Monday, February 15, 2016

'Marshmallow' could give Kasich s'more headaches

Some principles of public speech are so well established it's amazing when someone at a high level breaks one, as did Ohio Governor and presidential candidate John Kasich when he sought to refute charges that he's not tough enough.

"I'm no marshmallow," Kasich said on a recent Sunday morning TV news show. Actually the full quote was worse: "I'm not some kind of a pin cushion or a marshmallow." Moreover, it was not his first reference to the spongy confection in describing his character.

I know, I know, he was using the term to describe the antithesis of his character. But the average memory is imprecise and details are quick to fade. Eventually the only thing that could stick to Kasich from all of this is marshmallow.

It makes me think once again of the late Chester Burger, arguably the nation's first media consultant, who warned of using negative descriptions – even to deny them. "If a reporter asks about windfall profits," he said, "never use that term in your answer, or it's sure to wind up in the headline – with your name attached to it."

I don't know what Chet would have said to Kasich about his self-inflicted wound. Probably, "You should have hired me."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Writing for the Fear

Honestly, it's been hard to talk about writing for the ear with humor in these days of the never-ending political campaign, in which words seem to be written not for our ears but for the nerve endings that stimulate emotion – like fear.

So it's ironic that the newest Word of the Year is –

Not a word, but a pictograph, an emoji described as The Face with Tears of Joy. The irony continues with the discovery that emoji derives not from emotion (see fear above) but from two Japanese words for picture and letter.

More irony: Emoji sounds similar to emoticon – think of the smiley face one gets from combining the : and the ) on the keyboard. But emoticon does in fact come from emotion and icon. Actually the similarity between emoji and emoticon is more coincidental than ironic.

Close on the heels of the Word of the Year that's not a word comes the Sherwin-Williams company's Color of the Year, alibaster.

I suppose it would fit nicely in many settings, but for a Color of the Year ... it's not very colorful.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Promoting justice – and production values

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?
Since 1966 police officers have been required to issue the so-called Miranda warning to criminal suspects before interrogating them. But with the increased use of body cameras by police across the nation, it becomes obvious that we need to edit the Miranda warning to keep up with technology. Hence I submit the following:
You have the right to remain bashful. Any look you make, any pose you strike can and will be held against you in a video editing suite. You have the right to a makeup artist. If you cannot afford a makeup artist, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you – and do you know to look at the camera when you see the red light?
It's one thing to have a case thrown out of court, but to have it rejected by YouTube? Now that would be a travesty.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

'Oh, the humanity!'

Radio announcer Herb Morrison's anguished reaction to the 1937 crash of the airship, Hindenburg, came to mind with the news of a much less tragic lighter-than-air disaster this week.

An unmanned Army blimp broke loose from its mooring in Maryland and floated into Pennsylvania where it crashed in the woods, with no injury to anyone on the ground. Nor were there any accident reports involving the TV crews racing to capture the unfolding odyssey for the evening news.

Remembering Morrison's meltdown made me think of an NPR newscast some time ago in which an NPR foreign correspondent was reporting from one of the many disaster areas around the world. At one point he referred to a nearby child who was in extreme distress. He hesitated obviously affected by the scene confronting him. "Take your time," the NPR anchor said quietly and for a moment all the listener heard was the ambient chaos on the ground. Unlike Morrison, the correspondent resumed his report in his customary reporter's manner.

Perhaps nothing could have made the situation so vivid as this very human response to a very human tragedy. It also revealed the amazing discipline required in a truly professional journalist.

Oh, the humanity.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Getting the Bugs out

As Volkswagen tries to launder its dirty air, one can only imagine the fallout when someone figures out how much the Beetle contributed to global warming over the years.

All of that heat from those air-cooled engines had to go somewhere, didn't it?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Ohio is in Denali denial

To hear Ohioans cry about changing Alaska's Mount McKinley back to its original name, Denali, you'd think it means we'll have to rename the McKinley high schools and all of the McKinley thoroughfares, too.

At any rate, it's unlikely the new "old" name will make the highest peak in North America any less of an attraction for mountain climbers and other sightseers.


Ah, the significance of names. I drive a car whose color is said to be Sunset Red. Given that this could very well be my last car, the name gives me pause. But the other option was Impact Blue and that might be tempting fate. Impact. What kind of color is that for a car? How about Collision Green? Total Black? Reckless Silver?


Speaking of getting older, I kind of liked it better when PSA primarily referred to Public Service Announcement.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

If this is a correction what's a mistake?

Don't you love it when a precipitous drop in the stock market, like the one occurring right now, is said to be a correction? Does that mean the way the market normally functions is a mistake? Why should a term with such a positive connotation apply to something so negative? The answer, of course, is that when it comes to informing the public about anything, the goal is always to put a positive spin on it.


If the market doesn't overcome its latest correction, it may be time to consider other options – like the job opportunities routinely transmitted by Linked In, the self-proclaimed World's Largest Professional Network. Recent suggestions I've received included the writing-oriented positions I might expect, but also –

Tax Reviewer!

Assistant Nurse Manager!!


Believe me, If I ever have to seek out a pawn shop, it won't be to apply for a job.


Speaking of positive spins, Cleveland's Gateway Corporation has approved installation of a bigger scoreboard at Progressive Field. Hmmmm – maybe to hold all of those runs the team is going to score next year?