Year: 2009

The Impending Demise of Newspapers

We discuss it as if it is a bad thing. I, for one, am not willing to shed a tear if all newspapers disappeared.

A better question to ask is: will the internet spell the demise of journalism?

Absolutely not!! Did logistics die with the demise of the horse drawn carriage?

People are concerned about the well being of journalism because that is what is invaluable to the survival of a democracy. The good news is that journalism is not going anywhere even if journalists and journals are headed for extinction. It is being packaged and delivered in a different bottle as we speak.

The internet has spawned a new model of citizen journalists and a distribution channel that is unmatched in its speed and reach – the internet. People with cameras are everywhere – in places where Reuters and AP can only wish and prey they were! Youtube and a myriad wannabes provide an excellent platform for the dissemination of this news generated at the source – unfettered and unembellished. Nut jobs with cameras are everywhere. Don’t worry about the demise of “reality TV” – we will not miss it.

For the 5 people who read the New York Times magazine – you do have the option of bankrolling that drivel. Go on. Do it on your own time and dime. The rest of us are not going to miss it.

Equating journals and journalists with journalism in the name of “authenticity of information” is a disingenuous argument. Can you trust a single story coming out of a single network? When they are not spinning us – the same story looks diametrically opposite on FOX and MSNBC; NYT and Washington Times. These much vaunted titans of journalism completely missed the criminal Iraq war, the ferocious attack on our civil liberties and still cannot cut through the crime that this financial crisis and subsequent “bailout” is – of course there are a few notable exceptions but if you have to read Matt Taibbi on Rolling Stone then who needs New York Times?

The current structure of news generation and dissemination is rigged – from top to bottom – and our only hope is that the internet will and MUST change that if we are to thrive as a society founded on fairness and equality.

Here is Arianna Huffington’s spin on the topic. Not surprisingly, Ms. Huffington runs an extremely successful blog that makes a ton of money off content from newspapers. Yes, she does provide an invaluable service – links on blogs do lead to traffic on papers/other content providers. However, I disagree with her logic that we are moving towards a links and “not for profit” funded investigative journalism – just because she has funded one such venture in partnership with a non-profit. She has done so because she understands the irreplaceable role of “original” and “in-depth” journalistic pieces.

Now the $64,000 question is: what does this new model for entertainment and news REALLY look like? More on it soon…

Learning from Morons

Leadership lessons can be learnt from ordinary people around us. Believe me, when I say “ordinary” I really mean it. So here are two rock stars and what they have to teach us

 

Moron 1:

“People don’t understand the dictionary–it’s called queer. Queer means strange and unusual. It’s not like a slur, like you would call a white person a honky or something like that. You know, God is pretty explicit in what we’re supposed to do–what man and woman are for. Now, at the same time, we’re supposed to love everybody and accept people, and preach against the sins. I’ve had some friends that are actually homosexual. And, I mean, they know where I stand, and they know that I wouldn’t have them anywhere near my children. But at the same time, they’re people, and they’re going to do their thing.”

– Joe the Plumber aka Samuel Wurzelbacher  in Christianity Today.

Leadership Lesson: These religious fanatics in the middle east are really dangerous. (If Ohio could be considered the middle east)

Leadership Advice: Crap seems to be seeping straight from your crap mixer through your pie hole. You are a plumber, cork it.

 

Moron 2:

First semi-nude picture of Miss California was printed right after she cited her “faith” in opposing gay marriage. Her comment to the press:

“I am a Christian, and I am a model. Models pose for pictures, including lingerie and swimwear photos. Recently, photos taken of me as a teenager have been released surreptitiously to a tabloid website that openly mocks me for my Christian faith.”

In private, she assured the pageant management that this was the only picture of her revealing her “faith”.

Ms. Prejean – yes that is her name “Pre Jean”; one could not have made this up – sent an email to Keith Lewis, Co-Executive Director of Miss California USA, in which she purportedly claimed “This was when I was 17 years old. I was a minor. It was when I was first getting into the modeling world, being naive, and young. I shouldnt (sic) have taken the photo of me in my underwear. There are no other photos of me. This was the only one I took.”

Then came out the second picture.

Now, it is being reported that her father is gay.

Leadership Lesson: These religious fanatics in the middle east are really dangerous. (If California could be considered the middle east)

Leadership Advice: It seems you do not have a beautiful mind. You are a model, if you must, please ONLY reveal your outer self.

Kindle in the Barack

Well, that is how candle in the dark might sound on Kindle – Amazon’s vaunted book machine. Apparently, the “bookinator” pronounces “Barack” as “black” and “Obama” as “Alabama.” It pronounces “Celtics” with a hard c. The question is: was the coding outsourced to India? Just kidding folks.

The various justifications aside, speech recognition and rendition have come a long way – but is there ways to go?

The Senator is dead. Long live the Senator!

This is the official announcement of the demise of Wikipedia. Wiki = Good idea. Bad execution = Wikipedia. Good idea + Bad Execution = Back to the drawing board. This math is timeless. Pay attention.
Wikipedia apparently posted entries that announced the death of both Senators Kennedy and Byrd. The latter probably choked on his pretzel seeing a black man take oath of office for the president of the United States. To be fair, Senator Byrd has done a lot to redeem himself since his KKK days – youthful exuberance is such a misguiding influence! – and deserves our respect. But some digs are just too easy to pass up!
Now, Wikipedia is going to pre-screen all entries! Well, we are back to the gilded age of editorial. We should all rest assured that the drivel that is posted there is going to be completely inane now. Some of us are not impressed with the “editorial” power and its consequences. Remember 911?
In a country that exports democracy, ala Iraq and Afghanistan, and is apparently in a fight for freedom and our way of life, the “free” press completely missed the real story behind Iraq. When was the last time you read a story about Palestine in the New York Times? We are told that there is an “A Q Khan nuclear proliferation ring.” Really?
There is nothing more Orwellian about us than our “free” press.
So, here is my friendly reminder to the people at Wikipedia – understand your value proposition. Yes, even you are supposed to have a business model.

The Commode with Legs

According to a report the American banking sector is in the hole for $3.5 Trillion. In other words, American banking system is bankrupt. Now, on to the really shocking part.

According to a report the American banking sector is in the hole for $3.5 Trillion. In other words, American banking system is bankrupt. Now, on to the really shocking part.

According to a study done by the Associated Press, 9 out of 10 executives, who were in charge in 2006, are still gainfully employed at these banks. Some, as you know, are buying $50M jets. Some others are parking their ass on $35,000 “commode with legs.

The implicit irony in a system that has commodes with legs and regulators without back-bones is not lost on some of us. Government, President Reagan famously uttered, is not the solution; it is the problem. Well put, Mr. President.

Unfortunately, this government circus is all too often repeated in “governance” everywhere. The problem is not “government” or “governance” it is this kind of governance – one that has all the bells and whistles and costs trillions but does absolutely nothing – ample proof in what went on for the last 8 years under Bush. But sometimes it does even more harm by doing something – exactly in contravention to what its charter says. Watch what the congress is going now as the nation’s plane corkscrews into the ocean.

To those of you who, as a matter of habit, want to drive past the glaring and straight to the inane, here is the story

PS: John Thain may be clueless and arrogant, but he is not alone. He would’ve sat on that commode and wiped his ass with that $87,000 rug and thrown it into that $1400 trash can had he not been a target to deflect criticism off Bank of America’s other heroes. The shareholders of BoA and Americans who pay taxes still have a lot to worry!

Congratulations, we just bought a jet!

Sometimes, the best surprises are the ones we don’t know about. Huh! Well, surprise! You and I now own another corporate jet.

Congratulations, All!! We just bought ourselves a spanking new corporate jet! No kidding folks, check out this picture…

Congratulations, we just bought a jet!

Our jet is the state of the art Dassault Falcon 7X. Which, at $50M, is such a steal. No?

Unfortunately, we will not be able to take our family on a vacation on it any time soon because we collectively decided – don’t you remember? – to have Citi Group executives use it. Yes, these successful barons – beacons; doyens…- of business need it – yes they need it – to continue their excellent work that has led to the bank’s bankruptcy.

Wow, you must be so proud of yourself now! I certainly am.

So please reach out to your congressman or congresswoman and personally thank them! Better yet, please call Citi’s board of directors and thank them  😉

Managing by news

Leaders lead and, well, sheep follow. Which are you?

The US economy is in a tailspin. Each day brings worst news on business closings, earning disappointments, job losses and towns and people is jeopardy. Lives are being destroyed in this financial tsunami.
Here is a sampling of the business headlines today:
Each news item brings with it a slug to our collective face – each hit desensitizes us to the pain and suffering of others as it is only human to get numb after a point. Till, some aspect of this storm hits us, we will continue along our respective paths – shaking our heads, feeling sorry and feeling helpless. What can one do?
Get over your fear. Try to lead, for crying out loud.
So called “leaders,” perpetuate a problem and convert it into a calamity by putting on blinders and following the herd. If everyone thinks it is an opportunity then it must be. If everyone thinks it is a problem it must be. If everyone is cutting back then so should I.
The name of the game? No bandwagon left behind!
The bandwagon lined up now is one of doom and gloom. We are all screwed so let me set the ball in motion by simultaneously wringing my hands and laying-off people – isn’t that the fastest way to get your balance sheet in order?
It is but with a big problem. It is incredibly short sighted. Invariably, you are hurting yourself in the long run. The impact on employee moral – those who are left behind are not at their peak performance – and lost institutional knowledge is tremendous and unnecessary. Let’s face it, the moment the winds start blowing in the other direction you will be lined up right behind that wagon – eager to catch that wave.
What have these mindless cycles of hiring and firing done to shareholder value? Who cares!

A Failure of Governance

Another day, another story of corporate malfeasance. The cycle continues as shareholders look to “others” to manage their business. Good Luck!

Here is a story from the motherland that will make you stand up and take notice. Satyam – means “truth” in Sanskrit/Hindi – has been a big lie! The founder of the Indian software/consulting/outsourcing giant has just relinquished his management position admitting to widespread financial fraud – he had been cooking the books for a long time.

How could he go on reporting non-existent assets worth $1B on his balance sheet?

“What started as a marginal gap between actual operating profit and the one reflected in the books of accounts continued to grow over the years. It has attained unmanageable proportions as the size of company operations grew,” explains Mr. Raju. “It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten.”

Failure of governance,” opines Mr. N R Narayan Murthy, founder and Chairman emeritus of Infosys. But what does he know.

I like Bush’s explanation better – “the asset mistake just happened. I am sure Raju is not happy about it but what could the poor guy do?” Just kidding! President Bush is too busy setting strategy for the oval office rug and buying $500,000 china a week before he leaves the white house.

So, after the customary hand wringing and expression of dismay and disgust – after all this is only the millionth time something like this has “just happened” – let us assign blame. Who is to blame?

Mr. Raju is at the center of it and admits his role. Where is the government? Where is the accounting firm (PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has audited the company since its NYSE listing in 2001, said it was “examining” Mr. Raju’s statement and could not comment further!)? Where is the CFO? Where is the board? Where has it been? Who was on the board and how did they get on it?

My favorite, as always: Where are the shareholders? Where have they been?

The lynch-pin of corporate governance is the same as one for corporate performance – greed. Yes, that thing that got you in the stock should drive you to protect your investment. Where should you look for corporate governance? Look within.

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A Failure of Governance

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