Newsweek – RIP?

Recently Newsweek magazine announced it will no longer have a print version at the end of this year.  I find that striking yet not surprising.  There are a lot of magazines that have come and gone over the years.  It is a tough business.  Obviously the proliferation of the Internet spelled trouble for magazines like Newsweek.  A couple of years back Rose and I dropped our Newsweek subscription because they were “re-inventing” themselves away from the weekly news magazine to a weekly magazine devoted to issues.  We decided we wanted the news weekly.  Now only Time magazine is left as a weekly news magazine in the USA.

Newsweek will be celebrating its 80th Anniversary around the time it drops its print version.  It will only be available on-line and in a Tablet form.  According to this article –  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/can-newsweek-make-it-as-a-premium-tablet-thing/2012/10/19/bba79e92-1a0e-11e2-aa6f-3b636fecb829_blog.html  – Newsweek’s chance of making money on digital subscriptions is nil.  Others have tried it and failed.  The article quotes a representative of US News and World Report (a former paper magazine) that their revenue from digital subscriptions is “1 percent or something like that”.  I know that ESPN the Magazine essentially gave up.  You now get the magazine “free” if you sign up to be an ESPN insider.

We were taught in business  school that companies need to “adapt or die”.  I really wonder if adaptation is at all possible in the magazine business.  Perhaps the disruptive technology is so vast that it creates a new industry, effectively rendering the old one obsolete or marginal.  I guess that must have been what it was like for steam-powered boats and passenger railroads.    Sometimes a disruptive form comes along and wipes out a type of business.  I think that might be the case here.

But I think something else goes on here.  Somehow the “rag” magazines like The National Enquirer or Us Weekly have stayed around.  They are faced with the same Internet forces and new businesses – TMZ for instance.  But those rags have stayed in business without changing much.  Is it the demographic that reads those magazines?  That is about the most plausible story I can come up with.

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“Living with Hope” – Chris Speilman

Rose and I had the opportunity to listen to Chris Speilman speak on Wednesday at the Victoria Theatre.  The title of his talk was “Living with Hope”.  He is doing motivational speeches on behalf of his late wife’s foundation for breast cancer research.  He was inspiring, straightforward and very positive.

Chris told us a bit of his background which I can sum up in one phrase: “I was born to be a football player”.  He was a very successful linebacker in high school, college and professionally.  He was the prototypical “tough guy”.  But none of that prepared him for his wife being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30.  The rest of his talk was about that ordeal – but in an uplifting way.  His wife commanded the family upon her death that her death was NEVER to be used as an excuse, but as a motivation. He talked about his family (he has four children 18 years and younger) having a mantra that was something like “today is a good day, tomorrow is looking good and all the days beyond that, who knows?”.  His point was they needed to live in the moment because that is where we are.

Talking about hope, his emphasis was on the kind of “hope” he believes in.  Not the “hope of “wishing”.  But the hope for the future.  It was a strong faith-based hope for the future.  I am sure I cannot give Chris’ passion and articulate the justice it deserves.  But it was powerful.  We all face adversity in life.  Some more than others.  He closed with asking us all to not allow our problems to define us.  We get to choose how we approach every day. As he put it “cancer is incapable of love, it is incapable of caring.  But we get to choose to love, to choose to care about others, to choose to help others”.

It was an inspiring and thought-provoking night.  Rose and I bought his book, “That is why I am here”.  I’ll let you know what we think after reading it.

A short video about Stefanie Speilman – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XoN9GA-mGU&feature=related

Lance Armstrong – Headstrong?

I don’t know what to make of Lance Armstrong.  According to an article in the Washington Post, “As yet, there is no indication that Armstrong will ever come clean about, or rebut, his role in what USADA dubbed “the most sophisticated, professional and successful doping program that sport has ever seen” despite the fact that 11 former teammates have testified against him, offering first-hand accounts of the champion injecting himself with banned substances, undergoing blood transfusions, conspiring to evade and outfox drug tests, demanding  that key teammates dope, as well, and threatening those in position to expose him.”  Ouch

He overcame cancer.  He was a dominant bike rider.  He had proven to be a very fast marathoner and a fast triathalete after his biking career was over.  He raised millions of dollars to fight cancer as the Chairman of Livestrong.  He was a well-liked celebrity.

Now everybody has dropped him.  Nike, which still has Tiger Woods and Michael Vick among its stable of athletes, said “no more”.  Anheuser-Busch said no more Michelob Ultra commercials.  He even had to resign from Livestrong.  Without that cancer-fighting foundation, what is he?  Is he just another disgraced athlete subject to our scorn?  Sports fans seem to tolerate a lot – rape allegations, marital infidelity, dubious personal habits, multiple arrests, dog fighting.  But lying is not accepted.

He did it all to support a lie.  You would think by now everyone would understand that lies never hold up – especially when you are a famous person.  Someone is ALWAYS going to keep digging for the truth.  Was it his ego that got in the way of his judgement?  Does he think he is invincible and can’t be beaten?  Is he somehow able to justify in his mind that living the lie was the right thing to do?  I just don’t know.

So Lance, who fought the allegations for so long, has now seemingly lost it all.  Yes, he is still an inspirational cancer survivor.  But he no longer has a stage to continue that role.  How sad.

Being a Teacher – Frustration #1

I love my job.  I feel like I am making a difference in some people’s lives.  I work REALLY hard at it.  And some days my lessons are as good as I imagine them to be.  And other times I fail miserably but I take that as a challenge to do better the next time.  The only thing I can imagine it is like is a performer.  For example, a singer sings the same songs over and over in a concert.  But for the audience, every performance is a new one.  The performer has to hit every note every time in order to get the job done.  But I suspect the good entertainers are always critiquing the performance.  That is what I feel like every day.

However, there are some frustrations.  The most frustrating thing to me involves students who decide not to do their work in my classes.  I do everything I can to help my students succeed.  I rarely give homework.  I almost always give students enough time to do work in class.  I allow students to come to my room throughout the day to work on projects if they are behind.  So I do everything I can to allow them to finish work.  But every day I have students who tell me “I am not going to do the assignment”.  And that saddens me.  The students are not being rude, they are just being candid. 

But is still frustrates me.  Because in life, successful people do the small tasks even when they don’t want to.  A successful marriage requires you to do something for your spouse when you are tired or hungry or don’t want to do it.  At work, if you don’t do your work, you will get fired or others will pass you buy for better-paying jobs.  I feel like the most important thing I can do for my students is to prepare them for what is coming in life.  The lessons I am trying to teach are life lessons – what are sometimes called “soft skills”.  No matter that they chose to do in life, those skills will be critical to success.

I don’t meant this post to be critical of people or just a chance for me to whine.  But it is something that means a lot to me.  My job is to get to everyONE, every DAY.  I know we all have good days and bad days.  Sometimes outside problems are too much to overcome.    Maybe that is the key – I will never meet my own ideals as a teacher, but I have to keep pushing for the next level.  If I have students unwilling to do the work, then I need to find a way to persuade them.

Football

I’ve been thinking about a lot of things about football lately.

It is America’s #1 sport now undeniably.  The Super Bowl is consistently one of the most watched shows of the year.  Conservative estimates are that $200 billion are bet on professional football only.  College football is the biggest money-maker at the major Universities throughout the land (U of Texas made $96 million from football last year).  At the high school level, at least in Ohio, it makes more money than any other sport by far.

It is a big business.  But it is also part of our social fabric.  “Friday Night Lights” is not just a tv show.  It is a way of life in many small towns throughout the country in the fall.  Everyone goes to the football games, win or lose.  It is a social event.  It oftentimes defines a community and provides a source of common ground for people.

But there is a big elephant behind the curtain.  We keep learning more about injuries and how they have been much more severe than anyone reported in the past.  And that got me thinking.  Are we no different from the “Barbarians” of the early centuries?

The Gladiators of Ancient Rome formed the major sporting event of Roman life.  The games featured strong, athletic men pushing their bodies to their physical limit in tough endeavors.  They were watched by thousands of people live.  It was the major social event in town.  Money was bet in huge amounts on the contests.  I don’t doubt there was a little drinking and eating before, during and after the events (“Chariot-gating” rather than “Tailgating”?).  I suspect “trash talking” even happened.   I remember reading that part of the justification for the gladiators performing was “it is their only way out of a tough life” (in their case, slavery).

Isn’t that the same thing we say now about many of our football players?  We justify having them part of football so that they can “get to college” and “have a chance to better themselves away from the rough life back home”. The fact that most of  the gladiators eventually died or were seriously injured  in the ring was part of the risks of the “sport”.  But I suspect the Romans moved on to the next “Chosen One”.  Is it ironic that we, too, find it inconvenient when a player gets hurt and can no longer play?  Don’t we consider the gladiator battles of ancient history to be “barbaric”?

I recently read an article in Sports Illustrated.   Jim McMahon, ex-quarterback for the Chicago Bears, had four (officially diagnosed) concussions playing football.  But now at age 53, he has early onset dementia almost certainly caused by football trauma to his brain.  He is part of a large contingent of ex-NFL players with serious brain injuries.  A number of football players have died recently, many at their own hands, at an age that is too young – Dave Duerson, Junior Seau, Alex Karras.  We still don’t have all of the answers, but the powers that be in football (especially the owners) are not willing to concede the cause and effect of football and life-shortening injuries.  How “inconvenient” for our modern-day gladiators.

When I watch the vicious hits in football (yeah, I still watch games) and hear the analogies to “war”, battles” and “contests” I wonder what we are supporting.  More thoughts on this subject to come.

Voting Early

In the state of Ohio, voting has already begun for the November 6 election.  Yep, people are already voting nearly one month in advance of the official election day.  According to the Dayton Daily News, nearly 30% of all votes to be cast this year are expected to be cast early.

The rationales for allowing voting are varied.  In some cases it is for absentee ballots.  Those folks who are going to be away from home, out of the country or perhaps serving in the military need the ability to vote.  I’ve also read that it is occurring to “avoid lines at the voting locations”.   I have not run into that one whenever I vote.  Is it really that big an inconvenience in Ohio that we need to give people so much more time?  I’ve also read that allowing early voting is to assist the elderly and less mobile who find it hard to get to the polling places.  Have times changed so much in the last 100 years that we need to make this change?

I am troubled by two things.

First of all, voting weeks before the election day seems to me to defeat the  premise of  an “informed electorate”.  For those people who vote a straight ticket (always Democrat or Republican), I guess it does not matter.  But how do these same folks know so much about all of the local elections and the Issues on the ballot?  Do they really know what Issue 2 is all about?  How about issues 28 and 29?  There has been relatively little provided on the issues up until now.  And do the masses really pay attention to the issues so far in front of the election day?  I wonder if we are really voting based on any knowledge.

Secondly, I really wonder about voter fraud.  When you have to vote in person on election day there is a (supposedly neutral) volunteer election worker there to make sure you really are the person you say you are.  Voting from home takes away that eye test.  What is there to make sure that “Aunt Martha” or “grandma” really cast that ballot in an informed manner?

Perhaps none of this voting a month in advance makes any difference.  Perhaps the people are as well-informed as they ever will be.  Maybe more time makes no difference.  Maybe no politician or group will make a major mistake or provide shocking information in the final month of the campaign that will change any person’s opinion.  Maybe this is exactly what our Founding Fathers had in mind – everyone having the opportunity to vote whenever and however they wish.  It might be likely that a majority of the people who vote early provide a much better informed electorate than if we made everyone vote on election day.

That is a lot of “perhaps” and “maybes”.  Food for thought.  Call me a skeptic, but I am not buying it.

I’ve become part of the extreme!

at least I feel that way.  Let me explain.

From all indications, the vast majority of people in the US are strongly planted on one side or the other of the political divide.  I am in the “extreme” group that believes in compromise and consensus.  There are few of us.  I am troubled by any idea that is rooted in the words “never” (and words like it: “not ever”) and “always”.  I reject philosophies like these:

  • We can never allow fracking for oil; We must always allow fracking wherever business wants
  • No new taxes, ever
  • We should never engage in a foreign war; We should fight wherever we want
  • Everyone that needs it should get welfare; Welfare needs to be eliminated
  • No immigrants;
  • You must speak English in this country or get out
  • I will never vote for them because they are a (Republican or Democrat – insert your favorite)

Another one of the things that makes my views “extreme” is that I am willing to admit that compromise may not always lead to the best solution after it has been instituted.  The compromise that gave us slaves equal 3/5ths of a person in the Constitution was abhorrent.  The compromise that led to Prohibition was a disaster.  Compromise and consensus don’t always work.  But they are critical to any business, relationship (try to get your own way every time with your spouse and see how that works) and in politics.  Has anyone met a liberal or conservative who is willing to admit “we were wrong” about anything?

I understand people say “you must stand up for your convictions”.  I also understand that we all must have a few moral convictions that cannot be swayed.  Those are the bedrocks of humanity.  I am not suggesting that people give those up willingly.  But you only get a couple of those convictions  in my book. In my way of seeing things, you have to be willing to work with others – even those you disagree with – to make progress.

I wonder in today’s world if the compromises that led to the making of the U.S. Constitution or that led to the child labor laws of the 1920’s or the Civil Rights laws of the 1960’s could possible happen in today’s world.  I sincerely doubt it.  Why else would we have the brinkmanship that has been going on over the past year or so on the debt ceiling?

I’d welcome more people in the “extreme” with me.