Tag Archives: Webster University

Contracts and Shared Economy Applications

Here is another homework assignment for my Media Organization Regulations class. Technology opens up new ways of trying to make an income, and new legislation of various kinds often follows after the effects on society and other businesses become manifest. If you are interested in exploring the “gig economy”, “side hustles” or income streams based on assets that you share such as Uber, Airbnb and similar services, you might find this material interesting. I am not a law student or attorney, I am an Advertising and Marketing Communications major. This homework has been graded but I didn’t change anything except an instance of repetitive wording before publishing.

“Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Geri L. Dreiling, J.D.
MEDC 5350: Media Organization Regulations
22 November 2020

Contracts and Shared Economy Applications

A contract must include the following elements (“Contract”):

  • Mutual assent – an offer has been made by one party and the other has accepted it.
  • Adequate consideration – there is an agreement to a payment or compensation of some kind for performing the work.
  • Capacity – do the parties meet the legal requirements for being eligible for entering into contracts?
  • Legality – is the purpose of the contract within the law?

Laws of the different states in the U.S. might have different interpretations of some of the elements of the above categories, with allowance for different remedies if a party is in breach of a contract (“Contract”).

A digital contract is a contract in which no paper is used.  The technology used to indicate acceptance of the contract does vary, and there are some types of contracts that cannot legally be executed digitally (O’Connell).  In order for some digital contracts to be valid and enforceable, measures having to do with security and consent must be taken that are unique to digital contracts (O’Connell).  These additional steps don’t have to do with the basic elements of a contract, however – the elements have to be present whether the contract is verbal, digital or written on paper.

In New York City, building owners, called “hosts” in this context, have to follow a strict set of regulations if they want to offer their property for short-term rentals on shared economy web sites such as Airbnb (“How to Navigate…”).  Other cities in the United States have adopted similar restrictions (“How to Navigate…”).

Proponents of these regulations in New York City say they are intended to hold down housing costs, make it more difficult for property owners to dodge taxes, prevent residential buildings from being turned into hotels and to increase property owner compliance with safety regulations (“How to Navigate…”, Kerr).

Those who want more freedom for hosts in managing their own property are concerned that the legislation is designed to help the hotel industry and unions at others’ expense (“How to Navigate…”).

In Brentwood, MO where I own a condominium, if I were to contemplate using it for short-term rentals, I would be subject to any applicable regulations set by the condo complex, the municipality, the county and the state (Capes Sokol).  A quick search shows that city regulations in Brentwood prohibit any rentals of less than 30 days duration in the interests of reserving residential areas for long-term living (Miner).  If I were to attempt to defy the law and create a listing for my condo on a short-term rental shared economy web site, any contract I might enter with a potential customer would be invalid because the purpose of the contract would not be within the law (“Contract”).  Missouri law is silent on shared economy rentals so smaller government entities within Missouri are free to make their own regulations (Capes Sokol).

I’m generally in favor of more freedom rather than less, especially when making decisions about what to do with one’s own property. However, living close to other people does necessitate consideration for neighbors and we already accept a lot of laws that enforce some concessions from members of the community that they might not offer voluntarily. Condominiums and apartments have additional special considerations that detached single family homes don’t have.  I can understand the concerns of someone who thought they were buying a home but find themselves inadvertently living in a hotel.

New York City has taken the additional step of making just creating a shared economy listing for an ineligible property illegal, and punishable by substantial fines (Fishman).  Airbnb is currently challenging this law on free speech grounds and until the issue is resolved New York City is refraining from enforcing it.  At first I thought the city might be going too far, so I decided to look at how they handle advertising for another service that is illegal – prostitution.  In New York law, just to offer the service is illegal (FindLaw), so that seems consistent with the ban on advertising short-term rental listings where they are not allowed.”

Works Cited

Capes Sokol. “Important Considerations for Short-Term Property Rental Hosts in Missouri.”

Capes Sokol, 2016, www.capessokol.com/insights/considerations-short-term-property-rental-hosts-missouri/. Accessed 22 November 2020.

“Contract.” Legal Information Institute, 2020, www.law.cornell.edu/wex/contract. Accessed 19 November 2020.

FindLaw, “New York Prostitution Laws.” Thomson Reuters, 2018, statelaws.findlaw.com/new-york-law/new-york-prostitution-laws.html. Accessed 22 November 2020.

Fishman, Steven. “How to Airbnb in New York City.” Nolo, 2020, www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/overview-airbnb-law-new-york-city.html. Accessed 22 November 2020.

“How to Navigate the NYC Airbnb Law.” Shared Economy, 2019, sharedeconomycpa.com/blog/nyc-airbnb-law/. Accessed 22 November 2020.

Kerr, Dara. “NYC fines Airbnb hosts for ‘illegal’ home rentals.” CNET, 2017, www.cnet.com/news/airbnb-nyc-law-hosts-fined-for-illegal-home-rentals/. Accessed 22 November 2020.

Miner, Doug. “Brentwood clarifies law: no to short term rentals.” 40 South News, 2018, 40southnews.com/brentwood-officials-pass-bill-to-prohibit-short-term-rentals/. Accessed 22 November 2020.

O’Connell, Ann. “Electronic Signatures and Online Contracts.” Nolo, 2020, www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/electronic-signatures-online-contracts-29495.html. Accessed 22 November 2020.

The Right to Privacy

The new season of the Netflix series “The Crown” is out. Around this time last year I wrote a homework assignment paper about the production elements in the show for Media and Culture class. As I start to view the new Season 4, I’m recalling our studies last week in Media Organization Regulations class on the legal aspects of privacy. How does what we learned illuminate how entertainment companies depict real people in a fictionalized drama? Here is an amalagamation of a couple of last week’s homework assignments. If you like to watch “The Crown” or other dramas based on historic events and real people, you might find some of the legal considerations involved interesting. In the series are also depictions of emotional abuse and mental illness, topics I’ve written about before and which again came up in last week’s homework. Abuse takes many forms and some of them are perfectly legal. These selections have been graded by my professor but I didn’t make any changes before publishing. Please keep in mind I am not an attorney or law student, I’m an Advertising and Marketing Communications major. Enjoy!

The Right to Privacy

The theory of a right to privacy developed in US law over about the last 130 years, derived from the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 14th amendments (Trager et al 234). The right to privacy is defined as “1) The right not to have one’s personal matters disclosed or publicized; the right to be left alone. 2) The right against undue government intrusion into fundamental personal issues and decisions” (Legal Information Institute “Right to privacy”).

A tort is a transgression by one person or entity on another’s rights, resulting in an injury (Trager et al 234). Law school dean William Prosser described four torts in the following categories; “false light, appropriation, intrusion and private facts” (Trager et al 235). Commercialization and the right to publicity are sub-categories under appropriation (Trager et al 235). The right to publicity “prevents the unauthorized commercial use of an individual’s name, likeness, or other recognizable aspects of one’s persona. It gives an individual the exclusive right to license the use of their identity for commercial promotion” (Legal Information Institute “Publicity”). Besides being a subset of the right to privacy, the right to publicity differs in that it prevents unauthorized commercial exploitation of an individual rather than addressing non-commercial violations of rights.

right_to_privacy_diagram

False light, intrusion and private facts only apply to living persons (Trager et al 235). The appropriation tort is broader. It applies to living persons and in addition the deceased, businesses, non-profits and associations (Trager et al 235). The states vary a great deal in which torts they recognize – many only recognize single categories or subsets and not necessarily the same ones (Trager et al 235).

Celebrities don’t forfeit their right to privacy by being celebrities, but since people want to know about them many of their activities could be considered newsworthy (Trager et al 246). That doesn’t mean people are entitled to know facts about a celebrity that are not determined to be in the public interest (Trager et al 260, 262). A person’s notoriety might make them the licit subject of a satirical, artistic or transformative work that stops short of commercial use (Trager et al 248-249), which would interfere with the celebrity’s right to publicity.

Appropriation, Commercialization and Political Speech

Appropriation torts are recognized by 46 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico (Trager 235).  The remaining four states have yet to rule on appropriation (Trager 241).  Commercialization and the right to publicity are the two torts included in the privacy law category of appropriation (Trager 235).  Commercialization, also known as misappropriation, is the act of using the likeness or name of a living or dead person in advertising or for commercial purposes without seeking permission from the individual in question or that of the heirs (Trager 236, 241).

The commercialization prohibition is less likely to be applied to a deceased person than right of publicity because it is intended to prevent emotional distress to an individual by upholding the person’s dignity in preserving their personal right to privacy.  As a personal right, it is not usually thought by the courts to apply after death, unlike the right to publicity which deals with the monetary value of one’s identity a form of property that can be transferred or inherited (Trager 242).

Dan Frazier is a retailer and activist who sells left-wing themed political merchandise and other products through his company Lifeweaver LLC (Lifeweaver LLC, team@lifeweaver.com).  In the first decade of the 2000s he started selling anti Iraq war t-shirts with the names of U.S. soldiers who had thus far died in the war as part of the design in small print.  Enough families of the deceased soldiers were outraged by their family members names being used to make money for Frazier that laws were passed in several states making the sale of merchandise that appropriated soldiers names or likenesses without permission illegal (Fischer, “Mom Wants Dead…”).  Frazier’s home state Arizona was one of those passing such a law (Fischer).  Frazier, represented by the ACLU in a case heard in a federal court in Phoenix, was able to stop state and local officials from prosecuting him, citing First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.  The federal court declined to strike the Arizona law from the books and decided to let future similar cases be decided on their own merits (Fischer).  The defenses against appropriation are newsworthiness, the appropriated material being in the public domain, freedom of speech under the First Amendment, incidental use, self promotional ads for the mass media, and consent (Trager 245). How would these defenses possibly apply to Frazier’s case and any future cases that are similar?

Newsworthiness

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided an appropriation case based on newsworthiness before, in hearing whether a news station deprived stuntman Hugo Zacchini of his rights to make a profit from his human cannonball act by airing the entire act as part of a news broadcast.  The court found in Zacchini’s favor, giving his right to publicity more weight than the news station’s First Amendment right to free speech (Trager 247).  In Frazier’s case, newsworthiness is obliquely mentioned in the complaint (Frazier CV07-8040-PCT-NVW) but not as a factor in the decision (Frazier 07-CV-8040-PHX-NVW) though perhaps it could have been.  Deaths in war are news, and courts have previously found that newsworthiness is a defense even though news content is sometimes sold (Trager 246).  Dan Frazier presents his company as a retailer of products as opposed to a news organization (“Campaign Finance Report…”, team@lifeweaver.com).

Public Domain

The names of those killed in war are public information, as again obliquely mentioned in the complaint (Frazier CV07-8040-PCT-NVW), and in my opinion would qualify as factual information that is in the public domain (Trager 248).

First Amendment

Most prominent in the complaint and the court’s findings are issues concerning free speech under the First Amendment. Cited in the decision was a U.S. Supreme Court case, Riley v. National Federation of the Blind, which ruled that if speech is a blend of commercial and some other purpose, the two purposes cannot be parsed out and must be considered together. Given this finding, Frazier’s t-shirts were determined to be protected by First Amendment rights as any other type of political speech would be (Frazier 07-CV-8040-PHX-NVW).

Ads for the Media

Mass media may use names and likenesses of public figures in advertisements for products if the identity-related elements are part of the original content (Trager 251).  The court in Frazier’s case considered but declined to evaluate separately the legality of the t-shirt products themselves and catalog pictures of the t-shirts with close ups showing some of the soldier’s names.  Perhaps the court did not feel it necessary to comment on whether it mattered in this context whether the names were of private or public figures since it had already found that pictures of the merchandise were “inextricably intertwined with otherwise fully protected speech” (Frazier 07-CV-8040-PHX-NVW).

Consent

Frazier made no pretense to claiming consent.  His web site included a statement reading, in part, “I have no plans to remove any names or discontinue any of these products, no matter how many requests I receive” (Watters).  He and his legal team believed they did not need it, and were eventually found to be correct in the legal sense (Frazier 07-CV-8040-PHX-NVW).  Frazier’s personal code of ethics did not preclude him from acting in a way that caused some families of the fallen soldiers listed on the t-shirts to experience what they categorized, but were unable to prove in a Tennessee court, as negligent and intentional “infliction of emotional distress” (Read).

Incidental Use

Frazier did not need to invoke the defense of incidental use to justify the soldier’s names on the t-shirts, but in my opinion incidental use would have applied (Trager 252).  An individual soldier’s name was not the main focus of the shirt design and was in a font small enough to only be legible at close viewing (Frazier CV07-8040-PCT-NVW).

Lanham Act

In my opinion the commercial appropriation issues invoked by the t-shirt design are not in the “zone of interest” of the Lanham Act of 1938, which is concerned with false or misleading advertising (Trager 556).

Works Cited

“Campaign Finance Report 2010 March/May Regular Election.” City of Flagstaff, Arizona, 2010, www.flagstaff.az.gov/DocumentCenter/View/10843/Dan-Frazier. Accessed 15 November 2020.

Fischer, Howard, “Antiwar T-shirts win protection.” Capitol Media Services, 2008, azdailysun.com/news/antiwar-t-shirts-win-protection/article_d0dd0588-d6dc-5b28-acfe-70771736099a.html. Accessed 15 November 2020.

Frazier, Dan vs. Defendants. CV07-8040-PCT-NVW. 2008. Print.
—. 07-CV-8040-PHX-NVW. 2008. Print.

Legal Information Institute. “Right to privacy.” Cornell Law School, 2020, www.law.cornell.edu/wex/right_to_privacy. Accessed 12 November 2020.
—. “Publicity”. Cornell Law School, 2020, www.law.cornell.edu/wex/publicity. Accessed 12 November 2020.

“Lifeweaver LLC.” Bizapedia.com, 2019, www.bizapedia.com/nm/lifeweaver-llc.html. Accessed 15 November 2020.

“Mom Wants Dead Son Off Anti-War Shirt.” CBS Interactive Inc., 2008, www.cbsnews.com/news/mom-wants-dead-son-off-anti-war-shirt/. Accessed 15 November 2020.

Read, Robin, et al v. Lifeweaver, LLC et al. 2:08-CV-116. 2010. www.leagle.com/decision/infdco20100506b78. Accessed 15 November 2020.

team@lifeweaver.com, “Lifeweaver LLC.” 2020, lifeweaver.com. Accessed 15 November 2020.

Trager, Robert Susan Dente Ross and Amy Reynolds. The law of journalism and mass communication. Sixth Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. 2018.

Watters, Jesse “Confronting Frazier.” BillOReilly.com, 2006, www.billoreilly.com/b/Confronting-Frazier/-643011088989176289.html. Accessed 15 November 2020.

 

What does it mean to be considered “libel-proof”?

Here is a homework assignment for my Media Organization Regulations class at Webster University. Each week we have a legal question to answer in the form of a short paper, as well as other writing assignments. Every once in a while I like to put one of the more interesting pieces here on my blog. Please keep in mind I am not an attorney or law student, I’m an Advertising and Marketing Communications major. Enjoy!

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Geri L. Dreiling, J.D.
MEDC 5350: Media Organization Regulations
7 November 2020

What does it mean to be considered “libel-proof”?

In order to win a libel case, a plaintiff must prove that a contested statement fulfills all of the elements of libel (Trager et al 149-166).

  1. The statement must purport to be a fact, that is, according to a dictionary, “a piece of information presented as having objective reality”, not an opinion statement (Trager et al 150).
  2. The statement must have been published, which consists of posting to the internet, printing in a periodical publication, or broadcasting over airwaves. Publishing includes mass media, but it not limited to only mass media. It is only necessary for one other person besides the subject and source to have seen the information in one of the above media channels in order for it to be considered published (Trager et al 150).
  3. The plaintiff must be identifiable as an individual or possibly in some cases a member of a small group. Identification is not necessarily limited to just using the person’s name (Trager et al 155).
  4. The content must defame the plaintiff, that is cause damage to their reputation (Trager et al 156).
  5. The plaintiff must prove that the allegation is false (Trager et al 160).
  6. The plaintiff must be able to show actual damage or harm (Trager et al 150).
  7. The defendant must be found to be at fault either by actual malice in defaming a public figure or the lower standard of negligence if the target of the defamatory statement is a private figure (Trager et al 163).

In most cases, libel law is presumed to help people protect their own good reputation, but in cases where the plaintiff’s reputation is already significantly damaged, the libel-proof plaintiff doctrine might be invoked in order to deny the plaintiff a finding of libel (Hudson 14-15).  For example, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled in one such case that if someone is a convicted murderer, they have been “judicially declared to be evil” and cannot be further damaged by aspersions upon their character (Hudson 15).  The libel-proof doctrine was further invoked in the same jurisdiction in order to negate the claims of the convicted assassin of Martin Luther King Jr., James Earl Ray, when he sought redress from the court for being portrayed in Time magazine as a thief and a drug dealer (Hudson 16).

Beyond Tennessee, Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione objected to being labeled as an adulterer even though he was openly a pornagrapher, but lost his case due to the libel-proof doctrine (Hudson 16), as did former MLB player Lenny Dykstra when he sued a publisher for portraying him as a racist in a ghost-written memoir by a former teammate (Dykstra 4, 18-19).

In Dykstra’s case, it was not his profession that reflected badly on his reputation, but his history of personal behavior.  Evidence was produced to show that he had long been considered “unsportsmanlike”, “shitty”, a “criminal”, a thief, a drug abuser, “racist”, “hateful”, an extortionist, “violent”, “abusive”, misogynistic, a “homophobe”, treacherous, a “sexual predator” and “one of baseball’s all-time thugs” (Dykstra 2-4, 6).

In finding against Dykstra’s claim, the defense invoked a couple of other points of libel law.  Firstly, the statements in question were “substantially true”.  In addition, the defense argued that the plaintiff cannot claim incremental harm because Dykstra’s reputation would likely be unchanged even if the allegations in the published book were demonstrated to be false.

If one considers the elements of a finding of libel, in the Dykstra case, the plaintiff lost because he was not able to prove that the statements about him were false, that his reputation was capable of being damaged and that he suffered actual harm (Dykstra 5).

 

Works Cited

Dykstra, Lenny vs. St. Martin’s Press LLC. 153676-2019. 2020. Print.

Hudson Jr., David L. “Shady Character.” Tennessee Bar Journal, vol. 52, no. 7, July 2016, pp. 14–17. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=116345329&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed 5 November 2020.

Trager, Robert Susan Dente Ross and Amy Reynolds. The law of journalism and mass communication. Sixth Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. 2018.

The Holiday Inn Brand and Trademark Concepts

The following is an assignment for my class MEDC 5350: Media Organization Regulations at Webster University.   This one has some pictures in it, so I thought it might be a nice change from the walls of text I’ve been publishing lately!  The only thing I changed since turning it in is rewording some references to graphics because it’s formatted slightly differently.  It’s also available as a Word document here:
“The Holiday Inn Brand and Trademark Concepts” Word Document.

The Holiday Inn Brand and Trademark Concepts

The Holiday Inn brand is a fertile source of imagery for examining legal issues concerning trademark tacking and trademark infringement. The book “American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar examines the motel signage along the historic highway US Route 66 from 1938 to the 1970s in order to explain the economies and cultures behind the forms and themes of motel advertising signs of the time period (Mahar 10). The Holiday Inn lodging chain was founded during this era and the imagery associated with the Holiday Inn brand was influenced by and in turn influenced trends in the motel industry throughout the whole country (Mahar 122, 127).

Credit: “American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar, 2002. Excerpt from page 134.
Credit: “American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar, 2002. Excerpt from page 134.

The diagram above (Mahar 134), demonstrates minor differences in the Holiday Inn logo and signage from 1952-1957. The use of a star and a certain script lettering style is consistent even though the arrangement and number of elements is slightly different.

The following examples show how Holiday Inn added and subtracted elements and slogans to go along with its earlier trademarked elements. The Holiday Inn logo, both one-line and two-line, are registered. The Holiday Inn sign is registered with the US Patent Office, as is the colonial mascot figure that showed up on some advertising pieces and then was later dropped again. The slogans “The Nation’s Inkeeper”, “The World’s Inkeeper” and “Your Host from Coast to Coast” were all registered. The brand’s use of the colors green, yellow and white are consistent in these samples, mostly from the 1970s.

Various Holiday Inn trademarks, mostly from the 1970s.
Various Holiday Inn trademarks, mostly from the 1970s.

Holiday Inn marks demonstrate how “words, designs, colors and other devices” were used to distinguish its services from other lodgers from the 1950s through the 1970s (Trager 523). Trademark tacking is the practice of making changes to a trademark without relinquishing the old marks (Trager 519). The Holiday Inn samples shown above illustrate trademark tacking as the color scheme and script font were used over a long period of time, with other elements such as the stars and colonial mascot added and subtracted.
Following are some examples of motel signs from the classic Route 66 era that are similar to the Holiday Inn sign, to varying degrees. By looking at the dates and contexts of these signs, it seems apparent that the first Holiday Inn sign from 1952 incorporated some elements in signage that were already in use, but as the chain in turn became popular other signs for independent motels were more directly influenced by the Holiday Inn chain (Mahar 126-127).

sign_influence

Did the independent motels with signage similar to Holiday Inn engage in trademark infringement? The use of stars, the sign elements and shapes, the name “Holiday” and the color green were all used in various ways as a result of Holiday Inn’s influence (Mahar 127).

Credit: “American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar, 2002. Diagram from page 127.
Credit: “American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar, 2002. Diagram from page 127.

The law uses the likelihood of consumers becoming confused as one of the criteria to determine whether or not there is infringement (Trager 518). It is not enough for the marks just to be similar (Trager 519). The combination of sign elements with Holiday Inn’s colors and name recognition seems to be distinctive enough to avoid confusion with other brands who might have used a subset of the elements used by Holiday Inn but not all of them combined together.

Works Cited

Advertisement for Holiday Inn. Inkeeker’s Supply Company, Memphis, TN. Circa 1970s. Author’s personal collection.
—. Stationery sheet. Holiday Press, Circa 1970s. Author’s personal collection. 
—. Business reply letterhead. Holiday Inn Lake of Ozarks, Lake Ozark, MO. Circa 1970s. Author’s personal collection.
—. Rate sheet. Holiday Inn Lake of Ozarks, Lake Ozark, MO. Circa 1970s. Author’s personal collection.
—. IMART, Memphis, TN. Circa 1970s. Author’s personal collection.
—. Back of business reply envelope. Holiday Inn Lake of Ozarks, Lake Ozark, MO. Circa 1970s. Author’s personal collection.

“American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar, 2002.
“Motel Sign to Get Face Lift.” Between Friends, Vol 2, Issue 2, Fall 2003, pp. 1.
Rest Haven Court. DePew Advertising, Reeds Spring, MO. Postcard. Author’s personal
collection.

Trager, Robert Susan Dente Ross and Amy Reynolds. The law of journalism and mass
communication. Sixth Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. 2018. Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. Photograph of Munger Moss Motel. 2006. Author’s personal collection.
—. Photograph of the Gardenway Motel. April 2000. Author’s personal collection.
—. Photograph of Vernelle’s Motel. April 2000, Author’s personal collection.

Freedom of Expression in The Age Of Powerful Technology Corporations

The following paper was turned in last night for my Media Organization Regulations class at Webster University. It is not graded yet. Enjoy!

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Geri L. Dreiling, J.D.
MEDC 5350: Media Organization Regulations
1 November 2020

Freedom of Expression in The Age Of Powerful Technology Corporations

Freedom of expression is the right to disagree, to assemble in protest of laws and to publish and disseminate opinions, ideas and beliefs (Baran and Davis, 64-65).  Freedom of expression is considered central to democratic self-government and is therefore described, though not in those exact words (“Bill of Rights…”), in the Bill of Rights (Baran and Davis, 64-65).  In 1927, the Supreme Court found against the plaintiff in the case Whitney v. California, a ruling that was overturned in 1969 (Belpedio).  This case was heard to decide whether or not the arrest and conviction of a Communist political activist in 1919 was in violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (Legal Information Institute).  Part of the written opinion of Justice Louis Brandeis caused some to question why he voted against the plaintiff in Whitney v. California since his defense of freedom of expression was eloquent and widely influential (Belpedio).  Justice Brandeis’ words have been interpreted as a “virtual declaration of absolute free speech” (Belpedio).

A present-day issue that Justice Brandeis illuminated in his prescient comments from 1927 is the regulation of speech by corporations that are popularly known as “Big Tech” (“Does Section 230’s…”). On October 28, 2020, the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing on current internet law and whether or not it is sufficient in the present day to ensure the free exchange of ideas in the online environment controlled by Google, Twitter and Facebook (“Does Section 230’s…”).

A study by the Pew Research Center found that as of 2018, social media had surpassed print newspapers as a source of news, accounting for 20% of the news audience (Shearer).  The study also reports that 33% of adults in the U.S. consume news content from online web sites (Shearer).  Since Google is the largest provider of internet search results, with a nearly 88% market share in the United States (StatCounter), having influence over potentially nearly 43% of all news content puts these three big tech companies in powerful positions.  In a 2016 TED talk, referring to the platforms Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, internet freedom activist Rebecca MacKinnon stated “… we do know that journalism, activism and public debate are being silenced in the effort to stamp out extremist speech.  So with these companies having so much power over the public discourse, they need to be held accountable” (MacKinnon). YouTube is owned by Google LLC (YouTube).

Concerns about the freedom of expression in search results and within social media platforms in the face of this power have been growing in recent history.  On its web page “Digital Bill of Rights”, the stance of Adbusters, a nonprofit network of artists and activists declare that “It is high time that digital citizens, in the face of rampant techno-tyranny, openly mount a resistance to take back our mental space by force” (Adbusters “Digital Bill of Rights”).  73% of U.S. adults now suspect that social media companies intentionally block political content that they don’t want users to see (Vogels et al).

The Big Tech companies that the Senate investigated on October 28, 2020 are not legally required to allow their users rights as described in the First Amendment, which restrains government action only (Rosen).  The law that the recent Senate hearing choose to focus on is Section 230 of Communications Decency Act (DCA) of 1996 (“Does Section 230’s…”).  Section 230 does not address whether or not the platforms can legally restrict political opinions – it addresses immunity from lawsuits on other matters such as libel, because the platforms claim they do not influence content (Trager 210).  It appears that it could be argued Section 230 immunity should not be applied to Facebook, Google and Twitter because they do “interact directly with content” in an attempt to cultivate attitudes to make the culture of the United States more like Europe (Rosen, Trager 210).  In Europe, safety and propriety are valued more than freedom (Rosen) while the culture of the United States accepts more risks.  In the words of Justice Brandeis, “Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties; and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary.  They valued liberty both as an end and as a means.  They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty” (Baran and Davis 65).

Users who are attracted by the promise of free speech have been turning to alternative platforms that are perceived to be less restrictive than the three tech companies that the Senate Hearing examined.  Parler appeals to unhappy Twitter users by claiming to offer an environment with more freedom and corporate accountability (Parler).  Articles suggesting alternatives to Google and Facebook describe platforms that users concerned about data mining and privacy issues can try out (Broida, Taylor).

The movie industry’s voluntary Hays Code, which was in effect from 1934-1965 was intended to reduce public outrage and stave off possible future government regulation of motion picture content (Hays Code).  The power of the medium of television and its effect on violence in children led to the threat of possible increased government regulation and in turn self-regulation by the industry in the late 1960s and early 1970s (Baran and Davis 166-167).  The Big Tech companies might choose in the future to follow the lead of the movie and television industries that proceeded them and do more self-policing in order to better align their European-inspired standards to the expectations of the American public.

Works Cited

Adbusters. “Digital Bill of Rights”. 1989-2020, www.adbusters.org/articles-coded/digital-bill-of-rights, Accessed 1 November 2020.

—. “Mind Journey #11”. 1989-2020, featured.adbusters.org/mindjourney/011/, Accessed 1 November 2020.

—. “‘The Social Dilemma’ director hopes to spark a movement” 1989-2020, www.adbusters.org/the-pulse/the-social-dilemma-director-hopes-to-spark-a-movement, Accessed 1 November 2020.

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Belpedio, James. “Whitney v. California (1927)”. The First Amendment Encyclopedia, 2009, mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/263/whitney-v-california, Accessed 1 November 2020.

“Bill of Rights of the United States of America (1791).” Bill of Rights Institute, 2020, billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/. Accessed 26 October 2020.

Broida, Rick. “Social-media alternatives to Facebook.” CNET, 2018, www.cnet.com/how-to/social-media-alternatives-to-facebook/. Accessed 1 November 2020.

“Does Section 230’s Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?”. U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, 2020, www.commerce.senate.gov/2020/10/does-section-230-s-sweeping-immunity-enable-big-tech-bad-behavior, Accessed 1 November 2020.

Greenwald, Glenn. “Article on Joe and Hunter Biden Censored By The Intercept”. Glenn Greenwald, 2020, greenwald.substack.com/p/article-on-joe-and-hunter-biden-censored, Accessed 1 November 2020.

“Hays code.” Siteseen Limited, 2017-2018, www.american-historama.org/1929-1945-depression-ww2-era/hays-code.htm. Accessed 14 September 2019.

Legal Information Institute. “WHITNEY v. PEOPLE OF STATE OF CALIFORNIA”. Cornell Law School, 2020, www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/274/357, Accessed 1 November 2020.

MacKinnon, Rebecca. “We can fight terror without sacrificing our rights.” TED Conferences, LLC., June 2016, www.ted.com/talks/rebecca_mackinnon_we_can_fight_terror_without_sacrificing_our_rights/transcript. Accessed 1 November 2020.

“Parler”. Parler, Inc., 2020, www.parler.com/auth/access. Accessed 1 November 2020.

Rosen, Jeffrey. “The Deciders: The Future of Free Speech in a Digital World”. Harvard Kennedy School Shorestien Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. 2016, shorensteincenter.org/jeffrey-rosen-future-of-free-speech-in-a-digital-world/, Accessed 1 November 2020.

Shearer, Elisa. “Social media outpaces print newspapers in the U.S. as a news source”. Pew Research Center, 2018, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/12/10/social-media-outpaces-print-newspapers-in-the-u-s-as-a-news-source/, Accessed 1 November 2020.

StatCounter. “Search Engine Market Share in United States Of America Sept 2019 – Sept 2020”. October 2020, gs.statcounter.com/search-engine-market-share/all/united-states-of-america, Accessed 1 November 2020.

Taylor, Sven. “Alternatives to Google Products”. Restore Privacy, LLC, 2019, restoreprivacy.com/google-alternatives/. Accessed 1 November 2020.

Trager, Robert Susan Dente Ross and Amy Reynolds. The law of journalism and mass communication. Sixth Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. 2018.

Vogels, Emily A., Andrew Perrin and Monica Anderson. “Most Americans Think Social Media Sites Censor Political Viewpoints”. Pew Research Center, 2020, www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/08/19/most-americans-think-social-media-sites-censor-political-viewpoints/, Accessed 1 November 2020.

YouTube, 2020, www.youtube.com/. Accessed 1 November 2020.

 

If you want to delve deeper into this and related topics, I have links to a lot more resources on a Pinterest Board: Media Analysis: Communications and the Law

First Amendment and Bill of Rights Refresher

I’m currently in Media Organization Regulations class. That means I’m going to be writing about where media communications and the law intersect. As I have been doing since I started graduate school, if there is anything I think my blog readers might enjoy or find useful I’ll be publishing some of my assignments here. In our first assignment for this class, we were tasked to write about the First Amendment to the US Constitution. I needed some refresher reading on the First Amendment in order to write this, as I haven’t studied this kind of material in school for a LONG time.

The Bill Of Rights was added to the US Constitution immediately after ratification as a sort of compromise to reassure those who feared that a stronger central government would lead to the infringement of individual liberties. There were those who believed these rights were protected sufficiently in the individual state constitutions and therefore didn’t need to written out, and others who feared that writing them out would imply that the list was exclusive and implying there were no other rights (Thernstrom 177-178).

One thing I and probably others have to keep reminding myself of is that our form of government was founded on the premise that our constitution or government is not giving these rights to us, but is spelling out the rights we already have. That’s a profound difference in attitude than I frequently perceive from some people who are in government, campaigning to be in government, some media institutions and large corporations. What is your opinion on my perception?

“Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Geri L. Dreiling, J.D.
MEDC 5350: Media Organization Regulations
25 October 2020

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, assembly, press and speech (Trager et al 9, Silverblatt 30). First Amendment rights to free speech are considered by most historians to have been initially intended to prohibit the restrictions that the American colonists feared would be established under British rule (Trager et al 56-57). Although actual licensing of presses was no longer practiced in the home country, punishment following the publishing or speaking of certain content did appear to be a method that could be used to suppress speech and ideas that those in power considered subversive (Trager et al 56-59). In colonial times up to the present day in the United States, the level of punishment for certain kinds of speech and the level of requirement to promote or allow the diversity of speech or ideas is constantly being tested and litigated (Trager et al 56-61). New technology and forms of media have caused the purpose and philosophy of free speech to be constantly re-evaluated (Trager et al 62-68, Baran and Davis 65).

Other than protecting speakers from unjust punishment, another purpose of the First Amendment was to ensure that the new country would develop in a climate where individuals would hear a diverse selection of ideas and then choose what ideas they found the most beneficial from a free “marketplace” (Silverblatt 129). In the United States, the idea of giving technocratic control of the media to the government was considered but rejected (Baran and Davis 62). With the rise of social media and their use as virtual public forums, corporations are trying now to take on the technocratic control of speech and ideas themselves (Baran and Davis 66). There is precedence in the law that private property used in the manner of a traditional public space can be required in some cases to allow “public gatherings and free expression” (Trager et al 82). What will the courts decide in the future about virtual public space that is owned by a corporation?

There is a distinction between “prior restraint” in which the government must approve the publication of content, and punishment after the fact for harm caused by certain kinds of speech (Trager et al, 57). Even with the First Amendment in place, both kinds of restraint on speech are sometimes allowed, but the necessity for prior restraint is much harder to prove in court (Trager et al, 64-67). Content neutral laws are more likely to withstand scrutiny (Trager et al, 68, 71), as are laws that restrict speech as little as possible in order to achieve what the government’s compelling interest is alleged to be (Trager et al, 71).

Although not intended to, the First Amendment could be seen to help protect individuals from being punished by private organizations and employers in a sense. Some states, cities and territories cite the First Amendment in laws that prohibit discrimination against employees for political speech and activities (Volokh). Usually though it is anti-discrimination laws inspired by the First Amendment that apply to a private employer, not the actual First Amendment (Freedom Of Speech…). Government employees are more directly affected (Freedom Of Speech…).”

I’m going to list here the complete Bill of Rights, according to the Bill of Rights Institute, because I and probably a lot of other people need a refresher (Bill of Rights of…).

1 – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

2- “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

3- “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

4- “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

5- “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

6- “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

7- “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”

8- “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

9- “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

10- “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

Now I’m going to quote extensively from our textbook, “The law of journalism and mass communication” (Trager et al 61). Following is a list of “Core Values of Free Speech”, which are often cited in Supreme Court decisions that have to do with free speech issues. For one of our assignments we had to make predictions about what new Supreme Court cases we might expect to see in the near future that have to do with the First Amendment. I was very impressed with this list of values derived from sources ranging in time from 1698-1996. You no doubt have your own ideas about what cases we can expect to see or what you would like to see. Are these the values you want to court to consider?

  • Individual liberty. The freedom of speech is deeply intertwined with fundamental natural rights. In this sense, free speech is an inalienable right.”
  • Self government. The freedom to discuss political candidates and policies and to render judgements is an essential cornerstone of responsible self-governance. The freedom of speech enables “the people” to pursue “democratic self determination”.”
  • Limited government power. Free speech is an “invaluable bulwark against tyranny.” The free speech of “the people” serves as a “check” on authoritarian rule and a limit to the abuse of power of a few.”
  • Attainment of truth. Free speech advances the “marketplace of ideas” to increase knowledge and the discovery of truth. By challenging “certain truth” and “received wisdom”, open public discussion allows a society to expand understanding.”
  • Safety valve. Free speech allows people to express problems and grievances before they escalate into violence. Except during the “worst of times”, free speech is a mechanism for “letting off steam” and helping to balance social stability and change, compromise and conflict, tolerance and hate.”
  • It’s own end. Free speech, like clean air, or beauty, or justice, is an end in and of itself, a valuable good and a cherished right.”

Works Cited

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

“Bill of Rights of the United States of America (1791).” Bill of Rights Institute, 2020, billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/. Accessed 26 October 2020.

“Freedom Of Speech In The Workplace: The First Amendment Revisited.” Thomson Reuters, 2020, corporate.findlaw.com/law-library/freedom-of-speech-in-the-workplace-the-first-amendment-revisited.html. Accessed Day Month 2020.

Silverblatt, Art et al. Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Fourth Edition. Praeger, 2014.

Thernstrom, Stephan. A History of the American People: Volume One: To 1877. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.

Trager, Robert Susan Dente Ross and Amy Reynolds. The law of journalism and mass communication. Sixth Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. 2018.

Volokh, Eugene, “Laws Protecting Private Employees’ Speech and Political Activity Against Employer Retaliation: Covering a Wide Range of Speech.” Reason Foundation, 2020, reason.com/2020/07/26/laws-protecting-private-employees-speech-and-political-activity-against-employer-retaliation-covering-a-wide-range-of-speech/. Accessed 25 October 2020.

I’ve started a Pinterest Board for Media and Law references and resources. I will likely cite some of these during this class and read others for background information. Enjoy!
Media Analysis – Communications and the Law

There are some resources I’m not able to link to for whatever reason on Pinterest that I need for my homework. My purpose for putting them in Pinterest is because it’s an easy way to keep my resources in one place. However, for the ones I can’t put there, I’ll start collecting some here so that I know where they are and can get to them fast since I have linked the relevant Pinterest board to this article.

Other First Amendment Related Links

Winston84 – online directory of suppressed content.

Here is a link to the Senate Hearing on Section 230 that we are currently studying in my class.

The Deer Creek Watershed Alliance Campaign to Promote Rainscaping in the St. Louis Missouri Metro Area

Here is my final paper for Strategic Communication Applications. It’s been graded now, but since class is over and I got a score that pleases me I didn’t make any changes here. As you’ll see, I refer to myself in the third person in this paper. That is because I decided to write it as if was an impartial observer. Enjoy!

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Mary Bufe
PBRL 5380: Strategic Communication Applications
16 October 2020

This analysis will examine how public relations campaigns have encouraged the installation of rainscaping and rain gardens in St. Louis County and what were the results when citizens attempted to enact what the campaigns recommended. Rainscaping is a landscaping technique that utilizes green infrastructure including directing excess stormwater runoff into planted bioretention areas, known as rain gardens (Buranen). Some residents of St. Louis County have received cooperation from the county while installing their rainscaping features, while we know of one St. Louis County couple, Tom Winkelmann and Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann, who experienced persecution and harassment from St. Louis County for using the same recommended techniques.

Organization’s history and background

Deer Creek Watershed is an area of St. Louis County that is a sub-watershed of the River Des Peres Watershed. The River Des Peres Watershed is large and complex with portions in both St. Louis City and St. Louis County (EcoWorks Unlimited 6). In 2008, citizens who lived in the Deer Creek Watershed approached Missouri Botanical Garden to explore ways of mitigating destructive water runoff activity in their locality. Missouri Botanical Garden formed an alliance for the purpose of exploring plant-based solutions to stormwater runoff problems with these citizens, along with “Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, Washington University, East-West Gateway Council of Governments, American Society of Civil Engineers, Great Rivers Greenway, Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Stream Teams, River des Peres Watershed Coalition, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis County, local garden clubs” and 21 local municipalities (EcoWorks Unlimited 6, 9).

St. Louis County entered into an agreement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency from 2003-2013 (Sutin) to reduce storm water runoff and pollution, problems that rainscaping helps to fight. Combined sewer overflows, sanitary and stormwater, have been plaguing the St. Louis metro area for years, causing damage and pollution in the area and downstream. As a result the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District is required by the EPA and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment to fix the problem in 23 years. The clock started in 2011 (Buranen).

St. Louis County and the Metropolitan Sewer District, hereafter known in this document as STLCO and MSD, have constituencies that overlap. Besides being fellow members of the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, aka DCWA, these two organizations are logical allies in the fight against stormwater pollution and flooding.

Demonstration projects along with testing and water quality monitoring were performed by alliance members in parts of the affected watershed in order to successfully prove the effectiveness of rainscaping techniques (EcoWorks Unlimited 23-25, Winkelmann “Aquatic Macro Invertebrates…”, Buranen). Since the majority of land within the target watershed is privately owned, it was necessary to enroll citizens in the alliance’s goals and projects (EcoWorks Unlimited 19, 22).

Organization’s Mission, Vision and Brand

In its own words, the mission of DCWA is “facilitating a community-wide effort for over 10 years to protect and improve water quality through plant-based solutions” (The Deer Creek Alliance).

After its inception, DCWA recommended the following public relations efforts to enlist citizen involvement (EcoWorks Unlimited 22).

  1. Rainscaping demonstration projects in schools.
  2. Workshops for area professionals.
  3. Annual public engagement projects led by citizens.
  4. Building a contact list of citizens in the watershed through tables at festivals, networking, presentations utilizing PowerPoint, and media campaigns.
  5. Cultivating the contact list with email newsletters, the web site, and public meetings.
  6. Helping cities communicate about pilot projects, incentives and barrier removal mechanisms.

In 2014, when the Deer Creek Watershed Management Plan Summary was finalized, St. Louis County resident Carolyn Hasenfratz, now known as Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann, was single and living within the Deer Creek Watershed in a condominium in Brentwood. Already an avid gardener, she obtained a permit to garden around her condo unit right after her 2004 move in. Keenly interested in sustainable and eco-friendly gardening, she constantly updated her knowledge and practices with every bit of information she could glean from “green” gatherings and gardening resources. A frequent attendee at events such as Earth Day and the Sustainable Living Expo, she was aware of Project Clear, Operation Clean Stream and other alliance member activities through some of the table promotions mentioned by the DCWA(Winkelmann “Photo of Patches”). Observing water runoff problems around her condo unit, Winkelmann experimented with, to the extent allowed by the condo association guidelines, small scale stormwater control techniques (Winkelmann “Garden Maintenance in…”).

In 2016, Winkelmann successfully completed training and was certified in the St. Louis Master Gardener program, a membership she has retained until the present time (Winkelmann “Mass Communication Final…”). Master Gardener activities include yearly minimum time commitments for volunteer work and continuing education, and consequently brought Winkelmann into closer involvement with Project Clear and the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, as she personally participated in several of their outreach efforts and projects.

Missouri Stream Teams – Winkelmann became a volunteer at the Litzinger Road Ecology Center immediately after certification as a Master Gardener. LREC is a Missouri Botanical Garden facility and is located right on Deer Creek. Volunteers from Missouri Stream Teams, another DCWA partner organization, conducted a demonstration of surveying macro-invertebrates which is one of their methods of testing the effectiveness of rainscaping techniques (Winkelmann “Aquatic Macro Invertebrates…”). She has volunteered for several years in Operation Clean Stream events, an ongoing cleanup effort of trash along area waterways (Winkelmann “Operation Clean Stream…”).

Workshops for area professionals – Winkelmann attended a session on green controls for stormwater runoff at Missouri Botanical Garden to learn more about rainscaping (Winkelmann “Photo of Handouts”).

Presentations utilizing PowerPoint – After attending a presentation on Project Clear by an MSD representative, Winkelmann wrote an article for her employer’s newsletter to help disseminate the information to customers (Winkelmann “MSD’s Project Clear…”). MSD has been promoting a long-term campaign called Project Clear, the “planning, design and construction of MSD’s initiative to improve water quality and alleviate many wastewater concerns in the St. Louis region” (Winkelmann “MSD’s Project Clear…”). Project Clear utilizes a three-part classification system to organize projects. The category “Get the Rain Out” is the portion that addresses remedies in which individual citizens and property owners can engage (MSD Project Clear “MSD Project Clear Initiative”). The premise of “Get the Rain Out” is that if we reduce the amount of rainwater that goes into the stormwater management systems at peak times, disasters can be averted and the water quality for our region and those downstream from us will improve. The aforementioned practice of rainscaping is one of the two main initiatives in the “Get the Rain Out” category (MSD Project Clear “Rainscaping”). A prominent incentive touted for rainscaping is monetary grants to property owners who install rainscaping features. (MSD Project Clear “MSD Project Clear Initiative”).

Problem Statement

Carolyn Hasenfratz married Tom Winkelmann in 2018 and moved into the husband’s home in Affton. The couple started installing rainscaping features shortly after becoming engaged since the property had severe existing drainage problems. According to Winkelmann’s blog, the next-door neighbor made false claims to St. Louis County about the effect of the Winkelmann’s rainscaping on her property, resulting in a year of entanglements with the St. Louis County Department of Public Works. The husband, who is the registered property owner, was forced to appear in court under pain of arrest (Winkelmann “Drainage Problems Are…”). After the charges were dismissed in court in July 2019, Winkelmann’s blog reports that harassment of the couple by the St. Louis County Department of Public works resumed in January 2020 and persisted until the end of April 2020 when the couple contacted the County Executive’s office and provided video documentation of the alleged harassment (Winkelmann “St. Louis County…”). The current position of the St. Louis County Department of Public Works is that the rainscaping employed by the Winkelmanns is acceptable and no explanation was offered to explain their previous opposition.

Since St. Louis County is a member of the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, to have part of the organization undermining the alliance’s goals is confusing and could discourage other St. Louis County residents from adopting rainscaping techniques. The attitude of the St. Louis County Department of Public Works shown to this couple indicates that at least some of the inspectors and supervisor of inspectors are or were either uninformed about rainscaping, hostile to it, or both. Here is a quote from the supervisor of inspectors to Mrs. Winkelmann that seems to indicate skepticism about rainscaping as a concept, and mockery toward the homeowners for employing it. “Should a complaint come in about a public nuisance created by the ditches you’ve dug in your husband’s yard we will be required by law to re-issue the NOV and seek compliance. If you want to create a “rain garden” at some time in the future, and the necessary changes involved with that process are in violation of County ordinances, you will need to seek a special use permit or a zoning variance” (Winkelmann “Drainage Problems Are”). It’s less than precise to judge attitudes solely from written communication, but this supervisor refused to speak to the Winkelmanns on the phone or to visit the site in person despite repeated invitations, so this kind of communication is all the evidence of the department’s attitudes available.

Who is involved or affected? How are they involved or affected and why is this a concern to the organization and its publics?

Events in recent history have made it clear that flooding in St. Louis County is still a serious problem. For example, the River Des Peres flooded in 2019 and 2020, causing pollution and property destruction in South St. Louis (Hignett, Lincoln, Wicentowski). A South St. Louis resident estimated the amount of water in his neighborhood to be equivalent to the historic flood of 1993. 2019 and 2020 are eight and nine years into the 23-year agreement between MSD, the EPA, and Missouri Coalition for the Environment. The 1993 and 2019 flood events that the resident compared are very different in scale in terms of the effects on the entire metro area, so this one event may not mean that MSD is losing the battle and is going to miss their deadline. However, these recent floods could be regarded as evidence that there is still a lot of work to be done.

If the St. Louis County Department of Public Works is going to persecute people who try to be part of the solution, they will discourage property owners from adopting rainscaping techniques and we will all pay the price in higher sewer bills, flood destruction and deteriorated water quality. All subscribers to MSD are affected because of the cost, and every person who lives downstream from the St. Louis metro area is affected by decreased water quality – all the way to the Gulf of Mexico where there is a dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi that varies in size every year (“Mississippi River…”). This has implications for the health of drinking water downstream, the health of fishing in the Gulf, property loss, decreased tourism, land erosion and possibly other destructive effects (“Mississippi River…”).

Mrs. Winkelmann personally spent over 43.6 hours of labor defending the rainscaping she and her husband installed, representing an economic loss because she is partially self-employed and that is time that she could have spent earning money instead (Winkelmann “St. Louis County…”). The couple spent approximately $300 on security cameras to obtain evidence to stop the harassment, and since they don’t live in in the area that offers rebates to homeowners who install rainscaping, all of the property upgrades have been performed at their own personal expense (Winkelmann “St. Louis County…”).

MSD and the other members of the DCWA have invested huge amounts of money and labor into trying to convince the public to install rainscaping features on their own property (Buranen). MSD subscribers have partially paid for this advocacy with their sewer bills and will be paying for many more years. Many people do not have the resources, time, or the interest to fight St. Louis County and could be intimidated out of acting in an environmentally responsible way just because it’s easier and cheaper and keeps them out of court, not because they are indifferent the environment and our fellow Americans downriver.

Anyone who contributes resources to the following partial list of organizations, either voluntarily or through taxation, is potentially having some of their money that was spent on sponsoring the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance wasted: Great Rivers Greenway, Missouri Department of Conservation, US EPA Region 7, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Botanical Garden, Washington University, East-West Gateway Council of Governments, American Society of Civil Engineers, Missouri Stream Teams, River des Peres Watershed Coalition, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis County, allied local garden clubs and the 21 affected local municipalities (The Deer Creek Alliance, EcoWorks Unlimited 6, 9). Most of the money for the cost-share grants is derived from private property taxes (Chen).

Continued Advocacy and Outreach by Alliance Members

DCWA members continue to work on the organization’s goals of mitigating pollution, habitat loss and flood damage with the help of plants. The Alliance “Take Action” web page calls for the following activities (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Take Action”):

The Rainscaping Cost-Share Program – funded by the “Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation, and US EPA Region 7 through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (subgrant number G19-NPS-11), under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act”, the cost-share program continues with large and small cost-share grants available, to help out individual homeowners, businesses and institutions (MSD Project Clear “Rainscaping”).

Education – online resources to teach property owners how to rainscape (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Rainscaping”, “Rain Gardens”).

Water pollution prevention tips (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Reduce Water Pollution”, Winkelmann “Online photo album…”).

Guidelines on conducting a citizen led creek cleanup (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Lead a Creek Cleanup”).

News of volunteer activities and opportunities from the Green Keepers, Great Rivers Missouri Master Naturalists, Missouri Stream Teams, Open Space Council and St. Louis Master Gardeners (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Webster Groves Green Keepers”). Some of the organizations listed here are official alliance members while others are assumed by this analyst to be allies as their goals and projects often overlap.

Invasive Honeysuckle removal (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Root Docking Invasive Honeysuckle”, Winkelmann “Tips for Removing…”).

News about continuing education opportunities (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Learning Opportunities”).

Project Clear outreach and educational exhibits in an annex at the new St. Louis Aquarium (Winkelmann “Online photo album…”). In this area visitors can get brochures about Project Clear, play interactive games, use an interactive and educational kiosk, view a demonstration rain garden and engage in other activities that educate about water quality and water conservation.

Evaluation

One result that is easy to see is that The Deer Creek Watershed Alliance did an excellent job getting the word out about the cost-share grants for rainscaping. This analyst found news articles about the availability of the grants from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Giegerich, Schuessler), Kirkwood, MO Patch (Greenbaum), St. Louis Public Radio (Chen) and the St. Louis American (“MSD accepting applications…”).

Have property owners been taking advantage of the grants? “In the model [first] round, there were only eight applications. The second [following year] round had sixty-six applications” reported an official in 2018 (Buranen). Two of Project Clear’s pilot rainscaping projects, Old North and Cortex, have been well-received by the public and the educational signage has been observed to attract attention and interest (Buranen). Interest in rain gardens has increased throughout the area even by those, like the Winkelmanns, who are not located in the grant award area (Buranen). For example, an alternate funding source provided the large rain gardens on the Webster University campus in Webster Groves (Buranen). The Deer Creek Watershed Alliance published an infographic in 2018, claiming credit for 364 rainscaping project installations among many other educational and environmental achievements during its first 10 years (Deer Creek Watershed Alliance “Achievements”).

Negative reactions

Since neither the St. Louis County Department of Public Works or the County Executive’s office would provide an explanation to the Winkelmanns about the initial resistance to their rainscaping (Winkelmann “St. Louis County…”), this analyst can only speculate about what the problem might have been. In a search for negative reactions in the St. Louis area to the idea of rainscaping, excepting the reports in the Winkelmann blog, only one example was found by this analyst. Here are a couple of selections from a letter to the editor, published by the St Louis Post-Dispatch in 2013 (Niehaus).

“New gardens may rain dollars” (Jan. 6) reports that homeowners in 14 communities may receive up to $2,000 if they “rainscape” their yards to retain run-off into the Deer Creek watershed.”

Mr. Niehaus put the word “rainscape” in quotes in a mocking way, similar to John L. Geiler, Assistant Chief Residential Inspector of St. Louis County Public Works, who mocked the Winkelmanns “rain garden” in his email without having first accepted an invitation to come to look at it (Winkelmann “Drainage Problems Are…”).

“Funny, I don’t recall voting on a measure that would pass along thousands of dollars to needy homeowners in Ladue, Clayton, Creve Coeur, Frontenac, Kirkwood, Warson Woods, etc.”

From that sentence and the rest of the published letter, it is apparent that there is a lot of information that this citizen did not know. For example, rain gardens put in along Deer Creek reduce flooding and pollution in places like South St. Louis and everywhere downstream from that, including many communities not as affluent as the places he mentioned. Nevertheless, appearing to divert taxpayer money to the benefit of wealthy citizens is not a good impression to create, and it would be helpful for the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance to continue to also promote the rain garden projects in other less advantaged parts of the metro area to raise their profile. With prevalent citizen apathy to government activities (Broom and Sha 362) and a dearth of reporters to create original news coverage (Grieco), a lot of misinformation that gets out into the public remains uncorrected and unexamined.

It’s more surprising that some St. Louis County government employees, who work for an organization that is a Deer Creek Watershed member, seem to be little better informed six to seven years later (Winkelmann “Drainage Problems Are…”, “St. Louis County…”). We know that there are many barriers to successful communication between citizens and government as well as branches of government with each other (Broom and Sha 356-366). In addition to lack of interest by citizens and a shortage of reporters, the scale of the task is overwhelming and there are bureaucratic layers, mistrust, and actors with varying agendas to overcome.

Despite all these challenges, the sources I have found in preparing this analysis seem to indicate that the rainscaping movement in the St. Louis area is not dying out, but rather is gaining momentum. Since the Winkelmanns have been left alone by the Department of Public Works since April 2020 (Winkelmann “St. Louis County…”), at least one more of St. Louis County’s internal publics, the Department of Public Works, seems to have been brought further into co-orientation with the other Deer Creek Watershed Alliance members. That is good news, because as evidenced by recent floods, the need for more green infrastructure in our area has not abated.

Works Cited

Allen, Michael. “The Harnessed Channel: How the River Des Peres Became a Sewer.” Preservation Research Office, 2010, preservationresearch.com/infrastructure/the-harnessed-channel-how-the-river-des-peres-became-a-sewer/. Accessed 16 October 2020.

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

Buranen, Margaret. “Tackling Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) and Flooding Issues in St. Louis.” Endeavor Business Media, 2018, www.stormh2o.com/green-infrastructure/article/13034725/tackling-combined-sewer-overflows-csos-and-flooding-issues-in-st-louis. Accessed 15 October 2020.

Chen, Eli. “Curious Louis: How is St. Louis managing stormwater runoff?.” St. Louis Public Radio, 2017, news.stlpublicradio.org/health-science-environment/2017-01-11/curious-louis-how-is-st-louis-managing-stormwater-runoff. Accessed 15 October 2020.

Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org. Accessed 18 September 2020.

—. “Achievements”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2018, www.deercreekalliance.org/achievements. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “Take Action”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/involved. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “The Deer Creek Alliance”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/. Accessed 18 September 2020.

—. “Rainscaping”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/rainscaping. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “Reduce Water Pollution”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/pollution. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “Lead a Creek Cleanup”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/cleanup. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “Webster Groves Green Keepers”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/wg_green_keepers. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “Root Docking Invasive Honeysuckle”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/root_docking_honeysuckle. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “Learning Opportunities”. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance, 2020, www.deercreekalliance.org/learn. Accessed 15 October 2020.

EcoWorks Unlimited for the Missouri Botanical Garden. “Deer Creek Watershet Management Plan Summary”, 2014, d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/deercreekalliance/pages/48/attachments/original/1526495599/Plan_Summary_20141030_WebVersion.pdf. Accessed 13 October 2020.

Giegerich, Steve. “St. Louis County residents could get money for rainscaping.” STLtoday.com, 2013, www.stltoday.com/news/local/st-louis-county-residents-could-get-money-for-rainscaping/article_f7412a5d-5699-56c5-884b-e4a1f66db66e.html. Accessed 15 October 2020.

Gilberg, Cindy. “Rain Gardens Contribute to Clean Water.” The Healthy Planet, 2011, thehealthyplanet.com/2011/05/rain-gardens-contribute-to-clean-water/. Accessed 15 October 2020.

Greenbaum, Kurt. “Want Your Kirkwood Yard to Look Like This?” Patch Media, 2013, patch.com/missouri/kirkwood/want-your-kirkwood-yard-to-look-like-this. Accessed 15 October 2020.

Grieco, Elizabeth. “U.S. newspapers have shed half of their newsroom employees since 2008.” Pew Research Center, 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/20/u-s-newsroom-employment-has-dropped-by-a-quarter-since-2008/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Hignett, Katherine. “Viral Video Shows Mississippi River Flooding at St. Louis as River Approaches Historic Levels.” Newsweek, 2019, www.newsweek.com/mississippi-river-flooding-video-crest-1443300. Accessed 16 October 2020.

Lincoln, Ashli. “Residents still allowed to live in condemned apartment complex in University City” KMOV | News 4 St. Louis, 2020, www.kmov.com/news/residents-still-allowed-to-live-in-condemned-apartment-complex-in-university-city/article_d7e46c52-038f-11eb-9a9c-dfdf78456667.html. Accessed 16 October 2020.

“Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2020, www.epa.gov/ms-htf. Accessed 15 October 2020.

“MSD accepting applications for rainscaping grants through October 31.” St. Louis American, 2018, www.stlamerican.com/news/local_news/msd-accepting-applications-for-rainscaping-grants-through-october-31/article_846e81d0-9978-11e8-a837-fba7498d138f.html. Accessed 15 October 2020.

MSD Project Clear. “Small Grants Program”. Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, 2020, msdprojectclear.org/what-we-do/rainscaping/small-grants/, Accessed 14 October 2020.

—. “Rainscaping.” Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, 2020, msdprojectclear.org/what-we-do/rainscaping/. Accessed 13 October 2020.

—. “MSD Project Clear Initiative.” Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, 2020, msdprojectclear.org/about/project-clear-initiative/. Accessed 13 October 2020.

Niehaus, Craig. “Sustainability siphons money and water.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2013, www.stltoday.com/opinion/mailbag/sustainability-siphons-money-and-water/article_0722da06-d6f2-5b67-b662-0395a41fa1f1.html. Accessed 16 October 2020.

Pringle, Travis. “Rainy Day Garden Party.” Patch Media, 2011, patch.com/missouri/universitycity/rainy-day-garden-party. Accessed 15 October 2020.

“Rain Gardens.” East-West Gateway Council of Governments, 2020, www.onestl.org/toolkit/list/practice/rain-gardens. Accessed 14 October 2020.

Rose, Angie. “A History of River des Peres.” Angieranderson, 2011, angieranderson.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/13/. Accessed 16 October 2020.

Schuessler. “Creve Coeur OKs incentives for eco-friendly landscaping.” STLtoday.com, 2012, www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/creve-coeur-oks-incentives-for-eco-friendly-landscaping/article_79beefd5-e848-53f9-92cc-d4024621bab0.html. Accessed 15 October 2020.

Sutin, Phil. “MSD promotes rain gardens, other methods to slow, clean storm water.” Publisher, copyright date, www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/msd-promotes-rain-gardens-other-methods-to-slow-clean-storm/article_629b10d2-ca5c-53fd-88ed-82e41c24136f.html. Accessed 18 September 2020.

Wicentowski, Danny. “The River Des Peres Is Eating South St. Louis.” Riverfront Times, 2019, www.riverfronttimes.com/newsblog/2019/06/06/the-river-des-peres-is-eating-south-st-louis. Accessed 16 October 2020.

Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. “Garden Maintenance in Wet Weather.” Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2015, schnarrsblog.com/garden-maintenance-in-wet-weather/. Accessed 14 October 2020.

—. “Aquatic Macro Invertebrates at Litzinger Road Ecology Center”. Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2017, schnarrsblog.com/aquatic-macro-invertebrates-at-litzinger-road-ecology-center/, Accessed 13 October 2020.

—. Photo of Patches. Facebook, 21 June 2017. www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10213641471095335&set=a.4010664309257. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “MSD’s Project Clear and Our Local Water Issues”. Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2017, schnarrsblog.com/msds-project-clear-and-our-local-water-issues/, Accessed 13 October 2020.

—. “Tips for Removing Invasive Honeysuckle”. Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2017, schnarrsblog.com/tips-removing-invasive-honeysuckle/, Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. “Drainage Problems Are Bringing Tom and Me To Court”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/drainage-problems-are-bringing-tom-and-i-to-court/, Accessed 13 October 2020.

—. “Mass Communication Final Paper”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/mass-communication-final-paper/, Accessed 13 October 2020.

—. “Operation Clean Stream 2019 on the Meramec River”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/operation-clean-stream-2019-on-the-meramec-river/, Accessed 13 October 2020.

—. “St. Louis County Harassing Us Again.” Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2020, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/st-louis-county-harassing-us-again/. Accessed 18 September 2020.

—. “Barriers to Government and Citizen Communication”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2020, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/barriers-to-government-and-citizen-communication/, Accessed 13 October 2020.

—. Online photo album with captions. Facebook, 27 September 2020, 10:55 AM, www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10224249615372312&type=3. Accessed 15 October 2020.

—. Photo of Handouts. Facebook,15 October 2020, 6:12 PM, www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10224390520054841&set=a.10223930154825998. Accessed 15 October 2020.

Barriers to Government and Citizen Communication

The first part of this post is a homework assignment for Strategic Communications Applications class in which I summarize the barriers to government and citizen communication as stated in our textbook, “Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations”. The second section is my own commentary which includes a lot of my opinion, speculation, and things I’d like the opportunity to delve into further to either prove or disprove. What do you think? Is your government a help to your life, a deadweight on your progress, or a mixture of both?

In our textbook are listed many challenges to successful two-way communication between citizens and government (Broom and Sha 356-366).

1. The government is large and complex with many bureaucratic layers that are difficult and time consuming to navigate.

2. Citizens expectations of what services government should provide keep expanding.

3. There is suspicion about the ethics of the entire profession of public relations and the governments that employ them.

4. Actual incidents of government misinformation have occurred, intentional or just not thorough enough, interpreted as lies or spin, such as in the Iraq war buildup.

5. There is a lot of citizen apathy.

6. There is often hostility of legislators to the public relations profession for budget and other reasons, sometimes causing practitioners to choose other areas of expertise.

7. A lack of journalists to cover government activity thoroughly.

8. When it comes to distributing information, government and media often have different agendas.

9. The job of informing the public is too large for anyone to do well.

10. Unlike a business with a more limited scope, a government has to attempt to please everyone rather than cater to one public in particular.

Works Cited

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

My Further Commentary

Here are some factors I’ve considered that the book did not mention, based partly on my own opinion, perceptions and experiences. I’ll put in any links and citations I can find as I go, exploring ideas that I can bolster with other sources.

A. Some members of government agencies represent their departments poorly and abuse their power over citizens, building mistrust. This apparently is what happened to my husband and I when we started putting in a rain garden to help cope with excess storm water. I documented all that in these two blog posts of mine and my final project for this course, Strategic Communications Applications, will partly be an attempt to analyze and find motivation for these actions against us.

B. News media is no longer the watchdog over government that it once was, due to more activist news coverage (Broom and Sha 365), or was perceived to have been. There is more than one reason for this in my opinion.

    • 1. Because traditional “old media” institutions are losing revenue to other channels, they are concentrating more on their social media channels. News on social media tends to be less informative, more opinion based, less accurate, and posted by journalists who are less constrained by ethics or standards than in the past (“The Impact of…”). Much content is only created to get views and clicks in order to sell ads and does not need to have much substance or even be true in order to meet the goals of the media organizations who publish it (Johnstone).
    • 2. Investigative journalism about government takes a lot of time and money to produce, and available money and staff are more limited (Grieco). Journalists can get stories with less time and effort by just repeating statements from sources without confirming or investigating (Johnstone).
        “Journalists wanted information to be easily available, yet resented the men and women who made it available. By the mid twentieth century, journalists were dependent on PR practitioners for a large percentage of the stories appearing in newspapers. But admitting their dependence would shatter cherished ideals. Journalists were proud of their ability to uncover stories, verify details, and expose sham. Thus, they were unlikely to admit their dependence, lack of skepticism, failure to verify, and failure to expose every sham.” – Delorme and Fedler, 2003. (Broom and Sha, 226)
    • 3. The attention span of the average person in our country is going down and there is less demand for in-depth stories with enough information to truly be informed (Lords).
    • 4. Issues related to the size and function of government are politicized. The personal philosophy of journalists and companies that employ them is more likely to follow their political interests rather than the well-being of citizens than in the past (“The Impact of…”).
    • 5. The media has less and less credibility with citizens because of selective reporting, staging and manipulating events in order to have a story that they want to be able to report, un-named sources that may or may not even exist and outright fabrication (“The Impact of…”, Johnstone). There are bi-partisan examples of this to be found. I’ll post one example each from two different political sides here for examination.

      The Pew Research Center measures the public’s attitudes toward both media and government and finds that news coverage about government is evaluated and consumed very differently according to political affiliation (Jurkowitz, et al).

    • 6. Many media institutions and personalities engage in “gaslighting”, similar to what is often done to the victim in abusive domestic relationships. Media, both entertainment and what is presented as “news” is permeated with attempts to make a lot of people who have done nothing wrong and have accurate and reasonable perceptions of reality to feel ridiculed and ostracized (Battaglio). If this is continued, the “Spiral of Silence” theory posits that certain ideas disappear from public discourse over time (Baran and Davis 268). Our form of government is based on the premise that people should be free to discuss issues in order to make the most rational choice, but there are many forces trying to restrict certain information from being discussed in public (Bufkin, Farrah, Gordon, OyperG, Poulakidakos, Sherr).

      For example in 2013 I was literally holding in my hand a letter from my insurance company saying that my insurance was cancelled when an “entertainment” podcast I was listening to was ridiculing people who claimed that their insurance was cancelled, claiming we were liars trying to fool people. This was a podcast that I had a paid subscription to. I sent a scan of my rejection letter to the podcast host along with a cancellation of my subscription to the podcast. The host’s response was to call me stupid and say I was making it up. That’s an example of gaslighting and DARVO, Deny Attack Reverse Victim Offender, a tactic that abusive domestic partners and other abusers use to keep their victims under coercive control (Harsey, Zurbriggen and Freyd, 644). While the majority of media outlets were trying to deny that there were cancellations happening, a web site with Twitter account was set up for people to send pictures of their cancellation letters for publication (Fennell). Twitter shut that account down, then reinstated it later after public outrage (Fennell). Since I did see my letter on that web site and Twitter account and it was unaltered from what I sent them, I judged the things they were posting to be credible unless I was presented with information indicating otherwise. So even in a society where there is supposed to be freedom of speech and the government has limited ability to censor if the constitution is followed, corporations can take political stances and if they don’t want certain things known they can do a lot to censor information that isn’t in their interests (OyperG, Fennell, Bufkin). If we rely for information on a corporation that is in the business of news or providing a communication platform, we can’t assume without investigating that we are getting true or complete information about any issue. While media corporations sometimes have an agenda that is in opposition to a government (Broom and Sha 365), at other times they can be complicit (Woodruff). Citizens must investigate for themselves to try to determine the truth to the best of their ability, and many do not have the time or interest and so remain poorly informed (Broom and Sha 356-366, Poulakidakos 373).

TO BE CONTINUED…

Works Cited

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Battaglio, Stephen, “Hallmark Channel isn’t winning Emmys, but red states love it.” Los Angeles Times, 2017, https://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-hallmark-red-state-20170914-story.html. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

Bufkin, Ellie, “Twitter Users Appalled by Bias and Censorship Plan Boycott.” Townhall.com/Salem Media, 2020, https://townhall.com/tipsheet/elliebufkin/2020/06/24/conservatives-appalled-by-bias-and-censorship-plan-twitter-boycott-n2571231. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Farrah, Kristen. “Republicans fear prejudice on campus.” Webster Journal, 2019, websterjournal.com/…/republicans-fear-prejudice-on…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Fennell, “Twitter Suspends (Then Reinstates) Account Critical of Obamacare.” IndustryDive, 2013, www.socialmediatoday.com/content/twitter-suspends-then-reinstates-account-critical-obamacare. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Gearhart, Sherice, and Weiwu Zhang. “Same Spiral, Different Day? Testing the Spiral of Silence across Issue Types.” Communication Research, vol. 45, no. 1, Feb. 2018, pp. 34-54. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0093650215616456. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Gordon, Sherri. “How to Handle Political Bullying on Facebook.” Dotdash, 2019, www.verywellmind.com/how-to-handle-political-bullying…. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Grieco, Elizabeth. “U.S. newspapers have shed half of their newsroom employees since 2008.” Pew Research Center, 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/20/u-s-newsroom-employment-has-dropped-by-a-quarter-since-2008/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Hasenfratz, Carolyn. “MSD’s Project Clear and Our Local Water Issues.” Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2017, schnarrsblog.com/msds-project-clear-and-our-local-water-issues/. Accessed 15 October 2019.

Johnstone, Caitlin. “‘Confirmed’ Is a Meaningless Word In MSM News Reporting.” Consortiumnews, 2020, consortiumnews.com/2020/09/27/confirmed-is-a-meaningless-word-in-msm-news-reporting/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Jurkowitz, Mark et al. “U.S. Media Polarization and the 2020 Election: A Nation Divided.” Pew Research Center, 2020, www.journalism.org/2020/01/24/u-s-media-polarization-and-the-2020-election-a-nation-divided/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Kim, Mihee. “Facebook’s Spiral of Silence and Participation: The Role of Political Expression on Facebook and Partisan Strength in Political Participation.” CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, vol. 19, no. 12, Dec. 2016, pp. 696-702. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1089/cyber.2016.0137. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Lords, Shannon, “As Attention Spans Get Shorter, Content Gets Even Shorter – What Would Ken Burns Do?” Advertising Week, 2020, https://www.advertisingweek360.com/attention-spans-get-shorter-content-gets-shorter-ken-burns/. Accessed 10 October 2020.

Madrigal, Alexis C. “What Facebook Did to American Democracy And why it was so hard to see it coming.” The Atlantic, 2017, www.theatlantic.com/…/2017/10/what-facebook-did/542502/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

OyperG, “NBC Goes Mask Off – Reveals Twitter Censorship Methods After Devastating Hack.” Bitcoin Warrior, 2020, bitcoinwarrior.net/2020/07/nbc-goes-mask-off-reveals-twitter-censorship-methods-after-devastating-hack/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

Poulakidakos, Stamatis, et al. “Post-Truth, Propaganda and the Transformation of the Spiral of Silence.” International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, vol. 14, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 367-382. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1386/macp.14.3.367_1. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Sarah J. Harsey, Eileen L. Zurbriggen & Jennifer J. Freyd (2017) Perpetrator Responses to Victim Confrontation: DARVO and Victim Self-Blame, Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 26:6, 644-663, DOI: 10.1080/10926771.2017.1320777. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Sherr, Ian. “How Facebook censors your posts (FAQ).” CNET, 2016, www.cnet.com/news/how-zuckerberg-facebook-censors-korryn-gaines-philando-castile-dallas-police-your-posts-faq/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

Silverblatt, Art et al. Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Fourth Edition. Praeger, 2014.

Swift, Art. “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low.” Gallup, Inc. 2016, https://news.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx. Accessed 24 September 2019.

“Taliban Denies CBS Claim of Endorsing Trump Reelection.” Tasnim News Agency, 2020, www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2020/10/11/2367327/taliban-denies-cbs-claim-of-endorsing-trump-reelection. Accessed 11 October 2020.

“The Impact Of Social Media On News and Journalism.” New York Film Academy, 2014, www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/social-media-in-journalism/. Accessed 10 October 2020.

Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. “Drainage Problems Are Bringing Tom and Me To Court.” Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/drainage-problems-are-bringing-tom-and-i-to-court/. Accessed 15 October 2019.

Woodruff, Betsy. “Democrat Rep: Insurance Cancellation Letters Should Have Just Said Things Are Getting Better.” National Review, 2013, www.nationalreview.com/corner/democrat-rep-insurance-cancellation-letters-should-have-just-said-things-are-getting/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

I also put some resources I’ve collected as I work on my degree on this Pinterest board:

https://www.pinterest.com/chasenfratz/media-analysis/

More of my commentary on Corporate Social Responsibility

Here are some more excerpts from my homework for Strategic Communications Applications class as we wrote and commented on a discussion board about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Examples Of Corporate Social Responsibility

Hampton Inns

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Hampton Inns encouraged tourism on Route 66 and other historic roads and endeared themselves to a lot of Route 66 fans by sponsoring preservation projects along the route. The program was called the Hampton Save-A-Landmark program. I was made aware of the program through my own personal intense Route 66 fandom and related Route 66 news sources and events.

Sites that were targets for the preservation program received help with preservation projects along with a large and attractive signs for each sponsored location that was branded with Hampton Inns and the Save-A-Landmark graphics. The signs raised awareness among the public that the site was significant. Some historic Route 66 and other old roadside attractions are of an importance not always apparent to those not in the know about historic road trip subculture – they often look quite humble and unassuming. The signs helped to raise awareness of Hampton Inns also. From personal experience I know some Hampton Inns were patronized by many Route 66 devotees, at least during the time the campaign was running, even though sometimes the Hampton Inns were a little more expensive than the usual hotels the roadies usually patronized. Awareness of Route 66 makes road trips more fun and getting more drivers out on the roads is good for all businesses along the road including Hampton Inns. It makes sense for a large chain business to take action that helps all tourism as well as mitigates some of the bad feeling among preservationists when large chain businesses make it difficult for smaller historic businesses to survive.

Hampton Inns also made some Save-A-Landmark program branded games meant as giveaways for kids. Some of these games ended up in the hands of collectors (I still have one!) because they provided cases of them to the Route 66 community to distribute at Route 66 events. Adults grabbed some for their collections after the kids who were present got theirs. I loved this game idea because when I was young we had a Stuckey’s board game that I loved to play. I wish we still had it! Games are a great way to build brand loyalty in the young, to have fun and to educate. If I could, I would still patronize Howard Johnson’s, Stuckey’s and A&W often while on road trips. These places are rare now, but are brands I enjoyed very much in childhood. These brands have a place in my collections of road memorabilia because I enjoy the personal memories, the graphics and the history.

More info:
https://www.hotel-online.com/News/PR2004_2nd/May04_HamptonLandmarks.html

Here is the front and back of the game:
http://www.chasenfratz.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/hampton_front.jpg 
http://www.chasenfratz.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/hampton_back.jpg 

Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort

Ozark Outdoors is a resort and outfitter that services the area of the Missouri Ozarks where the Huzzah, Courtois, and Meramec rivers meet. Like several other float trip outfitters in Missouri, they give out mesh trash bags to their patrons and provide trash receptacles at the take out points to encourage and enable floaters to dispose of their trash responsibly. In addition, Ozark Outdoors has donated the use of shuttles, vessels and trash pickup containers in their role as sponsor of Operation Clean Stream for several years. Operation Clean Stream is a volunteer effort to pick up trash from land and bodies of water to clean up waterways and the environment in general. Ozark Outdoor stands to get more visitors if the rivers that they serve remain clean and beautiful so it makes sense for them to sponsor such an activity. The humans and wildlife in the area and downstream all benefit from clean water too.

More info:
https://ozarkoutdoorsresort.com/operation-clean-stream-on-missouri-rivers/
http://www.chasenfratz.com/wp/fit-and-healthy-on-route-66-operation-clean-stream-on-the-meramec-river/

Corporate Social Responsibility and Irresponsibility

Here is some more of my homework for Strategic Comminications class at Webster University. The topic of Corporate Social Responsibility is one that we have addressed several times. Here is one of my writing assignments followed by some of my online discussion posts offered as food for thought.

Corporate Social Responsibility and Irresponsibility

“Cuties” is a film recently added to the network Netflix that director Maïmouna Doucouré claims is “social commentary against the sexualization of young children” (Sandler). Enough people were either offended by the topic of the film or the marketing of the film to organize petitions, boycotts and the hashtag campaign #CancelNetflix (Sandler). Netflix did in fact experience a higher number of cancellations than usual in September 2020 as a result of what some interpret as the normalization of pedophilia and child porn (Sandler). In the long term, will the reputation of Netflix be harmed permanently?

Findings in the paper “Corporate Social (Ir)Responsibility and Corporate Hypocrisy: Warmth, Motive and the Protective Value of Corporate Social Responsibility” suggest that the negative backlash against Netflix will be short-lived (Chen 486–524). Sometimes the same firms engage in acts that are perceived as both Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Corporate Social Irresponsibility (CSI) (Chen 486-487).

Netflix believes that showing the film “Cuties” is an act of CSR because it exposes and criticizes the sexualization of children, even though enough former viewers to create a noticeable spike in cancellations believes they have displayed CSI instead (Sandler). Netflix formerly employed actor Kevin Spacey to star in their original series “House of Cards” which was very popular and profitable for Netflix (Czarnecki). Netflix lost millions by firing Spacey to demonstrate support for the #metoo movement, but gained a great deal of good will from the public in return (Czarnecki).

It seems logical to assume that it is important to try to avoid the appearance of corporate hypocrisy – the difference between the perception of the values a firm vs. it’s actions. Is Netflix going to be judged as engaging in corporate hypocrisy, and therefore suffer in reputation? According to authors Chen et al in “Corporate Social (Ir)Responsibility and Corporate Hypocrisy: Warmth, Motive and the Protective Value of Corporate Social Responsibility”, hypocrisy does not always do harm to firms (Chen 487-490).

One factor that insulates a corporation against negative effects on its reputation is the perception of warmth (Chen 490). By accepting a significant financial loss to mitigate the “House of Cards” scandal (Czarnecki), Netflix raised their perception of corporate warmth to a great degree by promoting others interests above its own (Chen 490). In addition Netflix is “… a company that’s reinvented itself from being a tech-based internet-content-delivery machine to a creator of world-class content. Those two things combined have translated into an unprecedented reputational gain” (Czarnecki). Is there a rational reason for people to feel warm emotions toward a provider of entertainment as opposed to some other product or service? A paper by Eduard Sioe-Hao Tan suggests why that might indeed be the case (Tan 45). “A lay person’s understanding of what it means to entertain somebody involves being amusing or giving pleasure, activities associated with being a good host to a guest.” The entertainer may be considered responsible for voluntarily rendering a personal service to the viewer (Tan 45).

The perception of competence is another attitude that can mitigate CSI in the minds of stakeholders (Chen 490). Amazon is a company that is considered very competent but lacks the emotional connection enjoyed by it’s book-selling rival Barnes & Noble which connected with shoppers emotions by associating physical bookstores with nostalgic values (Czarnecki). Now that Amazon has evolved beyond just a delivery system of entertainment and is also in competition with Netflix as a producer of original entertainment content, the battle over viewer’s emotions will be interesting to observe. At a time when the spotlight is on racial injustice to a greater degree than is normal, Amazon and Netflix both made donations to organizations working toward racial equality (Hessekiel). Amazon donated 10 million, and Netflix donated 1 million. The amounts could reflect the resources available to each company for such expenditures, the awareness by Amazon that it needs to buy moral credits more than Netflix does, or perhaps some combination of the two. In that light, what is the meaning of WalMart donating 100 million?

Speaking of morality credits, another strategy that a firm can use to protect itself against harm to its reputation is to express aspirational messages of what it would like to do, or about the kind of society it would like to promote. The message of having certain values will give the corporation moral credits even if its behavior doesn’t always back up what it preaches (Chen 487-490). Whether a corporation’s behavior is always consistent or not, a strong investment in CSR does seem to have a protective effect on any future transgressions, intentional or accidental (Chen 517-518).

Works Cited

Chen, Zhifeng, et al. “Corporate Social (Ir)Responsibility and Corporate Hypocrisy: Warmth, Motive and the Protective Value of Corporate Social Responsibility.” Business Ethics Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 4, Oct. 2020, pp. 486–524. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1017/beq.2019.50. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Czarnecki, Sean, “Netflix tops the list for best corporate reputation.” PR Week, 2019, www.prweek.com/article/1580994/netflix-tops-list-best-corporate-reputation. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Hessekiel, David. “Companies Taking A Public Stand In The Wake Of George Floyd’s Death.” Forbes, 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/davidhessekiel/2020/06/04/companies-taking-a-public-stand-in-the-wake-of-george-floyds-death/#4e3e52d47214. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Sandler, Rachel. “Netflix Sees Spike In Cancellations Over ‘Cuties’ Backlash, Analytics Firm Says.” Forbes.Com, Sept. 2020, p. N.PAG. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=buh&AN=145929254&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Tan, EduardSioe-Hao. “Entertainment Is Emotion: The Functional Architecture of the Entertainment Experience.” Media Psychology, vol. 11, no. 1, Feb. 2008, pp. 28–51. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/15213260701853161. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Some of my comments on Corporate Social Responsibility and Facebook

“My view of Facebook is that they are mainly supplying a platform for people to use as they want, with spaces for advertising. Of course there are some extreme things that get banned. Sometimes I think the bans are fair and sometimes I don’t. One thing I have noticed is that they put a voting badge in the interface so you can quickly check your status or register. Let me try it right now…

Ok I noticed they spelled my name wrong on the paper I got back from the election board, so I’m going to have to look it up under the misspelled name. The voting button leads to a voting information page hosted by Facebook which has links to the usual stuff that any web page that is put up for public information would have – how to register, what are the requirements, what are the deadlines, etc. Kind of similar to what a lot of information sites put up about COVID-19 or any other important issue. It’s good for democracy (I know we have a democratic republic) for as many people to vote as possible who are eligible, so that is an example of CSR.

Another feature I like about Facebook is that you can do searches on advertising regardless of whether it’s an ad that would be shown to you normally, and see who paid for it. That helps a lot with transparency.

It’s my opinion that Facebook is not inherently good or bad, like with most things it’s what you do with it that makes your life better or worse. The people at the top running it can be good or bad and the decisions they make do affect people. I think there is potential for abuse and with any platform or any media we have to be informed about how it works and insist on transparency to keep it in check. I am very interested in media literacy and how it can help protect us. I agree with people who say that too much use is not that healthy, and I think that about TV and a lot of other things too. There are a lot of things that can be a good tool used mindfully and purposefully, including food, something which I’m using more mindfully lately with beneficial effect. As we keep learning in this field of study, we all think we are better at determining how to use media than other people, which means other people think they know better than us how to use it safely. I do worry about us serving media rather than media serving us.”

grocery_pickup_093020

“Speaking of voting, got these in my Walmart grocery pickup bag last night. It’s been awhile since I got a free sample. I like free samples and I like the voter registration encouragement. I tried texting the number and it works. When you get to the page on your mobile device, it gives you English and Spanish options. The data comes from https://www.ballotready.org/ and the card is branded with WalMart and the Consumer Action network. The Consumer Action Network is here – https://www.consumeractionnetwork.org/.

I looked at the web page for the Consumer Action Network and the issues they are involved with currently seem to mostly be based on beer and liquor sales and how to make it easier for consumers to buy beer and liquor. What do you think led to this particular partnership?

https://phone2action.com/  is involved in the technical part of the process.

I like getting the freebie of the reusable cleaning cloth. It’s good promotion for the product and always fun to try out a free product sample. Is the product good for the environment? There is enough info on the package to research it.

I was unable to get the QR code to work. It might be printed too small to work with my phone.

I’ve been uploading a lot of images to Facebook to move them from my phone to a computer for editing. With my technology setup at the moment it’s a fast way to do it and sometimes gets a discussion going in my feed. So I put my commentary that I’m writing here with the photo in Facebook. Since I was either mentioning voting in my text, or the image had to do with voting, an algorithm popped up in Facebook with a link to the voting information center that they put together. So – both Facebook and Walmart and a lot of people are very invested in voting. I could not detect any political partisanship in either campaign. I’ve always thought that everyone who could vote, should. And try to participate in civic duties and civic activities whenever possible. The government chapter we read in our textbook has some things to say related to this.”

“Also interesting is the choice of graphic on the voting drive card. It sends a specific message to people who know the origin of that type of image, and there are things in it that would resonate with people just because of the elements it contains even if they don’t know the history.”