Advice from a legendary writer

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Retired Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bill Lyon wrote — in the July 29 edition — “Penn St. story a cautionary tale for us all” about his association with Penn State and Joe Patero. The entire column is worth the read

However, for my Basic Public Relations writing students, here is one paragraph of SOUND advice It goes for every journalism major, as well:

The lesson is to be wary and judicious when erecting pedestals. Reporting 101: Gather the facts, check them, double-check them, have a checker check your checker. Logic 101: If a thing, or a person, is too good to be true, chances are it probably is.

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Tips for healthy travelling from Aetna [newsletter]

Tips for healthy travelling from Aetna [newsletter]

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AetnaYou have your flight booked and passport in hand. Now here are some tips for healthy travel:

  • Get your shots. Vaccines may be a good idea. But think ahead. Some should be given a month or so before you leave. Ask your doctor. And check your health plan to see if shots for travel are covered.
  • Flying across time zones? To avoid jet lag, get used to the new time zone ahead of time. Go to bed earlier at night if you are traveling east. Stay up later if traveling west. It’s also helpful to choose daytime flights.
  • Stay hydrated. Cabin air is dry. So drink lots of water before and during your flight. And avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Be germ-smart. Travel with disinfectant wipes. Use them on tray tables, seat arms, the window and especially the bathroom.
  • Need your health info? Log in to Aetna Mobile to find doctors, check health records, view your ID card and more.
Don’t forget to protect your skin 

AetnaSummer means warm weather and outdoor activities, like hiking, biking, swimming and relaxing on the beach. But before you and your loved ones head outside, make sure you protect your skin from the sun.
Taking in the sun without any protection can lead to problems – from dry skin and wrinkles to skin cancer.Sunscreen and care recommendations
Sunscreen is an excellent way to protect your skin. But you must put it on correctly. Work from your face down to your feet. Remember your ears and neck. And have someone else get your back and shoulders.

Also, if you go swimming, put more on every 1 to 2 hours.

Skin type and recommended skin protection factor (SPF)
Doctors recommend different levels of protection based on your skin type. Do you know what SPF sunscreen is best for your skin? Find out here.

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AP and Courier-Post Penn State stories offer excellent ‘crisis communication advice’ — PLUS a late add

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Tell it first, tell it fast, tell it all, tell it yourself. Penn State’s latent responses and passive approach to its horrendous scandal should be a lesson to every organization — no matter how small or large the crisis.

Here is advice from an Associated Press story that hit the wire on July 14, 2012 under Bree Fowler’s byline and from a July 13, 2012 story in the Courier-Post under Joe Cooney’s byline. Once you read those reactions, there is a quote from the July 18, 2012 The Inquirer. It comes from Penn State president Rodney Erickson. It’s what should have been said first. Please keep reading.


Finally Penn State says something:

“Our hearts remain heavy and we are deeply ashamed,” Trustee Ken Frazier said in a statement.

As painful as this was — and it was a body blow of mass proportions — it was probably the best thing they could do,” says Peter Shankman, a vice president at the public relations firm Vocus Inc. “By issuing the report they’re doing what they haven’t in 15 years. People can’t start to heal until they start doing the right thing.”

“Penn State needs to take responsibility, apologize, be honest and show compassion,” says Elizabeth Lampert, who runs her own PR firm in Alamo, Calif. “With those herculean tasks accomplished, they can begin to rebuild, but this scandal will never be ‘behind’ them.”

Stan Steinreich, CEO of Steinreich Communications Group in Fort Lee, Bergen County, says that in situations like this, it’s important to tell the truth, which is what Penn State officials should have done instead of initially attempting a cover-up

“This will be studied for a long time by those in the industry as one of the worst PR catastrophes of all time, in terms of spiraling out of control,” Steinreich says. “I think that there is always a time where a corporation or an individual has to stand up and take the fire. Continuing to circle the wagons like Penn State (did) doesn’t help.”

Mark Conrad, a law and ethics professor at Fordham University in New York, says university officials need to formulate a plan that sets forth sweeping changes, including stronger controls over the university’s athletic programs, especially football.

And in order to restore trust, a better system needs to be created for reporting violations, Conrad believes.

Gene Grabowski, executive vice president of Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington, D.C.-based crisis communications firm that has advised universities and Fortune 100 companies, says Penn State’s plan must show a commitment to change, even if that inflicts pain on Penn Staters who feel they’ve done nothing wrong.

“It’s not about punishing the guilty at this point,” Grabowski says. “It’s about demonstrating a commitment to a new way of doing business that the university now has to do. And some sacrifice must be made, and sometimes the innocent suffer. There must be a sacrificial lamb here.”

“It is…reasonable to conclude that in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity the most powerful leaders at Penn State University…repeatedly concealed facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the board of trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large,” said former FBI director Louis Freeh in his 267-page report.

“The ‘bad publicity’ comment goes right to my inner core as a Penn State alum and one who works in the [public relations] field,” said Jeff Jubelirer, a crisis management expert in Philadelphia.

“It’s just so sad. If they had not worried about the publicity and dealt with the problem right away, this tragedy could have been averted.

“There were consistent signs that (Sandusky) was trouble, and the top brass didn’t deal with it aggressively,” added Jubelirer. “The fact that they didn’t deal with the situation is mind-blowing.”


or not the tarnish can ever be erased is hard to determine, said Rowan University’s Larry Litwin, an associate professor of public relations.

“The entire situation is appalling,” said Litwin, author of a book on crisis management.

“There is a difference between being unethical and breaking the law,” said Litwin, noting that Penn State failed to adhere to The Clery Act, a 1990 law that requires public disclosure of crimes on American campuses.

“Penn State did both! They will forever be known as the university that covered up this horrendous crime. I truly believe their reputation is years and years away from being repaired — if it can ever be repaired.”

Both Jubelirer and Litwin added

that in the midst of all scandal there might be something good to come from it.

“If there is any silver lining in this very dark cloud, it is that it’s hoped now that any organization that deals with children should know what to do. I hope they will look for the warning signs and take action.

“That might be the only good news of this sordid affair.”

Now that President Erickson quote: “This is arguably one of the worst scandals that a university could have to deal with,” he said. “We will have to deal with it at the outset. We’ll have to take responsibility, be accountable to put the appropriate changes into place, and then we’ll have to demonstrate by our actions every day that we are the world-class university that we’ve long been.” [To comment:]

At Old Main, Penn State president Rodney Erickson addresses how the campus will move forward in the fall.

Dr. Erickson            [To comment:]

It’s a heatwave. Be careful out there.

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Be strategic in following this advice compliments of Ray Daiutolo Sr., president of the camden County chapter of the New Jersey Baseball Umpires Association.

The Mayo Clinic provides the following safety tips to help keep the body cool while in the summer sun.  I realize that working a game may prevent us from following all of these suggestions but some of these are still practical:

  • Wear loose fitting clothing that’s both lightweight and light in color. Choose clothing that draws perspiration away from the skin, such as cotton T-shirts or shorts. Newer perspiration-wicking fabrics also are effective.
  • Drink plenty of water, and don’t wait until you are thirsty to take a drink. A humans’ thirst mechanism kicks in only after it is significantly depleted of fluids. If exercising heavily in hot weather, aim for two to four glasses of water – or 16 to 32 ounces – every hour.
  • Stay away from liquids that contain alcohol, caffeine or lots of sugar – these actually cause you to lose more fluid. Also, know that a drink that’s too cold might cause stomach cramps.
  • Don’t overdo it. Start slowly and increase your pace gradually.
  • Wear sunscreen. It’s harder for the body to keep sunburned skin cool. Consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off the face and head. Sunscreen helps protect the skin from sunburn and keeps a person cooler too.
  • Know the signs of heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps.

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Nora Ephron – Lessons for us all

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Multi-talented Nora Ephron passed away last week. Many aspects of her life are worth noting because she was – among other things – a great writer.

Here are a few highlights taken from her obits and from The Philadelphia Inquirer column written by Karen Heller and carried on July 1.

Ephron was born on May 19, 1941, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the eldest of four sisters, all of whom became writers. That was no surprise; writing was the family business. Her father, Henry, and her mother, the former Phoebe Wolkind, were Hollywood screenwriters who wrote, among other films, “Carousel,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Captain Newman, M.D.”

For my Rowan University writing students:

The eldest of four children, Ephron was born in New York to screenwriters Harry and Phoebe Ephron, who moved to Beverly Hills, Calif., when she was 4 years old. Words, words, words were the air she breathed. Regular visitors included “Casablanca” co-writer Julius J. Epstein, “Sunset Boulevard” collaborator Charles Brackett, and the team of Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, who worked on “The Thin Man” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“Everything is copy,” her mother once said, and she and her father proved it by turning the college-age Nora into a character in a play, later a movie, “Take Her, She’s Mine.” The lesson was not lost on Ms. Ephron, who seldom wrote about her own children but could make sparkling copy out of almost anything else: the wrinkles on her neck, her apartment, cabbage strudel, Teflon pans and the tastelessness of egg-white omelets.

In her commencement address in 1996 at Wellesley, from which she graduated in 1962, she advised, “Maybe young women don’t wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything is my guess.

“It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: You can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands.”

And there it is, perfect Nora: insight, humor, self-deprecation, intelligence.

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