Tag Archives: media

Hear no evil, see no evil, stop no evil: A follow up on the Grammys

28 Jan

So you didn’t watch the Grammy Awards? Good for you.

I don’t mean to sound crass, but you’re not doing anyone any favors by proudly proclaiming you won’t watch such filth nor are you helping anyone by labeling the show and other media programs as “evil.”

If you really want to make a difference in America’s media landscape, DO SOMETHING about it. Don’t pat yourself on the back for avoiding it.  Believe me, these folks are not crying because they lost you as a viewer. They actually love when conservatives loudly complain about programs, music or movies.  As a matter of fact, our complaints help them. Why? Because it makes others think, “Well, if they hate it, it must be AWESOME!”

My in-box has been burning up with notes from people who are proudly declaring their abstinence and summoning the wrath of God on people they declare to be evil, vile and other not-so-nice words. I agree many in media and entertainment do behave despicably and produce content that hurts society; however, I haven’t posted the abstainers’ or judges’ comments because they would do more harm than good. The indignation, as righteous as it may be, won’t change the situation. The condemnation won’t change the people responsible. None of it will bring anyone closer to God.  There are more effective ways to express disapproval and spur real change.

Look, I’m not saying you have to watch or listen to this stuff. I agree a lot of it is crap, and there have been many times I needed to pour bleach into my eyes and ears because of things I’ve caught on television or radio.  However, I am saying you have to get out of your bubble, acknowledge this stuff is out there, and work to change it. Complaining to the networks won’t work, nor will boycotting their shows. These tactics actually boost the offending items’ popularity. However, there are two tactics that do work. Go after their advertisers and tell your government representatives to hold the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) accountable.

No advertiser will run commercials, which finance these shows, if they fear they’ll lose a huge portion of their consumer base. Just a few years ago, parent groups were able to get “Skins,” an MTV series with a whole lot of underage sex, pulled off the air because they targeted the show’s advertisers.  The FCC has regulations that prohibit the airing of “obscene” material before 10 p.m., and they can levy some pretty hefty fines for public stations that do it. (CBS, the host of the Grammys, is considered public. MTV and other cable outlets are not.) Granted, the FCC has been pretty lax about enforcement in recent years, but that’s why it’s so important for you to be persistent. Contact your federal representatives and demand action.

You can also have dialogues about these issues. I use Roadkill Goldfish to start those dialogues, but I also spend a lot of time personally talking with other people and listening to their thoughts and ideas. I encourage you to take the time to talk to people who may have a different opinion. Find out WHY they think the way they do. Use hard facts to point out flaws in their arguments.  Show alternatives.

I believe we can change today’s culture, but we can’t do it if we’re patting ourselves on the back with our sanitized hands.

It’s time to roll up the sleeves and get our hands dirty as we help others out of the muck.


Get the “real story” behind the news: Your opinion may be keeping you from the truth

6 Nov

newspaperHistory has been made today.

It was made yesterday as well, and tomorrow has promise for new developments.

Today’s history is being chronicled by millions of people around the world.  We call it “news,” but the term doesn’t capture everything it means to our society. News can provide connection, comprehension, warning or encouragement. In its purest sense,  it is information, and that information is power.

There are many ways of getting this information, but sadly, many people don’t want to know and excuse their self-imposed ignorance with, “I don’t pay attention to the news. It’s all bad anyway.” Others will follow only sources that support their particular viewpoint, which greatly limits their ability to see the big picture.

The role of a free press

I am a journalist who has always viewed freedom of speech, especially its support of a free press,  as the greatest gift our founding fathers provided. Our founders gave us the right to know what our government is doing and also the right to comment, criticize and question.  In its essence, the First Amendment establishes the press as America’s watchdog or the fourth branch of government – the entity that keeps the other three branches honest. The press should also be the watchdog and town crier with big business and social injustice issues.  It hasn’t always played out that way, but I still have hope.

Many will argue that today’s journalism has lost its edge and has given up its responsibility to be the unbiased reporters of the facts that allow people can make their own decisions. Perhaps it has. We’ve lost the power of investigative journalism because few media outlets have the manpower or financial resources to support it; we’ve lost the unbiased presentation of the facts  because of the proliferation of outlets that serve specific viewpoints; and the saddest thing of all, we as a people have lost interest.

The danger of opinions and avoidance

We’ve lost interest, but we still have opinions, and we view those opinions as indisputable facts.  Our experiences and our role in society shape how we perceive things. Consequently, we tend to filter out or condemn anything that doesn’t match our pre-existing perceptions while we seek, notice and remember the items that match. In essence, we base on our opinions on one-sided information; however, informed decision-making  and well-based opinions, mandate we examine all sides of an issue.

We can’t afford to tune out or discredit information simply because it goes against our comfortable views. Like it or not, that information impacts your life.  Washington’s decisions affect your family. Business news can create a new job opportunity for you or destroy the one you already have.  The events in the Middle East have a ripple effect in your hometown. Even your clothing choices aren’t immune to news; Madison Avenue sets the standard for the apparel you buy at your local store.

You owe it to yourself to get the “real story”

How do we change this? I would love to see a return to bias-free, hard-hitting investigative reporting, but those stories are few and far between. It’s up to us.

The Internet now gives us access to a variety of news sources that can expose us to new points of view and help us find the real truth behind stories. Keep in mind the validity of many Internet sources is questionable at best, and you should never believe, “I read it online; therefore, it must be true.”

As a college journalism instructor, I encourage my students to get their information from a variety of reputable and ideologically different sources, and I encourage them to fact-check the information they obtain. Why? Each source will have a different perspective, but you can create the “real picture” by comparing and contrasting the different viewpoints and filtering them through the lens of accuracy.

Dig deep as well. Television news gives you a snapshot of what is happening, but newspapers and other online sources can give you the full details. It’s okay to read the pundits, follow the bloggers and listen to the talk show hosts, but recognize they are presenting only one view on a topic. You need to explore what the other sides say as well. Don’t forget sources such as journals,  scholars, historians or international media.

History is happening right outside your front door. Don’t rely on one person or one source to tell you what happened or how you should feel about it.

Seek out diverse sources, find the real truth by comparing the viewpoints, check the facts yourself, and then use the information to create your own opinion.

My Nerd Credentials
Kim Helminski Keller earned her B.A. and M.A. in journalism from the University of Memphis and has worked as a reporter, public relations professional and university instructor. She is also accredited in public relations by the Public Relations Society of America and certified in community relations by Boston College Center for Corporate Community Relations.

There’s no such thing as bad publicity? Think again.

30 Sep
Photographic proof that bad publicity hurts all of us. Photo from http://kimkardashian.celebuzz.com.

Photographic proof that bad publicity hurts all of us.
Photo from http://kimkardashian.celebuzz.com.

As a public relations professional, I absolutely hate the phrase, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.”

The misguided mantra stems from the erroneous belief that it’s all good as long as people are talking about you – even if they are saying some pretty horrendous things. Why? It gives you name recognition. It means you’re worthy of attention. It means you’re relevant.

It also means you’re trying to validate the short term gains of bad behavior.

Many people desire to be famous, but few desire to be notorious – unless it brings in a lot of attention and money.

Miley Cyrus simulated sex acts on national television? Ooh, that’s not nice, but she got 306,000 tweets a minute after the VMAs, and she set the all-time record for viewers for her new video.  That is success!

The Kardashians built an empire based on a sex tape and relationship mistakes? Ooh, that’s a bit messed up, but the family’s net worth is estimated to be around $80 million, and Kim has more than 18.5 million followers on Twitter. (In contrast, the Dalai Lama, who has no sex tape, has only has 7.8 million.) Wow, that’s impressive!

Yes, these folks rolled in the dough and are known around the world – for now.  Bad publicity can bring in short term gains, but few stop to consider the long term personal and societal cost.

Take another look at Miley. She may have been the most talked about woman in the world for a few weeks, but the overwhelming theme of that talk was negative. The number of video viewers came in out of curiosity, not out of fan devotion or artistic appreciation. She did enjoy a brief blip of financial success with increased record sales, but the numbers will come down as people grow weary of the shtick. What will she do to earn attention and relevance then?

What is the societal cost of all this bad publicity? Outlandish behavior gets emulated and rewarded. Good behavior gets ignored and mocked. We have morphed into a culture in which the end justifies the means. Individuals try to get attention based on “shock and awe” rather than working hard on talent and character. We expect instant results with no thought of long term consequences. Get rich quick. Lose weight now. Buy now pay later. YOLO, dude.

Bad publicity may elevate a person for a brief period, but it can’t beat gravity. What goes up must come down, and we’ve seen countless bad boys/girls crash and burn due to their own actions or fade away because their sycophants grew bored. Sadly, the lure of “it’s all good as long as people are talking about you”  will never die as long as people continue to read the tabloids, fawn over paparazzi photos, pay attention to celebrities’ vapid comments, worship fame, and watch TMZ rather than CNN.

This makes me rethink my life and career. I’ve been playing it safe for years and focusing on being a generally decent human being. Perhaps I need to do something totally stupid and outrageous to get people talking.

Oh wait, I’m already doing that!  In many eyes, speaking out against today’s culture is stupid and outrageous enough.

5 ways media have got motherhood all wrong

9 May
Photo credit: Cheryl Hines in "Suburgatory"

Photo credit: Cheryl Hines in “Suburgatory”

A warning to Kay Jewelers: My husband would have his butt kicked if he ever gave me jewelry for Mother’s Day. I’ve been anti-frivolous-gift ever since I grasped the whole “your money is my money” concept of marriage.

I can’t blame Kay for trying. Their commercial showcases a beautiful and serene mother sitting quietly in a chair as her loving family rushes in to present her with a shiny bauble. The husband has shaved. He’s wearing a clean shirt. The kids’ clothes actually match. The house is inhumanly clean.

Kay, you are full of crap. I get the idea that you are trying to represent an ideal and convince men that their wives will be blissful if they receive something from your Open Hearts collection.

Kay is not alone in their inaccurate portrayals of maternal life. Pretty much everything from Hollywood and Madison Avenue is quite excretory. Allow me to share some examples:

Every mom portrayed in commercials and television shows has beautiful hair. The hair is clean and shiny, the style is perfect, and beautiful bangs swoop gently over the face.

In real life, most women look like this only a few times a year. This coincides with when we actually have time to hit the salon. For the most part, we’re lucky if we can wash it a few times a week, and the hairstyle can best be described as “there.” Forget the beautiful swoop. Real moms know you can’t see a stinking thing with hair in your eyes. We rely on the headband, clip or immortal scrunchy to keep it out of the face.

I’m 43, and I still have yet to master the application of liquid foundation. My eyeliner always bleeds within a few hours, no concealer makes me look “untired,” and I use the tiny brush that comes with my square of Maybelline blush.

I am a troll next to media moms. Of course, they can look flawless because they have professional make-up artists who airbrush their faces and do touch ups every 15 minutes. They also benefit from gifted camera men, lighting artists and Photoshop. If I had that benefit, I’d be taking the whole tech crew with me when I went grocery shopping. I would look totally HOT loading mega rolls of toilet paper into my cart.

Media moms have a stylist who picks out their clothes. They benefit from the latest styles that are custom-fit, coordinated and clean.

A real mom’s stylist is usually another mom in the Target dressing room who says, “That looks really cute on you.” We don’t spend $200 on a pair of jeans. (See the prior note about “your money is my money.”) Most moms I know wear t-shirts, yoga pants and tennis shoes on a frequent basis – a fashion trend you never see on television. Our kids think we’re dressed up when we put on a sweater and khakis.

Have you ever noticed that media moms cut a lot of vegetables? Every time a woman is in the kitchen, she’s cutting carrots, tomatoes or something green during the entire scene. Media families must eat a lot of salads. They must also be talented chefs because they can make chicken covered in cream of mushroom soup look like it came out of a gourmet restaurant.

Sadly, I don’t cook like that. I’m not saying that I can’t cook. Some of my stuff is actually pretty tasty; however, a camera crew would be horrified if they came into my kitchen. Most of my vegetables come pre-cut and frozen. My chicken covered in cream of mushroom soup looks like a white heap of meat covered by a white heap of soup. After 15 years of marriage, most of my dinner plates have chips. We drink out of plastic sports-themed cups because I’m tired of cleaning up broken glasses.

Media moms benefit from having their children via casting call. Real moms get pregnant or jump through thousands of hoops to adopt. Media moms’ children are always model-perfect and camera ready. Real moms have kids with self-done haircuts, scraped up knees, braces and mismatched clothes. Media moms’ children always behave and have great one-liners. Real moms yell at their kids at Wal-Mart and lock themselves in the bathroom to have 10 minutes of peace. Forget witty one-liners. We just want our kids to say more than two words about their day at school.

A Look at Real Motherhood
Media moms sometimes hit the mark. Look at Debra Barone from “Everyone Loves Raymond.” Her kids were normal kids, she kept a normal house, and her husband was much funnier than a normal husband. I also loved Leigh Anne Tuohy from “The Blind Side.” Sandra Bullock portrayed her just like the real-life Leigh Anne – the Mama Bear who fights for her cubs. (Granted, Leigh Anne does have a rather awesome house and wardrobe, but let’s not lose the main idea, folks.)

The fact is that real motherhood can never be captured with a camera. Real motherhood is the calm that replaces the gag reflex when your baby pukes curdled milk all over your clean shirt. It’s the anger and hurt you feel when some punk 8-year-old knocks your son off his bike. It’s the willingness to drop everything and learn to sew because your daughter needs a poodle skirt tomorrow morning.

It’s the love that means you would literally sacrifice yourself for the little people God entrusted to your care, no matter how old those little people are.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the real mamas.


%d bloggers like this: