How I Do The Sunday Political Shows

As much as I enjoy political commentary and the Meet The Press theme song, each weekend viewing grinds away my appetite for what is supposed to be the foremost television programs on politics. The staid structure, revolving door of guests, pre-scripted conversations, and cheap plays for “color” have nearly driven me to cutting the cord on them.

Thankfully, working at The Huffington Post introduced me to the work of our political reporter Jason Linkins. One of Jason’s duties is to watch the Sunday political shows, yeoman’s work indeed, and to report on the notable discussions or occurrences. A recent introduction to his column:

Good morning, everyone. Here is an idea I had: I thought I would wake up, watch the Sunday morning blather shows, type stuff as I watched them, put the stuff that I typed on the internet, do this until these shows were over, and then never ever do this ever again. Sound good to everyone? Actually, many of you are probably looking forward to this — the last time I liveblog the Sunday shows. My name is Jason.

Linkins does more than summarize: he distills and refines. He calls out inaccuracies, points to redudancies, provides context not given in the show, and question why the shows select the topics and guests they do.

Today, Sunday shows were all about Chris Christie’s bridge controversy. An important story indeed, but it would be hard to argue the remaining segments were pressing or of public importance. Linkins points out that not discussed was the chemical spill in West Virginia that has left 300,000 people without safe drinking water on the fourth day of the crisis.

As I watch the Sunday shows online or via podcast, I use up Internet juice to do so. It also taxes about 45 minutes of my attention. So now, Linkins column is where I go to first to find out whether any of the Sunday shows are worth the effort. There is yet reason to suspect that the Sunday shows may take a hint and retool their programs.

So thank you Jason. Note that Jason also writes other great stuff.
Another alternative: POLITICO’s Sunday Shows In 90 Seconds.

Me In 3D

My friend Charles has given me a quite remarkable Christmas gift: a 3D print-out of myself.

Me in 3D 1

Closer:

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And here with the fish!
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Many thanks to Charles. I do encourage you to visit his site to see his impressive analysis of social media and cable news.

Day About

Notes from the day:

iOS Maps’ estimate of “time on foot” was accurate for once. A big win for an app I handle with much skepticism. Sure the directions were a bit ridiculous — ping-ponging from east to south at what seemed like each intersection — but the route yielded great views.

The Maps mission was capped off with an arrival at the dentist at the perfect time: no need to even take a seat in the waiting room. I even got an unscheduled cleaning in since the hygenist had a cancellation.

As one should, I sought to test drive the new teeth at a lovely Irish pub in the neighborhood. Great food and company.

My trek back to my neighborhood was a leisurely one, all the while not recognizing where I was but somewhat aware of the “vicinity” I was in. I practiced my new mode of foot travel that consists of trading sides of the street so as to stay on the sunny side of the street.

In Chinatown, I gained another occupant for my apartment.

His or her name is Barbary Coaster, because

Now catching up on the day…

Reading:

A Jobs Agenda for the Right

Getting Excited Helps with Performance Anxiety More Than Trying to Calm Down, Study Finds

There’s no such thing as cruelty-free cocaine, and people in Mexico are tired of footing the bill for US users. (via Quartz)

Americans started recycling back in 1690. With such an early start, you’d think they’d recycle more than 3% of their plastic. But, no. (via Quartz)

How opting out of Medicaid expansion punishes the poor, by Chris Walker

“4.8 million Americans living under the federal poverty line will remain uninsured due to states opting out of the Medicaid expansion.”

I recently came across the work of data visualization expert Chris Walker, by way of his exploration of the state of Medicaid in America. It is a well-presented and poignant visualization of this important aspect of health care reform.

The health care overhaul expands Medicaid eligibility to those with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The Congressional Budget Office estimates 9 million people would gain coverage in the first year under these new criteria for qualification. The Medicaid expansion is already seeing success, a silver lining of the mired health care reform rollout. However, in 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of expanding Medicaid coverage to more of their poor residents. Thus, only 25 states and the District of Columbia have made Medicaid’s health care more widely available.

For what that means, see Chris Walker’s excellent visualization of what the impact of not expanding Medicaid to millions of Americans that need it.

Friend Script

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#colindsey

Colin Jones and Lindsey Hankes were married on October 19, 2013. I know this because of Twitter. Twitter is also how I know Colin, an online newsman I have great respect for and a kind and supportive friend.

I was not at the wedding, but plenty of people that fall in both Colin and my networks did. Attendees took advantage of an apparent lack of ban on using social media during the proceedings.

Find even more here on the Rebel Mouse page for #COLINDSEY, put together by one of the main muscles at Rebel Mouse, Jake Beckman.

Earlier today I was reading on Sherry Turkle’s argument that real human interaction is being lost due to the false belief digital media can convey it. Her position is well researched and concerning: something that anyone who uses digital media should be aware of.

But I have yet to reach the same conclusion. I think there are plenty of risks in using digital media. But on the other side of the coin is how it has affected my life on numerous occasions. It has connected me to so many new people and ideas. The conversations I have had were rich and valuable. As evidence that an online relationship doesn’t prevent the extension of the relationship to other channels, I have had the great opportunity to meet many who I first came to know through social media.  Indeed, having connected on several levels has made the relationship all the more strong.

And take this weekend’s wedding: a wedding for people and attended by people I have not met in person before. Yet I was able witness (i.e. read) their experience, and to interpret their emotion through powerful updates from the event. I may have been near tears for some of them. All this from using “technologies that allow us to interact while inattentive or absent.”

UPDATE

I may have to abandon my claim that digital media is not going to be the end of humanity. Ha! Go get ‘em @TheStalwart.

No longer breaking

That should probably have been “No longer BREAKING” with the appropriate capitalization. Now free of obligation to pass along “broken” news bits, my aim is to axe the word from my vocabulary. I have used it far too much for professional purposes (admittedly in personal uses as well), and I am not certain it is the best strategy for conveying information. I ask for my friends to keep me accountable on my word ban. I will need the support.

I have gotten so good at typing that word very quickly that I sometimes do it as a nervous tic: B-R-E-A-K-I-N-G; check if I left out the B, as I am wont to to do; hit ENTER. Tapped out on the counter or in my  coat pocket.

In online news, especially the social blend, breaking fires the mega news alarm. It is understood to mean that a story is 1. big 2. a new report and 3. something that everyone is going to want to see. Thus, slap an easily recognizable all-caps word on it, let it fly, and watch the news crowd go bonkers. And it works! Being a breaker of news will make you seem smarter, faster, cooler, and a fast typer: traits sure to make you a big deal online.

But the term has become so overused and abused that it has been stripped of much value. Yet it is still widely used, as it was in my previous employment.

There are many new challenges and competitors for news sources these days. Among those competitors are media entities who pioneered shock and awe information. They have been in the business of luring eyeballs since the days when people still read print! And now news organizations are trying to beat them at their own game? Not a wise move in my view. Everybody is doing it, and everybody will look the same until someone breaks the mold and gets a leg up.

I think this is an opportunity for those in the news biz. Instead of tagging a report with a hot word, why not make the whole report hot? Find new ways to put the story and the medium to work for convincing the audience that your story has much more to offer than a flashy ornament slapped on another.

To hold myself to this experiment, I am going to go to the extent to eliminate the word “breaking” from my online communication, and to replace it with alternate and hopefully more compelling information. To up the ante, I offer anyone who catches me using the word online to a coffee at my expense.

Finally, I must mention that I mean no disrespect to my former employer, nor anyone who deals in breaking news. These folks are remarkably talented, and I respect their commitment to sharing information as soon as they have it. My hat remains off to all those in this boat.

Secret ops in Africa, messy news and angry journalists

Saturday afternoon and all media types across the United States were watching football and Twitter, primed for uproar as soon as the of dual U.S. involved strikes on targets overseas. As the reports streamed out, journalists sniped at conflicting stories, missing details, and revisions made to accounts. The stories were all shaky and mostly different. It resurfaced a question I often encounter with fast-moving and evasive stories: how to choose which story to accept and share?

There was confusion over who was nabbed, almost nabbed, or killed. There was also confusion over who carried out the raids. The matter gets all the more a mess when you try to figure out who is telling who what ( i.e. who are the sources?). As I am not in contact with any of these sources nor do I have the faculties to verify them for myself, I must choose what kind of reports I accept and share.

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Do I need to actually watch the “Major Economic Events To Watch This Week”?

Or are these events only events if I am a Business Insider market nerd? Don’t get me wrong: I love Business Insider. Sharp and fun cast of reporters, prompt and edgy content and an example of a media organization doing a whole lot more than just publishing words.

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One of their products I appreciate is their email newsletters. They are timely and useful. Such as today’s “Here Are The Major Economic Events To Watch This Week*.” I have a growing interest in economics, but have very little training in the field but much exposure to it in the news. Thus, very little of the mailer registered with me and I suspect that might be the case for others. But I love the BI guys and what they do, and I want to know more about economics, so I am setting to decipher and contextualize “The Major Economic Events To Watch This Week” so I know which ones to actually watch and look for in the future.

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What I learned from someone else’s failure

In Postmortem of a Venture-backed Startup, Brett Martin assesses why his social networking app Sonar failed. It is a nine minute read (thank you Medium) that provides more insight into innovation and small business than anything I have read about the matter in 600-pages from Malcolm Gladwell.

A sample:

  • Growth > engagement for startups.
  • Develop your own audience before trying to ride a collaborator’s coattails to new users.
  • Focus on three priorities, i.e. don’t spread your interests too thin.
  • Don’t fight too hard to save a sinking ship/relationship. Fix the leak or get a new boat.

I wrote more of these down on a notecard, they are that good. Go read.

But what else was learned here? All this wisdom came from Brett’s failure. I have spoken with Brett, and he is a bright guy. But there is no reason to believe that he had all of this knowledge prior to Sonar’s falter. So I would surmise that in failure, there is opportunity to make tremendous gains in terms of insight. No revelation here.

But we must be in a state to notice the factors that contribute to our misstep. What is that state? If one is so focused on how horribly wrong things are going, it is indeed “hard to see the forest for the trees.” For myself, I believe that state is a combination of exploration and seeking to guide others.

  • Exploration, to view a course not as definitive but open to numerous ends and able to accommodate new variables or changes in procedure.
  • Guiding others, even if I fall, I can still feel good at the end of the day by shouting to other’s “Don’t go this way, there is a bunch of sticker bushes!”

I envy Brett. To have found all that wisdom through his startup experience. Perhaps he will find more failures, but will likely be rich failures. I hope that I am fortunate enough to fail with such gains.

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