Apocalypse 36: Status Report

By , 4 September, 2010, 2 Comments

For over two years, I have been writing a series of posts on the media industry called the Apocalypse. I am often asked whether that’s overly pessimistic. My answer: ‘apocalypse’ is a term we use for the end of the world, sure, but it’s also, to those who take the term seriously, supposed to herald the revelation of something new and extraordinary. That is what I believe is coming to media, whenever the chaotic collapse of the model we know is over.

Occasionally, the Apocalypse Series has attempted to read the tea leaves and make predictions about the new model. I don’t believe–as other media prophets seem to–that there will be no more Big Media. Human history suggests that power tends to consolidate, break down and then consolidate again. I believe that the new consolidators of power will be organizations who can mix and match. It will be the people who can take the nichification that the web brings and use it to deepen rather than to flatten what we know.

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A Manifesto of Sorts

By , 26 August, 2010, No Comment

Welcome to the new Cappuccino! Like the the old Cappuccino, this is a virtual coffeehouse focused on the relationship between business and the rest of our lives.

When I first started blogging, my focus was mostly on the way that technological and cultural changes are at the core of that relationship. That’s still a dominant theme, but over time, I’ve also come to pay more attention to the role of institutionalized factors like international relations and economic policy. On the new Cappuccino, you should expect to see a healthy dose of all of the above.

The more I’ve worked as a journalist, the closer to the ground, to the granular, this blog has gotten. It’s more of a news blog now, a reaction to specific events with out-takes of my reporting, than the more philosophical project it used to be. I’m ambivalent about that: it feels more appropriate as a reporter-blogger to focus on the news, but at the same time, I have misgivings about getting sucked into the horse race and the he-said-she-said of the newsosphere, and I tend to react to events a few days after they occur, which isn’t really suited to that kind of blogging.

In this new incarnation, I’m going to try to sort out my ambivalence by blogging more frequently. That means there will be more timely news coverage with brief comments (instead of the stream of links I’d been dumping in the old sidebar), at least one more in depth analysis of an issue a week, and at least one more idea-oriented piece a week. I’ll be rolling out a fourth (as yet undisclosed) content category in September.

I’m putting that in writing as much for you as for myself, and I’m hoping that if I start to get lazy on those commitments, one of you takes me to task in the comments.

Apocalypse 35: Full Circle at Forbes

By , 24 August, 2010, 11 Comments

As you probably know by now, Forbes has bought and decided to shutter blogging portal True/Slant, and to bring its erstwhile chief Lew Dvorkin in as its new chief. What you may not know is that Dvorkin–whom I wrote about last year–was an ex-Forbesian, who left the magazine for a start-up, and then for AOL, specifically because he wanted to get deep into the web and digital marketing, and left AOL, he told me, because it didn’t have “the DNA for content-creation.” At thetime, he was trying to explain True/Slant to me as pure content informed by branding savvy, but the combination will be just as relevant at Forbes. Former co-workers there tell me the change is all about helping Forbes play digital catch-up, and the test is maintaining its reporting DNA in the process.

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Some Thoughts on the Wikileaks

By , 18 August, 2010, 5 Comments

When the massive data dump that was the Wikileaks Afghan War Logs showed up on my screen three weeks ago, I did what–apparently–no one else had yet done: read the whole thing. At the time, this seemed like Journalism 101. But by the time I finished [at the end of the week], I was more bored and overwhelmed than stimulated or enlightened. Because, as others had concluded by then, there really isn’t that much that’s earth-shattering in the logs. And I’ve been pondering what to say ever since .

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Sex and the City, revisited

By , 14 July, 2010, 6 Comments

I recently came across some poll data about gender. Gender equality, in the abstract, is a widely supported goal, especially in the developed world and among women, but nearly half the respondents “believed men had more right than women to obtain jobs in a down economy.”

Unpack that. Firstly, it suggests that men are supporting families while women are working for kicks. Secondly, it suggests that because women are working for kicks, they will be the ones taking time to worry about raising families. If you’re an employer, the argument goes, a woman who wants to make her kids’ doctors appointments is a less reliable employee. And when you have limited funds, you want the reliable bang for your buck.

The first point is false: the majority of women, like the majority of men, work because they have to. If they are lucky, they will enjoy it, but that’s not why they do it. But women do take the lion’s share of responsibility for the house and the kids. The answer to that should be a reorganization of family life that makes it easier to achieve equality in the workplace. But the truth is that the notion of workplace equality is, on its own, fairly appealing to people, while the notion of shared domestic responsibilities still scares us.

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Apocalypse 34: Privacy and Publicness

By , 28 June, 2010, 1 Comment

This weekend, I spent some time pondering the recent departure of Dave Weigel from the Washington Post. Weigel made a name for himself at the Washington Independent, where he covered the conservative movement for a liberal audience. This spring, he was hired to blog about American conservatism for the Post.

Like most of the Washington left-of-center reporting pool, Weigel was a member of the controversial JournoList, an off-the-record email listserv managed by the Post’s Ezra Klein. Last week, a number of Weigel’s emails on the list surfaced, showcasing harsh, offensive views about the movement he covers and a desire to influence coverage of that movement at the publications of his peers. On Friday, Weigel resigned.

The political blogosphere, especially the left-o-sphere, has been quick to turn Weigel into a hero, a poster child for the principles of new media, where having an opinion and voicing it is an asset, not a liability, and where the line between news reporter and newsmaker is blurry if it exists at all.

What McChrystal really said

By , 22 June, 2010, 3 Comments

For several weeks, I have been working on a piece about civil-military relations, but this morning’s news about Stan McChrystal essentially preempts the story I wanted to tell.

In case you’ve missed it, McChrystal agreed to a profile for Rolling Stone, a magazine whose non-arts coverage I usually find to be shrill and unscrupulous. But Michael Hastings, the reporter, did not need stridency to slam McChrystal–the general’s own words, those of his closest aides and advisors, and even of his soldiers, did that for him. In the piece, McChrystal and co. complain about the President’s lack of military knowledge coming into office, about the ‘interfering’ role played by the State Department’s Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, about the outdated thinking of ‘clown’ National Security Advisor Jim Jones, and about the ‘betrayal’ of the military by Amb. Karl Eikenberry and Vice-President Biden, both vocal opponents of McChrystal’s proposed surge in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the American rank-and-file in Afghanistan tell Hastings the surge isn’t working.
This afternoon, a furious Obama summoned McChrystal to Washington, and the punditocracy is abuzz over whether Obama will sack him.

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ICapp Exclusive: Sherry Rehman Slams Punjab’s “Total Insanity”

By , 19 June, 2010, 4 Comments

In the wee hours of the morning, I got word that Pakistani politician Sherry Rehman was circulating an op-ed statement against the Government of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest and wealthiest province. Think of it as the Midwest (farms, mills, and traditional values) meets New England (history and culture and more tradition). It’s where the army recruits from, where the most federal funds go, and where the tourists want to visit. In other words, it’s the establishment.

Rehman was outraged because Punjab has just decided to give some of those federal budgetary funds to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an Islamic charity considered to be the political arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant organization focused primarily on the ‘liberation’ of Kashmir and its establishment as an Islamic state. Unlike the militant groups in the Western part of Pakistan (who focus on destabilizing Pakistan itself) or those militants exiled in Pakistan due to the US/NATO operations in Afghanistan (who focus on fighting Western forces), L-e-T targets Pakistan’s major rival, and as such, has historically received support from Pakistan’s military elite, and a blind eye from its government.But, says Rehman, direct financial support from civilian leaders is a new step, and a bridge too far. “It’s total insanity,” she shouts, when she speaks to me from her home in Karachi.

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Flattery Works Wonders

By , 18 June, 2010, No Comment

Yesterday, I was surprised to find that I’m someone’s “most awesome person.” The blogger who’s cited me as such is a former colleague of mine who wants to remain anonymous, but let’s just say, she’s great. Smart, hardworking–often the last person on the floor or the one working a weekend–and most importantly, gracious with eager young things (like me) who had no clue where the coffee machine is or how to use our ID cards to swipe into the office. So an honor to be singled out.

And yes, I AM as completely mad as she makes out.

World Cup Bracket

By , 16 June, 2010, 1 Comment

Followers of my Twitter feed know that I’ve done nothing for the last week except talk soccer. My friends and family know that my sleep schedule has been adjusted 6 hours forward to accommodate this new obsession. But lest all of you at ICapp feel left out of my fun, here’s some World Cup for you too: my bracket. Totally unsubstantiated and almost certain to be wrong. But feel free to ponder and pick apart anyway.