Uncategorized

The Road to College

[this blog is a little different as it is a reflection on taking my son to college]

The son you knew, who you once carried easily in your arms, head tucked into your chest, afraid and unsure of the world, now packs his car and heads out the door. You tell yourself he is only going to college for a small dose of life, a bit of reality on training wheels, but you know this is a defining moment.

If not for him, then for you.

We are defined in our children, in the space they occupy in our lives. When they are gone, we are left uncertain and unsure of who we are and what we will become.

You are reminded of a similar scene nearly thirty years ago when you were driving the getaway car – a dull green 1972 Oldsmobile 98 – and you left your mother crying in the driveway. She didn’t cry often – almost always opting for optimism over anger, sadness, or fear – but on that day she broke down and sobbed. Undeterred, you started the car and drove on, taking your mother’s glass half full optimism and father’s quiet but keen eye along with you.

This is a small truth worth remembering: Wherever your children go, a small piece of you goes with them, whether they want it there or not.

But the emotions of letting go are not only about sadness and loss. There is excitement and hope this step will be transformative and full of joy, that the fun of college will be mixed with discovery and meaning. That your son will have most (but definitely not all) of the experiences you had.

As you watch him go, the tear and the smile find an uneasy balance. Sadness and laughter in this life are intractably intertwined and inseparable. He is uncertain as well, but you both know he must start the car and drive on. There is an open road in front of him, and if he is lucky – as lucky as you have been – each new destination will be better than the last. And the road ahead of him only get open with possibility with each passing mile.

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Politics

The Declining Power of the Political Press

Interesting story in the Columbia Journalism Review noting the increased influence of PR professionals in Washington and the declining influence of the press. This is an ongoing theme, reflected also in complaints that the Obama Administration has limited access even beyond the Bush Administration.

In the contemporary media environment, elected officials have a range of tools to communicate directly to voters making reporters (traditional or online) less important to their communication and political strategies. Who needs a reporter when you can send your message directly to supporters and followers?  This is true regardless of whether the “news” is online or in print or on television. Even when government officials do interact with journalists, they have more leverage to set the rules for the exchange, tightly controlling content.

The late Tim Cook, a former colleague, wrote about the “negotiation of newsworthiness” in his seminal and still very relevant work Governing with News.  While journalists wrote the stories, government officials controlled their access to reporters making the process of creating the news a two-sided negotiation in which each side had some leverage. In this exchange, digital media. which many thought would democratize politics, can become a tool of the powerful. With institutional resources and immediate access to followers, tools like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter provide an avenue to communicate directly to constituents. They can be used to counter news stories reported in the mainstream media in real time or to simply limit media access to the candidate or public official. The key for public officials, political parties and candidates  is to make sure they have developed strong enough social networks allowing this direct line to their supporters.

It is hard to see how political reporters regain their footing in this environment. One line of thought suggest reporters be harder-nosed, refusing to cede to the demands of limited access. According to this line of thought, the politician needs the journalist more than the journalists needs the politician. Here the news marketplace may serve as a competitive disadvantage by empowering competitors to gain inside access on important news stories. (Of course, that access comes at a cost to their independence). Tougher reporting also likely assures less access as politicians increasingly decide their strategic interests are better served by going around rather than through journalists.

More to the point, political parties, candidates, and interest groups will continue to devote resources to developing the information and communication infrastructure necessary to communicate independently of an independent and objective press.  This reality portends poorly for the future of independent and objective news and is yet another indicator that our sources of political news and information will likely become ever more partisan and politicized.

 

 

 

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