A few notes from my conversation with Guy Raz of ‘How I Built This’

For Technical.ly’s postponed, all-virtual Introduced conference, I closed out the day interviewing Guy Raz, the influential podcaster behind ‘How I Build This.’ He has a new book by the same name.

For those interested in economic development and entrepreneurship, the conversation is worth a listen. My colleague Stephen Babcock put together a nice recap, and here are a couple points I took away:

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“I want to be the best in the world at something.”

version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter several weeks back. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

Moments of terror can look purely foolish when the threat is removed.

After you leap in fright, it’s pretty funny that it was just a broom that caught your eye in the dark. Even when the terror was real, after we survive, we usually can eventually joke about being stuck in that elevator. Later on, we have a tendency to laugh about the risks and stress. With doom removed from memory, romance can flourish.

I do find that soothing. When you feel like you can’t survive something, rest assured that afterward either it will be a hell of a story or, as a boss used to remind me, “you’ll be dead, and nobody expects you to show up for you own funeral.”

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News organizations: how do you get throughout feedback from your community?

I assume that the idea of ‘letters to the editor’ was once a representative and effective means for news organizations to receive feedback from their community.

I’m not certain it remains so. For one, those can of course only be sent in for what has already been announced. I also get the sense not many reporters really listened or could gauge the preponderance of feedback.

The rise of quantitative surveying helps, though of course surveys are also not necessarily representative. We at Technically Media do our fair bit of surveying, after events and annually too. We also host regular curated groups of readers and (importantly) those we aspire to be readers of ours.

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Three emerging approaches to local journalism

It’s no longer quite right to say journalism as a whole is imperiled by the internet-age. In the last decade, powerhouse national outlets have made the business model leaps. Other important and influential national and global organizations gather and produce valuable information for the civic good. Their concerns are now with truth and partisanship and objectivity. These are heady issues but they’re not directly revenue problems.

This is different from publishers with a geographic focus; previous business models don’t comport simply with web-powered scale. Local journalism is very much in crisis. I know this personally and professionally, so I follow trends closely with an applied viewpoint

I’ve long thought that we at the news organization I cofounded a decade ago are something of an outlier, trying to approach local reporting through a for-profit, multi-local strategy. (I wrote here about why Technically Media is not a nonprofit). Recently though I’ve noticed that we may fit into one of three broad approaches I see tackling local news.

This is made clear by the strengthening of the country’s superstar national commercial journalism providers as the collapse of the dominant local forms continues apace. Web-powered scale has laid bare that national and local outlets are in entirely different categories. 

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When ordinary fear is enough

version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter several weeks back. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

I used to think all the great kinds of fear were personal ones. Artisanal fear; handcrafted fear; the kind of things that came with a story worth telling. Being lost a bit too long in Japan; crashing an ATV in Qatar; Running with the bulls. Some real life or death adventure, lest I fall victim to ordinary fear.

Back in late March, when it became increasingly clear that it was altogether conceivable that our healthcare system could collapse under the weight of this pandemic, I recognized I was experiencing a kind of universal fear. Certainly not ordinary, exactly, but something so widespread as to begin to feel ordinary. A universal fear that very nearly every person on the planet was experiencing at the same time.

Perhaps there has never been a time when more people in the world were scared of the same thing at the same time.

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Civility is complicity

White Americans often have a habit of assuming the best intentions. It’s a habit I still confront in myself.

We have faith in our institutions and in American exceptionalism. Especially the educated middle class and wealthier among us have been trained to be polite and respectful. We are predisposed to acquiesce.

I’ve struggled with this myself, both as someone who does believe a lot of important work can happen behind the scenes (calling in, rather than calling out) and as a journalist who is washed in the belief of “getting both sides.” This approach as it’s time to be effective. Issues of racial equity is not one of those times.

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White Silence is Violence: a self-audit on doing the work

I run a community journalism organization in part because I believe independent voices that push honest, challenging and productive dialogue are vital.

Especially because of our audiences (a political range of business and civic minded with Technical.ly; and a social services coalition with Generocity.org), we can be a force for change in our communities. I find that everyday, which keeps me excited by our work. It’s even more true in moments of intense scrutiny.

On the heels of a pandemic and an ensuing economic shock, we are in the midst of one of the most consequential conversations on racial equity in a half-century — sparked by yet another high-profile murder of a Black man by a white police officer. I’ve found myself taking a critical look at how I’ve responded. I don’t do enough, but I’ve certainly already been to the “Acceptance Stage of Grief for white supremacy.”

Continue reading White Silence is Violence: a self-audit on doing the work

Kim Crayton on Antiracism

The pandemic has removed distractions and laid bare this country’s foundation, allowing for the largest, most sustained, widespread protests in a half-century to bring about this generation’s high-water mark in white American’s engagement with racial equity.

Do something about it.

Dubbed the Antiracist Economist, Kim Crayton led a virtual version of her Introduction to Being Antiracist Saturday. My small community journalism organization paid for several coworkers and myself to attend, and we kept up a constructive dialogue as a team through the three-hour session.

For years, our company has done past trainings and our reporting approaches seriously economic systems and still Kim’s approach and passion was enlightening, challenging and productive. For teammates who were new to this work and those of us who have tried to put in the work before, it was meaningful time well spent. (Thank you Kim)

You should engage her for your company, or attend her future seminars. (She does six-month engagements with companies and has other upcoming sessions This is not a duplication of her work, just sharing a few top-level notes that I can return to.

Read her 5 Stages of Grief for White Supremacy. Thanks to her prompting, I consumed and put together some notes on a podcast season called ‘Seeing White.”

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Notes from Scene on Radio’s ‘Seeing White’ in 2017

Ahead of an Antiracist seminar that several coworkers and I are attending, organizer Kim Crayton recommended attendees listen back to the popular 2017 podcast season of Scene on the Radio ‘Seeing White.”

Though it’s several years old, I appreciated listening in greater detail and with fresh eyes. It’s as timely today as ever. Here I will share notes for me to return to, but I strongly suggest you listen to the entire excellent 14-episode series on “whiteness,” the historical construct of race and its implications today.

Continue reading Notes from Scene on Radio’s ‘Seeing White’ in 2017