When did accuracy become relative?

February 11, 2010

I should probably shut my mouth on this one. But I can’t.

I called out a journalist yesterday for two inaccuracies in her post promoting an upcoming news series. Here’s her response to my comment:

While I agree with you that accuracy is critical, not all subject matters warrent (sic) the same level of accuracy.

Forget the typo. Focus on the important question: When did accuracy become relative? In my 19 years on the faculty of a journalism school, no one ever told me that truth comes in “levels.” A fact is a fact because it can be verified. Read the rest of this entry »

Groundswell of opposition greets company’s support for animal-rights group

February 7, 2010

Unless we’re friendz on Facebook, you probably didn’t notice the recent dustup involving Yellow Tail wine. It emerged a few weeks back when the Humane Society of the United States announced a Yellow Tail promotion designed to generate $100,000 for the Washington-based animal-rights group.

I should tell you now that I don’t care for Yellow Tail wine, but sometimes serve it at parties after my guests get into the 3rd or 4th bottle. At that point, who can tell the difference? I should also tell you I don’t care for the Humane Society of the United States much, either.

How can I dislike folks who rescue homeless cats and dogs? I don’t. And they don’t. Like many of you, I long believed the HSUS and my local humane society were one in the same. Turns out, we were victims of brand confusion. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Ethics’ and ‘trust’ are driving readers to my blog. There’s an SEO lesson here, I just know it!

January 26, 2010

I’ve come to a fork in the road in my blogging life. Should I optimize this site, or should I just focus on content and let growth come organically?

When you come to a fork in the road, blog about it!

Why ask this 3.5 years into the game? Check out the Top 4 search terms that brought people to ToughSledding in the past 12 months: Read the rest of this entry »

More blogola, or just smart marketing?

April 30, 2009


In our Ethics & Issues class this week, we discussed John Stauber’s documentary, “Toxic Sludge Is Good for You.” The film, and the book it’s based on, is a scathing indictment of the public relations business. And while it’s hardly a balanced view, it’s one every PR professional should see. “Toxic Sludge” begins by questioning an axiom long preached in our field: that the “best PR is invisible PR.” Will that approach work in a 2.0 world?


Adweek’s Brian Morrisey this week reports on the latest social media campaign designed to create buzz. It’s called MyBlogSpark. The campaign features cereal giant General Mills targeting some 900 citizen journalists, most of tpicture-11hem mommy bloggers. That’s a sizable and influential group when your job is to sell Cheerios. The campaign is smart and efficient marketing by any standard.

MyBlogSpark sends free product to the bloggers to sample and, if they choose, to review. It’s hardly a blogola scandal, as the bloggers receive nothing more than free consumables and some in-store coupons. If you’re a blogger corrupted by a free box of Kashi Whole Grain, then you’re beyond hope. No one is being “bought” here. Read the rest of this entry »

Sponsored blog posts: Debate has returned, and both sides have a point

April 22, 2009

The “new” ToughSledding features posts on topics discussed in my classrooms at Kent State. This one supports a lesson on “conflict of interest” for a class called “Ethics & Issues in Mass Communication.”

Update, 4/23/09, 9:50 p.m. Wall Street Journal focuses on the issue of paid pitchmen in the blogosphere. Seems this debate is about to go mainstream. Could get interesting.

I respect the invisible wall that divides a newsroom operation from the advertising office. Sure, the wall can picture-21be porous at times, but credible mainstream media outlets work hard to ensure that marketing dollars don’t taint the integrity of the news.

Most of the time this policy works well. For example, credible auto writers don’t accept free cars, and trusted fashion writers don’t accept high-priced suits and handbags. To do so is a “conflict of interest” and violates journalism ethics. Why? Because freebies of significant value have he potential to corrupt both writer and message. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Ford ‘Fiesta Movement’ a social media experiment or just a sponsored buzz machine?

April 16, 2009

(Update: A social-media initiative from Land Rover drew some spirited discussion in the comments section over at Ad Age. Is this a prelude to “Car Wars” in the SM space? 4/22/09)

…and why is no one asking the tough questions?


That was my first reaction to “Fiesta Movement,” a campaign launched last week by Ford. A marketing masterpiece, it was. Writers who cover the car biz are calling it a “gamble” on Ford’s part. I see a “sure bet,” but I’m getting ahead of the story. Way ahead.

In case you missed it, Ford has recruited 100 “socially vibrant” 20-somethings as part of a social-media campaign to promote the Fiesta well ahead of its U.S. introduction. In exchange for free use of the car + fuel + insurance for 6 months, Ford’s Fiesta “agents” have agreed to talk about the car every chance they get. Read the rest of this entry »

Openness vs. Secrecy: FAA’s goose may be cooked over ploy to hide bird-strike data

March 28, 2009
The Canada Goose may have brought down Flight 1549. At may place, they just poop on the beach.

The Canada Goose may have brought down Flight 1549. At my place, they just poop in the yard.

How many birds struck commercial airliners last year? You may never know if the Federal Aviation Administration has its way.

The agency that oversees U.S. flying machines fears that data about bird strikes may create undue public concern about the safety of commercial aviation. Last Thursday, according to this AP report, the FAA made a stealth move to keep bird-strike data secret, quietly publishing its proposal in the Federal Registry in the late afternoon.

Turns out the AP has its own agenda on the bird issue. The wire service requested the FAA bird data (via FOI) shortly after the “miracle” landing of Flight 1549 brought the issue to prominence. The agency’s “secret” database is said to include more than 100,000 reports of bird strikes going back nearly 20 years. All were voluntarily submitted by the airlines.

If the AP uncovers a bigger story, we all need to hear it. Read the rest of this entry »