Commentaries and Op/Eds
I believe that those of us who have had the benefit of foreign travel have an obligation to share what we
think we know with our fellow citizens. -- William Jefferson Clinton
News and Fake News What to Believe?
published October 23, 2017 by Huntington News Network
BY RENE A. HENRY
Every day we are inundated with information – perhaps even too much information – but what
can we believe? What is real news or fake news? Fact or fiction? Truths, half-truths or lies? Or
even so-called alternative facts?
With the proliferation of television news channels and social media on the Internet we live in an
information overload society with a world of conflicting information. Because of the competitive
rush to be the first with breaking news, all too often the first information about a crisis has been
wrong and corrected hours or days later. We know from Ken Burns’ outstanding television
series on Vietnam that the federal government repeatedly lied to the American public and more
than likely continues to do so regarding Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.
On October 7 President Trump told Mike Huckabee that “the media is really, the word, one of
the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with, is ‘fake.’” But according to Jack O’Dwyer’s
Newsletter, the producers of POP-TV’s The Daily Buzz said the term has been used for at least
25 years and cited a TV Guide cover story in 1992 titled “Fake News.”
When is the news the news? Can you always believe the report or exposé you see on a
television magazine show? Are 60 Minutes, Dateline, 20/20 and other programs completely
unbiased? All have been sued for libel.
There are few broadcast and print media today that I can trust. Because so many in our society
today get their information in soundbites we’ve had newspapers and news magazines go out of
business and all media organizations have decimated their investigative reporting staff.
I no longer have the trust in broadcasters today as I did when I listened to Paul Harvey, Bob
Trout or H. V. Kaltenborn on radio and anchors including Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite,
Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. We don’t have investigative reporters in the media that
compare to Mike Wallace, Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein. Recently some leading television
anchors and reporters have been replaced, suspended or reassigned for now telling the truth.
Kaltenborn may be best known for making an early wrong projection on election night in 1948
calling Thomas Dewey the winner over Harry Truman. Later, in the early morning, Kaltenborn
retracted his original projection and announced Truman as the winner. When he was president,
Truman loved to do an impersonation of how the journalist described how he was losing the
election. Kaltenborn later stated, "We can all be human with Truman. Beware of that man in
power who has no sense of humor.”
Lowell Thomas hosted the first regularly scheduled television news program in 1940 which was
a simulcast of his nightly NBC network radio program. Then it was seen only in New York City.
The first serious attempt at a dedicated television news broadcast was by CBS in 1941 that
had daily news programs at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. weekdays. In 1948, John Cameron
Swayze hosted NBC’s first evening news program, the 15-minute long Camel News Caravan.
I also have concern today with network anchors and reporters who cannot properly pronounce
names, especially Cannes, Caribbean and Leeward Islands, or who talk about a first annual
event or a new record. If they can’t get the simple and obvious correct how can I trust any fact
is a fact?
Issues-oriented organizations involved with the environment, abortion, healthcare, racial
injustice, foreign or domestic policy and other sensitive and controversial issues look to
Hollywood to help tell their story. Primetime drama and comedy programs have become a new
editorial forum where the producers, directors, writers and even actors advocate their own
Screenwriters are taking current news events and issues and quickly dramatizing them in
episodes of drama series including Bull, Law & Order, NCIS, Blue Bloods, Scandal and other
popular programs and even Saturday Night Live. More people may be watching primetime
series than the evening news. In the 1980s the average audience for the evening news ranged
from 11 to 16 million depending on the network, but today only between 6 and 8 million viewers
are watching the news on ABC, CBS or NBC.
Compare this with nearly 20 million watching NCIS or more than 17 million watching Bull. A
recent episode of Bull involved the trial of a dozen fraternity brothers being held responsible for
the hazing death of a pledge. We have seen similar stories in the news and on news
magazines. Average viewers of Walking Dead, NCIS New Orleans and Blue Bloods have more
than double the audience of the highest rated evening network news program. Super Bowl 50
had more than 112 million viewers and the Oscars more than 35 million.
For more confusion, add to this the fact that companies seek to place their commercial
products on primetime television programs and in feature films. A few seconds of exposure
on a popular drama or comedy series can be worth as much as $500,000 or more based on
the cost of a 30-second commercial. When actors drink or use a product on a television
comedy or drama or movie it was through product placement. Even publishers of legal books
have had their publications appear in series.
The military armed forces have long recognized the influence of television and staffed offices
in the Los Angeles area to work with Hollywood to get the best possible exposure for their
respective branch of service.
The degree of exposure varies by network. Each has its own regulations. The FCC’s
standards and practices do not allow cash transactions for product placement because it
would be considered paid advertising. Companies provide the products free in exchange
for a few seconds of exposure. Just as important as getting a product hundreds of thousands
of dollars worth of exposure, organizations with critical issues believe that they must build
Hollywood relationships to get exposure for their special interests. What’s next? Stories on
immigration, border and airport security, environmental disasters, more oil spills?
Few broadcasts have created created panic as when Orson Wells narrated an adaptation
of H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds on NBC radio in 1938. The first two-thirds of the
broadcast was a series of simulated news bulletins and the first interrupted a program of
dance music to reports of aliens invading the U.S. and the world. Many listeners believed it
was real news and thought Earth was being invaded by aliens!
With so much information coming at us from different directions it is important to know where
the specific information was obtained. Otherwise, fiction can become fact. Even an honest
mistake or typographical error can become a “fact” if it is not immediately corrected and is
repeated over and over. In doing research for other projects I found that I cannot depend on
Snopes or Wikipedia to always be correct. This is when we need Sen. Al Franken, author of
Lies and the Lying Liars to call out the lies of liars.
Selected Op/Eds and Commentaries
To access any of the following click on the headline ...
News and Fake News - What to Believe?, published by Huntington News Network, October 23, 2017
Every day we are inundated with information – perhaps even too much information – but what can we
believe? What is real news or fake news? Fact or fiction? Truths, half-truths or lies? Or even so-called
Law Enforcement Must Communicate In Crises - published by Huntington News Network,
October 1, 2017
Unlawful actions and misconduct by rogue police officers are creating a serious negative image for law
enforcement and a significant and unbudgeted financial expense for the governments they serve.
For years, police who protect and serve were held in the highest regard by the public. However, because
of social media and the Internet a negative story about police misconduct today instantly becomes national
news across the country and throughout the world.
ISSUES FACING COLLEGE SPORTS - A white paper looks at Title IX, the Glass Ceiling
Initiative, Equal Pay Act, Clery Act, and tuition transparency as they affect college sports.
Ever Wonder What Congress Is Doing?, published by O'Dwyer June 8, 2017
If you ever wonder why Congress is in such a mess just try to get a response from someone in
the office of Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.). For a follow-up story and white paper I am writing, I
was ready to praise the Senator but first had some questions for her. I tried for more than a week with no
It's Time to Buy Made in the USA, published O'Dwyer November 22, 2016 and Huntington News
Network, November 23, 2016
The American apparel industry is a $250 billion a year market and 98 percent of clothing in the U.S. is now
being manufactured in foreign countries. Colleges and universities, professional sports teams, private clubs
and other organizations have an opportunity to change that and create jobs in this country. ...
Is Common Courtesy Dying?, published August 2, 2016 by O'Dwyer and Huntington News
For 10 years journalists have been writing and talking about more people becoming rude every day.
We now have a generation that does not understand or practice the basics of old fashioned common
courtesy. They obviously never learned from their parents and their children will not learn from them,
making things even worse in the future.
Political Correctness: The Latest Generic Crisis, published March 14, 2016 by O'Dwyer's and Huntington News
Network and March 17, 2016 by Caribbean News Now!
I’ve authored two books on crisis management and communications and in both I cite five crises as being generic to any
company, organization and institution. Today there is a sixth: political correctness. If someone feels offended for virtually
any reason this now can exacerbate into a crisis. Colleges and universities seem to be under the greatest pressure for
change and many have been very quick to respond to any protest. For years the five generic crises were ...
Is Seattle Broken?, published July 21, 2015
Its 1962 World’s Fair transformed Seattle into a world-class city and established the city’s future in technology and as a
portal to the Pacific Rim. Unfortunately, years of inadequate and poor leadership with little or no vision has created
numerous problems this Emerald City now has to face. It has become more like Oz run by the Wicked Witch of the West.
The city is the fifth worse in the U.S. regarding traffic congestion combined with it being one of the fastest growing cities
in the country. Countless potholes wreak havoc on automobiles and are an added cost of living here. Housing is
becoming increasingly unaffordable. There are too many homeless. Income disparity increases every year.
Infrastructure construction projects are behind schedule and over budget. Off-street parking in single family
neighborhoods is rapidly become scarce. ...
NFL Has Become Magnet for Crises, published June 17, 2015 by O'Dwyer's, http://www.odwyerpr.
For the past year the busiest executive at the National Football League has to be the person responsible for crisis
management and communications. The NFL has been besieged with players, staff and even owners involved in
domestic violence, sexual assault, drugs, rules violations, sportsmanship, obstruction of investigations, and even
murder. And the most recent crisis is the story of the NFL and 14 teams receiving $5.4 million between 2011 and 2014
to honor members of the U.S. Military....
Customer Service Is Non-Existent In Government, published June 13, 2015 by Huntington News Network,
Customer service is an oxymoron in government at all levels: federal, state, county and city. It is getting so bad that soon
it will be non-existent. I applauded Rep. Henry Cuellar (R-Texas) when he recognized this and introduced the
Government Customer Service Improvement Act which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on September 11,
2012. His bill is a sad commentary on society today that legislation is needed to remind public servants to practice good
old fashioned common courtesy and to combat their rudeness, inefficiency and incompetency....
Hot Rod Hundley - You Gotta Love Him Baby!
Friends and family of Rodney Clark Hundley will gather here tomorrow (Saturday, April 4) morning to celebrate the life of
this great basketball legend. Better known as Hot Rod, he pleased, thrilled and entertained West Virginia University and
Lakers fans much to the dismay of opposing players and coaches. Basketball will never see another Hot Rod Hundley.
He is a one-of-a-kind. I first met him in March 1954 during the Southern Conference basketball tournament in
Morgantown, W.Va. I was sports information director for William & Mary and working at the press table. Rod sat next to
me during a couple of the games and introduced himself. ...
Book Review: Ball or Bands: A Serious, Honest Discussion About the Role of Football in Schools, published
February 8, 2015 by Huntington News Network
In the months ahead I believe the book “Ball or Bands” will provoke a great deal of controversial discussion during school board meetings
across the U.S. In the months ahead I believe the book “Ball or Bands” will provoke a great deal of controversial discussion. This book
should be a “must read” for every member of a local community school board. I recommend it also be on the reading lists of school
educators and leaders in higher education ....
Book Review: Privatization and the Public Good: Public Universities in the Balance: The Higher Education Crisis
Gets Worse, published January 14, 2015 by Huntington News Network
Our nation’s colleges and universities have been in a crisis mode for many years and according to Matthew T. Lambert
since no one can agree on the problems, finding the solutions is nearly impossible. Lambert, who is vice president for
university advancement at The College of William & Mary, did intense and comprehensive research before writing this
book including interviews with more than 150 lawmakers and senior executives in higher education. It is no wonder the
nation’s public colleges and universities are in turmoil when he writes: “… very few of the state legislators and governors
interviewed were deeply knowledgeable about higher education or the issues impacting our colleges and universities.”
Sports Need Independent Oversight, published October 22, 2014 by Huntington News Network and Caribbean
If sports organizations, leagues and teams want to insure equal disciplinary justice when athletes, coaches and
administrators behave badly they need to create independent committees to take this responsibility. Sexual assault,
rape, domestic violence, DUI and other violent and disreputable acts are becoming all too frequent by athletes and
others in sports. Or at least they are publicly known today and may have not been reported in past years. Recent
violence by National Football League players opened the door for the media ...
National Do Not Call Registry: A Model for Other Federal Agencies, published July 25, 2011 by Huntington News
Remember how irritating it was when you had just taken your first bite of dinner and then the telephone rang? Or it was
in the last few minutes of a tied football or basketball game you were watching and your favorite team was poised to win?
But just in case it might be something important, you answered the phone, and a telemarketer began talking at you with
an unsolicited sales pitch. ...
BOOK REVIEW: "West by West': Basketball Superstar Jerry West Tells It All, published by Huntington News
Network, November 8, 2011
When people write their autobiographies or authorize a biography to be written about their lives most only emphasize
their achievements and the best things that have happened. Few ever reveal the dark side of their lives.
Not so with basketball superstar Jerry West. In “West by West – My Charmed, Tormented Life” ( Little, Brown and
Company, 352 pages, $27.99) he tells it all – the good, the bad and the ugly. As I was reading the book, I thought of
myself as a therapist listening to him talk and taking notes. ...
Customer Service An Oxymoron For the Z Generation of Geeks, published July 19, 2011 by Huntington News
Network and July 20, 2011 by Caribbean News Now!
Why is it the geeks responsible for the Internet technology have no sense of customer service? You would think that
anyone employed in social media would have basic communications skills and know that you return every phone call and
answer every letter, email and fax. We’ve had baby boomers, the X generation, and the Y generation. I’ve labeled this
generation of geeks the Z-generation: Z for zero. Zero knowledge of customer service. Zero ability to communicate.
Their knowledge of customer service is ... .
Celeb Handlers, Gate Guardians Do Disservice to Their Clients, Need Crisis Communications Help, published
June 2, 2011 by Huntington News Net, July 7 by The Crisis Manager
Shakespeare wrote in Henry VI, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers." With a proliferation of crises involving
entertainers and sports stars I believe you can add agents and PR flacks to Shakespeare’s wish list. The people who
are paid to protect their clients and give them the best possible advice, all too often are just not qualified to do so. I
spent a significant part of ....
More Is Less In Washington, published May 24, 2010 by Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter and Huntington News Network
The federal government in Washington, D.C. is overflowing with employees. Departments and agencies responsible for
oversight and enforcement are doing neither these days. And Congressional staffs, paid for by taxpayers, are larger
than ever before. ...
Haiti Needs U.S. Housing Design and Systems Now, published May issue of Automated Builder and published May
13, 2010 by Caribbean Net News and Huntington News Network
Since the disastrous 7.0 magnitude earthquake on January 12 that devastated Haiti and killed more than 230,000
people, millions of dollars have poured into the country for food, medicine, medical help, and relief. Today more than two
million people are homeless and hundreds of thousands of Haitians are living in 75 tent camps in and around Port-au-
Prince. Scores of relief organizations and charity agencies ...
SEC and Congress Knew About Porno Problems November 2008, published by Huntington News Network, May 1,
The furor in the news about senior employees of the Securities and Exchange Commission watching pornography
instead of doing their jobs is not new news. It was first disclosed in the semi-annual SEC Inspector General's September
2008 report to Congress that was made public the day after Thanksgiving. ...
Government Spokesmen Are Paid to Speak, published by O'Dwyers Public Relations News, April 30, 2008
Government spokespeople have an obligation to the taxpaying public to speak to the media when asked to do so. ...
Will People Ever Trust Banks Again?, Published by Huntington News Network September 28, odwyerpr.com
September 29, and Caribbean Net News, September 30, 2009
Banking once was a trusted and respected business. Even after the multitude of bank failures during the Great
Depression of the 1930s and the savings and loan crises of the 1980s and 1990s, bankers were the pillars of their local
communities. What banking and financial institutions need today is a modern-day George Bailey, the role played by
Jimmy Stewart in the 1946 movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He had the respect and trust ...
Too Much Personal Information on the Internet Could Lead to Identity Theft, published by Caribbean Net News
and Huntington News Network, June 16, 2009
I don’t twit. I don’t even tweet. I un-linked from linked-in. After being Plaxoed, I unsubscribed. I resented being tagged
by Tagged.com. Instead of Facebook, I have my own website. These websites may work for many people because it is a
way to network and stay connected. However, I have found they are very quick to send out information you may not
want others to know. ...
Fight Back When Wronged
This is a three-part series about how to fight back when wronged or maligned, the aspects of libel and criminal libel, and
how the media have double standards of reporting when it comes to athletes, entertainers and celebrities. Published
by Huntington News Network and Caribbean Net News, May 4, 5 and 6, 2009, and Crisis Manager, December 21,
Part 1 - When wronged or defamed, get an immediate correction
Part 2 - Libel: It's what you say and when and where you say it
Part 3 - Does the media have a double standard when it comes to athletes, entertainers and public figures?
Value of Higher Education a Bargain for West Virginians, published April 29, 2009 by Huntington News Network
Everybody loves a bargain - especially in tough economic times. West Virginians are very fortunate to have exceptional
education values at two of their great public universities - Marshall University and West Virginia University....
Ethics, Integrity, Loyalty Needed In Higher Education, published by Huntington News Network, February 19, 2008
and Caribbean Net News, February 20, 2008
Colleges and universities once were considered the bastions of ethics, integrity, loyalty and commitment. Regrettably,
too many presidents and chancellors today no longer embody or practice these qualities when it comes to intercollegiate
sports. Every year football and basketball coaches are proselytized and enticed to breach their contracts at one
institution so they can hopefully produce a championship season at another. It is greed and to win at all cost. . . .
Writers Guild Missed Great PR Opportunity - Could Learn From Actors, published by Huntington News Network,
O'dwyerpr.com, and Caribbean Net News, January 9, 2007
The Writers Guild of America missed a great public relations opportunity this week when it forced the cancellation of the
annual Golden Globes event. The writers had an opportunity to make a statement, have the biggest names in
Hollywood tell their side of story on television and win big time in the court of public opinion. Hopefully, the Los Angeles
smog will not blur the vision of the members if they are thinking about creating a boycott or forcing the cancellation of
the 80th annual Academy Awards on February 24...
Dubai - The Country Built By American Consumption published by Huntington News Network, May 18, 2007 and
Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter
In the 1930s when Yankee Stadium was built in the Bronx borough of New York City, a sportswriter labeled it “The House
That Ruth Built” in honor of baseball’s Babe Ruth. One visit to Dubai, with its virtually incalculable wealth and obscene
and blatant extravagance, and one could easily call this “The Country Built By American Consumption.”
Why Can't the U.S. Learn From Other Countries?, published by Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter and Huntington News
Network, June 18, 2007
I just returned from a six-week trip with stops in Canada, Asia, Indonesia, Europe and the United Kingdom. Members of
Congress and those in the Bush administration in Washington could learn much from some of the places I visited. It was
very discouraging to read editorials and commentaries and see the political cartoons in newspapers and magazines and
listen to television commentators continually criticize the U.S. for our diplomatic and foreign policy and being in Iraq.
Thank You DMA, For A No Junk Mail List, published by Huntington News Network, January 22, 2008
For years I have complained about getting too much mail I didn’t want. Especially catalogs. Some companies even sent
me two or three identical copies. And, even when I moved to another city they still found a way to catch up with me and
clutter my mailbox. For years I have advocated what I call a “No Junk Mail Registry.”
It's Time for a 'No Junk Mail Registry' published by Huntington News Network, November 5, 2006
If you're like me, you probably get too much junk mail. And this being a busy time of the year, with upcoming holidays,
you're probably inundated with gift catalogs. ...
Fact or Fiction? Television News, News Magazines and Primetime Dramas, published by Huntington News
Network, July 9, 2006, from an updated and revised guest opinion originally published May 8, 2002 in the Arizona
Daily Star, Tucson
We live today in an information society. The American public is saturated with information from the media and the
Internet. And, it is getting harder and harder to separate fact from fiction. ...
Higher Education Can Take A Lesson From WVU, published by Huntington News Network, May 7, 2006
America's colleges and universities could take a lesson from West Virginia University on the message that needs to be
communicated to the general public. Millions of dollars of free advertising time went to waste during the recent NCAA
"March Madness" basketball tournament. If the NCAA, various conferences and colleges and universities wanted to win
public financial support for higher education, they lost. ...
Mr. Chertoff: Please Get Your Act Together!, published by Huntington News Network, October 17, 2006
Every time I fly, I question whether I am as safe as I was before 9/11 because of all of the confusion getting to my seat
on the plane. I pray that my flight crew and air traffic controllers know what they are doing better than the security
Who Do You Want Running Your Company?, published by Huntington News Network, March 25, 2006,
If you are a CEO of a company would you want someone not qualified and not associated with the company to dictate
your future? And, if you own stock in a public company, would you want this person telling management what it should
and should not be doing? Unfortunately, this happens every day. It affects the trade price of public stocks. Individuals
in the research departments ...
Television Primetime Now a Market For Issues, published by PR Week, September 2, 2005
For years companies have sought to place their products on primetime television programs and in feature films. A few
seconds of exposure on a popular drama or comedy series can be worth as much as $500,000 based on the cost of a
30-second commercial. ... If you ever wonder why Congress is in such a mess just try to get a response from someone in
of Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.). For a follow-up story and white paper I am writing, I was ready to praise
the Senator but first had some questions for her. I tried for more than a week with no success.