The Hired Hand – Not just another blah-blah-blog

September 3, 2013

Cross off one item from my bucket list

Filed under: Culture,Media,Public Relations — Darcy Grabenstein @ 3:12 am
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I don’t have a huge “bucket list.” Here are a few outstanding items:

• Swim with the dolphins
• Take a cruise to Alaska
• Visit the Newseum
• Take a cruise to Bermuda

The Newseum in Washington, D.C.

This weekend, I was able to cross off one of the above. I visited the Newseum in Washington, D.C. It was everything I expected, and more.

You see, I began my career in newspapers. As they say, you can take the girl out of journalism but you can’t take the journalism out of the girl.

I was lucky to be accompanied by my niece, Hannah, who is an accomplished journalist. We started our self-guided tour at the exhibit of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs. The images ranged from starving children to war-torn countries to acts of heroism. People dabbed at their eyes as they somberly made their way through the exhibit.

Like most writers, one of my least favorite sayings is “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” In the case of these photos, however, this rang true. Or perhaps the opposite. The exhibit left me speechless.

As a former journalist, my visit to the Newseum was an emotional one. And as a citizen of the world, it was a humbling one.

Pieces of the Berlin Wall stand as a monument to the media and its impact on society. Another display chronicles the Sept. 11 attack on the United States. Plastered on a huge wall are front pages of newspapers across the globe, reporting the infamous day in history.

A memorial gallery pays tribute to journalists who lost their lives in search of the story… the photo… the interview. All pursuing their passion. I paused in front of Daniel Pearl’s passport and laptop. These are my role models, my heroes.

On a lighter note, one exhibit showcases images of presidential pooches. It’s a welcome respite from the heavy themes found in the much of the museum.

Another exhibit, “Creating Camelot,” focuses (pun intended) on the photography of Jacques Lowe and how it presented a personal, intimate portrait of President John F. Kennedy and his family. To me, it represented how public figures – with the help of key media advisers and PR teams – can use the press to its advantage.

Media analysts have been speculating about the demise of newspapers for quite some time now. That made me wonder, as I walked the halls of the Newseum, whether in a few years printed publications will truly be museum exhibits, on display behind glass as a nod to the journalism of yesteryear.

Whether newspapers or magazines are around in print or digital format is inconsequential. The reality is, journalists and journalism are here to stay. They will continue to fight for First Amendment rights, uncover corruption and give a voice to the downtrodden.

I can say I’m very proud to have been among the ranks of journalists. What a noble profession.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

December 15, 2012

From Newtown, PA to Newtown, CT… my heart aches for you

Filed under: Culture,Media,Writing — The Hired Hand @ 4:37 am
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When the first news reports first started filling my email inbox, “Newtown” caught me eye. And, for a split second, a sense of terror and dread filled me. You see, I live on the outskirts of Newtown, PA – a sleepy little town probably much like its namesake in Connecticut.

Once I realized that the news reports were referring to Newtown, Connecticut, I breathed a slight sigh of relief. That sigh would soon be replaced by disbelief, tears, and sheer anger.

As a parent, I understand how we want to protect our children always, to keep them out of harm’s way. I understand the unspeakable horror, of helplessness, that fills your being when you think your child may be in danger. And the overwhelming sense of gratitude when you hold your beloved child safe in your arms again.

I can only begin to imagine the horrific feeling of loss, of senselessness, when a parent loses a child.

And I cannot understand the mind of a person who would intentionally harm innocent young children, shattering families and destroying a community.

As a nation, we are ever on the alert for foreign terrorists. Sadly, we have terrorists right in our own backyard… and schoolyard.

Unfortunately, it is catastrophic tragedies such as this that bring together families and communities. I experienced this firsthand today; my older son called from another state to tell me he finished his law school finals today, but couldn’t celebrate because of the tragedy. And he sent me a simple text: “I love you.” I found out later that he also called to talk to his grandmother, who lives in a nursing home.

He gets it. Life is short.

So to all the parents out there who’ve “had it up to here” with their kids’ attitudes, their laziness, their eye rolling, their sense of entitlement, their whatever… let it slide, at least for today. Give them a big bear hug, for all those parents who’ll never get to hug their kids again.

To the community of Newtown, CT, my heart goes out to you. On this darkest of days, take some small comfort in the knowledge that the rest of the nation – and world – is grieving with you.

And, as you look through tear-filled eyes at the holiday lights that seem to mock you, hold on to the belief that 20 tiny souls are still shining brightly somewhere in the universe.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

November 7, 2012

Election Day: Part II

So I faced the campaigners at the poll today. Their brazenness brought to mind a previous presidential election. We were all stuck in line at the polling place (in Pennsylvania), turning up our collars to the cold – and turning a deaf ear to the campaigners working the voters like a receiving line.

One of the campaigners approached the man in front of me in line, and the voter gave the guy a piece of his mind (and mine as well). He went on a tirade, telling the campaigner – in so many words – that he had a lot of nerve, preying on voters in a last-ditch attempt to win their allegiance. I couldn’t have said it better myself (at least verbally, that is).

Don’t get me wrong. As a former journalist, I staunchly defend the First Amendment and the right to free speech. However, I also defend the right of citizens to vote their conscience and not be intimidated at the polls. My neighborhood has a high percentage of immigrants, and I can’t help but wonder if campaigners beef up their efforts at polling places in such areas.

So I decided to give the campaigners a taste of their own medicine today. I went to the polls armed and ready. No, I wasn’t packing a pistol – I was packing the weapon of words.

You see, when the campaigners thrust their pamphlets in my face, I didn’t utter a word of protest. Instead, I reached into my pocket and handed them a card with the URL of my blog written on it.

I entered the polling center with the smug satisfaction that I had one-upped them. As I exited the polling center, I heard one of the campaigners utter my name to her cohorts and glance my direction with a look of disdain. Obviously, she had used her smartphone to access my blog.

No matter who wins the election, I won a small victory today at the polls.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

October 14, 2012

You can take the girl out of copywriting… but you can’t take copywriting out of the girl

After a copywriting career spanning more than 20 years, I decided to make a move to the account side of the business. I’m now managing email campaigns for a division of one of the world’s largest beauty companies. It’s stimulating. It’s challenging. It’s a learning experience.

It’s not copywriting.

I’m not saying I have regrets, but I am saying that I still need to feed my creative juices.

I can’t help myself. It’s the way I’m wired.

I’m one of those people who watch the Super Bowl not for the gridiron greats but for the 30- and 60-second advertising spots. I actually like to receive commercial emails in my inbox. I flip through magazines, giving equal time to headlines and clever ad lines. Most people record  TV programs so they can fast forward through the commercials. Or flip from one radio station to the next, in an effort to avoid the on-air advertising onslaught.

Not moi. I actually hit the pause button on my DVR so I can capture all the ad details. I sign up for text alerts not to receive the special offers but to see how they’re crafted. I make a mental note of billboards that not only catch my eye but capture the essence of a brand. I click on banner ads to see if they really click with their audience.

My favorite TV shows are (no surprise here) Mad Men and The Pitch.

Call me crazy. Call me whatever you want – but call me a copywriter.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

March 27, 2012

The blog that wasn’t

My blog disappeared in cyberspace. One minute it was there, the next it wasn’t.

So I’ve found a new home for my blog, and I’ve been furiously re-creating it as best I could. Thank goodness for the Internet Wayback Machine.

Now that “Mad Men” is back on the air (hooray!), I’m sure I’ll have a few snarky comments from a copywriter’s perspective.

Stay tuned.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

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