If Your Mother Says She Loves You, Check It Out

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

For those wondering about the title of this post, I’ll get to that shortly. But the crowd of current and former news men and women who gathered last night at a quirky downtown Chicago restaurant certainly know what the phrase embodies.

Long-time city editor Paul Zimbrakos (left) was still engaging, still in control, still a dominant presence as he was in the CNB news room.

The event was a reunion of reporters and editors who worked at the legendary City News Bureau of Chicago.  The adjective “legendary” gets tossed around a lot, but in this case it’s appropriate.

We gathered to help preserve the impact this now-gone local news wire service had on Chicago and the lives of those — like me — who had the opportunity to learn the hard news business in an environment that was always fascinating and hardly ever forgiving.

There were stories and memories recounted: The years worked at City News, surviving the midnight shift, how experience there led to the next job in the news business, and that seminal or most compelling story covered. The atmosphere was loud and embracing, with strangers becoming friends over a drink and conversation about the impact City News had on their lives.

A high-point came when Paul Zimbrakos, the long-time (and I mean decades-long)

The reunion at its zenith. The conversation flowed, the memories recalled.

city editor arrived. I waited my turn to greet Paul, who at first didn’t recognize me. After I gave my name, he noted without hesitation that I once called in sick due to a bee sting.  How did he remember that instance, which took place 40 years ago!  (For the record, I was stung in the neck by a wasp and swelled up like a side-show attraction.)

In conversations, I met people who moved on from City News to work in broadcast journalism and public affairs, or like me, leave the news business for public relations or another communications discipline.

I conversed over the din with one outstanding reporter who worked during my era — 1977 to 1979 — and we shared thoughts on our biggest, most memorable stories: His was going door-to-door in Bridgeport to get perspectives on the death in December of 1976 of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, mine was covering the exhuming of bodies from the home of convicted mass murder John Wayne Gacy in December of 1978.

As I rode the Blue Line home later that night, I felt proud and honored to have been a small cog in the news organization that nurtured true journalism.  I look forward to the next reunion and the stories and memories they will bring.

Now, to the title. The message behind this phrase is simple and direct: Investigate, seek confirmation, gathering what’s believed to be the truth. If you don’t believe me, check it out.




Old Media? New Media? It’s Still Media

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

For some reason, we need to make comparisons between old and new.

Since the end of the Civil War and to the present, we read about the emergence of the New South, embodied by progressive social, business, political and cultural movements and a transition from the way things were for decades.  In 1985, one of the world’s best-known brands was re-introduced as New Coke, a new formula for the iconic soft drink; it didn’t last, as consumers demanded the old stuff.

Earlier this week, PRSA Chicago hosted an excellent luncheon panel discussion on a topic that tackled the subject of old vs. new: “Making Old Media New Again.”  The excellent panel was moderated by Harlan  Teller, Of Counsel at FD, and was comprised of Joanie Bayhack, SVP Corporate Communications/Direct Marketing at WTTW-TV, Julian Posada, founder of Cafe Media and Joyce Winnecke, VP/Association Editor at the Chicago Tribune.

Before I give my thoughts on old vs. new media, here are a few bullet points that grabbed me by the proverbial collar:

  • In the media arena, it’s all about relevancy.  This holds true for a print piece, a broadcast expose or a Tweet.
  • And, from a similar perspective, media companies are in business to make a profit; new and old media enterprises are centered around monetary returns.
  • Expect the continued creation of partnerships between traditional media companies and other entities. For example, the Tribune collaborated with the Second City comedy troupe.
  • Old and new media will have to demonstrate even more transparency than ever before. “They have to put that stake firmly in the ground,” Posada said.
  • Web sites are becoming more irrelevant in a texting and hand held kind of w0rld.
  • There remains value in strong media brands at the local level.
  • The media can still deliver the same message, but it must be done in 10 different ways.

Outstanding insight, although I disagree with the projection that website are becoming passe.  (Where would those short links in Tweets link to?) Now it’s my turn.

The “old” media vs. “new” media debate really is not, well, a new issue.  In its essence, “media” has been in existence, one can argue, since 1453 when Gutenberg employed a printing press and movable type.

Mass production of books gave man the ability to communicate effectively to a wide audience. Books were followed by newspapers and periodicals, which were followed by radio, movies and television, which were followed by online/digital communications.

Each of these forms of communication have had to re-invent itself to survive, thrive, inspire, challenge and remain relevant.  Here’s an example during my lifetime.

I recall the launch of USA Today in 1982 by media powerhouse Gannett. The nation already had a tremendous national newspaper in the Wall Street Journal.  But the Journal clearly was speaking to the business audience; USA Today was speaking to everyone, and it pioneered the incorporation of color photos, banners and graphics — tactics used by all newspapers today, those precious few that still publish.

Research showed the people at Gannett that the nation would buy and read a national newspaper that covered breaking news, sports and features, as well as business news.  Technology allowed publication nationwide and use of color.

Back to the debate in question.  “Old” or “new,” media still remains the way we deliver a message to an audience beyond the person in front of you. It will continue to evolve based upon market demands and technology.

To paraphrase a Billy Joel song from three decades ago: “Everybody’s talking about the new kind of communications but it’s still media to me.”

It\’s Still Rock and Roll to Me