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Oh, teachers – seriously?
I know it’s not politic to say the things I’m about to say, but I’m frustrated and angry. Last week, about 1 a.m. one night, I got an email from a student who’s been having a really rough term. She’s come out of the junior college system, and is one of my students. She’s an older, non-traditional student, by which I mean she’s not in the 18-22-year-old age bracket – and she’s smart. At the end of her email was a statement I’ve heard or seen one too many times:

“All this time in school I have been looking for someone to tell me what I was doing wrong so I could make it right and when it happened, I did not understand it. Up until this term, it can be said that I have been getting by. I have had instructors giving me A’s on my papers and telling me how wonderful they were. When in all reality a high school kid probably could have written better papers… I have you and I have (another professor) analyzing my papers, for the first time in my college life. I appreciate all the hard work and time you have spent on me…”

She’s right in that her papers have needed a lot of work. But hang it all, it’s not her fault. As far as I can tell, it’s the teachers she had in high school and junior college who simply did not drill the basics of the English language into her head.

And no, this is not an isolated Oregon problem. When I first started teaching over seven years ago at a couple of public universities (in a couple of different states), I was shocked at what I was seeing. I checked in with my public relations colleagues teaching all across the country. “These kids can’t write!” I shouted through cyberspace. “They’re darned near illiterate!” To my dismay, they said, “Welcome to the club.” They were fighting the same battles. A whole generation seemed to be slipping away in a muddy whirlpool of illiteracy.

I finally started asking the students themselves what on earth had happened. When we’d get midway through a term and I was still being handed papers that were more or less at a junior high school level, I asked them how they were graded in high school (or in any previous college classes), and what they were taught. What they have said, very consistently, is that they weren’t taught grammar, punctuation or spelling; and that their teachers graded them only on intent.

Are you freaking kidding me? Seriously, teachers? How on earth can you gauge intent if the grammar is so mangled the message is obscured? How can you gauge intent when an entire essay is just “stream of consciousness” writing, rambling and disjointed, with little or no relevance to the topic at hand?

O.K., I’ll throw in something for the benefit of the doubt: maybe the problem is not with the teachers. I’ve never taught in a K-12 system or at a junior college, so for all I know the problem is with school administrators, school boards, and bureaucrats in general. Maybe people who never step foot inside a classroom decide what teachers should teach, and how, and then tie the whole mess to public funding. I don’t know.

Nor do I know if you can blame lack of parental support for the fact that a teacher is grading on intent and overlooking grammar and spelling. Conversely, too much parental support can also undermine a student. One colleague at a public university called her students “sweet little snowflakes.” I asked her why, and she said “Because nobody’s ever told them anything different.”

Sometimes we’ll see a news report about educators who pad grades in order to make test results look good or graduation rates look good – all at the expense of the students, who remain woefully uneducated.

I don’t know where the real problem lies, but I sure have some questions. How can any of us justify turning out minimally-educated students with a casual “good luck” as they try to make their way in the outside world? Why are we – the so-called educators – throwing this burden over to the businesses who now have to tell the students they just can’t cut it? When did we lose the understanding that you don’t give a kid self-esteem – he or she has to earn it? When did we forget that softening grades means we don’t believe a student can learn? When did we lose sight of the fact that constant praise will make a kid constantly feel entitled to more constant praise without constantly doing something to earn it? Deep down, those kids know it’s all a pretense; they know.

When I ran my public relations firm, I used to say I would so love it if I could get paid just for showing up in the morning. Instead, for some perverse reason, I would only get paid if I produced results. So I did. And so must our students. We are expressing faith in them when we challenge them; we are doing them – and our entire society – a terrible disservice if we give them constant praise, padded grades and grade them only on intent. That’s a direct and underhanded message that we don’t believe they can do it.

Seriously.

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I’m a news junkie – no question about it.  I’m sure it started just before I went to journalism school back in the late ’70s, when I was writing for a tiny weekly newspaper in southern Oregon.  As I moved into my public relations career, it became a growing addiction.  I have to monitor the news, I often said during my years in Montana. I hate to wake up and find a client on the front page for the wrong reason.  That had some validity to it at the time.

But then I started teaching at the university level, and it all got worse.  I have to monitor it, I say, because I have to know what’s going on in order to give my student real-world lessons and help them see the changes in our society.  That has some validity to it, too.

But still, I think all that news watching and monitoring may be doing me in.  Most of the so-called news is nothing I can do anything about – yet the news is presented in such a way that I actually find myself asking if I have an obligation to care.  There are a couple of pieces of news this week that may (or may not) affect my life and that have my attention: there’s a former teacher, into child porn,who has escaped prison and appears to be wandering around in the next town over.  There’s a new school bond issue coming up, and I should probably go to one of the informational meetings about it.  It looks like it’ll stop raining by the weekend and I can get out and get more yard work done.

Here the things I’ve learned from the news this morning, however:

  1. Donald Trump has no sense of humor.  That’s actually not news.
  2. If I have a hankering to visit Acapulco, it’s probably best to postpone.
  3. This person named Arias, who has admitted to killing her boyfriend, or fiance, or whoever he was?  Why do we need to be subjected to her entire sex life?
  4.  More and more people are being brought up on sex charges – or sexting charges.  Senators.  Teachers.  A police chief.    A prison guard.  This is new?  Or are we just now obsessed with it?
  5. Our military is going to have a decreased level of readiness because of budget cuts.  They haven’t paid our troops well in years; many enlisted families use food stamps and live in substandard housing.  Who’s the decider on this one?
  6. Hollywood celebrities apparently have great sway with Congress when it comes to gun control.  Either that, or our esteemed Senators and representatives want to see what they look like without makeup.
  7. Japan and China continue to edge closer to war over those tiny islands.  Uninhabited, I believe.  And Korea threatens to launch a missile that will reach those of us here on the left coast.  These things feel like trying to be prepared for an earthquake; I’ve got my supplies stashed in an outbuilding, but should I wander around in constant fear?
  8. Across the (Columbia) river in Washington state, an accidentally released inmate is now back in jail.  Not the first time; won’t be the last.  We jail more people per capita than any other country in the world.  Are staff shortages the real problem?
  9. Diets are bad for you.  Not dieting could risk your health.  Soft drinks are bad for you.  Caffeine may actually be a boon to your health.  Is there an IV nearby?  One that will make these decisions for me?
  10. The game of Monopoly seems to have gotten rid of the wrong piece.  Does that mean the game I keep for guests at my summer cottage is now completely out of date?

I think I’m going to be glad when the post office stops delivering Saturday mail.  I can postpone a whole batch of useless information and bills until Monday.  Meantime, registering as someone with chronic depression brought on by the daily news has crossed my mind. I’m wondering if there’s an app for that.

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I recently posted an article for my students entitled “The skills employers desire in today’s PR pro.” (http://linkd.in/rFp1fz)

Written by Arik Hanson for Ragan’s PR Daily (Nov. 17), the article is actually a series of short interviews, asking working professionals what skills and attitudes are most valuable to them when they hire new practitioners.  Good writing and storytelling came up frequently, as we would expect; so did a driving curiosity.  Strategic thinking, conceptual thinking, the ability to use metrics and analysis – these all come up as well.  One person mentioned creativity and resourcefulness, and several mentioned the ability to combine the effects of social media and traditional media; I think any of us who have been in the field for any length of time would agree with those thoughts as well.

But in today’s marketplace – and particularly for those looking for a job – I want to add a couple of things: dogged determination and a willingness to go back to Square 1.  I was an entrepreneur for over 25 years, and still work independently for various clients in addition to my teaching duties.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to remind myself of my brother’s very good advice:  “Turn over every stone.”  The willingness to look everywhere and anywhere for the next job or the next client is critical in a down market; the ability to keep going without giving up is both exhausting and necessary.

Couple with that determination has to be a willingness to go back to Square 1, and by that I mean a willingness to start at the beginning – again.  The salary or hourly rate may be lower; the benefits may not be there; you may have to build from scratch all over again, or – if this is your first time out in the work world – you may need to lower your expectations and be willing to accept a less-than-ideal job.  In this market, a job is a job.  Being open and flexible to something that is not what you have hoped for – or indeed, even worked for – will take you farther in the log run than waiting until that perfect job or high-rolling client comes along. I’ve often told my students that if they can’t find an entry-level PR job they should consider something in media sales – selling advertising space and time.  Learning the other side of media and learning to sell are two extremely valuable sets of skills to have for anyone in public communication.  You learn to deal with people; you learn what makes people tick.  You learn the differences between advertising, promotion, marketing and media relations from the inside out.  You’ll never forget any of that training.

Remember that looking for a job while you’re employed – at all!  – is the best way to look for a job.  Your relationships are still there, and you still have the opportunity to build new relationships; you’re not holed up somewhere just wishing.

Last spring I asked a couple of students what they planned to do after graduation.  One said, “Oh, I don’t know.  I haven’t planned, really.  I’m sure something good will come along.”  I cringed.  Good things don’t just happen to us; we have to go out and make them happen.  As I used to say when running my public relations firm in Montana, “No one pays me just for showing up.  Somehow or another, I always have to produce results.”

That’s how it is now for anyone changing careers or just starting out in the work force: no one’s going to pay you for being a great, competent person who is simply out there looking.  You have to turn over every stone; you have to persevere; you have to remain open and flexible; you have to lower your expectations or be willing to start again at Square 1.  You may be really lucky and land something fairly quickly that proves to be a great fit for both you and your employer or client.   But more than likely, you’ll find you need patience, resourcefulness, and a dogged belief in yourself and your future.  The future isn’t what it used to be; but it’s there.

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A friend and I spent a long time talking this weekend, as we took a quick and welcomed overnight run up to Glacier National Park – our annual September trek.  Neither of us wanted to watch the 9/11 remembrances today; we even avoided going to the church were we have been long-term members.  I tried to turn on TV to watch out of some sense of loyalty, and turned it off again.

It’s too heavy.  We remember too well.

For my part, it renews thoughts that perhaps we could have seen it coming.  Here’s a list of the attacks against the U.S. leading up to 9/11:  List of major Islamic attacks & plots against America

See the listings for 1996?  My son, John, was there at Khobar Towers.  He was driving across the base when the bomb went off, headed to the towers to relieve another airman from duty and take him for further training.  The other airman – who happened to be from Montana, close to where I lived at the time – ended up being the person who sounded the alarm when he looked down from his guard position on the rooftop and saw a truck that didn’t look right.

John got to the towers before any ambulance did, and he radioed his commanding officer requesting permission, which was granted, to enter the building to help.  He spent the next 18 hours helping to pull out bodies and body parts from the site.

I’d received a phone call at work about 4 p.m. that day that a bomb had gone off.  I went home to wait for word, not knowing if my son were dead or alive.  Friends came to wait with me.  I was one of the lucky ones: three or four hours later, the phone rang, and the minute I heard my son’s voice, I burst into tears.  He said, “I can tell you’ve heard the news.”

There were families who waited all night that night for word.

He came home about six weeks later, and we went up to Glacier, where we hiked from the top of Logan Pass, along the Highline Trail, 7.4  miles back over another pass to Granite Park Chalet, then 4 miles almost straight downhill through thick brush to the Loop in Going to the Sun Road.  My theory was that seeing so much stunning beauty might replace or at least co-exist with some of the terrible images now burned into my son’s mind.

I thought about that hike a lot as we got to the top of Logan Pass yesterday, and watched others start out along the Highline Trail.  The beginning of the trail is tough: it’s cut into such a sheer cliff face, and is so narrow, that the Park Service has bolted a garden hose with a chain running through it into the rock, so that you have something to hang on to as you walk that first half mile or so.  It seemed much longer than half a mile at the time, but perhaps it’s not.

That green hose with the chain in it became my security on the first part of that trail; it was just so scary.

You have to look ahead down the trail and prepare.  You have to do a little research.  You have to have the right shoes, carry water, be ready to make noise so that you don’t surprise grizzlies.  There had been several grizzly sightings along the trail in the days just prior to our visit; in fact, just below Granite Park Chalet we passed through an area that was the scene of a renown fatal grizzly attack back in the 1960s, memorialized in the book “The Night of the Grizzlies.”  (I didn’t tell John that part until later.)  I was singing along the trail in a loud voice when we rounded a bend in the brush and came upon a park ranger.  I apologized for sounding kind of strange – and he said “No, you’re doing exactly the right thing.”  You don’t hike silently at Glacier; you make noise.  It’s a safety measure, and if you plan ahead, you’ll be informed of that.

I’ve always wondered if, as a country, we were looking ahead before 9/11/01 – or just reacting.  I’ve wondered that about airport security ever since; we seem to put new measures in place based on past incidents, as if any terrorist would try the same thing twice.  I’m not sure that – even today – we are anticipating very well.  I don’t have inside information, so I could certainly be wrong; but somehow, I still wonder.

In any event, Khobar Towers was itself too heavy then, and is too heavy now.  My son lived; but he now lives with the memory of being told to stand down, that it was no longer safe to enter the building – and hearing the screams of those remaining until the screams faded and were no more.

Ten years ago today, I was helping others across the country to plan a protest against our government’s anthrax vaccine policy  – that of forcing U.S. service members to take this experimental, unproven, highly reactive vaccine against their wishes, when batches of it had already been found to be contaminated or aged or simply unsafe.  I’d traveled to Washington D.C. the year before to witness Congressional hearings, and met many of the young men and women whose health had been permanently ruined by the anthrax vaccine, and whose government did not want to reimburse them for the damages done.  I still run a web site for that issue today – a total of 11 years later, now.

I got up on the morning of 9/11/01 to a phone message that perhaps we should cancel our planned protest in light of what had happened at the Pentagon, and of course immediately went to the TV – and learned of all the events.  I saw the second plane hit the second tower.  I remember thinking, “This isn’t an accident – not twice.”

It’s too heavy.  I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when President Kennedy was shot; when Martin Luther King was shot; when Bobby Kennedy was shot.  I don’t know at exactly what point I began to wonder what country I was waking up in each morning.  Perhaps it was after I became aware of the Pentagon conducting medical experiments on our troops – something Congress acknowledged and wrote about clear back in 1994 with something called the Rockefeller Report.  Perhaps it was when I read “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,” about the massacre at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1970s, as I tried to understand more about some projects I was working on with Native Americans on reservations in Montana.  I don’t know when I began wondering.

But I can’t stay there.  I have known for years that t would rob me of any last vestiges of sanity.

What do I do for our own future?  One of the things I do is I teach.  As I teach at the university level, I find I am developing a renewed faith in the generations coming up in our country.  They don’t understand everything yet; they simply haven’t lived through enough yet.  But I think there are many, many of them who are trying to figure out what they can do to make the world a better place.  One of the things my colleagues and I try to teach them is strategic thinking and planning; looking forward, scanning the environment, anticipating.

I hope they make it.  I work in the faith and the belief that they will.  I hope they don’t have to wake up wondering exactly what country they are living in, and having to fight through those dark, dark clouds of doubt.

My ancestors came over here in 1732.  They fought in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Mexican War, World War II, Viet Nam, and the second Gulf War.  There are probably more instances that I haven’t finished researching yet.  I can’t look at all they did and give up on this country.  I can’t look at all that my children and grandchildren and I have been given in this life and say this country isn’t worth it.  It is.

But we do need to re-ignite the dream; we do need to be better at anticipating; we do need to cherish each other and drop the anger.  When I saw hikers on the Highline Trail yesterday, I could only hope that the stunning beauty of Glacier National Park was healing for them as well.

 

 

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It’s about 7 am on Sunday morning, Feb. 13, and Bear – my Belgian Shepherd – and I are quietly ensconced in the den.  Bear is dozing, glad to be home after his hip replacement surgery two days ago, and I suspect equally glad for the morning’s dose of pain medication that he got just a little while ago.

I am reflecting on the events of the past five weeks or so.  On January 6th I flew to Australia to visit an old  friend from high school days, now retired in Coffs Harbour – about a seven-hour drive north of Sydney on the same coast, or a one-hour plane hop.  Sue and her partner, Trish, are both retired high school principals, and I knew they’d have no problems with the fact that I had to do some online teaching while I was there.

Dorrigo Rain Forest, New South Wales

At the edge of the Dorrigo Rain Forest, New South Wales

For most of the first week, it rained.  The weather was part of the same storm system that was then inundating the state of Queensland, a good ways to the north of us.  Each night we watched the heartbreaking scenes on the evening news.  People lost their homes, their livelihoods, and in some cases, beloved family members or friends.

And yet, night after night, when reporters interviewed these people, there was not a word of complaint.  The general attitude was, “We’ll have to just pick up and go on.  We’ll get through this, somehow.”

No one whined; it turns out that the Australians hate whiners.  That lack of complaint and the displays of Australian toughness and resilience were impressive enough just as they were.  But the other thing I noticed was the use of the word “we.”  Australians feels they are all part of their country; nowhere did I notice a sense of “me.”  It was nearly always “we.”

That sense of “we” was never more evident than what happened immediately during and after the Queensland flooding.  Suddenly there were donation boxes and cans everywhere in Coffs Harbour, and – I was soon to find – in Sydney, where I finished up the last two days of the trip.  I’m sure those donation cans and boxes showed up throughout the continent, although in Perth wildfires had already started and those emergencies began to take precedence.

The harbor at Coffs Harbour - a beautiful coastal resort community

There were several other things I noticed about Australians.  They are open, friendly, and laid-back people and they seem, at least from my cursory two-week glance, to be a people without the cynicism and anger that seems to have spread like a virus here in the U.S.  That being said, they still have their share of problems.  I started reading the “Sydney Morning Herald” before my trip, and find that I still check the online edition every other day or so.  There are the usual crimes one would expect in a large city, and they are not immune to difficulties with politicians, economic problems, and other issues.  Still, I kept noticing how much Australians reach out to help each other with even the smallest of things: carrying groceries out of a store, picking up something that’s fallen, giving assistance to someone trying to manage a baby carriage.  The cheery phrase, “No worries, mate” was something I heard often.

I also picked up on some startling differences in the media.  I happen to subscribe to “Reader’s Digest,” an old addiction from childhood, and my friends had the Australian edition in their home.  I was startled to find the Australian edition full of positive, uplifting stories while the American edition was full of more fear-laden “Can this happen to you?” types of articles.  I think I need to speak to the editors about that…

View of the Sydney Opera House from zoo ferry

View of Sydney Opera House from the zoo ferry

The newspapers were different as well.  I brought back a copy of the Coffs Harbour “Advocate,” because I was laughing so hard at the headlines, full of puns and plays on words.  People were pumped up about a new sewer line; a local construction firm felt hammered – and more.  Turns out the Australian love of words is evident nearly everywhere – from verbal rhymes which seemingly make no sense to the outsider, to puns in headlines.  There is a playfulness in all of it that is delightful.

I got home to the U.S. on January 22nd, after two weeks which gave me the mental rejuvenation – the hard “re-boot” – that I’d needed for several months.  Just a few days later, protests began in Egypt, and the world watched – and waited.  I discovered the tweets of Egyptian journalist Sarah El Sirgany, and told my students to follow the events online.  It readily became apparent that civilian Egyptians were carrying out security checks for anyone wanting to enter Tahrir Square – they didn’t want any firearms or any violence.  Later, I wrote on my Facebook page that  I cannot remember another time in my life when an entire nation – unable to vote – brought about revolution by peaceful means. Incredible self-restraint among the Egyptian people; incredible persistence until voices were heard.

Bear - sleeping off some pain meds

This morning, Bear and I slowly went out to get the morning paper.  He is limping heavily, of course, and I have a sling for his hind quarters to help support him and get him up and down the back ramp and over some rough spots.  Once we were back inside, I indulged in my favorite Sunday morning pastime: reading the funnies and “Parade” magazine before getting to the hard news of the day.  I checked in with Doonesbury – another 30-year-old habit – and there found that Gary Trudeau had hit the nail on the head yet again: ‘What are we like as a people?  Well, let’s look at two sets of facts…nine years ago, we were attacked.  3,000 people died.  In response, we started two long, bloody wars and build a vast homeland security apparatus – all at a cost of trillions! Now, consider this. During those same nine years, 270,000 Americans were killed by gunfire at home.  Our response?  We weakened our gun laws.”

Consider that. 

I wonder how my own beloved country can finally cast off fear, cynicism and anger, and begin to disarm ourselves, as private individuals, voluntarily – so that we get our sense of “we” back, and do not always feel the need to be protected from each other.  We have such a wonderful history of being an open, hospitable, friendly people.  Surely we can regain our American optimism and American “can do” spirit once again.   I’m spending the next eight weeks helping Bear to heal; I’m wondering what it will take for our amazing country to heal as well.

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The last few weeks seem to have been filled with a tumult of activity and voices and Yachats beckoned once again.  Here on the Central Oregon Coast, life is quieter and slower; Yachats is one of the most undeveloped parts of the coast (the amazing restaurants here not withstanding), and the minute I am within view of the ocean, I start relaxing.

Each time I am here, the hours for quiet reflection and thought bring me to a deeper understanding of whatever has been driving me just before I came.  Today, walking on the beach with Bear as the tide receded, I realized that I feel greatly privileged to be teaching, and I feel greatly privileged to still work with veterans who are sick from the anthrax vaccine. 

The teaching end of the deal was something I decided just about six years ago, when I made up my mind to go back to school and get a Master’s degree so that I could make the career switch.  I feel lucky that I was able to tell Mom about the decision in August of that year, just two months before she passed away. I wasn’t totally sure what I would do yet, only that I wanted to go back on the ship (www.semesteratsea.org) and that I wanted to go back to school with the goal of teaching in mind.  She was thrilled about both ideas.  I did go back on the ship, briefly, for an alumni reunion cruise to the Bahamas a few years ago.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu was on board, and that alone made the trip an incredible experience.  But I also found out that, contrary to my experiences at 19 on my first voyage, by now it was entirely possible for me to get seasick.  Our first night out at sea after leaving Fort Lauderdale was “a wild and stormy night,” and the ship was tossed around pretty strongly.  I had to leave a meeting in the student union and go outside for some air, and got very little sleep.  I’m not sure that a four-month semester at sea is any longer in my best interest, though I’m certainly going to look at some of the shorter educational voyages that are held every year.

Back to teaching: I’m enjoying it three times more than I ever anticipated.  I love the interaction with students, even though it’s primarily online.  I love the thoughts and creativity that come my way across the keyboard.  I love our live chats, and the SKYPE calls.  I’m working on putting a video component into our online classes, but that might have to evolve a little bit more.  Nevertheless, teaching is an enormous pleasure and privilege.

Working with veterans and active-duty service members – something I’ve done for over nine years now – is also a wonderful privilege.  I spent the early years not knowing how to handle things emotionally; the knowledge that our government has conducted more than one medical experiment on the troops over the years, usually without their knowledge, is appalling and tragic.  I could not believe this was my country.  But I’m also an advocate of changing a country from within, not throwing up my hands and walking off.  The anthrax vaccine was then, and is now, an unproven, dangerous drug.  Just ask the FDA where the peer-reviewed, published research studies are; they only exist for the original cutaneous anthrax vaccine, not for the re-configured vaccine that is supposed to protect against inhalational, or aerosolized, anthrax.  The years of bungling, sheer stupidity, greed and blatant attempts to save face are documented on the web site I run, www.mvrd.org– the Military Vaccine Resource Directory.  The vaccines are on my mind because while I was walking on the beach this morning, I called a vet in Michigan who wrote to me last weekend detailing his massive problems since being forced to take the anthrax vaccine, in one e-mail writing, “PLEASE HELP ME.”  The phone call this morning was the third for fourth time we’ve been in touch this week. He won’t need me constantly; I have a network of people whom I can contact who can and will reach out to help him.  It’s a good, close, caring community, but it’s a tragic one.  It’s a community that should never have to exist.

While I’m on the beach, these thoughts are in my head, but they aren’t swirling and noisy as they so often are at home.  They go deeper and quieter.  The sound of the ocean is a steady rhythm against life here; and the beach reflects the entire cycle of life and death and the tides that bring both.  I think often of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gifts from the Sea,” and know what she meant.  Here – for someone who has spent a lifetime dealing with what it takes to establish those “mutually beneficial relationships” between a business or organization and its publics; who has studied and worked in public relations since 1980 – here my relationship with myself and the world around me settles into something peaceful and quiet.  Here I understand a lot more about the ties that bind.

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As much as I rant about no one having taught today’s college students to “string together a straight English sentence,” I have to say that the more these students write, the better they get.  That’s true for all of us.  And the more we read, the better we get at writing.

People tell me that writing isn’t so important anymore because on the Internet everything is so much more casual, so much less structured.  Ah, but just think of pitching a reporter via Twitter.  How concise and how precise can you get?  Clear writing is indicative of  clear thinking ,as my good friend Gail Dundas told our class tonight.  Gail handles global public relations for Intel, and is one of the sharpest, funniest and most positive people I know. I think it really helped the students to hear from someone so entirely down-to-earth who works for one of the world’s largest companies. Thanks again, Gail; you were wonderful as always.

Want to communicate in a better way?  Write something short.  It’s very easy to write pages and pages of stuff; it’s much more difficult to write a single concise and wonderful paragraph – especially a paragraph that answers the “so what?” question.  Write a :30-second commercial; write the lead paragraph for a press release; write a media pitch using Twitter.  After you do these things long enough, you’ll blanch when someone asks you to write 500 words about something.  “What?” you’ll wonder.  “Why do I need that many words?”

Write.  Read.  Write  s’more.

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