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February 24, 2015

[shorenstein] CNN Digital’s New Rules for Modern Journalists

Meredith Artley , editor in chief of CNN Digital, is s giving a Shorenstein Center talk on “new rules for modern journalists.” [Disclosure: I sometimes write for I don’t know Meredith and she doesn’t know me.]

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Meredith started at where most of the work was copying and pasting into online. She left as second in charge. Then she spent five hears in Paris for the International Herald Tribune. Then exec. ed of She’s been at CNN for 5 years. Digital CNN includes, CNN Money on desktops and mobile, and more. There are 300 people on the digital team. Part of her remit is also to tap into the rest of CNN.

Rule #1: Slow down a bit.

For journalists, there’s more to consider than ever: writing, choosing images, building your personal brand across media. You need the discipline to be the best at what you’re doing.

For example, CNN had a story about this relentless winter. At first the headline was “Boston braces for more snow.” But that headline didn’t do very well; CNN tracks the clicks and other online responses. That headline tells you “Boston: More of the same.” So they came up with the headline “Boston would wave a white flag if it could see it.” That story went straight through the roof. A little emotion, a little wink.

#2: The best and brightest modern journalists pick a measure of success that matters to them.

Some video journalists pick completion rates: how many people make it through the entire 3-4 min video. Or time-spent on text stories. People viewed the story about the woman luring three young women into ISIS for an average of 6.5 minutes, which is a lot. “That’s powerful.” That tells CNN that maybe they can go long on that story. “We’re using the audience data to help steer us into our assignments.”

Another example: CNN gets a lot of reports of what posts are doing well. They had a lede that explained what’s at stake in the clash of powers in Ukraine rather than starting with that day’s developments. That got people into the story far more effectively

#3 Pick a social platform that suits you and suits your story — those are two separate things.

Facebook is good for several kinds of stories: for video, for evening publishing. Twitter is really good at reaching an influencer audience and having a connection to TV. Certain stories lend themselves to certain platforms.

Example: A correspondent was in a beseiged city. He did a Reddit AMA. The numbers weren’t astronomical, but the quality and caliber of the conversation was fantastic.

#4: Publishing is not the end.

The old model was that you hope your story gets posted prominently, and once it’s out, you’re done. The best and brightest rockstar journalists now know that publishing is the moment where you start to engage audiences, look at how it’s performing, thinking about how you might reach out to social media to get it seen, listen to the conversation around the story to see if there are followups….

E.g. At CNN Money they pore through data and find the best jobs in America based on particular criteria. Being a dentist made the list one year. CNN tweeted this out to the American Dental Association. “This is a great way to reach the people you’re talking about.” “It really isn’t enough these days to put it on a site, or tweet it and walk away.”

#5: Beware of the big and shiny objects.

There’s a lot of conversation about Snowfall. There’s a temptation to do big and beautiful things like that. But you have to pick and choose carefully. You can start slow: publish a little bit and see if there’s interest, and then add to it.

Example: A columnist, John Sutter, asked audiences to vote on the issues that matter to them. From child poverty to climate change, etc. He said they’d find stories to cover the top five. They thought about doing big multimedia productions. He did a story on the most endangered river. He tweeted during the process — very casual and low cost, not at all like a major multimedia production. “I like that iterative approach.”


Q: [alex jones] Your points #2-4, and maybe #5, are contrary to #1. Do you really want people to slow down?

A: I don’t find them contradictory at all. The point is to pick and choose. Otherwise there’s too much to do. Discipline is key. Otherwise it all becomes overwhelming.

Q: CNN on air’s strategy seems very different from On air the strategy is to pick one or two things and beat the hell out of them. Why doesn’t CNN make you the editor of the broadcast portion and have it be more reflective of what’s happening on the digital side?

A: Give me a few years. [laughter] At every morning’s meeting for all of CNN, we start with digital. When we framed the Ukraine story as an East-West proxy war, that becomes the on-air approach as well. CNN Air is a linear thing. That’s the nature of the medium. Most people watch CNN on air a bit at a time. So there was an intentional strategy to cover 4-5 stories and go deep. But because of the digital, we can go broader.

Q: How do you avoid feeling like you’re pandering when you make data so integral to the process? Not everything important is going to get the clicks, and not everything that gets clicks is important.

A: What’s important is what we’re going to do. We wouldn’t drop the Ukraine story if it didn’t get clicks. We use the data to make the story as strong as possible.

Q: Are there differences in how international audiences consumer digital news?

A: We’re seeing that the international audiences use social differently, and more actively. They share more. We’re not sure why. And, we see a lot of video usage in certain parts of Asia Pacific.

Q: How do you create synergies with traditional news media? Or do you?

A: You can’t keep TV separate from digital. Even within DNN Digital we have different pockets these days.

Q: Isn’t there some danger in media outlets sensationalizing headlines, turning them into clickbait? How can you best tread that line?

A: Clickbait is the scourge of the Internet. We don’t do it. We shouldn’t simplify into “Data bad, journalism good.” These are people who have training and instincts. We use data to help guide you to what resonates with the audience. We do it in service of the story.

Q: Can you talk about A/B testing of headlines? And we’re seeing software that turns structured data into stories. Is that the future?

A: We do A/B test headlines, all in service of the story, especially across the home pages. At CNN Money we’re A/B testing a photo with a headline above or below it. I’ve seen some examples of automated writing, but, meh. Maybe around a box score at this point.

Q: How do you see the relation between professionals and amateur journalists/bloggers?

A: CNN was early into this with I-reports. We also have the biggest social media footprint. (We check submitted reports.)

Q: The Ukraine report’s lede is more like what a newsmagazine would have done than like a newspaper lede.

A: Strategically that’s a shift we’re making. For any event there are a lot of stories that sounds the same. Commoditized news.So I’ve been asking our team to go deeper on the color and the context. We try to put it together and frame it a bit.

Q: Facebook has been emphasiszing native video. How you feel about that as opposed to linking to your page?

A: Its an ongoing discussion with Facebook.

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February 23, 2015

The library-sized hole in the Internet

Sarah Bartlett of OCLC interviewed me at some length about the future of libraries. You can read it here.

At some point I will write up the topic of my talk at the OCLC’s EMEA Regional Council Meeting in Florence: libraries as community centers…of meaning.


February 19, 2015

The joy of the public domain

When Doc Searls and I published our New Clues, we put it into the public domain. Even two months later, it feels good. In fact, seeing it reprinted in its entirety on someone else’s site fills me with an irrational exuberance.

Normally we would have put it under a Creative Commons BY license that entitles anyone to reuse it in whole or in part so long as they attribute it to us. CC BY is great. It takes the “#1. Ask permission” step out of the process by which what you write can be absorbed by your culture. Or anyone’s culture.

The public domain is different. A CC-BY license keeps a work copyrighted, but permits use without first asking permission. Works in the public domain are not copyrighted. Ok, so it’s more complex than that, but that’s basically it. A work in the public domain is like a folk song: you can sing it, you can change the words, you can record it and charge for the recording, you can print the lyrics on the front of your ice cream containers. You can even claim that you wrote it, although that would be wrong of you.

In practical terms, putting New Clues into the public domain [here’s how] really doesn’t do much that CC BY doesn’t do. Yes, someone could reprint our public domain document without crediting Doc and me, but they could do that with CC BY also — we’d have the right to insist that they provide attribution, but Doc and I are likely to use moral suasion in either case, by which I mean that we’d write a polite email to the evil doer. So, pragmatically, there isn’t much difference.

So why does putting it into the public domain make me happier? I get as close to smiling as my stony visage permits when I see a site that’s copied and pasted the whole thing. It makes it feel that what Doc and I wrote was really about what it says and less about what the writing says about Doc and me. The focus is where it should be.

And it feels deeply good to know that we have created something that can spread as far and deeply into the culture — and thus into people’s lives — as our culture wants. The only barriers are those of interest. And we’re not going to try to tease you with a snippet, with a taste. Not interested? Fine. It’s still there for anyone who is.

I expressed this to Peter Suber, who is dedicated full time to expanding the sphere and influence of Open Access works. Peter pointed out that my reaction rests in part on the privileged position I occupy: I can do some writing for free, and because Doc and I are known a bit within the domain of people who blab about the Internet, there’s a disincentive for people who might want to pass off our words as our own. If we were, say, unknown high school students it’d be easier for someone to get away with crudely plagiarizing our work. True enough.

Even so, putting work into the public domain feels good. I recommend you try it.


Peter Hirtle points out that Creative Commons 0 isn’t exactly the same as public domain, although functionally it’s identical. The whole question of trying to eliminate all copyright interests in a work is vexed. Peter points here for details and evidence of the complexity of the issue. Thanks, Peter!


February 17, 2015

[shorenstein][2b2k] Wesley Lowery on covering Ferguson and the effect of social media on the reporting ecosystem

Wesley Lowery is a Washington Post reporter, recently ex of the Boston Globe. He’s giving a Shorenstein Center lunchtime talk on covering Ferguson. [Afterwards: It was great.]

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Wesley’s reflections on the effect of social media on his ability to cover Ferguson seem to me to be especially insightful and nuanced. He does not cede all ground to social media, but instead uses it to do his job as a reporter, and sees its effect on every facet of his role.

Afterwards I asked him if the detailed view he gets from social media’s ability to let people tell their own story has affected his idea of what it means to “cover” an event. In particular, I asked him in our very compressed conversation whether he be satisfied if someone where to say to him, “I read you in every medium, and you’re the only person I need to read to get the Ferguson story.” He said he would be ok with that but only because so much of his social media contribution consists of references to other sources and other people, including to reports by other newspapers. Wesley is himself a web.

Wesley says he’s been covering the activities of Congress (“An easy workload,” he says to laughter). He was on social media on his phone as always when he started seeing Instagram videos of a shooting. “I jump over to Twitter and I see it’s getting traction among people who cover race.” The next day he’s getting off a flight to DC, checks his phone, and sees a fight has broken out, a gas station is about to burn down. “And I’m thinking, what’s happening in this place I never heard of?” He’s interested in race and ethnicity, so he decides to go to Missouri for a day. He’s there for six months (Aug. 11 – Dec. 11). “It became apparent really quickly that this was a story about more than an 18 yr old boy who got shot.”

He went to a NAACP town hall. He’s been to many, but over a thousand people were inside, and hundreds were waiting in the parking lot to hear what was going on. That’s when he knew that this was about something bigger.

Two days after the shooting, he meets up with someone who turned out to be important in the movement. [Didn’t get her name.] She agrees to guide him. Ferguson is a suburban town, he explains. He and she were walking up a side street when they heard the noise of a police-protestor standoff. They go to it and are hit with the first teargas of the protests. Lots of people who were just curious were caught in it — people coming out to see what the hubub was about, etc.

We see Ferguson through our own lenses, he says. But each state has its own history, own demographic issues, etc. “As I learned more about Missouri, I realized so much of the distrust is not about this shooting, but about the guy who was pulled over the week before.” Wesley interviewed a kid who later was in an iconic photo of him throwing a teargas canister back at the police. The kid said, “Look, when this is all over, you’ll go back home, but we’ll still be here.” [approx.]

Boston, Wesley says, has a perpetual middle child syndrome. “We’re as good as NYC!” we keep insisting. To be a reporter in Boston, Wesley had to go to extra lengths to understand Boston’s cultural and civic history. It’s easy for reporters to fall into reporting about places they don’t know, and do so in giant swooping gestures. Wesley’s aim was seek out local people who could inform him about the reality of the place. And maybe after writing two pieces a day for months he’d be in a position to write a swooping piece.

So he used social media extensively, mainly to show people things. If you are sitting in NY or Wyoming and want to know what Ferguson is, here are the images and voices. The newspapers tend to show us the same images. But here’s a photo of the block past the iconic burning gas station that you’ve seen a thousand times. “If you don’t tackle stories this way, you’ll lose your role as essential to understanding the story.”

Before social media, people couldn’t tell their own stories. Now they can. “I won’t forget the person who watched the shooting and live tweeted it. He said something like, ‘Fuck, the police just shot a guy outside my apartment.’ I could write about that, but he can now tell his own story.” And people now can take journalists to task for particular lines in a story. It used to be that we’d decide what’s newsworthy, says Wesley. The people who are there would have to wait until 6 o’clock to see if we deem it as newsworthy. Now the people participating in the event can shame the news media into showing up. It empowers people in a way that they’ve never been before.

We saw in Ferguson the depth and nuance of the stories being told. The reporters who were able to excel were able to engage in a two-way conversation, not a publishing conversation. That changed the tenor and the depth of our coverage.

We’re now having a large-scale conversation across America about policing practices. That may be a legacy of Ferguson, but we can’t tell yet.

For the medium, the legacy is: You have to engage people where they are and recognize they can tell their own stories. And we have to be in conversation with people, ineract them. The people we cover now have more voice than ever about our coverage, which means we have to be more interactive with them. Every story I write I wonder what the response will be. We have to be responsive.


Why did you become a journalist?

I’m not exactly sure. My dad was a journalist. My family valued it. But we clashed all the time. Even so, the first person awake brought in the newspaper, and that was the dinner conversation. That instilled a sense of the nobility of this craft that people today don’t grow up with. You became a journalist if you had some ability to take care of yourself economically, not to get out of poverty. It was for idealists. Now it frequently draws people who want to tell the story of the people they grew up with. And now there are fewer barriers to entry. You can be blogging on the side. I encourage people to go into the field It’s an amazing moment now. Everything is undecided.

Q: Are you a denizen of the Jeff Bezos wing of the Washington Post?

I don’t think that quite exists yet. A lot of Amazon is designed to make cognitive decisions lower, less friction. Now that people have so many more media choices, we have to be much more about giving readers access to the content they want. The people we’re bringing in are young, innovative thinkers, and it’s as if they’re saying, “We haven’t figured this out yet, but in three years we’re going to be awesome!” That’s the team I want to be on.

Q: How important do you think Ferguson will be ultimately?

A: It’s so hard in the moment to figure out what the moment is. In 30 yrs, Ferguson will be a linchpin, but it’s part of a whole line of events, including Katrina, the election of a black President, etc. We’ve been locked in a perpetual dialogue on race since the election of Obama. Ferguson turned a corner into action, for better or worse. This prompted the elected officials and the society to say that we can’t continue just talking about this. We have to do something. We’re still seeing demonstrations in a dozen cities every day.

Q: How does one live in a community all your life and not notice and do something about the racial imblance in the police force, for example?

A: The community is transient because it’s somewhat upwardly mobile. Few have lived in Ferguson their whole lives. [He talks about a popular African-American school superintendent fired by a mainly white school board.] The Brown shooting is part of a larger context.

Q: How do you manage pressure in the midst of such a heated environment? The community and the cops each feel unheard.

A: It’s remarkably tough. We get the feedback in real time while we’re doing it. We’re getting teargassed and someone is criticizing a word I used on Twitter. It creates this remarkable pressure. I tried to use the platform to amplify whatever anyone was telling me. But it’s hard to get the cops to speak. When they did, I’d tried to get out that word, too.

Q: What are the impacts of the coverage on the community?

A: The Internet makes us think we know about the news. We see the FB post about Ebola, but we don’t read the article. The deep saturation of media coverage often drowns out the depth of media coverage. Ferguson sorely missed having a newspaper there that was asking hard questions. There are places that really need someone to come in, notice that things are really messed up, make some information requests, etc. On the other hand, watching Ferguson on CNN burning for days and days has an impact. Our job, which we largely failed at, was to provide spatial context. Three blocks of Ferguson burned. It’s a big suburb.

Q: [missed it]

A: You’re no longer a mysterious person who’s name is at the top of the article. People read articles sometimes because they find the personality of the reporter attractive. As a reporter, who you are as a person is open to scrutiny and criticism and to feedback about things that aren’t about your work. It’s an occupational hazard now, but it’s also a positive thing: I have a lot of meaningful relationships via social media with people I don’t know. Huge pros and cons. Since Ferguson, I try to be more siloed. I take long periods of time when I’m not on Twitter — like for a day and a half.

Q: Why haven’t the mayor and police chief felt the need to step down in the face of the criticism? And how about your arrest?

A: It’s stunning that they weathered it. In part it’s because what people on the Internet say doesn’t matter. It’s the constituents who count. Also, if you’ve been taking a group of people for granted for so long, why start now? Media don’t have as much power as they think they do.

A: About the arrest: Me and a friend were the first journalists arrested in Ferguson. We were in a McD’s for the wifi. A SWAT suggested they leave because of imminent conflict. “Do we have to leave?” The police got impatient. [That’s my gross TLDR. Here’s Wesley’s news report, with video.]

Q: I start following you when you were live-tweeting the Marathon bombing. At some point, you became the story. How does that change your responsibility?

A: The “personal branding” — he hates that phrase — makes you as a reporter part of the story. In some ways it’s a more transparent interaction. You can gauge for yourself whether I’m handling it properly. We have an obligation to be fair, honest, and transparent. You have to recognize that the Internet world is very different from your real, personal life.

Q: What were the effective platforms that were getting it right? And who?

A: When the entire media show up, I look for the people who are telling the story a little differently. I had to do a bit of both. [He gives a list of reporters. I missed it entirely.]

Q: An interesting narrative was built up around Ron Johnson, African-American Highway Patrol captainm who was portrayed as a savior…

A: The media wanted a savior. Johnson was a soothing factor for a day and a half. But when a community is actually upset, it’s not appeased by the black state trooper who the media says is going to solve all the problems. It’s bigger than that.

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February 12, 2015

“Whiplash” better in memory

[NON-SPOILER ALERT: There are no spoilers in this that you wouldn’t get from the most general discussion of what the movie is about. Less, probably.] I saw the movie Whiplash on a plane yesterday. I thought it had some bright-colored acting and fantastic music, but was predictable. Every ten years or so there’s another movie about an inspiring teacher,. Sometimes the teacher is kooky or lovable. Sometimes the teacher is crusty or tough or very tough, but it’s all for the kids. Whiplash is a spin on that overall genre.

The acting was pleasantly hammy, as is the mode these days. And I’m longtime fan of J.K. Simmons. (Let’s not forget Cave Johnson.) But I ended the movie a bit disappointed. Elements of it were terrific. Overall: Saw it coming like a bridge after the second verse.

But today I’m remembering it more fondly. I’m going to suggest to my wife that she see it, and I’ll watch it again with her. Mainly because the music is fantastic: great performances, and great presentation of those performances. If you think you don’t like jazz, you should watch Whiplash just to make sure.

Just be prepared for some predictable cheese.

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February 11, 2015

Church and State merge, resulting in

Time Magazine has erased the line between editorial and advertising. Explicitly. Proudly.

The result? The current issue has a total of three pages of ads.

Plus, the cover story is a paean to Starbucks, making readers suspect that someone bribed a priest.

So, Time fails and journalism is made a little less trustworthy. Nice job, Time!

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February 8, 2015

Libraries as community centers…of meaning

Well, it’s snowing in Boston and I’m in Florence. Italy. (I’m SO sorry, Ann!) I’m here to keynote an OCLC EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) conference about libraries.

After three major revisions, I believe that on Tuesday I’m going to propose thinking about libraries as community centers. But not the usual sort where local people gather, work, socialize, play, learn … all good things, for sure. In addition, I’m going to suggest that they view themselves as community centers of meaning.

I know it sounds silly, and I’m open to better phrases, but I think it’s not entirely pointless. (The idea arose in a conversation with Robert Fleming, executive director of the Emerson College library. I’m teaching a course at Emerson this semester.)

The idea is simple. It used to be that once a user checked a book out of the library, the library was out of the loop. The user read it at home, talked about it with friends or a Significant Other, maybe spent an evening with a book club discussing it. The library might be slightly in the loop if they enabled users to review or rate books, or if they have an awesome Awesome Box. But even so, the pickings were pretty slim.

Now, of course, users are likely to talk on line about what they’re reading. At least as important, the library has tons of metadata that it can use to gauge how relevant an item is to its community, and even get a glimmer of what makes it relevant. Of course, much of this information is private, but there are ways to use it without violating anyone’s privacy.

If a community can be made more aware of what it’s finding meaningful and relevant, it can learn from itself, push its own boundaries, unearth new ideas, and find ever-better disagreements.

Note that I am not suggesting that libraries curate community meaning. Rather, libraries can provide services to facilitate the development of community meaning, making the community aware of itself. And this is of course an additional opportunity for librarians to contribute their own expertise at contextualizing and expanding our understanding.

Who is currently the custodian of community meaning? No one. Who is in the best position to be that custodian and facilitator? Your local library.


February 4, 2015

Understanding Title II reclassification, Common Carriage, and other mega-confusing FCC stuff just posted my “explainer” about what Title II reclassification means especially within its historical context — a context that shows that reclassification is the opposite of a “radical change.” It in fact reinstates the prior classification and uses centuries-old practices for common carriers.

What I wrote is entirely based on Barbara Cherry, who I thank for her expertise and incredibly patience in explaining it to me.


February 3, 2015

[liveblog][shorenstein] Peter Hart on the Presidential Race

Peter Hart

Peter Hart is giving a lunchtime talk at the Shorenstein Center titled “The Mood of America & the Presidential Race 20016.” Peter is a pollster

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Peter begins by lauding Alex Jones, who has led the Center for fifteen years and is leaving at the end of this semester.

Peter says it’s an “interesting time” and is going to report on a poll taken just before the State of the Union address.

The Michigan Consumer Index for 45 years has measured how positive we feel (looking at positive and negative words and phrases). We are nowat the highest level since Jan. 2004; its Sentiment Index has improved 20% since July 2014. This is a major change. A year ago, about 1 in 4 was satisfied and 7 in 10 dissatisfied. This month, it’s now far more balanced. Women and African Americans are showing an especially large gain in satisfaction.

Top priorities? For Republicans, 87% say it’s defeating ISIS. Democrats: 87% Creating jobs, and defeating Isis is at 71%. Some items show up among independents and Democrats that don’t show up for Republicans: Independents and Dems want to fix and keep ACA, fund the infrstraucture, and reduce inequality and increase the minimum wage. Iran’s nukes aren’t on the Democrats top concerns, but are the Republican agenda. (Only items that concern more than 50% of respondents are listed.)

Peter looked into Colorado in particular, via focus groups, and what stands out is the absolute hatred Americans have of the gov’t and of Congress in particular. People are bothered, frustrated, and uncertain. He tells about one respondent named Jennie. 43 yrs old. In procurement and contracts. Republican. She’s against marijuana legalization because of the economic implications. She’s voted straightline Republican for years. But she says, “I don’t know where I’ll be in 2016.” Peter asked, “Which candidate would you like to spend an hour with?” Answer: Elizabeth Warren. Jennie: “I think if she ran, she could be the next president. Personable, knowledgeable, and has a good handle on what’s going on in the country.”

When they got into the discussion, it turned out Jennie’s furious with Boehner because he said “Anyone who really wants a job, has a job.” But Jennie’s husband has been unemployed for 18 months. On immigration, she’s a Republican, but on education she says she was told people need more education so she went back to college. Now her student loan debt each month is twice her rent. It feels to her that everything in DC is stacked against her. “Jennie is a great example of what the Republicans will be facing in 2016. It’s not a matter of left and right.”


Q: [alex jones] How relevant will today’s polls be about how people will actually vote?

A: Not. Things change. The one Repub who came out of these focus groups was Rand Paul. Jeb faces the problems that he’s his brother’s brother, and people don’t relate to him. The numbers by themselves don’t make any sense. Remember the 1.5 hours when Herman Cain was the front-runner? The key is to see who has a theme, something to say to the country.

E.g., In 1998 al Gore came up to me at a party and wanted to go over every candidate who might run against him. I told him not to worry about that now but about what you want to say about to the country. He ended up with a “lock box” [SNL] At least Jeb Bush has a vision about where this nation should go. I think that makes him formidable. Same for Rand Paul. But the polls at this point are of no value.

Q: If you were advising the nominees, what would you tell the Dem and Repub to run on?

A: Two things, as always: Safety and economic security. Clearly Isis is at the top of the list. Look at Boston and Paris. It’s no longer a war. It’s radical terrorism. So, who’s going to make us feel secure? More important: how do we get our mojo back, a sense of economic security, confidence?

Q: What about immigration, gay marriage, etc., that are especially important to conservative Republicans.

A: The Republican candidates all have to travel the same path to get the nomination; it goes through social conservativism. Immigration remains a hot button issue. Same sex marriage has been litigated and the Republicans will figure out a way that they don’t have to face it head on. They’re on the wrong side of history on that one.

Q: The southern branch of the Dem party has captured it, but the primary states determine the nominee. Now there’s talk of a southern primary to trump that.

A: They will go through the same fights. The Republicans will get killed in the polls on immigration until they change, as Perry has. But it’s always the same purple states that decide the election, and the primary calendar doesn’t help you.

Q: The big primary states that the Republicans have to play to generally aren’t going to vote Republican in the general election.

A: We break out numbers for Tea Partiers, and there are huge gaps, up to 40%, from non-TP Republicans.

Q: Is Rand Paul Tea Party?

A: Yes and no.

Q: Who will it be in 2016?

A: No way in the world I’ll answer that. [laughter] The betting odds are Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush if you really had to pick at this stage. Would I bet? No.

Q: If it is, does either have an advantage in 2016?

A: A counter-cyclical thought: I’d handicap the advantage to the Republicans. From 1958 forward, we had a clue in the 6th year of a two-term presidency as to who the candidate will be. The off-years tell us that the Republicans can’t be ignored. So I put the odds a little better on the Republicans.

Q: Anything distinctive now in talking to people than in years past?

A: Two elements are striking. 1. Anger is much closer to the surface. In the past it would have been discouragement. 2. I don’t think people recognize how hard it is and how much of a struggle it is. How many of us have relatives facing a real economic struggle? [Not many hands go up. It’s Harvard.] This is the first generation that we think may be going backwards economically.

Q: Income inequality doesn’t show up in the Republican answers, maybe because they treat “income inequality” is a Democratic buzzword.

A: A single word can change results dramatically. We work on phrasing things well. Our phrase was “reducing income inequality between the rich and the poor.” Maybe that wasn’t neutral enough.

Q: Are the Dem and Repub demographics what makes the difference on the income inequality question? Are the Republicans you interviewed wealthier?

A: My favorite state is W. VA. It voted for Michael Dukakis but is now a solidly red state. It’s the only state in which there hasn’t been a big demographic change. They’ve just gone from economic to values voters.

Q: Since income inequality didn’t show up, how do you explain why the Republican candidates are now raising it?

A: Because they recognize that’s where the country’s at. That’s Jennie.

Q: Income inequality is less resonant than inequality of opportunity. Do you get at the distinction in your polling?

A: Not directly.

Q: As a pollster how do you think about identity? E.g., people vote for someone in part because they want to have a beer with him/her. How do you ask about that?

A: I spend a lot of time thinking abaout this. I think we make Congressional choices with our heads. Gubernatorial, mayors, and presidents are much more gut choices. In 2000, I asked a focus group: Let’s suppose that for the next 2 months you now have a 2-hour commute, and to get into the HOV lane you have to have either Bush or Gore in your car. Overwhelmingly people said Bush. They said: Bush will be interesting, we’ll talk about baseball. With Gore, they’d fall asleep at the wheel. But if you ask who you’d want as your lifeline on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Gore. Obama started with a personal connection but has become a much more remote figure as president. People don’t relate to him.

Q: [me] Do the political leanings çorrelate with news sources such as TV, newspapers, Internet, radio…?

A: The Net has been growing. Newsprint has been diminishing. The difference between a Fox viewer and an MSNBC viewer is day and night. Younger voters have a much wider sphere of getting information. Traditionally, when the source was TV, they tended to have more surface knowledge vs readers of newspapers.

Q: How is the hatred and frustration going to affect motivating people to vote?

A: I tend to believe that voting participation will be up in 2016 but you won’t have the same degree of interest in the African-American community unless there’s an African-American on the ticket. The most interesting group will be the under 30s. They voted in overwhelming numbers in ’08 and ’12. 2012 surprised us. If they turn out again, that will say something about participation going forward. If the two candidates are perceived as being the same, that will depress sturnout. [I may have gotten this wrong.]

Q: I’ve long been puzzled that Americans vote against their interests. But I’m wondering if the Republicans in fact reflect the true America. The Democrats represent a hodgepodge of special interest pressure groups.

A: The Democrats have always figured that people always vote their pocketbooks. But if you look at the Republicans for the past 10-20 yrs, it’s not economics alone. The Democrats have always been a pressure interest party. By talking to all their special interests, the Democrats lack a persuasive national msg. The Tea Party has cost the Republicans in the same way.

Q: Would it be political suicide to convene a constitutional convention to address the level of dissatisfaction?

A: It’d be a big step. In 2012 we thought a 3rd party could get double digit percentage of votes. In 2014 we thought there might be a broom party: sweep ‘em out. I think there’s still a possibility of that.

Q: How do the issues for independents and Republicans line up with the State of the Union?

A: The things that are important to get done are the ones we can’t get done. If the Republicans continue to do silly things, the SOTU agenda will give the Democrats an advantage — silly things like opposing health care and immigration reform. This could make the Republicans look like the irresponsible party. McConnell is trying to steer them in the other direction.

Q: I like your 6th year analysis. But the economy also tends to be pretty predictive of the general election. Is that model going to hold? This is an unusual recovery.

A: The consumer index I started with is going to soar. But I worry about Democratic Fatigue. I think Obama has figured out his legacy. He’s been a weak figure over the last 4 years. I think the public is now seeing a more positive persona. He’s going to be known as a liberal-left president. Does that make the country move more centrist?

Hillary’s campaign will be bigger than life. Everyone will have an opinion. It won’t be like Gore. She’s polarizing right from the beginning. In 2008 when she finished her run, 43% had positive and 41% negative. When Secty of State, it was 55% [?] positive. Now she’s back down.

Q: What do we make of the invitation to Netanyahu?

A: An ill-chosen decision. It may play very well to one segment of the Republicans but it’s so far away from Arthur Vandenberg. You don’t do something like this, especially right before an Israeli election.

Q: Are Clinton and Bush identified as their own people, or as Bill’s wife or George’s brother?

A: Hillary is definitely perceived as her own person. Everyone has a sharp definition of her and feeling about her. Her husband is 100% asset. Jeb is not defined enough, and people have more questions. A lot needs to be filled in. The one that’s working for him is that he has conceptualized 2016 and done so in a smart way: the country wants to figure out how to come together. He’s about consensus not confrontation.

Q: Did you reality-test people’s ideas about the deficit? Do people know that the deficit has gone down?

A: The public is lousy when you deal with all of those questions about the budget.

Q: If not Hillary, who might it be?

A: Anybody’s guess. The Democrats have a bench that’s one deep.

Q: Is Jerry Brown a possible candidate?

A: In his own mind.

Q: Would Warren be a viable candidate?

A: 1. Warren is perfect on one issue for an awful lot of Americans. But is she perfect in foreign policy, as Commander in Chief, etc.? 2. She has the potentiality of being the Robert Kennedy of 2016: Electric and different enough that you don’t know where it will go.

Do I think she’ll get in? No.

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February 2, 2015

Future of libraries, Kenya style

This video will remind you, if you happen to have forgotten, what libraries mean to much of the world:

Internet, mesh, people eager to learn, the same people eager to share. A future for libraries.

You can contribute here.

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