Weekly Update 01-07 Feb 21
Clips on media/communication, national security, politics, sports, and pop culture worth knowing about in the days ahead.
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By Provision Advisors
We promised you would hear more voices this season, other than our own - sharing stories, anecdotes, and lessons from the comms and PR world. This month we salute the achievements and moments surrounding Black History in our nation. In episode one of that endeavor we welcome on the show Marc Clarke, professional communicator, author, radio host, and GIRL DAD as we get his views on the communication climate we face today and what challenges and pathways he sees as our nation grapples with diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Why a Nation Needs a National Story
By Jill Lepore, for Foreign Affairs In 1986, the Pulitzer Prize–winning, bowtie-wearing Stanford historian Carl Degler delivered something other than the usual pipe-smoking, scotch-on-the-rocks, after-dinner disquisition that had plagued the evening program of the annual meeting of the American Historical Association for nearly all of its centurylong history. Instead, Degler, a gentle and quietly heroic man, accused his colleagues of nothing short of dereliction of duty: appalled by nationalism, they had abandoned the study of the nation.
This could be the moment of social repair.
By David Brooks, New York Times
Joe Biden ran on unity and bipartisanship. His goal was to restore the soul of America and make Washington work again. His first major proposal was a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill. Ten Republicans countered with a $618 billion plan. They could have negotiated for even a week to see if they could settle on a compromise. Republicans and Democrats have already cooperated to pass about $4 trillion in Covid relief. It’s plausible to think some of them could have cooperated to pass a fifth trillion.
By David Bishai, The Baltimore Sun
The final goal of COVID-19 vaccination programs is to make so many people immune that a sick person recovers without infecting anybody else. To reach that goal will require overcoming barriers to cooperation between health departments, hospitals, pharmacies and private providers. All have special strengths in a partnership of vaccinators. State and local health departments have a special mandate to facilitate partnerships to help everyone get the most out of vaccinations. With doses scarce, following clear prioritization rules will offer the most benefit. The prioritization rules were created with extensive open deliberation that includes impacted communities, business leaders, health officials, ethicists and economists.
Side effects are just a sign that protection is kicking in as it should.
By Katherine Wu, The Atlantic
At about 2 a.m. on Thursday morning, I woke to find my husband shivering beside me. For hours, he had been tossing in bed, exhausted but unable to sleep, nursing chills, a fever, and an agonizingly sore left arm. His teeth chattered. His forehead was freckled with sweat. And as I lay next to him, cinching blanket after blanket around his arms, I felt an immense sense of relief. All this misery was a sign that the immune cells in his body had been riled up by the second shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and were well on their way to guarding him from future disease.
We built a ‘better’ food system. The cost: It couldn’t handle a pandemic.
By Michael Pollan, The Washington Post The first teachable moment of the pandemic, for me, had to do with the supply chain. Early on, supermarkets had shortages, and not just of food; other everyday items were also hard to find. The first example everyone noticed was toilet paper. That mystified people, and the immediate response was to blame it on hoarding. But while there was a certain amount of hoarding, the shortage far exceeded that.
It’s crucial to distinguish real failures from those caused by chasing political phantoms.
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., WSJ Two great lessons arise from the 2020 pandemic, neither of which will be cited in the standard summaries. The first was taught in quick succession by Wuhan and then northern Italy. When hospitals visibly break down, constraints on political action, much of it ill-advised, will tend to disappear. The second lesson concerns the vaccine. A miscalculation was the idea that, despite the emergency, adherence to existing testing protocols would encourage public confidence. This has now been disproved. Surveys and lengthy news investigations show that tens of millions, including many health-care workers, distrust a product developed at speed behind closed doors in double-blind clinical trials.
By Joann Muller, Axios
New restrictions on international border-crossings, combined with faltering COVID-19 immunization efforts, have dashed hopes for a significant rebound in air travel in 2021. Why it matters: For global aviation, which suffered its worst year in history in 2020, the misery is likely to continue, holding back a broader economic recovery.
He’s not very important to us, but he keeps stalking us.
By Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times
The recent discovery of a massive, highly sophisticated hack, almost certainly by Russia, of key U.S. technology companies and government agencies puts the new Biden team in a real quandary: How, when or even whether should they retaliate against Russia’s president? I have a lot of sympathy with that quandary — because Vladimir Putin has become America’s ex-boyfriend from hell.
How to Keep U.S.-Chinese Confrontation From Ending in Calamity
By Kevin Rudd, for Foreign Affairs Officials in Washington and Beijing don’t agree on much these days, but there is one thing on which they see eye to eye: the contest between their two countries will enter a decisive phase in the 2020s. This will be the decade of living dangerously. No matter what strategies the two sides pursue or what events unfold, the tension between the United States and China will grow, and competition will intensify; it is inevitable. War, however, is not. It remains possible for the two countries to put in place guardrails that would prevent a catastrophe: a joint framework for what I call “managed strategic competition” would reduce the risk of competition escalating into open conflict.
By Nicole Schuman, PR News
On this Feb. 2, many people may describe their life as a “Groundhog Day.” Since the pandemic hit, the days cycle through one like the next. We’ve lived, worked and remained in place for almost a year—adhering to stay-at-home guidelines. And much like people, brands and organizations can find themselves in a funk, putting out the same messaging year after year, which, while reliable, can lose the attention of a fickle populace.
Robinhood might remind its customers that stocks are about something real.
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. With the GameStop bubble coming to its foreordained conclusion on Tuesday the broader stock market was having its best day in a while. Internet progress is sometimes measured in pratfalls. The stumble of the free online brokerage Robinhood over its customers’ trading of GameStop actually hearkens to a precedent that has nothing to do with the Wall Street vs. little guy narrative. In 1996, dial-up internet pioneer America Online stopped charging by the hour in favor of a flat monthly fee. Unsurprisingly, customers instantly revealed a preference for being online all the time. Alas, a symphony of busy signals also exposed an unappreciated fact of AOL’s business model: It was reselling access to the regulated local phone system designed for calls that last six minutes, not all week.
By The Associated Press
HBO's latest documentary Fake Famous took a deep dive into the world of influencers, and their obsession with fame, as journalist and first-time director Nick Bilton conducted a social experiment to find out if he could turn three people with very little followings into famous influencers using a few social media tricks. First, Bilton purchased fake followers and bots to like and comment on all three participants' Instagram profiles. Next, Bilton set up completely fake photoshoots for the participants, a ploy that apparently many influencers use. "We're simply doing what so many other influencers do. We're faking it," said Bilton.
By Ernest Owens, The Washington Post
The first day of the month brought yet another yearly reminder of why I’ve grown to cringe every February as a Black American. Soon after receiving a thoughtless “Happy Black History Month” email from a White colleague, a friend messaged me with a crying emoji. “And they made Siri say it,” she wrote with a screenshot of her White employer’s “Happy Black History Month” text with the Apple notification stating that it was sent from the monotone virtual assistant. She punctuated that with a skull emoji. We both had to laugh to keep from crying. A boss from a Fortune 500 company couldn’t even muster the consideration to pander to her with his own fingertips.
By Courtney Connley, CNBC Black Americans have played a crucial role in helping to advance America’s business, political and cultural landscape into what it is today. And since 1976, every U.S. president has designated the month of February as Black History Month to honor the achievements and the resilience of the Black community. While CNBC Make It recognizes that Black history is worth being celebrated year-round, we are using this February to shine a special spotlight on 23 Black leaders whose recent accomplishments and impact will inspire many generations to come.
By Bryan Walsh, Axios
As the debate over reopening America's classrooms heats up, one overlooked factor is the significant racial gap in whether parents are ready to send their children back to school.
Why it matters: Study after study shows that kids in remote schooling are suffering lifelong learning loss. But the concerns many Black and Latino parents express about returning their children to classrooms — concerns fueled by higher numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths and historically underfunded schools — need to be answered first.
By Anemona Hartocollis, New York Times
To Kimberly Diei, a pharmacy graduate student at the University of Tennessee, her posts on Twitter and Instagram were well within the bounds of propriety. She was just having fun. “Sex positive,” she called them. Posting under a pseudonym, kimmykasi, she exposed her cleavage in a tight dress and stuck out her tongue. In homage to the rapper Cardi B, one of her idols, she made up some raunchy rap lyrics. By this week, she had gained more than 19,500 Instagram followers and 2,000 on Twitter.
By Peter Singer and Eric Johnson, War on the Rocks
Every minute of every day, men and women in uniform are attacked by a weapon that threatens them, their services, and the nation. Yet the U.S. military has not trained them to prepare for this onslaught. It is time for this to change. Over the last several years, misinformation and deliberately spread disinformation, pushed by both foreign and domestic sources, have proliferated online. They have shaped not just what people read and believe, but also how they act. This “weaponization of social media” has created a formidable challenge in nearly every policy area, from aiding the forces of terrorism and extremism, to being a tool of great-power competition, to damaging the vitality of our democracy.
By James Stavridis, Time The storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was notable for a variety of reasons, but what stood out for me as a retired senior officer of the armed forces was the obvious influence of military tactics, techniques, and procedures so visible in the events of that terrible day.
When has a stand down solved anything?
By Jeff Schogol, Task and Purpose It took the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill, in which a violent mob that included veterans and current service members tried to overturn a democratic election, for the Defense Department to finally acknowledge that it has a serious problem with extremists in the ranks. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has called the Capitol Hill riots a “wakeup call” for the military. “It certainly had an electric effect here at the Department of Defense in terms of the notion that anybody active-duty, let alone in the veteran community, but in active-duty could be involved in this,” Kirby told reporters during a Feb. 3 media engagement.
By Luis Martinez, ABC News
The Navy's broad internal look to address racism and sexism in its ranks has made recommendations to do more to keep minorities and women in the force, particularly in the higher officer ranks where African American officers are under-represented. The review, known as Task Force One Navy, designed to address any systemic inequalities in the Navy, was triggered by the racial reckoning last summer that followed the death of George Floyd.
By Katie Delahaye Paine, PR Daily
We’ve said it before, but this is the year that even the most impression-addicted folks will seek alternatives. Not only is senior leadership skeptical of meaningless numbers that don’t connect to corporate profits, but increasingly leadership, clients and others who control checkbooks are demanding to know exactly who the people, buyers and influencers behind those numbers are. If you can’t provide those details, you’ll be thrown out of the board room.
Times Opinion was able to identify individuals from a trove of leaked smartphone location data.
In 2019, a source came to us with a digital file containing the precise locations of more than 12 million individual smartphones for several months in 2016 and 2017. The data is supposed to be anonymous, but it isn’t. We found celebrities, Pentagon officials and average Americans. It became clear that this data — collected by smartphone apps and then fed into a dizzyingly complex digital advertising ecosystem — was a liability to national security, to free assembly and to citizens living mundane lives. It provided an intimate record of people whether they were visiting drug treatment centers, strip clubs, casinos, abortion clinics or places of worship.
By Randy Bean, for the Harvard Business Review Thriving as a mainstream company today means being data driven. Companies that have lagged on this front have observed their data-driven competitors seize market share and make inroads into their customer base over the course of the past decade and pioneers like Amazon, Facebook, and Google develop dominant market valuations. Now, mainstream Fortune 1000 companies are fighting back by investing heavily in data and AI initiatives to narrow the gap. For the third consecutive year, investment in data and AI initiatives has been nearly universal, with 99.0% of firms reporting investment in data and AI according to findings from a newly released executive survey from NewVantage Partners, a strategic advisory firm that I founded in 2001 to advise Fortune 1000 companies on data leadership issues. But this year, despite growing investment, it appears most companies are struggling to maintain momentum.
“It pissed off enough reporters for people to flag it” for the White House Correspondents’ Association, one of The Daily Beast’s sources said.
By Maxwell Tani, The Daily Beast
If you’re a reporter with a tough question for the White House press secretary, Joe Biden’s staff wouldn’t mind knowing about it in advance. According to three sources with knowledge of the matter, as well as written communications reviewed by The Daily Beast, the new president’s communications staff have already on occasion probed reporters to see what questions they plan on asking new White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki when called upon during briefings. The requests prompted concerns among the White House press corps, whose members, like many reporters, are sensitive to the perception that they are coordinating with political communications staffers.
By Nuala Walsh, for Harvard Business Review More than 50 years after the term “bystander effect” was coined, many of us still witness workplace wrongdoing yet stay stubbornly silent. In motivating employees to speak up, most organizations still rely on traditional compliance-based tools such as codes of conduct, training, and audits. This approach has simply failed — only an estimated 1.4% of employees blow the whistle. Current strategies remain ineffective and are often counterproductive. This matters because organizational silence perpetuates white-collar crime: It continues to rise despite companies investing millions in misconduct prevention. Scandals have slashed market valuations and ravaged the reputations of Boeing, BP, Barings, and many others.
The NFL has pledged to address racism, but team owners still won’t put Black coaches in charge.
By Jemele Hill, for The Atlantic In Sunday’s Super Bowl, three of the four offensive and defensive coordinators—the highest-ranking assistant coaches on the field—will be Black. That their teams are competing for a championship isn’t the only thing Eric Bieniemy of the Kansas City Chiefs and Byron Leftwich and Todd Bowles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have in common. They also are striking examples of how the National Football League continues to fail Black coaches. Last May, after George Floyd’s death in police custody, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell pledged to use “the power of our platform” to address “systemic issues” of racism—but that commitment doesn’t seem to extend to the league itself.
By John Branch, New York Times
Since the last Super Bowl 12 months ago, a pandemic has killed at least two million people around the world, including about 450,000 Americans. January was the deadliest month, and last week roughly one American died every 30 seconds from Covid-19. The toll will grow through the Super Bowl on Sunday — during the big plays, among the slow-motion replays, amid the commercials, while the national anthem is sung and the halftime show is performed.
By Sara Fischer, Axios
The big game, happening for the first time in history without many fans in the stadium, will feature spots with socially-distanced characters, and people staying home. Why it matters: While some ads will try to be light, the gravity of the pandemic will still be felt.