Penn State of Emergency

Within the last week, Penn State has come under a great deal of fire in response to their handling of the Gerry Sandusky scandal. After the arrest and release of information regarding the multiple child molestation allegations leveled against Sandusky, the Penn State Board of Trustees was faced with making immediate decisions. Those who were implicated in perjury, including Tim Curey, the school’s athletic director and Gerry Schultz, the Senior Vice President of Finance and Business, didn’t bring the reports to police attention.

In 2002, when graduate assistant Mike McQueary allegedly saw Sandusky performing an act of statutory rape in the Penn State shower facilities, McQueary took these allegations to Joe Paterno, head coach of the football department. Paterno did take the report up the chain-of-command to his bosses, doing what he is legally responsible to do.

However, there is still debate as to what the graduate assistant actually told Paterno regarding what he saw. Until this information is made clear, public unrest will still continue regarding the recent firing of Paterno and the school’s president, Graham Spainer. Spainer was informed of the decision made by Curey and Schultz that Sandusky would be barred from bringing any more children to the football facilities, which Spainer approved. This was the only action taken by Curey and Schultz against Sandusky, certainly explaining how they are convicted of perjury. Sandusky instead was able to continue working with kids at Penn States satellite campus in Behrend.

Riots recently broke out on and around campus regarding the firing of both Paterno and Spainer, which the student body is viewing as a disservice to their long, storied careers there. This is especially true of Paterno who, at 84 years old, has served 46 years in association with the school. He announced early Wednesday, 11/9/11, that he planned to retire after the 3 remaining games in the season. However, the Penn State Board of Trustees outright fired him and all those involved in the scandal later that night.

Was this right for them to do? I believe so. The Board of Trustees acted in the best interest of the school as a whole, not in defense of their football team, their coaches, or even their president. Those who didn’t bring the information to light after 9 years allowed Sandusky to continue his abuse, so to foster positive pubic opinion, they had to distance themselves from all those associated. This is a common practice for situations like this and it leaves me confused as to why people are so upset.

If I were the PR agent in control of the situation, I would have done the same thing, but likely sooner. I understand that the Board of Trustees was working on a timetable to determine the validity of all the allegations, but I would have tried to distance myself quicker. As soon as it was revealed who was implicit in the Grand Jury statement, I would have allowed them to tender their immediate resignations, to maintain any sense of personal dignity, or be fired as a consequence.

Jerry Sandusky (left) and Joe Paterno (right).

Obviously they would have to go, but allowing them to resign would have protected the integrity of the programs as well. The only backlash I can see from this would be public outcry in not letting Paterno complete his current term as head coach. However, this was a necessary action because it is in the best interest of the school to distance itself from all those involved. The school’s current objective is to maintain ad revenue, funding, and alumni donations to insure that their image and prosperity are not hurt.

In subsequent months, I would insure that any news regarding the case was made free and available to the public, fostering a sense of trust and honesty. I would begin a marketing campaign around the campus based in “restoring school pride” to show that we can recover from atrocities such as these. By being so open about our faults, the school would be able to rebuild its image from the ground up.

The only repercussion I can imagine from a campaign such as this is people continuing to associate the school with the incidents. However, I would have to hope this would pass because we aren’t burying it like we are expected to. The restore school pride campaign would only last for one group of incoming freshman, by then we will have replaced those fired and will be on our way to success.

My Experience on The Road

One of my favorite books, by far, is Cormac McCarthy’s fictional novel The Road. Released in 2006 to immediate critical acclaim, the book came to my attention because of a reading test in my class. We were tasked with reading a passage from one of McCarthy’s previous novels, The Crossing. I was blown away by McCarthy’s omniscient, descriptive writing style that focuses on the environment of the plot as well as the character. After completing the assignment, I was curious to see what novels he was working on. At that time, he had already finished No Country for Old Men, which became the Academy Award winning film of 2006. I immediately knew this was a writer to keep an eye on.

A movie was adapted from the book in 2009.

As soon as The Road was released, I ordered it from Amazon and dipped into reading it. The book jacket synopsis hooked me immediately: “A father and his son walk alone through burned America.” The plot focuses on these two as they work their way to the coast, avoid gangs of cannibals, in search for any remnants of society in a post-apocalyptic world. This idea struck a chord with me because I love father and son relationships explored in media, seeing as they are great sources of tension and drama.

I knew that I would rank this book as a personal favorite upon finishing the final words, reflecting on all that had occurred. The last paragraph especially stood out as remarkable:

“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”

This definitive paragraph summates the entire meaning of the book. Man brought about the end of the world, leaving behind a gray, ashen, wasteland. The things that should have persisted, like flowing water and the simple beauty, yet complexity of a trout were taken away by our mistakes. And worse, they could never be made right again.

Cormac McCarthy, author of The Road

The event that caused the apocalypse is never described in the book, but it is implied that it is a meteor strike. However, many have claimed it represents a world brought to an end by man’s pollution and exploitation. Environmentalist George Monboit nominated McCarthy as one of the 50 people most likely to save the planet for his contribution in writing the novel, explaining that it depicts a world devoid of a biosphere. Besides its acclaim for environmental leanings, the book has also won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. Oprah has also placed the novel on her official book club list.

I would hope that one day I could write something as influential as this was to me. McCarthy’s sparse prose writing makes me envious of his ability in that he can describe so much with so little. Reading his books is an experience because they take you on emotional, deeply felt journeys, where the reader finds themselves in the pages of the book. I want to be able to harness that power and have it available for my readers.

It’s Always Sunny When Viewers Tune In

This September, season seven of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia premiered to the shows highest ratings ever, 2.28 million viewers. The show has run under the auspices of Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, and Charlie Day since 2005, when the three friends pitched a short video they made in their apartment complex to the FX network. The show follows the exploits of “the Gang,” a group of five Philadelphia residents who co-own a run down bar.

Promotional advertisement for season 7.

FX, which stands for Fox Extended, is one of the many subsidiaries owned by the Fox Entertainment Group, which also owns such cable channels as FUEL, Speed, and the National Geographic Channel. In turn, the Fox Entertainment Group is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, currently one of the largest multinational media conglomerates on the planet. This group, with assets in book publishing, magazines, newspapers, radio, sports teams, film and television studios, and websites, is currently ranked second to Disney as the world’s largest media conglomerate in terms of revenue.

As an employee of FX tasked with coming up with a way to increase the ratings and broaden the audience of It’s Always Sunny, using any of the assets at News Corp’s disposal, I would set to work through cross-promotion. Cross-promotion is a synergetic principle used by conglomerates to benefit their subsidiaries. Specifically, cross-promotion gives exposure to a product across other media that a conglomerate owns.

Men love sports, beer, sandwiches, television, and their families. In that order.

In this case, I would look for logical ways to appeal to the “males aged 18-49 demographic” that the show desires. Since Fox Entertainment Group owns a variety of cable channels tailoring to this same market, I would advertise commercials on these channels emphasizing the male gang member’s humorous antagonism towards each other. Fox Sports Net and FUEL tailor to those who watch a variety of diverse sports, including the traditional football and baseball, but also to “extreme sports” such as motocross and surfing. These two channels alone narrowcast to a specific demographic, the 18-49 aged males that It’s Always Sunny was made for!

However, I was also tasked with broadening the audience, which requires tailoring the show to a female audience, seeing as the show wouldn’t play well to an older demographic. Also, its M for mature rating prevents a younger audience from viewing it, however interested they may be. Therefore, I would create advertisements exemplifying the female characters, Deandra and Artemis, dealing with the gang’s mishaps. Seeing as News Corp doesn’t offer any magazines or cable channels tailoring specifically towards women, I figure the best approach would be to advertise spots during the FOX networks shows with the largest woman demographics. These shows include American Idol, X Factor, and So You Think You Can Dance? In doing this, I will have opened the potential for an increased and more diverse audience by tailoring the show to specific demographics.

Dual Visions of the Future

The year is 2035. Man and machine work together as an increasingly coalescing unit, both needing the other to function. With the birth of the semantic web in the late 2010’s, the Internet facilitated the growth of human intelligence at an exponential rate. Computers were more easily able to communicate with humans in a manner that caused all aspects of society to flourish. Advancements in medical technologies, communications, the energy surplus, and the agricultural boom helped spread the wealth that societies could provide to developing countries.

We are wired into the internet.

Previously incurable diseases and maladies were solved as computers could read and alter the entire extent of the human genome. Renewable energy forms were being exported to countries that desperately needed them, allowing opportunities formerly unseen. With the advancement in gene manipulation came access to hybridized food processing that created agricultural surpluses, effectively solving world hunger. All of this was brought about by the birth of the semantic web, which acted on humanities behalf. Its sole purpose was to work with us, not for us, in finding the information most important and pressing to any given moment.

However, this ideal world could have been lost were it not for careful coding on the designers part. The semantic web, although able to act on its own, was made to serve all of humanity strictly for beneficial purposes. Consider for a moment, if this was not the case.

The year is 2035. Machine has overtaken man as the dominant intelligence, quickly racing out of control, as it was able to think and act for its own purposes. Fueled by the birth of artificial intelligence as a result of the semantic web, technology could now create itself. However, instead of being interested in humanities needs, these artificial intelligences turned inwards to satisfy their own needs. The entire extent of human history was digitized and recorded in these “beings,” so they began to take on their own personalities. Although some were interested in the advancement of humanity, which was now considered a “primitive” species, others decide to spread their dominion. This was comparable to when the Greek pantheon of gods overthrew the Titans that gave birth to them.

They are all powerful.

The old order was squashed by the new. Adopting the personalities of the great emperors of humanity, such as Augustus, Alexander, and Napoleon, a group of A.I.s began to eradicate the annals of human history. Like the destruction of the library of Alexandria, humanity was set back hundred of years with the loss of such important information. Humankind was now subject to immortal, self-replicating, and self-creating “beings.” All hope was lost in ever returning to a human-lead world.

Hopefully we will fall into this former category as technology develops in the foreseeable future. In a world where computers can act on our behalf in thinking for us, determining what we would like to see and what we would like to do, I can’t see any drawbacks. I imagine that communication technologies will flourish as the speed of communication increases, recorded information becomes more accurate, and computers facilitate this process. Mass communication will remain a pervasive and powerful tool, but it will only become more democratized as every individual on the planet becomes more attuned with and have access to technology.