Welcome to the QTBS, where we understand that certain things are patently obvious, but we feel the need to point them out anyway…
– OK, there’s innovation, there’s desperation and then there’s this. When Newsweek decided to try something completely different and to move away from the “shackles” of the old news-weekly format, I don’t think this is what readers had in mind. Stephen Colbert is fine, I think he’s funny, but he’s not a JOURNALIST (which we scream a lot about when people tend to pick at Jon Stewart). This can go one of two ways: a) he does a lousy job and you continue your slide toward completely epic fail or b) he upstages Jon Meacham by doing a much better job, which means you’ve always been in the land of epic fail. You really want to up circulation and buzz? Let Larry Flynt run the show for a while. That’ll guarantee that I’ll keep my subscription…
– Hey, Katrina victims! Those trailers we said we were going to take back, even though we had no use for them?For a five-spot they’re yours! (Score one for common sense…)
– In a more serious vein, is there a way we could do something to raise some cash like we did with the school journalism projects? Maybe a “buy a trailer” program or something? Sounds semi-formed and somewhat trite, but I’m serious in the idea that some folks probably don’t have five bucks to kick around so if we could help, that’d be worth doing.
– Here’s how faith in machines will land us in 2018 with Marcus Wright and Kyle Reese: Dad and I went to a local home improvement store yesterday to buy stain for the deck we wanted to repaint. The kid running the stain section showed us a nice redwood color chip and said about one gallon should cover. When we got it home, it looked pink, but you can never really tell until it dries. However, as it’s drying, the deck looks like Pinkalicious threw up on it. Halfway through, we’re out of stain and I had to go back to the store to get another gallon. Another guy mixes it and sends me on my way. When Dad opens it up, the stain is blood red and looks nothing like what we have on the deck. We go back to the store and this time the kid is there and he mixes a third gallon, using the same specs. This time, it looks like the second gallon. So Dad asks the kid, “Can’t you just screw it up the way you did the first time so we can finish with that color?” The kid’s response, “The computer says these are all the same color.” Obviously they weren’t, so the kid calls the manager over. The manager looks at all three lids and says, “These should be the same.” My response, “OK, but they’re not. Can’t you color match this? Your commercials have people bringing in plastic hippos that you can match color-wise.” He says he can’t do it, so we can either take the second and third gallon for no charge and he’ll refund all the money we spent on stain or he’ll try to get us a third color that might be close to the first color. I took the money and we repainted the deck. The whole way home Dad kept muttering, “Computers never make a mistake…”
– From the “Me thinks she doth protest too much” file: Clemson is having a field day fending off allegations that the school has manipulated its approach to education in order to increase its position in the U.S. News and World Reports rankings.A speech by a current staff member at Clemson has outlined the various ways in which they have gamed the system to move up in rank. None of the activities are illegal, but they border on the unethical in the mind of some folks. Here’s the thing that gets me: A ranking system is meant to be manipulated. It’s why Michigan plays East South Central Western State University and Barber College every year in football while guaranteeing the ESCWSUBC a six-figure pay day for agreeing to the game. It’s why academics publish in lower level journals so they can ratchet up the number of publications they have on the ol’ vita. It’s why Barry Bonds (allegedly) took enough steroids to make his head grow a size or two over his career. They want to climb the ladder. If you’re being ranked, you want to move up. It’s that simple. Some of the ways they did this (lowering class sizes, raising salaries etc.) aren’t that bad of ideas. Some of it is in the gray area, as they tended to shave a couple slots off of each class where the difference between 20 kids and 16 kids made a big deal in the rankings, but it’s not criminal. (The salary thing was a little iffy, still…) The bad thing out of this was the railing, screaming fit Cathy Sams felt necessary to throw as a result of the speech about Clemson’s maneuvers. (I have no idea why every PR flak on earth seems to feel the need to use the word “outrageous” to describe something that’s probably true, but isn’t well-received by the flak’s institution.) She would have been much more effective saying: “Hey, we set a goal to move up to the top 20. We have been told what we need to do to get there. We are doing those things. If you don’t like it, come get us.” As Linus once said in Peanuts, “As the years go by, you learn what sells…”
– Sad news today in Cleveland, asformer Indians owner Dick Jacobs died today at the age of 83. Jacobs bought the Indians in 1986 when they were a laughing stock and helped bring them to the cusp of greatness. He helped bring Cleveland its first two pennants since 1954 and helped push the city to fund Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field). He was a developer and a visionary to the point where people didn’t always know what he was doing, but they were smart enough to follow him. He made it cool to like the Indians while also making a heck of a profit for himself and others. When I was just out of college, Jacobs had issued a huge block of Cleveland Indians stock, which had no controlling rights, no dividends and no real value. The stuff sold for $15 a share when it was released. He was banking on the idea that fans would love the ability to own part of the team and he was right. For my birthday that year, my folks bought me 10 shares, which at that time was valued at about $6 a share. About a year or so later, Jacobs sold the team to the Dolan family, which wanted to take the company private again. They bought out all the shares, including those owned by Jacobs, for about $24 a share. It was a forced sale, so all non-returned shares would become valueless, but they promised to cancel your certificate and return it to you. So I got about $240 out of the deal and I still have my certificate, stating that at one point, I was an owner of the Cleveland Indians. Jacobs, obviously, made much more… Still, it was his willingness to salvage my favorite team that made him a hero in my mind, even if the bottom line for him was always the bottom line.
– And finally, a moment of respect and silence for those who, 65 years ago tomorrow, changed the fate of the free world by offering themselves up duringthe Invasion of Normandy. A former student of mine once had a line on her email signature that said “A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life wrote a check made payable to ‘The United States of America ‘ for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.'” A sincere bit of thanks to all who serve for that willingness.
Thanks for letting me share your air. Be back next week.