Monthly Archives: July 2009

Barack’s Beer Party: Bust or Buzz?

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THE SCOOP, as reported by Henry J. Pulizzi, Wall Street Journal:

“Hoping to quell a controversy that has triggered racial tensions and distracted the public from his agenda, President Barack Obama hosted the eagerly-awaited White House happy hour with African-American Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the police Sgt. James Crowley, the white officer who arrested Mr. Gates two weeks ago…None of the men made comments to the media, but appeared to be chatting amiably. Their beers were served in mugs, making it impossible to discern what brands they were drinking.

“The so-called Beer Summit attracted intense interest, despite the silence of its participants. Cable news networks ran countdown clocks ahead of the event (my emphasis)…Shortly before the happy hour, Mr. Obama poked the media for its obsession, saying he is ‘fascinated with the fascination’ over the event.  ‘I noticed this has been called the beer summit,’ Mr. Obama said after a meeting with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.  ‘It’s a clever term, but this is not a summit, guys, this is three folks having a drink at the end of the day and hopefully giving people an opportunity to listen to each other.'”

PROFESSOR PR COMMENTARY:

Yea, right, just a drink at the end of the day. But once he stuck his foot in his mouth with his earlier comments at a primetime news conference, chastising the Cambridge, Mass., police for ‘acting stupidly’ (and intensifying the controversy that stemmed from Mr. Gates’s arrest at his home), the President had a PR choice to make: do nothing and let it go or turn it into a Kodak moment.

Google “Obama Beer Summit” news and you’ll find nearly 7,000 articles written about it as of this posting. And that’s not counting Facebook, Twitter, and blog postings.

PROFESSOR PR GRADE: A

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Keeping Up with the Times

Nearly a century ago, my grandparents started their own newspaper in a sleepy southern New Jersey town. Eventually, the Vineland Times-Journal became the dominant daily newspaper in the area, and “Keeping Up with the Times” was a must-read, front-page column every evening. With editor Max Leuchter’s sudden death in 1949, my father, Ben Leuchter, took the reins, writing every day for the next 30 years. Their editorials about the world around them informed their readers and gave light to the issues of the day.

Flash forward to 2009. Okay, so it took me some time to get here and carry on the tradition, although my beat will focus on the media, public relations, marketing and communications — subjects I am comfortable with and can possibly shed some light on. The newsroom certainly has changed since I was a kid, but content is still king and, with a nod to Marshall McLuhan, the medium is indeed the message.

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