By Drew Henry, consultant

In the mysterious tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370’s disappearance, the media has again become the butt of many jokes about sensationalist and inaccurate reporting, especially the cable news networks. The drive to match human nature’s incessant curiosity for answers is only amplified when those answers are elusive.

1937 Earheart Search Twitter FeedAs the focus of the search for Flight 370 shifted from crash, to terrorism, to pilot defection, and back to the crash, I couldn’t help but wonder how today’s media coverage compared to another great aviation mystery in history: the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

Amelia Earhart’s second attempt to fly around the world ended on July 2, 1937 when her plane disappeared on the most difficult leg of her journey, flying from New Guinea to tiny Howland Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The mystery has birthed several theories on the cause of her disappearance. Theories included that she was a spy, captured by the Japanese, made it back to New Jersey and lived under an assumed name, or simply ran out of fuel and crashed in the ocean.

How Malaysian Airlines Compares to Amelia Earhart

Reporting on the Earhart mystery was no less likely to key in on the slightest bit of juicy news that might grab readers’ interest. To think about this event in modern context, I imagined what a Twitter stream may have looked like in 1937 about this breaking news. Below are actual headlines from the Earhart disappearance contrasted with those from Malaysia Airlines MH370 – sound familiar?

Amelia Earhart and Malaysia Airlines MH370 Search Headlines

AE: “Storm Turns Back Plane Sent to Find Miss Earhart; Several Radio Calls Heard; Warships to Hunt” – July 4, 1937

MA MH370: “No sign of wreckage; questions over stolen passports” – March 8, 2014

AE: “Fliers on an Isle is Hope of Expert” – July 4, 1937

MA MH370: “Traces of oil may be clue in search” – March 9, 2014\

AE: “Word is Official; Amateur Operators Had Told of Hearing Voice of the Aviatrix” – July 5, 1937

MA MH370: “Stolen passports raise terror concerns” – March 9, 2014

AE: “Message Aids the Search; Flier Gives Location 281 Miles North of Howland in Poorly Heard Talk” – July 6, 1937

MA MH370: “What happened to Flight 370? Four scenarios fuel speculation among experts” – March 10, 2014

AE: “Good Chance Is Seen for Earhart Rescue; Members of Rodgers Crew Tells of Experiences in Pacific” – July 8, 1937

MA MH370: “Flight 370 Passport Mystery Solved” – March 11, 2014

AE: “Radio Skit Causes an Earhart Mix-up; Hawaiian Operator Listening to March of Time Program Believes Conversation Real” – July 10, 1937

MA MH370: “Was the missing Malaysian flight stolen?” – March 14, 2014

AE: “Earhart Search Shifts to North; Survey of Wind and Current Indicates Possible Drift Farther Than Thought” – July 17, 1937

MA MH370: “Objects Spotted in Indian Ocean May Be Debris From Malaysia Airlines Flight 370” – March 20, 2014

On October 8, 1937, outlets reported a life raft washed up in Hawaii, speculating it could have been Earhart’s. And evidence supporting the theory that the Japanese captured Earhart was reported on and off again into the 1960s (although that may have been fueled in part by World War II-related sentiments). Until Flight 370 is found, it’s safe to assume similar speculations will continue for years to come.

Get me an answer, any answer!

It’s in human nature, and thus the media’s, to hunt down an answer to a mystery at any cost. While we can laugh at today’s exuberant media coverage of any breaking news, history tells us that the public has always had an appetite for information that the media feed. In an information vacuum, the press will go to sometimes seemingly absurd lengths to offer up anything for the public to devour. Social and online media only intensify this as everyone with a smart phone becomes a journalist.

Unfortunately, and tragically, in the case of Flight 370 and other disasters like it, the real answer may never be available to give the public — and more importantly the families of lost loved ones — closure.

Do you think today’s coverage of tragedies or disappearances is any more sensational than the 1930s? How do you think media coverage may have been different if users could comment on or share stories online in 1937? Let us know in the comments section or on Facebook.

Drew Henry is a consultant at Tunheim where he works on public affairs and strategic corporate communications accounts. He blogs about everything from current events to public advocacy best practices. For more from Drew, follow him at @dhhmn.


Curious what professionals who plan and create engaging content read in their downtime?

Similar to the audiences we engage for our clients, it varies depending on our passions and what’s going on in the news and our lives. Review this quick snapshot of what’s piqued our interest this week — you might find some good business insights, a juicy piece of current events or pop culture, or a good video or two to amuse you during your weekend.

This is the single most-aired political ad in the last 10 years 

Submitted by Owen Truesdell, consultant, @OFW_Truesdell

Every two years, political ads dominate our television sets as candidates, political parties and outside groups seek to influence the outcome of elections for local races all the way to the Presidency. Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG) has built a fantastic tool called the “Eye” that lets you explore over 50,000 ads from 2004 to today. The write up from @TheFix also highlights how the political advertising game is evolving as targeting becomes more sophisticated.

Pharrell shows Oprah how happy he really is

Submitted by Lauren Manix, consultant, @lmanix

Oprah clearly has a way with celebrities (and people in general), making almost everyone of them reveal emotions never seen by the general public. Oprah’s latest guest, Pharrell, is no different. Not only does Pharrell shed some tears when Oprah reveals a video of people dancing to “happy” all over the world, he even explains why he’s crying – which is even more beautiful than his voice. If this clip doesn’t warm your soul, then you should probably just go listen to more of Pharrell’s song.

Amy Schumer’s Aaron Sorkin parody

Submitted by Jonathan Wolfish, assistant consultant, @wolfish87

I will readily admit that I have seen very little of Inside Amy Schumer, a Comedy Central sketch show starring Amy Schumer. However, I am an Aaron Sorkin fan, from Sports Night to The West Wing to The Newsroom. This parody sketch of The Newsroom is spot-on and even features a Sorkin regular on Sports Night, Josh Charles. Who knew “The Foodroom” could be so dramatic?

Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do

Submitted by Margie Omero, ACE, @MargieOmero

My commute from Virginia to Maryland  is sometimes 45 minutes long and I have no easily accessible public transportation options. So I’ve been trying to listen to audiobooks instead of the news to help me relax. Tom Vanderbilt’s book Traffic  is a great study of how traffic works. It can also help people be more aware of how our own driving habits affect traffic. It’s interesting, although I’m not sure it’s the most relaxing thing to listen to while actually in traffic!

Book Review: His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir

Submitted by Bill Robertson, ACE

Dan Jenkins is a sports writer for Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest whose career has extended over six decades. His Ownself is an incredible journey from this fun and witty writer with strong Texas roots. Jenkins tells tales and stories about his career as an old-school sports writer and his relationships with some of the biggest sports names from the last half-century, including the likes of golfers Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, former Alabama football head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, former Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry, and many more. Jenkins has covered many sports, but the NFL, college football and the PGA Tour were his main passions for several years. He is considered one of the best-ever sports relationship writers of his era. This book is a must read for any sports and journalism fan!

Give Tom Brady a high-five!

Submitted by Danielle Pierce, consultant, @dpierce915

It’s National High-Five Day (I know, about as real as “Siblings Day”), but as the leader of the soul-sucking empire that is the New England Patriots, it’s fun to relive Brady’s embarrassing high-five (or lack thereof) moments. Happy Friday!



A seat at the tableBy Noelle Hawton, senior consultant

Most corporate communications leaders want a seat at the executive leadership table. Doing so allows the organization’s decisions to be viewed through the filter of corporate positioning and reputation. As with anything, however, there are pros and cons inherent in having the function report directly to the company’s CEO.

According to a recently released Corporate Executive Board (CEB) study, those who do report to the CEO have some nice perks:

  • Bigger Bucks: Communications budgets for functions that report directly to the CEO (29% of respondents) are twice the size of communications budgets that report in through HR.
  • Balanced Efforts: Those who report to HR (12% of respondents) say they typically focus most on internal communications, and those who report to marketing (20% of respondents) tend to focus primarily on external audiences. Only those corporate communications professionals who report directly to the CEO find a balance between the two.
  • Greater Value: The communications professionals who report to their CEOs say their function is more valued by the entire organization and they have more credibility.

Of course, there’s also is a down side (if that’s how you choose to view it). Respondents who report to the CEO cited more accountability and scrutiny, as well as having the CEO’s agenda dictate all activities.

How to make a case for a seat at the table

Making the case for a change in reporting structure isn’t easy (at best) and can be a bit of a land mine to navigate. Here are 5 tips for getting there:

  1. Ask to be included in executive leadership meetings and bring your most strategic A-game. Offer opinions and counsel about large-picture topics and how various scenarios will affect key stakeholders.
  2. Demonstrate curiosity, intellect and value. Spend your off-hours reading about best practices in your industry and others, and send along articles paired with your insight regarding salient points to members of the executive team.
  3. Serve as the expert. Position yourself as an expert and coach by having candid conversations with each executive about their comfort with making presentations and delivering consistent messages to employees and external stakeholders. Doing so will allow you to give real-time feedback, both positive and negative, and will help the team see the value of a strong communications performance and your role in it.
  4. Build relationships and cultivate sponsors. When working with members of the executive leadership team, including the CEO, don’t be shy about sharing your goal of serving as a strategic peer. Ask for specific feedback from each about the role communications plays in the organization and how they think it could be more effectively and strategically deployed.
  5. Prioritize. We often hear that our clients’ executive leadership thinks the communications function is tactical and not strategic. Avoid this fate by setting strategic priorities for the communications team and only execute against those. Resources spent on work that doesn’t support the organization’s strategic objectives should be scrutinized and possibly eliminated.

Does your communications function report directly to the CEO? If so, does your experience mirror the CEB study results? Tell us about it! Also, check out more Tunheim insights here.

Noelle Hawton is a senior consultant at Tunheim and leads the firm’s Corporate Communications practice. She can be reached at


What’s @TeamTunheim Reading? [April 11, 2014]

April 11, 2014

Curious what professionals who plan and create engaging content read in their downtime? Similar to the audiences we engage for our clients, it varies depending on our passions and what’s going on in the news and our lives. Review this quick snapshot of what’s piqued our interest this week — you might find some good […]

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Tunheim ACE, Bill Robertson named commissioner of WCHA

April 9, 2014

Hockey fans (and Team Tunheim) celebrated yesterday’s announcement that Bill Robertson has been selected as the new commissioner of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), the most historic, tradition-rich conference in college hockey. A press conference was held in St. Paul yesterday and the room was quickly filled with friends, media friends, former and present […]

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Bill Robertson on WCCO radio: Final Four Economics, MLB Opening Day and Cable Carriage Disputes [4-5-14]

April 7, 2014

Listen to Bill Robertson and Eric Nelson on the “Business of Sports” on WCCO-Radio (830 AM). Topics included: Final Four economic impact MLB Opening Day Time Warner Cable and issues with cable carriage in Los Angeles with the Dodgers Golf Digest cover with Paulina Gretzky Derek Jeter’s last appearance in Minnesota in July Click below […]

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Why you may need to rethink the state of content in your online newsroom

April 4, 2014

by Ryan Splawski, @ryan_splawski Gone are the days of waiting for the morning paper to land on the front steps. With smartphones and tablets, we now have access to news anytime, anywhere. Writing for a variety of print, broadcast and online platforms, reporters are challenged to create dynamic content that catches users’ attention in a data-heavy […]

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What’s @TeamTunheim Reading? [April 4, 2014]

April 4, 2014

Curious what professionals who plan and create engaging content read in their downtime? Similar to the audiences we engage for our clients, it varies depending on our passions and what’s going on in the news and our lives. Review this quick snapshot of what’s piqued our interest this week — you might find some good […]

Read the full article →