somewhat initiated user on adding a podcast or stream in iTunes. It’s easy, but not as easy as it should be. Add streaming in the car in a couple of years, and after the novelty, most users will just return to their local stations. Why? Because it’s easy, local, mature and one button away. Anyone else think surfing the streams in your car juggling a coffee, paying attention to hazards and traffic while trying to make it to work on time is going to be anything other than an exercise in futility? I love reading Mark Ramsey and Jerry Del Colliano’s stuff online (Although not so much Jerry’s stuff anymore, cause he actually thinks I’m gonna pay for it!), they are really smart guy’s, but I do think that they drink the Kool Aid a bit too much.

As broadcasters we are the smart guys when it comes to media! Not some silicon snake oil baby with a cool idea and a bunch of venture capitol to burn. When the dust clears the mature folks in media will be the ones full of win.

Where are the Radio Mad Men?

Hey, I like Mad Men. After all, who the hell doesn’t. The show wallows in behavior that today would be anathema. Drinking, smoking, sexual promiscuity, racial/sexual prejudice, sexism. It’s even chocked full of corporate greed on the individual level, where everyone had a shot at making their personal world more prosperous (unlike the corporate world today), where the good of the company was also tied to the good of the individual employee. It’s nostalgia (albeit very well written and acted nostalgia) of an America that once was and will arguably never be again.

In last weeks episode, Peggy is in Don’s office, notably freaked out about the loss of Lucky Strike, the agencies biggest client.

She asks Don: “So there’s nothing we can do?”

Don quips:

“Sure we can stay at our desks and keep typing while the walls fall down around us, because we’re Creative. The least important, most important thing there is.”

It’s pretty much where radio has been for the last decade or two. You could substitute just a few choice words to fill out the rough edges:

“Sure we can stay behind our mic’s and keep talking while the towers fall down around us, because we’re Programming. The least important, most important thing there is.”

Blame it on consolidation, bad management, emerging media, lack of vision, hell, blame it on the moon and stars. But until a broadcasting Don Draper takes his or her own advice (or in this case, his regurgitated advice from Peggy: “Why don’t we just change the conversation. You always said, if you don’t like what someone is saying about you, just change the conversation”), it’s more fiddling while Rome burns.

Luckily for the Agency, Don does change the conversation. His action with the full page add in the NYT’s will do the trick. And I thought he didn’t go for those kind of shenanigans? Don proves his point, creative is the least important most important thing there is, and saves all their asses.

Where are radio’s Mad Men? On the pavement for sending out an email with a link to an “inappropriate”  video? Hawking You Tube? Twittering to no one? Get off your asses and reinvent the conversation. I’m sure Don could have done just fine in “plastics,” but he is staying with the plow. Keep your hand on that plow, and hold on.

Donald Duck-Glenn Beck Mashup