It’s amazing to me that someone who has such a mastery of new media can’t get more done in Congress. Any video the president makes will go viral - why not make ten, slightly ironic, 2-minute videos on different policy issues to rally the bases? Let’s face it - a video on Youtube will have greater impact than any special news report on prime time.
Pete and I have spent a lot of time talking about how we can prevent tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing in the future. I think the scariest realization is that the Tsarnaev brothers were likely self-radicalized. They lived amongst us, fully exposed to our culture and values, and yet came to join the jihad not through the influence of another person, but most likely through the Internet. If this is the beginning of a new trend, then prevention lies not with identifying who is in direct contact with jihadists and surveilling their movement, but stopping social alienation at its source. If that’s not daunting, I don’t know what is.
Here a few practical things I wish our government would do in the meantime:
My gut always told me that drone strikes are wrong, but that hasn’t stopped me from giving President Obama the benefit of the doubt. I trust his judgment, and anything we can do to keep our troops out of harms way while still nabbing the bad guys seems like a good thing. Right?
If only it was that simple. Lost in this justification is any mention of accuracy, casualties, or legality. To make matters worse – you can’t find that information anywhere.
The black hole that is our drone program means that we can’t control the message. Instead, our enemies can paint a (terrifying) picture of US-branded flying assault rifles gunning down the innocent. And without clear legal standards on who, when and why we use drones, we’re unable to respond to this message with any authority. This creates a rallying point for extremists, and their side of the story will always have market share if we offer no alternative. In fact, one American study suggests that drones kill one terrorist is killed for every fifty deaths in Pakistan. If this stat doesn’t make you think twice about our current program, then just think of the jihadists using this as a recruitment pitch. Like most of Obama’s problems, this is a PR / communications nightmare.
No one likes to be terrorized by seemingly random, fatal violence. America needs to regain the moral high ground in this debate by clearly defining when drone attacks are justified so that the world can exhale. Otherwise we begin to look like the terrorists.
Makes civics & character programs a centerpiece of our education program
People turn to violence when they feel alienated from society. I applaud our school systems for stepping up on anti-bullying, but we need to do more to create a community where shared American values are the norm. The world is changing – we’re more secular, mobile, and digitally connected than ever. Prima facie, maybe these are all positives. But in combination, they contribute to our sense of disconnect. Throw in a bad economy with poor job stability – the world looks like a scary place, where it’s hard to make real connections, especially for at risk individuals.
It sounds trite, but a good old fashion civics course combined with character building programs may help ensure we are all starting on the same foot on what it means to be an American. Yes, we aren’t perfect, but the ideals our country is founded on is something to be proud of. As we lose our literal community to social networks, let’s not lose our national identity in the mix of it.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a journalist. Always a fan of the democratic process, journalism seemed like the most noble branch of the equation. Part watchdog and part translator, journalists were a new kind of superhero in my book: Truth Warriors. Here to inform the public of the latest breaking news so that we the people can make decisions that protect our best interests and use our collective voice to influence the government. Yes! Sign me up!
Turns out, fear of public speaking, a nasty speech impediment, and expensive taste kept this dream from coming true. I’ve always felt a little wistful about this path not taken, but luckily I have last week’s botched Boston Marathon reporting to thank for changing that. Now I’m just happy to be spared the professional embarrassment of calling myself a member of that pack.
Somewhere along the way, we began to value fast reporting above quality reporting. I realize that the drive to break a story first isn’t anything new for journalists, but the principles of accuracy and truthfulness seem to have fallen out of vogue. I blame the networks for some of this – there’s so much money in jeopardy with the ratings game – being first matters more than being right.
On the other hand, I wonder if we are just more aware of the press’ inaccuracies. Technology has given us so many ways to call bullshit – if you know something to be wrong, you can say so via Twitter or your blog – and with the help of your followers – it might even break into the mainstream discussion. Meanwhile, through tools like crowdsourced journalism and Ustream’s live police scanner stream, sometimes we can even figure out the news before the media elite. That doesn’t mean we’re always right (Reddit identified the wrong person as the suspect…twice), but this type of accountability is still a net positive, I think.
Network news is going to have to respond to these changes, and in a more meaningful way than just adding a hashtag to a story. If the mainstream media no longer has a monopoly on the source of news – it needs to add value in a different way to remain relevant. This is not making a case for the likes of Fox News or even MSNBC, who have lowered their objectivity standards to differentiate. I think this type of politicization has only made us trust the news less. Instead, I think its time to throw out Lipmann’s theory of modern journalism, and realize that the public doesn’tjust need the fastest facts available distilled to their simplest form. If anything, the popularity of these alternative news sources have shown that we’re thirsty to know more information and make better connections between events.
This means mainstream media needs to get smarter. Not only does it need to report accurate information (for starters) but it needs to spend more time laying out the context of events and explaining possible consequences. It means distinguishing between fact and opinion. And it means assuming we can pay attention for longer than a headline or a tweet. Chris Hayes’ program does a great job of all of the above, but too few journalists are really pushing the envelope when it comes to complexity.
In technology, its common to revert to a modified project management triangle when setting goals for a new project. We accept we can only be two of three things: fast, cheap or good. The mainstream news media isn’t going to be able to compete with emerging technology on speed. To survive, it should focus more on where it has a competitive advantage - its ability to attract (cheap) top talent (read: research assistants) to craft better stories – prioritizing good, above all.
I was late getting into work today, unable to pull myself away from CNN as news from Norfolk Street escalated. Getting off the subway, I felt like I must have missed everything on my 25-minute commute. As an avid Investigation ID watcher, the bad guys always get caught at the end of the hour. It was like my inner justice clock couldn’t adapt to the real world where suspects flee, police patrol and good information is hard to come by. Let’s get on with it, already!
I called my mom on my walk in, who was feeling similarly impatient. She was also in a huff about some reporter saying that this is the worst act of terrorism since 9/11. What about Newtown, she wondered. How is the point blank murder of 20 first graders not terrorism? And not just as horrible as this?
On first blush, I get where my mom was coming from. When I first learned of the Newton school shooting, I couldn’t believe it. It was too horrific for my brain to process. Being human means protecting our young – what kind of monster would murder six year olds at point range distance? At an elementary school? Talk about terror.
Meanwhile, I was a lot less shocked when I learned of the Boston Marathon bombing. Sadly, we’ve all been here before.
But, as the legal definition will have it, terrorism means “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property in order to coerce or intimidate a government or the civilian population in furtherance of political or social objectives.” It’s hard to say what the Newtown gunman was motivated by, but evidence points more to mental illness than to proving any higher cause. Moreover, I think it’s a lot easier to call someone a terrorist when their weapon of choice causes mass destruction in a single blow – like a bomb – than say, a semi-automatic gun. Or any gun for that matter. We Americans love our guns, and when they are misused, its only by crazy people, criminals, or accident. Never terrorists. (Guns protect us from terrorists, #duh).
All of this brings me full circle to say: its been a hard week for America. As if the Boston Marathon bombing and Texas blast weren’t enough, we had to watch the demise of of the one thing that had a chance to make us at least feel safer – the common sense gun legislation. For a country that purports to have democratic representation, something is deeply wrong when legislation with 90% approval rates isn’t passed. Especially during a time when society seems so unstable - it would have been nice to know our basic principles of democratic governance were still intact.
I think in the end, we all just want to feel safe. Let’s just hope this story has another act.
I usually feel really happy to be a New Yorker. So much energy! Diversity! Interesting people! Delicious food! What’s there not to like?
And then things like last night happen.
It all started off great: I was my dad’s date to an alumni event at NYU, and the little girl in me was loving the 1v1 attention. We drank, he gave a speech, the crowd went wild, I felt proud, and we drank some more. It was time to leave, and we were both still feeling giddy from the reception, so we skipped out on the cab to walk through Washington Square Park and grab the F train home. We slipped into the car just as the doors were closing, feeling like we were really on a roll.
Then we saw the man passed out on the floor.
My dad asked if we should call 911. The car was crowded, but no one was really doing anything - there were a lots of blank stares, a few smirks, and a wise crack or two. I asked around if anyone knew how long he’d been out - and no one said a thing.
Then he started foaming at the mouth.
So, I did what I would want done if it was me passed out on the train floor: I got up to call the conductor and stop the train.
Then hell broke loose.
Immediately, all those silent bystanders started screaming at me not to call the conductor because it would stop the train. I said I knew I would stop the train - that was the entire point. This man needed medical attention.
He began to clutch his heart.
As I spoke to the conductor, one lady in particular really got in my face - calling me a dumb b**** and god knows what else for stopping the train. I was horrified. I told her that I was sorry if she felt inconvenienced, but I was sure that this man’s life was more valuable than her schedule. That really set her off. A doctor on the train (who wasn’t doing anything out of fear of getting sued) later told me that he thought she was going to hit me. I did, too.
The train stopped. Time passed. Ten minutes later the conductor finally reached our car. At this point we’d found medical papers on the man - he had cancer, diabetes, and a slew of other ailments with medical names I didn’t know. He told us he couldn’t feel his legs.
Twenty minutes later, there were still no paramedics.
Now there’s a mob forming. There’s a group of teenagers on skateboards who think this is all hilarious - taking videos, cracking jokes, acting like they’re on a reality tv show. What bothered me more was a group of adults on the train who started yelling about how “they paid $2.50 for their ticket and this is bulshit,” and how “some people need to get to work.” The environment was growing unstable.
Finally, the paramedics arrive. In the meantime, a doctor or two finally stepped up to help a bit, but they were so concerned about getting sued, they really didn’t do much. I told the paramedics what happened and gave them his papers.
At this point, I expected the paramedics to check his vitals and his airways, strap him on a stretcher and get him out of there. When they tried to pick him up - he didn’t exactly cooperate (but he wasn’t violent) - so then they just kinda quit. They tried to get him to sit in this mesh chair. When he wouldn’t - there was a lot of standing around. Apparently they were afraid of getting sued, too.
This was the breaking point for the mob. They asked the paramedics if they would get sued if they moved him. The paramedics (legal experts, I’m sure), said no. That’s when they dragged him off the train like a sack of potatoes and dumped him on the platform.
It was like a scene out of Lord of the Flies. I felt sick to my stomach.
The train left - and I’m sad to say that I have zero confidence that the paramedics ever did their job. From the way they were treating him, I would bet money that they just left him there.
And this is what makes me think twice about settling down in the city. I want to raise children where preserving human dignity is a community value, and not reserved for only certain people during certain times of the day.
This is one of those not-so-rare times where you should do what I say, not what I do. If you’re going to invest the time in blogging - it really should be focused on building your personal brand. This means:
Identifying your niche: pick a topic where you want to establish yourself as a thought leader and stick to it;
Maintaining consistency: both in design, content, and frequency;
Exercising restraint: you may be tempted to venture into new topics or activities, but the best blogs deliver against your personal brand’s promise - ie, your readers’ expectations.
So why don’t I follow my own strategy? I’d build followers, drive traffic, and feel more important. But, I’m not sure if I’d be happy.
I read a great article in The Atlantic about how life isn’t just about being happy - its about finding meaning, too. Lots of things in life are meaningful but may not always make you happy - ie, having kids, building a company, making sacrifices for loved ones, etc. But, you do it because it makes you feel fulfilled - and unlike happiness - fulfillment isn’t (as) fleeting.
And then - I had an epiphany. In the past, I had always looked to my job and my relationships to make me “happy.” Meanwhile, I found “meaning” in personal accomplishment - be it running faster and longer at the gym, getting my resume on Mashable, being the best I could be in pretty much everything. I realized that I had gotten things backwards: you find meaning in your relationships, and the “me” stuff is just like guilty pleasures.
This paradigm shift kind of rocked my world. I started to expect less from work and those who I love - and actually became a lot happier in the process. Meanwhile, by using my spare time to do things that make me happy (writing - in general - about whatever I please, skipping the treadmill for a dance class, sleeping more) - I’ve just been more satisfied. Sure, I may be fatter and my personal brand may be in the tank - but I’m less stressed-out. And probably a lot less selfish, if I’m being honest.
First: let’s pause for a moment and see how much I’ve improved at uploading pictures to Tumblr. I’m going to go ahead and say I’m embarrassed by my previous points. I mean: I’m in technology. #shameful
Second: although all the above women are always beautiful, any day of the week, I hate to say that they are extra beautiful because they are extra skinny. This isn’t meant to be some thinspo propaganda IN THE SLIGHTEST - more a note how unrealistic it is for the average woman to achieve anything close to the above looks. I look that skinny, too, for 12 hours after a five-day juice cleanse - but it’s unsustainable. I love that Jennifer Lawrence confesses to being STARVING on the red carpet: it puts things into perspective.
Third: Not all of these looks are created equal. There are winners amongst the winners.
1st place: Amy Adams. Her coloring is a dream: from her makeup to the soft, perfectly proportioned for her body blue-grey gown. Can’t. take. my. eyes. away.
2nd place tie: Kerry Washington and Zoe Saldana. Let’s go ahead and reward our resident risk-takers. We all know by now that I love coral (see Jessica Alba at the Golden Globes) and Kerry WORKS this. Meanwhile, Zoe’s strapless gown is just so interesting - I love the bold ombre that flowed along the hem, matched by the romantic (yet structured!) bodice. #wow
3rd place: Jessica Lawrence. If I’m being honest, I just love the 74-karat Chopard sautoir (#trendingnow - backwards necklaces!) and Jennifer Lawrence. But whatever. However impractical the actual dress may be, JLaw will always be a winner in my book.