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I want you to tell it to me straight

NIAGARA, Wis. — I spent most of my working years in the field of public relations. I was keenly aware that the profession suffered from an image problem. People tended to believe that public relations staff were the “party planners” for the organization and held primarily a social role. Others believed that the job entailed a lot of time on the golf course; in fact, I was told by a colleague that “you cannot do the job from behind a desk” and that time on the links was just as important as time in the office. Still others did not trust PR people believing them to simply be “masters of spin.”

I made it part of my mission to legitimize the role of public relations. I viewed it as an important communication function. It was my job to shine the spotlight on the organization and its people. I hated the word “spin” because of its dishonest connotation.

That being said, there was always a better way to explain something. I believed it was important to be honest; to always shout the good news and truthfully explain the bad. People may not always like what they hear, but they will appreciate the fact that you are being straight with them. Regular, consistent, honest communication was my goal; I am happy to say that over time, that approach worked well.

Despite being retired, I am still a stickler when it comes to honest communication. I look for truth in advertising and am quick to spot a slick approach. Don’t insult my intelligence by trying to pull the wool over my eyes, and do not think I will believe all that you claim. As they say, “I wasn’t born yesterday.” My husband and I have certain television commercials that we will mute every time they are aired; the messages are filled with promises and delivered by people who are just too slick.

Spotting the slick salesmanship in commercials is a lot easier than deciphering fact from fiction in the media. Political “advertising” is one thing; we can generally spot the techniques that are being employed to influence our choice of one candidate over another. But it gets more difficult when political spin is couched within the evening news. We would like to think that the news is fact-checked journalism at its finest. After all, we deserve to know the truth; in today’s world, our lives depend upon it. Fact checking has become very important to our survival.

As my husband and I were watching our favorite weekly program, “CBS Sunday Morning,” Jim Axelrod’s interview with Trevor Noah really made our ears perk up. Noah is the host of “The Daily Show” and spoke openly about being funny in serious times and how “he uses funny to deal with these serious times.” He spoke frankly about the division in America today. Given he was raised in South Africa during the apartheid system of racial segregation, he had a very informed opinion.

His words make a very important point.

“Unfortunately, I think America’s strange in that Americans are always told that there are only two sides to every story, two sides to every debate, two sides to every argument. And I’m opposed to that idea … I don’t think that’s true. That’s something that people need to acknowledge in American politics. If you only have two choices, people are always gonna make one of two choices, which means people are automatically always going to be against each other. … I think nuance doesn’t sell as well in America. Nuance means you can’t just take a stand and fight the other person. Nuance means we have to talk a little bit more. And until the American political system can find a way to represent the nuance that exists within America, you are going to create this false impression that there is this or that.”

When we are young, we have a very simplistic way of viewing life. Most issues are “either/or” type issues; we approach problem solving as though there is only one right way or one wrong way to do something. As we mature, we realize, hopefully, that yes, there is black and white but in between there are many shades of gray to be explored. Our vision of the world and its problems should expand over time as our experience grows; we, hopefully, learn that there is more than one way to approach a problem and that, eventually, compromise is not losing but is rather an appreciation of another person’s life experience.

I can remember back when I was in junior high school, we had a unit on critical thinking in our English class. We learned the many different propaganda techniques used to influence our thinking. I looked them up online and share them below. Some lessons are worth reviewing — even as an adult.

— Name calling or stereotyping: Attaching a negative label to a person or a thing, it is used to make us reject and condemn a person or idea without examining what the label really means.

— Glittering generalities: Using important sounding “glad words” that have little or no real meaning and are used in general statements that cannot be proven or disproven.

— Transfer: The use of a positive symbol in an attempt to transfer its prestige, authority or respect to a person or an idea — think the “Good Housekeeping Seal” that was so popular in the ’50s.

— False analogy: Portraying two things to be similar when they are not.

— Testimonial: Using a celebrity to endorse a product or a service … or support a candidate.

— Card stacking: Slanting a message in favor of a single outcome through omitting key words or unfavorable statistics — also known as data distortion or cherry picking.

— Bandwagon: Encouraging action by highlighting the anxiety of being left out of something good or important.

— Either/or fallacy: Presenting an issue as having only two sides rather than multiple perspectives, middle ground or grey areas. This tactic is used to polarize issues and negates all attempts to find common ground.

— Faulty cause and effect: Presenting two events or sets of data in a way to suggest that one caused the other to happen – a suggestion that because B follows A, A must have caused B.

— Least of evils: Justifying an otherwise unpleasant or unpopular point of view by suggesting that the alternative is worse.

In times such as these, it is more important than ever to really examine the messaging that is coming at us throughout the 24/7 news cycles. It is imperative to be able to separate fact from opinion and to acknowledge that issues are probably much more complex than they appear to be on the surface. Propaganda is powerful and is as prevalent now as it was in previous decades. Propaganda can start wars and end governments. It is important to be discerning; question if something doesn’t ring true to you.

As the saying goes: Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, but not their own facts.

——

NURSING HOMES

The usual senior living activity calendars and senior center menus will not be published this week in an effort to avoid confusion. Due to the coronavirus and the vulnerability of the elderly population, daily life in the senior living facilities and senior centers has changed dramatically.

All living facilities have closed their doors to public visitation, and the activity calendars have been modified to allow for one-to-one room visits only and individualized activities to keep residents engaged and active as much as possible while remaining within the health and safety guidelines provided by state health experts.

Group games are being substituted with individualized activities residents can do in their respective rooms. Staff are providing supplies as well as “overhead announcement bingo and trivia” games and “hallway games” that can be played in individual rooms or by sitting within individual room doorways.

YouTube and DVDs are being utilized to provide religious services. A big dose of gratitude and appreciation goes out to all senior care staff for their creativity, caring and perseverance through a difficult situation.

All senior centers have also been closed to any center-based activity. Until they re-open, no information is being published that talks about activities typically available at these centers. While some have reopened with limited seating, meals do continue to be delivered.

Some centers also are preparing meals to be picked up. Menus are printed below for those centers who are either preparing takeout or providing home delivered meals. Questions can be directed to the individual centers at the numbers all listed below.

SENIOR CENTERS

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

The Amasa Center is a curbside pick-up-only kitchen for now. Call ahead for Tuesdays through Thursdays.

Breen Center

906-774-5110

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday: Menu for the week:

Monday: Chicken stir fry, Oriental vegetable blend and rice.

Tuesday: Smoked sausage, fried potatoes and baked beans.

Wednesday: Baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing and green beans.

Thursday: Scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon or sausage, biscuits and gravy.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen

906-875-6709

Crystal Lake Center

Iron Mountain

906-239-0278

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Smothered chicken, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Tuesday: French toast, sausage and spiced pears.

Wednesday: Salisbury steak, rice and cauliflower.

Thursday: Chicken pot pie, biscuit and applesauce.

Friday: Turkey chili, cornbread and pudding.

For more information, call Christine McMahon at 906-774-2256

Felch Center

906-246-3559

Now open with limited seating from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Ham, macaroni and cheese and peas.

Tuesday: Stuffed shells, garlic bread and California blend vegetables.

Wednesday: Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and carrots.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.

715-528-4890

Director: Tiffany White

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Barbecue chicken, Mexican pasta salad, cauliflower and in-season melon.

Tuesday: Sloppy Joes, macaroni and cheese, potato wedges, creamy cucumbers and fruit salad.

Wednesday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, carrots and fruit.

Thursday: Biscuits and sausage gravy, green beans, tomato slices and fruit.

Friday: Pizza casserole, dark green salad, garlic bread and fruit.

Fence Center/Town Hall

715-336-2980

For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska

906-498-7735

Iron River Center

906-265-6134

Now open with limited seating 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Home-delivered and/or takeout only on Thursdays. Menu for week —

Monday: Taco salad and cottage cheese.

Tuesday: Salisbury steak, cheesy hashbrowns and carrots.

Wednesday: Turkey wrap and chips.

Thursday: Scalloped potatoes, ham, corn and roll.

Niagara Northwoods Senior Cafe and Center

Meal site manager: Corrie Maule, 715-251-1603

Senior center director: Jill Anderson, 715-251- 4154

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining

906-563-8716

The center will remain closed; however, takeout meals will be prepared for pick up – must call ahead and wear a mask when picking up. Menu for the week —

Monday: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, fruit, juice, milk, bread and dessert.

Tuesday: Stuffed green peppers, glazed carrots, fruit, juice, milk, bread and dessert.

Wednesday: Tater tot casserole, peas, fruit, juice, milk, bread and dessert.

Thursday: Chicken parmesan over noodles, broccoli, garlic bread, fruit, juice, milk and dessert.

Sagola Center

906-542-3273

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Chicken pot pie, biscuit, broccoli and tropical fruit.

Wednesday: Taco bake, macaroni and cheese, peas and applesauce.

Thursday: Barbecue beef, twice-baked potato casserole, mixed vegetables and peaches.

Farm to Family program

The food box pick-up schedule. Watch for upcoming schedule for other locations —

— Crystal Falls: 11 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Crystal Falls Senior Center.

— Iron River: noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Iron River Senior Center parking lot.

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