Entertainment Can Change Lives

I attended an inspiring session this morning at the 2006 IABC Heritage Region Conference. William Ryerson, President of the Population Media Center, and Esta de Fossard, Senior Advisor of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Communication Programs, spoke about using entertainment as a vehicle to communicate health and social messages to people in developing nations.

William gave examples of how serial dramas are able to significantly raise awareness about family planning options, HIV prevention, arranged marriages (in reality abductions and violations of young girls) and exploitative child labor and child slavery. He also showed where this awareness resulted in changed behavior. For example, he told one moving story where the family of a 14-year old abducted girl was reluctant to let their other daughter attend school for fear that she too would be attacked on the way to class. However, after hearing a serial radio drama discussing “arranged marriages,” they and the other villagers decided that they would band together to prevent further abductions.

Esta explained that the success of serial dramas, one of several types of entertainment-education vehicles (others include telenovelas, series, sit coms and docu dramas), lies in the identification of the audience with the characters, and in helping audience members believe that if a character can improve his or her life, perhaps they can too. Esta also provided an overview of the steps involved in using serial dramas to bring about change: Audience, analysis, access, articulation, artistry, auxiliaries, advocacy, advertising, assessment, and adjustment.

Katie Paine, who writes KDPaine’s PR Measurement Blog and will be presenting at the conference this afternoon, also enjoyed the session.


Dancing Around Landmines: Blogs and Other Communication Tools Aren’t Risk-Free

While there is a good reason we have a democratic legal system with corresponding laws that help guide societal behavior (the always debatable issue being, of course, to what degree the legal system impacts individual and societal rights), it’s bothersome when the law gets in the way and isn’t as progressive as perhaps it should be. 

Case in point is an ABA eReport article that discusses a New York State proposal that would designate legal blogs as advertising, thus subjecting them to state scrutiny and regulation:

“The storm was set off by a proposal that ‘computer-accessed communications’ such as blogs be included in New York’s definition of legal advertising, and therefore require state scrutiny. The proposal, by a committee created by the state’s Administrative Board of Courts, also suggests the state code of professional responsibility extend court jurisdiction to out-of-state legal advertising that appears in New York….

And if blog posts must be approved, what’s the point? ‘This seems to be another in a series of recent regulatory efforts by state bar regulators that seem woefully out of touch with the Internet era,’ wrote Dennis Kennedy, a St. Louis lawyer who posts at Between Lawyers.” [Read Kennedy’s post If Lawyers Can Advertise in New York, They Can Advertise Anywhere…But They Probably Can’t.]

Equally bothersome, however, is when individuals expose themselves to legal liability by doing something that appears to be intentionally stupid. I’m referring to examples provided in the USA Today article Courts are asked to crack down on bloggers, websites, such as posting false STD information about someone on Don’tDateHimGirl.com or setting up a fake MySpace.com page that contains obscene content. Not very smart — and that’s an understatement.


How Much Personal Information Should Be Shared Online?

When a blog is used for professional marketing and networking, one of the big questions is always how much of the blogger’s personal views to include and how much of his or her personal life to reference.

Great question, and there’s no consensus. For example, some of my online PR and social media colleagues openly weave personal events from their lives into their blog posts, frequently to illustrate some point, but sometimes just to share with readers and others in the profession. But another colleague has a policy not to mention anything personal, whether in online or offline conversations, unless it’s on a superficial and inconsequential “small talk” level. These are, of course, vastly different approaches.

I’ve often wondered what the right balance is, given that blogging and other social media, is, well, social in nature. When readers who are perhaps not very familiar with the culture of social media, as well as readers from traditional corporate environments (where the belief in message control still exists and is desperately hung on to), come across a post that’s more personal in nature, how will they respond? Will they assume the blogger is not “being professional” in that instance?

I’ve been thinking about this more in the past few days after the conversations I had with several of the session leaders and attendees at BlogOrlando. Those immersed in blogging and social media were more comfortable with the inevitable intertwining of the “purely” professional (although I’d argue that there is no such thing) with the personal, while those individuals who came from more traditional and corporate environments were still wary about it all.

The fact is, however, that even the most closely guarded people leave impressions behind, if not in their actual blog posts, then in such public venues as the comments on other blogs, in podcasts, on MySpace and other similar sites, in Flickr pictures (those they upload, those they appear in and the manner in which they appear, and those they choose as favorites), on message boards or business review sites.

Since individuals inevitably reveal more about ourselves than they usually realize, perhaps the answer is in being authentic (yeah, “authenticity” is one of those words that’s been horribly overused lately) instead of posed, plastic or uni-dimensional. This does not mean letting it all hang out. But it does mean not trying to uphold some artificial appearance.

Perhaps it also means being less judgmental about certain things (see Scott Baradell’s post about the attacks on public figures who show human fallibility); recognizing the richness, as Lee Hopkins described, that online communications, despite their limitations and risks, provide us — and our responsibility in this process; and the need to try to make amends when we’ve made mistakes or wronged someone (see Gary Goldhammer’s humorously-written, but with a serious message, Yom Kippur: A Post of AtonementL’shanah Tova, Gary).

 


The National Foundation to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Accuses McDonald’s of Hiring Convicted Sex Offenders

The National Foundation to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (NFPCSA) is calling for a boycott of McDonald’s restaurants after Nashville station NewsChannel 5 WTVF uncovered that nationwide, McDonald’s restaurants have hired “dozens” of convicted sex offenders.

According to the WTVF report, “McDonald’s says it has a policy against hiring sex offenders at its 8,000 or so company owned stores. But at the 18,000 franchise stores that operate under the golden arches, they’re free to hire anyone they want.”

WTVF’s investigation revealed nine sex offenders in Delaware, thirteen in Indiana and sixteen in Louisiana working in McDonald’s restaurants. But, unfortunately:

“We can’t tell you how many other child molesters or other sex offenders are working at McDonald’s restaurants here in Tennessee or anywhere else. That’s because in most states, including Tennessee, sex offender registries don’t have information about employers. So the public can’t find out — until something bad happens.”

No response yet on McDonald’s Corporate site.

 


Posing For Playboy At 40 Is Empowering?

Cindy Margolis, actress, former Price is Right model, national spokeswoman for Resolve: The National Infertility Association, and winner of the first Celebrity Cooking Showdown, has agreed to pose for Playboy.

According to the Associated Press:

“The mother of three told The Associated Press that she finally agreed to pose for the magazine when they called on her 40th birthday….

After turning down offers to pose for the magazine in the past, Margolis said she accepted this time because she felt posing nude at the age of 40 is empowering.

‘In the past it would have been for gratuitous reasons,’ she said.”

Right. Now it’s not gratuitous. Because she’ s 40. And that makes it empowering. Would have been gratuitous at 35 or 37 or 39. But not now, not at 40. Hmm.

 


How To Be A Worldly American

In his post on How To Be A Less Ugly American, Paul Holmes refers to Business for Diplomatic Action, Inc.’s guidelines for Americans outside the United States.

In the abridged version of its World Citizens Guide, BDA offers these suggestions (see the PDF for elaborations on the suggestions) for making a favorable impression when traveling abroad:

  1. Look. Listen. Learn.
  2. Smile. Genuinely.
  3. Think big. Act Small. be Humble.
  4. Live, eat and play local.
  5. Be patient.
  6. Celebrate our diversity.
  7. Become a student again.
  8. Try the language.
  9. Refrain from lecturing.
  10. Dialog instead of monologue.
  11. Use your hands. Watch your feet.
  12. Leave the cliches at home.
  13. Be proud, not arrogant.
  14. Keep religion private.
  15. Be quiet.
  16. Check the atlas.
  17. Agree to disagree respectfully.
  18. Talk about something besides politics.
  19. Be safety conscious, not fearful.
  20. Dress for respect.
  21. Know some global sports trivia.
  22. Keep your word.
  23. Show your best side.
  24. Be a traveler, not a tourist.

Paul offers his own suggestion as well:

“Personally, though, the best way to connect with overseas audiences is to explain that you didn’t vote for the current U.S. administration and that you agree that it current policies are, to be as diplomatic as possible about it, misguided.”

Meanwhile, Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm and the new A Death in Belmont, gives these impressions in the article Welcome Stranger in this month’s National Geographic Adventure (print edition):

“An old friend of mine once observed that the arrival of a stranger in a rough town often presents locals with two options: Feed him or kill him. He was referring to some ancient time when the dilemma was literally that stark, but his larger point was that all societies must choose whom they let in and whom they keep out, and letting someone in entails more than just opening the city gates. Once you do that you become to some degree responsible for the stranger’s welfare. Travel, then, at its crudest, is the art of convincing people to take care of you rather than spurn you — or worse. It’s a knife-edge that makes a life spent at home feel not fully lived….

You had to be wary when you traveled, I realized, but you also had to be open. You had to protect yourself, but you couldn’t be so suspicious that you’d lie to avoid giving food to a stranger. These were lessons from the harsher parts of the world, but I started to think that maybe they were applicable anywhere. The starting point was respect; if you didn’t lead with that, even with street-corner thugs, nothing was going to turn out well. So you start with respect and see where that goes; if it doesn’t work, you switch to something else…. things pretty much come down to how you treat one another. There’s a certain liberty in that; there’s a certain justice.”


Roger Hargreaves’ Mr Men Debuted 35 Years Ago

Are you looking for books to read to your pre-schooler? Ones that will make your child — and you —  feel happy and silly and giggly all at the same time? Then consider the entire series of 40 Mr Men and 30 Little Misses created by Roger Hargreaves.

BBC News reports that Hargreaves created the first Mr Men, Mr Tickle, thirty-five years ago. Looking at the exhibition recently opened at the Animation Art Gallery in London, it’s no surprise that Hargreaves is apparently the third best-selling children’s author of all time.

Here is the link to more pictures of the Misters and Misses, and here is the link to the official Mr Men site.

My all-time favorite? Mr Bump.

 


DePaul University Offers Minor in LGBTQ Studies, Angering Some Catholic Groups

Chicago’s DePaul University is offering a minor in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer studies. Assistant Professor Gary Cestaro, an instructor in DePaul’s Modern Languages department, is the program’s director and, according to Out in Chicago, the minor is built around courses in English literature, comparative literature, American Studies, psychology, women and gender studies, as well as an introductory course.

As Newsweek points out, DePaul isn’t the first university to offer a LGBTQ minor, but as the nation’s largest Roman Catholic university, its decision is drawing attention.

According to LifeSite, an organization that “emphasizes the social worth of traditional Judeo-Christian principles but is also respectful of all authentic religions and cultures that esteem life, family and universal norms of morality,” Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, stated:

“Why would a university fund a programme based on a field of study that in mainstream academia is relatively unimportant?…Even aside from the Catholic perspective it is very clear that this is motivated from a politically correct perspective.

If we want to have programmes in deviant sexual behavior… why no minor in prostitution? Other than a need to bow to political correctness, why homosexuality particularly? Why no minor in heterosexual activities?….

All of that suggests that aside from the question of whether the course content will directly oppose Catholic teaching, the entire enterprise is intended to affirm the legitimacy of what is called the ‘gay’ subculture or lifestyle….

It seems clear that the programme itself would lead to affirmation of gay lifestyle and homosexual activity. This programme is entirely inappropriate for a Catholic institution.”

Meanwhile, AgapePress reports that Karl Maurer, vice president of Catholic Citizens of Illinois, said:

“What DePaul is doing… is really falsely characterizing itself as both being Catholic and being inspired by St. Vincent’s spirit, which is a fraud.”

The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property argues that DePaul’s decision to offer this minor is indicative of a greater problem.

“A glimpse at DePaul’s web site flags more trouble:

  • DePaul recognizes two openly pro-homosexual student clubs: Outlaws, for law students and Spectrum. Spectrum’s web site promotes a “Coming Out Ball.”
  • Under “Gay/Lesbian Studies,” DePaul features links to notorious pro-homosexual advocacy groups, including Act-Up….
  • DePaul created “The Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Allies (LGBTQA) Student Services.” The stated goal of this department is to encourage “acceptance and awareness around LGBTQ issues and concerns.” The office helps students deal with cases of “homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia…”
  • On February 18-19, the immoral play “V-Monologues” staged on campus. At least 1,000 students protested by e-mail, letter and phone, asking DePaul president, a priest, to cancel the lewd production. Apparently, these Catholic students’ concerns were ignored.
  • A pro-homosexual activist and professor spoke at DePaul on Feb. 20. The title of his lecture was: “From Sodomy Laws to Marriage: The History of American Sexual Identity.” Writing about the event, student newspaper, DePaulia, said: “The lecture itself was an example of progress for the homosexual community as one of the first events hosted by DePaul’s new minor program…”
  • Finally, DePaul’s web site displays a confusing quote by Rev. Edward R. Udovic, C.M., senior executive for university mission. The statement reads: “DePaul’s Vincentian identity isn’t a Catholic thing per se, or even a Christian thing per se, but a human thing.”

Maybe it’s time to revisit yesterday’s post.


Ambitious Media Campaign Fights Anti-Gay Religious Prejudice

Faith In America’s introduction:

“Throughout our history, religious teachings, shaped by ignorance and fear, have been used to justify prejudice, discrimination and even violence against minorities within American society. We now look back and agree that such teachings were misguided, with consequences beyond tragic. Authentic religion inspires compassion and respect for everyone, especially those who are different. It unites and uplifts, rather than tears down and divides. Religious teachings should never exclude anyone, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons from enjoying equal rights and protections promised by the Constitution of the United States. Faith in America appeals to and honors both the authentic religious and democratic ideals that rest in the soul of the American people.”

Founded in December 2005, Faith in America, Inc. is a non-profit organization working towards “the emancipation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from bigotry disguised as religious truth.”

Led by executive director Jimmy Creech (formerly senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, Creech was defrocked in 1999 for performing a covenant service for two men) and supported by its largest contributor Mitchell Gold of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, the organization rolled out a hard-hitting, national, multi-million dollar campaign on February 4th.

Gold described the campaign’s goals in the March issue of the Advocate,

“Our attitude is that this is a one-year project. I want to change this country in one year…

If we don’t do it in one year, that’ll be OK, but what I don’t believe in doing is having a five-year strategy with no accomplishments….

The only voice people down here [in fundamentalist regions] hear about religious beliefs is that of James Dobson and Jerry Falwell. There folks very rarely hear the voice of Gene Robinson. You tend to believe what you hear.”


One-Stop Shopping for Blawgs: A Taxonomy of Legal Blogs

Ian Best, whom I first wrote about here, e-mailed me this week to let me know his Taxonomy of Legal Blogs is complete.

Ian has compiled a fantastic list that I know I’ll be turning to many times:

I. General Blogs
Advice for Lawyers and Law Firms
General Legal Blogs
General Blogs — Law and Culture, Economics, Politics, etc.
II. Blogs Categorized by Legal Specialty
Specialty Blogs
   
III. Blogs Categorized by Law or Legal Event
Case Blogs
Statute Blogs
Trial Blogs
    
IV. Blogs Categorized by Jurisdictional Scope
State Blogs
Federal Circuit Blogs
U.S. Supreme Court Blogs
    
V. Blogs Categorized by Author/Publisher
Anonymous Blogs
Association Blogs
Blogs by Judges
Book Supplement Blogs
Class and Student Group Blogs
Institute Blogs
Law Firm Blogs — Listed by Blog
Law Firm Blogs — Listed by Firm
Law Journal Blogs
Law Professor Blogs
Law Library and Librarian Blogs
Law Professor Blogs
Lawyer Webjourals
Newspaper Blogs
    
VI. Blogs Categorized by Number of Contributors
Group Blogs
    
VII. Miscellaneous Blogs Categorized by Topic
Blogs about Judges
Event Blogs
Fictional Blogs
Humor Blogs
    
VIII. Collections of Legal Blogs
Blog Post Collections
Legal Blog Collections
Legal Blog Networks

Aside from his actual taxonomy, he seems to have the blogging thing down. Ian has a page dedicated exclusively to responses to criticism. And he has dedicated pages requesting reader feedback on Organizational Method, Categories, Legal Blogs and General Comments and Questions.

Please check out his site.