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Cam MacMurchy

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Hi! My name is Cam MacMurchy. I was born and raised in Canada and worked as a journalist before moving to China in 2004.

Today I work in Hong Kong as the Vice President of Corporate Communications of a listed company. I write about marketing, communications, and journalism, as well as technology, productivity, and anything else on my mind! I also occasionally contribute to 9to5Mac, one of the top Apple websites in the world, and run Executive Productivity. Contact me anytime.

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Carrie Lam’s Legacy

As we await details of Hong Kong’s national security law and its implications for the city, The Atlantic has published a look at its despised Chief Executive, Carrie Lam:

Lam is already the most unpopular and calamitous leader in Hong Kong’s modern history, her decisions and failures of governance having borne consequences that are global in reach. Though yet to fully come into focus, even a truncated list of the repercussions of her leadership is staggering for its breadth and the speed at which they have unfolded.

Well said — and terribly, terribly sad.

Is this connected to WordPress yet?

Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon sounds the alarm on China, warns of “armed conflict”

Steve Bannon, of Breitbart fame and former advisor to US President Donald Trump, has some strong views on China’s decision to introduce a controversial national security law in Hong Kong. He says the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, passed last year by the US senate to put sanctions on anyone in Mainland China or Hong Kong that participate in the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy.

From The Wire China:

Obviously, [the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act] can’t be certified now. This breaks all potential for certification. My strong recommendation is [for the U.S.] to go as hard-core as possible. You pull that immediately. Pull all the underlying trade arrangements we have. Also we stop and limit any activity with the [state-owned] Bank of China, or any mainland Chinese banks. The Bank of China is right there [in Hong Kong]. You restrict all activity with their money centered banks and the United States. Additionally, you go to immediate sanctions; you sanction the individuals, including the Foreign Ministry guys. And if the Politburo passes this, you go to immediate sanctions on those individuals too.

We should call a [UN] Security Council meeting immediately and dare China, as a permanent member, to block it. The world community ought to do this. On Monday morning, a holiday, the President’s got to call a Security Council meeting and dare China to fight it. This is exactly like [what happened to] Czechoslovakia and Austria. We’re in 1938. For Hong Kong, this is that moment. If we blink, we’re heading on a path to war, to a kinetic war, if we don’t stop it right now. The elites are going the wrong way. This is not a cold war. This is a hot information and economic war, and we’re sliding rapidly. We are inexorably going to be drawn into an armed conflict if we don’t stop this now. Now, I’m all for using multilateral institutions.  But the United States has to stand up here. Yesterday, the Canadians, British and Australians put out a joint statement. It’s now time to take it to the UN Security Council. This is an abrogation of a treaty that was signed, and essentially ratified by the United States Senate.

It’s remarkable the speed at which the US-China relationship is deteriorating.

It’s heartbreaking that Hong Kong will suffer the most.

An excellent discussion on how journalists got COVID-19 so wrong and what to do about it

One of the best podcasts out there right now is the Ezra Klein Show, particularly if you love getting lost in a deep, thought-provoking discussion on issues like political polarization or social media-driven anxiety. He’s even had some episodes on things like loneliness and how to be persuasive that are excellent. 

One of Klein’s most recent episodes fits that bill, too. He welcomed New York Times reporter Charlie Warzel to talk about how the media has covered the coronavirus, which is widely seen as problematic. Particularly in the US, reporters wrote articles in January that downplayed the risk of the virus, and then published countless stories pushing the foolish belief that wearing masks doesn’t offer any protection (which, if true, raises questions over why doctors and nurses wear them in emergency wards and the ICU).

The big question is why? How did journalists get it so wrong, what role do healthcare “experts” play, and what can be done about it?

From Vox:

The questions raised in this interview are hard, and go to one of the trickiest issues in journalism: How does a profession that prides itself on reporting truth cover the world probabilistically? What do we do when we simply can’t know what’s true, and when some of what we think we know might become untrue?

This is one of the most open and honest critiques of news coverage I’ve heard, particularly as any admission of failure by journalists is often construed by conspiracy theorists as proof the media should never be trusted, ever. (An idea addressed directly on the show). 

The discussion doesn’t provide too many answers, but talking about these thorny and uncomfortable issues is important and the first step towards trying to fix them.

You can listen to the show below, or by visiting the Ezra Klein Show.

The news media have failed us

David Roth is critical of Donald Trump, to be sure, but saves his most scathing critique for the journalists tasked with covering him, a view I share completely.

From The Cancer in the Camera Lens | The New Republic:

This is especially troubling because confusing and frightening things really are happening, every day. Thousands of Americans are dying, every day, from a disease that, as a quadruple-bylined survey in Science concluded, “acts like no pathogen humanity has ever seen.” For more than a month, state and federal leaders have edged up to suggesting that this is something the country might just play through, shedding thousands of lives every day in the name of the American Way and various industries’ bottom lines; states are already gearing up for this kamikaze response to an unreasoning virus. Trump is fixated on various numbers that he can watch go up or down and on not losing his reelection campaign; he fights to win the day because it’s all he knows and how he lives, and he’ll govern that way until he isn’t governing anymore. There is no leadership of any kind coming from the top of the government, and while it’s hard to say what the Democrats are doing, exactly, “leadership” surely isn’t the word for it. All of it, quite literally, is a matter of life and death. Right now, either out of instinct or inertia, the culture is tipping toward the latter.

And yet, as with the broken system that perpetually elevates what Trump says over what he does—the treacherous spectacle that puts him back in those presidential close-ups day after day—the obvious failure of it all has somehow not led to a change in course. The institutions that might help people understand a uniquely terrifying world instead turn, daily, back toward the uncomprehending pursuit of an idiot king’s vinegary whims. When a reporter from The Washington Post stammered out a question last week about Trump’s stance on disinfectant/sunlight injections, Trump was already leaning in, manifestly out over his skis and yet comfortably in his element. “I’m the president,” he said, “and you’re fake news.” Here is what he said after that: “It’s just a suggestion. From a brilliant lab, from a very very smart, perhaps brilliant man. He’s talking about sun, he’s talking about heat. And you see the numbers. That’s it, that’s all I have. I’m just here to present talent. I’m here to present ideas.” It’s not an answer, but it was enough to get him to the next question. Trump didn’t know the answer to that one, either, but someone was still waiting to ask it.

The media’s failure in this era is only matched by the President’s.

PR & Law Podcast looks at current events through a PR and legal lens

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I’ve teamed up with a good friend of mine to launch a new podcast that focuses on PR and law named, naturally, the PR & Law Podcast.

I’m still not entirely comfortable with the result; it has been more than a decade since I’ve done any kind of radio, which remains my first love. I am having an absolute blast working on the podcast, but we still have plenty of kinks to work out and refinements to add.

US accuses China of secretly testing nuclear weapons

From Possible Chinese Nuclear Testing Stirs U.S. Concern – WSJ:

The Trump administration’s allegation is included in an unclassified summary of an annual review of international compliance with arms-control accords. The review has been in preparation for some time and is likely to add to existing strains over China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, its militarization of the South China Sea and trade disputes.

It also comes as President Trump is seeking to open nuclear-arms talks with Beijing in the hope of negotiating a new nuclear deal that also includes Russia and covers all nuclear weapons.

Some former arms-control officials said that the Trump administration appeared to be more concerned with scoring points against China than resolving potential disputes through diplomacy.

This is explosive news (no pun intended). There are the concerns over nuclear testing in China, of course, but also over the State Department’s decision to call out China so publicly when relations between the two nations is already riven with mistrust.

Thailand and China go toe-to-toe in an online war with wonderfully creative memes

A Twitter war between two countries isn’t very common, and even less so in Asia where open confrontation is often downplayed. But when people have the chance to be anonymous, the insults can fly — no matter where they are. That was the case recently when Mainland China and Thailand went after each other in a war of foul language, funny creative memes, and even self-deprecating humor.

America turns ‘shelter in place’ into an opportunity for entertainment… featuring the Backstreet Boys

You can always count on the United States to find ways to entertain — not even Covid-19, with millions of people under lockdown, can stop America’s cultural juggernaut. When the outbreak of the novel coronavirus led to the cancellation of the iHeart Radio Music Awards, music execs decided to replace it with an ingenious idea: having musical artists perform from home, together.

The iHeart Living Room Concert for America helped raise US$8 million for coronavirus relief on Sunday night. It was a hit, drawing nine million viewers to watch acts like Dave Grohl, Alicia Keys, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong, and many more perform from home — kind of like the rest of us are doing, minus the singing.

One of the bigger hits of the night was, surprisingly, the Backstreet Boys. So if you miss the late 90s and early 00s, fill yer boots.

WHO’s latest PR disaster raises serious questions about how the organization operates

The video of a representative of the World Health Organization hanging up on a reporter for asking questions about Taiwan’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak quickly spread around the world on Saturday. The Hong Kong reporter, Yvonne Tong, was asking questions of Bruce Aylward, a Canadian doctor. From The Guardian:

Asked by the RTHK reporter, Yvonne Tong, if the WHO would reconsider Taiwan’s membership, Aylward didn’t respond for several seconds, before saying he couldn’t hear the question.

Tong offered to repeat it but he cut in: “no, that’s OK, let’ move to another one then.”

“I’m actually curious to talk about Taiwan as well,” Tong said.

Aylward then appeared to either hang up the call, or get disconnected.

This is truly one of the most embarrassing, self-inflicted PR disasters in recent memory (and not just because he hung an oversized WHO bath towel behind him).

Get into the heads of Chinese leaders and see the world as they do

I am a huge fan of The Ezra Klein Show, a Vox Media podcast that goes deep into some random but fascinating issues like loneliness, identity politics, atheism, poetry, veganism, “political hobbyism”, class conflict, I could go on. Klein is the best kind of journalist: struggling to make sense of the world, genuinely curious, and open to having his mind changed. 

Another of my favorite journalists is Evan Osnos, an award-winning staff writer for The New Yorker. Evan was based in China for a long time, overlapping with a few years that I lived in Beijing. I didn’t know him well at all, but occasionally ran into him at Luga’s, a dive burrito shack pouring fake booze for just over $1 in a seedy bar district. Osnos is arguably the best writer on China today; he speaks Putonghua well and has taken the time to dive deep into the culture. Not only does he “get” China in a way that few other journalists and pundits do, he’s able to articulate the many nuances and contradictions in both society on the ground and in the highest levels of government in a way that helps the rest of us understand the country better. (One of the best recent books on China is Osnos’ Age of Ambition, which is a fascinating look into how the country’s growing political and economic power is shaping society on the ground.)

As major league sports franchises wrestle with Covid-19 and suspended seasons, some lack a proper game plan

Editor’s Note: An update to this story has been included at the end.

The Covid-19 pandemic got serious in North America last week when big events started to be called off to prevent person-to-person transmission of the virus. The NBA was the first of the major sports leagues to suspend the season after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday night, minutes before tipoff between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder. The NHL followed about 15 hours later, announcing Thursday morning that the NHL season would go on “pause”. Then it snowballed: the MLS, Major League Baseball, Broadway, NASCAR, and other events were all suspended with some, like the NCAA “March Madness” basketball tournament, canceled outright.

Even though sports executives have known about the coronavirus since January, nobody expected sports leagues to suspend their seasons. It’s a drastic step that brings huge consequences both financially and logistically. In a way, the leagues had no choice, as they relied on information from health officials and had to do whatever it takes to stop Covid-19 from spreading further. Stopping the regular gathering of 20,000 people in arenas across the continent seems to be rather obvious!

A crisis like this can provide excellent public relations case studies. Some organizations have come forward with clear and compassionate communications with their season ticket holders, fans, and employees, while others — ahem, Mark Chipman — have badly missed the mark.

New York TV anchor and reporter on scene shockingly let their personal animosity spill onto live television

There isn’t much to this story, except for the fact it’s extremely rare and very entertaining.

We have all worked in jobs with people we dislike, and sometimes dislike passionately. Hopefully it doesn’t happen often, but when it does it can be a massive distraction for an entire team.

The key, in those situations, is to remain as professional and cordial as possible, especially when you are on live television! But one TV news anchor in New York let his frustration get the best of him, criticizing his own station’s reporter during a live hit from an apartment building where residents were complaining about building management.

The live, on-air interaction was shared on Twitter by Kalen Allen, who works in the TV business in LA. You can tell, right from the moment the reporter throws back to the anchor, that something was up. Things went downhill from there, fast.

At one point, the reporter makes reference to previously being the anchor’s boss, which is probably awkward. It goes without saying, though, that those feelings should never affect work.

I suspect they won’t be sitting at the same table for the next company dinner.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Prepping for my first trip to Davos

I’ve been fortunate over the years to be involved in some pretty bizarre and random projects, like traveling around China for a Business Traveler television show, serving as a Simon Cowell-style judge on a Chinese version of The Voice, or personally escorting (now Presidential candidate) Mike Bloomberg for part of his visit to Hong Kong many years ago. Never, in my wildest dreams, would I ever have imaged doing any of those three things.

Now, I can add a fourth: attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Merry Christmas

This landed on my phone this Christmas Eve, and I thought it was worth sharing.

"Marriage Story" an emotional, uncomfortable journey through divorce

Several friends have mentioned the new Noah Baumbach movie “Marriage Story” to me recently, which is a sign the movie is having an impact on audiences considering it was only released to Netflix on December 6. The film stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as couple struggling through the realities of divorce.

The New York Times on why the movie can be so uncomfortable:

The most painful parts of “Marriage Story” act out that revisionism, as idiosyncrasies are made to look pathological and mistakes are treated as potential crimes. The German social critic Theodor W. Adorno wrote that “divorce, even between good-natured, amiable, educated people, is apt to stir up a dust-cloud that covers and discolors all it touches,” an insight that Baumbach illustrates with vivid precision. He shows how “the sphere of intimacy” (to continue with Adorno) “is transformed into a malignant poison as soon as the relationship in which it flourished is broken off.”

I enjoy movies that tend to be emotionally uncomfortable, especially when they deal with real issues that real people face in real lives. There’s no superhero here, no computer-generated explosions or characters coming back from the dead. Just two people, hurting, struggling, and thrust into a legal and living situation neither are familiar with. I definitely recommend it.

After you’ve watched it, don’t forget to check back here for the punchline to Alan Alda’s joke.

Tips and trends in communications and marketing carefully curated in new Digital Bits newsletter

I’m working on a number of big projects at the moment, projects that take months of planning before being rolled out — which is exactly the opposite of what I did on Wednesday night this week.

I have written before about my affinity for RSS readers, but the constant development of Inoreader by the team at Innologica has transformed RSS from a handy reader into an incredibly powerful productivity tool. I now have dozens of high quality feeds on a number of topics that I like to track, filter, and tag, including, of course, communications and marketing. I’ve always used RSS as a way for me, personally, to isolate the signal amid the ever-deafening noise, but it never occurred to me to actually share the highly distilled and valuable articles coming through my reader. This week, it did.

I pressed “send” and published the first, hastily-compiled issue of Digital Bits, a simple, weekly newsletter with some of the best articles on corporate communications, PR, internal communications, and digital marketing. Some of the blogs and sites referenced in the newsletter have been invaluable to me over the years, leading to the implementation of actual software programs and workflows at the exchange that we use literally every day. The newsletter isn’t long and isn’t meant to be; it simply contains links to a couple of articles that I think would be worth your while if you work in communications, are studying it, or are just plain interested in the field.

It’s the first time I’ve done a newsletter like this, so I’m wide open to feedback and suggestions for making it better. I’m considering these first few issues to be a relatively quiet beta test until I work out the kinks and slowly find the newsletter’s voice.

The first issue looks at the immense need for content that goes beyond writing words, something that a shocking number of organizations have yet to grasp. There’s also a look at how comms people can find “influencers” inside their companies and leverage their voices to drive change and communicate better. The newsletter also includes an article on holiday video fails and links to free internal HTML newsletter templates that can be dropped into Outlook or Gmail.

If you work in communications or are just interested in the field, please give the newsletter a shot. I’d be very grateful and love to know what you think.

You can quickly share your email address here.

The Canucks’ entertainment staff have made goal scoring cringeworthy. We need to put a stop to it

A petition to bring back the Green Day song “Holiday” as the Vancouver Canucks’ goal song:

Canucks fans should feel energized and hyped after a goal, and Holiday by Green Day accomplished that. Holiday is our goal song, and will be the best one the Canucks ever had. We cannot let our home games during the 50th anniversary season get ruined like this. BRING BACK HOLIDAY!

I noticed this abomination – an annoying Van Halen song from 1978 – during the Canucks’ first two home games of the season. It was the only glaring downside to scoring eight goals in a dominating win.

I have never signed any petition in my life, nevermind a campaign over song selection at a major league sporting event. But this is serious. We can’t allow this to go on. The world needs you. Sign.

Now.

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