Friday, December 12, 2014

Think You’re Responsible? Read This, Then Answer

“Now I will tell you why I am so serious and severe about this. I despise irresponsible people ... An irresponsible person ... makes vague promises, then breaks his word, blames it on circumstances and expects other people to forgive it. A responsible person does not make a promise without thinking of all the consequences and being prepared to meet them.”

—Ayn Rand

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Simply Adding a Number to a Headline Can Make a Big Difference

The Congressional Budget Office
Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2015 to 2024

Catherine Rampell
79 Options for Reducing the Deficit

How to Write a Follow-up Cover Letter

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.

How to Articulate the Perfect Elevator Speech

Speak in benefits.

Instead of This
Try This
I’m a detail-oriented editor.
I can change the critical words on your website that will convert passersby into customers.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Devil’s in Even the Smallest Data

Two examples:

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, 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.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The 2 Secrets of Media Training Every Politician Must Master

1. Repetition Is King

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.”

Adapted from Matt Miller

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The 5 Pillars of Wikipedia

1. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Makes sense, right? It's not a textbook, it’s not a directory, but an encyclopedia.

2. Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view. Wikipedia should be descriptive, not opinionated.

3. Wikipedia is free content that anyone can use, edit, and distribute. In a sense, no one entity owns or controls all of Wikipedia.

4. Editors should treat each other with respect and civility. If Wikipedia is going to work, everyone needs to get along.

5. Wikipedia has no firm rules. Rules are meant to support the encyclopedia, and can change over time.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Most Valuable Advice Ever

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.”

A Rare Look at Design Genius Jony Ive: The Man Behind the Apple Watch

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The 2 Best Bloopers From the Midterms



Monday, November 3, 2014

Which Media Get Which Scoops

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.

Paul Farhi

Saturday, November 1, 2014


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.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Do You Still Need a Media Kit Today?

Media kits aren’t as popular as they used to be; they’re being replaced by the “About” or “Advertising” section of a website.

Here are my two favorite examples of the former—plus the one above. Here are some good examples of the latter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The 6 Secrets of Releasing Bad News Under the Radar

Step 1: No News

“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.”

—Adapted from a memo by White House communications adviser David Dreyer to Lloyd Cutler, special counsel to the president, in June 1994, in preparation for congressional hearings on Whitewater and the death of Vince Foster.

Why Politicians Are Emailing You Questions

“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.”

John Dickerson

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why Editors Matter

“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.

David Carr

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Secret That Great Marketers Know That You Don’t

“Great marketers know a secret that most businesspeople don’t. I’m going to share it with you now: you can go from losing money to making a fortune just by changing a few words.

“What words are those? The first words… in any letter, ad or webpage. The words that make up the headline.

David Garfinkel

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Do You Work in Social Media? Then Here’s the Perfect Description of Your Job

“However we can infiltrate people’s habits, or think about different ways of delivery, discovery, optimization, packaging, or just reader engagement, we want to do it and we want to try it.”

Callie Schweitzer


How the Downworthy plug-in works:

For example: