Mark Grimm


Al Sharpton and the Race-Baiting Business

One thing is certain about the explosive Florida shooting that left teenager Trayvon Martin dead. Al Sharpton has no way of knowing what really happened. Sharpton has become a wealthy man exploiting racial tensions.

Sharpton rushed to the scene, and the cameras, to demand authorities “Lock him up” — a demand to arrest the shooter, George Zimmerman.This came despite the fact a close African American friend of Zimmerman, Joe Oliver, criticized these attempts to “lynch” his friend.

Sharpton’s celebrity status has led to his anchor role on a national cable news program. MSNBC should know better.

In November 1987, Sharpton accused a white prosecutor in New York State of abducting and raping a young black girl, Tawana Brawley. The charge turned out to be a hoax and Sharpton was eventually hit with a huge damage award in a defamation lawsuit (an award he never personally paid).

Then there is the Duke University lacrosse case where three white players were falsely accused of rape by a African American female stripper. The players were vilified in the media and even at their own university. They were cleared and the initial prosecutor was disbarred and found guilty of criminal contempt.

Sharpton is not the only one fanning the Florida flames. The NY Times refers to Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic.” Has the media used that term before? Is it a subtle attempt to heighten the white-black divide?

The truth is there is money, fame, and political advantage in the race-baiting business. It won’t do a thing to heal longstanding racial wounds. It only makes things worse. But we don’t have to accept it. The path in the Florida shooting case is clear — insist on a fair investigation and the let the facts tell the story.

I have no way of knowing what happened in Florida. None of us do. If Zimmerman acted improperly, he should be punished. If not, he should be left alone. If the Florida law needs revision, it should be done. None of these things will be easy to do now with the race-baiting business in full swing.

The writer is a former TV news anchor/reporter and elected official.



Kate’s First Speech: Good Start, Could Use a Teleprompter

Speaking make you nervous? Imagine the world watching your first try at it?

The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, made her first public speech this morning (March 19th) and YouTube will be humming with millions and millions of viewers having a look.

Kate was nervous, of course, but she did a good job of keeping her nerves in check. She makes a spectacular appearance, with an unvarnished beauty and dignity. She followed one of the most important rules in speech making, keep it short. She spoke for just two and a half minutes.

To say the script was carefully crafted would be like saying Derek Jeter likes baseball. One can only imagine how many revisions went into it. The content hit the right notes — gracious, humble, a personal aside about her husband, calling the hospice a family home. Precise enunciation was a part of it, too.

The delivery offers the most opportunity for improvement. It was somewhat choppy —- look up, look down, look up, look down. Reading a speech causes that effect, of course. Some teleprompter training and the use of it would be an enormous help. The goal of any speech is to be conversational, not scripted, to appear as if you are talking with the audience, not at them.

It’s quite OK to play it a little safe in your first at bat. Kate Middleton as a speaker is a diamond in the rough. I look forward to her growth and the world does, too.

The writer is a professional speaker and Trainer of the Year.

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The Subtleties of Media Bias: Spotting Spin

The very competitive GOP presidential primary has produced a thought-provoking dichotomy after each battle — there’s the score and then there’s how the media covers the score.

On Super Tuesday, 10 states were contested. This was the lead paragraph of the NY Times story the next morning:

Mitt Romney appeared to pull off a narrow victory in Ohio on Super Tuesday but lost several other states to Rick Santorum,  a split verdict that overshadowed Mr. Romney’s claim of collecting the most delegates and all but ensured another round of intense infighting on the road to the Republican presidential nomination.

Is there any doubt in your mind the writer is hoping the race continues? It makes for good copy and sells more newspapers. But is that lead really an objective treatment of what happened?

Note the subtleties in the lead. There was a consensus Ohio was the big prize on Super Tuesday. Romney won it, yet that win is immediately contrasted to Santorum victories in three states, not with Romney’s wins in five others. The lead suggests the “split verdict” overshadowed Romney’s claim of collecting the most delegates. Who says it “overshadowed” it? That’s the reporter speaking. And what does he mean Romney’s “claim?”  He collected the most delegates. The numbers are what they are.

How often are three items (the number of states Santorum won) referred to as “several?” Wouldn’t you typically refer to three as a few?

Media bias is often a thousand cuts disguised in subtlety.

Here’s a more objective description, very factual, with the appropriate emphasis on states and delegates:

Mitt Romney won twice as many states as his closest opponent on Super Tuesday, including the biggest prize, Ohio. The wins expanded Romney’s lead in the delegate count. Rick Santorum won three states, strengthening  his claim he is Romney’s chief rival.

My analysis is of a news report, not commentary. The pundits are allowed to say whatever they wish and, often times, they have their own agendas. But that’s not news reporting, it is commentary. Unfortunately, the line is getting harder and harder to find.

The writer is a former TV news anchor/reporter and current adjunct media professor.

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Mitt’s Rich Guy Problem: New Message Needed

Mitt Romney’s background is by far the best of any presidential candidate, including Mr. Obama, yet his “connection” problem may block his path to the White House.

First of all, wealth is not the deal breaker. The Senate is bursting with millionaires and it was the Democrats who produced presidents named Kennedy and Roosevelt in the last 80 years.

There is a prevalent perception Mitt doesn’t “get” everyday people. This has been nurtured by Mitt’s own mistakes and the cynical class warfare stoked by the Obama campaign (and even by Santorum and Newt).

When Mitt tries to “be like us” it doesn’t work. Driving two Cadillacs doesn’t make you closer to autoworkers and being friends with NASCAR owners doesn’t make you one of the boys for everyday racing fans. And you probably don’t know anyone who makes $10,000 bets.

Mitt’s not like us and that’s OK. Great success isn’t a curse. We don’t need a president who is like us as much as we need a president who is for us.

Mitt’s needs a new message, something like this:

I understand my lifestyle is different than most Americans and if you’re looking for a cigar-smoking Friday night poker player I am not your guy. I need to a better job appreciating how my words can be interpreted. I’ll work on that. The truth is I have been blessed with all the personal success one could ask for. No one could argue I am running for president for personal gain. I’m motivated by the desire to create the same opportunity for everyone else and my success gives me a unique perspective on how to make that happen. My charitable record indicates my altruism is sincere.

Wearing jeans doesn’t make you in touch. Mitt should directly address the connection issue often and provide more compelling personal examples of how he would help you.

The writer is a former GOP elected official and a message strategist.