Peace Love & Sillyness

Archive for September 2010

Today, Monday September 20, Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley was found dead in his apartment from an apparent suicide. (to read one of many stories on this click here) Ever since this story broke, many people I follow on Twitter and am friends with on Facebook have had many thoughts/statuses about it. This young man was only 23-years-old and, according to those interviewed in the news stories, seemed perfectly fine within these last few weeks and days. While this story is extremely sad and death, let alone suicide, shouldn’t occur on a daily basis in general, I almost feel bad for those families and friends who have lost loved ones to suicide. I understand that Kenny was a football player in the NFL, but what about those who aren’t professional sports players or have a celebrity status? Yes, the world obviously wants to know what has happened when famous people pass away, but why is it that every day people end up dedicating their days/facebook statuses/twitter updates/etc to “grieving” over these people they probably never knew?!

Luckily there are people out there who speak for those who aren’t famous, they’re just like you & me (whoever we are); To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA has a great vision and story and I honestly thank the stars every day that this organization exists. I actively follow them on twitter, fan them on facebook, and try to promote events that occur close to my friends/family. On the TWOLHA website I read that approximately one million people die every year from suicide and by 2020 the rate of death will increase to 1 every 20 seconds. Some people probably try not to even think about suicide, but reality is that it happens every day and that shouldn’t be occurring. Whether you yourself relate to this personally, someone you know does, or none of the above, I wish that every person I know would at least attempt to bring this awareness out, you never know who you could end up helping. I don’t think I necessarily do everything that I need to, but I try and I think that that is the point in any organization. Just a couple weeks ago I tried to help promote National Suicide Prevention Week by writing love on my arm for those lost over the years. Some people who asked about it thought I was “out there” for doing it, while others thought that it was meaningful and even wrote love on their own arm to do their part.

love written on my arm one of the days for National Suicide Prevention Week

Basically, death happens every day, but suicide should not be one of those ways it happens. And famous people should not be the only ones we’re reminded to remember. So, thank you To Write Love On Her Arms for representing the rest of the world.

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Libel & Defamation:

  • according to the AP Stylebook “libel is injury to reputation.”
  • juries award defamation damages if these 4 points can be proved by the injured party:
  1. the statement was published to others by print or broadcast
  2. the plaintiff was identified/is identifiable
  3. there was actual injury in the form of monetary losses, impairment of reputation, humiliation, or mental anguish/suffering
  4. the publisher of the statement was malicious/negligent
  • truth is the traditional defense against libel charges, but opinions also have a degree of legal protection under the First Amendment; this is known as fair comment privilege.
  • the key to avoiding defamation suits is to “watch your language”
  • it’s also a good idea to avoid unflattering comments/accusations about the competition’s products/services

Invasion of Privacy:

  • PR writers/staff are vulnerable to litigation w/ regard to invasion of employees’ privacy in at least 5 areas:
  1. employee newsletters – one should avoid anything that might embarrass or subject an employee to ridicule by fellow employees. a company newsletter/magazine doesn’t enjoy the same First Amendment protection that the news media enjoy when claiming “newsworthiness” or “public interest”
  2. photo releases – PR departments should take the precaution of (1) filing all photographs, (2) dating them, and (3) giving the context of the situation. this precludes photos that could embarrass employees or subject them to ridicule, & sometimes precludes using photos of people who are no longer employed or have died.
  3. product publicity and advertising – an organization must have a signed release on file if it wants to use the photos or comments of employees and others in product publicity, sales brochures, and advertising.
  4. media inquiries about employees – in general, employers should give a reporter only basic info (confirmation that the person is an employee, the person’s title & job description, the date of beginning employment & [if applicable] date of termination); DO NOT PROVIDE salary, home address, marital status, # of children, organizational memberships, & job performance.
  5. employee blogs and virtual communities – many organizations encourage employees to have a blog as a way of fostering discussion online and obtaining informal feedback from the public. IBM has published guidelines for employees who inhabit virtual worlds, including: don’t discuss intellectual property with unauthorized people, don’t discriminate or harass, & be a good Netizen.

Copyright Law – “copyright protection subsists….in the original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression now known or later developed.”

  • authorship: (1) literary works, (2) musical works, (3) dramatic works, (4) pantomimes and choreographic works, (5) pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, (6) motion pictures, and (7) sound recordings.
  • copyrights do not protect ideas
  • currently, a work is automatically copyrighted the moment it is “fixed” in tangible form
  • protects original material for the life of the creator plus 70 years for individual works & 95 years from publication for copyrights held by corporations
  • a customer who buys a copyrighted photo owns the item itself, but not the right to make additional copies
  • “work for hire” provides an exception to copyright; if you create a work as an employee of an organization, the copyright belongs to the organization.

Trademark Law: a trademark is a word, symbol, or slogan that identifies a product’s origin.

  • trademarks are always capitalized & used as adjectives
  • misappropriation of personality (the use of a celebrity’s name or image without their permission) is a form of trademark infringement

Regulatory Agencies:

  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – ensures that advertisements aren’t deceptive or misleading; also has jurisdiction over product news releases & other forms of product publicity (videos & brochures)
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – closely monitors the financial affairs of publicity traded companies and protects the interests of stockholders.
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – provides licenses to radio & tv stations, allocate frequencies, and ensures that the public airwaves are used in the public interest.
  • Food & Drug Administration (FDA) – oversees the advertising & promotion of prescription drugs, OTC medicines, & cosmetics.

these notes came from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques