Filed under: Commentary, Environment, Health, Public Service, Science, cable, entreprenuer, television
“In the 1950’s, the mentally retarded were among the most scorned, isolated and neglected groups in American Society. Mental retardation was viewed as a hopeless, shameful disease, and those afflicted with it were shunted from sight as soon as possible.”1
What began as a summer camp at her Maryland farm in 1968, developed into the first Special Olympics which attracted 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada for competition.
The idea was born when a mother telephoned Eunice Kennedy Shriver and complained that she could not find a summer camp for her child. Mrs. Shriver recalled the telephone conversation this way in an interview with NPR: “I said: You don’t have to talk about it anymore. You come here a month from today. I’ll start my own camp. No charge to go into the camp, but you have to come and pick your kid up.”
“She set out to change the world and to change us” her family said, when she died, “and she did that and more.”
At the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghi,China, a crowd of 80,000 cheered and welcomed 7,000 athletes, a country with a history of severe discrimination against anyone born with disablities.
The program has now grown to three million athletes in 180 countries.
Eunice Kenndy Shriver (puni-Euni, her family nick name)died on August 11, 2009 at age 88.
Eunice, the middle child in a family of nine, grew up with a sister Rosemary, who was mildly retarted. She detested the practice of keeping people with mental disabilities sedentary lest they injure themselves, or of keeping their existence a secret.
“When the full judgement of the Kennedy legacy is made – including J.F.K.’s Peace Corp and Alliance for Progress, Robert Kennedy’s passion for civil rights and Ted Kennedy’s efforts on health care, workplace reform and refugees – the changes made by Eunice Shriver may well be seen as the most consequential.” U.S. News and World Report said in its cover story of Nov. 15, 1993.
So, should Eunice Kennedy Shriver be considered for Sainthood? Consider this:
In the Catholic Church the formal process of sainthood involves a complicated process taking time, money, testimonies, and miracles, and the church follows a strict set of rules in the process.
First, to determine who qualifies, the Vatican looks to its Congregation for the “Causes of Saints”. Typically, a would-be candidate’s “cause” is presented to the local bishop by his or her admirers who persuade him that the life of the candidate was a model of holiness.
Once the applicant is approved as a candidate, an appointed postulator interviews those who knew the individual. Personal testimonies, letters, and writings of the candidate’s are put together. A relater then sifts through this information and prepares a position paper. If the volumes of evidence prove a life of “heroic virtue”, the person is given the title “venerable” by the Pope.
The next title, beatified (blessed), is attained if it can be proven that a miracle occurred after the death of the candidate, the result of someone praying to that person for help.
To finalize a canonization, it must be established that a second miracle occurred. (Martyrs are the exception. The pope can reduce their miracle requirement to one or waive it altogether.) Most often prayer requests are for a physical healing.
Verifying a miracle is considered the most difficult hurdle in the process. Just deciding what constitutes one causes debate. A life of heroic virtue is obviously easier to establish than a healing that results from prayers.
Editors note: I’d like to cast the first vote for her as “An American Saint.”
1. The Kennedy Family, and the Story of Mental Retardation…Edward Shorter
By Michael J. McCurdy, Founder/Publisher HealthNewsDigest.com
Filed under: Health, Public Service, Science, entreprenuer
“When I arrived at the hospital I thought all they were going to do is some chiropractic work. Little did I know I would remain a quadriplegic for life!”, so said Dennis Francesconi, who at 17 years old, flew 31 feet in the air after his waterskiing boat hit sand, and propelled him head-first onto the beach.
In August 1980, Dennis went water skiing for just the seventh time. At 5′10″ and self-described as lean, Dennis enjoyed athletics, specially soccer and baseball. He also tried out for the football team, but his thin frame didn’t enjoy the pounding, nor did he enjoy watching his friend’s wind up with broken legs and arms. “This just ain’t for me,” he said. So when someone suggested water skiing – “it sounded perfect.”
Dennis remembers his Mother’s screams for an ambulance, and his father helping the paramedics load him into an ambulance. He had no pain, and could feel his arms, and wondered why everyone was so concerned. By the time they reached the hospital, feeling from the chest down soon left him. “I honestly thought that a chiropractor would be waiting for me, and adjust everything back into place.”
The diagnosis: A broken neck with the 5th vertabrae literally shattered, and the 4th and 6th dislocated. Dennis has no use of any of his limbs.
For the next 19 years Dennis lived on Social Security Insurance of $600.00 per month and lots of odd jobs: salesman of herbal supplements, real estate salesman to farmers (in an electric wheelchair), and, as he describes it, “I was just grabbing at straws.”
“It was a huge loss” was how Dennis described his life after the accident. “There is no huge settlement. I didn’t get hit by a beer truck!”.
In 1986, on a suggestion from his wife Kristi, Dennis enrolled in a program called “Help Them Walk Again,” which was headquartered in Las Vegas. Exercise programs, electronic stimulation and weight lifting were part of the curriculum, with the hope that someday the scientists may find a cure.
More pushing from Kristi, family and friends led Dennis to enroll in MFPA (Mouth and Foot Painting Artists)
Now approaching its 50th Anniversary, the MFPA enables mouth and foot painters to achieve self-fulfillment through their art. By selling reproductions of their original artwork as greeting cards, calendars and other printed materials, the organization helps the artists achieve
“Didn’t you feel ridiculous with a paint brush in your mouth?”, I asked Dennis. “It was just the opposite! It was the first time in years that I felt in charge! I also started to notice how objects were shaded – the lighting at dusk – the beauty in nature. There were also some amusing discoveries, I could only paint by holding the paint brush on the right side of my mouth.”
The organization’s founder, polio-stricken Erich Stegmann, was an early practitioner of mouth painting and sculpting. His vision was to create a worldwide organization of like-minded artists facing physical disabilities and provide them with the opportunity to achieve financial security.
The original organization was comprised of 16 European artists. Today, it has expanded into 70 countries, including the United States, which is home to more than 60 MFPA artists who paint for pleasure and to make a living. Working under the organization’s motto, “Self help – not charity,” the artists don’t let their disabilities stand in the way of benefiting from their hard work.
There are an estimated 180,000 physically challenged people in the United States who could possibly benefit by becoming aware of MFPA.
“After being on public support for 19 years, I was finally able to come off it and regain my independence as a direct result of joining the MFPA,” said Dennis, an MFPA member who has participated in about 70 exhibitions and is presently working on a rose painting for a wine label – his second to date – at an award-winning California vineyard. “I would do anything this organization asked me to because they returned my life to normalcy.”
Francesconi isn’t alone in his optimism. Many other MFPA members have a similar outlook on life and appreciate the opportunity to share their art with the world.
To purchase greeting cards for all occasions, a beautiful full color annual art calendar, stationery, gift wrap, puzzles, books and more, contact:
Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, Worldwide. www.amfpa.com — manages/oversees the artists and the publishing houses in approximately 43 countries.
In the USA, the publishing house is: Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Inc., Atlanta, GA. www.mfpausa.com [toll free] 1-877 MFPA-USA [1-877 6372-872]
Dennis Francesconi is 45 years old and lives in Madera, California with his best friend and wife Kristi. To view some breathtaking works of art, visit his website: www.sconi.com
Filed under: Commentary, Public Service, Science, Television Production, cable, entreprenuer, television
A Billionaire Ignores My Advice
I had just returned from a whirl-wind tour of Europe. Six cities in 14 days. As a young American man in his twenties, I didn’t appreciate how old everything looked. Rome (ancient), Paris (Eiffel tower-so what?) Berlin (grim), London (too proper), Amsterdam (where does all the water go?), Copenhagen (beautiful blond girls with blue/green eyes – don’t remember anything else Why didn’t I stay?
I got on the bus in New Jersey on my way to what I expected to be a very exciting job – salesman for a television program distribution company, on Park Avenue, New York City. Once in the city, I proceeded on two more buses until I reached Park Avenue and 59th street. Standing on the corner looking south, I had to inhale as my breath was taken from my chest. Park Avenue was split in the middle by a series of grass islands between each numbered street, all the way to 43rd street, where the view was blocked by the old Pan Am building strattled across the avenue. Both sides of the islands had canals laid with black asphalt – one going south, the other north. As my eyes were drawn south they were pulled up from the street to reveal each side of the avenue’s glass sky scrapers standing proudly, glistening in the sun.
“My God – this is America!” I said to myself. In one moment, I realized what a great country I lived in. I wanted to run to my new job which was in a 38 story sky scraper on the left-hand, or east side of this great throughoufare, on fifty-third street. It was one of the great new buildings – The Seagrams building.
I took my time walking down the avenue and as I looked up at all of the sky scrapers. I couldn’t believe how may sales opportunities awaited me. I imagined myself spending a month alone making calls on just one street.
As I approached my new place of employment, I marveled at the steps leading up to a plaza with dual water fountains welcoming me to revolving doors and marble floors in an expansive lobby. A sign pointed to the entrance of one of the city’s Power restaurants: “The Four Seasons.” I would later be mildly scolded for entertaining potential clients at my “Power Luncheons.” On any given day, you were lunching with the city’s power brokers, celebrities and sports stars. I decided quite quickly that I liked this life.
Much copied but not matched, the Seagram Building is generally recognized as the finest example of skyscrapers in the International Style.
The elevator whisked me up to the 36th floor and my new office. I loved it. It looked out over the entire city. The man who owned Sterling Communications, Inc., also owned Sterling Movies. He was known to everyone as “Chuck”, or Charles Dolan. Before I was hired, I had to pass a screening test by a sales psychologist, something unheard of at this time. Two weeks later I received a call that I had passed, and could report to work the following Monday.
Sterling Communications also owned Manhattan Cable (now Warner Cable) and Chuck was in the process of laying millions of feet of cable underneath Manhattan’s sidewalks and streets. It was an enormous task, frought with political backlash, not to mention kazillions of dollars in financing. In these early days, I could sense that it was a touch-and-go undertaking. I can still vividly remember my first comments, “What is this guy crazy?”
Manhattan cable went to hotel rooms in those early days, and the company had a difficult time getting anyone in a hotel room to watch what was essentially a news ticker. And then came along Michael J. McCurdy with an idea that would transform the world of cable. I am sure that with this idea alone, Chuck Dolan would make me a vice president. After spending several days flirting with his secretary, I gave her a note for Mr. Dolan…would she please pass it on to him. She smiled, and said yes!
Weeks went by before I got the courage to ask her if he had seen it. Yes, he had.
That was it – nothing else. How could he not see the benefit of having “Live Burlesque” on his channel in hotel rooms! Surely every man visiting New York could not wait until he registered at his hotel. The press would have a field day. I consoled myself by rationalizing that he was just too busy to get back to me.
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia: In 1972, Mr. Dolan founded Home Box Office Inc (HBO) the first premium programming service in the cable television industry. After selling Home Box Office to Time-Life, Inc. (now Time Warner), he organized Cablevision Systems Corporation on Long Island, and has spearheaded many of the company’s advancements. In 1986 he took the company public, and since 1992 the stock has risen by 400%. Estimated worth is 2.3 billon dollars.
Oh yeah, he also owns Madison Square Garden, the NY Knicks, NY Rangers, and Radio City Music Hall. Me? I was wooed away a year later to a television production company as a producer. I loved every minute in a long career. Now? I’m writing this blog If only Chuck had read my note
Mike McCurdy, Founder/Publisher HealthNewsDigest.com
Filed under: Environment, Health, Public Service, Science, Television Production
New York City’s First Marathon – From One Woman to 26,525
It was a balmy Saturday afternoon one fine spring when I received a phone call from an old high school friend of mine, Jimmy. He had just moved into New York City after a short-lived marriage. After we got past the reminicing, he asked me if I were working out anymore. Jimmy was the captain of our basketball team, and I had labored on our football team. “No, not really. Just elbow bending.”
Jimmy had developed knee problems, and was forced to quit his college team. “Mike, yesterday as I was taking a shower, I felt my butt, and it’s soft as a girls. I couldn’t make a muscle!” He went on to ask me if I were interested in starting a morning jogging routine. The next morning we began running on an oval track in Central Park, that for me, develped into years or rewarding exercise. Not only did it get me back into shape, but it does wonders for your daily mental outlook.
I started to run the six-mile road that weaves through the park, every morning at 6 am. What do I remember most of those first few years? There was only one woman brave enough to be in Central Park at that hour running by herself. Most curiously, she ran the entire six-miles with her head down, looking at the pavement. On most occassions I ran with a male friend, and if we came across her, we would run behind her at a comfortable distance, just to let her know she wasn’t alone.
As the years went on, the number of women runners greatly increased, until I noticed in the 90’s, that the number of women running, matched that of men. In the 2007 marathon, the field had 26,525 female runners!
I ran in two early New York City marathons, underestimating how much training is necessary, and only finished 12 miles, each time. Instead of running 2 miles every day, I would have to run at least six, starting in January. In 1989 I began running six-miles per day, in an attempt to finish the race in November. One-week before the marathon, I caught the flu and was bedridden for two-days. On the morning of the marathon I bundled up and got myself to the start line on the Veranzano bridge. I made it through Brooklyn, Queens, and entered Manhattan at 59th street and 1st avenue. I was totally out-of-steam, but gallantly made my way to 75th street and First avenue, which is exactly the 17 mile mark. On that corner is a famous Irish pub, the Wicked Wolf, which I decided was my finish line. Everybody cheered me as I entered the establishment, and a cold beer was waiting for me! I chugged it down – then quickly barfed it up…so much for marathons. Since then I just cheer on all of the women
Mike McCurdy, Founder/Publisher – HealthNewsDigest.com
Filed under: Environment, Health, Public Service, Science, Television Production
The Big Black Dog Climbing Out of the Ground
I hate November in New York. Always have. Skies are various shades of grey – all month. This day, 10 years ago was no exception. For me, nasty means three elements hitting you at once. Wind, sleet and extreme cold fits the bill. I was walking west on 40th street between 8th and 9th avenues towards the Portof Authority bus terminal. I usually rented a car to go see my mother in New Jersey. Not today.
The bus was the most direct and convenient transportation. At 8am I could see throngs of people flowing out of the terminal, heads down, not wanting to speak or acknowledge anyone they might bump into. I gingerly walked on the ice-free foot trodden path that was at most two-feet wide that was bordered on each side by a mound of ice. The wind was so strong, that I could barely make out the head of a big black dog appearing to come up out of the ground. When it reached the sidewalk, it just stood there. Three-seconds later, a woman wearing sun glasses appearing up from the ground stood next to the dog and fitted her gloves tightly on her hands, reached down to the dogs back, and picked up the handle of her seeing-eye dog. They were coming out of the subway. I hesitated, allowing her to go ahead of me, although she was unaware of my action. She proceeded to walk towards the corner when a man shoving a clothing cart in front of her came careening around the corner directly into her path. His head was down, pushing and balancing the cart on the ice mounds, not watching where he was going. I started to Scream at him, attempting to calm my shrill voice and chocked on foul language before it escaped my mouth. He stopped when he looked up briefly to see my waving hands. The blind woman, was black and appeared to be in her early thirties. She stopped in her tracks, and screamed “What’s Happening – What’s Happening?” I placed my hand on her shoulder, and in a firm but calm voice said, “Everything is Ok…there is just a cart in front of us that is going to move soon.” I looked up at the man who had stopped the cart right in front of us, and in mime, I told him to get the cart out-of-the-way. This time, I cursed in mime also. He looked me right in the eye, and lifted his hand to his ear and moved it side-to-side, then to his mouth and repeated the same motion with his hand. He was deaf and voiceless! He leaned down again behind his cart and came straight at us, pushing the cart with the empty clothing rack forcefully up on the ice mound and tried to go past us on the street side. As he did so, the cart slipped from the mound and started to fall directly onto me and the woman. I screamed for her to duck down, and with my hand on her back she guided herself to the ground, her seeing-eye dog laying right beside her. The cart was stopped by the empty clothing rack hitting the subway exit guard rail. The cart was tall enough to makeeverything I was looking at appear quite dark. I promised her that everything would be all-right, and on my knees, backed my way out of the lean-to enclosure and then stood straight up looking at a mass of people stopped in the street looking right at me and the cart. Standing ten-feet away, stairing straight at me were three black men appearing to be in their late 20s to early 30s. If looks could talk, I was about to get my head ripped-off!
“Hey You Guys” I screamed at them, “I’ve got a blind black girl with her dog underneath the cart!” “COME ON, HELP ME GET IT OFF!”
In a split second they picked it up and removed it to the street. I saw the deaf man immediately get behind his cart, and go on his way.
I reached down to the woman, petted her dog, picked her up, and we walked together to bustling 9th avenue which was now only twenty-yards away. We stopped at the corner, and she profusely thanked me, and said that she would be OK, and said goodbye. I insisted on walking her across 9th avenue, and she repeatedly refused, which befuddled me. She relented and then told me that she just got the job two-months ago and wanted to prove to them that she needed no help in getting to work. It was Ok for me to walk with her, but not all the way down the block, lest her supervisors see us.
As we were mid-way across the avenue, she said to me “see that gas station on the corner? Do you see how that man has not cleared the snow and ice from his sidewalk?” I acknowledged. “We have requested that he clear it up three-times, but he hasn’t done it. But we’re not going to let him get us down!”
I kissed her on the cheek and said goodbye, as I watched her and her dog proceed to the non-profit agency for the blind, where she now worked.
My initial reaction was to go and find the three black men who helped us and tell them about the gas station guy…but relaxed and realized that the woman that I had just spent a slice-of-life with, was the strongest of us all!
Mike McCurdy, Founder/Publisher – HealthNewsDigest.com
Filed under: Environment, Health, Public Service, Science, Television Production
All About Celebrity – Who Was the Nicest?
What is celebrity anyway? Do you immediately think of Paris Hilton or Britney Spears? It’s been said that Paris Hilton is famous for being famous. As for Britney Spears, a person with genuine talent; I actually feel sorry for her. She has everything, and yet nothing. I hope she get’s it together. During my 9 years publishing HealthNewsDigest.com, and 25 years as a television producer, I have met my full share of celebrities from movies, tv, theatre, sports and industry, and a few politicians for good measure. From directing them in commercials, to interviewing them for HND. If you’re like most people you are already thinking, “Who was the nicest?” Well, let me tell you of an experience I had a few years ago that taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. I was invited to make a lunch-time presentation to a major pr agency here in New York, on producing and distributing public service commercials for television/cable. The conference room, I noted, was filled with 16 women, all under the age of 30 - I guessed. All looked highly educated, attractive and well groomed. During a presentation of this type, a producer normally likes to drop names of who he/she has worked with. I rattled off a few names, and for good measure, I noted that I was the only one to direct Miss Helen Hayes in a television commercial! There was a time when this was held in high esteem. This was not one of them. The room was deadly silent. I reached out into the air, and could not grab what I had said and put it back in my big mouth. I was dead. No one knew who Helen Hayes was, and perhaps even worse, I had dated myself back into the prehistoric ages. For those of you over 40, I know you feel my pain Here is her official biography:
”Helen Hayes’ career in entertainment surpasses most others in years as well as in achievements. She began acting at the age of five and didn’t stop until she was 85. Helen is one of only two women to receive all four prestigious entertainment awards: a Tony, Oscar, Emmy and Grammy. In 1983, the Helen Hayes Awards were established, encouraging other aspiring actors and actresses to reach for their goals as she had done.”
It was a great honor for me to be picked to direct her in a television public service commercial. The sponsoring organization was Prudential Insurance, for whom I had produced/directed 36 commercials. However, from here on in I kept it to myself.
One day, the perfect opportunity to redeem myself presented itself in the form of Jennifer Garner. Jennifer is not only a gifted, highly-talented attractive actress, but she has that rare gift of lighting up a room, once she appears in it. If you ever met her, you know what I mean. Last November, we ran this story:
(HealthNewsDigest.com) – New York – Actress Jennifer Garner joined leading medical officials at a press conference today to kick off the American Lung Association’s national Faces of Influenza public awareness campaign, urging Americans to get their annual influenza vaccination. The program is designed to help Americans put a “face” on this serious disease and recognize annual immunization as a safe and effective way to protect themselves and their families against influenza. The American Lung Association also hosted a free influenza immunization clinic, where hundreds of New Yorkers were vaccinated.
I ran this as the Lead Article for the week, and managed to have my picture taken with her, and have displayed it on the site ever since. At first I was getting calls from male readers telling me how lucky I am. But much to my happy surprise, far more young women were calling and asking “What’s she like ?” All of them spoke of their admiration for her. Wow, I thought. This is really working as a public service for the American Lung Association! Women are listening and getting vaccinated!
In one of my future blogs, I will discuss when and when not to use celebrities for a public service campaign. I will also give you my 4 rules for producing highly effective campaigns.
So, who was the nicest that I have ever met? That’s tough. But James Garner has to rank way up there for being a genuinely regular guy, and a class act.
Mike McCurdy, Founder/Publisher – HealthNewsDigest.com
Filed under: Environment, Health, Public Service, Science, Television Production
The TV Public Service Commercial – How It Started – How to Produce One
So, Where did it all begin? Well, circa 1966, a lawyer in Washington complained to the Washington Post that with all of the cigarette advertising in newspapers, there should be a public service ad for the anti-smoking people who did not have a voice (or a budget). This got a lot of tv stations across the country nervous. You see, when tv stations go up for license renewal, they have to show what portion of their schedule is devoted to public service time. Bam – Boom – Bang! A new industry was born!
Some producers in New York City and Washington, D.C. began producing what today is known as the tv public service spot. In the 1960s the spots were sixty-seconds in length, and usually were a call to action on safety in the home, driving safety, food safety, and on and on – and, the evils of smoking! The sponsors had a tag at the end of the spot that appeared less than 10 seconds, as the rule was that no sponsor mention could be on longer than that time frame. The big surprise, however, were who the sponsors were – (getting free airtime). Companies like Prudential Insurance, Metropolitan Life, Avis Rent-A-Car, Gulf Oil, as well as non-profit associations, government, etc. As the 70s began, it became a cottage industry.
Today, sponsors of a public service commercial must be non-profits or not-for-profits. And, as the times changed, so has the length of a spot – to 30 seconds. One of the most popular questions usually is “Yeah, but how many of the airings are in the wee hours of the morning?” Well, that has a lot to do with what time of the year you release your public service spot. During the summer months, stations in New York City, for example, may have as much as 100 minutes per day devoted to public/community service. That window starts narrowing as you get into September, and receeds even further in October and November. For example, in December, those same stations will have only 3 minutes of public service time per day, due to the heavy load of advertisers. Come January, that figure jumps right back up to 100 minutes. So, your spot will air in what is known as “run of station.”
As someone who has produced/directed over 200 psa’s, I’m going to offer you (for free my all-knowing wisdom in one phrase: “Get Emotional.” This is what sells public service messages. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different! Here in New York when I watch the local network affiliates roll out one of their leading stars from their network show, and they say something like: “Don’t Smoke – It’s Not Good For You” – I always say out loud, “What Bull Shit. - You’re promoting your show!”
If you’re planning to produce a psa for your company or client, the first thing to think of is the concept. Here is where a professional producer of psa’s comes in real handy. He/She can tell you what the current climate is for acceptance, what time-length, and how to distribute (extremely important).
When thinking of the actual production, here is my simple but highly effective procedure: Break the spot down into three sections – the opening, the middle, and the close. The opening should be pure dynamite! Very dramatic. You want the viewers attention. In the middle portion, you tell your story. The close is a “Call to Action” and here is where we again get emotional. You’ve got to leave the viewer with a strong picture and message.
Distribution: I could write an entire chapter here alone. The distributor has got to be on top of current conditions, and have a strong working relationship with television and cable outlets. You should be getting tens-of-thousands of airings in a three-month period, with the life of the spot being six-months, although you will be getting airings for up to a year. If you would like further information, or a consultation, please email me at: [email protected]. Mike McCurdy – Founder/Publisher – HealthNewsDigest.com
|Watching My Mother Die of Breast Cancer
By Michael J. McCurdy, Founder/Publisher – HealthNewsDigest.com
September 29, 2008 – 12:01:00 AM
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Television, radio, or any loud noise was out of the question. My wife couldn’t make it down from our apartment in New York City until the weekend. In need of friends and companions, I invited a case of red wine and a box of cigars to join me in my daily death vigil.
It was only a few short years before, that I had sat on the edge of another hospital bed and comforted my 46 year old sister Patricia, who was dying of cancer. An hour after I left the hospital, the doctor called me to say that she had passed away. (God, I trust that you have forgiven me for all the things I said to You that night.)
HealthNewsDigest.com was only 2 1/2 months old, when on a cool, crisp and sunny day in September 1999, I was on my way to the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan, to interview Nancy Brinker*, the founder/president of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, named for her sister who died of breast cancer at the age of 36.
Nancy is right out of Central Casting. Tall, attractive, intelligent, determined and very charming. She was in town to kick off the “Race for the Cure”, one of the most successful fund raising events in the country. We sat at a desk in her suite, and while my tape recorder rolled, I asked her several mundane and routine questions. I felt that I was missing a wonderful opportunity. As she got up to leave for a luncheon in her honor, hosted by Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Waldorf Astoria, I caught her at the door, and requested one more question: “If you had one wish for something to take place in the first 10 years of the new millenium, what would it be?”
“Wow, that’s interesting.” We returned to the desk and the tape recorder. “I wish that we find the CAUSE of cancer!”
There are over 100 types of cancer, so we still have our work cut out for us. However, Breast Cancer is a particulary hideous disease, with it’s hidden secrets – taunting us to defeat it.
My mother was a product of the Great Depression, and had some ingrained habits that still prevaled – like hiding money. When my wife and I visited my Mother for Thanksgiving and St. Patrick’s Day, I would leave a note with clues to find $20 bills that I had hidden all around the house. It was only when I got home that I would call her and tell her where the note was that held all the clues. When my wife first found out about this game she said, “Michael, that’s so cruel!” My mother absolutely loved it! Sometimes she would call me the next day to say that she had stayed up most of the night, because there was still one $20 bill she couldn’t find.
My mother was rapidly deteriorating. It wasn’t a pleasant site to see a woman who was so active and alive. Driving, taking trips to Branson, Mo. for her new found love of Country music.
I had to undertake a very unpleasant task. I called a cousin whom my Mother adored, and asked Rita if she would help me. I explained to her that I feared that my Mother may have money hidden around the house, and could she please ask her for me.
With hand signals, she led us to the hope chest in the corner. Inside was a note that had a series of clues, that led to envelopes, keys to boxes, and riddles. After a day and a half of following clues that led to loose boards, picture frames, and false bottoms, we had uncoverd over $33,000.00 in cash. I didn’t have the nerve, so I asked Rita to please ask my Mother if we had found all of it. She came out of the bedroom with tears running down her face, “Your Mother said to tell you that it’s for her funeral.”
During those four weeks that I sat on the terrace, jumping at the buzzer as cigar ashes flew in my face, I reminisced of times gone by; I remember her yelling at police detectives telling them that her saintly son couldn’t possibly have done that; yelling at Mickey Mantle to look up and say hello to her son (he did), getting me into the best possible schools; (she had a way with authority figures);paying for Mrs. Murphy’s broken window; and a very strict code on how to treat girls.(The Nuns in my Catholic High School were pretty good at this too!) My mother was also a very big fan of Susan B. Anthony. I never knew who this person was. I assumed she was a movie star.
Breast Cancer is a hideous disease, I was thinking as I drove my Mother’s car to the County Seat to file her death certificate. I popped in her favorite cassette of Garth Brooks and sang along. It started to rain very heavily. I gratefully pulled the car off to the side of the road, as I was crying too hard to safely drive any further. (God, I trust you forgive me for the things I said to You that night)
So, how do you react to someone’s illness?
Your little girl comes screaming into the house, blood running down her knee, tears streaming down her face. How many seconds does it take for you to jump off the couch? Your pet dog or cat comes yelping and limping into the room – a thorn in it’s paw. How long does it take you to jump off the couch? A loved one comes into the room – she tells you she has breast cancer…I trust I did as well as I could.
I can’t even fathom or pretend to know what mental anguish a woman has to bear when she’s been told she has breast cancer.
We have a little over 2 years for Nancy Brinker’s wish to come through. Perhaps we can all look under our mattresses and find a dollar or two and send it to our favorite breast cancer charity. And may God be with every woman and family going through this ordeal.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In 2007 in the US, an estimated 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
*When Nancy Brinker’s sister, Suzy, died of breast cancer at the age of 36 in 1980, Nancy promised herself that she would fulfill her sister’s plea to help others battling the disease. In 1982, she established the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, today recognized as a global leader in the fight against breast cancer through its support of innovative research and community-based outreach programs. Currently, the Komen Foundation boasts more than 75,000 volunteers working in 15,000 communities. www.komen.org
(This article first ran October 2006)
COPD: One of the Most Confusing Healthcare Marketing Campaigns Ever!
Wife to husband returning from doctor’s visit: “Hi honey, what did the doctor have to say?”
“The doctor said I have C…..C….hold on, let me get the brochure. I have COPD.”
Wife: “What the hell is that? My God, Is it contagious?”
If you are in the Healthcare field, quick, think and tell us what COPD means. Don’t cheat. No googling. If you are among the numerous healthy lifestyle consumers who read us, I would bet the vast number of you haven’t got the slightest idea, because you’ll never remember it. Probably the only people who know the answer are those who keep trying to “breathe” life into it. Ok, I won’t tease you any longer. Here is a description from the National Heart and Blood Institute:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
“COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a serious lung disease that, over time, makes it hard to breathe. It is the 4th leading cause of death in the United States and causes serious, long-term disability. The number of people with COPD is increasing. More than 12 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD and an additional 12 million likely have the disease and don’t even know it.
You may have heard COPD called other names, like emphysema or chronic bronchitis. In people who have COPD, the airways—tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs—are partly blocked, which makes it hard to get air in and out.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has developed a national campaign—Learn More Breathe Better —to increase awareness and understanding of COPD and its risk factors and to underscore the benefits of early detection and treatment in slowing the disease and improving the quality of life.”
Is it a serious disease? Of course. But we need to have some professional marketing/pr people step up to the plate if this campaign is going to make any sense to the public so it can do some good. Millions of dollars are being spent by the Health Industry every year promoting this campaign on tv, cable, print and the internet, and still very few people can tell you what it means.
Several months ago I spoke to a doctor who heads up this portfolio at a major health institution, and among other things I asked him who dreamt up the acronym that is not an acronym. He told me that he thought it was a group of doctors who came up with it for lack of a better idea.
I asked a friend of mine what she thought it meant, and she said, ”The Colorado Police Department ?”
So, who am I to be such a critic. Well, since launching HealthNewsDigest.com in 1999, my credentials include writing/editing/publishing over 20,000 health-related articles/news stories on the health industry, as well producing/directing approximately 300 public service commercials for television over the last 25 years.
I would love to hear from those who think they have a better idea for this marketing/pr campaign…Mike McCurdy, Founder/Publisher – HealthNewsDigest.com
Welcome to the “Wild West.” This by far is my favorite expression to describe the Internet.
When I launched HealthNewsDigest.com on July 1st, 1999 I had 15 readers. Seven months later I was making a presentation to 9 bankers seeking 3 Million dollars in financing! The next day my banker called to tell me that we were not seeking enough money – the bankers were looking for larger investments. Our next presentation would be for 5 Million dollars!
In mid-March of 2000, the Internet bubble burst! In June, it went belly-up and we saw many heavily-financed companies go out of business. This was all just a normal procedure, I told myself…a new industry shaking out.
Back in the late 90’s you could compare the Internet with the San Francisco gold rush. If someone struck gold on a very small parcel of land, it would surely be an indication that you were in a gold field. So went the thinking. So, it made perfectly good sense to buy all of the land around it. The Health Industry was touted as being one of the premiere areas to invest in. Thank you God!
So, what ’s it like to publish an online news magazine? Or, ezine, if you prefer. Consider first that we receive over 3,000 emails per day. Over 1,000 of them are legitimate news items, mainly press releases, articles submitted for review, health tips, research papers, etc. An additional 2,000 emails are spam, which for the most part are seperated by Google email service. Thank God. When I tell people how much mail we receive daily, their first question usually is, “Do you read them all.” The answer is that I read Headlines. Spam is deleted when it gets in the hundreds, and legitimate news is read, for the most part, as it comes in. So, for all of you PR people reading this, make sure that your headline is to the point. Also of importance is the first paragraph after your submission is clicked on to open. On any given day we publish 10-15 submissions, or more than 200 per month, making us the largest health-news content site.
The day normally begins at 7am and contintues to about midnight. Seven days a week. I break it up with a two-mile walk everyday, and many mental health-breaks during the day. I attend press conferences, make calls to news sources, handle about 10 phone calls per day. Don’t feel sorry for me. I absolutely love this job.
News is submitted by all major medical schools, universities, government agencies, non-profits, pr agencies, associations and corporations in the health field. In addition, we have “stringers” all over the country covering key conventions, and special events. On Mondays, we send out a “Blast” to tens-of-thousands of subscribers, over 2,000 health industry journalists, and numerous major news syndicates who pick up our stories. On average, our news is picked-up by approximately 4,000 health-related websites. We allow all media to take our stories, so we also land on tv news, radio, magazines and television shows.
By now, you may be thinking that we have a huge office with people running around in a frenzy of news-gathering. Thank God, that is not the case. We all work out of our own homes and apartments! From writers, columnists, and technicians. Every time I think or say the preceding I break into a big smile Mainly from all of the rent money that I am not spending. And, oh yes…those rainy and snowy days that I look out of my apartment window in Manhattan and watch my neighbors trying to catch a cab. Life on the internet is wonderful. I know. I use to have 10 full-time television production professionals on salary, in a large and expensive office on Madison Avenue. For most of my business life I was a television producer of commercials and syndicated shows. Still produce tv public service commercials.
Monday mornings also bring a special treat. That’s when, bright and early in the morning, I get a phone call from London, from a pr woman who speaks the King’s English. It is a pure delight for me just to listen to her. Me, a true-blue Noo Yawker. “Good morning, is Mr. McCurdy there?” She knows damn well that it’s me, but, as I said, she is Proper English. And my response is always the same, “Good Morning Darling, and how is everything across the pond?” I can see and feel her blush…every single time We both look forward to this call…I am certain. For those of you not in the pr field, pitching news stories to editors is not a fun game. Specially early Monday morning.
One of the first things I do on Mondays is take a look at where our stories are appearing across the globe. In mid-August (the lowest month for readership in all media) we were being read in 135 countries, in 3,890 cities! Just imagine. When I was in tv we had to wait for Neilson ratings. Now I just click a link on the computer.
Some of the more fun and unusual happenings:
* “Hello, Mr. McCurdy, this is Miss America!”
I had just finished showering and the phone rang. I answered it and that’s what I heard. I had been told that Miss America 2004 would call me to be interviewed, but I had no idea when. I was standing there ringing wet in my birthday suit. “Please hold on a minute Miss America” I said. Yup, you guessed it. I got dressed, and then did the interview.
* “I’m Worth About 20 Million Dollars”
Ever been in a meeting with twenty-somethings who are all millionaires – on paper? I have…many times. The really strange thing about these meetings, is that they were all very calm and somewhat surreal. We “older guys” had something (business experience) that the younger guys needed, and they had what we couldn’t quite yet understand. But we all knew it was Golden.
* “Please, I Beg You – Don’t Print That Story!”
There was an ambulance driver in a rural suburb in the mid-west who started a fund for animals that had been abandoned. The story got on the Internet and blossomed worldwide. I got his phone number and wanted to do a follow-up story. When I got him on the phone he begged me not to publish it. He told me that he had received over 300,000 emails and lots of donations and he was overwhelmed by it all. He had to close down his site. “This wasn’t suppose to happen – this was just a local story. My life has been miserable since this began.” Of course, I did not publish a thing further.
* ”Can You Get Me In Touch with the Scientist Who Authored This Please”
We got an email from a professor at a University in Czechoslovakia who had read a paper authored by a scientist at Howard Hughes Medical Institute that appeared on HND, and he was very excited about their findings and what he had been working on. I did get the two together via email. This is what editors live for!
There are lots and lots more…but we’ll hold them for future blogs.
So, what would you think has been my biggest blunder so far, as an editor? That would be publishing an “Embargoed” news release. What a pain-in-the-ass! I never have any intention whatsoever in publishing embargoed news. Embargoed news is rarely earth shattering stuff anyway. To my defense, the ones that I have published usually had “embargoed” in very small black print, and I took them down as soon as I realized it, or am notified by the annoyed sender. I have pleaded with the offenders to put the notice of Embargoed in Bold Typeface, and, in Red. The majority of embargoed news releases come from monthly or quarterly medical journals who send out an embargoed release in order (so they say) for media people to research and add or enhance the embargoed story.
“The reasons given for such embargoes are twofold. First, they enable journalists to produce more comprehensive and accurate coverage, as the embargo provides time in which they can research the background to a story and thus publish “backgrounders” along with the story’s release. Second, they enable doctors and scientists to receive and to analyze medical studies before the general public does, enabling them to be better informed when called upon to comment or to react by journalists or by patients. However, some object to the medical news embargo system, claiming that it is driven by profit motives on the parts of the medical journals.
Now, let me tell you about the absolute dumbest Embargoed News Release that I have ever received. It happened several years ago, and I still get upset recalling it. A Major University that I will not mention, sent us a news-release on child/pet – safety advice that should you walk away from your parked car on a very hot/cool day. This release was in conjunction with a Non-profit Medical Association Journal. The release was Embagoed until Tuesday, the day the journal published, and the day after the long Fourth-of-July weekend! Let that sink in for a moment or two.
A reader once asked me to explain embargoes. After I did the best job I could, she said, “It seems like a sin that anyone should hold back news that can help mankind. Who do they think they are, People Magazine holding back pictures of some famous celebrity’s baby?”
As almost everyone is aware, newspapers are having serious financial problems and are downsizing staff, and expenses. Consider this: Internet publishers (that’s me) do not buy pulp, nor ink, nor do we have delivery trucks. To deliver our news nationally and internationally, we simply click on a link. Advertisers are interested in just one thing: How many eyeballs are reading our ads.
Since launching HealthNewsDigest.com in 1999, my credentials include writing/editing/publishing over 20,000 health-related articles/news stories on the health industry, as well producing/directing approximately 300 public service commercials for television over the last 25 years. I am a member of the New York Press Club, The Association of Health Care Journalists, and the Online News Association.
In my next Blog, I am going to discuss what I consider to be one of the most confusing healthcare advertising/marketing/public relations campaigns ever: COPD
Mike McCurdy, Founder/Publisher – HealthNewsDigest.com
HealthNewsDigest.comis a 9 year old Online Magazine that publishes news stories on the Health Industry on a daily basis. We are also the Health News channel on AvantGo, the handheld palm device service, with more than 7 million registered users worldwide.
In addition, we are syndicated to thousands of major health industry web sites, content and applications to PDA, wireless PDA, and smartphone users, with hourly worldwide news feeds. Also, over 2,000 news editors, directors, and health columnists subscribe and have free access to use any and all content. We are members of the New York Press Club, The Association of Health Care Journalists, and The Online News Association.Michael J. McCurdy
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