Friday the 13th

When your birthday is on the 13th of a month, you know that, once you do a few circuits around the sun, you are going to face a birthday coinciding with a Friday.   Birthday.  Friday the 13th.   It has happened to me a number of times now.  I won’t say how many….

I’m not a particularly superstitious person. but, still….FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH.  

I tend to believe that “luck” is more likely to be the appearance of opportunity in the face of preparation.

So, today, we took it slow.  No ladders were used in the construct of the day.   No mirrors have been harmed.  There was a bit of work, a nice dinner, cake, a movie.   A beverage.

And a good way to recognize how good it is to have not the good luck but the good fortune of getting to and through another Friday the 13th, another trip to another notch on the calendar. What challenges, adventures, joys and wisdom yet to be learned?  All to be revealed. 

What might be seen as bad luck can be good.

Which reminds me of that story from “Charlie Wilson’s War.”  We’ll see what’s next.

But today – all is well on Friday the 13th. My birthday.   With people and work I care about, with good wishes from dear friends and family coming in on Facebook, phone, text messages and more.

Getting to and through another Friday the 13th?  Splendid.

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Journalism and Public Relations

A recent article in “GOVERNING” pointed out, again, the worries over the loss of newspapers and journalism. It was recently announced that people in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville, Alabama and, New Orleans, will now join the ranks of other cities with only part-time delivery of news in print which not only includes the paper I used to deliver, the Ann Arbor News, but the Detroit News and Free Press. 

As Newspapers Shrink, Public Officials Worry »

Recent cutbacks in daily print schedules will leave communities less informed.



As the economics of media shift and change, speculation aside, no one really has the solution for what will succeed next.   Blogging and social media are valuable – but what is popular is not always important.  What is important is not always popular.

Some have proposed newsletters and more information from the government.  More information can be good, but it is information, from the government.

What’s lost in much of the angst is that the “sweet spot” of journalism’s last century or so was driven by economics.  Attempts at impartial news coverage, of trying to focus on facts without bias, is a fairly new thing.   The earliest “newspapers” 500 and more years ago were by the church, then the state.   When Benjamin Franklin’s brother started his “independent” newspaper in Boston, the powerful in Boston were not pleased.  Ben and his brother left town not long after.

The unease and change in newspapers is not new.  Newspapers have opened and closed for centuries.   The difference, now, is that we live in a culture where information is very important to survival, but fact-based information is becoming less economically viable.

Dylan Ratigan posted figures a while ago that sound about right:
In 1980, there were .45 Public Relations professionals versus .36 Journalists per 100,000 people.  By 2008, the figures had changed to .90 PR pros to .25 Journalists per 100,000.

Twice as many PR people per capita, a third fewer journalists.

There is more information than ever before.  How a citizen gets facts versus spin is an ongoing challenge.  But in the escalation of information, expect even more PR pros in the future.   Probably fewer journalists.

Here’s hoping journalists are good finding the facts amidst the spin.  And the public is good at finding the journalists.

Posted in Ann Arbor, Detroit News, journalism | 1 Comment

Saving our history and memories, one bit at a time.

The future of our history is not assured.

In public radio, the great work by StoryCorps has done remarkable things in getting people to recall and share their stories.

Encouraging people to share their stories – and record them – is a great way to create history for the future, and to encourage people to share with one another, now.  Facebook?  Perhaps.  But not everyone “gets” facebook…. In a time when few people write letters or diaries, there is a need for alternatives.

There are important stories, already told, all around us.  A number of years ago, I wrote an article for RADIO magazine about saving old content.  

Looking at the article, I see it was written in 2002!  Back then, we were worried about losing valuable material when formats went away.  This has been an ongoing story – and as technology evolves, is getting to be an even greater concern.

One of the anecdotes I cite in the article was the lost tapes of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. This week, American Masters on PBS does a documentary workup on the late-night icon. 

But there’s more missing than just details of Mr. Carson’s personal story. Because show was not seen as valuable as a chronicle of the era, most of the recordings of the show from 1962 to 1972 were erased or discarded.  Hundreds of hours of material that we would treasure today are lost, forever.

Today, networks are better at saving material.  But still having the tapes or disks doesn’t mean you can get the recordings back. For example, by 2002, much of TV and Radio media production had switched to digital storage – on networks and computer hard drives.

Even the new fangled “Digital Audio Tape” of the 1980’s and 1990’s was fading away. 

Valuable material is already out there, still sitting on tapes, disks and films that we, increasingly, don’t have machines to play audio and video back from.  But funding for saving archival material on a national basis has been facing challenges. 

For me, in the past 5 years, my personal and professional concerns have been on saving and storing hundreds of hours of personal and professional sights and sounds before they are lost. So, courtesy of ebay and other sources, finding the technology to playback arcane video and audio formats has become a new hobby of sorts, plus finding others who do this kind of work, too.

A find shared by a friend on Facebook, today, reminded me of how important these archives are.   NPR, November, 1982.  A very young staff in the early years of Morning Edition and so much more.  8 hours of NPR from the early days.   Next, we need to put names with all of the faces, since those of us who remember will not be here forever!
 A Day at National Public Radio – C-SPAN Video Library

Thank, you NPR, thank you CSPAN…and take a peek at – they have a remarkable data store of websites from the past 17 years or so.

Saving our history and memories, one bit at a time.

Posted in Carson, CSPAN, DAT, NBC, NPR, PBS, storycorps | Leave a comment

Not TED Talks, TAD Talks…

Is it Will Ferrell? Is it a comedy sketch? No, it’s an ad campaign for Microsoft’s cloud computing services.

So, I’m watching some very “deep” videos on philosophy on one of your high-end web-only publications.  And a lengthy advert comes up in between.   It is a spoof on motivational speaking, sort of.  Especially on Ted Talks, but this is much more specific to high-end business computing applications.  Not TED Talks, TAD Talks.  This is totally “inside” tech – virtualization vs. cloud computing.  A campaign that Microsoft launched, I guess, against VMware and the like almost a year ago.

Now, TAD is back with a new (brief) advert/video.  This is not TED, it’s TAD.  The Video from last year was filled with a lot of tech talk and double talk.  And if you are into networking, storage, enterprise, and IT, it is very funny.  If not, worth a peek just for the groovy music and sideburns, wow….

The story from the ad agency that did the work tells us that the director for Napoleon Dynamite, Jared Hess, directed these mini-movies.

Is this too much “inside baseball,” or a laugh riot?  Glad to see creative folks getting engaged for the campaign, in any case!

Posted in microsoft, TED, VMware | Leave a comment

The Problem with Most People

  1. The problem with most people is –
    “Most People”
    In this political season, you will see characterizations about what “most people” think, say or do. People who are liberal, people who are conservative, presuming that most of the world agrees with them.
  2. “Most” could be seen as a democratizing word. But what is “most?” A majority? Half of a group, plus one? 51% still leaves a lot of people out. Meanwhile, our society is driven by cohorts much smaller than a majority.
  3. Case in point – The Super Bowl. There have been 46 of them. In 2012, more people in the United States watched the Super Bowl than have ever viewed ANY television program – an estimated 111.3 million people watched via broadcast, plus another estimated 2 million online via the NFL and NBC. Huge. The most watched television program in American history.
  4. Share
  5. I believe that a majority of my friends and associates watched at least part of the game. It seemed like everybody on Facebook that I know was commenting about it. The Super Bowl was a universal meme for a nation. That is my perception. But the February 2012 population of the United States registered in at more than 312 million people.  MOST PEOPLE DID NOT WATCH the Super Bowl.
  6. One of the biggest problems with “most people” (the phrase, not the people) is that even if it is NOT inflating the power or viewpoint of the “most” group, it is often disregarding the “other” people not in the “most.”
  7. There are people who are older than you or younger than you who have none of your shared cultural references. There are people of different gender with a totally different view. Race, ethnic background, religion or non-theism, education, physical ability…the list of our differences is long.
  8. When you recognize America as a complex collection of diverse people, hopes, experiences, abilities and accomplishments, the folly of using the phrase “most people” can begin to sink in. The beauty of our representational democracy is that we can find a way for most people to live together with opportunity and responsibilities that we agree to as a part of our compact with each other as Americans.
  9. Beyond a few certitudes, in journalism, in life, in art, we try to discern what matters. Most people breath. Most people eat.
  10. Having more than half of a population care about something is a big deal. In the United States, we have that with our political system. Most people eligible to vote in the presidential election of 2008 DID vote (62%). The electorate was the most diverse in US History.
  11. As you listen to the rhetoric of anyone – in culture, art, government, religion – if they speak of certitude about what “most people” want, they are probably leaving some people, and often, many people, out.
  12. How we manage to accommodate our differences is a challenge that civil society must learn over and over.  In the United States, it has been a remarkable struggle, and a remarkable strength.  Here’s hoping that the coming year shows “most people” understanding that we are in this together, even though we may not see things from the same place.
Posted in census, democracy, diversity, facebook, Madonna, Mash, Nielsen, Scott Hanley, Super Bowl | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

My First Isetta – is the really early “smart car,” to return?

May 2009 I was in Ann Arbor visiting my parents.  It was still the depths of the recession and very rough times in the auto industry, but it was a sunny, pleasant Saturday, and a lot of car enthusiasts were out in full force.  The most notable of them all was stopping by Stadium Hardware.


The driver of this car was happy to have his picture taken, but I didn’t catch his name.  He’s a regular in the Ann Arbor area.  He claimed that another reason for the Isetta to be made by BMW had to do with Messerschmitt and its post-WW II industrial capacity that needed to be turned to peaceful purpose.  After World War II, the company was not allowed to produce aircraft..
He was especially happy with the 40 to 50 miles per gallon this little car delivered while delivering him around town.

My Dad is vintage 1927, this car, 1957.   Both had close ties to WW II.

Posted in Ann Arbor, CBS, Detroit, Microcar, Scott Hanley | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Plural of Anecdote is not Data..or is it?

  1. In New Orleans in 2003, at what was the last Public Radio Conference, ever, I did a presentation on Digital Radio, in the very early times of HD Radio.

    Before my session, my colleague David Liroff (formerly of WGBH and CPB) did a session on what PBS and U.S. Public TV had learned through the challenging upgrade to HDTV in the years prior. David shared a lot of great things in his session, but prefaced it with an aphorism he had borrowed from someone else:


  1. Such and easy and true statement. One story does not make for the evidence to prove something, and a collection of stories may not be an accurate picture of reality. The use of real or apocryphal anecdotes in politics notwithstanding.

    As aphorisms go, it is a good one.

    David Liroff never claimed credit for it, but he was the first to share it with me. In looking into the history of the statement, I recently found origins going back to the 1960’s

    Oddly enough, the “source” of the quote may not have said what several of us have adopted.

    In a blog post by David Smith, the credit goes to Raymond Wolfinger (presumed to be the political scientist from Stanford and then UC-Berkeley) as the first to coin the phrase – but with a difference:
  2. Professor Wolfinger claims to have said “the plural of anecdote is data.”

    And I guess that is true, too. Data is data. Whether it is data that allows you to make appropriate measurements or judgments is a different issue.

    This takes me to a different thought about most people. Well, not actually most people, but of the phrase, “most people.”

    That will be for another day.
Posted in CPB, HD, HDTV, NPR, PBS, Scott Hanley | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment