James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘zombies’

Multi-level madness from to Zeekler to zombies

Posted by James McPherson on June 3, 2012

Which is worse, a Zeekler or a zombie? Lately, both have been popping up on anti-social media, so perhaps it’s just a matter of time until they show up at your door. In the case of zombies, the Centers for Disease Control may have you covered  — unless, of course, they’re involved in a cover-up. We even know the cause of a “Zombie Apocalypse.” But what’s a Zeekler?

As if Farmville, Mafia Wars, and seeing how much your high school classmates have aged didn’t make Facebook annoying enough, now people are using it to pimp their multi-level marketing or penny auction schemes. Yesterday I encountered a post from someone who was “so excited” to have been introduced to Zeekler — complete with documentation from a serious-sounding publication about its success.

I have to admit that I’d never heard of Zeekler. I’m not a fan of the likes of Amway and Nu Skin (especially not as much of a fan as Mitt Romney and many of his fellow Mormons) because I don’t like the apparent odds, but normally I might figure “caveat emptor.” I have no idea whether Zeekler (or ZeekRewards) is a scam, and I’ll let others (also here or via government advice here) try to figure it out. I now know that one Zeekler Facebook site has almost 13,000 “likes” and  another almost 1,300, but both include many negative responses in the comments sections and quite a few apologies from the “Zeek geeks” for delayed payments. I also see that Zeekler and its parent company, Rex Venture Group, are becoming increasingly well-known to the Better Business Bureau.

Still, normally I’d just ignore an obnoxious sales pitch and go on — but in this case, the inclusion of a “media” support message made me feel an obligation to respond, especially because I saw the same quote word for word on other sites. The comment reads as follows:

I am still just amazed at what we all have our hands on. This is “ground floor Microsoft”, “ground floor Google”. Thank you [name deleted] for showing this to me, my friend. This has changed out lives forever! MARKETING BUSINESS JOURNAL (April 2012), “What has happened in the last 14 months will be carved out in the history books of business and technology along with business icons such as Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Google.” “If you are reading this now, you are witnessing history in the making.” “Pay attention here. You may never see anything like this again in your lifetime.”

These folks may be “amazed” by their multi-level marketing opportunity that they can’t help throwing in extra quotation marks, but I am regularly amazed that some of the same who don’t trust CNN will spend money based something they read on the Internet, or something backed by a supposed publication such as the “Marketing Business Journal.” Especially since it’s easy to see that part of the page is missing. For all we know, this “article” was a paid advertisement.

Still, even the visible part of the page has the Network Marketing Business Journal website. And what do you find at that site? A slogan stating that the NMBJ is the “newspaper for the newest network marketing, direct sales, homebased business opportunities and articles.” In other words, it’s a trade journal (previously called Money Maker’s Monthly) founded and run by a former Amway distributor. Its own readership profile states, “The readership of Network Marketing Business Journal consists almost entirely of businesses in network marketing and direct sales roles.” Gee, I’d bet that publication uncovers scandal in the industry every day — and who could you trust more for an honest evaluation of a multi-level “opportunity”?

The site boasts links for a company of the month, a product of the month, a supplier of the month, and others. Unfortunately, apparently those “feature articles” are blocked to would-be readers who are not “authorized” to read them. The companies featured must be so proud to be so highly touted.

But of course the magazine’s readers may not be the most important target. The promoters who “read” the publication can forever use some version of the published “article” to pass to their Facebook “friends.” And with friends like those, who needs zombies?

Posted in History, Legal issues, Media literacy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Local media zombies: Producing news fit for a museum

Posted by James McPherson on April 11, 2009

However much marijuana Woody Harrelson may have just smoked, I don’t believe his claim that he mistook a photographer for a zombie. On the other hand, if he were talking about dying local news organizations–which stumble on zombie-like as if they were already dead–Harrelson might have a case.

A few hours from now I’ll take part in a panel discussion about “the changing media landscape in the Inland Empire.” The 3 p.m. panel will be sponsored by (and held at) Auntie’s Books, the best independent bookstore in the Inland Northwest, and is one of many events during this year’s Eastern Washington University Get Lit! literary festival.

For today’s forum I’ll join editors from our local daily and weekly, someone from our independent community-owned radio station, and a local magazine editor. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably know I won’t be an optimistic voice on the panel.

Coincidentally, today happens to be the one-year anniversary of the re-opening of the Newseum, called “the world’s most interactive museum.” Despite some deserved criticism, the “news museum” had a successful first year. The Newseum may have been about the only success associated with news in the past year, and even it suffered staff cuts. On the other hand, as noted with yesterday’s post, who hasn’t? One of my biggest criticisms of the museum is that the $20 admission price is too high–providing yet another barrier between the reasons for a free press and the people who would most benefit from robust news media.

Because the media have done such a poor job of making a case for themselves, and for the First Amendment, most Americans don’t care if the media zombies disappear. Those who listen to talk radio or Fox News may even cheer the deaths–failing to recognize that those zombies may be all that stands between democracy and even more dangerous monsters.

Next day update: The panel got a good turnout and the time flew by, with thoughtful participation from the audience. It included one of my current students, two former students, one of my favorite grad school professors, assorted community activists, a few colorful and passionate locals (including one who kept referring to the Inlander as “the Islander”) and academics and students from at least five area colleges–the kind of mix that makes Spokane a far more interesting city than I imagined before arriving here nine years ago.

Thanks to any of you who participated (even if by just showing up), to the Spokesman-Review’s Ryan Pitts for moderating (and for gracefully handling the insults–some deserved, some not–aimed at his employer), and especially to Jasmine Davey at Auntie’s and Get Lit! coordinator Dani Ringwald for putting it all together.

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Personal, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »