Saturday, September 17, 2005

"It is the great triumph of genius to make the common appear novel" Goethe

Had a great time in Chicago earlier this week. Enjoyed lunch with my friend, the always amazing Kurt Hanson. While Bob Hamilton was certainly the first broadcast media person to do business online, Kurt, if not the first, clearly was one of the first internet radio evangelists. Kurt introduced me to Rockit Bar & Grill, I highly recommend the Tuna Tartar and the outrageous Rockit Burger (Kobe beef, foie gras, sweet and sour onions served with truffle fries).

The prophet from Philly, Jimmy Cramer, tells it like it is...this time it's about those dead tree guys...

Every time I think that my business is challenging, I think of what the newspapers face. The newspaper game, for the last decade, has been one of cost cuts and mergers. There's been no growth in the business.
Now, with regulatory authorities frowning on any further mergers, with the cost cuts already in place to the point where you might just as well run Associated Press copy throughout if you make more job eliminations and with newsprint and delivery costs through the roof, a bleaker situation looks, alas, even more bleak than I thought.

They seem incapable of being anything other than public services, and even there, they are falling down on the job.

Sure, they have cash flow. But who can monetize it? To me, they are just declining assets, call options with some dividend money thrown in. With no one available to take them out. Or, with boards that actually don't want to be taken over...Read JC's writing, Newspapers, Writing's on the Wall, here

Jeff Jarvis, having read JC's writing, offers this take..

Break free of the shackles of your medium, that’s what I say. Recast your relationship with the public to enable more to gather and share news. Stop trying to own content or distribution and get back in the business of building trust. And stop taking baby steps. The baby steps are killing you. Read more of what Jeff has to say including his perspective on why Times-Picayune and deserve a Pulitzer (but may not get one)

Agree with Jeff. The TP/Nola gang have earned a Pulitzer and for many of the same reasons the WWL network initiative rightly deserves a Peabody, a Crystal and a Marconi. Moreover, "baby steps" are killing broadcast media. As poor as most newspaper sites are the majority of broadcast sites are far worst, badly in need of attention and investment. The poorest of the lot, by any measure, are the majority of radio sites. Streaming audio does not a website make.

During our leadership seminar this week I provided a one page handout for discussion. This writing was originally a full page ad run in the Wall Street Journal by United Technologies. I am always asked to provide copies and place it here for all to enjoy/share.

Make Something Happen

You come out
of a meeting
and someone asks,
"What happened?"
And you answer,
You sit in a
legislative gallery
and someone sits
down beside you
and asks,
"What's happening?"
And you say,
Maybe that
meeting room and
that gallery
should have had
the same sign
hanging on their
walls that--
so the story goes--
a college football
coach pasted in
his teams' lockers:
"Cause something
to happen."
He believed that
if you didn't make
something happen
with a good block,
your runner would go
nowhere--and if
you didn't tackle,
the other team would
run all over you.
He sure caused something
to happen. He won more
college games than
any other coach.
Bear Bryant.

Rick Moody writing in The Atlantic Monthly (Fiction Issue 2005 - Writers and Mentors)provides a list of questions "that are a commonplace of the contemporary fiction workshop"

1) Does the story begin effectively?

2) Does the story end effectively?

3) Does the story have a conflict?

4) Does the story move from beginning to end?

Rick then goes on to suggest " the extent that a student comes to expect these questions, or to the extent that he or she writes in expectation of them, the likely product will be stories (or poems or essays) that reduce the chances of innovation..."

He then offers his own set of's a sample...

1) Has the writer attempted to eliminate all adverbs?

3) What's wrong with using a few more semicolons?

4) Does this story contain any sentences that you want to remember to your grave?

5) Would Samuel Beckett like this story? Would Gertrude Stein? Would Virginia Woolf?

6) How would this writer put paint on a canvas?

7) Is this writer just using his or her eyes, or has he or she tried to use the other senses - for example, the all-important literary sense of audition?

9) Does this story like music?

11) Can this story save any lives?

Real progress, in my experience, begins with the courage to ask the right questions. Folks in media would be wise to take a hint from Rick Moody's exceptional essay and begin to ask a fresh set of questions.

Had fun catching up with Tim Fox today. Tim's good work disabuses any reasonable person of the notion that the oldies radio format is dead. The oldies format is certainly not dead; Tim's station, KIOA, is very, very successful. Tim is a bright guy and a good broadcaster - lucky Saga. Tim made a strong point in our conversation today saying to be successful a radio station "must have a soul." Of course, he's right. Forget that stationality and all the brand stuff - give me some of that post-graduate level "soul" any day. Tim's comments today reminded me of the word Steve Wynn likes to use "wonderment"