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Media’s Shifting Gaze
by Stefanie Cannon

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The lines between editorial and advertorial are becoming increasingly blurry with Fortune’s recent announcement of its “Trusted Original Content” model. As Media Bistro reports, “[The project] will involve the magazine’s editorial teams creating Fortune-branded articles and video/other media content for marketers and PR pros to distribute on their own channels. So these pieces will bear the Fortune name and be written by real journalists, but they won’t qualify as native advertising…”

It’s evident that media outlets are looking for unique ways to make up for lost ad revenue, but at what cost to objectivity and quality content? According to the recently released State of the Media Annual Report by Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, nearly one-third of consumers have abandoned a news outlet because it no longer gave them what they had counted on, either with fewer or less complete stories.

Interestingly, the report notes that CNN, the cable channel that has branded itself around deep reporting, produced story packages were cut nearly in half from 2007 to 2012. Across the three cable channels, coverage of live events during the day, which often require a crew and correspondent, fell 30% from 2007 to 2012 while interview segments, which tend to take fewer resources and can be scheduled in advance, were up 31%.

More recently, CNN faced criticism from other journalists for its cover skewed coverage of the Steubenville verdict.

The Pew Research report noted that the news industry as whole is more “undermanned” and “unprepared” to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands.

Media is bound to have an occasional hiccup when it comes to news coverage. However, when outlets are implementing unique business models to drive ad revenue and words like “trust” are added to emphasize legitimacy, it might begin to make the consumer question the quality of content.

Without consumer trust in the way stories are reported, what will media outlets have left?


End of an Occupation – End of a News Cycle?
by Liana Hawes

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Brookfield Properties owner and former New York City Planning Commission Chairman John E. Zuccotti has a public park named after him in the Financial District of lower Manhattan where Trinity Place, Cedar Street, Broadway and Liberty Street converge. The site itself was formerly known as Liberty Park Plaza, one block south east (or thereabouts) of the World Trade Center. If you’ve ever had a day job in the Financial District, you’ll know what an important respite this Plaza, with its trees and seats, was (is) to a weary workers on lunch break. 

Zuccotti’s real estate, and the area surrounding it, has a place in history as defending private commercial interests. While the plaza itself has been used frequently in the 20th century for public demonstrations and the staging of protests, back in the 17th century the ground was part of the Dutch Colonial settlement “New Amsterdam”, an extension of the Dutch Republic. The settlement was just outside of Fort Amsterdam (which protected the interest of the Dutch East India Company’s fur trade operations on the Hudson River) and strategically situated on the southern tip of Manhattan Island. This region, including the settlement and the Fort which was the Colony’s capital, eventually became known as New York City.  In recent history, as the Towers fell, Liberty Park Plaza was covered with debris and in the aftermath was used as a staging area for recovery efforts.

Over the past few weeks the park has again taken a place on center stage as it’s been a staging area for the OWS movement. On a recent visit to the Occupy Wall Street encampment, I was particularly struck at how impressively the OWS drum battery was staged in the Plaza. They sounded terrific and beat a call for all the tourists and onlookers who walked by in curiosity, disgust, wonder, ignorance and encouragement. 

After throngs of spectators trampled through the Park’s maze over this past weekend of assemblage, protests and camping, the Plaza was yet again strewn with debris – trash – which has since been cleared – along with the Protesters. It was empty and clean this morning and glam shots of pristine Zuccotti Park evoked the Liberty Park Plaza of yore, New York’s Financial District in all its glory where the Towers once stood strong and Liberty could be felt.  Although I’m not sure why this Park was ever dubbed “Liberty”, maybe for Liberty Street?   

Why did Mr. Zuccotti and his team at Brookfield Properties insist on a name change from Liberty Park Plaza and will he want to go down in history for his role as OWS’s landlord, tolerant of their presence yet pushing for their removal by enforcement? Will the name Zuccotti Park forever be tainted with images and stories about the health, legal, and safety threats the authorities said this particular OWS camp posed to the public at large?  This rather than the cause that actually inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement and other camps to subsequently form in cities across the U.S. in national protest?   

So far, the news media has focused on the logistics of the Camp, the occupation itself, the costs to taxpayers, law enforcement and the legal and removal strategies of the City authorities. Now that the occupation’s over, I’d like to see more stories about the core message in the protest and the rallying cry against the financial establishment, for it was strong and passionate enough to inspire similar “Occupy” protests throughout the nation. I’d like to see Mr. Zuccotti, for whom the Park is named, going head to head in a nightly news roundtable discussion with an OWS operations official. 

How did Mr. Zuccotti get private money to renovate the Park after 9/11?  What were the goals of the renovation and how was Zuccotti Park designed to function as public space? 

This was an $8M renovation by a prestigious firm which installed trees, granite sidewalks, tables and seating as well as in-ground lighting.  It seems like as good a place as any for an urban camp. While the granite is hard as a sleeping surface, it’s great for outdoor cooking and the tables are conducive to networking discussions, training, interviews, chess, dining and computing – all things that make for a successful protest.

The Occupiers will find it hard to be removed but they might be more comfortable if they can go home to a good night’s sleep and a meal and prepare properly for the days and nights of protesting ahead.  Or is the movement made stronger by the camp itself and the community it fostered among its inhabitants? Camps are powerful structures when it comes to group cohesion, defense, protection and taking a stand.

I’m following updates and Tweets on these developments from the New York Times City Room and WNYC news among others. These seem to indicate that the City and Brookfield say that while the Camp must go (and has) the protests may continue.  Now that camp’s over, perhaps the news media will no longer focus on camp logistics and we’ll get to the meat of the story with investigations now turning towards the reasons for the protest and what, if any, are the key messages behind Occupy Wall Street.

An Evening of Philanthropy, Tech and Celebrities
by Tracy Rodrigues

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This month Gutenberg had the pleasure of supporting the US launch of The Cherie Blair Foundation’s Mentoring Women in Business Programme. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair opened the evening with remarks on his wife’s passionate support of women across the globe. His comments were followed by a panel moderated by ABC News anchor Christiane Amanpour with Melanne Verveer, US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Nikesh Arora, Senior Vice-President, Google and Aeneas Chuma, UNDP Resident Representative, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Kenya.

In addition to the dignitaries, press and potential donors, other noteworthy guests were in attendance. Mentees from emerging countries in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East came to the event and lest anyone forget, it was really their story to be told that evening.

The Foundation’s mentoring platform is powered by Google. Mentees use Gchat, Gmail and Google docs to connect with their mentors in other countries and gain practical business advice. Given the different geographic locations and time zones these partnerships span, Google’s tools are a valuable and conveniently free resource. The program is unique for its focus on emerging markets and women that have already established businesses in their communities. The Foundation is empowering women with the drive to succeed simply by giving them the resources to do so.

Also interesting is the mentors themselves. It may be the effects of attending a women’s college, but I couldn’t help notice how many of the mentors were men. This was brought up later in the panel discussion and the question was met with brutal honesty. Why men? Because they generally have more resources and are more successful. While the event highlighted the needs of other countries, the panel discussion brought home the challenges the UK and US now face.  How can we empower our own women to succeed in technology and business?

The event gained attention from CNN’s new show Erin Burnett Outfront, Entrepreneurship Magazine and Bloomberg, among others who were in attendance. Congratulations to Cherie, The Foundation and Google on a successful US program launch!

If you’re interested in learning more about The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women or becoming a mentor please visit:  www.cherieblairfoundation.org

Pay-to-Play Editorial: The New Norm?
by Susie Hayne

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The public relations profession has undergone many changes since its inception in the early 1900s, when it was viewed as “engineering of consent,” defined as the art of manipulating people. Over the course of the 20th century, public relations practitioners worked hard to overcome that perception and prove our place in the business world by establishing credibility with journalists and building relationships to enhance the umbrella field that is communications, and ultimately to provide unbiased editorial content to consumers. Yet in today’s Internet-connected, social media-heavy world of communications, the landscape is changing and more and more publications are moving away from a relationship-driven model to a pay-for-play editorial model.

I was recently told by the editor of a publication their editorial focus is “unique in the sense that the majority of our coverage is either directly or indirectly tied to advertising.” Knowing that, how can you be sure when you pick up that publication that the information you are getting is REALLY the best on that topic if they willingly leave out reputable sources that maybe cannot afford to advertise in the publication?

Even Newsweek, a publication that still falls into the rare category of more than 1.5 million subscribers, has said that the Internet has changed everything, and not necessarily for the better. In that same article economist Joseph Schumpeter calls the advent of the Internet “creative destruction,” sweeping away everything in the media landscape as we knew it. 

The proliferation of the Internet and social media has slashed publication advertising dollars, leading to publishing houses being forced to cease print publications, eliminate test labs and lower head counts – all of which drastically change the practice of public relations. With a smaller revenue stream publications are being forced to look at alternate ways to stay in business and the trend of accepting pay-for-play editorial content, in this PR practitioner’s humble opinion, is a giant step backward, washing away all of the blood, sweat and tears that our PR forefathers have shed to pave the way for unbiased, honest editorial content that consumers can trust.

If the PRSA is on Your Case, Maybe You Should Listen
by Hugh Burnham

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Rosanna Fiske, Chair of the PRSA, just issued a statement around Rupert Murdoch’s response to the growing crisis surrounding News Corporation, criticizing News Corp.’s CEO for trying to protect his closest lieutenants as more and more revelations surfaced of wrongdoing. The July 4 revelation that reporters working for the News of the World had in 2002 deleted messages from the voicemail of missing schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, turned the phone-hacking saga from something that interested a few lawmakers to a national scandal in the U.K.  Over the weekend, as News International CEO Rebekah Brooks was arrested and brought in for questioning, the fallout from the scandal seemed to mushroom exponentially.

Wrote Fiske:

“In unsuccessfully trying to save the careers of some of his top lieutenants, including former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, Murdoch is damaging the reputation of all his media properties.” 

And indeed, according to any accepted doctrine of crisis communications, Murdoch’s approach is dead wrong.  News Corp. needs to find out exactly where the wrongdoing occurred, communicate that openly and transparently to the public, and root out and expel those responsible for the egregious practices. 

News Corp. competitor Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek itself has a huge cover story this week devoted to the culture that gave rise to such practices and an inside look at Rupert Murdoch himself.   Yet, crisis communications does not come innately to many businesspeople, particularly when it comes to those that are close to them. Brooks, according to BusinessWeek, was like a daughter to Murdoch.  Losing her from his company was a very deep wound.  And a crisis like this, by its very nature, comes up on a company with little warning. The potential impact at its outset can be difficult to gauge.  After all, these allegations against the News of the World had been around since 2007.  How was Murdoch to know that the phone hacking would mushroom into an issue capable of costing him his empire?   In fact, argue the Bloomberg BusinessWeek reporters, the very culture of News Corp. was to obfuscate and challenge whenever allegations like this were made.

The answer is that someone near Murdoch needed to make it clear to him that the very serious allegations which first surfaced in 2007 were true, and the potential outcome could be disastrous for News Corp.   Unfortunately, it may be too late to save Rupert Murdoch’s empire, even for those diligently counseling him now.  Three days ago, Murdoch visited Milly Dowling’s parents to apologize for the egregious behavior of News of the World.   But it may be too little too late.  Murdoch may or may not lose his iron grip on News Corporation, but the costs to his reputation have been steep and a break-up seems a very real possibility. 

The newspapering business is a tough one.  It seems that the very aggressive tabloid culture that sold so many newspapers and created shareholder value, has now come back to haunt Murdoch.  Let’s see how he responds to the issues ahead.

Do the Math
by Hugh Burnham

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In a Forbes Blog Post on Friday, (and I don’t blame Forbes, I credit the publication for having such great blog content)  the London Bureau Chief, picks on Burson-Marsteller for taking on  “unsavory clients” in the wake of the revelation that they are working on attacking privacy issues for Google.

This post left me scratching my head.  With so many similar articles out did it occur to anyone why PR firms often get hired? It is often BECAUSE their clients are in unsavory positions or they have thorny issues to tackle!!!  PR firms have been doing this kind of work since the industry was created. Only occasionally, when it’s a big (or in this case) two big high profile companies, does it become a big deal.

Burson, while it is now forced to backtrack and tell the world that this is against its ethical policies to not disclose their client, is hardly the first PR firm to have its own PR issues.   PR firms do this all the time.  When I worked at one of the world’s largest PR firms, we were booted out of the American Lung Association after a week when it was discovered that we were simultaneously representing a large tobacco manufacturer.    And Wal-Mart’s former PR firm Edelman was taken to task for having PR people pose as “bloggers” while spreading a great message of how wonderful the company was.

Amongst the “shocking” details revealed in the Forbes post is that Burson has a “reputation” for representing this kind of client.  The list included the Saudi government after 9/11, Romanian dictator Nicholae Ceausescu and the Argentinian junta after the disappearance of 35,000 civilians, amongst other things.   But this is why PR firms get hired. So they can represent these companies or governments’ best interests. 

No one would point the finger at a law firm that represented these clients, would they?  And if you looked at other large PR firms, they surely are representing clients with similar issues.   Why the finger pointing?   What is it about the media that just makes it so simple to muck rake for no reason? While it might not be 100% savory to think that companies attack other companies with widespread PR campaigns, you had better believe it happens all the time.  They just aren’t Google and Facebook, most of the time.

A Fog Of War
by Hugh Burnham

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Nine years and seven months since I watched the World Trade Center towers fall from the edge of Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan, Osama Bin Laden was killed in a covert operation by the U.S. Military in Abbotabad Pakistan.

Then came the real murder. In the press.  Late on Sunday night, after leaking the news to the American media, President Barack Obama addressed the nation to give us the official version of how Bin Laden died.

It was a masterful example of perception management, the ultimate spin job. Obama gave us some facts about the mission – including a pat on the back for Pakistan (the country that the U.S. mistrusted so much it preferred to create a specially modified Black Hawk helicopter that could fly undetected by radar) for their help in catching our bad guy.

Here’s what we were told.  Bin Laden lived in a “million dollar mansion” (it cost $48,000 to buy six years ago). He was heavily armed (he wasn’t). He hid behind a female human shield (he didn’t). Never let facts get in the way of a good story.  

The White House’s account of the raid that killed Bin Laden has undergone so many iterations in the past week – a fact attributable, according to White House press secretary Jay Carney, to a “fog of war.”  It’s doubtful that a “fog of war” really accounts for the many inaccuracies and outright untruths reported on by the White House.

In a White House briefing, Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Expert John Brennan insisted that “If we had the opportunity to take Bin Laden alive, if he didn’t present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that.”   And later, the White House told us that Bin Laden, while unarmed, acted in a “threatening manner.”  The White House had a lot of dancing to do, in order to ensure that the raid seemed not only legal, but ethical. 

In the end, reporters got annoyed at the backtracking, but the White House had a lot of room for forgiveness. They had after all, killed the man who had perpetrated the worst attack on U.S. soil ever.  Details that might have been a big problem if more had gone wrong, or the results had played out differently were largely overlooked.   That’s how the media works. 

Are You Ready for Real-Time?
by Cecilia Hughes

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In today’s marketplace, how rapidly you react has become a real differentiator. The first to respond does not go unnoticed. Whether reacting to a crisis, releasing a new product or responding to a global event, if you seize the opportunity in real-time, you position your brand as engaging and significant.

In Real-Time Marketing & PR, author David Meerman Scott demonstrates how technology has impacted and revolutionized interactions between brands and their consumers, suppliers and the media.

Social media are tools. Real-time is a mindset. 

In his book, Scott shares the importance of using social media tools, regardless of how small or large a business is, and exposes the consequences of not responding quickly to an audience expecting instant communication.

Real-time means news breaks over minutes, not an extended period of time.

When operating in the current climate, it’s imperative to use strategies that emphasize sustained — and consistent — immediate communication with one’s customers. In real-time, “ideas percolate, then suddenly and unpredictably go viral to a global audience”. It is then up to the brand to develop a response immediately, based on “feedback from customers or events in the marketplace”. If a business is quickly prepared and a response is properly executed, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities appear.

Adopting an approach: 13 principles of real-time business

Scott recognizes that developing a real-time mindset requires constant effort and offers thirteen principles of real-time business:

  1. Act before the window of opportunity vanishes.
  2. Revise plans as the market changes.
  3. Measure results today.
  4. Execute based on what’s happening now.
  5. Implement strategies and tactics based on breaking news.
  6. Empower your people to act.
  7. Move when the time is right.
  8. Encourage people to make wise decisions quickly, alone if necessary.
  9. Make swift inquiries, but be prepared to act.
  10. Quickly evaluate the alternatives and choose a course of action.
  11. Get it done and push it out, because it will never be perfect.
  12. Respond to customers on their time frames.
  13. Engage with media at the moment they need your input.

How real-time is your enterprise? Are you seizing the opportunity to react in real-time? 

4 Easy Tips to Building Successful Media Relationships
by Jennifer Smelyanets

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A few months ago, my colleague wrote a post about the value of having a relationship with the media, and offered a few ways PR professionals can build a real relationship with reporters.  Every PR professional has their own way of building rapport with journalists and some go that extra mile, but we don’t always have the time or even feel comfortable for that matter. That said, here are a few basics things that go a long way in building long-term, successful media relationships:

  • Reach out: We all read monthly magazines, daily papers or online posts. When something is interesting, even fit has minimal concern to your clients, send a note to the reporter, praising them for a great story. No need to mention anything else. This could be a start to an ongoing media relationship sure to blossom.
  • Be a giver: Sometimes reporter friendlies that may have you on speed dial will ask if your client can comment on this or that. Other times, we may see a HARO or ProfNet query looking for a resource on something irrelevant to your particular client. In both instances, if none of your clients hit the mark, think of someone to direct them to that can help. A colleague’s client may fit the bill, maybe a research report you know of can point to a convincing statistic. Either way, if you think you can be of service to the reporter, you should. They’ll be more inclined to come back to you looking for commentary again and when you reach back out to them, they’ll remember your kind deed.
  • Stay in touch: Even if it’s just to say hello. Shoot a nice note here and there to those that you’ve been in touch with most recently. Reference a recent conversation, ask what they’re working on or suggest to meet if you’re in the area. It’s a simple, yet effective way to maintain that authentic relationship.
  • Say thanks: Although to most of us this is a no brainer, often times during a busy work day we can forget.  Remember to always thank the reporter for an article mentioning your client. I also recommend including something in the note that shows to them that you read the piece, such as a reference to an interesting point in the story.

Reliable Sources?
by admin

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This guest post was written by Stuart Pearlman, a friend of the firm, former colleague, member of The Wisemen and the fearless leader of Pearlman Public Relations. Additionally, Stuart serves as a strategic advisor to The Gutes, so we’re happy to post his thoughts here.

A skeptical view once was that freedom of speech and the press was only available if you owned an actual press. Now hundreds of millions of us virtually do. That makes it easy for just about anyone to supply and distribute fact or fiction, not to mention thoughtful or bone-headed opinions.

Recently, Arthur S. Brisbane, public editor of The New York Times, apologized for the newspaper having initially published as fact the fortunately untrue information that U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords died on the day of the shooting in Tucson. The error, which the paper quickly corrected, occurred because it was picked up from a usually good, reliable and famous source – National Public Radio – and, Mr. Brisbane said, “because of a breach in the Times’s editing defenses as it worked to cover the story quickly from a distance.”

That the Times owns a powerful, respected electronic press gives it global reach and the Internet’s picosecond-powered speed, enabling its correction to gain relatively rapid currency. Compare this situation to the idea, initially advanced by a mid-19th century minister but often misattributed to Mark Twain:

“A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.”

Mostly, however, the near-instantaneous distribution of untruths, half-truths, venom and plain nonsense is a new price we Americans and others pay for First Amendment freedoms. Much as we have lost a lot (and maybe most) of our privacy because of data banks and data crunchers, we have also lost – to the same generations of advanced technology – our time- and patience-limited ability to sift through all that comes our way, and differentiate between reliable and unreliable facts and opinions.

So even though today’s participative Internet enables rumors to circulate instantaneously but be much more quickly followed by crowd-sourced corrections, that “lie” will still circle the globe too fast to pre-empt some actions based on bad information.

We information junkies can never specifically know many of the ingredients that make up the news we get today from so many sources. Yet we rely on those old and new media to help us plan and pursue our daily activities, and make choices that affect our health, wealth and overall well-being.

Real Cookies
Consider the ingredients clearly printed right on the package of cookies from the grocery store. There is a calorie count and a list of how much protein, fat, sodium, sugar etc., you will consume when you bite in.

Yet when you log onto a news source, or read the paper, or access a friend’s blog, you may find a key ingredient or two of your food for thought are questionable because they came from an unidentified source. One current reflection of that condition is the significant increase in– or perhaps just more frequent and transparent acknowledgement of – the use of such sources compared to ten years ago.

In the accompanying chart, please note how often “not for attribution” language was used by reporters and editors in just one major newspaper these days compared with a decade ago.

During all of 2000, The New York Times used “spoke anonymously,” “asked not to be identified,” requested anonymity” and “on the condition of anonymity” a total of 255 times – an average of less than once each day. That figure jumped nearly 3-1/2 times daily in just a decade, topping out at 871 total instances of just those specific phrases during all of 2010, or an average of 2.39 times per day.

What happened to cause this ostensible jump in the use of unnamed sources? Is it the need to be first – a “hurry-up-with-the-fact-checking” overreaction to the occasional scoops of Drudge, Gawker and their imitators? Probably not.

After all, there once was a powerhouse columnist in America named Walter Winchell, who famously said: “Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s headline.”

So was Mr. Drudge correct when he said:

“Not everything I do is gossip or bedroom. To the contrary, I think that’s just an easy label to dismiss me and to dismiss the new medium.”
The last thing this occasional column wants to do is dismiss any new media. Whether or not they are welcome to many people, they are here, and we readers and surfers cannot dismiss them or ignore them. At their best, they try to enhance how people learn and communicate. And whether such newbies are blogs or wall postings or tweets, they don’t replace old media. They change them or augment them, as first radio, then television and then the Internet have done to print media.

Flap Response
So perhaps the new, faster means of gathering and distributing information from and to the Web has simply made it necessary for older media – such as the Times – to further liberalize its practice. Today, the Times and others clearly accept, use and publish increasing amounts information from unidentified sources. One view is such media do not want to be seen as too slow and stodgy to compete. A more reasonable view is they are just being more transparent about doing so, responding to the flap over some notorious misleading or just-plain-made-up stories that rained down around the middle of the past decade.

A lot of these unidentified sources (only some of whom may be PR people or other possibly reliable information suppliers) were simply following the attention-getting but questionable practice of seeming to know something important that is not really known, and seeming not to know when it actually is.

There has never been a shortage of people to offer unvetted or misleading information. Now, paired with advanced technologies, this human tendency leads us to yet another new communications era. And with a seemingly infinite supply of information, it is much, much harder to assess, use and manage what we learn. So all we can do is acknowledge unavoidable, continual confusion …and continually adapt.

Or we could look at this latest who-said-what trend in a less alarmist way – that it only seems more important than it is. Put another way, are unnamed sources simply another 21st century manifestation of how modern technology feeds the age-old need to “dish?” Virtually forever, people like to yak about and pass along anything interesting and preferably sensational, especially if it enables the “disher” and the “dishee” to feel and seem like true insiders.

President Theodore Roosevelt’s granddaughter was once quoted as saying: “If you can’t say anything good about someone, sit right here by me.”

Were she alive today, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, with just a few keystrokes, would never sit alone. But now as then, she could also not be sure if her seatmate were sharing gossip or Gospel.

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