Monthly Archives: July 2010

There is no God: My Boys Returns

I love the blues, but how many people in Chicago do you know who love the blues – and actually go out to see it performed live? Right. And yet, the opening to My Boys is a bluesy number meant to be shorthand for “Chicago.” I guess Wilco wouldn’t do. I mean, no one’s heard of them, right?

And yet another scene of lining up at a hot dog stand on a downtown street. Hello? We don’t have those here. Wish we did, but we don’t . . . oops, it’s actually a coffee stand. That actually makes it worse.

If you want to capture Chicago, why not have a character who gets clouted into a City Hall job, and show the main characters standing on an El platform a lot waiting for full trains they can’t board or broken down trains on fire or hanging from the rails.

There are many more treatises against this show and most are linked here:

I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: I love the Beachwood Reporter. Read it daily if you know what’s good for you.

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? I welcome your comments on this or any other interview in the series.

This week’s news consumer is Stephen L. Harlow, 66 years old. He lives in what I assume is lovely Brea, California. After all, how can it not be? It’s in Orange County, it looks spotless and Stephen is quite fond of sketching it on his iPad.

But I digress…

On to the questions. As always, they are in bold with the responses appearing directly below and any linking is mine.

Stephen answered the first three questions in one passage.

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

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

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

In the ’50s I was a kid and a young teenager, turning 13 in 1957. News for me was the weekly delivery of Life magazine. The photo journalism, Arts coverage and lifestyle features shaped my world view. A few Edward R. Murrow TV pieces were the extent of the hard news media I was tuned into, until the Kennedy campaign, which I participated in, priming myself for high school debates by reading the LA Times, the Nation and the National Review, giving consideration to thevarguments of Kennedy opponents.

In the 60’s, my news consumption became more narrow with independent papers, like Berkeley Barb & Ramparts replacing Life & The Nation and National Review unseen by me. Pacifica Radio became my daily news source.

The ’70s I kept Pacifica Radio as a general news source, but began to focus my periodical reading in my special field of interest, which happens to be Art.

In the ’80s I switched from Pacifica radio to NPR, keeping my habit of listening to news, rather than reading it. I had little interest in reading journalism other than Art coverage.

90s, I picked up the habit of reading a daily newspaper, in my case, the San Francisco Chronical. Since I continued to get an overview of the general news stories from NPR, I went first to the features in the newspaper: comics, local columnist, arts & entertainment reviews.

By the end of the ’90s, my focus was on news and information coming thru email discussion lists and the sites linked to by trusted sources..

The 00s brought RSS feeds, podcasts and on-demand media. Still listening to the NPR general news, I switched to receiving NPR over an Internet connection rather broadcasts. This allows me to time shift programs by listening to streaming radio from other time zones. At this time, I listen exclusively to podcasts. The subjects I follow are more Tech and Science than politics.

I’ve never been much of a TV watcher because it takes too much attention, I prefer to listen while I do something else with my eyes, like art work, domestic chores or commuting (by transit or walking — I don’t drive). The same for reading, it takes too much attention, I want to be making art.

I have my first Kindle book half-read on my iPhone for over a year. I’ve never opened the iBooks app on my iPad. I read headlines of blog posts in feeds, go to articles if a trusted source links to them in social media (Twitter, Facebook, Buzz) and I prefer summaries to the articles.

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

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’ve yet to see a reason to view anything behind a paywalll. I subscribe to no periodicals, but I have a basic Netflix account I use the Internet connection thru my local Cable service, I have no TV, radio or disc recording player. I watch some streaming video, like Netflix, YouTube and the ABC app on iPad.

I expect media to be distributed free by the producer and be subsidized by advertisers. I do patronize sponsors of my favorite podcasts.



I want an improvement of the social graph applications, so I can more easily follow and discuss the discoveries of trusted sources  i’d like more refinement of the sharing functions on media.

This is where things got really interesting. I asked Stephen to elaborate on what he meant by improvements in the social graph. What he told me in response was fascinating.



I want my browser(s) to know compiled social graph, from all my Social Media accounts and my email & phone contacts.

I want to be able to know which of my friends have read an article that I find from search and what their comments or gestures (ie; like) [I would also love this function. Is anyone building anything like this? I hope so.] 

When consuming a piece of media, text, audio, video, in addition to knowing how my trusted circle has reacted to it, I want to know if any of my circle is there live, if they are, I want the option to live chat. [Is anyone other than me salivating at the prospect of such tools? Can any of you tech geniuses tell me if they are anywhere on the horizon?]

I want to be able to leave a response gesture, a comment and or engage in discussion that goes beyond that moment and the page which hosts the media. I want sent alerts from the media page to selected subsets of my social graph or to individuals. [In a sense, this is what blogs do now when you comment on them and then choose to be informed of all further comments. But what Stephen is talking about is much more involved, much more personalized and thus, much more useful.] 


I want to easily send links, quotes and embedded media to selective subsets of my social graph with my comments. I want them and I to see the results of compiled responses of my friends with comparisons of their reactions with those of the total audience.


I want credit for referring audience to media sources and if purchases are made from direct links to vendors, I want my slice, small tho it might be, credited to my account. [All I can say is: GENIUS. I could make a nice little side income if this was implemented.]


I want to choose the service who maintains my identity and to have that ID recognized globally. I want to have access to all services I have agreements with and to be protected from unauthorized access of my data.  I’m primarily interested in being known by those I interact with and for me to know who they are. However, anonymous communications may continue in open areas of the internet

Most of these social functions do exist in primitive ways, all the functions I envision are possible as a layer on top of existing platforms. The single sign exists thru Oauth, Facebook Connect and Google profiles. Thru expansion of these services, the social layers may be built to facilitate community around all.

Everyone is potentially both a consumer and a publisher.


Anyone else’s mind blown? I realize that others have probably made similar wish lists, but for me it was interesting to see it come from someone who’s not a digital native. The lesson we can draw here is that the desire for better technology can come from any user of it. The lesson for publishers might be to remember your entire audience, not just the 18-49 year olds or whatever that coveted demographic is.

The other lesson comes from Stephen’s continued use of “trusted source” as a term to describe people and/or organizations he favors when choosing where to get his news and information from. Whether you are a large news organization, an individual reporter or even perhaps a marketer, you should be striving to be a trusted source. People might not always articulate it as Stephen has done, but everyone has trusted sources which in analog terms might be translated to mean “reader loyalty.” You want loyal readers don’t you? Become a trusted source.

Leroy Stick of @BPGlobalPR contemplates what’s next

If you take anything away from BPGlobalPR, let it be that your little idea could work.  The Internet offers a pretty accessible audience, so why not try and start something?  We can use new media to affect the old.  We can change the conversation.  We can set a new standard for corporate responsibility if we just make the choice to attack corporate irresponsibility. Let’s show these people that they can’t get away with business as usual anymore.  All I’m asking of you, the reader, is to TRY.  Just TRY.  You’ll be surprised what can happen.

Leroy’s entire message is worth reading, but this was the takeaway for me. START SOMETHING.

Step aside, professional journalists at work


I’m going to tell you a story. Several stories actually, but we’ll start with the one about a freelance journalist covering a suburban city council meeting for a major Chicago newspaper. An interesting ordinance was to be voted on at that meeting, an ordinance addressing a major issue. This was deemed interesting enough for the entire Chicago media market and as such, it was slated for a spot on the major newspaper’s breaking news website. The story was already written and all the journalist needed to do was place a call to the breaking news desk to give the outcome of the vote and any additional details.

After the meeting concluded, the journalist dutifully made the call and provided all the necessary information as well as some quotes from several council members. The journalist was 99.9% sure of the spelling of a councilwoman’s last name so she simply instructed the full-time, paid media employee to check the spelling online. The journalist knew for certain that the councilwoman’s name was spelled correctly on the municipality’s website. 

Silence followed.

“You know,” said the journalist, “Just Google it.”

More silence.

The journalist finally instructed the person on the other end of the line exactly what to search for on Google and precisely which website would have the correct information.


The next story involves another journalist, perhaps the same one as in the first story, who attended a panel discussion at Columbia College which was about, what else? the future of news.

The panelists were all men (and one woman) of importance in the local media community and beyond. One of the panelists was someone fairly high up at the Sun-Times. During Q&A, he was asked by an audience member why the Sun-Times didn’t link out in any of the stories on their website. Mr. Sun-Times Bigwig answered that he thought they did do that. A painful back and forth ensued whereby it became obvious that Mr. Bigwig had no idea what sort of linking the questioner meant. The journalists (and everyone else in the audience) looked at Mr. Bigwig with a mixture of confusion and terror. If this was the future of news, the people in that room knew they were doomed.


The final story comes to us from a friend of the journalist. This friend, also a journalist, was set to do a spot on a local radio program to talk about an issue she had been writing about, one that would be interesting for the radio station’s audience. Early in the morning on the day her spot was supposed to air, she got a call from the station saying they would need to postpone it. The reason was that President Obama was doing a press conference that morning and they wanted to discuss what he said before having her on.

By the way, they said, did she know what time the press conference would be starting?

The journalist’s friend stared blankly into the phone. Surely, the time of a presidential press conference was not top secret knowledge. In fact, after hanging up she found the information online in a matter of seconds. Yet the person who called had told her that they had looked for it online. 

Dear reader, I have many more stories, but I think you get the general idea.

Note: Any resemblance to any real people or real news organizations, whether actual or imagined is strictly accidental 😉


Make stuff people want to read

I went to one of the other panels at this section of the CMW conference so I saw this today for the first time. Brad killed it! Nicely done.

Probably only a few people will remember what this reminds me of, but it was another conference; one where Brad and I were in the audience… Come to think of it CMW wrote it up back then (as did many others): Brad made another impassioned speech (as is his nature) at that gathering. Back then it was as an audience member. Ahhh, how times have changed :-)

One of the greatest scenes of all time

Is It in Apple’s DNA to Say: “I’m Sorry?”

It may not be the silliest thing Jim Cramer has ever said. But it came close.

“I don’t care if they treat shareholders horribly. The fact is – is that they make you money and there’s lots of companies that treat you real well and have really good corporate governance and are letting you into any boardroom and they’re awful. I’ll take performance any day of the week…”

He was talking about Apple, a company that Cramer said should get a special pass because it makes great products and oh yeah, its stock has been gangbusters.

Was he serious or just doing shtick? Hard to know but during a brief “Stop Trading” segment on CNBC Thursday, Cramer said it boiled down to rooting for companies whose stocks go up.

“I’m a dollar sign represented by a man,” he said.

Fair enough. If that’s the benchmark, then there are lots of people – particularly within the moneyed class in America – who would side with Cramer and give Steve Jobs a pass. What’s a periodic antenna reception problem when you’re the hottest thing on Wall Street?

But if recent history teaches anything, it’s that people under the influence of stock-induced sugar highs always come up with inventive justifications to rationalize the behavior of companies they invest in.

Once upon a time, let’s recall that many in the investment world – as well as the media, unfortunately – were convinced that the folks who ran Enron were financial wizards. In the end, that didn’t work out too well for all concerned. Ditto for WorldCom and Tyco, along with a host of lesser well-known, though equally bogus outfits. As long as their share prices kept hitting new all-time highs, they got a free pass. Then the music stopped and we know how that tale ended.

Apple obviously is in a different category. Yes, it’s rightfully taken heat over its options backdating practices and a decision to keep Jobs medical condition a secret. But those are just symptoms of the same mindset that’s led Apple to this latest PR crisis. Apple’s not trouble not because it’s crooked. Apple’s in trouble because it’s turned tone deaf.

Found this via the always in-the-know Kit Mueller: He found it via the always, always in-the-know Dave Winer:

Incidentally, Dave follows me on Twitter and I’ve never been able to get him to tell me why.

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? Leave them in the comment section (duh :-))

Today’s incredibly insightful news consumer is Joseph Hunter. Joseph is a married, African-American man of 27 years old. He lives with his wife and baby daughter in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines. He works at Northwestern University as a Program Assistant in the Graduate Housing Office. His annual income is roughly 35k. 

Ready for the question round? Here we go.

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

My news consumption habits over the years have stayed largely the same for a little longer than a decade. In 2000, after I heard an NPR political analyst say that he didn’t know anyone who was going to vote for George W. Bush–and after the election ended in a 50-50 split–I decided that it was time I diversified my news consumption. I turned to radio and newspapers exclusively and left television out. I haven’t returned to television media yet, and have, in fact, eliminated all television consumption. I balanced my radio news consumption to include NPR and conservative talk radio. The only change in my consumption has been my increased reliance on receiving my news via the internet. Whereas I only consumed Chicago papers, I now have access to local papers throughout the country and to the New York Times.

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

On a daily basis, I get most of my news via the internet generally, from think tanks, specifically from The Cato Institute, The Heritage Foundation, The Center for American Progress and Brookings Institution. I also have a well organized Google Reader that I occasionally check. It retrieves news from the NYT, Chicago Trib & Sun Times, LATimes, Wall Street Journal, National Review, The Manhattan Institute, Judicial Watch, The Journal of Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post, and World Magazine Online.

I also consume news daily via radio, namely from WBBM 780 AM, WLS 890 AM, WBEZ 91.5 FM, WIND 560 AM, and WGN 720 AM.  

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

I am primarily interested in policy debates, so I generally do not get what I’m looking for via the radio with the exception of some shows on WBEZ and the Michael Medved Show on WIND. As far as the internet is concerned, I have much more control over finding exactly what I’m looking for.

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

My general complaint about the news media is that the format understandably favors people who are too busy to consume complex stories or issues. Whereas most people may be interested in the headlines, I am interested in the fine details of issues and in ways to best understand the nuances of issues. I don’t say this to be self-aggrandizing, it’s just that my interest is public policy. Instead of news agencies copying one another, it may be better for one to focus on more in depth analysis (I recognize, however, that media is a business and this may not be a sound business model for a media organization. In light of all of the options Americans have in tailoring news that fits their individual need, I do not resent the corporate aspect of media organizations).

[Joseph is not the first to have noted news organizations copying each other. I fully agree.]

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?

Currently, I do not pay for online news content. I also would not be willing to pay for online news because the internet makes it so that anything people pay for can be acquired for free [italics mine]. Sometimes, I come across Wall Street Journal articles that are incomplete and require a subscription to view. With a small amount of dedication, I find the article in its entirety in no time.

Other than the Chicago Tribune or the Sun-Times News Group’s publications, what other print producers of news can you name in the Chicagoland area? What online ones can you name? (this can include blogs, news aggregators, etc).

As far as Chicago area media sources [other than the ones already mentioned], I’m aware of the Chicago Defender, Backyard Conservative, Illinois Review, and of course, WINDY CITIZEN :-) [I’m sure I speak for everyone involved in Windy Citizen when I say thank you for the enthusiasm and the use of CAPS Joseph :-)]

Sometimes this is really hard


Sometimes I feel like this. Today for instance.  

You know how they say that everything worth having is worth working hard for? Yeah, I believe it too. Sometimes though… sometimes it’s hard to keep going even when you’re being encouraged. Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that what you want will happen. Sometimes it doesn’t make you feel any better that it’s happened for others.

You start to second-guess yourself. You start to wonder if this imaginary media job is really the only thing that will make you happy. You start to question the meaning of happiness itself. 

For me personally, it’s also a matter of feeling like an outsider; an uncool kid at the cool kids’ table. It doesn’t matter if it’s not true. The feeling is nagging and persistent and it’s one I’ve had for as long as I can remember. Once a nerd, always a nerd I suppose.

The pep talks help, but I’ve heard them all a dozen times. But what I don’t want is for you to feel sorry for me. And what I want most of all is to not feel sorry for myself. Because I know I have it really great compared to most people. I’m at least able to pursue what I want and have the free time to do so. But sometimes this is really hard.


“Recordings of me?”