Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Top down Innovation

Photon Courier has an excellent discussion of "top down disruptive innovation." A recent article by Nicholas contrasts this with the "bottom up disruption" that lies at the heart of Clayton Christensen's work.

PC is dubious about Carr's thesis that incumbent firms often have an advantage in the race to exploit such disruptions. I think that he is on firm ground with those doubts. There are a lot of examples of failure and not many of success. While established firms might have an advantages in capital and brand recognition, they face huge barriers in terms of diseconomies of scale, procedures mindsets, and inappropriate metrics.

In most large firms it takes a lot of effort to keep everyone focused and working efficiently. Chasing innovation is frequently seen as a distraction. For example, Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is famous for its lost opportunities. PARC invented the graphical user interface, icons, the mouse, and multiple overlapping windows. It even created Alto, a personal computer with capabilities unmatched by rivals for many years.

Yet Xerox never became a serious player in the PC revolution. Its greatest innovations were copied by Apple and Microsoft. In the Macintosh they solidified Steve Job's status as a seer and visionary. In Windows they earned Bill Gates billions.

The problem for Xerox was that it was focused. Every day 125,000 employees put their shoulders to the work of building, leasing, and servicing huge photocopiers. They were good at it. But the corporation did not have the will and energy to undertake the expensive and risky effort of exploiting their technological breakthroughs in fields outside of corporate duplication services. Their size was a barrier.

Even PARC's most profitable product--the invention of the laser printer--earned Xerox billions through licensing agreements, not the sales of Xerox branded products.

Every firm can be seen as an ecosystem. Within that system certain types of managerial and technical talent flourish and others are culled out. In many (most?) cases, the talent in an incumbent firm has been cultivated for purposes other than exploiting disruptive innovations.
It is easy to say that Xerox missed the boat and should have seized the opportunities PARC offered up. But seizing opportunites is easier said than done. Even if the strategy is right, implementation is hard. And the risks can be higher than one expects.

In the 1980s Sears set out to become a financial services powerhouse. They acquired Coldwell Banker realtors and Dean Witter brokerage. Then they spent a full year debating how to integrate their new divisions, what to call the financial services subsidiary, how to advertise it. Not only did this slow down the growth of the Sears Financial Network, it also preoccupied senior management at a time when discounters like Wal*Mart and specialty retailers like The Gap were undermining the core franchise of the Sears stores.

Sears was "right" about the attractiveness of financial services. But business ain't Jeopardy where getting an answer right earns money automatically. The integration of thought and action is vital. The fate of that union hinges on culture, size, leadership, and structure.

Monday, May 30, 2005

24 Blogging


Powerline is defending “24” in response to this column. Most of the comments focus on the degree to which Fox caved to CAIR. The politics is interesting but should not obscure the fact that the series ran out of creative steam halfway through the season.

Part of the problem was the breakneck pace of the action. To supply the roller coaster thrills the writers piled one big bang on top of another. When an attack on Air Force One with a stolen stealth fighter is simply the means of grabbing the nuclear football and when the kidnapping of the Secretary of Defense is just a ploy to spike internet traffic, the plot asks for too much suspension of disbelief.

At the same time, the writers larded the scripts with way too much mooning and moaning of the soap opera variety.

“Oh Jack!”
“Oh Audrey!”
“Oh Michelle!”
“Oh Tony!”

Oh brother.

“24”s best anti-terrorist professionals spent much of the spring acting like junior high students at summer camp. In contrast, ImoTerrorist was brilliant and single-minded. No wonder he out-witted CTU at every turn.

I’m also sorry that the writers tossed aside the grown up view of torture they showed at the beginning of the season. Early on they had bureaucrats torturing the wrong person and then scheming to cover it up. By the end it was all saintly Jack Bauer doing the necessary dirty work to get the guilty to confess so that innocent lives could be saved.

The last thing that bugged me about this year was the utter incompetence of the typical CTU field agent. It became a sure bet that any team sent to investigate a promising lead would be ambushed and most of its members killed by the scratch response force ImoTerrorist sent after them. One time might have been believable, but after the third it was just laughable.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Here, here!!

Laurence Haughton just nails it:

Having Donald Trump portray a knowledgeable, competent, modern leader is for me like a Scot listening to the worst Scottish accent ever. I know, I know, The Apprentice is supposed to be a "funhouse mirror" on real business but Trump is such an assault on my sensibilities.

To my mind Trump is the William Hung of leadership.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"Psychics break hearts"


Good John Stossel column.

ABC News asked [Sylvia] Browne to talk to us about this. She agreed but then backed out at the last minute. She had told us she solved thousands of cases. But several years ago, a magazine examined 35 of Brown's "cases." It couldn't find proof she'd solved any of them.
More than one TV "journalist" has given these charlatans a credulous hearing.
Newspapers as favor banks

David Warsh

What is important to understand is that beneath the glitz, newspapers actually operate as favor banks, to use novelist Tom Wolfe’s phrase from Bonfire of the Vanities. That is to say, newspapers are forever paying favors forward, in expectation of reciprocal acts of kindness from players yet unknown, accepting deposits of information and emphasis, making grants of credit and blame.

Newspapers reward their culture heroes and presidential favorites, penalize those with whom they disagree, further the activities of which they approve and ignore those which they do not, hoping all the while that the intricate web of transactions actually is in the black over time. No accountant could ever hope to make sense of it. That’s what they pay publishers and editors to do.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Joan Didion in Slouching towards Bethlehem

My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is the last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out.
Writers are always selling somebody out. It is the perverse nature of journalism that the people sold out are more often the relatively innocent and guileless. They are the sources most liable to blurt out something embarrassing when they are on the record. The cagey, experienced operator knows how to manipulate the rules to their advantage. They feed the reporters and the reporters protect them (just as they protected John DeLorean.) They know how to set ground rules so that no momentary faux pas shows up in print. They help journalists look good and journalists polish their image in return.

None of which fits that image of the cynical reporter digging for truth without fear or favor.

Monday, May 23, 2005

It's only a game

Originally posted Friday, September 10, 2004

In the June New Criterion Anthony Daniel writes about the children's games and makes an astute point about the human psyche:

Our hearts pounding, we would creep into [a neighbor's] garden, as if it were full of danger, and then run away, experiencing the joy of a narrow escape. Of course, we knew it was make-believe, and yet we took it seriously as well, a curious instance of man's inherent ability to split his mind into irreconcilable parts, and yet retain his personal identity.
In most case individuals do not have any problem keeping the game and reality in mind at the same time. Football fans become emotionally involved with a team, our team, and care about the outcome of the games. But we know, in our hearts, that it is still a game.

I often wonder if modern journalism has lost its ability to keep the game separate from the reality reporters cover. The profession plays by a set of rules which add excitement and permit score-keeping. The former is superficial and the latter is spurious, BUT THE PRACTITIONERS NO LONGER RECOGNIZE THIS. They think such things matter in the larger scheme of things.

Examples:

1. On election night, the networks will compete to see who can "call" each state first. The "winners" will trumpet this fact as evidence that their political coverage is best. Yet, what does it really matter if CBS calls New Jersey for Kerry at 8:05 p.m. or 8:16 p.m.? We will all know the outcome by 7:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.

2. Everybody loves their "exclusive" stories. But there seems to be only a weak correlation between "exclusive" and important/relevant/trustworthy. In fact, the hunt for the blockbuster scoop leaves the media vulnerable to getting conned and punk'd. (Just as Dan.)

If we compare the message boards at Free Republic or the Democratic Underground to Instapundit, it is clear that the juicy stories appear where fact-checking is weakest. During the Clinton years, the USENET boards had more "exclusives" in a day than Isikoff has had in his career. The MSM understands this when they compare themselves to bloggers and Drudge. Yet, they turn around and act in a contrary manner when competing amongst themselves.

3. The Wall Street Journal won a Pulitzer Prize for "uncovering" the Spiro Agnew corruption scandal. As with most such awards the implication was that if they had not pursued the story, the public would have remained in the dark and a crook would have continued in office. However, this is demonstrably false. The U.S. Attorney in Maryland was meticulously taking down the corrupt operators and building a case against the VP. The Journal reporters simply passed along the information that was leaked to them. The public would have learned of Agnew's legal problems because eventually he would have been indicted. The Journal performed no grand public service.

This is often the case with investigative journalism. Others do the real investigation; the reporter just repeats what his sources choose to give him. By allowing the journalist to take a star turn, the prize-givers both inflate the importance of the journalism profession and hide from the reader/ viewer a lot of crucial information about the source of the story and the motives behind the exposé.
Carnival

The latest Carnival of the Capitalists is here.
Playing catch-up


Some good stuff worth checking out:

The latest Blogworthies from E. L. Core

The Hidden Message of Star Wars: Episode III

Not your usual Star Wars analysis. (HT: The Anchoress)

Radio Equalizer looks at some recent media commentary on Court TV's Nancy Grace

Is This Woman The Devil?

He's much kinder to her than i was last September
The Puritans in Salem only managed to hang 19 people for witchcraft in 1692 and actually acquitted over half of those charged. If they had had Nancy Grace on the bench, they could easily have hit triple digits and scored a 100% conviction rate. Judging by her CNN and Court-TV appearances, she has never seen a defendant who was not guilty.

Finally, Photon Courier has a great post on THE DEHUMANIZATION OF ART

Monday, May 16, 2005

The crux of the matter

"WHY IS IT that when a press outlet makes a major mistake, it is never in the United States' favor?"

The Junk Yard Blog

See also,

Thomas Sowell: Fourth estate or fifth column
Too many in the media today regard the reporting of the Vietnam war as one of their greatest triumphs. It certainly showed the power of the media -- but also its irresponsibility. Some in the media today seem determined to recapture those glory days by the way they report on events in the Iraq war.
The rotten heart of investigative journalism

Previously, I noted that Seymour Hersh is showered with honors when he "investigates" conservatives and Republicans but drops off the media radar when he does his thing against liberal icons. Just one more blogger complaining about liberal bias. No big deal. It is interesting, however, in light of this old piece from Slate on the CBS Rathergate report:
Evidence of the reviewers' cluelessness comes when the panel assesses the CBS journalists for political bias and discovers none. I don't know that I've met more than four or five investigative journalists in my life who didn't wear their political biases on their flapping tongues. Almost to a one, they're suspicious (paranoid?) about corporate power, dubious about the intentions of governments, and convinced that at this very moment a secret meeting is being held somewhere in which a hateful conspiracy against the masses is being hatched. I won't provoke the investigative-journalist union by alleging that most of its members are Democrats or lefties, but aside from a few right-wing reporters sucking conservative teats inside the government, how many Republican investigative aces can you name?
Not only does Jack Shafer think that paranoia is no disqualification for investigative work, he thinks it is a positive good.
Far from being a handicap, political bias appears to be a necessity for the investigative reporter. On one level, you've got to admire Mapes for rejecting all the mounds of evidence assembled by hundreds of other reporters who tried and failed to conclusively prove that Bush got a special service deal. For all Mapes' faults-and the panel documents her failings by the bushel-the panel still found that her colleagues "highly" regarded her. (One worries about the "lowly" regarded producers at CBS News.)

The zealotry of the investigative reporter is more efficient than a Prius, more powerful than a plate tectonic shift, and as obnoxious as a 2-year-old
.

This is one more reason to worry about the ideological bias of the newsroom. When a profession stocks its ranks with obsessive zealots it loses its grip on reality and veers into cult territory. This is especially true in light of Cass Sunstein's point (discussed here) that in ideologically uniform groups the extremes pull the center out towards the fringe.

Another problem with the status quo is that investigative journalists only dig into half the world-the half that fits their leftwing paradigm. Voting fraud in Washington or dirty tricks in Wisconsin-when done by democrats-do not fit the grand conspiracy theory. Hence, they do not resonate with the MSM. Convoluted suspicions about Diebold, Dick Cheney, and exit polls, however, deserve a thorough investigations.

The same dichotomy shows up in the treatment of Richard M. Scaife and George Soros. Scaife's support of the American Spectator was seen as prima facie evidence of a VRWC. Dozens of reporters dug into the connections between Clinton critics, Scaife, and Clinton accusers. The Spectator was not treated as part of a free press; it was investigated as a tool of the VRWC. OTOH, the extraordinary efforts of Soros and Co. to defeat Bush in 2004 provoked little outrage among journalists. It was not a big story because he was on the correct side of the ideological divide. His many organs and front groups were quoted by the MSM as though they were just like any other "grassroots" or "public interest" group.

Shafer thinks that the problems at CBS grew out of a managerial failure. Not the decision to let an obsessed Mapes work on a nothing story for five years-that is just par for the course in investigative journalism. No, the problem was in not supervising and vetting her work.
But investigative journalists, like 2-year-olds, require adult supervision, and the debacle that was the 60 Minutes Wednesday report indicates that the adults went on mental holiday that week.
That is a fair point, but it ignores he bureaucratic pressures the "adults" face. Investigations cost money and when news organizations spend money, they expect to get stories to air or print. If the manager kills a story, it looks like he wasted resources. That is no way to enhance a career. Hence, there is always a temptation to sex up a weak story and run it.

I also suspect that resolute adult supervision will create mutterings in the newsroom and dark rumors about the manager's motives. The conspiracy-mongering reporter will never admit that their story is weak. (After all, CBS, Mapes, and Rather still think the TANG memos may be genuine.) They will be prone to see the managerial action as more evidence of the power of the sinister forces they are fighting. Less twisted colleagues will wonder aloud if the manager really has a nose for news. Outsiders will note that he seems to be unable to manage his budget and spends money without getting much in return.

It is fine to speak of "adult supervision" but let's recognize that the current system and personnel work against it.

One last problem is that investigative reporters like to talk. They gossip to their friends, they brag to colleagues, they give speeches. As the Hersh story makes clear they drop hints about things they cannot prove and exaggerate the significance of the facts they unearth. When they do so their credibility is bolstered by their organizational affiliation. Hersh may be a loopy nutcase, but the New Yorker is legendary for its fact-checking.

So, people (including other reporters) are inclined to think that there must be some fire burning somewhere because they hear so many rumors about so much smoke. This is unfair to the innocent targets of the obsessive zealots. Moreover, because of the ideological imbalance of the profession, all of the rumors of smoke will swirl around conservative politicians, activists, and institutions.

See also, Leaks, Bias, and the Truth
Econblogging

The latest Carnival of the Capitalists is here.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Newsweek lied, people died

Michelle Malkin
Roger Simon
Power Line
Captain's Quarters

I want to know what other scoops the forgetful anonymous source helped with.
Catching up

What's So Difficult About Programming Cable News/Talk?
who in their right mind would give Tucker Carlson yet another shot at a successful TV show?

Conservatives grumble often about Carlson, because he's rightly seen as a lightweight sought-after by liberal network executives, because he's harmless and ineffective. But he's also boring and consistently unable to generate an audience
.


From January:
Tucker Carlson: Can a reservation conservative boost MSNBC?
MSNBC wants to reach conservatives. But they want only safe, MSM-approved conservative voices. Carlson earned his stripes by flacking for McCain in the 2000 primaries and serving as a willing tackling dummy for Carville and Begala on Crossfire. What he does not possess is proven appeal in Red America.

Paranoia For Fun and Profit

With the presidential election heating up, Moore needed to get his movie into theaters. Although Weinstein had told Eisner and Murphy that he planned to sell the film's distribution rights after it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival, Moore had a more expedient strategem. On the Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD, Moore says he resolved to get the film seen in America "by hook or by crook." His hook was censorship.

On May 5, 2004, the New York Times ran a front-page article headlined "Disney Is Blocking Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush." The story included the sensational charge that Eisner "expressed particular concern that [choosing to distribute Fahrenheit 9/11] would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor." The source for this allegation was Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel. Two days later, Moore claimed on his Web site that Disney's board of directors rejected Fahrenheit 9/11 "last week." In fact, the Disney board had not made such a decision in 2004—the project had been vetoed in 2003.



NB: It was the NY Times, not a bunch of amateurs with blogs who got conned by Moore and thus, gave his movie millions in free publicity.
Good reading

E. L. COre has the latest Blogworthies here. He always manages to find good entries that i missed during the week.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

How screwed up is Denver?

Read this post from Says Uncle and then this one from Michelle Malkin. The priorities of the city government are completely out of whack.
Training Learning and Education

Another good post via the CotC.

The Challenges for Training & Learning

If there is one part of HR that seems constantly under question for its “ROI” potential, credibility or plain effectiveness it is what is usually known as “Training” – or in the new world as “Learning”, “Management Development” etc.


A subject near and dear to my heart. I've discussed it in a multi-part series

Military Education (I,II,III, IV)

and also here

Doctrine and Fad Surfing

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Blogging economics


When we look at the MSM we see that readers do not pay most of the bills; advertisers do. If blog revenue is going to increase, the same will be true on that medium.

The indispensable innovator is the advertising genius who will make internet advertising a serious competitor for print, TV, and radio. Once that happens, ad money will flow to the audience bloggers attract.

But right now, blog ads and pop-ups just don't fit the needs for most big advertisers. This is reflected in the numbers discussed here.

In 2004 Internet advertising was only $9.6B in a total domestic advertising market of $257B.

(HT: Carnival of the Capitalists)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Dell Sucks

I've had more problems with my less-than-a-year-old A960 printer than i had with all the HP printers i've owned and used in the previous fifteen years.

The big problem seems to be the ink cartridges. You can only buy them direct from Dell. So it's not like you can go to Staples and demand your money back when they turn out to be defective.

I guess that helps their margins and all that. The thing is, they are so over-priced and so defective, that buying a new HP inkjet seems like the more cost-effective alternative.

But you, kind reader, should learn from my mistake. Don't be fooled by the advertising. Get a real printer from a real company. If you have to accept the printer as a freebie with the computer, give it to an enemy.
At last, a manifesto i can support whole-heartedly

A[n] (Alt?) Country Manifesto for the 21st Century
In a year in which she wrote, recorded, and toured behind a more thoughtful and all around better album, we reject the fact that Loretta Lynn was not named Entertainer of the Year by the CMA, and we ask that Kenny Chesney return his award so that it can be rightfully given to Loretta.
But hey, what's a movement without radical splinter groups? Sign me up as member number one of the Anti-Chesney Direct Action League. We don't want him to just give the award back, we want him to get off the stage at so-called "country events" and get off our country radio stations.

The first plank of the platform of the ACDAL:

Chesney is to Merle Haggard what the Village People were to the Velvet Underground.

(HT: Scott Chaffin)

Monday, May 09, 2005

How secret sources distort the news

James Srodes on John DeLorean:

By 1973 the press loyally reported that DLorean, now in line to be the next CEO of General Motors, had walked away to build his 'ethical car.' Much later, after the DMC-12 factory had gone into bankruptcy oblivion and DLorean was caught up in 20 years of litigation, a car magazine writer confessed to me that he and friends had known about all of John's peccadilloes from the first. But he had been their mole inside GM and fed them a steady diet of information about development programs (others' of course) gone sour and of execs caught in scandal. Their silence was his price.

From the May 2005 American Spectator.

See also

On leaks, bias and truth
Carnival

The latest Carnival of the Capitalists is up at a penny for.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Calling all inventors

I wish there was the blog equivalent of Amazon's recommendations feature. Something that would take the blogs you like and the blogs you hate and then point to other blogs that might appeal to you.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Why corporate change is hard and failure almost inevitable (III)

Part I

Part II

Jack Welch's leadership of GE was the greatest wealth creation exercise in business history. Between 1981 and 2000 he built $350 billion in market capitalization at a company that was already big and well-run when he took over. GE was, as all large corporations must be, procedures driven. Welch could not change that. But his leadership efforts did recognize the constraints Miaster's model imposed for his change efforts.

1. His dictum that all GE businesses be number 1 or number 2 in their marketplace was the perfect antidote to denial (Especially so since managers knew that under performing divisions would be "fixed, closed, or sold.")

2. Welch did not change GE's culture just by changing minds. The world-beating GE of 2000 was created by purchase, pink slips and divestiture. In 1981 the firm employed over 400,000. Over the next decade, 150,000 new employees came in through businesses that were acquired. During the same period, 190,000 employees left via businesses that were sold, and 170,000 left through layoffs and headcount reduction. When allowance is made for individual employees who left and were replaced by new hires it becomes clear that the vast majority GE employees today never worked at the pre-Welch GE.

3. During his tenure, GE tackled a major initiative every three years. This is in sharp contrast to the "solution de jure" approach that many companies fall into. By having fewer programs and committing completely to each, GE was able to reap real benefits from the programs. It avoided the cynicism which follows in the wake of multiple programs pursued halfheartedly and incompletely (i.e. fad-surfing).

4. Welch recognized that firm type imposes constraints and that effort is required to overcome these. Few CEOs devoted as much time to leadership development. He was not afraid to ask if GE had "the right gene pool" for a digital age and a global economy. At the end of his tenure, Fortune noted that he thought "a merciless push to upgrade human capital [was] vital." This, remember, at a firm considered by many to have the best and deepest management group in the world.

5. Welch recognized that change in a procedures environment is not pretty. As his fix/close/sell strategy demonstrated, it requires hard choices and painful decisions. After almost 20 years as CEo he was willing to admit that "we've got to break this company" to get ready for future changes.

6. By embracing "constructive conflict," Welch did not force GE-ers to stifle doubts, questions or disagreements. Instead, he helped the organization learn by opening feedback channels at all levels of the organization and throughout the life cycle of the change programs.

7. The face-to-face communications central to his leadership style forced GE out of its procedure ruts. The medium is also a message. Written plans and communications denote stasis and predictability. By demanding informal, fast, verbal feedback, Welch sent the message that GE no longer faced an environment which was stable and predictable.



The problem with snark and sarcasm


There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule , howsoever poor and witless. Observe the ass, for instance, his character is about perfect, he is the choicest spirit among the humbler animals, yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead of being complimented when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt.

Mark Twain



The best place to catch up on your blog reading

is Blogworthies over at E. L. Core's place.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Upon further review

I suggested below that a decision-making experiment referenced in the HBR was flawed because it used students as a substitute for real decision-makers and then drew some bold conclusions from their behavior.

Another bit of unreality is that the experimenter seems to think that policy is worked out in a relaxed vacuum where the participants bring a tabula rasa to the question they are dealing with and then focus on the facts set before them. This in no way resembles the environment real policy makers describe.

Henry Kissinger:
Any statesman is in part the prisoner of necessity. He is confronted with an environment he did not create, and is shaped by a personal history he can no longer change. It is an illusion to believe that leaders gain in profundity while they gain experience. As I have said, the convictions that leaders have formed before reaching high office are the intellectual capital they will consume as long as they continue in office. There is little time for leaders to reflect. They are locked in an endless battle in which the urgent constantly gains on the important. The public life of every political figure is a continual struggle to rescue an element of choice from the pressure of circumstances.

Sir Edward Grey, British foreign secretary in the decade before World War One also dismissed the idea that statesmen and ministers weigh information, make careful plans, and then seek to carry out those plans meticulously:
A minister beset with the administrative work of great office must often be astounded to read of the carefully laid plans … that critics and admirers attribute to him.

Scholars agree. Here is historian John Lewis Gaddis:
[Political scientist Alexander] George has suggested that there exists, for political leaders, something he calls an 'operational code'-a set of assumptions about the world, formed early in one's career, that tend to govern without much subsequent variations the way one responds to crises afterwards.


This does not mean that decision-makers do not use bad analogies (they do but that's another post). It simply means that they do not seize on them because of trivial reasons like the name of their office building. Nor do they pick up the analogy right as they sit down to formulate options. Rather, it seems that they will bring the analogies (good or bad) with them to the problem. The big danger is not that they will be misled by new but irrelevant data. Instead, they are more prone to disregard, ignore, or minimize new information that does not fit their pre-existing framework.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Two good reads

Hugh Hewitt on the attempt to mau-mau the Air Force Academy

Terry Eastland on the rise and decline of the legacy media
Here it bears noting that though journalists aspired to the status of professionals, they never acquired the self-regulatory mechanisms found in law, medicine, or even business. The nation’s journalism schools, which taught—and still teach—a craft better learned on the job, never really filled the void. Those schools often tended to hire former journalists lacking both the intellectual capability and the inclination to undertake serious analysis of the institutions whence they came. Critical scholarship by those outside the guild tended to be summarily dismissed, and the field was always thin on professional journals examining its practices and guiding ideas.

HT: Blog from the Core
Size does matter

There is a post over at Chicago Boyz--"GM and Organizational Design"-- that illustrates how diseconomies of scale can work.
But then again, who cares about hillbillies anyway?

If all else fails, I will retreat up the valley of Virginia, plant my flag on the Blue Ridge, rally around the Scotch-Irish of that region, and make my last stand for liberty amongst a people who will never submit to British tyranny whilst there is a man left to draw a trigger.

George Washington, at Valley Forge.
About those stereotypes

Shapiro examines the ways in which, beginning in the 1870s and 1880s, Americans perceived Appalachia as a strange place inhabited by 'peculiar'people. This perception, he argues, came not from the reality of Appalachian peculiarity but from the needs of middle-class Americans in industrializing America to project their own nostalgia for the past and fears for about the future onto a people perceived as different. Appalachia became the 'other', a place, and a people to be admired, patronized, converted, taught, uplifted, disciplined, and sometimes even emulated. The importance of such a place, where the people were assumed to be everything most Americans were not, but were still clearly of similar heritage and culture, offers hints of why myths about Appalachia were, until recently, so deeply ingrained as to make them impervious to scholarly inquiry.

Shapiro argues that American perceptions of Appalachia… are not and have never been based on evidence.


Altina Walker, "Feuding in Appalachia: Evolution of a Cultural Stereotype"

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I'm not surprised

11th Circuit: Nancy Grace 'Played Fast and Loose' With Ethics

Nancy Grace, the host of a self-titled legal show on CNN Headline News, "played fast and loose" with her ethical duties as a Fulton County, Ga., prosecutor in 1990, a federal appeals panel has declared.

(HT:Southern Appeal)
Metrocon spotting

The BotW item Instapundit references is a perfect example. Taranto might be on the right politically but he just cannot hide his condescension for red America. City Confidential did to Pikeville what Michael Moore did to Bush. It used the most unflattering film clips and interviews to create a demeaning portrait of Pikeville. It decided to play up the stereotype of hillbillies to fit a pre-fab narrative. It was unfair and unnecessary and Taranto is fine with that.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Whither newspapers?

One Hand Clapping and American Digest are discussing the problems and the future of newspapers. Circulation is dropping and advertising is stagnant.* Worst of all, young people are not reading papers and that suggests that these trends will continue.

Three quick points:

1. The journalistic side of the business is locked into an obsolete product. They try to get "news" out fast. But by the time the paper hits the porch, the news isn't new. The highlights were on cable the night before and dozens of stories have been on the internet for hours, maybe days.
2. Lifestyle changes work against reading a paper. There are fewer stay at home moms. Workdays and commutes are longer. People, especially middle class professionals, simply do not have schedules that are compatible with lingering over newsprint.
3. Despite the bad trends it is important to remember that capitalism grades on a curve. Newspapers might not be as good an advertising medium as they were in 1970, but that is not the relevant metric. All they have to be is better than the available alternatives. Readers might be going to the internet and cable channels, but these are not great outlets for many local advertisers. Hence, money still flows into newspapers.

It's just like prime time TV. Desperate Housewives has a small ratings share compared to past hits like Ed Sullivan or Bonanza. Nevertheless, DH gets big bucks for their commercial slots because they have a big audience relative to the competition.

* Speaking of dropping circulation, check out this blog.

Circulation Dropping

Monday, May 02, 2005

Carnival of the capitalists

The latest roundup of business and econ blogging is over at Incite.
I'm dubious

Photon Courier and Chapomatic are discussing analogies and strategic decision-making in light of a recent HBR article. Good posts that are well worth reading.

I'm not quite sold on the experiment they discuss. Like many such exercises, it used college students (the fruit flies of social science research) instead of veteran decision-makers. It is quite a stretch to think that inexperienced amateurs in an experiment will behave just like experienced professionals who have to live with the consequences of their recommendations in the real world.

Further, I think the results of the experiment are open to various interpretations. The HBR authors conclude that:
Not only were the students swayed by superficial likenesses, they were not even aware that they had been swayed

A cynic might look at the outcomes and conclude that modern college students will tailor their responses to the cues their professors give them. If asked if they did so, they will piously deny that they would ever even consider such a thing.

So much for the power of living wills

Once again a bunch of meddling lawyers are fighting to keep a person alive in the face of their expressed wishes.

Don't expect to hear howls of outrage from the MSM. This time the object of litigation is not a brain-damaged woman; it's a serial killer. Furthermore, there is little doubt what he wants--he has declared his wish to die in court.

Nonetheless, his lawyers are fighting to continue his appeals and to have him declared incompetent.

I'm sure there are lawyer-types who will split the hairs to show that this case is really, really different. But I have a hard time understanding why Michael Ross's wishes are less clear than Theresa Schindler Schiavo's or why less weight should be given to them.

More here.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Catch up on your reading

The latest edition of Blogworthies is up at the Blog from the Core. As always, he has found some real gems from off the beaten paths of the blogosphere.

He also has done a service for those poor souls who live in places where spring is still just a faint hope. Check out his pictures from Pittsburgh's Phipps Conservatory.
They've learned nothing

Powerline pointed to this excellent summary of the failures and distortions of the press during the Tet offensive in 1968. Sadly, most of the problems are apparent in the coverage of Iraq today.