Posts from September 23, 2004

Calling Kerry’s brand manager

Calling Kerry’s brand manager

: We often say in blogs that the wise company will spot somebody complaining about its product or brand in a blog and respond directly to serve that consumer and win him back.

Well, perhaps Kerry’s brand manager (yes, if only he had one) should respond to this post from my friend, colleague, and fellow blogger Joe Territo, which ends:

I’m starting to question my own, somewhat recent decision to vote for Kerry. Can somebody who is running what appears to be such a weak campaign possibly be a strong and effective president? I am starting to buy into the Republican argument that even though I don’t agree with Bush, it’s better to have a leader who is clear and straightforward than one whose message is muddled. Please, somebody, talk me out of this spiral back into Bush’s corner.

All Dan All The Time

All Dan All The Time

: Andrew Tyndall — who publishes a respected report on network news coverage — posts this in a comment below, reacting to my reaction to Glenn Reynolds’ post about blog (and thus media) coverage of scandals v issues. He starts quoting Glenn:

“If the Big Media were talking more about issues, and less — to pick RatherGate as the example which I think inspired this conversation — about Bush’s National Guard service, probably bloggers would be talking about issues more, too.”

As big a story as the 60 Minutes memos are in media circles and the blogosphere, it is flat out untrue that it has dominated campaign coverage in the aforesaid Big Media.

Last week on the three networks’ nightly newscasts combined (including CBS, which spent extended time to defending its own reporting), the memos accounted for less than one quarter of all Campaign 2004 coverage (14 minutes out of 61). The previous week–when the story broke–it was a similar small proportion (17 minutes out of 68). Our tracking data on campaign coverage is archived at

Valuable data. Is one quarter a lot?

Oh, Danny boy

Oh, Danny boy

: Dan Rather is throwing his boss, CBS News President Andrew Heyward, to the wolves in today’s New York Times:

“This is not verbatim,” Mr. Rather recalled. “But I said: ‘Andrew, if true, it’s breakthrough stuff. But I need to do something unusual. It may even be unique. I have to ask you to oversee, in a hands-on way, the handling of this story, because this is potentially the kind of thing that will cause great controversy.’

“He got it. He immediately agreed.”

Nope, Dan. It came out of your mouth. You’re responsible.

: It’s also troubling that the Rather camp apparently tells The Times that he is opposed to the appointment of Dick Thornburgh to the baby-blue commission investigating him:

Mr. Rather considers Mr. Thornburgh a confounding choice in part because he served two Republican presidents, Mr. Bush’s father, and Richard M. Nixon, with whom Mr. Rather publicly clashed, the colleagues and associates said.

Well, who the hell do you think they should appoint? Ted Kennedy?

Issues2004: Education

Issues2004: Education

: My issue with education is that we keep attacking the bottom without pushing the top.

Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative is a fine thing. Kerry doesn’t fight it on his site and vows to go enforce it. Fixing bad schools is vital. Nobody can disagree with that.

I have one complaint about the initiative: its reliance on testing. I say we already depended way too much on on testing, from standardized measures in elementary schools through the dreaded SATs. I know testing doesn’t treat all students fairly or accurately. We all know that teachers and school systems reorder themselves to game the test: they teach the test rather than teach. And the industry that has popped up around gaming the SATs is an offensive waste of money and brainpower. Still, I understand that you can’t measure whether children have been left behind without testing them. So fine.

I also understand the resource and effort put into mainstreaming children with educational difficulties of all sorts. It’s good for those children and good for those around them. I’m not going to be politically incorrect about this. But make no mistake about it: The cost is tremendous. Every extra dollar a district can find goes into extra attention for children with problems of one sort or another.

At the same time, all across the country, we’ve worked so hard to level playing fields that we don’t let the best stand out; it’s damned near politically incorrect in some districts to be smart. In my day, we “tracked” students by ability and I believe that worked well for everyone; it pushed the best to do their best and it didn’t intimidate the rest and allowed them to do their best as well. Tracking is out now.

Well, if fixing bad schools is all we do, and if extra resources mostly go to children with problems, and if we make everyone equal — if we put all this effort into raising the lowest common denominator — then we’ll give short shrift to another important job: We also have to raise the nominator. We have to challenge the best and the brightest. We must nurture genius.

I would have hoped that Bush, as a Republican, as a business President, could have framed this properly: Great education is our best investment. The more we train students to innovate in science and technology and math and the arts (remember that entertainment is a huge industry and gigantic export), the more we inspire them to create, the better chance we have to profit and compete and grow. Education is not just a social issue but a business issue.

So what do we do about that? The problem is that whenever we talk about improving education, it means money. Special programs for children with special needs costs money. Special programs for gifted kids costs money. Funding research costs money. Voters — and talk-show hosts — everywhere complain about that. But teachers still don’t earn much (and that affects the quality of teachers we get). Vicious cycle.

Look at Bush’s plan or Kerry’s and you’ll find lots of proposals for lots of programs. I’m no expert, as I’ve emphasized in all these Issues2004 posts. So I can’t really dig into all their suggestions and say what will work and won’t. But I do know that many of us are frustrated with this vicious cycle; we want better education. I simply think that pushing the top is almost as important and beneficial as fixing the bottom.

Your priorities?

David Letterman’s No. 1 way for CBS to improve its image

David Letterman’s No. 1 way for CBS to improve its image

: “Oh, I dunno, stop making up crap.”