Weekly Update 08-14 Mar 21
Clips on media/communication, national security, politics, sports, and pop culture worth knowing about in the days ahead.
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Opinion by Joe Biden, Narendra Modi, Scott Morrison and Yoshihide Suga, for The Washington Post,
Joe Biden is president of the United States. Narendra Modi is prime minister of India. Scott Morrison is prime minister of Australia. Yoshihide Suga is prime minister of Japan. In December 2004, the continental shelf off the coast of Indonesia shifted two meters, creating one of the largest tidal waves in modern history and a nearly unprecedented humanitarian crisis around the Indian Ocean. With millions displaced and hundreds of thousands killed, the Indo-Pacific region sounded a clarion call for help. Together, our four countries answered it. Australia, India, Japan and the United States — a group of democratic nations dedicated to delivering results through practical cooperation — coordinated rapid humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to people in need. Our cooperation, known as “the Quad,” was born in crisis. It became a diplomatic dialogue in 2007 and was reborn in 2017.
Adding New Commitments in Asia Will Only Invite Disaster
By Van Jackson, for Foreign Affairs On his first phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping after taking office, U.S. President Joe Biden stressed that “preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific” was one of his top priorities. He made a similar point to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, promising to “promote a free and open Indo-Pacific,” and to South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, calling the U.S.–South Korean alliance a “lynchpin of the security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.” On a call between Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, both leaders affirmed the importance of the U.S.-Japanese alliance as a “cornerstone of peace and prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific,” according to a White House readout of the conversation.
We’re seeing a policy realignment without a partisan realignment.
By David Brooks, NYT
This has been one of the most quietly consequential weeks in recent American politics. The Covid-19 relief law that was just enacted is one of the most important pieces of legislation of our lifetimes. As Eric Levitz writes in New York magazine, the poorest fifth of households will see their income rise by 20 percent; a family of four with one working and one unemployed parent will receive $12,460 in benefits. Child poverty will be cut in half.
How Biden Can Learn From History in Real Time
By Gideon Rose, for Foreign Affairs Bismarck once said that the statesman’s task was to hear God’s footsteps marching through history and try to catch his coattails as he went past. U.S. President George W. Bush agreed. In his second inaugural address, Bush argued that “history has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.” President Donald Trump had a different take. His National Security Strategy claimed: “A central continuity in history is the contest for power. The present time period is no different.” The Bush team saw history moving forward along a sunlit path; the Trump team saw it as a gloomy eternal return. Those beliefs led them to care about different issues, expect different things of the world, and pursue different foreign policies.
Rethinking Economics in the Age of Cheap Money
By James H. Stock, for Foreign Affairs The past five years of U.S. economic policy have been noisy, as the Trump administration and its allies in Congress pursued a controversial agenda: a trade war with China, a push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, tax cuts that mostly benefited the well-off, and so on. Behind this sound and fury, however, lies a story of quieter but deeper economic changes that will have far-reaching implications. That story revolves around four interconnected developments: the fall in the natural rate of interest, the remarkable decline in the price of renewable energy, the stubborn persistence of inflation below the U.S. Federal Reserve’s target of two percent, and the stunningly fast collapse and then partial rebound of the economy during the COVID-19 crisis.
As the pandemic enters its second year—and national cases plummet—what are the takeaways communicators should take to heart for the next public health emergency?
By David Vossbrink, PR Daily
As public health communications experts for Santa Clara County in California, Britt Ehrhardt and Marianna Moles have been in the eye of the pandemic storm for more than a year. It has been an intense and complex period of shifting priorities, incomplete and evolving information, and competing political agendas. “Fortunately, we had a good team in place to carry out our emergency health communications plan, and we were supported by many other County departments, cities, and community organizations throughout Silicon Valley to help us spread essential information,” said Ehrhardt.
In Hobbs, New Mexico, the high school closed and football was cancelled, while just across the state line in Texas, students seemed to be living nearly normal lives. Here’s how pandemic school closures exact their emotional toll on young people.
by Alec MacGillis, ProPublica
Everything looks the same on either side of the Texas-New Mexico border in the great oil patch of the Permian Basin. There are the pump jacks scattered across the plains, nodding up and down with metronomic regularity. There are the brown highway signs alerting travelers to historical markers tucked away in the nearby scrub. There are the frequent memorials of another sort, to the victims of vehicle accidents. And there are the astonishingly deluxe high school football stadiums. This is, after all, the region that produced “Friday Night Lights.”
By Sara Fischer, Axios
The COVID-19 crisis drove digital media consumption to new heights, while traditional media stagnated, according to data from eMarketer. What's happening: Even before the pandemic, but especially after, time American adults spent on smartphones and smart TVs skyrocketed while time spent on devices like radio and linear television continued to decline. Why it matters: Media companies that hadn't already begun to realign their businesses around streaming and mobile were caught flat-footed by the pandemic's digital boom. Those that did have been rewarded.
How merch became a staple of the pandemic
By Amanda Mull, The Atlantic Last may, when Connor Hitchcock decided to start a fundraiser for some out-of-work friends, he had modest expectations. Hitchcock and his wife, Christa, run Homefield Apparel, which licenses old collegiate sports logos to make vintage-inspired T-shirts and sweatshirts. They wanted to help out a handful of writers who had recently been furloughed from Vox Media’s college-football website, Banner Society. The couple drew up some designs based on inside jokes from the site’s two podcasts. Hitchcock didn’t tell the writers what he was up to. “I thought maybe we could raise $2,000 and help them buy some groceries,” he told me.
By Nicole Schuman, PR News
Royal fever landed on America’s shores Sunday night when Oprah Winfrey conducted an interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle. Chances are you’ve watched the interview, or read some of the many responses to it. The TV event became more than a friendly, celebrity chat. It provided shocking allegations of racism within the royal family, as well as Markle revealing her struggles with mental health, contemplating suicide and not receiving help, while under the jurisdiction of the crown. So, for even passive viewers of the royals’ stories, hearing the conflicts of Harry and Meghan may have caused many to pause and take notice. Especially because so many can identify with the issues of race and mental health and family strain possibly occurring in their own lives.
By Edward Segal, for Forbes A crisis can have far-reaching effects. A case in point are the international reactions and potential consequences of the allegations of racism in the royal family that were made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their recent interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Senior leaders can become insulated from early signs of danger and opportunity. Here’s how to overcome that.
By Adam Bryant and Kevin Sharer, for The Harvard Business Review In 1992 one of us (Kevin) joined Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology company, as its president and chief operating officer. Up until then, all Kevin’s key professional influences—in the U.S. Navy, where he began his career, and then at General Electric and MCI—had exemplified certain core principles of leadership. His colleagues were confident, employed a command-and-control style of leadership, and made their expectations clear. Kevin adopted that style, which came naturally to him and allowed him to rise rapidly on the career ladder. He recalls, “My approach was: ‘I’m the smartest guy in the room. Just let me prove that here, in the first five minutes.’ I would even interrupt people and tell them what they were going to tell me, to save us time so that we could get to the really important stuff, which was me telling them what to do. And I got away with it. It worked.”
We live in an age of infinite scrolling and endless interruptions. So what happens when you unplug your life?
By Tom Lamont, The Economist
One day in December 2016 a 37-year-old British artist named Sam Winston equipped himself with a step-ladder, a pair of scissors, several rolls of black-out cloth and a huge supply of duct tape, and set about a project he had been considering for some time. Slight and bearded, with large grey-blue eyes, Winston had moved to London from Devon in the late 1990s. He supported himself through his 20s and 30s by teaching, doing illustrations for magazines and selling larger, freer-form artworks, many of them pencil-drawn, to collectors and museums. He had just collaborated on a children’s book with author Oliver Jeffers, and done his part to propel “Child of Books” up the bestseller lists. Grateful as he was for commercial success, Winston found he disliked corporate publishing. All the emails! He saw himself as a lead-smudged idealist, an artist-hermit at heart. He’d been troubled by nervous energy and stress since he was young, was an intermittent insomniac, had difficulty filtering noise and distractions in public spaces, and was someone who – like so many of us – increasingly relied on his phone and computer. So Winston decided to hole up for a few days. No screens. No sun. No visual stimulation of any kind. He was going to spend some time alone in the dark.
A holistic approach to offboarding
By Alison M. Dachner and Erin E. Makarius, for The Harvard Business Review Organizations spend a great deal of time and resources bringing new hires aboard and retaining employees, but very little effort and few resources go toward offboarding. Employees who leave may receive a perfunctory exit interview, instructions for handing off assignments, and a pro forma description of postemployment benefits and resources—but that’s about it. Sometimes they encounter impatient or rude managers; at the extreme, they may even be treated as traitors by their former bosses and colleagues.
Chief diversity officers have become a hot item in U.S. C-suites, with hirings setting records and big-name companies such as Levi Strauss & Co. poaching peers for management talent.
By Jeff Green, Bloomberg
After the police killing of George Floyd touched off mass protests demanding more equity for Black people last year, new hires of diversity chiefs in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index jumped to as many as a dozen monthly — almost triple the rate of the previous 16 months, according to research from executive recruiter Russell Reynolds Associates. A separate analysis of a broader group of public companies found that at least 60 firms appointed their first-ever diversity leader since last May.
The effort to grab attention on Twitter backfired as the fast-food chain drew criticism for invoking tired and offensive stereotypes.
By Lauryn Bayley, PR Daily
In honor of International Women’s Day, @BurgerKingUK, tweeted a “joke” that “Women belong in the kitchen,” as a way to encourage female employees to pursue a culinary career. Understandably so, this tweet went viral almost instantaneously, receiving backlash in regard to the brand’s insensitivity towards centuries of sexism and oppression. The fast-food giant followed up their original Tweet with two more Tweets in a thread, that many Twitter users assumed was damage control, saying, “If they want to, of course. Yet only 20% of chefs are women. We’re on a mission to change the gender ratio in the restaurant industry by empowering female employees with the opportunity to pursue a culinary career.”
They’ve become a major military player—and maybe a substitute for strategic thinking.
By Mark Bowden, The Atlantic
Within the span of a few decades, the United States has utterly transformed its military, or at least the military that is actively fighting. This has taken place with little fanfare and little public scrutiny. But without any conscious plan, I have seen some of the evolution firsthand. One of my early books, Black Hawk Down, was about a disastrous U.S. Special Ops mission in Somalia. Another, Guests of the Ayatollah, about the Iran hostage crisis, detailed an abortive but pivotal Special Ops rescue mission. U.S. Special Operators were involved in the successful hunt for the drug lord Pablo Escobar, the subject of Killing Pablo, and they conducted the raid that ended the career of Osama bin Laden, the subject of The Finish. By seeking out dramatic military missions, I have chronicled the movement of Special Ops from the wings to center stage.
The F-35 is a boondoggle. Yet we’re stuck with it.
Last week, the new head of the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Adam Smith, said in an interview that the F-35 fighter jet was a “rathole” draining money. He said the Pentagon should consider whether to “cut its losses.” That promptly set off another round of groaning about the most expensive weapon system ever built, and questions about whether it should — or could — be scrapped.
By Leo Shane III, Military Times
Trust in the U.S. military has decreased significantly in recent years, but armed forces still remain among the most respected institutions in the country, according to a new public opinion poll released by the Ronald Reagan Institute this week. About 56 percent of Americans surveyed said they have “a great deal of trust and confidence” in the military, down from 70 percent in 2018. The poll includes views of more than 2,500 individuals who were asked questions in early February 2021. “To see this drop is quite a concern,” said Roger Zakheim, Washington director of the institute. “This is not just the events of the past 12 months. We’re seeing this trend now.”
By Joe Friedlein, PR News
Conversations around the integration of PR and SEO are nothing new. Several years down the line, though, are we confident there is enough information-sharing between the two disciplines? The adage, 'You don’t know what you don’t know,' rings true. Often PR and SEO departments act independently, unaware of their influence on each other’s results or how they could help one another.
Whilst sharing resources is mutually beneficial, this post looks at something else: How PR pros can use SEO data to shape strategy. SEO data can inform communicators about which sites to target, topics to focus on and how to get the most longevity from media coverage.
By Washington Post Staff
When the world stopped a year ago, sports served as a crucial messenger in announcing everything had changed. The NBA halted its season when a player’s positive test returned minutes before tip-off, and in the coming days sports vanished from the calendar — March Madness canceled, the Olympics postponed, the baseball season in limbo. The missing thrills of games and cacophony of crowds paled in comparison to the tragedy wrought by the coronavirus, yet they still registered as losses. Sports have crept back into our lives, mostly in vacant or partially filled arenas, in ways familiar and different. Box scores provide flickers of the old normal, and as fans return to stadium seats in the coming months, the games may begin to feel blessedly normal again. But many of the changes the pandemic forced upon sports have also made them better. Here are the ones that should stay even after normalcy has returned.
By Bill Wagner, Capital Gazette
Because of the pandemic, Navy football played all five of its home games without fans during the 2020 season. Gladchuk made it clear another season of doing that would be devastating to the Naval Academy Athletic Association. “We’ve got to be able to manage this upcoming football season in a way that is productive,” Gladchuk said. “We can’t lose a second football season or else it’s going to have a major financial impact on our association and its ability to service the Naval Academy.” It has been one year since coronavirus shut down college athletics with the Navy spring sports teams learning on the afternoon of March 12, 2020, their respective seasons were over.
By James Wagner, NYT
After decades of resisting calls to change their name, the Cleveland Indians announced last July that they would discuss the future of their moniker in the wake of intensified calls for social reform throughout the country. Five months later, the team went a step further, saying it would drop the name it has used since 1915, beginning as soon as the 2022 season.