Archive for the ‘politics’ Tag

Credible News. Seems Simple, But. . . .   Leave a comment

Challenging The False Narrative From #45

June 1, 2017

I’ve always been an early-riser. As a child my mother found that my body clock was set for 5:00am. She dealt with this reality as would any mother wishing to keep her sanity. Since she worked 3rd shift as a registered nurse (and didn’t return home until 7:30am,) I accepted her guidance. My mother taught me how to make my own breakfast, and provided me with an understanding of why I would live longer if I didn’t wake everyone else in the house at 5:00am. It was no surprise that years later when I delivered papers in Milwaukee, I worked for the morning paper, The Milwaukee Sentinel.

To my own surprise (based on my early years in school) I find that I read a lot these days. It’s a habit I developed in the 1970s while living in Chicago, where I became a regular reader of the Chicago Sun-Times. That choice—Sun-Times vs. Chicago Tribune—was based on two simple ideas: first, the story selection and the writing style of the Sun-Times connected with me; second, I preferred the physical size and shape of the the Sun-Times tabloid format vs. the Chicago Tribune’s broadsheet. It didn’t matter that the Tribune was larger (in number of pages and readers) and far more powerful than the Sun-Times. We all have our preferences.

The Chicago Sun-Times always seemed grittier to me, more blue-collar than white collar; more Main Street than Wall Street. Looking back to those days in Chicago my memory paints a picture of a Sun-Times that was something of a real-life version of The Sun in Ron Howard’s 1994 film The Paper, or The Day in Richard Brooks’ 1952 film Deadline U.S.A. In fact, as I recall the Sun-Times was the backdrop for the 1981 film Continental Divide Belushicd02starring John Belushi as a gritty reporter. Moving to Los Angeles in 1977 didn’t change my habits; just the names of the papers. As a resident I looked to the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and The Los Angeles Times. Both were pale versions of the Chicago papers but for more than a decade I followed the world through the lens of the Los Angeles papers. And as I began working nationally and internationally, I also expanded my reading list to include the New York Times, which I continue to read today, along with the Washington Post and occasionally the Press Democrat here on the coast.

There’s a scene in the 1977 film Futureworld, where the film’s two lead characters—a TV reporter played by Blythe Danner and a print reporter played by Peter Fonda—talk about which is more important and more popular for getting news and information. After a brief exchange (and the question remaining unresolved) they turn to a stranger. The Fonda character asks the man if he gets his news from television or newspapers? His response went something like this: “Me? I’m a tube freak, man”.  The film may be 40 years old but looking at the media landscape today, it seems that the ‘tube freak’ was on to something. According to a recent Pew Research analysis, “. . . TV continues to be the most widely used news platform; 57% of U.S. adults often get TV-based news, either from local TV (46%), cable (31%), network (30%) or some combination of the three. This same pattern emerges when people are asked which platform they prefer – TV sits at the top, followed by the web, with radio and print trailing behind.” The analysis goes on to confirm that “the greatest portion of U.S. adults, 46%, prefer to watch news rather than read it (35%) or listen to (17%).”

How we get news is less important, in my opinion, than the credibility of the news we get. There’s no question that our current president, number 45, likes to talk about ‘fake news’ as a way to explain his “stolen popular vote”, or the smaller crowds at his inaugural, or the popular resistance to his gutting of the social safety net and his denial of climate change. I don’t care if #45 believes Martians or Mexicans voted illegally to keep him from winning the popular vote. I just wish he’d either start governing or pack up his marbles and go home. Either is preferable to the continuing mistrust he sows in our society.

A couple of weeks ago I started watching 1939’s Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, in part perhaps, to help me believe that our government might start governing. Alas, I didn’t watch the entire movie because I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that there is even one strong and honorable “Jefferson Smith” residing in today’s U.S. Senate. I’d even settle for the film’s Senator “Joseph Paine” to come to mr_smith_goes_to_washington_61073-1920x1200our rescue, and tell him to keep some of the graft for his effort. Governing isn’t a lost cause, but fake news is pushing us in that direction.

Jacob Soll wrote in Politico last December that “fake news’ dates back almost 600 years, essentially since Gutenberg in 1439. As an example Soll offers this nugget: “To whip up revolutionary fervor, Ben Franklin himself concocted propaganda stories about murderous “scalping” Indians working in league with the British King George III.” With the consolidation of news outlets, local beat reporters are an endangered species, and regional and national reporters are at the very least a group under threat. Soll concludes that “Real news is not coming back in any tangible way on a competitive local level, or as a driver of opinion in a world where the majority of the population does not rely on professionally reported news sources and so much news is filtered via social media, and by governments. And as real news recedes, fake news will grow. We’ve seen the terrifying results this has had in the past—and our biggest challenge will be to find a new way to combat the rising tide.”

I’ll keep looking for real news and pass along what I find. I hope you’ll do the same.

-30-

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What The GOP Could Learn From Apple.   Leave a comment

January 24, 2013

Ideas and Ideas

My daughter called this morning. She had time to kill while waiting for her car to be repaired at a local Bay-Area garage, so she stopped in at the Village at Corte Madera, a high-end shopping mall in Marin County, California. She discovered something new and called to ask if I knew that Microsoft had a retail store. I told her I knew Microsoft had opted to move into retail a few years ago. My brain seems to have a memory that Microsoft (and other Wall Street-based psychics) originally pooh-poohed the idea of a computer or software maker going into retail when Steve Jobs chose to go retail with Apple stores in 1999 only two years after many of the same business people questioned Apple’s very ongoing viability.  (Computer maker Michael Dell suggested in 1997 that he had a simple solution to Apple’s 1997 woes: “I’d shut [Apple] down and give the money back to the shareholders”.  Where and what is Michael Dell’s vision today?)

The first Apple Store opened in 2001, and the success of the Apple Store concept is breathtaking, as witnessed by 400 stores currently operating (or soon to open), the profitability of the stores, and the expansion of the Apple brand during the past decade. Mac enthusiasts were ready for a retail store to call home. With all deference to Circuit City, Best Buy, and so many other stores (here today or now out of business) that carried little or no Apple products, Jobs knew that the Apple brand needed something larger: a broader exposure to reach a larger audience. The proof of the accuracy of Jobs’ vision and the inaccuracy of the Luddites and doubters has been born out in Apple’s profitable stores around the world, in the cross-pollination of Apple products where shoppers can go in to look at an iPod and discover a MacBook Air; go in for an iPhone and come out with an iPad too. Regardless of the recent drop in Apple’s share price, this is still the most visionary company in the consumer electronics business, a proven innovator in consumer technology, and unmatched in the world of consumer enjoyment. It’s about refining ideas and bringing new ideas to the world. It is about not playing it safe. With apologies to grammarians everywhere, it’s about risking much to succeed much.

This is where the GOP connection comes in. The GOP cannot come to grips with an obvious reality:  the concept of risking much to succeed much. Microsoft may yet succeed with their venture into retail, although the traffic in their stores to date suggests otherwise. The GOP hasn’t had a new idea in 50 years. They continue to regurgitate old ideas and old philosophies in a high-speed race to the past. If only American television consisted of Ozzie & Harriet, Leave It To BeaverMy Three Sons, and The Lawrence Welk Show. That’s essentially the freshness of GOP ideas and, incidentally, the hue of their loyal followers.  Their mantra during much of the first Obama term (and publicly articulated by Kentucky’s Senator McConnell in October 2010) was dedicated to Obama’s failure: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”  On November 6th the world saw just how that worked out. By contrast, there was almost nothing but support from the GOP for the George W. Bush march to war with Iraq in 2002 and 2003; there was no effort by the GOP controlled congress to budget for and pay for the wars President Bush initiated. They were, in congress-speak, “Off the books”. In layman’s terms, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were un-budgeted. Hence an additional (minimum) $3 Trillion in deficit spending was added during the Bush presidency. At the same time, no sacrifice (other than the demands on the lives of the military personnel and their families) was requested of us by the GOP.

Now we’re having renewed talks about the deficits. Yet the GOP has consistently chosen to demand one way to solve the deficit: cuts, cuts, and then, more budget cuts. Most Americans agree that we cannot cut our way to a balanced budget any more than we can tax our way to a balanced budget. We need a realistic approach to solving the problem, but this inauguration week, the GOP has elected to delay real effort to create a balanced approach. The house, under Mr. Boehner’s presumed leadership, voted to (essentially) freeze the debt ceiling for three months but “allow” the Treasury Department to exceed the ceiling without any further approval from congress. Boehner’s vision is all of three months. Here, once again, is a GOP unwilling to place a balanced bill on the house floor, or agree to negotiate the inclusion of revenue (tax) increases to help achieve the balance. In Boehner’s vision, he’ll sit down with Wally and “The Beav”, put on some Lawrence Welk music, and wait for something to happen. In Boehner’s world it is more important to continue as Speaker of the House than to show real leadership and negotiate with the Democrats. Mr. Boehner: it’s time for you to risk much to succeed much.

David Steffen

© 2013 David Steffen

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