Monthly Archives: July 2010

Yes, you SHOULD talk about politics and religion

Chicago CFO wants you to use public transit more… but not for the reasons you might think

revenue projections for the company “are on the optimistic side” and that there is a strong chance that parking demand could drop off at some point due to future rate increases or expanded use of public transit.

If you read the entire article that this comes from, you’ll learn that:

1) Chicago Parking Meters, the company that leased from the city just what their name suggests, is swimming in cash.

2) One of the reasons they are so flush is that parking usage has not dropped as much as expected.

I guess the thinking was that once parking became more expensive, people would use it less. What this kind of genius reasoning failed to take into account is that as long as people still have cars, they have to park them somewhere. If that were not true, all those garages where it costs like $25 to park for 3 minutes would be standing empty.

3) Daley and his underlings are certain that Chicago Parking Meters’ revenue projections are on the rosy side because maybe the price will go up again (a market force that didn’t lead to a drop in usage at least once already) and maybe you’ll start taking public transit more (a laughable proposition to anyone who has lived in Chicago longer than 10 minutes).

So, to sum up, move along, nothing to see here. The parking meter lease deal was FANTASTIC for Chicagoans and for the city’s coffers which, if you haven’t heard, are set to be $654 million in the red:…

What do our customers think?


This interview is part of a series of conversations with news consumers. All of the interviews are compiled here. Want to be interviewed? Sign up here. Have a question to suggest that I should be asking the interviewees? Tweet me. Have comments or questions for me or anyone I’ve talked to? Myself and my interview subjects welcome your comments on this or any other interview in the series.

This week’s news consumer is Andrew Hazlett, 39 years old and residing in Baltimore. Yes, that’s the same Baltimore that’s depicted in the single greatest television show of all time. It’s a good thing Andrew is having a busy week, because if not for that I would be peppering him with questions too embarrassing to mention here.

Andrew is a father, husband, blogger and podcaster. He has, as he put it, a “precocious 3.5 year old daughter” and his household income which I’m not at liberty to disclose is solidly middle class. As I’ve stressed before, this is the type of news consumer publishers should be courting. He’s also a former government bureaucrat, another factoid that elicits a million questions which he is again very lucky to escape (at least for the time being).

Learn more about Andrew here or follow him on Twitter like I do. 

Shall we get down to business? Yes, I think so. As per usual, the questions are in bold, the answers follow and any linking is mine.

How have your news consumption habits changed over the years or have they stayed about the same?

I used to read a lot of print magazines and at least one newspaper daily. There are a couple of magazines I still get on paper (The Atlantic, The New Criterion, and, oddly, Wired), but all the rest of my magazine article reading is now online.

For a few months after 9/11 I watched a lot of cable news (rotating between biases on the various networks so I could triangulate some accuracy). It has been years since I had any desire to watch any news content on TV or cable.

I shifted to reading news entirely online more than ten years ago, though I’ve paid for things like Times Select [now defunct] and I continue to pay for an online subscription to the Wall Street Journal.

Where do you usually get your news from on a daily basis? Specify print, online or otherwise for each source you list.

No more print for daily news at all.


Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times,

Many, many blogs, magazine websites, and aggregators like Arts & Letters Daily

IP video, podcasts, and other “A/V” sources:,, Between the Covers book podcast from National Review Online, and more.

Twitter, Facebook, a couple hundred RSS feeds via Google Reader

[Also some terrestrial radio (while in car): WYPR 88.1 FM (Baltimore NPR)]

What are the things you are most interested in reading about? Are those needs being met by what’s available to you?

Arts and culture, books, the terror war, India, history, nature and science discoveries. For the most part, I have access to far more than I could ever read or watch/listen to… there are some gaps, however.

What is your number one complaint about the news media? This can be general or really specific.

Insect-size attention span; also wayyyyyy too much emotion, not enough reason, logic, context, sense of history, or respect for differing principles driving today’s debates and conflicts. [This continues to be a theme through all the interviews thus far. News producers, please hear this. Your customers want more in-depth coverage and they want you to stay with the story longer.]

Do you currently pay for any news content online? If yes, describe what type of content it is. If no, would you be willing to pay any amount for news content online?

I pay for the Wall Street Journal online and make NPR donations, but I would also pay for a handful of other sources, including the New York Times. [Take heart! While past interviewees have not said that they would pay for content, we can see that not every digitally savvy consumer is a member of the Cult of Free. Let me just say that I love free content and I believe in ad supported content. But the new advertising platforms are not coming soon enough for all publishers. Charging for premium, high-quality content should be an option.]

One Chicagoan’s opinion about Mayor Daley

User Image
tychi wrote:
soxfan wrote:
Man…. You had to know that every idiot with a keyboard would be here posting garbage like this. Maybe you dont like him as mayor but could you be a little less classless??

By they way, I can`t wait to read the day after Daley wins another election!! thats going to be a riot. Please dont give me none of that 35% approval rating nonsense either. It was a poll (a small one) run by a paper that hates the Mayor. This guy will steamroll anyone. You people sit at your desks whining to each other on here while the rest of this city goes on with their lives, Loving it here. Partly because of the little man. It will be priceless the day after LOL!!!

I have to agree with most of what you are saying. As a lifelong Chicagoian, I must say te city looks, smells, and feels better than it did say 25 years or so ago.

Now I am not a fan of the new mafia parking, (meters, boots, excessive tickets), but there are areas of the city that are way better off. The areas that are bad now have gotten smaller, almost all of the ugly, dangerous project buildings, (that his father put up, are gone, tourism is up, theatre is booming, Mag Mile, State Street… etc.

He will continue to win until he decides he doesn’t want to. That is the reality. Like it or lump it. I have yet to see anyone who has convinced me that they could do a better job. How many other cities have dignitaries, heads of state, etc coming to see their mayor? We need to be glad for the pull he does have. Heck we are doing better than LA for crying out loud, that has to say something.

7/29/2010 11:44 AM CDT on


Charlatan, Martyr or Hustler?

A great city deserves a great newspaper

Activist journalism: which side are you on?


Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you today’s national media controversy or discussion or argument or whatever you want to call it.

It all started with this Politico column where the author starts out by extolling the virtues of journalism in excerpts like this:

We really believed we were doing good. We informed the public and helped make democracy work. We exposed wrongdoing wherever we found it. We reported without fear or favor. As a columnist, I tried to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

And this:

We loved what we did, and we did it with passion. We were proud. We felt — I am just going to go ahead and say it — honorable. 

And this:

At the end of the day, you often went home feeling good. And when people asked what you did, you replied with pride, not shame.

It was, as I said, almost a holy calling.

The writer then goes on to bemoan the current state of journalism, that state which has led to, among numerous recent examples, the Dave Weigel/Journolist flap. 

In fact, before I read the Politico piece, I saw this Chuck Todd tweet. I replied, saying this was a valid point and what did Chuck view as the main problem? 

The reply was as follows:

acceptance of activist journalism as “mainstream.” Political consultant Roger Ailes started started this latest iteration w/Fox

Now, at this point I didn’t yet realize that Chuck was quoted in the Politico piece saying this:

“I am sure Ezra had good intentions when he created it, but I am offended the right is using this as a sledgehammer against those of us who don’t practice activist journalism.

“Journolist was pretty offensive. Those of us who are mainstream journalists got mixed in with journalists with an agenda. Those folks who thought they were improving journalism are destroying the credibility of journalism.

“This has kept me up nights. I try to be fair. It’s very depressing.”

I went on to say that I thought activist journalism could work and (what I meant to add) be a force for good. Here I was thinking about the work done by Progress lllinois, Chicago Reporter and the reporters at the Chicago Reader, among others. Had Chuck and I conversed further, I would have told him that I thought activist journalism the way he was defining it was an unhelpful abstraction, that all journalists and editors are activists in their own way, something the Politico piece admitted happened even in the Good Old Days when it said:

There were wrongdoers. Fakers, plagiarists, those with private agendas who wished to slant the news. When found, they were often fired. Even when they were subjected to a lesser punishment, their sins were made clear as a lesson to the rest of us. (At a few papers, those who wished to slant the news were publishers or editors who wished to please their publishers. They were rarely fired. But their numbers were few.)

I wasn’t the only one to take issue with Todd’s characterization. Salon’s Glenn Greenwald voiced his view and it is through examples like this that we begin to see how slippery the definition of “activist journalism” can be. 

Aren’t all journalists activists when we really think about it? We are meant to be advocating at all times for the public, for democracy, for the “little guy,” etc. Right? But even in that simple statement with which most journalists could agree, we can see the seeds of problems. Who is “the public?” What policies are best for our democracy? For that matter, who is “the little guy?”

So for better or worse, I have come to the same conclusion that others have come to (even those who are not themselves journalists). Journalism was always activist, but we are just now calling it that. In addition, we are just now possessed of the tools needed to weed out a journalist’s personal mission or bias if he or she shares it anywhere where it can be recorded and saved for future use.

Is that really so bad or wrong? I think not.

NPR’s Andy Carvin recalls how it was that NPR came to Facebook

I’d also like to tell a quick story. In late 2007, we began debating the possibility of having a presence on Facebook, but we couldn’t make up our minds. Would it be an editorial platform or a PR one? Who would own it? Etc, etc. Then one day in January 2008 I got a tweet from a colleague at PBS NewsHour congratulating us for our new Facebook page — and I had no idea what she was talking about. It turns out a student in the UK had created the page, using official “About Us” information from our website. It’d been around for less than a week but already had more than 5,000 fans.

 Not surprisingly, this led to a new conversation at NPR — what should we do about the page and this guy. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed, and they let me simply introduce myself to him and say hello. I soon learned what had happened.

The prior month, he had contacted NPR through the “Contact Us” link on our website, encouraging us to create a Facebook page, given how many NPR fans were there. He also volunteered to do it, noting that we’re a nonprofit and might not have the resources to do it ourselves. He waited two weeks for a reply and then got a form letter from us, thanking him for his support. So he took that as a yes and created the page — and assumed that I was merely following up with him. With that, he made me administrator of the page.

 There are two lessons to take away from this. First, it’s not worth wasting time arguing over whether or not you’ll lose control of your brand when you start using social networks, because you never had control in the first place.

Enough with the text shorthand: 5 reasons to stop


If you weren’t already aware of this, bloggers like to go on rants.

Rants can be about a large, complex and nationally significant issue (see also, political blogs), dissection of the latest Apple/Google/fill-in-the-blank product (see also, tech blogs), vicious arguments about content and business models (see also, media blogs),  or the mind-numbing minutiae of an esoteric hobby (see also…. I don’t know… taxidermy blogs?)

I’m not prone to ranting. This is probably the closest I get to it. And maybe this. Ok., I guess this is also an example of a rant. And oh crap, I forgot all about this (much ranting also in the comments). I suppose some could view this as a rant as well.

What were we walking about again? Oh yeah, bloggers are prone to ranting though I don’t personally engage in it.

On the rare occasion that I do engage in it, I like to make it about something truly important. Something that affects us all. Something that, if allowed to continue, may well bring about the end of Western civilization as we know it. Maybe even ALL civilization.

Yes, I’m talking about text shorthand. If you don’t know what I mean, consider yourself lucky. Here’s Wikipedia’s primer on the offensive drivel you have been fortunate enough to avoid seeing on Twitter, in text messages, online chats and even e-mails. The key point is this one:

SMS language does not always obey or follow standard grammar, and additionally the words used are not usually found in standard dictionaries or recognized by language academies.

To my delight, there’s a section on criticism in the Wikipedia entry! Let’s see what it says before I launch into my own treatise against this linguistic malaise…. Hmmm, just 5 brief lines citing some Welsh journalist and a “scholar” who has actually refuted the criticism! Well, that’s just pathetic. 

I’ve heard that bloggers also like to make lists so in that spirit, here are 5 reasons to stop using text shorthand ASAP (that’s “as soon as possible” and totally permissible because it is an abbreviation, much like USA or TGIF).

1. It makes you sound like an amateurish teenager.

Have you ever said to yourself, gee, I’m a respected professional, but what I REALLY want is to be seen as a juvenile with a weak grasp on the English language? No? Then don’t use text shorthand. EVER.

Not working outside the home? You’re still not off the hook. Check your driver’s license. Are you an adult? Yes? Then there’s no reason you shouldn’t use full words and proper punctuation. Being a cool Mom or Dad and having your kids like you is one thing, turning into a kid yourself is quite another. And before you protest that your kids use it to communicate so you do too, spare me. It’s possible to understand a foreign language without speaking it. This should be no different. Only instead of being seen as cool and cosmopolitan when you use a foreign language, you’ll be viewed as dumb and classless when you use text shorthand. Furthermore, don’t you want to set a good example for your kids? If yes, text/e-mail/Facebook/tweet them in full sentences with correct spelling of all words. They’ll thank you later.

2. It makes you seem like you’re joking around ALL THE TIME.

Closely related to the first reason, this one is no less important. Can you imagine if Paul Revere had, instead of shouting “The British are coming!” texted all his pals that “OMG, the Brits R coming! U better run!” His friends would have thought it was a practical joke and had a good laugh before getting their heads blown off with cannons. 

There’s nothing wrong with a good joke, but do you want all your communiques to be perceived as such? Do you want to be taken seriously sometimes? If no, go ahead and keep using text shorthand. 

3. It makes you seem stupider than you actually are.

This might be the single best reason to quit. No doubt you would like to appear intelligent to others, regardless of what your actual intellect is. Using text shorthand is the quickest way to come off as an unmitigated moron.  

4. It actually makes you stupider.

I have no scientific evidence to back this up. You’ll just have to take my word for it. This will make you dumb the same way that watching too much TV and reading too little does the same. In fact, reading too little is what you’re doing on a micro level when using or consuming text shorthand. You’re actually reading less than a correctly spelled and constructed sentence would have required you to read. If you’re already having trouble getting through this post because it’s too long, then this is already happening to you. 

5. Do you REALLY need those extra characters?

If you’re trying to save space while composing a text or a tweet, ask yourself this question. Chances are, the answer is a big, fat NO. If it takes investing in a no limit texting plan, I beg of you to do it so that you may send as many messages as you like in order to get your point across using complete words and sentences. If the problem is that you’re just too lazy to key in a few extra letters, then I think we have much larger problems to discuss. 

If the issue is being able to get your point across in a quick, pithy manner then the good news is that this is a skill you can cultivate. You might actually learn some new words and learn how to express yourself better overall. You could then be well on your way to avoiding #3 and #4. Because as we all know, text shorthand is just one way to seem stupid. A poor vocabulary and poor communication skills are a few of the others.

If all this hasn’t convinced you, I’m not sure what more I can say. Perhaps I’ll simply direct you to a site that is probably more your speed.

To see Point Break Live! or not to see it… that is the question