Who Had the Worse Week?

  • HBO Max is receiving widespread criticism for its new animated series, The Prince, which “depicts the royal family as egotistical tea drinkers controlled by mafia-boss queen.” Making fun of Royals certainly is not new, but the show portrays real-life 8-year-old Prince George as “an entitled child who is worried about his weight and harbors ill feelings toward his siblings.” Six-year-old Princess Charlotte is voiced by Game of Thrones actress Sophie Turner, who earlier this year criticized paparazzi for photographing her young child and called for better privacy protections for minors.
  • The Olympic Games and its U.S. broadcast partner NBC had rough weeks. Ratings for the games’ Opening Ceremonies were down 36%, and that was before a string of unexpectedly poor performances by high-profile competitors: the U.S. men’s basketball team lost to France, the U.S. women’s soccer team lost to Sweden, hometown tennis phenom Naomi Osaka lost in her third-round match, and gymnastics G.O.A.T. Simone Biles withdrew from the team and individual events. Worst of all, everyone knew these results 12 hours before they could see them on NBC.
  • ShotSpotter, the company that deploys networks of audio sensors – including in Denver – that triangulate the location of gunshots to help police respond faster, found its data tossed from a criminal trial after it was learned that the company adjusts its reports at the request of police departments. In the case of this trial, an analyst with ShotSpotter reclassified the location of a shot months after the incident to support a police report.
  • The Idaho Springs Police Department made headlines nationally for tasering an unarmed 75-year old without warning. Video of the incident had been irresistible to media from coast to coast.
  • The European Union hit Amazon with a record $887 million fine for violating data protection laws. Amazon is making a strong push to displace Google as the company most willing to violate your privacy.

So who won the week?

  • The creative team behind South Park and Book of Mormon – Trey Parker and Matt Stone – made big headlines in Denver this week when they confirmed they wanted to buy the iconic “restaurant” Casa Bonita to ensure it survived the pandemic.
  • Simone Biles had critics, but the general public has overwhelmingly supported her and her decision to withdraw from the Olympic Games.
  • And, finally, a counterintuitive choice: Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson. Two Aurora police officers were arrested this week after one of them brutally beating an unarmed citizen as the second stood by, so how did she win the week? She campaigned on creating a culture change within the department, and as 9News reporter Jeremy Jojola noted, she isn’t messing around:

9News’ Kyle Clark May Present the Biggest Challenge to Mayor Hancock’s Proposed New Arena

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s dream of a new 10,000 seat arena to replace the Denver Coliseum is in big trouble, in no small part thanks to Kyle Clark at 9News. Hancock announced a bond initiative two days ago for the arena that would be part of the renovated National Western Center campus, but Clark has dealt a possibly fatal blow by repeatedly calling the proposed arena by the nickname “The Mike.” In reality, no name has been announced for the arena – and, let’s face it, this city council is unlikely to name anything after Hancock – but positioning the project as a self-aggrandizing infrastructure project makes it much easier for the community and city council to oppose. And it wasn’t like the polarizing project had much breathing room to begin with.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before – PR Week List Overwhelmingly Recognizes Coastal Professionals

PR Week released its 2021 ’40 Under 40′ list, and as usual it is heavy on professionals at coastal firms and companies. For example:

  • 24 of the 40 who were selected – 60% – were based on the East Coast (New York City, D.C., Miami, Atlanta, etc.)
  • 33 of the 40 who were selected – 83% – were based on the East or West coasts (New York City, L.A., D.C., Miami, etc.)
  • 7 of the 40 who were selected – 17% – were located in the middle of the country (Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, Nashville, etc.)

The biggest surprise? Denver was represented. Terry Wei, the global head of Communications for Waze (which is owned by Google) made the list, and although Waze is headquartered in New York City, she claims our fair city as home. She may have worked her way up into the chief communications role at a division of the world’s 5th-largest company, but frankly making a PR Week list as a resident of Denver is a far more impressive achievement.

Who Had the Worse Week?

Quote of the Day

I want to thank every Amazon employee, and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all this.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, thanking his supporters for helping him become a modern-day Sputnik dog without realizing that it is making most of us rethink ever ordering anything from Amazon again.

NPR Examines Racial Tensions Inside 9News

National Public Radio is the latest media outlet to follow up on Westword’s coverage of racial tensions inside 9News:

“According to two people who attended the National Association of Hispanic Journalists meetings, the association demanded the firing not only of (9News’ top news executive, Tim) Ryan, but also of his news director and the corporate official in charge of hiring. The company made no such promises, though it did direct stations to no longer use the word ‘illegal’ when discussing immigration. (The station and the company declined to comment on the calls for dismissals.)

“The outcry has focused an unwanted glare on Tegna, one of the nation’s largest and most prominent owners of local television stations, just as the company faces claims of racial bias from a dissident investor. Tegna and KUSA declined to comment on what happened to the Latina journalists and the criticism that has ensued, saying those are personnel matters.”

Who Had the Worse Week?

  • Chik-fil-A stopped donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations several years ago, but that hasn’t prevented ongoing protests. The latest issue putting the fast-food chain in the spotlight is students from Notre Dame opposing an on-campus franchise. Adding fuel to the fire, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham pledged to “go to war” on behalf of Chik-fil-A, turning the protest into a national story.
  • Johnson & Johnson recalled five of its six Neutrogena and Aveeno spray-on sunscreens after the potentially cancer-causing chemical benzene was discovered in some samples.
  • Pundits are trying to determine whether Haiti’s presidential security detail is corrupt or just incompetent after Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was shot 12 times and killed in what appears to be an attempted coup. None of the members of the security detail engaged with the assassins as they entered the presidential palace.
  • The U.S. men’s basketball team lost back-to-back tune up games – first to Nigeria and then Australia – as it prepares to head to the Tokyo Olympic Games. America has dominated international basketball since the days of the 1992 Dream Team that featured Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and another half-dozen legends, so expectations for any U.S. Olympic team are high. It’s usually gold or bust, but at this rate it feels like bronze would be overachieving.

So, who had a good week?

Agencies Feels Squeezed as Corporate Marketing Budgets Drop to Lowest Levels in a Decade

Corporate marketing budgets have dropped to 6.4% of revenue this year, down from 11% last year, according to Gartner’s annual CMO Spend Survey. This is the first time the percentage has dipped below 10%.

Marketing executives under pressure are continuing to try to reduce costs by taking over work that they used to outsource to vendors such as advertising and marketing agencies, said Ewan McIntyre, co-chief of research and vice president analyst in Gartner’s marketing practice.

‘Breaking up with Journalism’

Durango Herald sports editor John Livingston shared his thoughts for why he is leaving the media industry, and his thoughts are as illuminating as they are heartbreaking:

“Because of all the cuts, I no longer have the ability to live up to the standards I set during my early days … that were only elevated when I arrived at The Herald in 2014 and was surrounded by a vibrant newsroom full of incredible journalists who opened my eyes and fostered my intense love for the profession.

“Despite the staff reductions at The Herald, not unlike those seen at print – and digital – media companies across the globe, I have worked tirelessly to do the job the way I feel it is supposed to be done, even after the sports staff was cut from three to two in 2016, and again when it was reduced to one in March of 2020.

“I doubled and tripled down on my commitment and refused to lower the bar after each of those cuts. … On top of added daily duties, I frequently spent scheduled days off covering our athletes and their ever-growing list of accomplishments. Often, those were some of the best stories to write. But it became a burden on friends and family each time I broke out the laptop to write another story or conduct another interview.

“The expectation of continually doing more with less is not attainable. Burnout is rampant, and there is a greater emphasis on page views and story counts than quality journalism. I will always fight for the latter.

Who Had the Worse Week?

It was a tough week for a number of sports-related figures. Among them:

  • ESPN and Rachel Nichols overshadowed the NBA Finals when a long-simmering story involving covertly recorded and shared racial remarks went full boil.
  • USA Track & Field found itself heavily criticized after it declined to include superstar sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson on the 4×100 U.S. Olympic Relay team. Richardson had previously been disqualified from the individual 100-meter race due to a positive marijuana test, but she was technically still eligible for the relay race.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ star pitcher Trevor Bauer has been suspended by MLB following unbelievably brutal rape allegations. MLB had to step in after the Dodgers inexplicably planned to continue playing him.
  • John McEnroe was criticized for his tone-deaf remarks about the metal health of Wimbledon player Emma Raducana, an 18-year-old Londoner playing in the intense spotlight of her home country. McEnroe’s brand is tone-deaf, of course, so don’t expect any significant fall-out from this one.

There were also a few non-sports related ones as well:

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill managed one final self-inflected wound when journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones spurned it for Howard University after a months-long tenure battle that put the university and its values in the national spotlight. Making it an even bigger win for Howard, it also announced that well-known and widely respected author Ta-Nehisi Coates was also joining its faculty.
  • ExxonMobil’s lobbyist broke the cardinal rule of lobbying, which is don’t make your client’s job tougher by becoming the story.
  • Declan Kelly, the CEO of PR and Public Affairs firm Teneo was forced to resign after allegedly getting drunk and inappropriately touching women at a client event that included Meghan Markle and Prince Harry as honorary co-chairs.

So, who won the week? That’s easy – National Spelling Bee champion Zaila Avant-garde. The 14-year-old is the first African American to win the spelling bee, and if you weren’t completely charmed by her response to winning, I don’t even want to know you. And, it turns out, spelling is just one of her many talents.

Photo by Scott Mc Intyre for The New York Times

‘Financially Hobbled for Life’

Melissa Korn and Andrea Fuller at The Wall Street Journal: “Recent film program graduates of Columbia University who took out federal student loans had a median debt of $181,000. Yet two years after earning their master’s degrees, half of the borrowers were making less than $30,000 a year. The Columbia program offers the most extreme example of how elite universities in recent years have awarded thousands of master’s degrees that don’t provide graduates enough early career earnings to begin paying down their federal student loans, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Education Department data.”

Howard University Offers Masterclass in Changing the Subject

Last week, Howard University was floundering after the dean of its College of Fine Arts (and former Cosby Show actress) Phylicia Rashad publicly celebrated Bill Cosby’s release from prison. Cosby has been accused of sexual assault and rape by more than 60 women, and his release was due to a legal technicality. Much of the media coverage noting Rashad’s support for Cosby included that Howard itself has a checkered history of addressing on-campus sexual assaults, and the university and Rashad were forced to quickly apologize. The Independence Day long weekend could not come fast enough.

This week, the conversation has shifted. Howard announced this morning that it has hired embattled University of North Carolina journalist/professor Nikole Hannah-Jones following her well-documented tenure dispute, as well as the journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates. Over the course of one long weekend, Howard changed the conversation and recast itself from villain to hero.

The Seedy Underbelly of Professional Tennis

As we approach the midpoint of tennis’ premier event, Wimbledon, The Washington Post’s Michael Steinberger explores the differing fates of tennis players you know and those fighting to become the tennis players you know. Steinberger writes:

“The match was a case study in contrasting fortunes as well. Tennis had left (Vasek) Pospisil very comfortable, with more than $5 million in career earnings. He was happy just to break even in Charlottesville and could afford certain luxuries, such as the presence of his coach and meals from Whole Foods, not available to many players on the Challenger circuit. (His) 25-year-old (opponent Chris) O’Connell, on the other hand, had made less than $200,000 as a pro and had cleaned boats and worked in a Lululemon shop to sustain himself financially. Heading into the match against Pospisil, he was ranked No. 139. He had recently won a Challenger event and reached the semifinal of another. He would go on to finish 2019 having won 82 matches in total, more than any other man or woman on the pro tour. Yet, after expenses, he would earn just $15,000 or so.”

Photo courtesy of the USTA