Eiler Logo
 Above the Fold
   News from Eiler Communications
February 2010
Newsletter Contents

Can Merger of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Chambers be a model for Public Safety, Education?

Haiti relief helped by Internet giants

Journalism and Social Media

About Eiler

Eiler Communications is a public relations and marketing communications firm in Ann Arbor, MI.  We specialize in new and traditional media marketing, serving established and emerging companies in the communications
technology, financial services, biotechnology and healthcare industries.


Michigan - The Helping Hand State. Find out how your business can apply for recovery money!
Featured Article
What action, if any, do you want your members to take? Add a "Find out more" link to additional information that you may have hosted on your website
ChamberMergerCan Merger of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Chambers
Be a Model for Public Safety, Education?

Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti became a little closer with the merger of the two chambers of commerce.  The chambers joined and Ypsilanti's chamber president Diane Keller became the president of the new group.

The benefits of merging the two chambers of commerce have no readily apparent downsides. With one complete chamber, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti can promote business between the two cities, and consolidate offices and departments for a more streamlined group.  We hope.

We live in a precarious economic age.  The foresight and vision created by the chambers created a model worth suggesting that other local groups, like local fire departments, police units and school districts, might consider.  Evaluating the merits of what actions could be taken deserves consideration by the various boards and agencies that are responsible for fire, police and school units.

If Washtenaw county's school systems were under one local group, educational expenses and jobs would be reviewed, rejuvenated.  Perhaps one superintendent and one main office for all of Washtenaw county?

As it stands, the county has nine separate school systems.  The Ann Arbor school district is proposing cutting 34 teachers and having pay-to-play sports in the 2010-11 year.  The Ypsilanti school district must cut $6.4 million from its 2010 budget and is considering "repurposing" two schools. 

If Ann Arbor's and Ypsilanti's school systems were to merge, or if all school systems in Washtenaw were to come under one central department, the schools would be able to eliminate a great amount of redundancy.  Are we not seeking better and new ways to conduct our affairs? 

Each school system in Washtenaw has one superintendent and a support staff, a total of nine superintendents and staffs all responsible for the same basic activities. 

When the chambers merged, it drew solid positive comments.  It was a leadership step which brought two very close communities together based on economic hard times and organizations that had grown unwieldy and redundant in some ways.

We as a community and a county should ask our boards and leaders at least to consider the message that merger created: visioning the future differently may not be bad after all.  The public appears fed up with lots of issues across the country, and in our communities. 

Adversity creates possibilities.  We can turn them to opportunities.  Then perhaps to some realities. 

Larry T. Eiler
HaitiReliefHaiti relief helped by Internet giants

When an earthquake shook the Haitian capital of Porte-au-Prince on January 12, 2010, millions were left in need of services and aid. Cell phones are the primary source for exchanging information in Haiti, but a lack of power and no phone services kept survivors from contacting the outside world for help.

In the chaos that followed the earthquake, many of the Internet's major contenders stepped up to make a difference from the outside. Through raising money for supplies or helping family members outside Haiti search for relatives, the Internet helped to make a difference.

Google sought to get loved ones in touch with those in the disaster zone. Google Crisis Response quickly came out with the "Person Finder: Haiti Earthquake." Here anyone with access to the Internet can search for friends or relatives through an easy-to-use application. The "Person Finder" could be embedded on almost any website and had language options in English, French and Creole.

For those who may not have had loved ones in the disaster zone, Twitter was a way to share information about donating to the relief fund. The Red Cross posted a message on Twitter explaining that by texting "Haiti" to 90999, people could donate $10 directly to Haiti relief. With the message being retweeted and Twitter users passing it on, the Red Cross quickly received $8 million in donations from texts alone, as of January 15.

Some of Facebook's games also joined in on raising money for Haiti. Zynga, the online game company whose "Farmville" and "Mafia Wars" are among Facebook's most popular applications, offered special bonuses to players for making a donation to the relief fund. Zynga reported it raised $1.2 million as of January 14 from its players' efforts.

For those in Haiti with no telephone service, Skype offered $2 vouchers to survivors for an hour phone call to the United States. Google Voice offered free calls to Haiti from those in the United States. These free phone calls won't be used until the country is more stable and Internet services are restored, but it shows compassion on the parts of Skype and Google.

Alyssa Eckles
JournalismSocialMediaJournalism and Social Media

Social media is becoming a go-to place for journalists' information. In a survey by George Washington University and Cision, nine out of ten journalists report they use blogs as a form of research, and two-thirds of journalists report using Twitter and Facebook for research.

This growing trend among the reporters of today has its ups and downs. Journalists are able to access a wealth of information from the web in a matter of minutes. For example, if a journalist is writing a story on deadline about Al Gore and needs a quote, one could check his Twitter page for his latest tweet or his Facebook for a new post. Or, if a journalist is searching for a story, having an eye on the web is always a good idea. In the January earthquake in Porte-au-Prince, Haiti, journalists were using tweets from Haitian survivors and the volunteers for the latest updates and ideas for articles.

Sometimes journalists can trust social media a bit too much. In May 2008, journalists in the UK stumbled upon posts for the "party of the year" of a 16-year-old girl on the social media site Bebo. The posts relayed underage drinking, sex acts, violence and debauchery with over 400 teenagers in attendance. Without much research, the UK TimesOnline, Sky News, Daily Mail Online and The Register newspapers reported on the event. Shortly after the story went out, the mother of the girl who allegedly threw the party sued the newspapers for breach of privacy and defamation, saying the claims were false. No drinking, no sex and no violence occurred, and the entire party was monitored by private security. The teenager and others had embellished the details when on the social media site.

Knowing well that social media has its pros and cons for journalists, how should it be used in reporting news? Very sparingly.

To be fair, most posts people make on Twitter or Facebook are probably true. They probably did just enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich or are visiting a foreign country. But when the posts seem too good to be true for a reporter looking for a story, they probably are. It comes down to basic journalism: get the lead, and then follow up with a credible source. Since the reporter can't be certain of who is posting under a certain username, the information posted should only be seen as a lead.

Even if the Internet poster is relatively reliable, journalists still should always double-check their facts with official websites or phone calls to the individual or their representation. Had the journalists called the house of the alleged "party of the year" in the UK, they would have found out that yes, there was a party but the other information-the underage drinking and violence-was false. 

The best way, and possibly the safest, is to only use social media as a beginning for research. Let social media be your starting point, but find the rest of the story somewhere else.

Alyssa Eckles

Eiler Communications · 900 Victors Way, Suite 180 · Ann Arbor, Michigan 48108 · Map
Phone: 734-761-3399 · Fax: 734-761-3724