Filed under: Media
Read the news. Then go to a political science class. Heck, while you’re at it, become a political science Masters candidate. Then look at that same news again. Interesting, huh?
A powerful thunderstorm forced President Obama to cancel his Memorial Day speech near Chicago on Monday—an arbitrary event that had no affect on the trajectory of American politics.
Obama now faces some of the most difficult challenges of his young presidency: the ongoing oil spill, the Gaza flotilla disaster, and revelations about possibly inappropriate conversations between the White House and candidates for federal office. But while these narratives may affect fleeting public perceptions, Americans will ultimately judge Obama on the crude economic fundamentals of jobs numbers and GDP.
Chief among the criticisms of Obama was his response to the spill. Pundits argued that he needed to show more emotion. Their analysis, however, should be viewed in light of the economic pressures on the journalism industry combined with a 24-hour news environment and a lack of new information about the spill itself.
Republicans, meanwhile, complained that the administration has not been sufficiently involved in the day-to-day cleanup. Their analysis, of course, is colored by their minority status in America’s two-party system, which creates a strong structural incentive to criticize the party in power, whatever the merits.
At the same time, Obama’s job approval rating fell to 48 percent. This isn’t really news, though. Studies have shown that the biggest factor in a president’s rating is economic performance. Connecting the minute blip in the polls with Obama’s reluctance to emote or alleged failure to send enough boom to the Gulf is, frankly, absurd.
Democrats have also slipped in their standing among “independent voters.” That phrase, by the way, ismeaningless. Voters may self-identify as “independent” but in almost all cases they lean toward one party.
Poll numbers also confirmed that Americans are in an anti-incumbent mood. … Ha! Just kidding. The anti-Washington narrative was concocted by dominant media outlets based on the outcomes of a statistically insignificant handful of largely unrelated races. Sorry.
Still, Democrats hope that passing health care and financial regulatory reform will give them enough momentum to win in November. Unfortunately, there’s little relationship between legislative victories and electoral victories. Also, what the hell is “momentum”?
Prospects for an energy bill, meanwhile, are looking grim, since Obama has spent all his political capital. He used to have a lot. Now it’s gone. Why winning legislative battles builds momentum but saps political capital, I have no idea. Just go with it.
Possible “game changers” for Obama include plugging the oil leak, peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, and World War III, although these events would be almost entirely outside Obama’s control.
Looking ahead to 2012, Republicans need a candidate who can shake up the electoral map, which currently consists of “red states” and “blue states,” even though there’s not much difference.
The GOP—a stupid acronym we use only so we don’t have to keep repeating the wordRepublican—will have to decide between a moderate “establishment” pick and a more conservative Tea Party favorite. In reality, both candidates would embrace similar policies in the general election.
That candidate will then face off against Obama, whose charisma, compelling personal story, and professional political operation will prove formidable. Actually, Obama will probably win because he’s the incumbent. And because voters always go with the guy who’s taller.
Over at The Daily Dish, a Friday redesign left everyone on Atlantic.com’s blogs in a tizzy. I do have to say – I don’t like the new look. Blue? Channels? No, thanks! But let’s take the analysis from someone who would know. The Daily Dish – reader comments – featuring BU’s one and only TF, DJ, political science master: Alex Whalen:
@AlexWhalen: Check it out! A letter I wrote to Andrew Sullivan about where The Atlantic’s redesign went wrong is on his frontpage! http://bit.ly/cTPmCm
by Patrick Appel
A reader writes:
I was a Content Manager at America Online back in the mid to late 1990s. Although I had a variety of roles, at the end of my tenure my primary job was to manage one of AOL’s 18 content channels. This was the period just *before* AOL tore down the walls separating it from the rest of the Internet, and *before* the much maligned merger with Time Warner. It was very much AOL’s heyday.
Our model within these channels? To aggregate material by subject matter into a series of always updating headline driven content areas.
The goal? Through a series of redesigns and reiterations, to make the AOL channels – rather than the partners who provided the content within each channel – the primary point of loyalty for our members.
The result? A mishmash of genericized content that diluted the very thing that had made us so successful – the uniquely identifiable voices that, along with basic features such as email and chat, had brought people flocking to the service in the first place.
As just one example, ask the guys at the Motley Fool, one of the commercial Internet’s first true success stories, how it all worked out for them.
I’m sorry to have to say this, but Goldberg’s description of the new site (“a thorough reimagining of what a magazine’s website could be”) could not possibly be more wrong.
What they’ve done to you, TNC, and the rest isn’t new at all. It’s AOL circa 1998. I realize that’s the Internet’s Stone Age, a time no doubt well beyond the memory of most of the people who put this design together, but…. that should underscore the point, right?
You guys are repeating one of the mistakes that I will always believe killed AOL. I have no reason to think anyone there will take my advice – the Senior VPs at AOL ignored me when I fought against this very same model, and they were paying me for my opinion! – but here it is:
Know your strengths. They are your Voices. Don’t bury them. Don’t integrate them under brand names and channels. Make them louder. And clearer. You should be working to bring them front and center. Instead you are pushing them to the back, putting more distance between them and your readers. That is, in a word, insane.
People don’t want a series of headlines. They can get that elsewhere. They want personality. They want community. They want names and faces they can identify and bond with.
The age of nameless, faceless “editors” is over. It has been over for quite some time, even if many don’t yet realize it. People accepted it when the market provided them with no alternative, but as you both well know the moment alternatives became possible they flocked to them in droves.
And most importantly: for the love of all that is holy, please stop trying to “re-imagine” the magazine. That’s an entirely backward looking enterprise. Be the entirely new thing that you ALREADY are. Or, I’m beginning to fear, were.
From the very beginning, the Atlantic was about the voices it contained, and not about the package that they came bound in. Somehow, in the move to the web, this magazine kept that tradition alive. Unlike most of its competitors it found success by combining what it had always been – strong voices in long-form articles provided at a more thoughtful pace – with the Internet’s greatest innovation – strong voices in short-form updates provided in real-time to a community of not-always likeminded souls. I always assumed that this near perfect mix of 20th and 21st century publishing models was the result of some very forward thinking management. With the last redesign I began to doubt that. With this newest one, I’m on the verge of concluding it was all just dumb luck.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this model will work this time. Maybe the way forward is to borrow a failed model from the past. But, well….
Filed under: Media
Called it. In London. This time last year. She’s great!
Filed under: Media
There is a reason it’s called HuffPo, right?
Filed under: Media
… that Oprah’s leaving. But here’s something to put a smile on your face!
Filed under: Media
Can’t go wrong with Savage Garden!
Just in case you missed it (seeing as how Newsweek only posted it online, as opposed to having a whole issue dedicated to it)…
Newsweek released their rankings of the 1500 top public high schools in the country.
And Conard is ranked 2nd in the state of Connecticut, 289th in the nation. Congrats Class of 2009 – just too bad you couldn’t make it to #1 like your 2007 siblings!
We saw what Obama’s online game did in 2008.
We saw the start of a netroots-based challenge in the Lieberman – Lamont race of 2006.
And we saw the emergence of the blogs and online campaigning with Dean in 2004.
So what does 201o hold for the world of online politics, campaigning, and organizing. Who will the liberal netroots target?
The answer – right-leaning and weak Democrats.
MoveOn is already attacking Arlen Specter the newest member of the Democratic Party along with six other Democrats on bankruptcy reform legislation that was changed.