Thursday, October 1, 2009

Selected thoughts on the Atlantic October 2009

Selected thoughts on the October 2009 edition of The Atlantic:

Why Goldman Always Wins (by Megan McArdle)
McArdle makes an interesting point about how those that broker 'one shot deals' can demand such high fees. The analogy with paying a lot of money for a voice over on a movie trailer seems apt.

The Story Behind The Story (by Mark Bowden)
Disecting the media roll-out around Sonia Sotomajor's nomination, Bowden conducts a recounting of our modern media environment, and sheds light on how things really work. This piece reminded me a lot of points made recently by Dan Carlin on his Common Sense podcast. Namely, the motivaiton for news media to copy stories pushed by external groups (or other news entities) rather than offer their own in depth reporting. Bowden powers through a number of points, rising up to this rhetorical ode to journalism:
In this post-journalistic world, the model for all national debate becomes the trial, where adversaries face off, representing opposing points of view. We accept the harshness of this process because the consequences in a courtroom are so stark; trials are about assigning guilt or responsibility for harm. There is very little wiggle room in such a confrontation, very little room for compromise—only innocence or degrees of guilt or responsibility. But isn’t this model unduly harsh for political debate? Isn’t there, in fact, middle ground in most public disputes? Isn’t the art of politics finding that middle ground, weighing the public good against factional priorities? Without journalism, the public good is viewed only through a partisan lens, and politics becomes blood sport.
The Moguls' New Clothes (by Jonathan A Knee, Bruce C. Greenwalkd, and Ava Seave)
This trio of authors explains how and why major media companies have been and likely will continue to be unprofitable. This is an intriguing piece of contrarian analysis. At least, it goes against what seems to be the common MBA perspective on growth and success.

Dear President Bush (by Andrew Sullivan)
I don't really have much to say about Sullivan's piece. You should read his blog. If for some reason you don't, then check out this piece. Behind the conceit of the concept, there is a sobering recounting of the torture and other crimes that were committed in our name.

Cheap Laughs (by Christopher Hitchens)
Hitchens doesn't think highly of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. And has decidedly mixed feelings about Al Franken--a comedian who is falsely claims to be a satirist. Hitchens's close reading of one of Franken's books is wonderful. I don't watch the show any more, but do appreciate the infotainment nature of its character.

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