Fiction Tied to Chilling Reality Rekindles Horrific Memory

Yes, these bad boys are based primarily on imagination and have never actually existed. Unless, of course, you happen to have visited Middle Earth.

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)

Those of us who write fiction — and with full disclosure I am a very minor participant in that community, at least for the moment –frequently must rely on experiences, memories, and research to structure the plot and develop the characters that result in prose and perhaps even poetry.

Of course, unbridled imagination can certainly provide the foundation for fictional works, especially if the story takes place “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” or involves characters who are of the Orcs ancestry and inhabit Middle Earth.  You get the idea.

But fiction based on real life and times is primarily driven by facts and happenings that can be somewhat substantiated. In reading the Saul Bellow novel, The Dean’s December, I gained insight into life in one of the most repressive Soviet Bloc nations during the height of the Cold War. 

However, as the plot unfolded, I was shaken by how Bellow employed a truly horrific crime — one that I covered as a reporter 40-plus years ago — into the narrative.  I’ll explain shortly; first, some of what I learned by reading the novel, published in 1982. 

Set in Bucharest, Romania in around 1978, protagonist Albert Corde, a former Chicago-born and raised journalist and now a journalism professor and dean at a university, visits the nation with his wife, Minna.  Romanian born and internationally renowned in astronomy, Minna’s mother is gravely ill, and plans are being made for her burial. 

The cold and bleak December days in Bucharest provide a fitting backdrop for what life was like in this Eastern European capital city, where cartons of Kent cigarettes are used as bribes, windshield wipers are removed by drivers otherwise they are stolen, and conversations are hushed or held in a public park for fear of being overheard by the authorities.  Plum wine is the alcoholic beverage of choice, and a lack of regular heat keeps people wearing overcoats to stay warm in their cramped apartments. 

The Library of America published version I read of The Dean’s December contained detailed notes on phrases and works referenced in the novel (reading Bellow can be challenging, certainly not the kind of fiction a James Patterson fan would enjoy), along with a chronology of the author’s life. He did spend time in Bucharest when the nation was ruled by Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu, who was tried and later executed by firing squad in 1989 along with his wife after trying to flee the country.

Back to The Dean’s December. As noted, Mr. Corde was a Chicago journalist; toward the end of the work, he reflects on an interview with a public defender representing Spofford Mitchell, a fictional man charged with a gruesome murder. As noted on page 904: “The victim was a young suburban housewife, the mother of two small children. She had just parked in a lot near the Loop when Mitchell approached and forced her at gunpoint into his own car.”

Before reading much further, I ascertained that Bellow structured this element of work from a truly horrific kidnapping, rape and murder that took place in Chicago in 1978.  Read about it from this Murderpedia post.  (Perhaps, like you, I was not familiar with this online repository.)

As noted above, I covered this gruesome story while a reporter at the City News Bureau of Chicago, a place I’ve written about in this space, most recently during a reunion in 2019. If memory serves me correctly, I covered pre-trial motions involving the defendant before his trial in 1980.  The outright cruelty and callousness of the man convicted shocked the city, and the story was big news throughout the trial. 

(On a somewhat related note, another character in the work, Mr. Corde’s Chicago buddy renowned columnist Dewey Spangler, also began his journalism career at City News.)

With the plot in The Dean’s December shifting from Bucharest to Mr. Corde’s memories and thoughts of his life in Chicago, I could identify other instances where Bellow reflected on the city where he spent much of his childhood in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and years at the University of Chicago.  Other Bellow novels and short stories also incorporate many aspects of the city, its people, its thoroughfares and its culture.

As identified in the passage from The Dean’s December, Bellow also was very much aware of many of the unsavory and truly dark sides of Chicago. The crime depicted in the novel certainly contributed to the plot and development of Mr. Corde; but to this reader, it brought back a memory I had hoped would never return.

 

Positive News in the Waning Hours of April PRSA APR Month

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)

Perhaps it’s just an anecdotal observation, but it’s certainly possible that the work-from-home phenomenon driven primarily by the two-plus year COVID-19 pandemic may have provided the impetus for some in the public relations profession to carve out the time and take on the challenge of earning the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential.

Here are two factors that have helped me come to this conclusion.

  1. Over the past 24 or so months, by my count five members of my local chapter — PRSA Chicago — were successful in earning the APR — three during the past six months! One, who holds a top position with a leading local PR agency, noted that hunkering down at home rather than making the daily trip to the office was, indeed, a factor that led to completing the Accreditation program.

  2. The annual number of professionals earning the APR (and APR+M, the credential for military communicators) has remained relatively steady (by my sort of quick count) over the past five years at around 150. Visit the Recently Granted Accreditation archives page for details.  My assumption here is that even with new factors brought on by working remotely — child care and binge-watching programs on Netflix, for example — those committed to Accreditation continued to recognize its value.

With just hours left in April, which PRSA dedicates as APR Month, I remain passionate and positive about Accreditation and applaud all who balance the the APR challenge between work, home, and pleasure.

And, let me put the proverbial spotlight on the three PRSA Chicago members who were granted the designation since last fall:

My sincere congratulations to these three outstanding communicators. 

On a related note, at a recent PRSA Chicago reception, I learned that three other members — including a past Chapter president and current board member — were advancing their individual APR programs.  Another member is progressing with the APR Online Study Course and plans to sit for the Panel Presentation in the months ahead.

It’s conceivable there will be four new Chicago-based APRs by year’s end!

Want another example of my commitment to Accreditation? Read this PRSA Tactics article I wrote way back in April of 2010 on APR programs then offered by nine Chapters representing communicators in markets across the nation.  Want one more?  Here’s a PRDude 2018 post, one of four other posts I’ve written on ARP Month.

It’s clear that the global health crisis altered the lives of just about everyone. Yet, as I’ve attempted to demonstrate here, COVID-19 did not dissuade some communicators from pursuing what’s arguably the public relations profession foremost personal achievement.

Pleased to finally meet Bridgette Russell, APR, in person at the PRSA Chicago April 28 reception.

Beyond the ISU Vidette: A Q & A with Kevin R. Petschow

Kevin and daughter Madeline, also a public relations professional, at the March 26 Vidette Hall of Fame reception at Illinois State University in Normal.

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)

One tangible benefit of being a member of an organization is the opportunity to meet new people. Through my membership in PRSA Chicago, I had the pleasure a few years ago to meet Kevin R. Petschow, a senior-level communicator who cultivated a very successful career with some of the world’s foremost telecommunications firms. Like many modern public relations professionals (myself included), Kevin was a journalist before making the transition.  Here’s Kevin’s story.

1. We have three things in common: We are Illinois State University alumni, we both wrote for the ISU Vidette newspaper, and we transitioned to public relations. What inspired you to make public relations a career?

What inspired me to make public relations my career is more about what job opportunities were available when I graduated from ISU. Our country was in a recession and I had only three job offers, two were to serve as a sports journalist for small newspapers in Salina, Kansas, and Covington, Kentucky. The other was an opportunity to work for my Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at its national headquarters in Champaign, Illinois, which I gladly accepted. It afforded me the opportunity to work part-time as a sportswriter for The Champaign News-Gazette under the tutelage of the great Loren Tate, sports editor.

Those three years in Champaign were awesome. After that, I returned to Chicago and the rest as they say is history … in the field of public relations having served for some of the world’s most well known and unknown brands and names in the telecommunications and technology industries including GTE, Sprint, 3Com, Cisco Systems, Heartland Payment Systems, Aeris Communications, and now Syniverse, the world’s most connected company. 

2. For the past three-plus years, you’ve held the position of Senior Director Global Corporate Communications at Syniverse in Tampa, Florida. What prompted you to take on this position and move from Chicago to the Sunshine State – besides leaving Chicago winters behind?

What prompted me to leave my home state of Illinois and the Chicago area was the exciting opportunity to become a member of Syniverse and help elevate the company’s name and brand among mobile operators and Forbes Global 2000 enterprises around the world. Syniverse is truly the heart of the mobile ecosystem and without it, you and I would not be able to accomplish many of the things we do everyday with our mobile Internet devices and applications.

The move to the Sunshine Coast afforded me the opportunity to shovel lots of sunshine and no longer any snow.  I am an avid golfer so Tampa offers me the opportunity to play year-round. I played golf for the first time in my life on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days in Tampa. What can I say, I’m addicted to the “greatest game ever played.”

3. Your current position with Syniverse apparently requires great knowledge and insight into telecommunications. Where did you gain this kind of technological experience?

I gained my knowledge and insight by surrounding myself with some of the smartest minds, sharpest talent and innovative technologists at numerous companies including GTE, Centel Cellular, Sprint Cellular, Ameritech Cellular, Nextel Communications, MobileStar Network, 3Com, CommWorks, Cisco Systems and now Syniverse. I had the opportunity to work with and collaborate with some of the most forward-looking visionaries including Jack Goeken, who invented GTE Airfone, the world’s first air-to-ground telephone service, to Dr. Martin Cooper, who invented cellular technology, to John Chapman and Kip Compton, two innovators of cable and video technologies for Cisco, to the late Jack Rooney, former president of Ameritech Cellular, who I worked with to launch the American Cellular Patrol program in the 1990s that brought together mobile services with police departments and neighborhood watch groups in 20 Midwestern cities. The program was so popular that former President Bill Clinton and his White House staff approached me and others on my team to help them implement a similar program in the District of Columbia. 

4. Let’s shift to the future of the profession. If you were providing guidance to a young person interested in public relations, what advice would you offer?

My advice centers around three important tenets that involves performing as a business person, first, and a public relations professional, second. What I mean by that is that you have to understand your business and its business and financial objectives before you implement your public relations strategies and tactics. 

The three tenets are: 1) Be a sponge and take in as much information and data as your brain will allow each day. Read as much as you can. Read with an intent to use it, share it and formulate ideas to solve problems and drive action. 2) Be a problem solver. That is what public relations is all about at its core. 3) Manage expectations with grace, humility and style. Managing your manager, CEO, co-workers, customers, and even your family and friends is important because it allows you to add value for them and yourself.

5. Now, back to the Vidette. On March 26, you were inducted into the Vidette Hall of Fame class of 2022. Congratulations! Please share an anecdote on how writing for the Vidette proved valuable to your career.

My three years of working for The Vidette provided me with many transferable skills that I continue to use today in my professional and personal life. Those skills are: 1) Ability to communicate effectively in writing and verbally. I had the good fortune to serve as sports editor of The Vidette and sports director of WILN (now WZND), which allowed me to hone my writing and verbal communications skills and give me the confidence I need to be successful in my career. 2) Ability to work under deadline pressure and manage my time effectively. I still love writing with a deadline. I wrote my speech for my Vidette Hall of Fame induction in one day. Truth is I had two years to think about it thanks to a postponement due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.  3) Ability to serve as a leader and use my leadership skills in overseeing a team of co-workers. I find leadership such an important skill and continue to mentor college students today through associations with my fraternity, The Vidette, and the School of Communications at ISU.

* * *

NOTE: Kevin began his studies at ISU a year after I had graduated. But if we had been on campus at the same time, it’s a good bet we would have hoisted one (or two) at Pub II and enjoyed a conversation following a Gondola at Avanti’s.

Kevin (right) at the reception with Vidette General Manager John Plevka and fellow inductees Anna Frazier and Jason Piscia. Not shown: Inductee Mick Hubert.

San Diego: Sunny, Scenic, Civil, and Sometimes Scary

Found peace at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. Perhaps this experience will be the spark that leads me to take up yoga.

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDUDE)

One regular focus of this blog centers on what I’ve dubbed as “travelogues,” or basically posts built around observations and images from visits out of town.  My travelogues have focused on spring and summer excursions to cities in Europe, spring break trips here in the U.S.A., and visits to towns in Wisconsin.

Given the pandemic and other challenges of recent months, we did not venture too far from open over the past two years.

That changed last week, when we spent five days in place known as “America’s Finest City.” You’re probably more familiar with its official name, San Diego.

Unlike past travelogues, there’s only one image to accompany this post; and, I didn’t share any thoughts or photos on social media during our trip.  Why? Well, because we just wanted to get away and not feel compelled to “prove” we were on vacation. 

But, I took notes, and below are some thoughts and perspectives.

1. Out there having fun, in that warm California sun! Yes, as noted in refrain from the 1960’s hit, we enjoyed above average temperatures in the 80s, mild breezes, with nary a cloud in the sky. Did you know the hit version of the song, “California Sun” was recorded in Chicago by the Rivieras? As for the natives, we encountered mostly warm, friendly people — from Todd, the auto valet at our hotel, to the ticket taker at the spectacular San Diego Zoo, who once he learned we were from Chicago, told us there are Portillo’s restaurants in California!

2. Groovin’ in the Gaslamp Quarter. Historic structures in downtown San Diego comprise the Gaslamp Quarter, a linear playground of sorts with lots of restaurants, bars, and shops, along with the requisite noise and partying people. We equated the area to NOLA’s French Quarter.  And, our hotel, the more than century old Horton Grand, even offered balconies. While it was great to stroll a short distance to get dinner or a cocktail, it got quite noisy at night, especially guys revving motorcycle engines.  Like old neighborhoods in some cities, modern apartment towers and mid-rise rental properties had taken a foothold next to vintage buildings. 

3. Had to Visit the Hotel del Coronado. The locals referred to this internationally-known resort as the Hotel Del.  Like most who visit, we were taken by the sheer majesty of the place, its beach, and the amazing views of the Pacific Ocean during our breakfast, which cost nearly $100 — but that was with bottomless mimosas and an order of avocado toast. Plus, we were treated to ear-splitting sounds of military jet aircraft from the adjacent naval base. The ferry ride from the Convention Center Embarcadero to Coronado made the visit all the more special. 

4. San Diego Ain’t Sleepy No More. My first visit to San Diego was way back in 1981; I was on my own, having spent time with friends in Palm Springs. I recall a fairly relaxed urban area with a strong military presence and easy access to Mission Beach.  To the east there were a few high rise hotels and office towers, mostly several blocks away from the waterfront, providing somewhat of a true beach town atmosphere. That’s all gone. The San Diego we encountered features a modern skyline, currently punctuated by some eight construction cranes, by my count.  In recent years, the city added a grade level Trolley system, the ultimate urban mobility amenity.  (Being a transportation guy, of course we took the Trolley, especially with gas at $6.49 per gallon!)

5. Now, for the “Scary” Part.  One somewhat shocking aspect of our visit: The preponderance of people, many relatively young, clearly in need of mental health care. On my walk to get coffee in the morning, I regularly encountered men and women acting at times in bizarre ways.  One woman beat a stick against the side of a building while shouting at no one in particular.  Of course, I observe this kind of behavior in Chicago, sometimes while taking the CTA Blue Line to and from work. Still, it was disturbing to find it so prevalent steps from our hotel. We left town hoping these people find help soon. 

As noted at the start of this travelogue, I opted not to embellish the post with images.  There’s just the shot of me trying to be funny while we visited the Japanese Friendship Garden. To gain more on the beautiful and charming city of San Diego, visit the many links here within. 

Besides, most people have a better phone camera than my old Samsung Avant.

 

A Sour Note: Replacements Biography Reveals More Than Just “Troubled Boys”

The album Tim contains my favorite Mats song, “Left of the Dial,” a sort of love song written when the band had yet broken onto the national rock scene. The cover design is pretty cool, too.

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)

To prepare for this post, I googled the phrase “never meet your heroes.” I was surprised to find the plethora of responses — from this 2020 article from The New Yorker to this Thought Catalogue online article offering 12 reasons against the practice.

For clarity’s sake, I never met the band The Replacements; and I wouldn’t classify the now defunct (I think) Minneapolis quartet as “heroes” of mine.  I did see the band on stage (three times over the years, to my recollection), own some of their later records they produced, and ranked them as among my top three favorite rock bands.

Ever.

However, after reading author Bob Mehr’s definitive biography on the band, Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements, I grapple with what I learned about the individuals who comprised the group rather than their musical legacy. Employing profanity in this space is rare, if ever used. But to characterize The Replacements, here’s the most appropriate phrase that comes to mind: A condescending bunch of assholes, albeit talented assholes who delivered some stellar rock and roll over their career — live and in the studio. 

The story of the Mats, as the band was known, is one filled with episodes of drunken and drug-fueled debauchery, condescension and cruelty, outright lunacy at times, betrayal and vindictiveness, and as you would expect, a deep commitment to rock and roll. It’s a chronicle of how four guys — Paul Westerberg, brothers Bob and Tommy Stinson, and Chris Mars — erupted onto the then alternative rock scene of the 1980s, blending talent and drive to usher in what became known as the alternative style of rock.

In a decade known for materialism and consumerism, the Mats deliberately stunted what could have been a much more musically and financially rewarding career by regularly performing drunk, clashing with management and music industry people, refusing to actively participate in the then soaring music video genre, purposefully causing damage to touring vans and dressing rooms, and alienating many around them.  Episodes of this sort are found in Trouble Boys, from the early years gigging around the Twin Cities and the Midwest to the band’s dissolve into somewhat obscurity.

As noted in Chapter 61 of Mehr’s 400-plus page bio, Westerberg and Tommy Stinson even acted like, well, assholes in the early 1990s, after purported sobriety.  Here are two examples:

  • “For all his attempts at reaching out to his fans, sometimes Westerberg couldn’t keep his nastier impulses at bay. ‘There were the typical stories you heard — some kid coming up and saying, “I’ve always loved your music,” and Paul lifting his straw out of his iced tea and blowing it in the kid’s face…”
  • “Nor was Tommy immune to such petulance. Before a show at George Washington University, a fan gave Stinson a custom bass guitar he’d made … Tommy came out and played it during the first song of the show.  Then he smashed it and threw it in the guy’s lap.”

Okay, by now you’re asking: Hey, PRDude. The saga of The Replacements parallels who-knows-how-many bands before and after them.  Why single out the Mats?

Well, from a full disclosure perspective, I read stories about the band’s famous “drunk shows” over the years, and I knew they were far from behaving like choir boys.  It’s just by reading Mehr’s detailed account, I lost some respect for the members of the band as individuals, as people.  Upon reading chapter after chapter, I felt dismayed rather than enlightened.  Upon completing the book, I felt deflated.

During the 1980s, I was a freelance writer for the Illinois Entertainer and other local music/entertainment periodicals; I had the honor of interviewing some pretty big names in music, including Levon Helm, Mike Mills of REM (friends and contemporaries of The Replacements), and the guys from Chicago’s own arena-rock legends Styx.

Looking back, perhaps it’s good that I never had the opportunity to interview Mats front man Westerberg.

Final note: In case you’re wondering, my Top 3 list is rounded out by The Who and The Kinks.

The War in Ukraine: Stream-of-Consciousness Perspective

Most weekdays, I walk down this corridor at the Logan Square station to catch the CTA Blue Line rapid transit train to and from work. Today, I thought of the residents of Kyiv who gathered in their Metro to escape the war taking place in the city.

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)

Like millions around the nation and around the world, I’ve followed the horrific news taking place in an Eastern European nation that many had perhaps not been too familiar with until a nuclear-power aggressor led by a clearly sinister dictator launched an invasion, one unprovoked and one that surely will have catastrophic consequences for the foreseeable future.

What follows is an attempt at a stream-of-consciousness perspective at the news capturing the conscious of the world.

Footage of people in Kyiv taking cover in the city’s Metro resonated with me, someone who works for a University transportation research unit and takes the CTA Blue Line to and from work … didn’t realize that Ukraine is the second largest nation in Europe, basically the size of Texas … learned the origin of the inappropriate reference of the nation being called “The Ukraine,” and even heard it used inappropriately while listening to a local TV news report … the resilience and bravery of the Ukrainian people in defending their nation is remarkable, a demonstration of strength in the face of a larger, more powerful enemy; examples were broadcast and shared regularly … seeing Ukrainian children clutch their stuffed toys while fleeing to the west projects some semblance of hope for a better future … the neighborhood just west of the one I grew up in is known as Ukrainian Village; to this third-generation son of Polish immigrants, the neighborhood has taken on a greater significance to me … during my formative years, I had friends who were Ukrainian, including a girl named Lucy who I sort of “dated” for a while; was she or her brother Larry involved in the many marches and rallies across metropolitan Chicago calling for peace … on the world stage, Vladimir Putin has generated some truly “bad PR” for Russia (please excuse the euphemism), a mammoth blight on the nation that will tarnish his legacy and Russia’s status in the world for generations … what will the lives of Ukrainian men, women and children who are fleeing their homes be like once they return, if they ever do return … President Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address tomorrow; how much should  he focus on the war in Ukraine … with peace talks between Ukraine and Russia underway today, what will be the first topic addressed … as the month of March starts tomorrow, will this bloody conflict be known as “the February War” … and, I will continue to monitor developments in a conflict that I pray ends shortly after I publish this post. 

And, a parting thought: When he looks in the mirror, what does Vladimir Putin see? From what I’ve learned over the past two decades and during the past week, Putin reflects the embodiment of evil incarnate, a global bully of epic proportions.

Not Totally In With the New “Chicago Not In Chicago” Campaign

Note to the creatives at Energy BBDO: Perhaps focus on some of the “softer” aspects of Chicago, like neighborhoods that are walkable and tranquil following a February snowfall.

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)

Unveiled somewhat surreptitiously Saturday January 29, the new “Chicago Not In Chicago” marketing campaign certainly has achieved this objective: People are talking about it — in fact lots of people.

And, as you may ascertain by the title, with the negative adverb, many are not fond of this strategic initiative created by Chicago advertising agency Energy BBDO.

This Chicago Tribune editorial from January 31 is a case in point.  A Google search will lead to other negative commentaries, many others, in fact.  Personally, I’m a bit perturbed that the creatives didn’t enlist this lifelong Chicago guy’s perspectives.  More on that later.

The goal of this video-structured campaign is to re-establish Chicago as a travel destination by citing unique and noteworthy practices or products that initiated here — like the skyscraper (which I knew) and the zipper (which I didn’t know). A tag line of sorts for the campaign — “Chicago: City of Stories” — is somewhat nebulous because any city or town has stories. 

But rather than tear apart the campaign, which I truly hope does attract visitors and conventions, some general thoughts that I hope reach the team at Energy BBDO. 

Honest Testimonials.  Yes, testimonial messages are relatively commonplace, but they work. Someone (like me) with decades of insight into Chicago could be interviewed to share how living in this great Midwest metropolis shaped their life.  Or, rather than focus on skyscrapers, the Magnificent Mile, and the lakefront, showcase some of the “softer” aspects of the city. As noted in the image above, one can find tranquility on a quiet Chicago sidewalk following a snowfall

Chicago Value. Money can be a persuasive factor. When compared to our larger and older neighbor to the east, Chicago is a relative value. According to Champion Traveler, a seven-day visit to NYC costs the individual more than $2,000.  The site estimates that same trip to Chicago will cost around $1,800. Think of what you could do with an extra 200 bucks! Want more value related news?  Honolulu will set the solo traveler back some $2,300. 

Truly Unique Chicago. There are one-of-a-kind, sometimes hidden aspects of the city that often go unnoticed. And, I’m thinking beyond hot dogs without ketchup and 16-inch softball, and beyond the grandeur of downtown.  Did you know there’s a block in Lakeview that’s built like London row houses? Or that the city is graced with connected boulevards known as “The Emerald Necklace?”

The campaign opened with a “Chicago tour” of New York, and another video is already planned to showcase how Chicago influenced London.  But if it’s not too late to start from a clean and new slate, I offer this theme:  “Chicago, Yes, We Ain’t No Podunk.” 

Team Energy BBDO, let’s talk.

 

Taking Advantage of PRSA Disinformation Literacy Challenge

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)

For years I’ve adhered to this belief: Participate, engage, and explore volunteer opportunities brought on by membership in an organization or move on. From another perspective, why continue to invest time, money, and effort if you fail to take advantage in order to grow and expand your horizons?

That provides a soft opening of sorts for my thoughts on a benefit available through the Public Relations Society of America, where I’ve been a member since 2002.  It’s a benefit that — given the increasingly hostile social and political culture of today — is especially relevant and needed.

Over the years, I’ve gained insight into modern public relations practices and developments by reading the PRSay blog and the Strategies & Tactics publication; over the years I’ve actually even made some contributions. Here’s an article I wrote on technology transfer published in 2019.

Plus, I’ve served on volunteer national committees and those hosted by PRSA Chicago, and I’ve gained valuable insight on the state of the profession through PRSA webinars.

All these activities proved beneficial and supported my commitment to PRSA and public relations. 

But in the January 22 Weekly Roundup email message to members, I was introduced to the Third Annual National News Literacy Week initiative and opened site. The concept of “news literacy,” as noted in this page from Stony Brook University, is part of academic curricula these days. Yet, it was not an area I had pondered very often, given my decades as a communicator. 

Wanting to test my comprehension, I took the three Media News Disinformation Literacy quizzes found on the PRSA Voices 4 Everyone site. Overall, I did “okay” on the the conspiratorial thinking and sharing quizzes, but frankly only got five of the 10 questions correct on the fighting social media falsehoods quiz — a round-about way of stating that I need to work harder to stay current on how to address disinformation, especially when related to the top social media platforms.

Disinformation, “alternative facts,” propaganda, outright lies — all of these communication practices (and I use that word loosely) are counter to ethical, modern, strategic public relations practices.  I encourage all who read this post to take the three short quizzes and challenge colleagues to do the same.

In fact, I just might go back and retake them myself. By the way, the 10-question tests are free to anyone who wants to get a better grasp of this recent concept called news literacy.

 

A Two-Part Post to Kick of 2022

Yes, it was elbow-to-elbow during this TRB lectern session I attended. The subject: Ways transportation needs to adapt in the post-pandemic environment.

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)

At just about the halfway point through the first month of 2022, I’ve carved out the time to publish a debut post for the year unfolding. I could not commit to one specific topic, therefore today’s commentary is in two parts. 

So, without further ado.

Part One: First Flight in a Long Time

Well, 24 months, to be exact. My trip earlier this week was a two-night visit to Washington, D.C. to attend and participate in the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board. From an aerial perspective, the view from 30,000 feet above the earth is still pretty cool, I must say.

My flight on American Airlines was around 45 minutes late in departing, but otherwise uneventful, which is how I prefer to fly.

Here are some other observations:

  • TSA agents (at least the guy I interacted with) are still pretty gruff. But from another perspective, they have a job that’s challenging.
  • There are still long lines at Starbucks. That’s why I opted for a large McDonald’s coffee.
  • Back in the day, I could count on finding a discarded newspaper to read on my flight. In this era of handhelds, none could be found.
  • Airports continue to attract a panoply of people, from those who are respectful to outright jerks.  Sort of like people everywhere.
  • The men and women employed at our airports — from agents to security to custodians — work quite hard and are dedicated. I made a point to thank them when I could.
  • Upon my return from Reagan National, I had a window seat facing south, providing a panoramic view of all that makes Chicago a truly engaging metropolis — the lakefront, the skyline, the neighborhoods. 

Part Two: First In-Person Conference in a Long Time

The TRB Annual Meeting is a very big deal for those in the transportation industry. As a member of a standing committee, I’ve participated for the past seven years and have thoroughly enjoyed the lectern sessions and committee work. 

Plus, it’s always invigorating to return to the nation’s capital for a few days. These perceptions stood out for me while strolling the halls of the Washington Convention Center:

  • The crowd for the 2022 meeting understandably was smaller than in past years; but the enthusiasm and energy was the same. 
  • Transportation has been a vital aspect of society from the early years of recorded history to the present.  The scope of topics presented at lectern and poster sessions exemplifies transportation’s role in our future.
  • Everyone who attended had to demonstrate proof of vaccination and wear a mask. It should be noted that we can communicate effectively through a mask.
  • People can congregate for a common purpose and remain civil!  This topic has been challenged too often recently. 
  • While having lunch at Legal Sea Foods in the concourse at Reagan, I looked east toward Washington and could still see the U.S. Capitol Building in the distance.  Despite the terror that took place there one year ago, the building was still commanding and resilient in the afternoon sun. 

To summarize this transportation-centered commentary, my experience demonstrated that despite the challenges we’ve faced, there’s a lot in life to appreciate. Me, I look forward to the next adventure.

 

A Return to Random Thoughts as 2021 Fades

A visit to Small Bar, my local tavern, Thursday early evening. Hoping the pandemic will not shut down this neighborhood landmark. By the time I departed, three pints later, the bar was full.

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)

Posts in this space from years ago were sometimes titled “Random Thoughts” because I wanted to comment on various topics that would not comprise a cohesive subject. And, with full disclosure, I perhaps just wanted to share a post to add to that month’s collection.

With the minutes and hours fading on a truly pivotal year in this first quarter of the twenty-first century, I am returning with the short “random” observations and commentary below.

  1. January 6 Insurrection. Six days from now we will mark the truly dark, sinister, and perplexing episode that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol following a rally led by the outgoing president. Along with the violence that resulted in fatalities and injuries, damage to the building housing Congress, and a puncture to our democracy, the mob action revealed this: Those participating in the insurrection knew they were breaking the law, yet they flaunted their activities and even posted recordings on social media. 

    One could ask: “What were they thinking?”  My perspective: The lure of exposure through social media platforms — compounded by unfounded beliefs in a stolen presidential election — sullied rational thinking. Unfortunately, I anticipate this type of behavior will continue.  On that January day, I shared these thoughts.

  2. The Accredited in Public Relations Credential. Referred by a local public relations professional as “the APR Guru” for PRSA Chicago, I’m proud to note that two Chapter members I mentored earned Accreditation this year; they will be added to this roster of communicators representing a broad scope of companies, organizations, and the U.S. military.

    There’s more.  I’m pleased to note that I’m nurturing two other professionals who plan to pursue the APR in 2022. (An aside: I assisted the person who bestowed the APR Guru moniker with gaining the APR way back in the mid-2000s). If you want to add APR to your list of accomplishments, please reach out. As I’ve posted on social media, the need for strategic, honest, and ethical communications is needed in society today.
  3. The Pandemic — The Story That Just Won’t End. The current Omicron surge, long lines to purchase at-home testing kits, increased hospitalizations and fatalities, canceled flights due to staffing shortages, continued angry anti-vaccination/anti-masking demonstrations, organized attacks on medical experts — this international story has, as noted in news industry parlance, legs.

    Two goals for the new year: Push the pandemic off page one by following established health protocols, and continue accurate media coverage on what is needed to make COVID-19 an after thought in the New Year.

With around 12 hours to go before we usher in 2022 here in Chicago, I want to thank all who have read and commented on PRDude posts over the past 12 months. We must not forego thoughts of optimism and positivity, even with the uncontrolled vitriol that is prevalent from the halls of Congress to the streets of our cities and towns.

Me, in 2022 I just hope to return to the simple things that I enjoy, like having a few beers at the tavern noted in the image accompanying this post.  That’s not too much to ask.