• Age Distribution of Social Network Users

    A new Business Insider report shows the age distribution of social network users. Unfortunately, only those 18 and older are included in this graphic. 

    Social Network ages

    Social networks around images continue to increase in popularity. Instagram now outpaces Facebook as teens' "most important" social network: 32% compared to 14%. Forty-two percent of women online use Pinterest. 

    Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest continue to attract older demographics. According to comScore quoted by Business Insider, "Less than two-fifths of Facebook's adult user base in the US is aged 18 to 34." 

    Image source

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Why are so few users aged 18 to 24 on Twitter? And yet the site seems to be more popular with pre-teens. Why? 
    • What, if anything, surprises you about the data?
    • How should businesses respond to this information?
  • Companies' Response to Gay Marriage Ruling

    The Supreme Court's ruling in favor of same-sex marriage has inspired many companies to show their support. With popular opinion on their side, 379 companies had encouraged the Supreme Court to eliminate bans across the country. Huffington Post shows a remarkable alphabetical list. 

    Now that the decision is made, companies have recolored their logos and written messages to show their support. Ben & Jerry's changed the name of its Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream to "I Dough, I Dough," with an image of two identical cows holding hands. 

    It's interesting to see which companies are vocal. Apple, Google, American Apparel don't surprise me, but Maytag? 


     Discussion Starters: 

    • How do companies decide whether and how to show their support? What are the risks either way? 
    • Does whether a company shows its support influence whether you would buy its products or services? 
  • New Words in the Oxford English Dictionary

    Drop-a-selfie-of-you-your-baeThe Oxford English Dictionary now includes 500 new words. Twerking is getting publicity: attributed to Miley Cirus, the word has origins dating back to 1820, a blend of twist and jerk

    Several additions are new slang words, such as bae and lamestream, while others reflect social media activities, such as selfie stick, troll, and Twitterati. Lamestream is new to me—a blend of lame and mainstream (like TV, I guess).

    Portuguese and Arabic dictionaries got more than 900 new entries. What a decision process this must be! 

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Read the recent updates from Oxford. Do you know all of the terms? Are they good choices to include? 
    • What criteria do you think are used to determine whether a word makes it into the dictionary? 
    • How do you decide whether to use a new word in business? What about the purpose, audience, culture, and so on would help you use words appropriately yet not fall behind? 
  • Walmart, Amazon, and Others Stop Selling Confederate Flag Images

    Walmart Confederate FlagItems such as this "Rebel Flag Southern Pride Confederate Redneck Belt Buckle" will no longer be sold at Walmart. Walmart, eBay, Amazon, and Sears will discontinue the flag image that many consider a symbol of racism. The decision comes in the wake of nine murders at an African-American church in South Carolina. 

    Held by the southern U.S. states that supported slavery, the flag may fly for the last time on South Carolina state grounds. Governor Nikki Haley has called for the flag to be removed, a decision that requires a vote by two-thirds of the legislature. 

    Companies are following suit. In a statement by a Walmart spokesperson, the company promised to remove all items carrying the flag graphic:

    "We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer. We have taken steps to remove all items promoting the confederate flag from our assortment -- whether in our stores or on our web site. We have a process in place to help lead us to the right decisions when it comes to the merchandise we sell. Still, at times, items make their way into our assortment improperly -- this is one of those instances."

    An eBay spokesperson said that the confederate flag "become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism." The online site along with Amazon and Sears will stop selling products with the image.

    Image source

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What's the opposing view? Why do people favor the image of the Confederate flag?
    • Did Walmart and the others do the right thing? Why or why not?
    • What other companies would you expect to announce a similar decision to discontinue products?
  • Brian Williams: "I Said Things That Were Wrong"

    Brian Williams will be replaced as NBC news anchor following an investigation into his reporting. In an interview with Matt Lauer, Williams admitted stretching the truth in some cases:

    "It had to have been ego that made me think I had to be sharper, funnier, quicker than anybody else. Put myself closer to the action, having been at the action in the beginning."

    He said he didn't intend to mislead viewers:

    "I told stories that were wrong. It was not from a place where I was trying to use my job and title to mislead...I got it wrong. I own this. And I own up to this."  

    NBC announced the decision and Williams' replacement, Lester Holt, on its website. The company included a quotation from Steve Burke, CEO of NBCU, expressing confidence in Williams' future career at MSNBC: 

    "As you would imagine this was a difficult decision. Brian Williams has been with NBC News for a very long time and he has covered countless news events with honor and skill. As I said in February, we believe in second chances, and I am hopeful that this new beginning will be good for Brian and the organization. This matter has been extensively analyzed and deliberated on by NBC. We are moving forward."

    In that news announcement, Williams offered this apology: 

    "I'm sorry. I said things that weren't true. I let down my NBC colleagues and our viewers, and I'm determined to earn back their trust. I will greatly miss working with the team on Nightly News, but I know the broadcast will be in excellent hands with Lester Holt as anchor. I will support him 100% as he has always supported me. I am grateful for the chance to return to covering the news. My new role will allow me to focus on important issues and events in our country and around the world, and I look forward to it."

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Are you surprised at the decision after reading the news? Why did NBC executives move Williams to MSNBC rather than terminate his contract? 
    • How well did Williams handle the apology? What else, if anything, should he say at this point? 
  • Pope Francis's Encyclical on the Environment

    Pope_Francis_3342434bPope Francis has weighed in on the environment, warning us about "unprecedented destruction of ecosystems" and terrible consequences. In a 184-page letter, the Pope criticizes our "throwaway culture" and appeals to our morality to address the issue. He highlights inequality throughout his message:

    "The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet: both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest. For example, the depletion of fishing reserves especially hurts small fishing communities without the means to replace those resources; water pollution particularly affects the poor who cannot buy bottled water; and rises in the sea level mainly affect impoverished coastal populations who have nowhere else to go. The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor, in conflicts sparked by the shortage of resources, and in any number of other problems which are insufficiently represented on global agendas. It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people."

    Although his tone is foreboding, Pope Francis does offer encouragement:

    "Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning. We are able to take an honest look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep dissatisfaction, and to embark on new paths to authentic freedom. No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful, or our God-given ability to respond to his grace at work deep in our hearts. I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us."

    Image source.

    Discussion Starters:

    • What's your view of the Pope's message? Why is he contributing in this way to the debate?
    • Assess the value of an encyclical. What is the significance of this communication method?
  • President Addresses Charleston Shooting

    President Obama held a news conference to address the tragic shooting at a Charleston, SC, church. Nine people were killed at a black church by a white man. The President said a hate crime investigation will begin.

    Much of the news conference focused on gun control:

    "We don't have all the facts, but we do know that once again innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. Now is the time for mourning and for healing, but let's be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.  It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency."

    The President also discussed our nation's history:

    "‘The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked, and we know that hatred across races and faiths pose[s] a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.’"

    Discussion Starters:

    • Critics say the President didn't say enough about the hate crime. What's your view?
    • How well did the President address reporters' questions at the news conference. What advice would you give him for future sessions?
  • NAACP President and Questions About Race

    The NAACP president of the Spokane, WA, chapter has resigned after facing claims that she has been impersonating a black person. Rachel Dolezal's parents say she was born white; the family adopted four black children when Dolezal was a teenager, which some speculate began her changed racial identity. 

    The NAACP released a statement supporting Dolezal and addressing threats to the organization.

    NAACP statement

    Today, Dolezal announced her resignation in a Facebook post addressed to the executive committee and NAACP members. Here are two paragraphs from her statement:

    "I am delighted that so many organizations and individuals have supported and collaborated with the Spokane NAACP under my leadership to grow this branch into one of the healthiest in the nation in 5 short months. In the eye of this current storm, I can see that a separation of family and organizational outcomes is in the best interest of the NAACP.

    It is with complete allegiance to the cause of racial and social justice and the NAACP that I step aside from the Presidency and pass the baton to my Vice President, Naima Quarles-Burnley. It is my hope that by securing a beautiful office for the organization in the heart of downtown, bringing the local branch into financial compliance, catalyzing committees to do strategic work in the five Game Changer issues, launching community forums, putting the membership on a fast climb, and helping many individuals find the legal, financial and practical support needed to fight race-based discrimination, I have positioned the Spokane NAACP to buttress this transition."

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What's your view of the situation?
    • The NAACP refers to "a legal issue with her family." How much does this play into the situation? 
    • Did NAACP do the right thing by supporting Dolezal? Did she do the right thing by resigning?
  • Organic Farmers Displeased with Whole Foods

    Whole Foods needs to complete with traditional grocery stores, which are offering more organic items. Arguably, Whole Foods created the market, but stores such as Costco, which sold $4 billion of organic foods in 2014, are increasing their food selection and offer lower prices and one-stop-shopping.

    Responsibly Grown is the company's new strategy of labeling foods "good," "better," or "best." 

    Whole Foods Organic

    Although Whole Foods claims to "Reward farmers who work hard to protect human health and the environment," organic farmers say they will no longer benefit from having a federal certified organic designation. According to an organic farmer quoted in The New York Times, "Becoming organic is a big investment of time and money. This ratings system kind of devalues all that — if you can get a ‘best’ rating as a conventional farmer using pesticides and other toxic substances, why would you grow organically?"

    According to The New York Times, the lines are increasing blurred: 

    "Conventional growers can receive higher rankings than organic farmers by doing things like establishing a garbage recycling program, relying more on alternative energy sources, eliminating some pesticides and setting aside a portion of fields as a conservation area."

    Matt Rogers, associate global produce coordinator at Whole Foods, says the program gives consumers more choice and encourages conventional farmers to move toward the organic standard, which currently doesn't include "water, waste, energy, farmworker welfare."

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Do you consider Whole Foods' new rating system ethical? Use the Guidelines for Ethical Decision Making in Chapter 1 to form your opinion. 
    • What's your view of the Responsibly Grown program? Do you tend to side with Whole Foods' or the farmers' perspective?
  • Twitter Announces CEO Change

    Twitter-ceo-standing-ovation-***-costolo-1434109488Twitter CEO Costolo will step down but remain on the board of directors. Costolo has been CEO since October 2010 and saw the company through an IPO, but performance has not met expectations. One of Twitters big investors wrote a long essay about how to improve the company. The stock was up between 7 and 8 percent in after-hours trading when the news broke.

    Jack Dorsey, co-founder (with Evan Williams) and board chair, will serve as interim CEO while a search committee finds replacement. Twitter hired a PR firm to help manage the transition. 

    In a press release, the company quoted Costolo:

    "I am tremendously proud of the Twitter team and all that the team has accomplished together during my six years with the Company. We have great leaders who work well together and a clear strategy that informs our objectives and priorities. There is no one better than Jack Dorsey to lead Twitter during this transition. He has a profound understanding of the product and Twitter's mission in the world as well as a great relationship with Twitter's leadership team. I am deeply appreciative of the confidence the Board, the management team and the employees have placed in me over the years, and I look forward to supporting Twitter however I can going forward."

    According to TechCrunch, employees were fond of Costolo: 

    "Internally, sources say many employees loved Costolo. He brought order to Twitter when it was still in its chaotic adolescence, and turned it into a serious business. Whoever comes next will have to transition Twitter from something for news junkies and public figures to a service the average person can love." 

    Costolo got a standing ovation when he announced the news to staff.

    Image source

    Discussion Starters: 

    • If you were the project lead from the PR firm hired to help Twitter with the transition, what would you advise the management team? Consider the company's constituencies, message strategy, and media choice. 
    • What are the challenges for an incoming CEO, particularly following someone "loved" by employees? 
  • NY Governor Responds to Prison Break

    Governor Andrew Cuomo is on the hot seat responding to a prison break in Upstate New York. Two convicted murderers obtained power tools and escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY. 

    A New York Times article says Cuomo sees the situation as a political "opportunity": 

    "Mr. Cuomo canceled a trip to the Belmont Stakes on Saturday so he could rush to the prison. In photos shared over social media, he peered into jail cells and climbed metal ladders in the belly of the 19th-century penitentiary.

    "Television anchors invited Mr. Cuomo to narrate photographs and video of his visit to the prison and pressed him to sketch out the latest theories as to how the escape unfolded."

    The end of this video shows Governor Cuomo touring the facility. 

    At a news conference, after officials describe the escape, Governor Cuomo confirmed what was said and asked for help from New Yorkers to find the convicts.  

    The Governor has the news and this photo under the "Pressroom" section of his website.

    News _ Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

    Discussion Starters: 

    • How well did the three men do in the news conference? As a member of public, did you get the information you need? 
    • Assess Governor Cuomo's part. What value did he add to the conference? 
    • How well did the men answer the questions (which are difficult to hear)? Pay particular attention to word choice and tone. When the Governor added on a response, was it valuable information? 
  • FIFA Official Cites The Onion

    One of the executives charged in the FIFA corruption case is defending himself with an article from The Onion, a satirical newspaper.

    In a video claiming his innocence, Jack Warner, a former vice president of the soccer organization, points to the article, "FIFA Frantically Announces 2015 Summer World Cup In United States. Global Soccer Tournament To Kick Off In America Later This Afternoon."

    NPR posted the full video, which was edited for Warner's website, as the author says, "presumably after much online hilarity." 

    FIFA Jack Warner

    Discussion Starters: 

    • In Chapter 9 of the book, we talk about the difficulty of distinguishing credible information on the web. I guess this applies to printed papers too? Should Warner have known better? What indicates that The Onion is a satirical paper?
    • Watch Warner's video. Do you find his argument credible otherwise? What parts are most and least convincing? 
  • FIFA President Announces Resignation

    As the FIFA corruption scandal continues, the soccer organization's president was re-elected for a fifth term but then resigned. Although he wasn't one of the officials arrested, Sepp Blatter will be the focus of the U.S. investigation. The strategy is to pressure those indicted to reveal wrongdoing at the most senior levels in the organization. 

    In a resignation speech, which The New York Times reports was given to "a mostly empty room at FIFA headquarters," Blatter explained his decision: 

    "While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football—the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA."

    Blatt leaves after serving 17 years at the organization. 

    On its website, FIFA quoted Blatt about "reform work."

    "I had a good, constructive meeting with Mr. Scala to establish a framework for action and a timetable. I am pleased to take advice and guidance from Mr. Scala. I want a comprehensive programme of reform and I am very aware that only the FIFA Congress can pass these reforms. Furthermore, the Executive Committee has a particular duty to share the responsibility of driving this process."

    Discussion Starters: 

    • Did Blatt make the right decision? Why would he run for re-election and then resign shortly after getting the job for a fifth term? 
    • What else should FIFA communicate at this point? How can the organization repair its image throughout the world?
  • Supreme Court Rules Against Abercrombie on Hijab

    AbercrombieThe Supreme Court settled a case about Abercrombie & Fitch for denying a Muslim woman a job because she wore a headscarf, or hijab, for religious reasons. After the applicant's interview, the assistant store manager deemed her qualified for the job, but the district manager said her hajib would violate the company's dress code. 

    This is a major win for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that brought charges against the retailer. The Society for Human Resource Management summarizes the decision: 

    "In an 8-1 opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court held that an employer may not refuse to hire an applicant if the need for a religious accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision, unless accommodation would pose an undue hardship.

    "The prohibition on refusing to hire an applicant to avoid accommodating a religious practice does not apply, as Abercrombie argued, only where an applicant has informed the employer of her need for an accommodation."

    Image source

    Discussion Starters: 

    • What's your view of the case? Consider the legal requirements described by SHRM as well as Abercrombie's perspective. 
    • How would you react if you shopped at Abercrombie and saw an employee wearing a headscarf?