Published on: July 11, 2011
by Kevin Coupe
Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
Well, I’m back. One of the things that Michael Sansolo and I always talk about is how we’ve both gotten used to this soapbox, and how it is sometimes frustrating on days or weeks that we’re not writing, and then something happens and we’re just dying for an audience...but alas, all we have is our wives and kids, and they don;t really want to listen to us.
This is exactly what happened as my vacation began. No sooner had I signed off than the proverbial stuff hit the fan in the political and media worlds when Mark Halperin went on “Morning Joe” and used an unpleasant word to describe President Obama. Not a dirty word - just an inappropriate one. He was almost immediately suspended, but the blogosphere spent more than a few days discussing the event.
The thing is, as I do almost every morning, I was watching “Morning Joe” when he said it. I knew instantly that there were going to be repercussions, though I have to admit that just suspending Halperin didn’t seem entirely fair since he was goaded into saying it by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, who assured him that the seven second delay would bleep it out. Which it didn’t.
Now, it seems to me that there are a whole bunch of business lessons in this event...
Number one, never over-promise and under-deliver. If you say you are going to do something - like bleep out an inappropriate word - you’d better do it. if you don’t, there are repercussions.
Number two, words matter. In the moment, maybe Halperin thought this comment would be seen as edgy or irreverent. But once it came out, it just seemed gratuitous and disrespectful.
Number three, it is important not to always fall back on reflexive thought and actions. As soon as Halperin was suspended, there was a certain cadre of people who said that he never would have been suspended if he’d said it about a Republican president. Which strikes me as just absurd. The only news show on which a correspondent could get away with such a comment is “The Daily Show,” which sort of makes such irreverence its stock in trade. Which leads me to lesson number four - context is everything. What you can get away with on “The Daily Show” you can’t get away with on “Morning Joe.”
Lesson number five has to do with management style - because I think MSNBC actually did blow it by only suspending Halperin. Frankly, they should have taken the whole cast off the air for a couple of days - they goaded him into it, they laughed when he said it, and they all should have been held accountable.
Number six, make sure that people know how to do the jobs they are being paid for. The producer in the control room was supposed to hit the seven second delay button, but he was a new producer and he got confused and hit the wrong button.
Finally, there is a broader cultural lesson to be learned here, about the coarsening of the dialogue in the public square. I see it in some of the emails I get here on MNB, and it certainly is evident in the lack of civility that seems to exist in politics and the media. That’s too bad, and it makes it harder to compromise and achieve anything.
That’s what is on my mind this Monday morning...and I’m really glad to have gotten it off my chest. As always, I’m looking forward to hearing what is on your mind.
- KC's View: