TUESDAY TIP – Once pride shoots your legs out from under you, the fall is pretty much inevitable.

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We once had a client – who created and for decades headed a successful multi-billion dollar global corporation – who was fond of saying, “Never let your ego get in the way of a good decision.”

It’s great advice. And advice that Maine Governor Paul LePage would have been wise to take.

Or perhaps we should say FORMER Maine Governor Paul LePage, as published reports today indicate he is considering resigning.

Is anyone surprised?

LePage’s vile and ill-tempered voicemail he left for a political rival last week went viral pretty quickly, as should be expected. We’re not going to repeat his obscene remarks, but suffice today they were about as bad as any we’ve ever heard from the holder of a major elected office. And then, of course, he followed up on them by professing a desire to challenge that same rival to a duel.

Credibility? Gone.

The manner in which LePage let his pride get in the way is as severe and inappropriate as any in memory. And once he made this baffling error in judgment he made it worse by doubling down, letting that same misguided pride and ego stand between him and simple common sense. The idiom “pride goeth before the fall” (written in varying forms) dates back to the Biblical Book of Proverbs, but it stands as true today as it did thousands of years ago.

When people in the public spotlight let pride get in the way of doing what’s right, or even doing what is sensible, bad things can happen. And when they compound it, well, the fall is soon to follow.
Maybe Governor LePage will resign soon as a result, maybe he won’t. But even if he remains, the chances of this haunting him for the rest of his career are excellent.

Which really should not be surprising. It’s what can happen when everything else – good judgment, civility, decency – takes a backseat to personal pride and ego.

Gene Sheehan Remembers: “You can either tell your story or let your story be told by others — define yourself or be defined.”

Epi

Years ago, I was working as part of a coalition on a national issue for a large pharmaceutical company. My client, who I’ll call Ray, lamented that his industry did itself a major disservice by only telling its story when it was in trouble. We won that fight but it wasn’t easy and Ray said that he was going to make sure that his company and the pharmaceutical industry would never have to play defense like that again.

Fast forward to today. Mylan, the company that sells EpiPens, has driven up its price by more than $500 since 2009, from about $100 for a pack of two to $608.61 this year. And according to an article in The Atlantic, “while Mylan hasn’t commented publicly on its pricing structure, it has blamed high-deductible plans for the struggles consumers are facing.”

What happened, Ray? Why don’t you just put a sign on the industry’s backside saying, “Kick Me Hard?”

Photo Credit: Mark Zaleski/AP

TUESDAY TIP – Lessons from Watergate: Don’t let pride be your downfall

Today is a monumental anniversary in American history, and not in a good way. It was on this day in 1974 that President Richard Nixon resigned from office, his presidency ruined by the Watergate scandal that shook the nation to its very core and chipped away at nearly everyone’s trust in their government.

What happened to Nixon became inevitable the minute he and his advisors chose to cover up the burglary committed at Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel on June 17, 1972, just 26 months earlier. As we have stated here before, the cover up usually trumps the crime and pretty much always leads to bigger problems. That was the beginning of the end of the Nixon presidency.

But it was the actual end, some 10 months in the making, which left a lingering bad taste in people’s mouths. This is where the President’s pride did him in.

By October of 1973 the Nixon Administration, despite the landslide electoral victory the previous November, was on the verge of collapse. Many of his top advisors had either been indicted for cover up-related crimes or would soon be. Senate hearings were being held every day and the testimony, particularly brutal revelations John Dean and Alexander Butterfield, grew more and more damaging. Vice President Agnew was gone, done in by earlier crimes and copping a plea to stay out of jail that required his resignation. Then when Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and his top Justice Department people quit in protest, the nation had a full-fledged constitutional crisis on its hands. It was shortly after this where Nixon’s lawyers gave him the hard advice they knew they needed to give – the President had to resign.

But Nixon refused, too prideful to listen to what everyone around him was saying. And by the time he did resign 10 months later, in the face of almost certain impeachment, the nation’s cynicism, frustration and mistrust had reached levels never before seen. Some say that disillusionment still lingers today.

It was President Nixon’s response to the Watergate break-in which ended his presidency, but it was his refusal to see what everyone else could see that may have cost him so much more. Could he have improved on his legacy had he left office 10 months earlier, as he was advised to do? We’ll never know. But the way things ultimately turned out, it couldn’t have gotten much worse for him, and his image and legacy really never recovered.

Personal pride can certainly be a good thing, a trait which makes each of us strive to do our best every day. But too much pride can be destructive, and usually is. The lessons of Watergate remind us this today, 42 years after Richard Nixon’s final, defeated address to the nation.

This Date in History – The Beatles iconic Abbey Road album cover

One photo is worth a thousand lyrics:

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This photo taken on this day in 1969 has probably inspired more conspiracy theories than any other album art. It also graced the cover of what many think was the Beatles best album — Abbey Road. Photographer Iain McMillan, balanced on a step-ladder in the middle of the road took six shots of John, Ringo, Paul, and George walking across the zebra crossing while a policeman held up the traffic

Gene Sheehan Remembers – Profiles In Courage

Tonight, as we witness the latest performance of political theater, you might seek inspiration (or solace) by drifting back in time to August 2, 1943. That was the day that a young Lt. John F. Kennedy, towing an injured sailor by a belt held in his teeth, swims three-and-half miles to a small island in the Solomon Islands. The night before, his boat, PT-109, had been split in half by the Japanese destroyer Amangiri. President Kennedy had his faults but his legitimate status as a hero had the power to inspire. “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?”

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TUESDAY TIP – Even under pressure, always keep your cool.

Check out Stevie Ray Vaughn and his guitar technician below from around 2:30 to 3:05, and how coolly they handle the problem of a broken guitar string, mid-performance. THIS is what today’s tip is all about.

The phrase “never let ‘em see you sweat” is used quite often in our business. Those who keep their cool when the most intense pressure is on are much better off than those who default to panic-mode. Everything solution has a problem, every challenge presents an opportunity. The key is to, as Rudyard Kipling famously wrote, “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs.”

In the attached clip from many, many years ago, the late great Stevie Ray Vaughn certainly did a great job of keeping his cool when his guitar string broke mid-solo; he not only kept playing, but he kept playing masterfully. And then there’s the rock-steady, seamless response of his unflappable guitar technician. Within 30 seconds of the string breaking, the tech has a brand new guitar tuned up, ready to go and strapped on for Stevie to play.

This is what is known as getting the job done, even – and especially — when the heat is on.

TUESDAY TIP – As the anniversary of “Disco Demolition Night” reminds us, there IS such a thing as bad press.

TUESDAY TIP – Yes, there IS such a thing as bad press.

This is a good one to revisit today. For this is the 37th anniversary of one of the most notorious “promotions gone wrong” in sports history – the infamous “Disco Demolition Night” at Comiskey Part in Chicago on July 12, 1979.

“There’s no such thing as bad press” reads the tired and oft-repeated maxim in the media world. And it’s true that the more you repeat something, the more it can take hold.

Only in this case it’s 100% false. There very much is such a thing as bad press. Ask any public official taken down by a scandal which made its way into the media’s sharp focus. Ask anyone who has been falsely accused of a crime or of wrongdoing and saw his or her name publicly dragged through the mud. We often advise clients there are three kinds of media attention – good, bad and none. You strive for good and, reluctantly, sometimes you have to settle for none. But you never, EVER want it to be bad.

The Chicago White Sox thought it was going to be nothing but positive attention when they planned an event with a local disc jockey 37 years ago today to hold “Disco Demolition Night,” to rail against a popular (although by 1979 it was waning) form of music and dancing that many traditional rock-n-roll fans loathed. The event was to be held between games of a double header at ancient Comiskey Park between the host White Sox and the visiting Detroit Tigers, and it was supposed to be simple: fans paid a special “discounted” rate to get in (98 cents, to reflect the sponsoring FM station’s frequency) and would watch in between games as the DJ blew up a box of disco records (the records, too, were brought by the fans as part of their admission). Then the field would clear and the second game would be played. Nothing to it, right?

One the good side, more fans came to the park that night than that White Sox had seen in years – some reports indicate 60,000-70,000 people showed up to take part in the stunt.

On the bad side…well, there’s everything else.

The attached video – a lookback done by ESPN a few years ago – will speak better than a million words, but suffice to say it was a disaster. Unruly fans stormed the field and wouldn’t leave, tearing up the field, tipping over the batting cage and causing the White Sox to forfeit the second game. The explosion from the records started fires in the outfield, and many players quickly retreated from the field for fear of their personal safety.

“It was a disastrous evening from my standpoint,” White Sox Owner Bill Veeck said later. “No number of tickets you could sell would make it worthwhile.”

In short, “Disco Demolition Night” is still talked about today, even 37 years after it happened. But it’s talked about for what was so bad about it, not what was so good. Hence today’s tip – there IS such a thing has bad press, and it doesn’t always go away easily. Sometimes it never goes away.

Hartford’s History – 72 Years Ago Today, the Great Circus Fire

Circus Fire 1 Circus Fire 2

Tucked neatly on the grounds of what is now the Wish School on Barbour Street in Hartford, the ‪#‎HartfordCircusFireMemorial‬ sits in memory of one of the worst days the capital city has ever known. It happened right here on this spot on July 6, 1944 – 72 years ago today – a tragedy which became known as “the day the clowns cried.”

On that day in 1944, thousands of people gathered under a massive canvas tent on a sunny Thursday afternoon to enjoy Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ world-renowned big top performance. But when a carelessly discarded cigarette (to this day the debate remains as to whether it was intentional or an accident) sparked the gasoline-soaked paraffin wax which coated the tent for waterproofing purposes, the canvas tent quickly caught fire. Witnesses (some of whom shot still-preserved color film of the fire) say it took just eight minutes for the tent to collapse in flames. In the end 168 people died and more than 700 were sent to the hospitals with injuries.

Much like the tragic Hartford Hospital fire of 1960, the Great Circus Fire spurred changes in laws to protect the safety of the people. Big top tents were banned in Hartford and eventually phased out for circuses across the country; when the circus finally would return to Hartford decades later, it would be held indoors. Other laws and fire codes were changed regarding emergency exits and non-smoking areas. According to The Hartford Courant in 2014, no lives have been lost to commercial tent fires since that awful day in 1944.

Here behind the Wish School, with clean and understated tastefulness, the memories of those lost that day remain, with plaques of the victims’ names and stones etched with a timeline of how it all unfolded providing silent witness to that day’s events. So that generations later visitors can know what happened on that terrible day; 72 years in the past today, preserved for even longer into the future.

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TUESDAY TIP – An emoji is not a message.

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Emojis are cute and many of us love to use them to lightly convey our mood at the right time. That’s the key – lightly and at the right time. Because when someone is facing serious trouble, it’s not a good idea to let emojis do the talking.

Case in point – a local Connecticut story today.

“INNOCENT,” read a tweet in a local newspaper this morning from someone facing very public criminal charges of fraud. And what followed was an emoji of a winking, smiling face.

Not good.

Why? Because “winking” is not exactly the universal symbol for trustworthiness – often times it’s just the opposite. Someone offering an exaggerated wink after making a statement is basically saying, “Just kidding.”

A fairly well-known example of this came from Paul McCartney in the early 1980s, after he’d been arrested for marijuana possession in Japan. A reporter asked him, on-camera, if he’d keep using marijuana. McCartney responded, “Never again.” And then offered a great big over-the-top wink for the camera. People laughed.

It’s doubtful anyone is laughing at today’s story. There is a time and place for emojis to be used. This was neither.

Why? They were doing their job.

WDBJ

Before joining us at SLPR two years ago, our colleague Jamie Muro spent 16 years as a television news reporter and anchor. This included a period of time working for WSLS, the NBC affiliate in Roanoke, VA, where today’s tragic shootings of a television reporter and photojournalist for CBS-affiliate WDBJ-7 took place. Jamie shares his thoughts on today’s terrible events.

My mouth dropped as I read the post on my Facebook feed. Two broadcast journalists, Alison Parker and Adam Ward from Roanoke’s WDBJ-7, the CBS affiliate in southwestern Virginia, were shot and killed during a live interview during the morning newscast.

Why? They were doing their job.

I spent sixteen years out in the field, and during that course of time this topic would come up with my photographers and fellow reporters about when – and where – something like this might happen.

Reporters put themselves in danger every single day. The locations that come to mind are war zones in Afghanistan or Iraq. But local reporters and photographers are often thrust into dangerous situations. More than once in my career, I felt at risk, either covering a violent storm or going live in a crime-ridden neighborhood long after police had wrapped up their investigation. (In one instance a person threatened to shoot me, only to later have him agree to go on camera for an interview.)

The tragedy in Roanoke, however, is a bit different. The two were shot in an affluent area in a lake community. But it also shows how good people trying to do a good job in a highly competitive business can be targets, no matter what the backstory of the assailant may be.

I worked in Roanoke. In fact, I met my wife at WSLS, the NBC affiliate there, and a direct competitor of WDBJ. But the news business is a close group, and when a tragedy happens to one of our own, it impacts us all. We share the pain that newsroom must be enduring.

Yes, television news reporters will go live about snow storms or car wrecks or holiday traffic, but they also provide a valuable service, informing viewers about a host of important things in their local communities. Often, it’s dangerous.

And today we were reminded it can be deadly.

The job is not glamorous. The job is not about being a celebrity. The job remains something thousands of journalism majors are hungry to try.

But there are risks, and now, the dream of being a storyteller is over for two people.

Why? They were doing their job.