Michael Kinsley does it perfectly in this letter to the New Republic from 1975.
This is an inquiry about a summer job. I wrote to Marty Peretz, who is a former teacher of mine, several months ago, but received no response. Under the assumption that he is a busy man I have declined to take a hint, and now write to you. A resume and some samples are enclosed. They are mostly humorous (at least in intent) but, as the resume indicates, I have written serious pieces as well for various publications and have a Nader book coming out in the fall whose tone could best be described as morose. Friends at TNR might be willing to put in a good word for me: Tom Geoghegan or Eliot Marshall among the old guard, or Linc Caplan among the new. Tom and I were roommates for two summers while I was working for Nader and he was working for you. I know Ralph would vouch for me, and I hope Marty would as well. Thanks very much.
1. What works in social media doesn’t necessarily work in email.
According to Teddy Goff, who ran the first Obama campaign’s digital operations, the best subject lines emphasized fear (e.g., “I Will Be Outspent,” “Scary Number” and “Last Chance”), whereas the best social content emphasized hope and change.
2. How people find your content predicts how much they’ll read.
According to Nicholas Thompson, the top editor for NewYorker.com, those who access New Yorker articles via the magazine’s Twitter channel finish reading more articles than those who arrive via non-New Yorker Twitter channels.
One day, while sitting in traffic between meetings, I left 10 virtually identical voicemails for potential donors, each nearly two minutes in length, and each performed with the requisite conviction, spontaneity and touch of humor in just the same spots.
2. Values Before Policy
Mattis taught me always to lead with values before getting into policy, a key lesson in my evolution from commentator to candidate. It’s what Bill Clinton always did. “Don’t be a pundit in your own race,” Mattis coached. “People don’t want analysis—they want a leader.”
In 1985, the year Jobs was forced out of Apple, Jony Ive was in design school in England, struggling with computers, blaming himself.
“Isn’t that curious?” he says now. “Because if you tasted some food that you didn’t think tasted right, you would assume that the food was wrong. But for some reason, it’s part of the human condition that if we struggle to use something, we assume that the problem resides with us.”
The New York Times tends to be the administration’s favored recipient for foreign policy and national security leaks.
The Wall Street Journal (and, to a lesser extent, Bloomberg News) is the White House’s go-to outlet for economic policy developments.
The Washington Post gets its share of advance information about budget issues and government agencies. Politico’s Mike Allen, who writes the insider Playbook feature, is a favorite for officially leaked personnel moves.
The Associated Press and USA Today—the biggest domestic news service and the most widely circulated newspaper, respectively—get whatever is left over.
After being contacted by Time, a computer with an IP address registered to the National Park Service made alterations to the Wikipedia page for the Brinkerhoff Lodge. A phrase describing the property as a “vacation lodge” was changed to “historic lodge.” A phrase noting the Brinkerhoff’s history as a destination for “VIP housing” was deleted.
“If there is more information that is new, get it out the door before the hearings begin,” Dreyer wrote. “We do not want new revelations at the hearings. The hearings must rehash old news.”
Step 2: Keep ’Em Waiting
“We should make the hearings expensive and inconvenient for the networks to cover; boring and inconvenient for the press to follow. The hearings should start late, never on time. We should encourage votes on both the House and Senate floors. The Committees should adjourn to vote, never have a relay of committee members to keep the hearings going.”
Step 3: Put ’Em to Sleep
“We encourage detailed opening statements by every Democrat on both Banking panels. We want detailed statements by our opening witnesses. We advocate starting the hearings on Thursday, so that the weekend forces a premature media judgment on whether the hearings are worth watching. An early technical or procedural battle over, for example, scope would also suit our objectives.”
Step 4: Spin
“It is in our interest to dominate the news, and that will require a strong overall message and an even stronger tactical approach. Though their numbers may dwindle, reporters will be in those hearing rooms gavel-to-gavel. We need a two-cycle spin operation in the hearing rooms interpreting events for the reporters as they decide what is news.”
Step 5: Misdirection
“Anything we can do to move the focus from the issues inside the hearing room will be worthwhile. The president should be scheduled in ways that show him to be engaged in his serious work. He needs to be confident and self-assured in public appearances.
“Members of Congress should be programmed to do one-minute speeches and addresses in morning business talking about the political choice made by the two parties between health care and Whitewater. DNC and White House press operations should circulate overnight Arbitron ratings for the daily hearings.”
Step 6: Attack!
“Can we float some political analysis about the Republicans having as much to lose as the Democrats? We should be raising the heat on Senator] D’Amato, ’96 Republican presidential politics, and negative campaigning.”
“The poll questions candidates ask you in these emails are not intended to glean public opinion for the purposes of shaping policy. They’re measuring how much you engaged with their emails and using your answers to figure out what issue will make you likely to donate when they send you the next frantic email about that specific issue.”
“Civilians, people who don’t think the toppling of a sitting American president with newspaper articles is one of humankind’s lasting achievements, will read encomiums to Ben Bradlee like this one and wonder: what’s the big deal?
“After all, he didn’t cover the Watergate story for his Washington Post, he picked the reporters. It’s not as if he wrote the articles, he edited them. But journalists are people who will go where they are pointed, and Mr. Bradlee generally pointed to important, consequential subjects. People who worked for him went through walls to bring back those stories, some of which revealed the true course of American history and some of which altered it.