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  • Apologies for Racist Jokes, Homophobic Slur

    Justin Bieber and Jonah Hill have more than their celebrity in common this week. Both have apologized for making offensive comments. Two six-year-old videos of Bieber telling racist jokes surfaced, and he has apologized. TMZ published his statement : Justin tells TMZ, "As a kid, I didn't understand the power of certain words and how they can hurt. I thought it was ok to repeat hurtful words and jokes, but didn't realize at the time that it wasn't funny and that in fact my actions were continuing the ignorance." Justin goes on, "Thanks to friends and family I learned from my mistakes and grew up and apologized for those wrongs. Now that these mistakes from the past have become public I need to apologize again to all those I have offended." Justin continues, "I'm very sorry. I take my friendships with people of all cultures very seriously and I apologize for offending or hurting anyone with my childish and inexcusable mistake. I was a kid then and I am a man now who knows my responsibility to the world and to not make that mistake again." And Justin says, "Ignorance has no place in our society and I hope the sharing of my faults can prevent others from making the same mistake in the future. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say but telling the truth is always what's right." Justin ends with this: "Five years ago I made a reckless and immature mistake and I'm grateful to those close to me who helped me learn those lessons as a young man. Once again....I'm sorry." But an LA Times article called this apology and another that quoted scripture "unacceptable." The videos are disturbing: in one he asks, "Why are black people afraid of chainsaws?" and then imitates the sound of a chainsaw and repeats "n..." several times. Another apology this week came from Jonah Hill. In this (albeit very different) situation, Hill yelled a homophobic slur to a paparazzo . We see his apology here on the Jimmy Fallon show: Discussion Starters: What's your assessment of Beiber's comments and apology? Do you agree with the LA Times article that his apology was insufficient? Should he have done something different? How do you interpret Hill's remark, given his vocal support of LGBTQ equality? What's your assessment of his apology?
  • NBA and Sponsors Respond to Clippers Owner's Offensive Comments

    An audio recording of LA Clippers owner Don Sterling shocked the league with comments that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called "truly offensive and disturbing." The nine-minute recording, released by TMZ , included these statements made to Sterling's girlfriend, who happens to be black and Mexican: "It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?" (3:30) "You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that ... and not to bring them to my games." (5:15) "I’m just saying, in your lousy ******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people." (7:45) "...Don't put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don't bring him to my games." (9:13) Commissioner Silver made a short statement and then answered questions during a news conference: Head Coach and Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Doc Rivers made this statement, posted on the NBA website : "I would like to reiterate how disappointed I am in the comments attributed to [Donald Sterling] and I can’t even begin to tell you how upset I am and our players are. Today, I had a meeting with the members of our organization. When you are around all these people, you realize they are just as upset and embarrassed by the situation and it does not reflect who they really are. That was what I got from all of them. They are now a part of this and they are upset at this. But, they are all going to hang in there and so are we - I can tell you that as a group and as a team. From our fans’ standpoint, I want to say that they have been amazing, I can tell you that. We need unbelievable support right now from other people and I’m hoping we get that. My hope is that whatever the fans do, it is as one. I think that is what we all should do. "We want to make the right decisions here. We’re doing our very best to try and do that. We know that fans are in a dilemma as well. We want them to cheer for their players and their team. It will always be their players and their team. From the fans that I have heard from, that’s how they feel. ‘This is my team. These are my players that I’m cheering for and that’s not going to change.’ I hope STAPLES Center is packed and people are cheering for the players. The players are now in the middle of this, and they have to deal with it. "We are all trying to figure out everything as it goes and just do our best and we hope that it is the right answer. I’m still going to do my best and do what I think is best for the team and for everybody in this case. It is very difficult because there are so many emotions in this. This is a very emotional subject, this is personal. "My belief is that the longer we keep winning, the more we talk about this. I believe that is good. If we want to make a statement - I believe that is how we have to do it. I think that is the right way to do it, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t wrestle with it every day and every moment. That is the difficult part. "We are all doing our best here. Our players are doing their best. There are a lot of people involved in this. From one man’s comments, a lot of people have been affected and the conversations that we’re all having do need to be had." As the NBA addresses inquiries, sponsors are pulling out . Mercedes-Benz, CarMax, Virgin America, State Farm, the Chumash Casino Resorts, Red Bull, Kia Motors America, Lumber Liquidators, and Yokohama Tire have all announced an end to or suspension of their advertising agreements. UPDATE: Adam Silver announces that Sterling will be fined the maximum $2.5 million and banned from the NBA for life. Discussion Starters: Although the NBA has been responding to questions, the league has made no comment about the declining sponsorships. What, if anything, should be said at this point? What is suspiciously missing from these communications?
  • Board Terminates RadiumOne CEO After Felony Charges

    Former RadiumOne CEO and Founder Gurbaksh Chahal is disputing his termination. The board of directors may have supported Chahal as he was charged with assaulting his girlfriend and plead guilty to two misdemeanors. But after more reporting and social media activity, apparently, the board made its decision. RadiumOne, an advertising platform, announced the termination in a short press statement on its website : "At a board meeting yesterday evening, RadiumOne's board of directors voted to terminate the employment of Gurbaksh Chahal as CEO and Chairman of the company. Bill Lonergan, the company’s COO, will take over as CEO of the Company immediately. Bill has an extraordinary professional background and has helped build BlueLithium and RadiumOne into industry leading brands. We are confident he will continue Radium One’s impressive trajectory." In a blog post, "Can You Handle the Truth?" Chahal admits to losing his temper but denies claims that he hit his girlfriend 117 times. He also protests the media attention and social media attacks. Chahal includes an email he says he received from one of his board members two days before he was terminated: "Been thinking some more. Absolutely don’t do anything. Let the haters hate ad move on. This will blow over very quickly and we focus on the IPO. Don’t let them get to you. Don’t respond. I know it sucks but i think this is the right way fwd. Stay strong amigo. I feel for you." In the meantime, at least two reporters had called for the board to terminate Chahal: Kara Swisher and CNN Money writer Dan Primack . Image source . Discussion Starters: Did the board make the right decision? Why or why not? What does one's personal life have to do with the business? Does his position as CEO and/or founder affect your view? How do you assess the email Chahal posted? If it's real, does it help his case? How, if at all, does the image of Chahal with President Obama affect your opinion of him?
  • South Korea Prime Minister Apologizes and Resigns

    South Korea Prime Minister Chung Hong-won has resigned , taking responsibility for issues associated with the ferry that sank . More than 300 people died, mostly high school students. In his resignation speech, the PM said that resigning was "the right thing to do" and apologized for "many problems, from the prevention of the accident to the early handling of the accident (BBC translation)." Initially, families were told that everyone had been rescued. Critics say that the prime minister is a figure head and that President Park Geun-hye should take the fall. The opposing party called the resignation a " cowardly evasion of responsibility" and called for the president to apologize . A professor of political science and diplomacy at Myongji University in Seoul said the incident will not likely affect the upcoming election in June. Shin Yul said that the resignation "may tip the scales a bit, but in terms of the elections, this incident has been unfavorable to both parties because voters are angry with all public figures." Discussion Starters: What's your view of the resignation? Was it the right thing to do, only a symbolic gesture, an act of scapegoating, or something else? As you might expect, President Park Geun-hye accepted Chun's apology. What else, if anything, should she do?
  • FTC Admonishes Cole Haan's Pinterest Promotion

    Cole Haan devised a contest encouraging Pinterest users to create boards called "Wandering Sole." As a creative pun, people were instructed to pin five pictures of Cole Haan products and five places. It was a cute idea, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) expressed concern about people getting rewarded—$1,000 for winning the contest—without admitting the connection between their posts and the potential monetary award. In a letter to Cole Haan , the FTC admonished Cole Haan: The FTC is concerned about deceptive social media practices. An easy solution, according to a MediaPost article , is for Cole Haan to have people indicate that their posts were part of a contest. An advertising lawyer suggests, "A hastag that included a word like 'sweeps,' or 'contest,' or 'giveaway,' would have satisfied the FTC's concerns." Discussion Starters: What's the rationale for the FTC rule? What situations can you think of where this may be a significant issue? Or, do you think this rule is just silly? How, if at all, do you think adding the word "contest" would have affected this promotion?
  • General Mills Changes Its Tune

    Following criticism of its new legal restrictions , General Mills has reversed its policy. The change warned customers who interacted with its brands, for example, by downloading a coupon, that they would give up their rights to sue and would be forced into an abritration process instead. In an email, a company spokesperson conveyed what The New York Times calls a "stunning about-face": "Because our concerns and intentions were widely misunderstood, causing concerns among our consumers, we’ve decided to change them back to what they were. As a result, the recently updated legal terms are being removed from our websites, and we are announcing today that we have reverted back to our prior legal terms, which contain no mention of arbitration." The decision was further announced on the General Mills blog : Here's the company's tweet about the change: Discussion Starters: Was this the right decision for General Mills? What are the consequences either way? Assess the company's blog post. What works well, and what could be improved?
  • "Like" This Page and Give Up Your Right to Sue?

    General Mills is the latest company to try to restrict customers' right to legal action based on their interaction with the company on social media. The company's new legal terms define these conditions broadly, including being "a subscriber to any of our emails, or a participant in any sweepstakes, contest..." According to The New York Times , "anyone who has received anything that could be construed as a benefit and who then has a dispute with the company over its products will have to use informal negotiation via email or go through arbitration to seek relief, according to the new terms posted on its site." Although the move may be understandable considering the increasing number of class-action lawsuits, the director of a trial attorneys' organization explains the potential consequence: '“It’s essentially trying to protect the company from all accountability, even when it lies, or say, an employee deliberately adds broken glass to a product.” Could merely visiting General Mills' website prevent a lawsuit? One attorney say it's unclear, but "You can bet there will be some subpoenas for computer hard drives in the future.” This story reminds me of KlearGear, the company that charged a customer $3,500 for a bad review . Discussion Starters: What's your view of the ethics of General Mills' new legal restriction? How do you see the new restriction playing out? Consider one or two situations where this restriction might apply. Does this story affect how you might approach social media contact with General Mills in the future?
  • Paula Deen Forgot to Tell Her Employees She's Closing the Restaurant

    Chef and restaurant owner Paula Deen is in the news again. Last June, she made headlines for racist comments. She apologized but lost her TV and endorsement deals and never fully recovered her reputation. Now, she and her brother decided to close Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House , the restaurant where the controversy started. They announced the decision on Facebook but failed to tell their employees, who showed up for work only to collect their severance pay. As predicted, opponents and allies were active on the company's Facebook page, which has since been taken down. Meanwhile, Deen has been "business-as-usual" on her Twitter feed: Discussion Starters: In my Corporate Communication course, we talk about the best order for notifying internal and external audiences of a change. Identify all of the audiences that should have been notified and the ideal sequencing of messages. What could be the owners' rationale for not telling employees before announcing the decision on Facebook? The Associated Press called the move "abrupt." Does that justify how this was communicated? Paula Deen seems to be silent during the latest controversy. Is that the best approach? If so, why? If not, what should she do or say?
  • Joy Behar Roasts Chris Christie

    The video is rough , but we can watch comedian Joy Behar roast New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at an event to celebrate a former governor's 90th birthday. Behar poked fun at Christie's weight and the bridge scandal: "When I first heard that he was accused of blocking off three lanes on the bridge, I said, ‘What the hell is he doing, standing in the middle of the bridge?" A story in The New Yorker described the scene in the video above: "After another barb, Christie interrupted her. 'This is a Byrne roast,' he said. He stood up and tried to grab her notes. The audience laughed awkwardly. 'Stop bullying me,' Behar said as he sat down. Christie said something out of earshot and Behar responded, 'Why don’t you get up here at the microphone instead of being such a coward?' Christie stood up again and moved in front of the lectern as Behar retreated. 'At least I don’t get paid for this,' he said. "Christie sat down and Behar continued, though she was noticeably rattled. 'I really don’t know about the Presidency,” she said. 'Let me put it to you this way, in a way that you’d appreciate: You’re toast.'" Discussion Starters: After watching the video clip, I wouldn't have described the scene as The New Yorker author did. How about you? What could explain the difference? What's a roast? Research the history and purpose. Why are insults accepted—even expected—while they would be shunned in most business settings?
  • "Your Neighbor . . . Is a Parasite" Flyer

    Kevin Rose's neighbors have posted flyers identifying him as a "parasite." The founder of Digg and a Google Ventures partner was outed as one who is "destroying San Francisco" by directing funds for start-up companies. In a tweet, Rose did concede some points: The protest is a continuation of those angry at the so-called "Google Bus," which shuttles people to work at technology companies. Activists claimed, "This is the opposite of school busing. We’re busing wealthy, predominantly white adults into low-income neighborhoods, where they in turns displace low-income people. This is the reverse of affirmative action." Image source . Discussion Starters: To what extent do you empathize with the protestors? What are their points? What's your assessment of this group's approach of posting flyers? When I first saw the headline, I thought Rose was a pedophile.
  • New Mozilla CEO Resigns

    Firefox maker Mozilla is in the news because its new CEO was criticized for opposing same-sex marriage. In 2008, he gave $1000 to support Proposition 8, California's ban on gay marriage. Within two weeks of Brendan Eich's appointment, he resigned because of the controversy . On the Mozilla blog , board chair Mitchell Baker wrote this explanation: Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves. We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better. Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community. Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard. Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all. We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community. While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the web. So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better. We need to put our focus back on protecting that Web. And doing so in a way that will make you proud to support Mozilla. What’s next for Mozilla’s leadership is still being discussed. We want to be open about where we are in deciding the future of the organization and will have more information next week. However, our mission will always be to make the Web more open so that humanity is stronger, more inclusive and more just: that’s what it means to protect the open Web. We will emerge from this with a renewed understanding and humility — our large, global, and diverse community is what makes Mozilla special, and what will help us fulfill our mission. We are stronger with you involved. Thank you for sticking with us. Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman But the situation isn't so clear-cut. A New York Times article discussed the controversy: "The public campaign against Mr. Eich was unseemly and disturbing." The article also quoted The Dish editor : "If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us." Mozilla published an FAQ , denying that Eich was fired or resigned under pressure from the board or employees. For his part, Eich wrote a blog post, "The Next Mission," to announce his resignation and present questions for the company's future. Discussion Starters: Was it the right decision for Eich to resign? Assess the board chair's statement. What works well, and what doesn't seem to work? Read Mozilla's FAQ about the situation. What questions may be missing?
  • Transit Authority's Response to the "Spectacular Crash"

    The Chicago Transit Authority isn't saying much about what the Chicago Tribune called a "spectacular crash," and video -watchers are comparing to a disaster movie. More than 30 people were injured in the accident, but the CTA's communications, as PR Daily points out , just stick to the facts: As I theorized during the recent MTA Metro-North accident , as a government-funded organization, CTA is probably following old, conservative rules about showing remorse. Although the CTA says it's investigating all possible causes, Robert Kelly, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, confirmed that the operator was tired: "Indications are she might have dozed off." Discussion Starters: What advice is CTA likely following in deciding how and what to communicate? What advice would you give the agency if you were the director of communication? Or, another way to think about this is, what's the right thing to do? Prepare a statement that the CTA could send to show that it's run by actual people.
  • New York Times Opinions About GM

    A New York Times opinion piece accused Toyota and GM of " Willfully Endangering Drivers " by delaying automobile recalls. The author partly blames the government for succumbing to pressure from the car industry and from lawmakers who opposed a 2010 Motor Vehicle Safety Act . The Act would have provided more funding to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to investigate safety issues and improve consumers' access to safety information. Another New York Times story this weekend comments on GM's social media activity. On the surface, it looks like "business as usual" at GM. Recent posts describe an employee recruiting campaign, a "Fan Friday" contest, and a new FB cover photo. But a deeper look into posts shows individual responses to complaints. Recall issues dominate customers' comments, and GM is engaged in the conversation as in this example: How is GM's reputation faring online? According to the article, pretty well: "So far, the damage to the company’s brand appears to have been minimal online. "Despite the barrage of headlines about federal investigations into G.M.'s decade-long failure to issue the recall, overall sentiment about G.M. and its brands on Twitter has remained the same since the crisis began. According to an analysis by Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics firm in Boston, about 26 percent of Twitter messages mentioning the company were positive, 71 percent were neutral and 3 percent were negative." Discussion Starters: What's your view of the first article? In what ways do you agree and disagree with the writer's assessment of GM? Assess GM's responses on its Facebook page. What principles from Chapter 7, Responding to Negative Feedback, does the company demonstrate in this and other examples online?
  • Tobacco Free New York Radio Ads

    Last month, CVS announced the decision to stop selling tobacco products in its stores. In the past week, this ad has been running on Ithaca radio stations. On the Tobacco Free New York website, we see communications for other campaigns since 2010: Tobacco Marketing Works What's in Store for Our Kids Sponsorship and Promotion Discussion Starters: Take a look at the video about how tobacco companies sponsor community events . Do you consider their approach ethical? Use the ethical decision-making guidelines in Chapter 1 to formulate your argument. The ad, above, mentions that some drugstores have stopped selling tobacco products, but it doesn't name CVS. Why? What's the punctuation error in "Tobacco Free New York"? Is this a good choice for the organization's name?
  • Is Malaysia Airlines Doing Enough?

    It's been two days since a Malaysia Airlines flight with 227 passengers and 12 crew members has been lost, and relatives are angry. The flight is now assumed to have crashed, with some signs of wreckage. But the real fallout now is the airline's lack of communication. Quotations in a Reuters article show family members' distress: "There's no one from the company here; we can't find a single person. They've just shut us in this room and told us to wait." "We want someone to show their face. They haven't even given us the passenger list." "They're treating us worse than dogs." On its website, the company revealed its " dark site ," a page that companies create in anticipation of a crisis. Oddly, the airline kept the name in the URL, shown here. The page gave information about what happened and what actions the airline is taking currently: Monday, March 10, 05:30 PM MYT +0800 Malaysia Airlines MH370 Flight Incident - 10th Media Statement The purpose of this statement is to update on emergency response activities at Malaysia Airlines. On notification of the incident the following steps have been taken:- The EOC:- 1. Activation of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in the early morning of 8 March 2014. The EOC is the central command and control facility responsible for carrying out emergency management functions at the strategic level during a disaster. 2. In addition to the EOC, various departments of Malaysia Airlines are also addressing to all the different needs during this crisis. Family Management 1. Malaysia Airlines is working closely with the government of China to expedite the issuance of passports for the families intending to travel to Malaysia, as well as with the immigration of Malaysia on the issuance of their visas into Malaysia. 2. Malaysia Airlines is deploying an additional aircraft to bring the families from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur on 11 March 2014. 3. When the aircraft is located, a Response Coordination Centre (RCC) will be established within the vicinity to support the needs of the families. This has been communicated specifically to the families. 4. Once the Response Coordination Centre is operational, we will provide transport and accommodation to the designated areas for the family members. 5. Our one world partners have been engaged to help bring family members in other countries aside from China into Kuala Lumpur. Search and Rescue 1. Malaysia Airlines has been actively cooperating with the search and rescue authorities coordinated by the Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia (DCA) and the Ministry of Transport 2. DCA has confirmed that search and rescue teams from Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, New Zealand and the United States of America have come forward to assist. We are grateful for these efforts. We also want to address a few common queries from the media. We are receiving many queries about how the passengers with the stolen passports purchased their tickets. We are unable to comment on this matter as this is a security issue. We can however confirm that we have given all the flight details to the authorities for further investigation. We also confirm that we are making necessary arrangements for MH370 passengers' families from Beijing to travel to Kuala Lumpur. However, flight details of the families’ arrival are highly confidential. This is to protect the privacy and well-being of the families during this difficult time and to respect their space. Our position is not to reveal any information on the flight or movements of the families. Malaysia Airlines' primary focus at this point in time is to care for the families of the passengers and crew of MH370. This means providing them with timely information, travel facilities, accommodation, meals, medical and emotional support. The costs for these are all borne by Malaysia Airlines. All other Malaysia Airlines’ flights are as per schedule. The safety of our passengers and crew has always been and will continue to be of utmost importance to us. The airline continues to work with the authorities and we appreciate the help we are receiving from all local and international parties and agencies during this critical and difficult time. Malaysia Airlines reiterates that it will continue to be transparent in communicating with the general public via the media on all matters affecting MH370. Discussion Starters: Assess Malaysia Airlines' statement. What works well, and what could be improved? What's missing from the statement that you might see in similar posts about a tragedy? What could account for this omission? Timing? Culture? Language? Something else?
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