As a former reporter, I can say some of my best stories came from leaks. Yes, leaks to the media drive presidents crazy. But, Mr. Trump is not the first to be frustrated by them. And he won’t be the last.
So, what causes leaks and what should be done about them? Every person who leaks information to the press has an agenda. It’s the journalist’s job to be aware of what it is.
What Causes Leaks?
There are many reasons for the behavior. Those leaking:
Want to undercut the administration’s agenda because they do not agree with it.
Hope to gain political advantage by harming the people they are leaking about.
Have personal animus toward someone (I once got a leak from the ex-wife of a well known figure).
Wish to curry favor with the media with the hope of some future benefit.
Hope to educate the media without their name attached
Are good people who simply want to right a wrong.
The last two reasons are why leaks are needed. Otherwise, too much government incompetence, deceit and corruption would go unnoticed. The same can be said for corporate misbehavior, too.
But, not all leakers are created equal. If someone consistently tries to undercut administration policy simply because he/she doesn’t agree with it, they deserve to be disciplined. Of course, they have a right, and obligation, to register dissent. But once policy is set, they should make a good faith effort to comply. Policy must be set by the elected officials, not by unelected bureaucrats. Too many bureaucrats think they have earned the right to set policy. They haven’t. That’s why elections matters. The same applies to leakers with personal axes to grind.
How Do You Deal with Leaks?
Checking staffers’ cell phones is not the answer. It sends the wrong message: you don’t trust your own staff. Better approaches include:
The best way to minimize leaks is with leadership. The leader’s job is to convince those working for him/her that they are part of a noble cause and everyone there plays a role in that mission. I know that sounds naive these days, but true leaders are capable of such an impact. Leadership requires a consistent and persistent message that resonates with employees.
Fire People If you inherit political appointees who will never agree to support your goals, you should fire them….quickly. They are poison to the rank-and-file whose respect the leaders must earn.
Tranparency The more transparent you are, the less there is to reveal through leaks. Transparency is a culture and it will no doubt produce some embarrassments. But, the alternative is more damaging leaks.
Hold the Media Accountable Does the media use the leaks to reveal truth and create more justice, or are they used to get back at a politician they don’t like? That’s a fair question.
For the public, they should remember government and the media each has their own agenda, too. Seek information from multiple sources, pay more attention and speak up.
Mark Grimm spent 12 years as a TV journalist, 11 years as a media professor and hosts a popular radio show.
You also have to fire people. If you inherit political appointees who will never support your goals, they need to go…quickly. They are poison to the rank-and-file whose respect the leaders must earn.
Mainstream American network and print journalism is in a death spiral (First though, this caveat. Journalism is a thousand voices and each voice should be judged individually on its merits). That said, come on people. How can anyone watch the nightly network news, or CNN or read the NY Times and not concede they have declared war on President Donald Trump.
They have reason to be defensive. Trump has launched an all-out assault on their credibility. But their response — to wage a battle to the death attempting to destroy him — makes them even less credible. They should answer President Trump the old fashion way, by being as fair and objective as possible (even if they can’t stand the guy). That is the only way they will restore their tattered credibility.
CNN reporter Jake Tapper looked into the camera and told the president to “stop whining” and get to work. The NY Times printed an opinion piece with a headline questioning if Trump was “a threat to democracy.” Yes, Mr. Trump’s biting personality is unprecedented in the Internet age, but so too is the media coverage. It’s never the media’s job to get back at anyone. At least, it shouldn’t be.
Let’s be clear, I’ve never been blind to the President’s flaws. The adolescent side of Mr. Trump, who spent his first full day in office complaining about crowd size estimates, or spent a week feuding with the parents of a dead war hero, has added a match to the burning hatred that consumes his critics. They have the right to protest from now to doomsday if they wish. But the press should not be part of the chorus. My own local newspaper actually did an editorial asking duly elected Trump delegates not to vote for him.
Media managers used to hide behind the “we have reporting and we have opinion pieces” defense. That line has been obliterated. Reporters routinely opine on the very stories they cover. Many major media outlets have now decided to cater to the audiences that agree with them. For example, imagine the difference in viewership between Fox News and MSNBC. News networks and major papers have become opinion news more than journalism. Mr. Trump has accelerated this death spiral but he did not start it.
Journalism has morphed into something else. The profession’s declining credibility could not have come at a worse time for it. In the 21st century, people are increasingly getting their news from each other, often from friends they agree with on most issues. The truth is nearly every network and every major newspaper has an agenda and none of them is truly objective (C-Span remains a rare exception).
There’s a silver lining. There are still many people in journalism who remain dedicated to the pursuit of the truth. I’ve worked with many of them. They must operate in this difficult environment. It is up to us to get our news from as many sources as possible and reward the ones that do the best job at being fair and objective. We can provide this badly-needed incentive. They are the ones that must survive.
The first GOP presidential debate tomorrow night is unpredictable. That’s why such a big audience is expected.
A New Hampshire focus group conducted by pollster Frank Luntz produced “an explosion of passion” that Luntz labeled “one of the best focus groups I’ve ever done.”
As a speaking coach and former elected GOP official, here’s what to watch for:
1- Can Donald Trump appear both brash and thoughtful? Trump’s lead in the polls can be attributed to his striking a nerve on illegal immigration and his anti-establishment persona. But knocking over the apple cart isn’t enough. Presidential candidates have to be capable of fixing what’s wrong. He must convince people he has the right temperament to handle the most sensitive, and dangerous, situations. Personally attacking people will harm him with voters in the middle, the ones he would need to be a viable general election candidate.
2- Jeb Bush is in the opposite position. He’s a thoughtful, serious man who can put people to sleep. He has to show passion and convince primary voters he’s got the fight to take on Hillary. He has to be more than Bush Three.
3- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has to show he’s up to the task on foreign policy. Iran, Moscow, North Korea — they are a long way from Madison, Wisconsin.
4 – Each of the remaining candidates needs to carve out some niche that resonates with primary voters. Clarity counts.
How well the three Fox News moderators handle the 10-candidate showdown is anyone’s guess. It won’t be easy, especially with The Donald.
Ever been to a boring business dinner — a night of one uninspiring speech after another? Are you nodding your head? Though someone’s time and attention are valuable commodities, these “commodities” are routinely wasted. For corporate America, this is burning money.
Companies and nonprofits too often fail to capitalize on the value of better speaking. Top executives routinely overrate their speaking skill and no subordinate is about to tell them otherwise. A fortune has been invested in high-priced, brand-name firms who deliver cookie-cutter presentation training that has left us with the same problem — boring dinners and boring meetings.
Being interesting is a skill and that skill will make you more money. Too often, speakers focus on what they care about instead of what their audience cares about. They provide too much detail and too little relevance. They read too often when their approach should be conversational. We get far too much blah, blah, blah instead of passion and enthusiasm. The result is lost opportunity and lost business. It’s burning money.
Mark Grimm is a former TV news anchor who has conducted hundreds of seminars and does one-on-one coaching. He will share the secret of being interesting with you….or you can keep burning money.
Ever work at a place that could use better communication? Why do most people chuckle when I ask that at seminars?
Better communication offers huge potential for enhanced productivity and morale, but it often remains an untapped resource.
Here’s five ways to ensure your company/organization isn’t missing out:
1- Accept its importance.
Management must place a high priority on its value and think about creating a strong culture, not applying band aid solutions.
2- Get into the Heads of Audiences.
Communication isn’t about telling your employees stuff. It’s about engagement, about learning from each other. Make clear what is in it for them.
Ask your audiences what they think, frequently, and allow them to give anonymous feedback. Share the results with them.
4- Practice Being interesting is a skill, work at it. Set benchmarks for progress.
Bill Gates once said, “The thing I do best is share my enthusiasm.” Of all his skills, he points to enthusiasm as a core business asset. You must believe in your mission, and live it. Others are noticing.
Would you hold 30 events at your home to meet the staff? Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud (SIV-uh-rude) did. Convinced he should mostly listen in his first year (his tenure began January 2014), he invited 6,000 university employees to his home. About half, he said, took him up on the offer.
Syverud appeared before the Capital Region alumni chapter last week in Albany. He’s a warm, genuine person with a sense of humor. His eye-popping resume includes a time as law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and he is a trustee of the $20 billion fund created by BP to pay claims arising from the Gulf oil spill.
“I’ve never been to a university that had so many niches,” Syverud said. He quizzed the audience on how many radio stations the university had (the answer is five). He pointed out 10,000 high school students took classes at S-U this past year, from all around the world. He underscored the school’s close ties with veterans. It has produced more generals and admirals than other university, except the service academies.
Syverud is candid about the high tuition (about $40,000/year) and the need to address it with savings. He discovered S-U had 11 different mobile phone contracts. It saved a quarter-million dollars by consolidating. Purchasing and travel practices needed updating. Organizational change must occur and technology must be better utilized to become more education savvy.
He didn’t skip over the scandal with the basketball program. Academic support for athletes is now under the Provost, not the athletic department.
Focused squarely on a “collective willingness” to meet the challenges posed, Syverud wants S-U to be a “student-powered’ university with wide scale collaboration.
I want us “to be the university that does change right,” he said.
Big task ahead. Big talent in charge.
The writer received a master’s degree in public communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.
A wonderful “Hospitality Summit” in Albany made it clear our region will finally get its convention center, with an opening likely in early 2017. Our “space capacity is going to be amazing” when combined with the current Empire Sate Plaza, according to OGS’s Sue Cleary.
But will we make the most of it? Municipal boundary lines have prevented us from acting as a region since the lines were drawn. We have a deeply-seated parochial culture. I grew up in Troy. Schenectady might as well have been a foreign country. It’s just the way we thought.
Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo all have Triple-A stadiums for their regions. We have Single-A….for Troy.
No single city or county holds the lion share of population here and the four cities have consistently carved their own paths. Civic pride is a wonderful thing, but so too is collaboration. Today’s economy demands it.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan told summit attendees that visitors to our region don’t see municipal boundaries. They are just looking to enjoy themselves. There’s nothing small about our region. More than 1.2 million boardings took place last year at our airport and our train station is the ninth busiest in the U.S. We have the brainpower, access to markets, natural resources, arts, a world-class racetrack and the medical facilities to run with the big dogs.
I’d love to see a single website that explains what all our places have to offer, the “what you can do here” site whose website name would be on every hotel reception desk, in every library, in every town and city hall and in every cab in the region. And every municipality would play a role in promoting it.
We’ve seen some cracks in the parochial armor. The Albany-Colonie and Schenectady chambers are merging. Municipalities are doing more with shared services. Our convention and visitors bureau works hard at collaboration.
The biggest challenge is designing a collaborative approach where everyone on board sees the benefit to themselves. This is tricky. This is difficult. But it is in our mutual interest to make it happen.
Unity is a beautiful thing. And it adds to our quality of life.
The NBA Finals start this week so let’s pick the best ever. The greatest player of all-time was not Michael Jordan. It was Bill Russell. The top players will tell you,”it’s about the rings,” — NBA championships. Russell won 11 of them in 13 years with the Celtics. No one else is close. Jordan had six titles, Magic Johnson had five. Russell revolutionized the way the paint could be controlled. He averaged more than 22 rebounds a game for his career. Russell also led the University of San Francisco to two national championships in the mid 50’s. It hasn’t won one since.
Magic and Michael are my two guards, though Oscar Robertson and Jerry West may be closer behind than most people under 50 realize. Magic made everyone around him better. In the 1980 Finals, he stepped in to play center to replace the injured Kareen Abdul-Jabbar and responded with 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists — one of the greatest performances ever. Jordan was the best marketed player ever which has a lot to do with his top ranking in many people’s minds.
My forwards are Larry Bird and LeBron James. Larry Bird took Indiana State to the national title game. No other player could have done that with a small school team that was below .500 when he arrived. Bird, more than any other player, made everyone around him better. In his first year with the Celtics, the team record improved by 32 games. He won three NBA titles and a bad back may have prevented more.
There’s just no stopping LeBron James. The best player of his era, his blend of power and quickness is unmatched in the game’s history. He carried Miami to the NBA Finals in all four seasons he played there. Miami missed the playoffs this season. He has brought Cleveland to the NBA Finals in his first year back there. Players can’t wait to play with him.
My second team has Jabbar, forwards Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, along with West and Robertson.
Weigh in with your picks on Facebook or Twitter!
The writer is a former play-by-play college basketball announcer who became a NBA fan in 1966 when his brother, Karl, bet 50 cents on the final NBA championship game.