"...to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction..."

Friday, February 2, 2007

Spin Cycle - The Media and Natalee Holloway

In late spring, shadows lengthen and dance with the prevailing winds while the sun drowns in the azure waters that surround the tropical paradise of Aruba. Surf and sand yield to clinking slot machines, laughter and music in a usual scene for an island that has promoted itself as a crime-free tourist haven in the Caribbean. On May 30, 2005, however, the serenity of this island paradise is changed forever by a solitary incident. For over twenty months the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of an 18-year-old girl from Alabama named Natalee Holloway has been the subject of numerous articles and news reports across international boundaries. The crime against this young, defenseless American girl has captured world wide attention and exposed the truth behind the façade that is Aruba.

As tragic as the Natalee Holloway disappearance is, such happenings are not uncommon elsewhere. Almost daily we read, or hear of some young life being stolen from those that cherish them so dearly. It is an all too familiar chronicle of our times. However, the Holloway story is set apart from others because of what happened during the following days, weeks and months after she vanished.

This will be the first in a series of articles that examine what took place behind the scenes in Aruba after Natalee Holloway’s disappearance. From top to bottom a concerted effort was orchestrated by a group of media specialist and their primary mission was to besmirch the character of the victim and persistently defame members of her family. Knowing the cast of characters in this drama of misinformation is vital to our efforts of understanding what transpired during the summer of 2005. The list is long, but we will begin with a media consultant group headquartered in the U.S.A.

In 1989 the MEP party was struggling to regain power on the island of Aruba and win a political majority they lost with the demise of the party’s leader and founder, Betico Croes. Enter Mr. Robert DiLella, founder of Strategic Message Design Group, Inc. (SMDG), with a promise that his media savvy group could turn things around for the party. MEP obtained a decisive victory in those elections. This result cemented the relationship between DiLella and the leadership of MEP. It also established a precedent for the conveyance of information.

SMDG’s tactics during that election were very simple. Use every available means to cast doubt upon the character of anyone that opposes the party’s point of view. This wholesale character assassination was so cleverly done that no one individual could be held accountable for the many inaccuracies and slanders propagated as truths. Rumors were sown, nurtured and sent through an invisible word-of-mouth pipeline. The rumors began to breathe on their own and started to live as fact without source, or confirmation.

Robert DiLella began his media endeavors in the early 80’s as a part-time campaign strategist in New Jersey. In 1982, Mr. DiLella served as a staff member for Matt Reese and Associates assisting campaigns in Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Michigan and Nevada. He later joined Cook Reuf and Associates a South Carolina based advertising and public relations firm. DiLella was the Director of the Political Division in the Washington DC Office where he developed communications plans for public offices in Georgia, South Carolina, New Mexico, Delaware New Jersey and Alabama. He also represented several corporations thrust into the political arena in initiative and referenda throughout the United States.

In 1987 Robert N. DiLella formed Strategic Message Design Group and later partnered with Stephen Cohen, Suzanne Dalton and Robert Colella.

Mr. Cohen has a broad background in handling high profile cases as a journalist and as a crisis manager. He has operated, as a senior news executive, for many of the most prestigious and largest local newsrooms in the United States. While at CBS, he was the news director of both WCBS TV and KCBS TV, later he served as Vice President and General Manager of WCAU TV in Philadelphia.

Throughout those years, he mentored; hired and guided the careers of many of today’s best known electronic journalists. Mr. Cohen was also the founding executive producer of Court TV, and was responsible for the launching of the network and the selection and coverage of many high profile cases from William Kennedy Smith’s rape case to the trial of Rodney King. He also oversaw the coverage of the Clarence Thomas hearings and the resultant Anita Hill testimony in the confirmation hearings.

As a consultant, Mr. Cohen developed non –state run media opportunities in China for investors; opened new markets for film production in Beijing; and created new network cable concepts for emerging media interests. He has also advised Aruba on crisis management and assisted in the creation of a planned approach to protect economic interests while dealing with outside media pressures.

He holds three degrees, including a B.S. in Education, a Master’s in Modern History, and an M.A. in Journalism. He is the recipient of numerous journalism awards including Emmy’s for excellence in television journalism.



klaasend said...

Nice work

wiseone said...

Great work!

hummingbird7525 said...

I have enjoyed reading your thoughts for awhile, always hoped you'd do something like this. Your very interesting way with words. A born story teller.

BTGirl said...

Great job! I'm looking forward to seeing more.

Anonymous said...

Easy so glad to see you doing this. Nice work.


Peaches said...

Nice job. I love great writing. I will await more.

Anonymous said...

When will you finish the story?

EasyWriter said...

I will be closing this chapter next week. Blogging is new to me and I have been trying to learn how to use the software this weekend, plus it is Super Bowl Sunday! Next week I will get into the specifics of how SMDG altered the way the Natalee Holloway story was reported in Aruba.

I would like to express my gratitude to those of you that have left words of encouragement. I will do my best to keep this blog factual and pertinent to cases of interest.

Thank You All!

Anonymous said...

great to see you writing easy, keep it up!

best always, none

Anonymous said...

Great writing and reserach, Easy. It's good to see you again.


mishy said...

Great to see you here, Easy. Excellent work. I've missed your postings. Looking forward to reading more in the future...

Anonymous said...

Credit where credit is due?

Your words:
This is not an outcry; it’s just a request for respect….

EasyWriter said...

Several times I have attempted to respond to the above comment, but the words have failed me each time. Reacting to such things in anger, serves absolutely no purpose and only perpetuates the existing animosity that has developed between me and a few people I once considered to be friends.

However, I will assure the readers of this blog that the words used here are my own, except for the data taken directly from various websites, such as the client list of SMDG or Aruba’s Strategic Communications Task Force (SCTF), which can be found on their respective websites. Some of the quotes I have included come from regular communications I have with people that are very familiar with the government of Aruba and the government controlled media outlets that exist on the island.

It is true that several people began the initial investigation into SMDG, but none of them wanted to be named in association with any type of publication for one reason, or another. That only creates the lingering question of how does one “give credit where credit is due” when no one wants to be named?

In fact, the whole matter is so confusing that it has caused me to examine the potential of writing an article about Internet relationships. They seem to be much more fragile than one would imagine. Reactions happen quickly. Words fly freely. And, feelings are hurt permanently. It is a strange phenomenon that deserves examination.

Nevertheless, this experience has ended those superficial Internet relationships for me. I wish them all well with their search for truth, but I will never draw upon their collective ideas for inspiration. There are many elements to the Natalee Holloway case that are baffling and my intention is to explore each with an objective eye not skewed by the dislike of any particular person, or any number of individuals. I will tell the story my way, or not at all!

There will only be one more entry from me that concerns SMDG and the SCTF. Hopefully it will tie up a few loose ends and put their effort into perspective. I can guarantee you that it will contain information not readily available through a mouse click and it won’t be speculation.

Anonymous said...

In fact, the whole matter is so confusing that it has caused me to examine the potential of writing an article about Internet relationships. They seem to be much more fragile than one would imagine. Reactions happen quickly. Words fly freely. And, feelings are hurt permanently. It is a strange phenomenon that deserves examination.

EASY.. truer words were never spoken. I agree.

EasyWriter said...

~ Angie ~

We live, learn and move on.

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