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  • Writer's pictureKevin Sullivan

Communications/Media Week-in-Review May 18-24, 2009

Sports + Media + Politics + Entertainment + Business

The “Week in Review” returns after a one-week absence (just too busy, which is a good thing) – special thanks to pal Jay Clark of Englewood, Colo. for noticing…topics this week range from Bruce Springsteen and the Steelers’ visit to the White House to Nancy Pelosi and Shaquille O’Neal.


One of the highlights of the week was attending the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show at the Verizon Center in D.C. Monday night. Jo and I have seen the Boss many times over the years (first in November 1984 at the late, lamented Reunion Arena in Dallas on the “Born in the USA” tour) and this time we brought our two oldest kids, Terry and Amy, to fulfill our parental obligations to advance their rock and roll educations.

On the morning of the show, Mike Allen noted in his Politico Playbook (if you are one of the few living Americans who aren’t already on his distro, run, don’t walk, to to subscribe) that “half the West Wing” would be at the show. Well, I am proud to say, there were some Bush 43 alums on hand as well, which begs the question: How can you enjoy Springsteen when he campaigned against President Bush and at times (not Monday night) has been a vocal critic of the Administration?

It’s simple, if not always easy: You have to separate the art from the artist. David Dunn, former White House education adviser and chief of staff in my days at the U.S. Department of Education gave me this advice when I joined the Administration in May 2005. Dunn explained that as a jazz fan this was a choice he had made long ago and it worked for him.

President Bush kept a good sense of humor about his lack of support from the Hollywood establishment. We were on the road someplace and Springsteen’s name came up. The President remembered the Boss playing at a voter registration rally at the University of Wisconsin during the 2004 campaign. “I was going to do that, too, but Kenny Chesney was busy that day,” the President joked.

Of course, there are times when an artist has gone too far to make the separation – not that I was a Kanye West fan, anyway – and I do skip over certain songs by Springsteen (such as the anti-Iraq songs on the “Magic” CD), but Springsteen’s politics were the farthest thing from my mind during Monday’s incredible show, which included big fun during the “by request” performance of “Out in the Street,” in which Bruce was accompanied by a 9-year-old fan who seemed to know the words. Check out the video here.

And check out a terrific Washington Post Q&A with Nils Lofgren (who thrilled the Verizon center crowd with his “fret cam” on “Ghost of Tom Joad” here.


My sainted grandmother, Mary McMahon, loved to say, “give credit where credit is due” and it is in that spirit that the PR Move of the Week Award goes to the White House communications team for turning the traditional visit to the White House by a sports champion – in this case the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers – into an event on the South Lawn in which the President and the Steelers teamed up to assemble care packages to be sent to our troops. By doing this, the White House highlighted both President Obama’s volunteer service agenda and provided a Memorial Day-themed salute to our troops. Here is the USA Today story.


The White House message machine called another good play this week, if less original – the use of a CSPAN interview to get repeat airings over a long weekend and most importantly, pick-up by the networks and cable nets, who view CSPAN as the Switzerland of journalism. The highly respected Steve Scully, who for my money conducted the best of President Bush’s exit interviews, conducted the interview. As usual, Scully drew out some personal insights, including the President describing himself as a night owl.


USA Today’s David Lieberman, who I always enjoyed dealing with during my NBC Universal days, analyzes the health of American Idol. While the ratings for season eight were down 8.4%, the show averaged a still eye-popping 25 million viewers. Read here.


Even supporters of Speaker Nancy Pelosi would admit she has been ham-fisted on the communications front regarding her post-9/11 CIA briefings – offending the CIA (which brought a rebuke from Director Leon Panetta) – then calling a news conference to say she had nothing more to say? I have been asked frequently why we didn’t talk more about what plots were disrupted following 9/11 through the use of enhanced interrogation. We did as much as the top-secret classifications would allow – in fact, President Bush covered this ground in an in an East Room speech on 9/6/06 – just prior to the 5th anniversary of 9/11 (read it here: and former chief speechwriter Marc Thiessen recapped them this week in a USA Today opinion piece, “Eye of the Storm”.


Wednesday I wrote a guest column for Yahoo! Sports (Read it here: in which I suggest a four-point PR plan for Michael Vick to follow in his efforts to be reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Most of the nearly 400 comments in response showed support for Vick’s return. Interestingly, the Humane Society of the U.S., unlike PETA, has welcomed Vick’s offer to help eradicate the scourge of dog fighting and comments on the organization’s site ( have also run favorable for Vick. Next steps for Vick: Complete his home confinement quietly, with no interviews. The first person he speaks to as a free man on July 20 should be Goodell.


Suns center Shaquille O’Neal spent a couple days this week at Syracuse’s Sportscaster U., a two-day boot camp put on by ESPN’s Dave Ryan and Syracuse play-by-play man Matt Park. We thought Shaq was going into law enforcement after his playing days (as if he’ll need a job), but good for him for trying to prepare for the inevitable broadcast opportunities that will come his way. One report says tuition was $16,000, which we’re pretty sure Shaq can handle without a Pell grant. Here’s the AP story.


Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino began Monday as a Fox News contributor. One thing for sure – just as when she was responsible for briefing White House reporters every day – she will always be meticulously prepared to talk about the news of the day.


Two interesting stories on word that Newsweek has revamped its look and will actually cut circulation to appeal to a more elite readership. According to the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, the magazine will “concentrate on two things — reporting and argument — while kissing off any recap of the week’s developments.” Here is his media analysis: And here is Michael Kinsley’s analysis (“Backward Runs Newsweek”) for The New Republic.


In my NBC Sports days, we regularly defended late start times for weekday sports events on the basis that a) more people were available to watch at 9 p.m. ET than at any earlier time; b) we had a business to run; and c) we could start the games earlier if the players would play for less money and the leagues in turn accepted less money from their TV partners…well, MLB made the good news announcement this week that 2009 World Series games would start at 7:57 p.m. ET. Here is the analysis from Ed Sherman’s fine sports business blog at Crain’s Chicago Business.


That’s the battle cry of the International Baseball Federation, which this week hosted diplomats and other international types – many of whom had never seen a big league game before – at the Nationals-Pirates game in D.C. Baseball is gone for the 2012 London Games (softball, too, sadly), but IBF chief Harvey Schiller and communications ace Joe Favorito are working it hard. Here is the AP story, chronicling their efforts after wisely being given good access.


Former Giants star Michael Strahan will star next fall on Friday nights in the Fox sitcom, “Brothers.” Strahan, who will continue as an analyst on “Fox NFL Sunday,” stars as retired NFL star Mike Trainor. Strahan’s character returns home to live with his family, including a wheelchair-bound brother played by Darryl “Chill” Mitchell (paralyzed from the waist down in a 2001 motorcycle accident and former co-star of “Ed” on NBC).


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