• Bank of America CEO's "Star Trek Special"

    This isn't a good week for Bank of America. A Rolling Stone article describes CEO Brian Moynihan looking foolish during his testimony about the bank's acquisition of Countrywide Financial Corporation, one of the companies that sold subprime mortgages before the 2008 crash:  

    "In this long-awaited interrogation – Bank of America has been fighting to keep Moynihan from being deposed in this case for some time – Moynihan does a full Star Trek special, boldly going where no deponent has ever gone before, breaking out the 'I don't recall' line more often and perhaps more ridiculously than was previously thought possible. Moynihan seems to remember his own name, and perhaps his current job title, but beyond that, he'll have to get back to you.."

    The full testimony is, for a court document, rather entertaining to read, including this excerpt: 

      Moynihan

    Discussion Starters:

    • Read as much of the full testimony as you can tolerate. What's your view of how Brian Moynihan comes across?
    • This is a difficult question without knowing the legal constraints, but how else do you think  Moynihan could have handled the questions?

     

  • Bank of America Gets Slammed for Losing Death Certificate Three Times

    BankofAmericaIn what sounds like an astounding lack of decent service, Bank of America has given the son of a deceased woman more than the usual run around. Matt, a college student, lost his mother on October 1. Since then, he has been fighting with the bank to deal with the mortgage on her property.

    According to Matt, as told to The Consumerist, the bank has lost several copies of the woman's death certificate:

    "The first call ended after the associate we were speaking to told us that the only person they could talk to was the person who was listed on the mortgage: my mother.

    "Since she was deceased, that’s obviously not possible, so we explained 'death' to the person we were speaking to. They said they had to talk to my mother, we decided it was hopeless, and gave up.

    "We later got on the phone with someone else who said to send them a copy of the death certificate. They lost that one. Then they lost the next one. Then they lost the third, hand-delivered, death certificate. They finally managed to get the death certificate to a filing cabinet on the fourth try. They sent a letter acknowledging they had received the death certificate, but still they asked to speak with the person on the mortgage."

    Curiously, Bank of America was criticized recently for requesting a death certificate of a customer who isn't dead. A filmmaker created a short video explaining that "Bank of America wants you to die before you modify" a mortgage loan.  

    This could explain why, on the Customer Service Scoreboard, Bank of America is rated 25.91 out of 200 (compared to Zappos, rated 186). The site includes 1131 negative comments and 46 positive comments—not a great showing.

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What gives the consumer credibility in his assessment? In other words, how do we know that Matt is likely telling the truth about what has happened?
    • As of this writing, I don't see a response from Bank of America about the situation with Matt.  If you were the head of customer service for the bank, would you write a statement about the situation? If so, what would you include?
  • Tobacco Companies Have to Admit Deception

    Cigarette-poisonsFor at least the next two years, tobacco companies will place ads that admit they have been lying. A federal judge has ruled that companies such as Reynolds, Philip Morris (a division of Altria), and Lorilland will start spending some of their advertising dollars to compensate for "past deception."

    The judge ordered "corrective statements" to appear on cigarette packaging, as commercials on major TV stations, as full-page newpaper ads, and on corporate websites:

    • Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day.
    • A federal court has ruled that the defendant tobacco companies deliberately deceived the American public by falsely selling and advertising low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes.
    • Cigarette companies intentionally designed cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and sustain addiction.
    • When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain—that’s why quitting is so hard.

    Curiously, the media outlets don't seem to include social media.

    The tobacco companies tried to omit words such as "deceived" in these ads, but the judge's order stands. Still, companies may try to appeal the decision.

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What's your view of the judge's decision: is it fair, or does it violate the companies' rights (as they claim)?
    • What impact, if any, do you think the advertisements will have on smokers or people thinking of taking up smoking? Could the advertisements influence some groups more than others? Which and why?
    • Why didn't the judge include social media outlets for these ads? What, if any, difference would this make?
  • FreshDirect Updates Customers on Storm Recovery

    FreshDirect Co-Founder and CEO Jason Ackerman sent an email to update customers on the company's recovery since Hurricane Sandy. Located in Long Island City, Queens, FreshDirect was hit hard by the storm.

    Early in the message, Ackerman writes that FreshDirect is "largely back to pre-storm availability." The main point is clear, but where is it placed, and is "largely" the best word choice? 

     Fresh Direct Storm Recovery

    With easy-to-read bullets, Ackerman highlights other key messages for customers about meeting service expectations, replacing lost trucks with greener options, and contributing to relief efforts.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What are the other strengths of Ackerman's email, and what other suggestions would you make to improve the message?
    • If you were a customer of FreshDirect, how do you think the email would make you feel? How would it affect your image of the company?
  • Guy Fieri Gets Mocked and Responds

    The New York Times published a scathing review of Guy Fieri's new restaurant, Guy's American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square. Reviewer Pete Wells wrote just a series of questions including the following:

    • Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?
    • How did Louisiana’s blackened, Cajun-spiced treatment turn into the ghostly nubs of unblackened, unspiced white meat in your Cajun Chicken Alfredo?
    • What is going on at this new restaurant of yours, really?
    • Does this make it sound as if everything at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar is inedible? I didn’t say that, did I?

    To respond to the review, Fieri appeared on The Today Show.When asked whether reading the review felt like a "punch in the gut," Fieri said he thought the review was "ridiculous" and "overboard." He took issue with the tone and question style, and implied that the reviewer might have had another agenda:

    "It's a great way to make a name for yourself: go after a celebrity chef that's not a New Yorker that is doing big concept, and in the second month [fist punch into his hand]..."

    The interviewer also pointed to less-than-stellar Yelp reviews, to which Fieri admitted that the food isn't perfect but noted that it's still early in the restaurant's tenure.

     

    Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    Saturday Night Live produced a skit about Fieri, although it didn't appear on air:

     

    Discussion Starters:

    • What's your assessment of the review? Is it probably fair, a personal attack, or something else?
    • How effective is Guy Fieri's response on The Today Show? How could he have taken a different approach?
  • Fun Facts About the Emoticon

    The New York Times today featured Scott Fahlman, creator of the smiley face. Fahlman invented the character, which he called a "joke marker," back in 1982 to temper flaming in online discussion forums. Emoticon

    A linguist analyzed millions of tweets to see how emoticons were used and found that 10% of tweets had some type of character. His reasoning was that people could more accurately describe emotion in a longer paragraph, but shorter messages may require explanation.

    We could debate whether and how emoticons should be used in business writing ad nauseum. Proponents see the ocassional smiley as a way to ensure accurately interpreted messages, particularly to convey tone, often misunderstood in business email.

    Opponents think emoticons are silly and unprofessional. Writing instructors worry about the degradation of the language. As one communication lecturer said, "Certainly I understand the need for clarity. But language, used properly, is clear on its own." A British radio personality said, "If anybody on Facebook sends me a message with a little smiley-frowny face or a little sunshine with glasses on them, I will de-friend them. I also de-friend for OMG and LOL. They get no second chance. I find it lazy. Are your words not enough? To use a little picture with sunglasses on it to let you know how you’re feeling is beyond ridiculous."

    A recent CNN article offers this sound advice: use an emoticon if you must, "But nix emoticons from any initial emails with new contacts."

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • When do you use emoticons in your writing?
    • In addition to initial emails, as CNN suggests, when would you avoid using emoticons in business email?
  • Statements About Elmo Puppeteer's Resignation

    After 28 years as Elmo's puppeteer, Kevin Clash has resigned following accusations of underage sexual relations. Last year, Clash starred in a documentary, "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey."

    On its website, Sesame Street posted this message:

    Sesame Street
    After Clash's resignation, the website was updated with another statement:

    Sesame Street 2
    Further, in a statement to the press, Sesame Street noted, "None of us [at Sesame Workshop], especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization. . . . Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job. . . .This is a sad day for ‘Sesame Street.’ ”

    Kevin Clash provided his own statement about the situation: 

    "I am resigning from Sesame Workshop with a very heavy heart... I have loved every day of my 28 years working for this exceptional organization. Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work ‘Sesame Street’ is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately."


    Discussion Starters:

    • Assess Sesame Street's statements. What is effective, and what could be improved?
    • How, if at all, do you think Elmo's image will be affected?
    • How can Sesame Street preserve the brand at this point?
  • New NYT CEO Emails Staff

    Mark Thompson, new CEO of The New York Times Company, emailed staff after his first week at work. This is a great example for business communication students to study:

    • Content: What are Thompson's main points? What does he want NYT employees to know, and how does he want them to feel?
    • Organization: What structure does Thompson use for his message? How does he sequence paragraphs? How does he convey the main point of each paragraph?
    • Tone: How would you describe Thompson's tone? What changes, if any, do you see throughout the email? How does he balance positive messages with a sense of urgency?
    • Sentence variety: How does Thompson vary sentence structure throughout his email? How many different types of sentences (simple, compound, complex) does he use?
    • Punctuation: As we might expect, Thompson uses impeccable puntuation. How does he use m-dashes and semi-colons effectively?

    As I finish my first week at The New York Times Company, I would like to thank the many people I’ve already met. As you’d expect, Times employees come across as super-smart and totally committed to maintaining the values and quality that the company and its newspapers have always stood for. But I’ve also been struck by how friendly and welcoming you’ve been to me.

    I’ve been impressed by the work that’s already in motion to tackle the structural trends that our industry faces and the products and services we’re developing that will drive new growth and profitability, all while securing the brilliant journalism on which everything else depends. The digital subscription story continues to be an exciting one, and we can build on it further. With Invest in the Times and similar projects at the Globe and IHT, our company is already focusing on other growth opportunities. We are looking in the right places for future success: understanding and engaging with our readers and consumers better; developing compelling propositions in video, mobile and social; and figuring out how to drive more revenue from international audiences. The work done so far is really valuable.

    But I don’t want to underestimate the challenges we face. As our third-quarter results showed, the company is experiencing the same advertising and economic pressures as the rest of our industry. Figuring out how best to respond to these pressures — especially the long-term downward trajectory of print advertising — is also going to be an important part of our work in the coming months.

    Thank you for a productive and inspiring first week. To help us get to know each other better, we have scheduled Town Hall meetings with me for Monday, Dec. 17, and Tuesday, Dec. 18, in The Times Center and Wednesday, Dec. 19, at College Point. More details will follow soon. I plan to have Town Hall meetings in Boston and at the IHT as soon as possible.

     

  • No More Twinkies

    Hostess Brands announced that the company will close, primarily because of labor issues. In a statement, the company blames a union strike for dooming the maker of beloved Ho Ho's, Ding Dongs, Sno Balls, and Twinkies.

    HostessCEO Gregory F. Rayburn said the company doesn't have the "financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike." The company statement emphasizes challenges and concessions already made: 

    "Hostess Brands is unprofitable under its current cost structure, much of which is determined by union wages and pension costs. The offer to the BCTGM included wage, benefit and work rule concessions but also gave Hostess Brands’ 12 unions a 25 percent ownership stake in the company, representation on its Board of Directors and $100 million in reorganized Hostess Brands’ debt."

    Although Hostess' 18,500 employees, understandably, are upset with the decision, some say the pay cuts were intolerable: "The point is the jobs they're offering us aren't worth saving."

    Critics of the decision also cite post-bankruptcy-filing executive pay increases between 75 and 85%.

    If you want a Twinkie badly enough, you can get a whole box on eBay for a mere $200,000 (starting bid). But some hope the brands will be bought, so the Twinkie may live on, after all.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Analyze the company's statement in terms of structure, content choices, and tone. What works well, and what could be improved? (Download the statement.)
    • What persuasive strategies do you identify in the statement? Are you convinced that Hostess made the right decision?
  • Victoria's Secret: "Spitting on Our Culture"

    Victoria's Secret has apologized for outfitting a runway model in a Native American-style headdress, leopard-print underwear, turquoise jewelry, and high heels. A Chicago Tribune article explained the significance of a headdress, which may explain why the get-up was called offensive:

    "Headdresses historically are a symbol of respect, worn by Native American war chiefs and warriors. For many Plains tribes, for example, each feather placed on a headdress has significance and had to be earned through an act of compassion or bravery. Some modern-day Native American leaders have been gifted war bonnets in ceremonies accompanied by prayers and songs."

    A Navajo Nation spokesperson further explained, "Any mockery, whether it's Halloween, Victoria's Secret—they are spitting on us. They are spitting on our culture, and it's upsetting."

    The company responded to criticism with a rather generic apology: "We sincerely apologize as we absolutely had no intention to offend anyone." In addition, model Karlie Kloss tweeted her own apology:

      Victoria's Secret

    Discussion Starters:

    • As you might expect, not everyone agrees that Victoria's Secret needed to apologize. Online comments suggested that people should "grow a thicker skin" and that "Indians should get over themselves." What's your view?
    • How do you assess Victoria's Secret's apology? Is this enough? If not, what else should the company do or say?  
  • 5-Hour Energy Drink Responds to Death Claims

    According to the Food and Drug Administration, 13 deaths over four years may be linked to the caffeine-infused 5-Hour Energy drink. More than 90 filings with the FDA have cited the beverage as a possible cause of heart attacks and other physical problems.

    Packaged not as a beverage but as a shot, 5-Hour Energy is marketed as a dietary supplement, which makes regulation challenging for the FDA.

    Manoj Bhargava, CEO of Living Essentials, the company that distributes the product, originally told The New York Times, "I am not interested in making any comment." However, the company has since issued a statement defending the product and its warnings to users.

    5-Hour Energy

    Discussion Starters:

    • Analyze Living Essentials' statement. What are the strongest and weakest arguments?
    • In the statement, the company makes no mention of the deaths potentially associated with the product. Why or why not is this a good decision?
    • What else, if anything, could the company include in its statement?
  • Yahoo's Server Crashes Before Fantasy Football Game

    Yahoo learned a hard lesson when its server went down before kickoff on Sunday. Fantasy Football players turned to Twitter to vent their frustration.

    Yahoo Fantasy Football

    Yahoo's site is one of the most popular for Fantasy Football game players. When users were able to log into the site, they saw this message:

    "We apologize sincerely for the outage on Sunday. We are working on the fix—the site is stabilized—and will update everyone on next steps for how to handle week 10. Currently, data and scores can be viewed on our mobile apps but for now you cannot make transactions or change line-ups from the apps."

    Head of Yahoo Sports Ken Fuchs also sent this email to Fantasy Football players:

    Dear Yahoo! Fantasy Users,

    I want to sincerely apologize to all of you about today's Yahoo! Sports Fantasy outage. As the head of Yahoo! Sports and as a Yahoo! Sports fantasy player myself, I am disappointed that we failed all of our fans today. Our first priority is having the best experience for our users, and today we fell short.

    The outage started around Noon ET (awful timing we know) and while our team was on it immediately we are still working on various pieces. Our team is continuing to work on identifying and resolving the root cause. We have restored full functionality on the website, and we're working for a final fix for our mobile apps. Currently data and scores can be viewed but for now you cannot make transactions or change line-ups from the apps.

    We will also use today as an opportunity to improve our set-up so that we hopefully never have an outage like this again. Our fantasy commissioners and players are our biggest priority - we pride ourselves in being able to offer our users with the best fantasy sports experience possible and we take our job to deliver that to you very seriously. Rest assured we will work hard to make sure we continue to deliver on that commitment.

    Thanks for playing with us and your patience today,

    Ken Fuchs
    Head of Yahoo! Sports

    Discussion Starters:

    • What, if any, impact do you think the outage will have on Yahoo users next season?
    • What's your opinion of Fuchs's email? What works well, and what could be improved?
  • Strategy to Hide Emails During Affair Didn't Work

    General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell saved messages as "draft" in a shared email account to avoid sending them, thinking they would be less traceable. A technique used by Al Qaeda terrorists (and teenagers), not sending emails prevents them from being tracked to IP addresses that are linked to specific computers and their users.

    Gen PatraeusAnother possible strategy to hide one's identity through email is to use public computers that don't keep permanent records. It's unclear which strategies were used—and failed—between the other players in this unraveling story: General John Allen and Jill Kelley. General Allen succeeded General Patraeus as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Kelley is described as a "Tampa socialite." More than 20,000 pages (or hundreds) of "flirtatious" emails between the two are also under investigation.

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What are the many ways in which draft emails can be made public?
    • Critics question how well General Allen is managing the situation in Afghanistan as he sends so many pages of correspondece with Kelley. What's your view?
  • Nestle Recalls Chocolate Powder

    Nestle has voluntarily recalled its powder used to make hot chocolate because of a possible Salmonella risk. Although no illnesses have been reported, the company is taking precautions because its supplier of calcium carbonate, an ingredient in the mix, announced a recall.

    On its website, Nestle posted this statement about the decision:

    Nestle recall

    At the end of its recall notice posted on the FDA website, the company apologized:

    "Nestlé is dedicated to the health and safety of its consumers. For these reasons, the company initiated this voluntary recall. We apologize to our consumers and sincerely regret any inconvenience created by this incident."

    Discussion Starters:

    • After reading the recall notice, would you avoid similar products, or are you convinced that this is an isolated event?
    • As of this writing, Nestle hasn't posted anything on its Facebook page. Why do you think that is? Is that a good decision?
  • The Week of Sex Scandals

    'Tis the season of sex scandals, apparently. Four stories in the past two days perhaps show the prevalence of sexual harassment and other improprieties at work—and the danger of false claims:

    1) CIA Director David Petraeus resigned, admitting to having an extramarital affair with his biographer, a reserve Army officer. The affair was discovered, predictably, as the FBI was monitoring General Petraeus's email. In a resignation letter to CIA employees, Petraeus wrote, "After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours."

     

    2) Lockheed Martin's new CEO was asked to resign before he officially took office. Christopher Kubasik's "lengthy, close personal relationship" with an employee at a defense contractor was revealed by an "internal whistleblower." In a statement, Kubasik said, "I regret that my conduct in this matter did not meet the standards to which I have always held myself."

    3) Waffle House CEO Joseph Rogers Jr. is mired in accusations of impropriety from his former personal assisant.  The woman claims that he sexually harassed her and tried to force himself on her throughout the nine years of her employment.

    4) The BBC has issued an apology for broadcasting false claims of sex abuse by a senior political figure in the 1980s. In an on-air statement, the network admitted, "We broadcast Mr. Messham's claim but did not identify the individual concerned. Mr. Messham has tonight made a statement that makes clear he wrongly identified his abuser and has apologised. We also apologise unreservedly for having broadcast this report."

  • Anheuser-Busch to Paramount: Remove Budweiser Logo from "Flight"

    In the new movie, "Flight," Denzel Washington's character, a pilot, is drinking a Budweiser beer while he lands a plane. Anheuser-Busch doesn't like the publicity and has asked Paramount to omit its logo from digital and future versions of the film.

      Denzel-Flight

    In a statement to the Associated Press, Rod McCarthy, vice president of Budweiser said, "We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving. We have asked the studio to obscure the Budweiser trademark in current digital copies of the movie and on all subsequent adaptations of the film, including DVD, On Demand, streaming and additional prints not yet distributed to theaters."

    A distributor of Stoli vodka, another alcohol represented in the movie, also is unhappy with the depiction of the brand. A representative of William Grant & Sons told the Associated Press, "Considering the subject matter of this film, it is not something in which we would have participated."

    These companies may be out of luck. As the Associated Press explains, courts have ruled that movies can use representations of brands without permission:

    "Trademark laws 'don't exist to give companies the right to control and censor movies and TV shows that might happen to include real-world items,' said Daniel Nazer, a resident fellow at Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project. 'It is the case that often filmmakers get paid by companies to include their products. I think that's sort of led to a culture where they expect they'll have control. That's not a right the trademark law gives them.'"

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What's your view of how alcohol is depicted in the movie? Do these companies have a right to try to protect their brand in this way?
    • How do you think Paramount decided to use these brands? Did the movie producers not think about the impact on brands, did they consider the consequences and ignore them, or something else?
    • How could this type of situation be prevented in the future? What are the responsibilities of filmmakers and brands?
  • Did Trump Go Too Far on Twitter?

    Apparently, Donald Trump was quite angry last night as he watched the presidential election results. He tweeted a series of comments criticizing the president and the electoral process.

    Trump tweets

    A look at Trump's current Twitter feed shows that he deleted a few tweets, particularly those calling for a revolution. But others, such as calling the election a "travesty" and "disgusting injustice," remain.

    In addition to these comments, Trump got into what seems like a one-sided debate with Brian Williams, NBC News Anchor. BloombergBusinessweek highlighted a few of his "taunting comments": 

    There’s this: “Brian, if I’m ‘well past the last exit to relevance’ how come you spent so much time reading my tweets last night?” And this: “Brian—Thanks dummy—I picked up 70,000 twitter followers yesterday alone. Cable News just passed you in the ratings.” And this: “Wouldn’t you love to have my ratings?” An NBC spokeswoman had no immediate comment on Trump’s tweets.

    More than 1,800 people have signed a petition encouraging Macy's to drop Trump products from its stores.

    In response to criticism, Trump said, "The fact is that there’s a large group of people who like Donald Trump and what Donald Trump says. I have no regrets."

    Discussion Starters:

    • What's your reaction to Trump's tweets?
    • Why do you think he choose to delete some tweets but not others?
    • Also in response to the criticism, Trump cited his number of followers: almost 2 million. What does it mean to have followers on Twitter? Do you consider this to be a strong defense?
  • Raymour and Flanigan Updates Customers

    Furniture store Raymour and Flanigan sent an email to update customers on how Hurricane Sandy is affecting operations. Appropriately, the email begins with empathy for those affected by the storm. 

     Raymour - Sandy

    But buried in the middle of the third paragraph is perhaps what many customers most want to know: "We will continue to do our best to respond to each and every inquiry and keep you informed." The company acknowledges, "We have received many calls, emails, and social media posts from our valued customers, inquiring about deliveries and when stores will be open again." Are many outstanding? Perhaps a separate email could be sent to people who are waiting for a response, (although the company does sound strapped for resources).

    The company's Twitter feed seems disconnected from this email. Other than this one tweet, between October 29 and November 6, no other tweet mentions the storm or its impact on operations:

    Raymour - Sandy tweet
    Discussion Starters:

    • What similar emails did you receive from companies during the storm? How do they compare to Raymour and Flanigan's?
    • What else, if anything, should Raymour and Flanigan tweet during this time?
  • Turnabout on NYC Marathon Decision

    NYC Marathon 2012Hopeful NYC Marathon runners received the bad news: the 2012 Marathon has been cancelled. This reverses Mayor Bloomberg's decision announced during the week.

    The initial decision to continue the marathon received harsh criticism, with New Yorkers concerned that resources needed to rebuild the city after Hurricane Sandy would be redirected to the event. Organizers of the marathon became increasingly concerned about divisiveness over the decision and announced a cancellation, after all.

    George Hirsch, chairman of the board of Road Runners, which oversees the marathon said, "The marathon is about uniting the city. But all it was doing was dividing it. Is that what the New York City Marathon is all about? No, not at all."

    In an email, the Road Runners organization explained the decision. The positioning is interesting and a topic of criticism on Twitter: organizers defend the initial decision and blame the media and controversy in forcing the decision:

    It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that the 2012 ING New York City Marathon has been canceled.

    The decision was made after it became increasingly apparent that the people of our city and the surrounding tri-state area were still struggling to recover from the damage wrought by the recent extreme weather conditions. That struggle, fueled by the resulting extensive and growing media coverage antagonistic to the marathon and its participants, created conditions that raised concern for the safety of both those working to produce the event and its participants. While holding the race would not have required diverting resources from the recovery effort, it became clear that the apparent widespread perception to the contrary had become the source of controversy and division. Neither NYRR nor the City could allow a controversy over the marathon to result in a dangerous situation or to distract attention from all the critically important work that is being done to help New York City recover from the storm. 

    NYRR, in partnership with the Rudin Family and the ING Foundation, has established the "Race to Recover" Marathon Fund to aid New Yorkers impacted by the storm. Over $2.6 million has been raised, including a $1 million donation by NYRR. We are asking you to join us by making a $26.20 donation, or whatever you can afford, to help bring recovery and hope to those communities and families most affected. Proceeds will go to Hurricane Sandy Relief, administered by the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. You can also donate to the relief effort through NYRR's fundraising platform, CrowdRise, which includes the American Red Cross and other charities.

    NYRR will redeploy the marathon resources and materials toward the recovery effort. We will share the details of this project as they are finalized in the days ahead.

    We all recognize this has been a very challenging time in New York City that has impacted so many people, including you, our runners. Please know that this is one of the toughest decisions we have ever made, and that we deeply appreciate your support.

    According to one New York Times article, the cancellation will cost the city an "immense" amount of money.

    (Image source of the finish line before the marathon was cancelled, showing a fallen crane in the background.)

    Discussion Starters:

    • What's your view of the email from Road Runners? How well does it explain the decision, and how convincing is the rationale?
    • What this the best decision for NYC? Why or why not?
  • Mayor Bloomberg's Messages and Delivery Style in Hurricane News Conference

    To provide an update on Hurricane Sandy's impact on New York City, Mayor Bloomberg held a news conference on October 3o.

    The mayor began by thanking the signer and by saying that the conference is "an update on our progress in recovering from Hurricane Sandy." Immediately, he is framing his message as looking forward. However, he does, up front, acknowledge the severity of the storm:

    "I don't think it's any secret, but Sandy hit us very hard. It was a storm of historic intensity, but New Yorkers are resilient, and we have seen an enormous outpouring of support from people eager to volunteer, donate, and help out." 

     

    Bloomberg emphasizes the recovery plan in place,while, again, acknowledging that it will be a long process. His message is clear throughout the 24-minute conference: efforts to restore power, transit service, and business operations are under way. Throughout the news conference, Bloomberg shows appreciation for these efforts and provides phone numbers and other ways to get information and resources (e.g., disasterassistance.gov). 

    The mayor's delivery style is appropriately serious throughout the new conference, but he shows little affect and tonal variation. At times, his messages are difficult to distinguish; the speech sounds like a laundry list of items, and we have to listen closely to digest all of the information. 

    The mayor's style changes when he emphasizes one important point:

    "I can't repeat this message often enough: stay away from city parks; they're closed until further notice. And report down trees and tree limbs to 311, not 911. Please, 911 will just have to remain free for making and receiving emergency calls about life-threatening issues."

    During the Q&A period, the mayor becomes marginally more animated—using more hand gestures, smiling where appropriate, and making more eye contact (as expected when he's off script). During the section, his voice modulation is more natural, and we see more of the mayor's personality.

    Today, the mayor addressed criticism for allowing the NYC Marathon to proceed this weekend.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What other observations do you have about the mayor's messages and delivery style?
    • What's your view of Con Edison CEO Kevin Burke's segment? How effective are his messages and delivery style? How do they compare to the mayor's?
  • Criminal Charges for False Rumors About Hurricane

    @ComfortablySmug may not be laughing since New York City Councilman Peter Vallone is pushing for criminal charges for spreading false information about Hurricane Sandy. Shashank Tripathi, who owns the Twitter handle, has since resigned as campaign manager for a congressional candidate. Tripathi also was a former assistant district attorney in Astoria, Queens.

    Tripathi's tweets included false and accurate information, a mix that Vallone says is dangerous because it gives more legitimacy to the falsehoods.

    @Comfortablysmug tweets

    Although Vallone admits this is a difficult case to prove, he's hoping it will deter similar behavior in the future. At a minimum, the criticism inspired Tripathi to issue this apology:

    @Comfortablysmug apology
    Tweets image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What's your view of Tripathi's tweets: harmless fun, potentially dangerous, or something else?
    • Is the councilman taking the right approach in trying to press charges? What, if any, other consequences should Tripathi face?