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Bar News - October 19, 2016

Opinion: NHBA Communications Advisory Council Wants Your Input


I wanted this article to be illustrated with a photograph. In fact, I wanted that photograph to fill up one quarter of this page (at least). I was hoping for a picture of a man with a gun, and the man I had in mind was (drumroll, please): Justus D. Barnes.

That name is probably foreign to you. But he was famous once, and you are living with the echoes of his work even if you don’t realize it. He played the main villain in a film directed by Edwin S. Porter called The Great Train Robbery, which came out in 1903 (so I would assume that he was a stage actor, as there were no other kinds of actors in 1903). Porter, who had once worked directly for Edison, pulled no punches with his title. This was a movie about a train robbery. In fact, this was the first movie, ever, about a train robbery; it was also the first western ever made; it was also the first movie to last more than ten minutes (it clocked in at around twelve minutes); and it ended with the most famous and influential scene in all early cinema: the lead bandit staring at the camera and shooting his gun directly at the viewer. Women fainted (allegedly). Grown men ducked in their chairs (more likely; I’ve done that myself). Teenagers, most likely, were enthralled (ah, to be young and watching violent stuff). And things grew from there.

As to why I wanted to use that picture for this article: three reasons.

Members of the NH Bar Association Communications Advisory Council
Michael Davidow (chair)
Jonathan Eck (NHBA board liaison)
Lindsey Gray
Honey Hastings
Hon. Mark Howard (court liaison)
Michael Listner
Kristin Mendoza
Kristen Senz (editor)
Bryan Townsend II
Dan Wise (communications director)
Lanea Witkus

First, because this newspaper needs more visual punch.

Second, because the great mid-century advertising executive David Ogilvy taught that if you need help enjoying your cigarette in a crowded place, never turn to anyone and say, “Excuse me.” Simply approach whoever is next to you and ask, “Got a light?” (Secret memo to my fellow litigators: remember that, for your opening statements.)

And third, because the great mid-century communications analyst Marshall McLuhan taught that “instant information creates involvement in depth.” And since I am writing in a newspaper that comes out once a month, it therefore takes drastic measures to create any kind of involvement. Or at least a photograph that will grab your attention.

Now Professor McLuhan was probably thinking of events like the crash of the Hindenberg, the sinking of the Titanic, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the death of John Kennedy - moments of such magnitude and drama that millions of onlookers found them irresistible. But that rule of his also applies to baseball on the radio, and dinner on the stove, and the arrival of Christmas for your kids: simple, ongoing events that not only produce intimacy and enthusiasm, but that also further rely on the ability of some medium (an announcer’s voice, the cook’s voice, a parent’s voice) to propagate new developments across space (the distance from a radio set, the distance from the kitchen to the den, the distance from a bedroom to a fireplace); and this is also the same rule that explains why Facebook and other such platforms can so successfully encourage people to take an interest in otherwise dull things, solely because they are being updated so regularly (can someone under the age of twenty please tell me what the hell is a Kardashian?).

In short, I need to get your attention for something important, and I need to do it on this page, because our Bar Association has asked several of your peers, including myself, to serve on a new committee called the Communications Advisory Council, which has been tasked (tasked!) with advising the Bar News and its associated enterprises (its Facebook, Twitter, and weekly e-mail pronouncements) on how best to serve our members. This, when like every other bar association in the country, ours is so fractured that speaking to any one group of members nearly necessitates excluding other groups. Corporate and courtroom; country and city; big firm and solo practitioner; male and female; young and old: I sometimes feel there is only one thing we have in common, and you are holding it in your hands. Or propping it up against your breakfast, your lunch, or your favorite collection of graven idols.

So please be aware that we exist; that our goal is to not just give our Bar Association a voice, but to also help develop what it might wish to say; and finally, feel free to tell me what you yourself believe should be said, to both our own members and the public at large. Tell me how you feel those statements should be made. Tell me how you feel in general about our community, and how to make it better.

And don’t duck. It’s only a picture.

Michael Davidow

Michael Davidow is a public defender in Nashua and chair of the NH Bar Association Communications Advisory Council. He can be reached by email.

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