Snarky Behavior

Entries tagged as ‘new york times’

On Man Dates and Print Media

June 20, 2007 · Leave a Comment

Man Date Photo from New York Times.

NPR has a great podcast on the concerted effort of print/online media outlets to introduce “conceptual scoops” as conversation pieces in the public forum.

What is a conceptual scoop? Washington Post managing editor Phil Bennett describes it as the following:

“A smart story often does contain new facts, but just as often it takes facts that are lying in plain sight and synthesizes them, or arranges them in a way — sometimes in a narrative — that really exposes some new meaning on an important subject.

It’s another form of competitive journalism. People who can arrive first at the defining nature of a conceptual scoop — of telling you, ‘Here’s what these sets of facts mean’ — oftentimes control the agenda of the discussion of that subject.”

To me, this is freaking brilliant, even if it is just slapping a label on an emerging trend. Let me explain through a brief history of what got us here:

Cable news networks changed the concept of news reporting by disregarding objectivity and offering predigested news, packaged with opinion, bias and editorials. Newspapers couldn’t adopt this approach because their content has traditionally been segregated by sections (News, Metro, Op-Eds, Sports, etc.)

This left a tremendous void in the marketplace of print news-media (which blogs subsequently filled). Think about it this way:

  1. Americans work a longer week (in terms of hours) and year (in terms of days) than any other industrialized country.
  2. Therefore, they place a premium on convenience, at the expense of quality (see: McDonalds).
  3. Cable news networks recognized this preference, and adjusted accordingly: presenting not only the news, but its logical interpretation.
  4. Newspapers couldn’t adjust, because they are restricted (by design) to maintain traditional reporting standards, segregating news from opinion.
  5. Blogs assumed the reactionary role of unpacking and de-constructing the news as presented by cable networks, as well as interpreting another independent version of the news, as reported by the traditional print media.

So this is the situation we currently find ourselves in. We’ve all read about how major news outlets like the Washington Post and New York Times are hemorrhaging money. Their logical assumption– that online subscriptions would replace print subscriptions– was false. Turns out people don’t like paying for content when they can get it for free(?) File under: lessons not learned from the music industry.

To survive, newspapers can go one of three ways:

  1. Continue the status quo, attempting to adopt popular components of new media such as interactive feature content and web-logs.
  2. Merge with the cable news networks, leech off the AP for content and strictly hire news analysts over reporters.
  3. Leverage the brand to generate feature news stories via narratives… the so-called “conceptual scoop.”

Now, I’ve written before about my concern over option 1. Certainly, interactive content is a necessity (and the New York Times has adopted it fairly well). But it’s not sufficient, at least not in and of itself.

Option 2 requires picking a bias, which segregates your audience… a dangerous move when you’re already losing readership. Plus, I’ve also written (on a facebook post) why it’s a poor idea to ideologically align your brand with a political party (ahem, Republicans), which are subject to mercurial swings in popularity. This is why Nike doesn’t sponsor, say, Dick Cheney, who is the only person in the world right now with lower popularity ratings than Kobe Bryant.

Option 3 is what we’re talking about: stories like the “Man Date” , a feature in the Fashion section of the New York Times, can generate water-cooler chatter to rival LOST and Grey’s. These kinds of stories, which offer insightful thinking pieces and encapsulate a broad segment of the news environment, are what bloggers LIVE for.

There’s no blogger out there who has the leverage to start a conversation piece on the same scale as the established outlets. I know I certainly don’t!*

Option 3 is not a perfect solution: it makes reporters search for an entertainment angle in every story (which 90% of the time ends up negative or pessimistic). But as long as news is consumed as a for-profit enterprise, “conceptual scoops” seem like the wave of the future.

*Although my readership has gone up significantly, and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. Thanks guys! Keep it coming!

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Reading Through the Lines: No White Collar Worker Left Behind

June 13, 2007 · Leave a Comment

Reading through the lines: where I take a crack at translating a mainstream article or op-ed. Responses in italicized blue text.

Today’s inaugural article: The New York Times – “Economic Life After College”

Economic Life After College

Commencement is a time for idealism.

Read: Oh shit, it’s June! Better write up that hackneyed article to hedge recent graduates’ expectations, even though they’re coming out with a more refined and productive skill set than our generation ever had.
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But economic reality is lurking everywhere, and new college graduates are vulnerable to ambush. They have been told repeatedly that a college degree is an open sesame to the global economy. But that’s not necessarily so, according to new research by two economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Frank Levy and Peter Temin.

Read: College degrees are the new high-school diploma, and employers who don’t know to value the difference between tiered institutions are keeping entry-level salaries low across the board. Which encourages the cycles of transience, as graduates from top schools flounder to find salaries to match the income they expected when they took out (x) amount of dollars in loans.

It is true that people with college degrees make more money than people without degrees. The gap has narrowed somewhat in recent years, which is disturbing. But the earning power of college graduates still far outpaces that of less-educated workers.

Read: Lower standards and entry barriers to obtain a college degree deflate its value. As a result, the baby-boomer generation has expanded its bottle-necked bulge at the executive level by keeping salaries and benefits low at the entry level. (You blood-suckers… thanks for leaving me a depleted environment, an over-inflated housing market, a bankrupt social-security system, a devalued dollar and a massive trade deficit… )

The bad news, though, is that a college degree does not ensure a bigger share of the economic pie for many graduates. In recent decades, Mr. Levy and Mr. Temin show, only college-educated women have seen their compensation grow in line with economywide gains in productivity. The earnings of male college graduates have failed to keep pace with productivity gains.

Read: The male statistic is the control here because more women pursued full-time careers.

Instead, an outsized share of productivity growth, which expands the nation’s total income, is going to Americans at the top of the income scale. In 2005, the latest year with available data, the top 1 percent of Americans — whose average annual income was $1.1 million — took in 21.8 percent of the nation’s income, their largest share since 1929.

Read: As a reminder, October of 1929 began a period called “The Great Depression.” That’s what we have to look forward to. Buy your cardboard boxes now. Wait for it… we’re going to go ahead and blame this on “globalization” and “fair trade.”

Administration officials, and other politicians and economists, often assert that income inequality reflects an education gap. But Mr. Levy and Mr. Temin show that in the case of men, the average bachelor’s degree is not sufficient to catch the rising tide of the global economy.

Read: There it is! Blame the labor supply for expanding income gaps when the middle-class’ end is stagnant! Please explain: what leverage do I have? I have taken out loans, so unless I had decided to narrow my studies to an explicitly career oriented degree (which in terms of American industry means finance, computer technology, or to a lesser extent, engineering), I am forced to accept the salary offered to me. There are no unions to protect my interests, and few profit-sharing plans exist as incentive to commit myself long-term.

They argue that the real reason inequality is worsening is the lack of strong policies and institutions that broadly distribute economic gains. In the past, for example, a more progressive income tax and unions fostered equality. Affirmative action has also helped and probably accounts, in part, for the pay growth of college-educated women. But such institutions have been eroding and new ones have not yet emerged. At the same time, corporate norms that restrained excessive executive pay have also eroded, making the income gap even greater.

Read: Well that makes sense. We live in society where two employees of the same corporation, the CEO and the janitor, have a salary multiplier of x1000+. Does anyone really think that’s fair? Do you honest to God believe any one person on this earth contributes enough to humanity to deserve to be compensated 1000x more than anyone else? And all the while CEOs are bitching about how much hedge-fund managers and professional athletes make. It’s a fucking shit show. It makes me sick.

Mr. Levy and Mr. Temin conclude that only a reorientation of government policy can restore general prosperity. That’s a challenge to the nation’s leaders and today’s graduates. America needs them to build the new institutions for a global economy.

Read: Oh, ok, it’s “my challenge” to resolve the problem your generation has created for me? Is that so? How do you expect me to enter a career of public service when I have to take out six-figures in debt just to finance an education that will advance my career beyond the artificial glass-ceilings and inhibitors you have imposed upon me?

As sadistic as it sounds, these are the kinds of trends and attitudes that will influence my conscience in 15-20 years when I’m voting on whether to cut funding to prescription drug plans, to vote against capping property taxes, to lobby against patient’s rights,
to vote for massive estate taxes and restructuring the tax-code against retirement funds, to levy capital gains taxes and progressive tax-codes across the board, etc., etc.

The 2008 election very well might prove to be the consolidation of Generations X and Y against their parents. Race politics in America are played out. The future is age and class. All revolutions start with a pissed-off middle class. I don’t intend on living a life aligned to 19th century conceptions of labor and leisure because of “globalization.”

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