Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Media Relations Conference; The Keynotes

I've spent the last three days at the Media Relations Summit that was put on by Bulldog Reporter. There's a lot that has taken place in the last few days so I will be doing multiple posts about my time at the event.
This first post is about the two keynotes for Day 1, Dan Rather, Former anchorman of CBS News, and for Day 2, Dan Abrams, from CNBC. And you couldn't have any more different speeches.

Dan Rather, who I remember seeing as a kid when he was a correspondent from Vietnam, was a perfect speaker. He was beautifully prepared - telling two very funny stories that bookended his talk. His talk focused around Speaking Truth to Power and the need for everyone to support a strong and independent media. The media remains an additional check in the system of checks and balances. He spoke of how he discovered that Richard Nixon's White house attempted to pressure William Paley of CBS to stop the investigation of Watergate by CBS. CBS stood firm. Contrast this with the way today's much weaker media, confronted with a punitive FCC failed to followup on things like why we were going to war in Iraq.

Dan Rather spoke for over an hour, graciously answered our questions in a Q&A session and received an enthusiastic standing ovation.

Today's keynote was quite different. Dan Abrams spoke about his formation of a new firm, Abrams Research which hires freelance journalists to consult with companies on media strategy. It seems that this is an issue fo great controversy and Mr. Abrams seems to think that everyone in the room was strongly disapproving of this action - and that we considered him some sort of axis of evil - a lawyer, a journalist and gasp - perhaps worst of all -a media strategist. His talk, also an hour, was very up and down in tone. I felt like we were getting some very odd kind of sales pitch. That since other journalists (those not laid off that had full time jobs) were somehow disapproving of people hiring their former peers - people who have lost their jobs in media and needing a job - he had to explain why his firm was great. I can't help but feel he was giving some bad information. Few people in the room were aware of his firm, and far fewer seemed to care about the issues he was raising. We gained little insight from his talk and sadly no inspiration.

I will treasure getting to see Dan Rather. As for Abrams, I'll look forward to seeing him in the pages of Us Magazine at the hair dresser when he is shown out and about with Renee Zellewegger. A better talk might have been how it feels to go from being a reporter chasing the news to being a celebrity consort being endlessly chased by the paparazzi.

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