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May 2017

PowerPoint: What Is It Good For?

Greetings once again. It’s been way too long since my last issue, and I blame traveling to several writing classes in DC and New Mexico, a Maine ski season that blessedly stretched well into March, and above all, sloth. So now I’m back and as usual, the spark for this issue of the newsletter was another blown opportunity to pass compelling smarts on to a willing audience. The paired culprits were poor preparation and, of course, PowerPoint.

The actor was a respected economist and he was talking to a group of consultants at a breakfast meeting. He got our attention immediately with his confident bearing, well-tailored suit, and mischievous sense of humor. Then…he turned away from us and clicked his clicker, and up came a slide. It was the sort of slide that economists live by -- graphically detailing some sort of trend that I don’t recall.

Fine. But as we looked at it, the numbers on the left and the numbers at the bottom were out of synch, as if two of those old-fashioned overhead projector slides were laid one on top of the other, blurring any hope of getting the point.

Why, I wondered then, hadn’t he handed out copies of the slides beforehand if they were that important? Even better, why not let the admirable force of his personality and expertise carry the narrative, allowing us to absorb his key points and what they said about economic expectations? We could have jotted a few gems down, but it’s not as if he was going to give us a quiz as we pushed our plates aside and sipped a second cup of coffee.

Yes, I know I’ve been curmudgeonly about PowerPoint, but each misuse of that technological crutch reinforces my belief that it erodes substance in obedience to form.

Trump and the Press, Part 2

I also occasionally run seminars on media relations, so:

Question: How do you know President Trump is lying?

Answer: His lips are moving.

Funny, huh? Sometimes I crack myself up.

Seriously, folks, here’s an up-to-date definition of integrity: Trump voters who ask themselves, "What the hell was I thinking?"

And am I the only one who’s sick and tired of certain commentators blaming the national, "liberal" media for the Orange Crush’s disastrous first four months? That‘s just so much tired, recycled, thoughtless nonsense. As a former member of the national media (covering national security for Business Week in the Reagan years), I promise you that what motivates journalists isn’t partisanship. It’s conflict.

So the press assigned its best people to the story when:

  • -- The Vietnam War tore the country apart…under a Democratic president.
  • -- An Arkansas land deal, uncovered by the New York Times, looked so dirty that Congress insisted on a special prosecutor, forever staining the reputation…of a Democratic president.
  • -- A sex scandal rocked the White House and led to the impeachment…of a Democratic president.
  • -- Extremely careless misuse of an email server, first reported by the New York Times, mortally wounded the presidential campaign…of a Democrat.

Let’s not confuse the messenger with the message -- the conflict of a clueless, twitter-happy charlatan "leading" the world’s greatest continuing experiment in democracy.

So spare me the whining about the "liberal media," okay? And for crying out loud, Fox isn’t "news."

Best wishes.