30 April 2008
I expect there will be some good-natured political back and forth since Scott is clearly a smart and aggressive Republican with Kentucky roots, and I'm a whiny elitist from the People's Republic of Massachusetts. I'll give my quick assessment of what's going to happen in Kentucky (Senator Clinton is the heavy favorite in the primary) and how I think each candidate could win. In short, I think Senator Clinton needs to stay on the attack and insist she can win a brutal general election, while Senator Obama needs to start talking about change again and how he is the only candidate who can bring it. Senator McCain must make sure the public (and the media) focuses on personalities, and not the "most important problems" facing Americans, according to Gallup - the economy, the war in Iraq, fuel prices, health care, or unemployment. Right now, Americans think Democrats are better suited to handle all those problems.
But I also hope to convey the critical role that social media has played in this year's primary. I think Micah Sifry is spot on - without the Internet, Senator Clinton would have already sewn up the Democratic nomination. Social media tools have helped Senator Obama raise literally hundreds of millions of dollars, and they have helped his campaign organize, especially in the caucus states. These efforts will have a positive effect for Democrats down the ticket should Sen. Obama get the nomination. I also noticed that Senator Clinton has used the 'net to raise a big chunk of change immediately following her win in Pennsylvania.
Despite my friend David All's best efforts through Slatecard, the GOP remains far behind the Democrats in online organizing and fundraising. (Don't worry, David - you'll probably be all caught up within a single election cycle.)
Social media has also been a huge factor in candidate's missteps. For example, three of the most-viewed videos on YouTube have been Reverend Jeremiah Wright's rants, Senator Clinton's verbal foibles about sniper fire in Bosnia, and Senator McCain's comments about being in Iraq for 100 years.
The thing that's been absent from the talking head-speak about the primaries and the role social media has played, however, is the idea that we're dealing with well-defined communities with fairly specific discussions, and we can glean a lot of intelligence from those discussions. So I pulled together some "community clouds" like the ones I did for Virtual Vantage Points but for Kentucky-based political bloggers. It's a mashed-up RSS feed of bloggers in two distinct communities - namely Kentucky conservatives and Kentucky liberals - run through a text cloud generator. Here's what the top Kentucky conservative bloggers are talking about as of Wednesday afternoon:
And here's what Kentucky's top liberal bloggers are talking about on Wednesday:
So this tells me a couple of things. First, the "local" political bloggers are excited about the presidential primary, and Senator Obama has the lion's share of the attention - he's being mentioned more than either of the other candidates by both conservatives and liberals. Democrats are talking a bit about health care - namely items like breast cancer - while the Republicans are taking a little about taxes and they're beating up on Kentucky's new Democratic Governor, Steve Beshear.
But the dominant figure in Kentucky politics remains - just as it was immediately after Governor Beshear was sworn into office - Senator Mitch McConnell. He's without a doubt the state's most powerful and prominent politician, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.
The real answer to the question, “How do I get placement on blogs?” is simple: You don’t.Read the whole thing - it's pretty good.
Jason, like Susan Getgood and Todd Defren and Kami Huyse (and if I may be so bold, me) is essentially saying that you have to tap into the passions of an individual blogger to engage them, and you can't expect results like you would a traditional media pitch. It's a solid summary of best practices.
But the more I think about it, the more I think we have to scrap the whole model - PR pro's have to stop thinking about blogger outreach as media relations, and start thinking about it as coalition-building or ally development.
The easiest way to get a "placement" on a blog has always been buying an ad. If blogs are such important online properties with growing readerships, then buy the ad and use the metrics commonly associated with advertising. The better your ad, the better your response.
Of course, Some clients will still demand "earned placements," and a lot of them. And they don't particularly care if a blogger isn't passionate about the pitch topic. So we're faced with a few choices:
- Become a glorified direct-mail service and just blast-email every blogger you can find;
- Sell your soul and set up a bunch of fake spam blogs or hire pay per post;
- Push back on the client because you can't possibly do the job given the restrictions; or
- Anticipate the needs of your clients and build relationships in advance.
If you're actively pursuing option 4, you either work with me or you should. I ask my team to explore online communities, learn more about the subject matter, join the discussions and build relationships there before they ever have to worry about "pitching" anyone. I also think it helps if the people on my team have some input on which communities they explore - so they have a natural passion for the subject matter and they're able to be themselves.
Typically, when a client calls, they can't give us the time it takes to build relationships and alliances in online communities transparently and credibly. So to the degree possible, we're taking care of that step right now, doing the things we enjoy most. Today, I try to "pitch" as little as possible - I'd much rather reach out to people who already know me.
Of course, I realize some people are saying reaching out to bloggers isn't important at all, given some research that suggests bloggers aren't trusted, while "peers" or "friends" are. I think that actually flies in the face of reality. While I don't think "technorati rank" is an accurate assessment of influence, within communities, bloggers are often peers or even friends. And since we know that journalists are relying on blogs more for story ideas and sources, and more leading bloggers are prominent beyond their own blogs, I think building relationships organically makes a lot of sense - "placements" may follow.
24 April 2008
23 April 2008
I'd like to obviously talk about the impact that social media has had on the election so far and if I can, I'll live-tweet...
22 April 2008
Today this blog will not be used to convince anyone that a company is "greener" than it really is.
I will not spam enviro-bloggers with slap-happy press releases from clients announcing "bold new initiatives" that really amount to switching light bulbs and not cranking up the AC in the summer.
I will not advise a coal company that blows up mountains to retrieve its product to start a new branding campaign with a green, flowery logo.
I will not drive 2 miles downtown shouting "Look at me! I'm wearing organic cotton!" out the window.
I will not try to impress anyone by falsely hinting that I drink only fair-trade coffee.
I will not sing the praises of an "alternative" fuel that burns more oil to produce than it saves.
When people in my line of work do any of these things, we earn this reputation:
21 April 2008
Reading the transcripts of the presidential debate in Pennsylvania last week and a lot of other material, I'm noticing that the major news networks fear their deaths in social media and they're working through the five phases. The examples below are a bit out of chronological order here, but you get the picture.
Denial is sorta what we saw at the debate - When George Stephanopolous was asked by the Associated Press how questions about comments on imagined sniper fire and what former pastors and 60's radicals say and flag pins were appropriate, despite the overwhelming evidence that American voters' interests lie elsewhere, he said:
The questions were tough and fair and appropriate and relevant...We wanted to focus at first on the issues that were not focused on during the last debates.It's also the silliness we see when the NCAA tries to ban live-blogging of baseball games. (Haven't heard much about twitter yet, but it will happen.)
Anger is the "THEY'RE NOT JOURNALISTS!!!!!!!" cry you hear from respectable journalists. Yes, we know that. Except some of them are. But even if they're not, Many bloggers offer smarter and better commentary than the beltway pundits. That of course doesn't stop people as noteworthy as Brian Williams saying this to journalism students; as reported in the WSJ Political Journal (found via TownHall):
You're going to be up against people who have an opinion, a modem, and a bathrobe. All of my life, developing credentials to cover my field of work, and now I'm up against a guy named Vinny in an efficiency apartment in the Bronx who hasn't left the efficiency apartment in two years.Bargaining is the YouTube Debate. People can submit questions, and we'll act all hip, but CNN gets to pick which questions are asked and they make sure insiders like Grover Norquist get their questions asked. (Ironically they rejected a question from Governor Crist of Florida because "he already had access to politicians.") 10Questions is a step in the right direction. It's also the blogs you see popping up on newspaper websites. "See, we can blog too but we're not bloggers." It's also the BBC asking its viewers/listeners/readers to send in their personal accounts of breaking news and the "I-Report" experiment at CNN. Bottom line - people contribute, but the networks ultimately maintain control of the content, and more importantly they're the only ones who make real money from it. (Not good enough, and only temporary as we move through the other stages.
Depression is pieces like "The decline of news" you see in SFGate. A few pieces note the decline of journalism - closing of foreign bureaus, the decline in quality of coverage, and so on - and they always talk about bloggers filling the void. It's also the silly pieces you see in top-tier papers about how blogging is so incredibly stressful it can kill you.
Which leaves us with acceptance -- the stage we really haven't seen yet universally, but we'll get there. But more and more media outlets are getting more and more social every day. The media is evolving from a lecture format to a discussion - it starts with little things like giving people the ability to leave comments on web-posted articles.
The funny thing is, corporate media isn't going to die - its business model will evolve out of necessity. Content will come from everywhere, feedback will be instantaneous, consumers have more choices - including the choice to create their own content. Journalists won't lose control over their work - they'll still report on things happening every day. And it's not like TV or newspapers will disappear. But editors will lose some control of what makes the headline above the fold. And pundits (bless their li'l hearts) will face far more competition for airtime.
18 April 2008
Readers of blogs understand that citations to other sources are made in the form of hyperlinks and "blockquote" format for the quoted text. That's what I did in my blog post. Unfortunately, that doesn't translate well into print.
So to be clear, the quotes from my original post came from the Lexington Herald Leader's PolWatchers blog. The commentary is mine, the reporting is theirs. I apologize for any confusion this might cause.
17 April 2008
But what really ticked me off was Charles Gibson's embarrassing defense of the pathetic flag lapel pin question - "it's all over the Internet."
Umm.... NO. It's not all over the Internet. It's not even close. It's barely a blip on the radar. Anyone who looks at Virtual Vantage Points "community clouds" pages for politics and issues can see what's all over the internet. For the past several months, liberals have talked about the war, health care, the subprime mortgage crisis, gas and food prices, the economy, and (not surprisingly) how bad the mainstream media is at doing its job. Conservatives have talked about taxes, terrorism, the war, immigration, and (again, not surprisingly) how bad the mainstream media is at doing its job.
Furthermore, there are dozens of prominent online communities talking about health care policy, education, child care, the environment, personal finance and taxes - and once again, how lousy the mainstream media is at doing its job. We follow them every week.
Not a flag pin in sight.
For years now we've heard top-tier journalists and pundits dismiss the "citizen journalists" of the blogosphere and social media as angry, ranting lunatics holed up in their basements, wearing pajamas and eating cheetos and furiously typing out irrelevant screeds and spreading gossip that no one should ever read.
Last night the traditional media had its chance to ask the questions that the Democratic voters of Pennsylvania really care about, and ask the candidates to discuss the issues that working families need to hear - and they came up with stories about sniper fire in Bosnia, some random sentence about bitterness, the rantings of a former pastor, some dude from the Black Panther Party, and flag pins.
I hope this debate serves as the wake-up call for the traditional media. This is why we can't yet say "social media" is "all media." When all media is truly social, the most prominent and important questions will be raised. That's why the YouTube debates were so effective and so important. It's only a matter of time - and not much time, at that - before they become the norm and not the exception.
The people will demand it.
UPDATE: Apparently I'm not alone in my assessment. Though I don't know what planet David Brooks was on last night.
UPDATE II: Craig Fuller, GOP heavyweight and former Chief of Staff to George Herbert Walker Bush, gets it.
16 April 2008
The first interview is with Joanne Bamberger, known as PunditMom. She's a freelance writer who has been published in the Washington Post, Legal Times, and on MSN.com, among other places. She's a contributing editor for politics at BlogHer. She contributes to a number of blogs. She's a former Deputy Director of Communications at the Securities Exchange Commission. As anyone who reads her blog knows, she's also a loving mom to "PunditGirl."
As for online communities, she's a leading voice for people who talk about politics, and a leading voice for people who talk about parenting. She's also very astute on adoption issues. I know of many other political moms, but I thought of her for this interview when I learned she'd be talking with a group of advocates at the National Women's Law Center about social media.
So here's the first of what I hope will be many interviews with online opinion leaders.
Q: Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging after a freelance job writing op-eds for The Washington Examiner came to an end. Through that job, I discovered just how much I enjoy that form of writing and wanted to keep my hand in it until I could find another opinion column opportunity. So I started PunditMom as a way to work on my writing skills. I never really thought people would begin to read my blog! In a few days, PunditMom will have it's two-year anniversary. I still don't have a paying opinion gig for a newspaper, but I have been able to join several blogging communities and was invited to be a Contributing Editor for Politics & News at BlogHer!
For women to be able to reach out to others in various social media forms is empowering. Most of the women I spoke with at the NWLC were not attorneys, but work for a variety of non-profit organizations that advocate for women's and children's issues. I spoke with them about ways to reach out to bloggers who write about family issues as a way of raising the profile for their organizations and their missions. Also, I encouraged them not to be afraid to start blogs for their own organizations as a way to reach out and find a bigger audience for their messages.
Q: You spend a lot of time discussing political issues as they pertain to candidates. Are you as interested in political issues as they pertain to companies?
I would love to see family-friendly companies take an interest in the issues that are important to women and mothers, such as the environment and things that impact the health and welfare of our children, such as the safety of plastics that our children use from the time they are infants -- baby bottles, sippy cups, plastic plates. It would be great if more companies could find ways to engage in becoming better corporate citizens and finding issues to advocate for that are consistent with their businesses. For example, schools are complaining right now that they do not have enough money in their budgets to buy healthy food for school lunches, and are cutting back on things, including milk. What if companies stepped up and helped make sure that children, especially low-income children, kept getting the healthiest food possible in their school lunches. You can bet "mommybloggers" would beat a path to support the products or services of a company like that.
Q: Plenty of bloggers criticize businesses, but unlike many political bloggers, you have consistently tried to focus on positive and constructive solutions. Are there any companies you think have done a good job addressing the issues you care about most? What are they doing?
Another issue I'd like to see businesses address in a better way is leveling the employment playing field for mothers. There are so many issues connected with that -- maternal profiling, flexible hours, paid leave. As a practical matter, women are more adversely effected by these policies, or lack thereof, than men, since women are still the primary caregivers for children in our country. I would love to see more businesses realize that the more they support mothers, the better it will be for the business. One example of a company who that has really stepped up in embracing and addressing the challenges of working mothers today is PricewaterhouseCoopers. Not surprisingly, it took a bunch of accountants to sit down and figure out how much money they lose if they don't help working mothers, both in flexible hours and by providing ongoing training and networking opportunities for them while they are out of the paying workforce.
Q: What's next? How will political women lead the way on social media and advocacy?
I have said jokingly to some others that women bloggers will achieve political domination by 2012! Seriously, the amount and level of political conversation among women bloggers is increasing everyday. I believe that as we become more comfortable trying on our political voices and making arguments about the issues we care about, our presence will grow and we'll start taking our action offline, into our communities.
15 April 2008
I acknowledge that a government-imposed ban like this is a big (and perhaps ham-handed) step, but to me at least the issue with social network utilities like MySpace and Facebook is much clearer and easier. I've written about this a gazillion times before. Facebook currently respects the free speech rights of people who tell sick girls to starve themselves and take narcotics more than they respect the free speech rights of women to post pictures of themselves breastfeeding kids.
The world's first use of the law to tackle eating disorders is broadly aimed at the media and fashion world, but especially at the websites and blogs of the co-called pro-ana movement.While many are support groups, others promote starvation as a "lifestyle choice", with girls and young women posting their wasting images as "thinspiration" for others.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have recently come under pressure in Britain and other countries to ban their pro-ana entries.
Fines of up to €30,000 and a two-year prison sentence will be imposed on offenders who "provoke a person to seek excessive thinness by encouraging prolonged restriction of nourishment" to the point of risking of death or damage to health. The prison term is raised to three years with a €45,000 fine if the person dies.
Facebook's own terms of service agreement prohibits users from posting harmful content. It's obvious these groups are harmful. It's also obvious that breastfeeding pictures are not harmful, but helpful.
I've reached out to Facebook before - politely and openly - to ask them why. The answer was equally polite, but completely lacking in substance and coherence. I've resisted closing my Facebook account for three reasons: First, I use it for work purposes, though only occasionally (I don't use it for anything else); second, I believe in maintaining contact with people who disagree with me; and third, it's so ridiculously hard to completely erase your Facebook account I'd waste an entire day.
Stay tuned, and let me know what you think...
14 April 2008
This despite recent surveys finding that people online find peers to be much more credible than corporate press releases or even mainstream media.
The citizen-pundit vs. elite-pundit tension is growing. I noticed this from Christina McMenemy sifting through the reaction to J&J's recent "BabyCamp" experiment:
There was a point in one discussion where the issue of trust was mentioned, and several women mentioned that they trust the opinions of other moms more than they trust large corporations. But then one blogger (this one) suddenly said in the middle of the conversation, "Well, I don't trust the opinions of other moms!" I'm glad I was sitting behind her so she didn't see my eyes nearly bug out of my head in surprise. Or hers. Or hers. (Although she may have seen hers as she slowly moved her chair away.)I find it more than a bit interesting that the person who according to Christina claims NOT to trust the opinions of other moms is Leslie Morgan Steiner, an executive at the Washington Post. She's the author/editor of books called "Our Inner Catfight" and "The Mommy Wars."
Maybe I just have an abnormally educated and talented bunch of mom friends, but if I needed advice on something about parenting, products for my children, myself, or my home, you can bet I'm turning to another mom to get their opinion. (Not all have to be moms, either, depending on what you're asking about. I'm looking at you, Auntie Suebob.) Chances are, they have advice that I will find helpful, even if I don't follow their guidance.
Steiner is obviously accomplished and smart, but she ain't no "citizen-journalist."
I'm curious as to why J&J sought to invite her - probably because she "blogs" for the Post and gets a lot of traffic. But I'm more interested in why she doesn't trust the opinions of other moms. Is it because she doesn't see other moms as her "peers," and trusts MBA-executive types or newspaper publishers instead? I could be wrong, but that's my guess.
To me, social media will eventually get us past all this. The truth is there are plenty of elite "pundits" on the Sunday & cable talk shows who are smart, and plenty who are as dumb as a bag of hammers. There are also a lot of geniuses and morons who write online. Social media gives everyone a platform to compare the strength of their ideas with anybody on television. One thing the two groups have in common - neither likes it very much when the other points out how wrong they are.
"Beltway elites" trust each other because they talk with each other a lot. The same goes for bloggers and participants in common online communities. I'm pretty sure that's what the surveys mean. So to be trusted, you have to talk a lot with the people you care about.
It's not hard.
11 April 2008
And while there are plenty of tips on how truly green businesses can talk about their environmental records appropriately, it seems the penalties for greenwashing just got a lot stiffer.
Apparently MI6 is on the case. And I'm not messin' with that new James Bond guy.
10 April 2008
Then I remembered - the WSJ and NYT all host several blogs. I hope they're taking care of their own - this blogging stuff sure is hard. Come to think of it, maybe I should ask for a vacation or something.
Yes, there are a group of people who use their blogs to talk with a community, and the community is large and sustainable enough where advertisers and marketers see really significant value in buying some space on that property. And yes, those blogs are written by people who have lives like the rest of us and demands on their time.
But the reality is there are tens of millions of people who are writing blogs. And there are tens of millions more people who participate in an online social network or two. And those people are no more or less stressed than the rest of us. Blogs are conversation tools, and not much more. Heather Armstrong is successful because she's talented and creative and provocative - not because she writes a blog.
09 April 2008
That's why Bill Buckner is such a class act.
I'm not going to go into the history here other than saying he's had to deal with a lot more than many politicians. And he deserved a day like yesterday.
I've written a few times now how blogs like Global Voices Online and Green Options represent the future of collaborative (or "network") journalism. They're made up of loosely-knit groups of freelance writers and reporters, scattered across the globe, who contribute to one or more online properties as they write their own content. These online networks exist and produce content at a miniscule fraction of the cost of network news, and they have the ability to bring everything network news does - text, audio, video, interactive graphics, even access to "expert" sources and commentary - with increasing production quality.
This model continues to evolve as journalists leverage blogs (some surveys suggest up to a quarter of journalists are active bloggers) and other tools such as twitter, and produce their content in various forms - text, audio, video.
An emerging trend I (and no doubt others) see - journalists are moving to the online channel to report on news that they feel aren't getting adequate coverage from the "mainstream" or "traditional" media. Global Voices Online examines news not commonly found in the Western world. Green Options covers environmental news you won't see on the front page of any consumer newspaper in America. "Bicycle Mark," an independent journalist who has amassed an impressive collection of work at citizenreporter.org, focuses almost exclusively on "under-reported news." Political blogs (on both sides of the ideological spectrum) have long complained that the mainstream media either misses the facts or misses the story. Now journalists seem to agree - though perhaps not with the same ideological biases - and they're doing something about it.
In addtion to blogs, we're seeing the development of ReporTwitters and (soon) DailyTwitter - collections of independent and very smart journalists, with diverse interests, creating their own forums to showcase their work. Blogs will work hand-in-glove with these other social media channels, creating everything you can get on TV or at washingtonpost.com and more. For example, Global Voices Online can go remote places CNN can't (or won't) - because their loose network of global bloggers means they're already there. And as I've said before, a number of GVO folks are already active on Twitter and elsewhere.
So the big-money network journalists who have for a while now have bashed bloggers with the "they're not journalists" battle cry now need to think of something else. Increasingly people are looking to blogs (and other social media platforms) to get real news, reported by real journalists. And if you've read some of this next-generation, new-channel journalism, you know the quality of reporting is quite good.
Perhaps it's competition, and not standards or lifestyle, that has the news networks all, umm, atwitter.
08 April 2008
Of course, those Twitter accounts are also really one-way communication as well. They don't engage in conversations, and more importantly they don't participate in the community conversation.
This week I have a piece in the Council of PR Firms' new online publication, The Firm Voice, that looks at the importance of community over technology in social media. I write specifically about how @Campaign2008 relates to Virtual Vantage Points - VVP is our team's content and contribution to the overall discussion, while Campaign2008 serves as a gateway to the community of political and social media enthusiasts who are most likely to find our contributions interesting and useful. If we aren't making a relevant contribution, we're wasting our time. That's really how we approach outreach - not just in social media, but really any kind of outreach.
07 April 2008
|Campaign2008 The candidates have increased a presence on Twitter. number of followers right now: @ClintonNews 131, @ObamaNews 1,168, @McCainNews 255 10:19 AM April 05, 2008 from twhirl|
I didn't find this to be earth-shattering news; just a mildly interesting observation. The campaigns are trying to push news out via Twitter, and Senator Obama seems to be building a significantly larger following than the other candidates. The campaigns have been using Twitter for some time now, but the new thing seems to be pushing all their RSS feeds through a "news" tweet.
Shortly after this I saw a pair of interesting replies from BL Ochman, aka @whatsnext on Twitter:
|whatsnext @Campaign2008 wrong. that's not participation. participation is by humans telling what they think. 11:28 AM April 05, 2008 from web in reply to Campaign2008|
quickly followed by:
|whatsnext @campaign2008 - candidate's news bots is Twitter abuse. please get a clue. 11:31 AM April 05, 2008 from web in reply to Campaign2008|
Twitter abuse? So I tried to clarify:
|Campaign2008 @whatsnext as you know there's a difference between "presence" and "participation." They're using Twitter as a modified RSS feed, no more.. 10:38 AM April 05, 2008 from twhirl in reply to whatsnext|
And I heard back:
|whatsnext @Campaign2008 candidates are using twitter like MSM push media. they should be interacting her. we can get RSS feeds off their websites. 12:03 PM April 05, 2008 from web in reply to Campaign2008|
Well, yes and no.
Of course the best-case scenario is there's a person on the other end of of the internet, engaging in conversations - just like what we're doing with @Campaign2008 and Virtual Vantage Points at APCO. But you also have to consider what you can accomplish with the resources you have, and you have to work within an appropriate context. So I asked:
|Campaign2008 @whatsnext does someone who follows a candidate on twitter have a reasonable expectation of a conversation? can candidates interact here? 02:52 PM April 05, 2008 from twhirl in reply to whatsnext|
I'm also not sure (though opinions will differ) that pushing out news through Twitter constitutes "abuse." I follow a few news networks through Twitter, even though I'm aware of their RSS feed. The simple truth is people get their information from a variety of sources, almost all in the background. When you're running a campaign, your primary job is to put your messaging in front of people, wherever they are. Some people get their information through Twitter, so you have to put your messaging there.
I also know that campaigns are obsessed with resource ROI right now. Senator Clinton, for example, has relatively limited resources to communicate with people. Someone on her staff could spend time fielding questions from the 131 people (no doubt spread out across the country if not the planet) following @ClintonNews - or that person could be canvassing neighborhoods in Philadelphia or assembling GOTV operations in Harrisburg right now. What's the smarter investment given the finite resource? I think you push out info wherever people are, and do the best you can.
Yes, the ideal scenario is complete interaction, complete immersion in conversation. And when it comes to working with bloggers (and others) on marketing assigments, I try to insist on this. But even though the political campaigns have reached out specifically (and with mixed results) to political bloggers, I've yet to find the political campaign that fits that ideal scenario of complete interaction with everyone.
Of course, raising a boatload of cash from the online channel comes pretty close.
04 April 2008
A colleague of mine also directed me toward a study yesterday that says Europeans are outpacing Americans in social media adoption, and it's being driven by young people there as well. We'll see if they inspire a new generation of political leadership and civic engagement soon...
03 April 2008
If you're interested in social media - you know, because that's what this blog is supposed to discuss - Brian Solis sent me a smart piece a while back about the differences between "cultural voyeurism" and actual, genuine participation in social media. It's worth reading. I'll have more to say about it when I stop seething...
02 April 2008
Today the Kentucky legislature will likely pass a budget that sends me a very clear statement: "we don't want your kind here." This budget cuts higher education by three percent - on top of the three percent cut already imposed a few months ago.
Kentucky has long been one of the poorest, least educated and least healthy states in the union. Smart and talented people leave the state for better educational opportunities and better jobs every day. They don't often come back. Since I've lived here, I've watched the Kentucky legislature waste its time debating false solutions like eliminating the prevailing wage for state construction projects and opening casinos, and side-show issues like requiring the flagship university to be a "Top 20 Public Institution" (whatever that means) by 2020 or posting the Ten Commandments in the State House while our education and health infrastructures continue to deteriorate.
The only way this state will ever reverse its fortunes is to make a substantially increased and sustained investment in the education and training of its people. But apparently that's a decision for another legislature at another time. Instead, by cutting higher education another three percent, the legislature tells people like me - educated professionals looking for a place to start a family - that Kentucky values cheap cigarettes over high-skill, high-wage jobs and a quality education for kids.
But it's the insult on top of the injury that prompted me to write this. What truly has me flummoxed is the reaction of Kentucky's leaders in higher education - they're not just pleased, they are - in their own words - ecstatic.
"Given the revenue constraints they had, I think it's a remarkable showing of how much both chambers value us," said Doug Whitlock, president of Eastern Kentucky University. "We recognize the realities of the situation."
Wayne Andrews, president of Morehead State University, said the lesser cuts mean the school won't have to hike tuition by double digits.
"I can say with confidence it's going to be less than 10 percent," Andrews said.
The universities must submit their proposed tuition increases to the Council on Postsecondary Education by April 25. The CPE will take action on the proposals at its May 9 meeting.
"I'm quite ecstatic," said Brad Cowgill, interim president of the council. " It's like a coming from behind win for the home team. Higher education has staying power with this legislature, and we're grateful for that."
University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd issued a statement saying that "our legislature and its leaders have indicated that they strongly believe that continued investment in our public universities is critical to Kentucky's future."
I'll try to be clear here: a six-percent cut in higher education is NOT an appropriate reason for college presidents to take a rhetorical victory lap. It's a reason for outrage. This budget is NOT an act of courage or a sign of commitment to education. It's a suicide pact that will send smart people looking for opportunity - the only hope for Kentucky's future - heading toward the exits. It's a sure sign that Kentucky is trapped in a cultural and political sinkhole of low expectations and profoundly wrong-headed thinking.
These statements were made in the context of the Governor's initial budget proposal of a 12 percent cut (on top of the three percent cut) in higher education - a manufactured political crisis intended to deliver the equine industry the windfall of a casino cartel it so desperately wanted. They were made in the context of a place that has historically placed education near the bottom of its list of priorities. The political tone was set from the very beginning - we could choose less education or no education. And for some reason that still escapes me, we hold no one to task for setting up that false set of choices.
This legislature gave lip service to raising revenues - specifically, increasing our lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax or possibly the sales tax - to support higher education and human services. Again, no deal. The leadership of this state apparently gave more consideration to the idea of lopping off one-eighth of the higher education budget than it did to trying to keep pace with the education systems of other states. It also refuses to give state universities the ability to secure bonds, a common practice in nearly every other state. This is madness.
Despite a ridiculous statutory mandate to be in the "top 20," among public institutions by 2020, the University of Kentucky currently holds the 122nd spot among "national universities" in the US News & World Report Rankings, with at least 55 public universities ahead of it. The legislature did not make the University's job any easier.
01 April 2008
The rules of the meme say I have to list ten more "excellent reads," and like Susan I'll refrain from using the ones she listed - but I regularly read most on her list and agree with her sentiments. Some (though not nearly all) of my recommendations:
The Measurement Standard
The Beta Stage