The Blues Are All Around Us, And Now Chicago Has a Museum

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

Many people think the focus of blues music is all about, well, being blue. Being down. Being out.

And, yes, many blues songs — from those belted out in the juke joints in the South to the nightclubs in the North — deal with down-and-out and the downtrodden subjects, often over a 12-bar progression.

But from another perspective, the blues also can take a different direction, like finding better times just down the road, or perhaps at the next crossroad.

The soon-to-be built Chicago Blues Experience will be housed right in downtown Chicago, the mecca of big city blues. Image courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

In Chicago, undisputed as the place where the Delta blues evolved into a dynamic big city musical and cultural force, there was an announcement this week about something better happening just down the road of time.

On Monday, the world learned of plans to build The Chicago Blues Experience, a 50,000-square-foot museum scheduled to open its doors in a few years. This long-overdue addition to Chicago’s cultural scene will be housed in a former retail space in the bustling Loop and two blocks from Millennium Park, site for the 2017 Chicago Blues Festival, the world’s largest.

As a true Chicago guy and long-time lover of the blues, I’m thrilled by this news. Like many art forms, the blues needs to grow and evolve, especially since many of the legendary Chicago clubs like Theresa’s and the Checkerboard Lounge have long been shuttered. The new museum hopefully will energize the blues and inspire the next generation.

Along with the museum component, which I’m sure will house some awesome artifacts like cool old guitars, the Blues Experience will let visitors experience live blues music at a 150-seat performance space.

As a contribution to the cause, I’m making a “donation” of sorts to the Chicago Blues Experience and the blues community, something fresh and modern.

Below are lyrics to — you guessed it — to a contemporary blues song I wrote a few years ago while participating in a song writing class at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Hopefully, the museum folks would like to hear me perform it. Hopefully at a time when things are better somewhere down the road.

The Blues Are All Around Me

Don’t have to look too far
Don’t have to look too far
That building use to be a store
Well it ain’t a store no more

The Blues are all around me
And they  follow me where ever I go

Don’t have to look too far
Don’t have to look too far
Electric cars don’t go too fast
I drive a car that uses gas

The Blues are all around me
And they follow me where ever I go

The TV show from Washington was all about the state of the union Thirty minutes later I was still in a state of confusion

Don’t have to look too far
Don’t have to look too far
The photograph that’s on the wall
Has a crack and is about to fall

The Blues are all around me
And they follow me where ever I go

Don’t have to look too far
Don’t have to look too far
Won’t go outside anymore
I’m afraid to even open up the door

‘Cause the blues are all around me
and they follow me where ever I go

Copyright 2017 Edward M. Bury

Honesty, Open Disclosure Needed to Heal Chicago, CPD

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

The report unveiled yesterday hit Chicago and the Chicago Police Department with the virtual force of a sledgehammer to the collective forehead of the city and those changed with maintaining law and order.

cod-logoFindings from two federal agencies revealed a police department “broken by systems that have allowed CPD officers who violate the law to escape accountability.” And, there’s more: Some police, according to the report, have violated civil rights and used excessive force against blacks and Latinos. Plus, the department’s training program doesn’t properly prepare officers for the job.

The title of the report, “Investigation of the Chicago Police Department,” is somewhat innocuous.  Yet, the conclusions made by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Office are incredibly powerful and poignant, and will have lasting ramifications.

In short, the reputation of the Chicago Police Department — and in turn the reputation of the City of Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel — has been battered at a time when the city is facing a crisis in neighborhoods plagued by a record homicide rate and incessant violence that appears to show no signs of abating.

What to do?

I’ll offer this general advice from a public relations perspective: Open, honest disclosure of how the Department will address the charges identified in the federal report is needed, and it’s needed right now.

Trying to put a “spin” (and I cringe when this term is used) or other efforts to diffuse this situation is foolhardy and counterproductive.

CPD is now facing a sustained crisis, meaning the ramifications from the federal report can last for years.  Without question, gaining the trust and respect of the people of Chicago will take a long time and will be full of challenges.

A clear road map of how the Department will move forward is the best first step it can take to rebuild that trust and respect.

Public Relations Counsel to Chicago Public Schools Teachers This Labor Day 2016

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

Ah, Labor Day 2016!

One can envision today as a glorious end to the summer season and the start of fall, and with it the onset of shorter days, cooler temperatures and football.

(Hopefully, fall of 2016 will also usher in the ultimate climax to a magical season for my beloved Chicago Cubs; but that pecpslogo@2xrspective is the subject of a post for an0ther day.)

And of course, Labor Day marks the return to school for many kids and young adults, including the approximately 400,000 students who attend Chicago Public Schools.

Classes start tomorrow, September 6. The question, however, is will this school year be marred by a strike.  An editorial from Crain’s Chicago Business provides a perspective on why members of the Chicago Teacher’s Union should not go on strike.

Please take a moment to read the commentary.

Done?

Now, here’s some thoughts from a public relations perspective related to thectu strike. Granted, I’m perhaps taking some liberties in offering a correlation between public relations practices and an action by organized labor. But stay with me.

I’ll start with interpreting what’s widely acknowledged as the first step in a strategic public relations plan: Identify ways to mitigate a threat or take advantage of an opportunity.

Teachers have threatened to walk off the job in mid October unless their salary and pension contribution demands are met. Striking would effectively: Exacerbate a threat to the position of the union members as caring professional educators and diminish their standing in the community; and, cast aside the opportunity to demonstrate commitment to the children they teach and their families, to themselves as educators and to Chicago taxpayers who fund schools.

To some Chicagoans, myself included, a strike next month by CTU members would be unwise and perceived as a betrayal. In common parlance, it would not result in “good public relations.”

And, I’ll make this disclosure now: I am a Chicago property owner and more than half of my annual property tax payments goes to CPS. Yes, I would not be pleased if teachers vote to strike, like they did in September of 2012.

Four years ago, the strike led to bitter discourse and kept students out of school for some seven days.  The organization I worked for then had offices around the corner from CPS headquarters; I observed the striking teachers and tried to understand their position.

What I remember were childish taunts and lambasts aimed at Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

On this day, when we celebrate the rights of working people in this nation and around the world, I hope CTU and its leaders come to the realization that a strike will surely pose a serious threat to the reputation of Chicago teachers.

Reaching a compromise with the city would be the opportunity needed to mitigate that threat.

One Image, One Question: July 4, 2016

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

A morning stroll through Avondale and Logan Square this Independence Day was tranquil in its own way.

As you’d expect, I encountered only a handful of people, and there were few cars on normally busy Diversey Avenue and Logan Boulevard. Aside from the occasional barking dog or chirping bird, the only disruption to the quiet were the squawking chickens — yes chickens — owned by a family down the block.

Even with the beverage can discarded in the street, one could find tranquility on George Street this Independence Day.

Even with the beverage can discarded in the street, one could find tranquility on George Street this Independence Day. Unfortunately, that’s not the case on many other Chicago streets.

On George Street, tranquility for me is embodied in the image on this page. Yes, this is not at all bucolic in the conventional sense, in light of the mature trees; but for a thoroughfare in the heart of one of America’s largest and greatest cities, one could enjoy the quiet of a summer holiday morning by sitting quietly on George Street.

From our front porch, we partake in this activity regularly.

Many other blocks in Chicago may look like George Street in the Avondale neighborhood this morning; but many, far too many, are not at all tranquil. Too many streets have become urban battle zones plagued by gun-driven violence that has reached levels not seen in decades.

As noted in this Yahoo news report, the monthly homicide rate this year in Chicago can be equated to the horrific mass murder at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

So, on to the question:

What needs to happen to quell the heartbreaking outbreak of shootings that has shredded the very fabric of some Chicago communities?

If this is any sign of “progress,” through enhanced policing “only” two people were fatally shot and 30 have been wounded by gunfire so far this long weekend. An online report from DNA Info provides the details.

Wishing all who read this a safe and Happy Independence Day.  Also, wishing for realistic answers to my question this July 4, 2016.

PR Firms and BBB Accreditation: Questions

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

Along with the usual main news, business, sports, and arts sections, the June 22 issue of our home delivered Chicago Tribune also included a tabloid publication.  No, not the rival Chicago Sun-Times, but a Consumer Resource Guide published by the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

BBB two

Think I’ll hold onto this publication; just in case.

The purpose of the insert was to celebrate the BBB’s 90th anniversary of providing service to people and businesses here in metropolitan Chicago. The contents contained BBB rated businesses, and a reasonable amount of display ads.  (Hey, print publication ain’t cheap.)

Let me offer my most sincere congratulations. I wholeheartedly support the work of this organization, which “sets high ethical standards for business conduct.” Learn more by scanning the BBB Business Partner Code of Conduct.

Now, on to the focus of this post. I scanned the 40-page report and learned that the mortgage broker we’ve used to finance and re-finance our home was listed, as was the company that replaced the roof on our garage last year.

BBB one

Note the two public relations firms, right between Public Opinion Analysts and Publishers.

But, what I found somewhat puzzling was the fact that there were only two public relations firms listed: GreenMark Public Relations, Inc., a firm headquartered in the north Chicago suburb of Mundelein, and FLEISHMANHILLARD, a global firm with offices in Chicago.  (Note: All caps with no space is how the firm was listed in the BBB report.)

For the record, the BBB report had 30 listings for Advertising/Marketing firms or Agencies/Counselors and five for Communications firms.  And, there were lots and lots of mortgage brokers and roofing companies

This prompted some questions:

  1. Most obvious, why are only two Chicago firms BBB Accredited?
  2. What value do public relations firms — companies that in theory are charged with strengthening client’s reputations — find in earning third-party endorsement, like from the BBB?
  3. Should organizations like the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) champion BBB Accreditation?

As a public relations professional who earned the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential, I support and value voluntary initiatives that substantiate my ability to deliver sound, ethical communications counsel.  This, I maintain, is especially true for public relations, a profession not licensed in this country.

And, yes, I did check the BBB list for bloggers. Not a category they list just yet. But I’ll keep checking.

 

 

 

Hey CTU Members: Why The Planned April Fools Day Stunt?

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

For the record, I am a strong proponent of learning. And, that’s not just because I work at a university and have committed to lifelong learning as a way to maintain my Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential.

Learning defines a person, shapes an identity, provides purpose to life.

This silly logo for the CTU's "Contract Action Team" is more akin to a comic book super hero.

This silly logo for the CTU’s “Contract Action Team” was developed by the adults charged with teaching Chicago kids.

That’s why I’m very disturbed by the planned and reportedly illegal strike tomorrow, April 1, by members of the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU).

Yes, the people who are paid through taxpayer funds to educate the children of Chicago are walking off the job on April Fool’s Day. Their goal, I suppose, is to build support for a better contract from a school district that already faces serious financial shortfalls.

But to me and many fellow Chicagoans — including some CTU members — this action is not a joke, practical or otherwise. It’s a travesty.

If you’ve followed Chicago and Illinois news the past few months, frankly the situation here is quite bleak. The state has gone nine months without a budget. The City has been embroiled in cases of alleged police misconduct. Violent crime has spiked to horrific levels. People have lost faith in the leaders elected to lead.

And, around eight hours from now, CTU members will prevent school kids from learning through a day-long protest built around threats to “shut down” the city. The CTU even posted this “schedule of events” page on its website, just in case those of us planning to work tomorrow want to participate.

Hopefully, some learning will take place in Chicago tomorrow.  By that I mean that the CTU will learn that walking off the job will not result in anything positive — for the teachers, for Chicago school children and for the taxpayers who fund public education.

 

Just What Constitutes a “Cheap” Story These Days?

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

Just about every profession has its jargon — words or phrases unique to those in that industry.

Determining that a news story was "cheap" exemplifies the jargon used in the news business.

Determining that a news story was “cheap” exemplifies the jargon used in the news business.

That certainly was the case when I worked many years ago as a reporter, writer and editor at the City News Bureau of Chicago, the long-gone, unquestionably legendary local wire service.

I recall directives from the city desk editor to “sub out” (write a concluding story based on updated information) a news event that happened earlier.  Or, the desk would order me to write “two books” (a reference to the stationery we used to type out copy — a main sheet followed by three sheets of paper with carbon paper in between) on proceedings that took place that day at Criminal Courts.

And, there was the decision to label a story as being “cheap,” or meaning it didn’t have a lot of sustaining news value.

Fires, burglaries, robberies, accidents and yes, even homicides, could be “cheap” and then “cheaped out,” or not worthy of more reporting and distribution of a subsequent story over the wire.

These days, some stories that would have been considered “cheap” in the late 1970s have dominated the news, and for good reason.

I’m referring to those related to the number of maddeningly persistent and seemingly uncontrollable shootings that have taken place in Chicago these past few years.

Perhaps things would be a lot better if this was the only type of gun available?

Perhaps things would be a lot better if this was the only type of gun available?

I couldn’t find statistics from the years I covered police, fire and courts for City News, but this Chicago Tribune web page graphically illustrates the sad truth about the numbers of people shot here in 2015 and so far this year.

Grim, isn’t it? Nearly 3,000 people shot last year and more than 300 shot during the first six weeks of 2016.

One recent shooting, one that may have been “cheaped out” years ago hopefully will galvanize Chicago — its people, its elected officials, its police — to work collectively to halt the shootings plaguing the city.

Last week, a 16-year-old girl on her way to school was shot in the leg, the victim of a horrific morning exchange of gun play near her home in West Humboldt Park.  Fortunately, she survived, but of course, she’ll have to live with the physical and emotional scars forever.

My friend Juan operated a store at this location until he was shot and killed there one fall evening.

My friend Juan operated a store at this location until he was shot and killed there one fall evening.

My friend Juan was not so fortunate.  Juan (I’ll keep his last name confidential) operated a small convenience store across from our home. He worked 16 hours a day, every day, until one Sunday evening in October of 2007 when someone shot and killed Juan inside the store.

To my knowledge, no one has been charged in Juan’s murder; his store was closed years ago.

Back in the 1970s, there were lots of “cheap” shootings and other kinds of crime. I’d like to think we — as a society — would have learned the value of life and the devastation caused by guns during those many years.