Monthly Archives: April 2009

J-Schools Plan for the Future

A Brave New World

A Brave New World

There is a great article in the New York Times about the future of journalism.

I was excited to read about how the journalism school at Arizona State University and other top j-school meccas have been leading the charge into a brave new world of the unknown.  It’s a poorly kept secret that the newspaper business model is badly broken and that publishers around the country are fighting for their survival as they thrash about trying to find a new model that will work in this digital age.

It’s refreshing then to know that academia is taking the lead in cross training journalists to transcend all existing media platforms and to report the news regardless of the medium.

Perhaps journalism is not dead.  It’s just waiting for a new Champion.

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Dominos: Crisis Communications (S)not So Hot


Dominos delivers!

Dominos delivers!

Dominos Pizza faced a dough tossers nightmare last week when a YouTube video surfaced, showing two moronic Dominos employees putting more than pepperoni in those pies.  Yuk!  I didn’t see the video on YouTube, it was shown on one of the local news shows here in Richmond.  Now that’s the power of social media!  To make the story even juicier (poor choice of words), the local yokels showed the video to passersby to gauge their rather predictable reactions. Sigh.

Dominos’ response to the crisis has been thoroughly discussed and dissected by PR wonks everywhere, so I won’t rehash the specifics for you here.  I assume they did the best they could under very difficult circumstances and overall I think they did okay.  There is an article in tomorrow’s edition of AdAge which does a great job of telling the story.

Here are my reactions to the Dominos crisis:

The AdAge story leads me to believe that Dominos never brought in outside PR help.  Why?  Now’s not the time to be cheap guys. Dominos clearly needed help and they should have brought in the experts.

Along those lines, it’s kind of shocking that one of the world’s most recognizable brands didn’t have crisis communications counsel waiting in the wings for just such an emergency.  If you’re in the fast food biz, you can learn a lot from this incident.

The YouTube video reply from Dominos, while a great tactic conceptually, was woefully inadequate from a production standpoint. Dominos CEO Patrick Doyle’s delivery was a worst case scenario for video production geeks.  It looked anything but heartfelt.  The reason: Doyle failed to look into the camera (what is he looking at?!) and he appeared to be reading from cue cards.  I’m sure PR folks everywhere are shaking their heads in disbelief  over this video.  Another learning experience.

As for me, the only thing I will now eat are peanut butter and jelly burritos that I prepare myself.  

Shut the door, it’s Dominos!

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J-Schools Booming

Go Terps!

Go Terps!

A recent article in Forbes found that despite massive job losses in journalism, journalism school admissions are booming.  College students are seldom accused of being practical, but this boom borders on lunacy.

Consider these ugly facts about the status of journalism: The Pew Research Center estimates that 5,000 newspaper jobs were lost in 2008.  Paper Cuts reports that 7,500 jobs have been lost so far this year.  Here in Richmond, the Richmond Times-Dispatch dismissed 28 news room staffers on April 2nd.

So why in the name of Edward R. Murrow would top j-schools like my alma mater University of Maryland be seeing a 25% increase in enrollment?

Each student may have different motives for entering j-school and many may be doing so to enter the field of teaching.  But regardless of their reasons, a j-school degree offers some very real benefits to those entering affiliated fields such as public relations and marketing communications as well as less obvious careers such as law, public service, non-profits and even many areas of business.

J-schools teach students to be skeptical and to ask questions like journalists and to communicate effectively with all audiences. Those are certainly great traits.  But the one intangible that I think is most valuable about a journalism school education is that it instills an active intellectual curiosity about the world around us that fuels our enthusiasm for life.  I have found that curiosity and enthusiasm to be invaluable.

Thanks J-School!

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S&K Menswear Against the Ropes



Joe, we hardly knew ya.

Joe, we hardly knew ya.

Just two months after S&K Menswear filed for bankruptcy, and a month and a half after it announced it would close an additional 30 stores, CEO Joe Oliver was fired today in a surprise move.  I’m sure Joe was surprised, since he issued a press release just ten days ago announcing that the company had paid off its secured debt of $24 million, had sold its headquarters building to help pay off that debt and that customers seemed to like the new casual lines of clothing it was now offering.  But I guess all of that wasn’t enough.



Joe is a nice guy and I’m sure he will go on to bigger and better things.  In the spirit of my prediction that Circuit City would crash and burn, similarly I think S&K Menswear is done and here’s why.   Today, I went shopping for pants!

I know what you’re thinking:  It’s easy to predict a company will go under AFTER they declare bankruptcy.  Maybe so, but this time my prediction is based on dogged footwork and solid deduction.  Or is it solid footwork and dogged deduction?  Anyway, here’s what happened.

I wanted to buy a couple pairs of pants for work and always looking for a deal, I hit three stores on Richmond’s West End that I thought might have the right stuff.  First up, Mens Wearhouse. A salesman greeted me immediately and after looking at a few pairs of pants, I decided to keep looking because I thought $99 each might be high.  Next, I went to the S&K Menswear down the street.

At S&K Menswear there is a big sign in the window advertising 50% off everything in the store.  I thought two things:  one, I should be able to get a great deal here, and two, since this store is just a few feet away from the company’s corporate headquarters and basically serves as its showroom, it should have a great selection.  But I was wrong.

When I walked in I was greeted by a very friendly young man who offered assistance, so far so good.  But once I started to look around, I was struck by how barren the store looked, especially when compared to the Mens Wearhouse I had just visited and in hindsight, to the Joseph A. Bank store I would visit next and where I would ultimately buy my pants.  There was a lot of open floorspace, but not much in the way of selection for the items I was looking for.

I had made my way around the store and was heading back toward the entrance when I saw a rack of good-looking khaki pants that caught my eye.  Now I was getting somewhere!  But upon closer inspection, I noticed every pair of khaki’s were size 32 waist (something to work towards).  A salesman nearby must have noticed my surprise and said, “I know, all the khaki’s are size 32.”  

And that was it, I walked out, probably never to return again.

My prediction is that S&K Menswear is done.  After 40 years in business, it will be very sad to see them go.


UPDATE: The day after Joe Oliver was shown the door, former chairman and founder’s offspring Stuart Siegel took on an executive role at the company, while one of the company’s turnaround specialists, Jonathan Tibus took the title of Chief Restructuring Officer. Speculation is that Siegel has taken on a larger role in order to position himself to purchase the company.  It’s been reported the company can be yours for a cool $3 million.  

When I met Joe Oliver, I was under the impression that he was a turnaround guy.  I don’t know what another turnaround guy is going to be able to do, but I wish him the best.


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