A # of ?s RE: “AOC”

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

A rebuttal to the headline and the article itself: It’s you, you, you the media that has elevated this freshman legislator to such exulted status!

Without question, abbreviations, grammatical shortcuts and emojis continue to find a strong and increasingly dominant place in today’s communications landscape, especially in the digital and broadcast mediums.

Based on the image at left, a photo capturing an article with photo I read in today’s Chicago Tribune, this practice of somewhat bastardizing the language clearly is fully ensconced in print.

The issue for me here: Since her meteoric rise on the national political scene, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-NY) is now better known by her initials.

Note the copy of the Tribune article displayed. The Congresswoman’s initials are in the headline, and they are used repeatedly throughout the piece!  As a former reporter, I have to scream: Just what the heck is going on here?  How is this being allowed in what I would label “serious” journalism?

Want more? Read the full story from reporter David Bauder, writing for the Associated Press.

As inferred in the headline to this post, I have questions — actually lots of questions — regarding this grammatical cultural phenomenon.

In no particular order, they are:

  • How did the “AOC” abbreviation originate? Who first coined it and perpetrated it?
  • Why is this practice accepted in journalism?
  • Why did Mr. Bauder refer to the Congresswoman as “AOC” multiple times in the article?
  • Why did Mr. Bauder’s editors allow this practice, clearly an assault to sound journalism practices?
  • Does the Congresswoman get preferential treatment because she’s embodied in initials?
  • Is this practice beneficial? Harmful?
  • Can anyone strategically craft a political campaign that results in being referenced primarily by initials or abbreviations?
  • If I’m re-branded as “EMB” or “TPRD,” will my life change for the better?

I wholeheartedly wish Representative Ocasio-Cortez much success in representing her district and serving the American people.  She’s the face of the so-called Green New Deal (or, perhaps GND?), and her future is promising, even if she’ll never be invited as a guest on Fox & Friends or Hannity.

To conclude, throughout our nation’s history, other politicians have been known by their initials — FDR, JFK and LBJ come to mind.  But the aforementioned were elected president, for gosh sake!  They earned it. As of this writing, AOC has held her post officially only since January 3 of this year. That’s a total of 70 days.

Opps. Read what I just wrote.

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Homelessness: The True Image of a National Emergency

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

The concept of a “national emergency” dominated media coverage in recent weeks, driven by President Donald Trump’s decision earlier this month to demand federal funding to build the wall on the nation’s southern border.

This controversial use of presidential power certainly raised questions, primarily:

  • Is there, indeed, a crisis along our border with Mexico in terms of illegal entry, drug smuggling and other criminal activity?
  • Does this president, or any president, have the constitutional authority to declare a national emergency and demand federal funds without Congressional approval?

Perhaps there have been true national emergencies taking place here in the United States for a prolonged time in our history; but, they just don’t make headlines.

Note the image within this post. This lady shared a CTA Blue Line car with me, other Chicagoans and visitors one morning this week.  Most passengers on this train probably were headed to work, school, an appointment or home.

From what’s depicted here, this lady was probably going to none of the above.

Look closely, she’s there, behind the glass partition, wearing a brown jacket and maneuvering a cart loaded with sacks containing what’s likely her worldly possessions.

As she was about to exit at the Jackson station platform, I handed her some cash, about what I would spend on two beers these days, minus tip.

She paused, smiled, said thank you and put the bill in her pocket. I sensed dignity in this lady by the way she looked at me, responded to my offer and effectively moved her cart and belongings off the el car and onto the platform.

I hope the President or someone within his administration recognizes that homelessness is a true national emergency, and it’s taking place in many, many other cities and towns across the nation. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than 550,000 in this nation are homeless.  Here in Illinois, more than 10,000 experience homelessness.

After my encounter with the lady, I continued on with my work day, then I headed home.

My regret is that I all I did was give this lady some money. My hope is that she finds a true home someday soon.

What Joe Ricketts and The Cubs Should Have Done

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

It was the contents of a series of digital communications — email messages — that ushered in the scandal engulfing businessman Joe Ricketts and the iconic sports franchise his money paid for.

Cloudy skies, figuratively ahead, for the Chicago Cubs and Joe Ricketts. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

But it would take an old-fashioned form of communication to help mitigate the embarrassment and loss of respect (and maybe business) caused by this unadulterated and sad mess.

A quick recap: This week, a website called Splinter News revealed that Mr. Ricketts, the billionaire founder of brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, sent and responded to a series of emails that that in essence equated Muslims with being evil and not welcomed in the United States.

Mr. Ricketts, whose offspring run the Chicago Cubs, both issued somewhat static statements of apology, stating the Islamophobic communications were wrong, uncalled for and don’t belong in modern society — or affiliated with a Major League baseball team.

Apologies certainly are required here, without question. But what both the billionaire and his son Tom Ricketts, the Chairman of the Cubs, should have done is made those statements, live and in person, not through the totally controlled process of a statement issued from a corporate suite.

Hold a news conference, admit from the heart the messages were wrong, offer to meet with Muslim leaders, offer to get some kind of behavioral treatment, host a conference designed to build better understanding of different cultures — do more than just apologize, then close the book.

In an editorial published today, the Chicago Tribune (which we subscribe to) offered this rhetorical question: “While Ricketts and the Cubs responded quickly, they didn’t blow anyone away with the passion of their regret. We wondered whether a public relations consultant and a dozen lawyers had signed off.”

Shout out to the Tribune editorial team: Perhaps a seasoned and competent public relations professional for both Joe Ricketts and the Cubs did propose what I stated above. But, public relations counsel is just that — advice provided to the client.

In some cases, the client does not follow the advice.

 

 

 

One Image, One Question: January 30, 2019

By Edward M. Bury, APR

Some topics — sports, politics, popular culture — have widespread interest among the public at large, while others often are relegated to the fringes.

But when extreme weather becomes the focus, everyone takes notice.

A few months from now, this view from the back porch of our Avondale home will be much, much more inviting.

It’s that way here in Chicago and across much of the Midwest. Dangerous, unprecedented arctic cold has descended, dropping air temperatures to minus 20 degrees (or colder) and wind chill factors to minus 50 in some areas.

The technical term is polar vortex.

News reports shout caution — stay indoors, bundle up if you have to go out, help those in need, limit the time spent exercising your dog. We hear lots about the impact of the cold, its dangers, its causes and, unfortunately, its often devastating results on people, animals, buildings, cars, the economy and the environment.

That bring us to the question of this post: What does “cold” sound like?

To answer that question, earlier today (air temperature was minus 18), I ventured outside for around 15 minutes. What I heard this bright, sunny and frigid day was an almost eerie quiet. It was as if we surrendered to something we could not really control.

I recall three cars passed down our block during my short sojourn outside, and I encountered one man walking his dogs, hurriedly, I must add.  That’s it.

To the north, I could see jet planes heading to O’Hare International Airport, but of course, I could not hear any sounds.

Now back in our warm home, I’m encouraged by reports of a nearby laundry staying open to temporarily house those with no warm place to go, and ride share company Lyft offering no-cost rides to the many shelters set up in Chicago.

Later, I may venture out to listen again to the sound of cold.

 

Balancing the National Chaos: Two Images of Washington

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

A short visit to the nation’s capital this week provided a first-hand perspective on the chaos taking place in Washington and across the nation as the federal government shutdown over a planned boarder wall drags on and on, without a glimmer of an impending resolution.

To illustrate this perspective, note the two images — both taken from my room at the DuPont Circle Hotel — that accompany this post.  It’s my intention that these perspectives will somewhat metaphorically provide insight into the nation today.

Metro Washington was battered by a significant winter storm that impacted travel, but also left the city — and nation — blanketed in indecision.

The top image was taken Sunday in mid-afternoon as bands of snow fell across the city and surrounding areas.  The weather created challenges for travelers arriving at Reagan National Airport, people taking the Washington metro transit system and pedestrians, as the snow and ice made it difficult to walk, much less pull a suitcase across sidewalks that had yet to be shoveled.

In town to attend a transportation conference, I learned firsthand of travel nightmares, closed museums and attractions, and lives of federal workers and many others disrupted. An Italian restaurant near my hotel, where I had planned to enjoy a light dinner and glass of wine, had closed early. Other restaurants in the normally bustling neighborhood were open but not crowded. There was a sense that evening that Washington was hunkering down, that it almost was under siege due to the forces of nature and a government that did not fulfill its obligation to its citizens.

But on Monday morning, the bands of snow moved east, resulting in clear skies. Crews had been dispatched to clear away snow and ice, making basic mobility much easier and less dangerous than 12 or so hours before.  The WMATA Red Line train I took to the Convention Center was crowded, efficiently transporting people to jobs, appointments and events.  Later that evening, crowds descended on the Capital One Arena to take in a hockey game.  As noted in the second image here, the city had shrugged off obstacles and stood resilient. Things appeared to be “back to normal.”

As the shutdown enters its 27th day, the question remains: How many times can Washington figuratively brush off winter snow and clear sidewalks while some 800,000 workers wait for resolution and a paycheck?

Brilliant blue skies over the mid-rise office buildings across DuPont Circle made for a more inviting and optimistic perspective on Monday morning.

Other recollections on my 48 hour sojourn:

  • My Tuesday morning trip on the Yellow Line back to Reagan Airport offered a glimpse of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial as the train crossed the Potomac River. My thoughts turned to the nation these Founding Fathers built, and whether the ideals they formulated were crumbling.
  • From the American Airlines concourse, I counted around a dozen construction cranes in the distance, testimony that new developments, business and commerce will continue while the government stalemate dragged on.
  • The lines to get a cup of coffee at the Starbucks near the TSA checkpoint were longer than the lines required to pass through security. Was this an anomaly? A result of fewer travelers due to the shutdown?  Luck?

And, finally an aside of sorts. While at a reception Monday evening near the Convention Center, a colleague noted that Massachusetts Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren was present, dining with her husband, glasses of beer before them. As unobtrusively as possible, I approached their booth. The Senator smiled, turned and extended her hand.  She demonstrated a firm handshake.

“Hello Senator,” I said. “Wishing you success in the campaign ahead. We’re here for a transportation conference.”  “Transportation is very important to the nation,” she said. I wholeheartedly agreed, bid the couple farewell, and they quietly enjoyed their dinner and evening together.

What’s On My Calendar in 2019

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

This handy calendar offers motivation, prompts, wisdom and more. Who knows: Maybe one of my quotes will be on the 2020 edition.

Looking back at the holiday season passed, I was fortunate to receive some outstanding gifts, from the intangible (moments shared with family and friends) to the tangible (a couple of six packs of some really good beer).

But assuredly, the most poignant — and hopefully most useful — gift found under the proverbial tree was a desk calendar.

As noted in the accompanying image, my calendar will offer “Inspiration, writing prompts & advice for every day of the year.”

By reading this post, it’s readily apparent that I write stuff, from commentary on public relations, politics and popular culture to travelogues and people profiles. With a career in public relations, marketing and journalism spanning (yes, hard to believe) four decades, there are a lot of other genres I could include within print digital and broadcast.

Back to the present, the most challenging writing projects completed recently were required assignments in my pursuit of a master’s degree in English. For the Theory, Rhetoric and Aesthetics course completed in December, I submitted a paper, “The Growth of a Post-Truth World in Modern Society.

To summarize the essay: Exceptionally challenging and equally rewarding, as I had to analyze early twenty first century perceptions of truth and falsehood while balancing beliefs presented by Plato and a twentieth century thinker. Heady stuff, indeed.

For the spring 2019 semester, I pivot resoundingly in another direction: Novel workshop.

Yes, I will begin — and hopefully finish — a novel by May. What’s the plot? Who are the characters? What do I hope to accomplish?  We’ll find out in a few months.

Should I need inspiration, I will read, savor and gain from the messages displayed on the little calendar on my desk. Then, I’ll get back to work.

 

Questions in Search of Answers in 2019

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

Will the Mueller investigation lead to more indictments? What will happen in the Middle East once the U.S. pulls out armed forces? Does the recent volatility of the financial markets mean another recession is on the horizon?

Heady questions, yes. So, I’ll let people who are a lot smarter offer projections.

Here, in this final PRDude post of 2018, I pose questions of a much more pedestrian nature. Dull and trivial perhaps to many, but the following topics have been on my mind recently.

Brim Backward Hat Wearing. Initially, I thought the practice of wearing a baseball-style cap or other headgear backwards was a fad. I even addressed the topic in a 2014 post and include a poll seeking answers as to why someone would adhere to this (in my opinion) silly concept.  An online source offers a tangible reason for the occasional reverse-brim option: To keep the brim out of the way while performing a task. Yet, based on anecdotal evidence and regular day-to-day perceptions, the trend continues unabated virtually everywhere and by anyone.

Question: Why the heck do people continue to wear caps backward, especially those with the plastic adjustable device that resembles a racing stripe across one’s forehead? And, furthermore: Why is this “cool?”

“Thank you” to canacopegdl.com for use of this image. It was “no problem” to download.

“No Problem.” No, “You’re Welcome.” Assuredly you’ve been responded to with the colloquial phrase, “No problem,” during interactions with retail clerks or just during everyday conversation. I find this phrase maddening, because it’s eclipsing the proper and more sincere, “You’re welcome.” Through a quick online search, I found a linguistics blog that attempts to address the origin of “no problem,” and I found references of disdain for the phrase’s use going back to 2013.  Plus, it’s equated to the Millennial demographic.  A personal occurrence: Last weekend I called a restaurant to make a dinner reservation. I asked for 7:30 p.m. The lady on the other end of the phone replied, “No problem!”  Why not just say, “Yes, we can seat you at 7:30 p.m.”  Exclamation points!

Question: What factor(s) led to the preponderance of the phrase, “No problem,” in society today?  And, furthermore: When will it stop?

Vape, Vape, Vape That… More than 70 years ago, a country and western novelty song addressed the bad stuff that can happen by smoking cigarettes.  Yes, people still smoke ciggies and cigars today — but use of vaping pens and vapor devices made by companies like Juul Labs (rechargeable via a USB port, I learned) has grown exponentially in the past five or so years. Perhaps you wonder why grown adults (and reportedly lots of kids) inhale from what looks like a thumb drive, then exhale a cloud that would rival that of a dragon.

Question: Will vaping replace cigarette smoking in the immediate future? Furthermore: Who will produce the first pop song that expounds on the joys (or dangers) of vaping?

There.

I eagerly will monitor developments on these three issues in the 365 days ahead.  Your thoughts are welcomed and encouraged.  And now, with 2019 some eight-plus hours away, I’ll have no problem adjusting my baseball cap backwards while I step outside to enjoy a few moments to contemplate and vape.