Tag Archives: Kent State

Heading West: Follow Me To ColoROBo

Well, I’m actually doing something that I’ve talked about for years. I’m relocating this week to a small town in the mountains in Colorado, Woodland Park. I hope you’ll follow me on the journey and as I post on my new blog, ColoROBo, about life in Colorado, matters of interest in the media, and my efforts to more fully embrace a writer’s life by publishing a novel.

I started this blog, PR On The Run, nearly five years ago, while I was teaching classes in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State in media ethics, public relations and writing — and working with the most outstanding group of young people anywhere: students in Flash Communications. I figured that if I was going to stand in front of a class and opine about changes shaping public relations and journalism, I better at least make an attempt to understand blogs and blogging and how to write for readers online rather than in print.

I’ve had a blast, even though I’ve never gained that big of an audience or made a penny from these daily digital brain droppings. But it forced me to keep current on events — and to keep writing.  And hey. For someone obsessive enough to get up nearly every day for more than 30 years before 4 a.m. to hit the concrete or treadmill for a five-mile run, spending an hour or so cobbling together a few hundred words isn’t all that tough. Mostly, I appreciate those who took the time to read these posts and to add their perspective through thoughtful comments.

Even without the move to Colorado, it would have been a good time to bring an end to PR On The Run.

I’ve discovered that I really don’t have anything new or important to add to the discussion of public relations. I’ll always believe that ethical, honest and timely communications form the heart of a successful public relations program. But the field now seems to be dominated by tactical discussions about the use — and many times misuse — of social media: Facebook, Twitter and so on. That’s not necessarily bad. It’s just something I don’t understand — and quite honestly, don’t really care about.

And I’ve become extremely cynical about the ability of our elected leaders in Washington and elsewhere to take any action that benefits the public, rather than their own re-elections or vested interests. Better not to comment than to be negative about just about everything in the public arena these days. And I’m liberal on some issues, conservative on others. That makes for some pretty tepid opinions in a venue that encourages writers to hurl lightning bolts and take no prisoners.

And more and more I’ve become interested in issues involving the sorry state of public education in the country — and the growing attack on teachers that will do nothing but make a bad situation worse. Unlike beach volleyball, these apparently aren’t issues of widespread interest or concern. Too bad.

So I don’t have a final post for PR On The Run.

No need.

I’m not retiring from blogging or anything else I find interesting and enjoyable, including running and drinking Jameson. I’m going to keep writing in a different forum, ColoROBo, and from a different perspective as I begin the next stage in my life living above the clouds.

I’ll be back in early September.

In Colorado.

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Occupy Wall Street: A Kent State Moment?

OK. We can almost guarantee that the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in Lower Manhattan and other locations won’t end well. At some point the police and politicians will tire of the protestors and then they will be arrested or otherwise forcibly escorted from the various venues they now occupy.

Does that warrant a Kent State moment? Donny Deutsch, the snappy dressing pundit on MSNBC, raised that possibility Friday on the early a.m. gabfest Morning Joe.

Just in case Deutsch has forgotten, the Kent State “moment” was when the Ohio militia fired into a group of unarmed students, killing four and wounding others.

Is that what this intellectual douche bag really had in mind? I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say no. His claim to fame is that he is described as an advertising exec. So I expect he was trying to make a point about imagery, or branding, or some other such nonsense. In any event: good grief.

But if Deutsch is suggesting a repeat of May 4, 1970, he should consider that we’ve had several examples of a Kent State moment recently — in Egypt, Syria, Iran, Libya, Yemen and on and on. Does any thinking person really want to see that played out on the streets in New York or elsewhere?

I’ve opined previously that I don’t believe the Occupy Wall Street protests will accomplish much, if anything. But the protestors — unless they are engaged in violence or some other illegal activity — have the right to assembly and say pretty much what they want. That’s my take on the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And gee, call me old-fashioned. But I believe this applies to liberals, conservatives, pajama-clad citizen journalists and yes, even advertising execs.

If we lose sight of that, then this country has bigger problems than what the people in NYC and elsewhere are demonstrating about.

Just sayin’.

Kent State and May 4

I wasn’t planning to write about this — and in case anyone cares, I kind of recycled a similar post with the same headline from three years ago. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind as I was running this morning. Kent State and May 4, 1970. That’s more than 40 years and a lifetime ago — but I still think about Allison Krause and the others who were killed and injured that day.

I didn’t know Allison — or Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder. But I think about Allison because of the Pittsburgh connection, hers and mine. And I think what a shame. Allison and the others would have been — should have been — in their late 50s or early 60s now. Maybe they would be ending careers. Maybe they would be parents — possibly grandparents. I can’t shake those thoughts having been at Kent State myself in 1970, although graduating in March and back home in Pittsburgh in May.

I know there is no point in rehashing what happened on May 4, 1970, and the days immediately before it. If you have an opinion, like me, it has been anchored in concrete for years. For most others now — it’s history.

Yet it is a day in America’s history worth remembering.

College Football and Big Paydays

Well, if the cool morning weather isn’t a signal that fall is here in NE Ohio, here’s another marker: college football season begins tonight. (Actually, for all I know it may have started a week or two ago. But stick with me anyway.) Kent State kicks off its season tonight at home against Costal Carolina University.

The contest doesn’t warrant coverage as the ESPN game of the week. Yet it is an interesting matchup — since you wouldn’t expect that either team can get a big payday from it.

Typically that is what happens in the first weeks of the season. The  college have-nots (Kent State and so on) show up at the stadium of the haves (Ohio State and so on) — and get their lunch eaten. For the effort, the have-not university’s athletic department receives a stipend in the range of hundreds of thousands of bucks and maybe more.

For instance, USA Today reports (“For small schools, there’s a large payoff to road trips“) that Navy is going to receive one million big ones to face the Ohio State Buckeyes. Not bad. That will pay for plenty of sub sandwiches at the athletic dining halls. (C’mon. Give me a break with that last sentence.)

And the only reason that I mention any of this is that from time to time we need to remind ourselves that college sports at the top (and even close to the top) levels is a big business. Hey, check out the contract of the new athletic director at the University of Akron, as reported in the Akron Beacon Journal. Sweet.

Let’s face it. No university would trade a winning program with a strong tradition like, let’s say, Ohio State or Alabama, that does generate mega bucks from alumni and sponsors and establishes its “brand reputation” in the eyes of students and donors — for an excellent school of journalism or English department. Ideally you have both. But if you have to choose one over the other. Well…game on.

Anyway, I won’t be at Dix Stadium in Kent for tonight’s game. But it should be an interesting game.

Apparently both teams scheduled the game with the notion that they could win. Costal Carolina University appears to be trying to build a competitive football program, with this its seventh season. Kent State continues its nearly 40-year rebuilding program, following the departure of Don James to the University of Washington in the early ’70s. Sigh.

Ohio State and the other behemoths would prefer not to be involved in a game where either team can win until the last game of the season.

Then Ohio State gets its lunch eaten. Oops.

Laing Kennedy, Sports and Integrity

I know that for most pajama-clad citizen journalists like me it’s fashionable to be critical. You know. Scan the newspapers (dead-tree or online), blogs, online news sites and so on and then opine — generally with a negative slant. Not today. Today I am writing about Laing Kennedy who is retiring in June as Kent State’s director of athletics. And Kennedy is leaving at the top of his game, a model for someone who can succeed with a college sports program without compromising his integrity.

Tom Gaffney has an excellent article about Kennedy and his accomplishments in this morning’s Akron Beacon Journal.  Quite simply, Kennedy led a program with significant achievement when it came to athletics — and even more so with the emphasis that he placed on educational attainment.

During my years at Kent State, I only met Kennedy once. I was organizing an annual event that attracts people from the university and the community, the Bowman Breakfast. And Kennedy was the speaker. So I had some limited contact with him before, during and after the event. I was very impressed with his enthusiasm — and his dedication to the university and the Kent community.

But before that breakfast, what impressed me about Kennedy was his ability and willingness to help students  — and not just those on a sports scholarship. When I was working with students at the university’s student-run PR firm Flash Communications, many times students needed to contact Kennedy for information about a story or for a comment. He was always available. Always took their calls or returned them as quickly as possible. And he was gracious with his time and understanding of how much the student wanted to do a good job but needed some assistance.

Gee, sounds like a good teacher — and mentor. Somewhat surprisingly, many professors and college administrators (not just at Kent State but most everywhere) aren’t like that. Imagine that.

We need more people like Laing Kennedy who understand that education is basically about helping students succeed. And if you can add some winning sports teams to the mix while maintaining your  integrity — then so much the better.

Joe Biden and the Swine Flu Shuttle

Oh, mama. Next week I have to head to DC from Cleveland on what by then I’m sure will be labeled the Swine Flu Shuttle. Cough. Cough. Hey, maybe I was a little quick yesterday to disavow designer face masks.

I was thinking about that this morning while chasing the treadmill for an hour or so. The local TV guy and gal kept showing the taped interview yesterday of Joe Biden opining about swine flu. Dr. Joe said, in effect, that he wouldn’t advise anyone going anywhere on a plane, train, subway, two-seater bike and so on. As anticipated, this caused an immediate shitstorm with those in the travel industry, public health officials and even with Joe’s boss, the Prez.

And things got worse when the VP’s communications guru issued a statement saying he really was only talking about travel to Mexico. Well, no. Liar, liar pants on fire.

Why can’t people — particularly those in senior positions in government, business, education and so on — just admit when they make a mistake like this? And then move on.

The fact is this: Biden said what people believe, including me. C’mon, let’s take a poll. Raise your hand if you believe that the air on an airplane is filled with germs — ready to grab you by the throat even under ideal circumstances. Counting. Give me a few seconds. OK. See. People believe it is true. Step on an airplane and step off with a cold, at best.

Now, Biden shouldn’t have said what he did. Most likely, it’s not true. The airline industry argues that air on an airplane is cleaner than in most public buildings. (Cough. Cough. I digress.)  But in any event, senior government officials shouldn’t be saying and doing things to undercut the economy — and create more panic here.

Gee. Thoughtful and effective communication does matter.

Making an abrupt transition here — if you want to see some young professionals in action who understand effective communication, stop by the Kent Student Center this afternoon. Teams of senior-level Kent State public relations students will be giving their presentations on a campaign to improve relationships between the university and the city of Kent. It’s a class project — but few PR firms could prepare and present a plan as effectively and professionally.

I’m planning to attend. And I hope the “clients” from Kent State and from the city pay attention. There is some big repair work — communication and otherwise — that needs to be done there following the events of last weekend.

And let’s hope we don’t have a repeat this weekend — as the university approaches the 39th anniversary of the event that so altered the reputation of Kent State and so substantially changed the lives of many students and others: the killing of four students at Kent, May 4, 1970.

I wrote about Kent State and May 4 a year ago. I’ve included it again here in case anyone is interested.

Good and important to remember the events of nearly four decades ago. Much better these days to celebrate the successes and the future of the students like the ones that will present their campaign proposals this afternoon.

Hope everyone has an enjoyable — and safe — weekend.

Perception: Kent State and Swine Flu

Gee, what happened to my proclamation of a “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” weekend? I leave the conn of my digital communications empire for a day and we have a riot in Kent, Ohio, and the spread of swine flu. Don’t you long for the good old days when all we had to worry about was $4-a-gallon gasoline?

What’s this have to do with communication — and perception? Well, a lot, actually.

The Saturday night riot in Kent — off-campus as best I can tell — serves to reinforce what Kent State University is best known for: events that led to the killing of four students on campus May 4, 1970.  And no amount of crisis management or communications (or marketing dollars) works here since the perception about Kent State is too firmly entrenched. That’s why this incident gains national and even international attention way beyond what it merits in terms of news.

It even made The Huffington Post with this as the key graph:

It was the first violent clash between Kent State students and police in years. In 1970, four Kent State students were killed by Ohio National Guard troops during a campus protest of the invasion of Cambodia.

C’mon. Give us a break. What does the university say or do to get beyond that last sentence?

By the way, Bill Sledzik on his ToughSledding blog has an interesting take on how this story was covered by student journalists and via Twitter.

Then there is the outbreak of swine flu. Good grief. I’m still sick from the vaccine I took for the swine flu scare in the mid-1970s. But here’s reality.

Post-Katrina and post-9/11, our goverment leaders have to react — and react quickly and decisively — to these type of situations. That’s why the United States declared a “public health emergency.” And now the government — and public health officials — are faced with one of the most difficult communications challenges: defining and explaining in a thoughtful way just how much risk there actually is or could be.

I’m scheduled to fly to DC next week on a Continental shuttle out of Cleveland. Oh boy. Sure hope the person next to me is sneezing and coughing.

Don’t worry, be happy. Ugh. It’s Monday.