March 6, 2009

Social Security, mend your ways

I just got my annual Social Security statement. It's the one that tells me if I have enough credits to get Social Security now due to a disabililiy or later because I make it to age 62 or later.

The form even projects how much I will get if I start collecting at age 62 or 66 or later - IF I continue to make the same amount I made in the last year recorded.

First, 2007 is the last year recorded. I can't believe my 2008 number hasn't made it to their office in the computer age.

Second, wouldn't it be more useful to also include the amount I would collect if I never earn another dollar? I can safely assume given my age and background the probability of earning the same wage is zilch, I am grateful to find occasional paying jobs.

I am not even sure age and skills matter right now in this community. I see daily how tough the job market is for my daughter's boyfriend. Despite a great work record and working family and friend connections, he's in his fourth month of looking for a job.

So Social Security, get real. What can I get if I never work for money again?

How did I miss this death pool?

I'm cleaning out my inbox and blog drafts today when I ran across this item:

Star-Ledger Death Pool

How did I miss it? Where is the one that lists all the newspapers?

March 5, 2009

Celebration as mysterious as disease of MS

MS Awareness Week is getting as confusing as the disease multiple sclerosis.

Over on the National Multiple Sclerosis site, it is March 2-8. A lot of media sites are writing about the week, including a blogger in New York who uses the occasion to share her MS diagnosis. (She includes a few books she's read since A Shelf Life blog is about MS.)

But then I get an email notice that "National Multiple Sclerosis(MS) Awareness Week is March 15-21." It's on PR Newswire, which cites ProLine Communications as the source. The real focus of the release is how those with MS can build and manage a small business.
"In recognition of National MS Awareness Week, we are proposing a program that will offer practical start-up advice, life wisdom, and inspiration from small-business owners who are also coping with medical adversity."
You can read about a couple of businesses that were started by folks with MS. Not much on MS, though.

There is more on MS over on the MS Foundation site, which declares all of March as MS Awareness and Education Month. It's a part of a campaign to raise the visibility of MS. As the foundation says:
"More than 450,000 people in the United States have MS. Can you tell who they are? Often, even doctors find it difficult to diagnose this chronic, unpredictable illness. Its symptoms may seem to come and go and many are invisible. Fatigue, vertigo and cognitive changes, along with depression, bladder and bowel problems, and sexual dysfunction all are commonly experienced by people with MS, but known only to them."
By the way, lots of folks write about MS and their lives with MS. Start reading at the Carnival of MS Bloggers, which will lead you to a lot of blogs on MS for real awareness of the "now you see it, now you don't" disease of mine.

March 4, 2009

Fame fleeting so make most of Letterman

Two formerly employed reporters showed up in my feed today. One had a story on David Letterman's Small Town News segment Monday and became a story because Letterman's advice to "keep up the good work" went to a laid-off reporter. The other reporter was praised in Jeff Jarvis's Buzzmachine for "using the brand equity said employer helped him build - in his own tinseltown blog, Greg in Hollywood."

So here's hoping that Alicia Ebaugh reads Jarvis and quickly converts her Letterman fame into a job.

She doesn't have the brand equity of Greg Hernandez, who started his own blog just seven days after the Hollywood writer for the LA Daily News was laid off (and knows the value of promotion). But she's done a few blogs, including Generation Why, so with a Linked In page supplementing her Facebook page and a plan she could get going fast.

Poynter's Romenski picked up what Aaron Barnhart wrote about Ebaugh in Hope you're happy, Dave! "Small Town News" journalist dissed by Letterman was laid off last week (He includes the TV clip so you can decide if Letterman was praising or criticizing her when he discussed the October 2007 story about police arresting a man found in a compromising position with an inflatable doll in a public restroom.)

The reporter was one of 13 that Steve Buttry, then Gazette editor and now information content conductor led go Feb. 24 on "saddest day."

By the way, the Online Gazettee also covered the Letterman story, including a link to Barnhart's blog. But that story and the online police story leave out Ebaugh's name. See, fame is so fleeting.

March 3, 2009

Editors can view video for blogging idea

Sure, the American Society of Newspaper Editors Newspaper editors won't meet this year at its convention, but editors can keep learning. John Wilpers shares ideas for using bloggers to add content, reach, revenue in a video.

Could newspapers adopt the NPR fund-raising model?

June Thomas looks at the "10 cunning ways" that public radio raises money over on Slate. Her list includes these tactics:
  • the perfect gift
  • the guilt trip
  • flattery
  • match game
and these conversations:
  • "We're here for you so you be here for us"
  • "Your bill is due now"
  • "Only you can save journalism"
  • "You're not just helping us, you're helping your fellow listeners"
  • "Stop me before I make the pitch again"
Plus the organizations do a good job of niche marketing, marketing shows with specific audiences.

"The best of public radio's weekend shows have distinct personalities: the discursive storytelling of This American Life, the self-deprecating bickering of Car Talk, and the cozy in-jokes of A Prairie Home Companion."

So tell me why couldn't newspapers and other media organizations use the same tactics?

Today's the day to be square

square platesToday - 3-3-09 - is a special day. For the world, it's Square Root Day - day and the month are both the square root of the last two digits of the current year. For my family, it's another trip to Ann Arbor for more chemo and a trip to Whole Foods.

All of us would have more fun celebrating Square Root Day then doing the AA dash. Since the next such day won't be here until April 4, 2016, you might as well spend the day doing things such as this:

The last square root day was Feb. 2, 2004, which got a California teacher excited.

March 2, 2009

Cartoonist bottled up energy to save print

I am always ready for a laugh, especially when it combines two subjects near and dear to my heart. So click on the cartoon or head over to Matt Bors' blog and see the rest of this four-panel cartoon.

See Matt Bors has come up with his "completely serious, entirely workable, fail proof plan for saving newspapers. Free papers should go this route as well. Why deny yourself the revenue stream?"

(By the way, I was led to Bors and his "print-saving solution" through a Washington Post item on "our web addiction." You'll find another cartoon there: The Fall of Rome-nesko.)

Step into the dark

Richard Nicholson highlights some of the last operating darkrooms. Remember those?

March 1, 2009

'New toy,' crowded restaurant show some do their part

Some business owners went to sleep smiling last night. One smiled thanks to Jim of L-Town, who is spending more then a few pennies for"Our new toy." Since the purchase is leading to a new blog, perhaps the fancy RV will create even more smiles.

And at Italia Gardens in Flint Township, there was a 30-minute wait for a table. I could have paid for our four dinners if every person who saw the line and said "I thought the economy was bad" or "the stimulous package is working" had to give me $1.

One last observation - my daughter says she saw mini cash registers walking out the door, not the "doggie boxes" each customer carried out. One of her chef-making TV shows had said such boxes meant the restaurant was serving portions that are too big. Or maybe, I said, folks are eating less everyday as a way of stretching the food budget.

Just a thought.

Making it: 'Maize and blue' cake, life

February is a celebration month in our household. Besides Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day, my husband and our marriage turns another year older. Every four years, the kid who rolled over in the hospital gets an official birthday. The other three years, we celebrate on the most convenient date - Feb. 28 or March 1.

This year, we celebrated the birth of the 11-pound wonder on the 28th by going out to dinner and then eating a non-organic cake she baked. Note: She also baked that maize-and-blue one - all organic ingrediants - in a new cake pan for her dad's birthday. (Yes, she's trying to eat foods not enriched by hormones or vitamins. She wanted a confetti cake so she "went off the wagon.")

She unwrapped a few gifts - more cotton thread to crochet, a few books and a new comforter. She hit the quarter of a century mark so that means she must move off her father's insurance. I'm looking forward to informing all the medical people of the third insurance switch since her cancer treatment started. (you can bet we are following the switch carefully - 1 application was already lost.)

Some friends and family members expected a bigger celebration - especially as the first set of chemo shrunk the tumors by about 9 cm. But the newly weekly chemo treatments leave her tired. Plus alcohol and crowds ate to be avoided. We want to see the doctors do another happy dance at the end of this set of chemo, so it is early to bed, late to rise and naps in-between. Plus yoga. Some days, she's making a few meals..... or baking a cake.

Impossibility of 'Hot Box' reminds ex-Journal editor how truth emerges

A former Flint Journal copy editor recalls The Hot Box  and shows how that related to where newspapers are today.

He starts the tale this way:
Years ago, in the early stages of newspapers' redesigning, I worked for a chain of eight midsize newspapers in the Midwest. Some of them looked as if it were still World War II, but in the early 1970s one of them had radically redesigned and managed to lose 10 percent of its subscribers in one week, or some figure like that. So they were going about it more cautiously.

So they had hired a designer to redo all the papers. (His name was Ralph "Chic" Bain. I have no idea what happened to him, although LinkedIn might place him in Austin.) We were Chic's third or fourth paper in a row and he had used all of his easy-to-gin-up ideas in other cities.

For our paper, he unveiled "the hot box." This was an attempt to get away from the tyranny of the three-across teaser box that then dominated newspaper design. Instead, we would have a line of type -- the equivalent of the Times Square zipper, but not moving -- at the top of the page, and then a box with a big image -- 2x2.5, about -- at the right margin, next to the flag. As with all designers, Chic selected a striking illustration for his prototype. He presented it to the top editors, and they approved it.

David worried about " our ability to come up with a striking illustration 365 days a year. I was scared that within a week this would end up being another grainy wirephoto of Jimmy Carter (we had old presses and almost no color). "

David says even Chic thought The Hot Box would be killed. See the original post for how David recalls that conversation, one with an editor who approved the plan and why this matters today. It has something to do with what journalists really believe. Let's just say the emperor wears no clothes, some editors who believe an artist is right even while doubting the the vision can be done, and journalism is doomed.