I always cringe a bit when I read a news report that refers to "informed sources."
Often, it seems, it's only one informed source and we never know exactly who informed the source about whatever he or she or they are informed about. Sometimes, there are two informed sources, but it’s possible that both received their information from the same person, so they really should count as one source.
When the source is a few levels down in the food chain, it's like a game of telephone, where the story changes just a bit with each retelling. It can make a huge difference if the "informed" source was the actual doer or six steps removed from the scene of battle.
Worse, there is a pathology I noticed in my days as a news reporter and, later, as a consultant, that can skew the story significantly. This isn’t about bias or agendas; it’s about life.
When we interview people for insights, the best informed people will often be the ones who say the least. Perhaps they give us the smallest amount of time or they are more circumspect about how they speak. As rule, people whose words are impactful will be careful in their choice of words.
That means, often, that the guy who gives you the best quotes and the largest amount of time might also be the least informed or least connected or least powerful person on the interview list. Of course, that person might have tons of spare time to spend as a source.
There’s a difference, of course, between least connected and least powerful. The most connected and powerful person might be in the best position to see the big picture, understand the competing issues, and deliver on his claims, or he might be out of touch with the daily details or too protective of the status quo. The least powerful person might be a whistleblower or most familiar with the way plans are actually implemented. Other times, the least powerful person turns out to be a crank.
It doesn’t matter if I’m reading something from the right or left, about business or art or politics, simply calling someone an informed source doesn’t do it for me. Of course, if the person is referred to as a well-informed source or a senior-level source, that changes everything. Those are the people you just know you can trust.
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When hand crafting is no longer a plus, initial thoughts on diseases, and a blabst from the pabst, brought to you this week from a clean desk and a very cluttered mind…
Of course, all the people reading this post are incredibly tech savvy 8G gurus who can program a computer and surf the web and click on this button to become subscribers. Right?
Take a quick look at the photo that accompanies this post, the one with the panels from three comics that appeared recently in my daily newspaper. (Note to Millennials: Ask your parents to explain what a newspaper is.) Today’s post was supposed to focus on those comics, but it turns out that you won’t be able to read the story online.*
That’s because I have discovered the one thing you absolutely cannot publish on the internet. Yes, you can post pornography, threats, vile characterizations, fake videos and the worst moments of some stranger’s life. The thing you absolutely cannot post, though, is satire.
I tried, I really did, and my failure offers up a lesson about the medium that transforms the message.
Quick flashback: I was sitting at the kitchen table and I noticed that three comic strips all focused on the same topic on the same day: women’s hair. It’s pretty common that two comics might touch on the same theme on any given day, of course, because there are only so many general areas (family, money, exercise, pets…) that are universal sources of mirth. When I saw the trio about hair, though, it reminded me of Auric Goldfinger’s explanation that, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action.”
Genius!! I had been meaning to put together a post about conspiracy theories, but I hadn’t found the right way to tackle the subject. This blog is a politics-free zone, which prohibits any comments about 99.9999% of all conspiracies. But the comics pages are perfect. Nobody could really see a conspiracy among cartoonists, so a funny riff on a comics cabal would be exactly right.
So I wrote a post about the conspiracy I had uncovered among cartoonists to undermine America with their flagrant attacks on women, families and other institutions. I added ALL CAPS and bold type and underlines and SOMETIMES ALL THREE to mimic the suspect screeds that arrive in my morning feed.
And it’s pretty good, at least in comparison with most of my stuff, so I put it in the queue to run today. But then reality set in. The problem with putting satire online is that so many, many, many, many…many people do not grasp the difference between real and fake. Our subscribers would recognize the post as satire, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that somebody somewhere would miss the humor and launch a boycott against Blondie.
I tried adding a spoiler alert of sorts to the beginning of the post, but that’s like trying to explain why a joke is funny. I thought of adding a note at the end of the screed, but that would work about as well as the “thanks for sharing the fun” announcement at the end of the War of the Worlds broadcast.
In the end, I gave up. If we were sitting in a bar and I leaned in close and told you about the comics conspiracy, we could have a good laugh. On the internet, though, we’d cause a panic.
Damn. Now I need to think of something else I can post today.
* If you’d like to read the conspiracy rant, just leave a comment (include your email in the appropriate info box) and I will send the pdf to you by email. Don’t share it on the internet, though, because innocent lives are at stake.
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Tip jars in the doctor’s office, heroic Millennials, and an uncomfortable response to my humor, just in case you were wondering…
*Yeah, I know “make it so,” was a completely different generation, but I wanted you to feel smarter about yourself. And, while you’re reveling in your cultural hipnitude, how about taking the logical step of clicking here to become a subscriber?
So, last week I explained why being a dad is the easiest job in the world, which led millions of unengaged dads to leap off their couches and do their duty. I know because my mailbox has been stuffed with poopy diapers that other fathers have sent me, clearly to show their gratitude for my lessons in the Tao of Fatherhood.
This week, we continue our tutorial with a Father’s Day list of all the things you need to know to be a great dad. (Also a great mom, but I finished this too late for Mother’s Day.) Our super-secret list shows how simple it really is to raise great kids and finally earn your “World’s Best Dad” coffee cup.
And so, we submit with great pride and just a bit of trepidation…How to Be the Bestest Parental Unit Ever!!
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With Father’s Day coming up next week, we can look forward to the annual media blitz about abusive fathers, fathers in prison, absentee fathers and generic baby daddies of all sorts. Just in case people were still feeling familial warmth after Mother’s Day, the third Sunday in June is the perfect time to balance the scales.
Oh, well. It’s not that the world is filled with inspirational stories about nurturing dads who helped their children to thrive. More common are the tales, often told by successful entrepreneurs, about being left destitute by drunk/absent/philandering/abusive fathers. That’s probably the reason that nobody looks into the TV camera at the football game and yells, “Hi, dad.”
This is incredibly surprising to me, because being a good dad is such an easy job that you’d think more men would give it a whirl. I’m not talking here about guys who don’t have kids. Nope, I’m focusing on the men who have children and are missing out on the honors, accolades and pedestal-upon-putting that comes with being even a moderately engaged dad.
Because, let’s face it, men benefit all the time from the incredibly low expectations that people (read: women) have about us. We can get major points for washing our own underwear, or even for putting it in the hamper. Our wives will brag about us if we make dinner once a month, and we qualify for a medal if we remember to put down the toilet seat. The bar is set so low for us that we almost need to dig a tunnel if we want to limbo under it. And yet... so many guys go the extra mile to give 110% and leave it all on the field in order to throw the game.
I supposed at one time that the era of unengaged fathers was over, a relic of my parents’ generation, or maybe mine, but certainly not a Gen X or Gen Y or Millennial thing. But the tradition seems to continue in many households where the sperm donor declines the opportunity to change diapers, bathe, clothe, feed or, in many cases, be alone with their children. (Yes, I have met men who are unwilling or unable to spend time with their own flesh and blood, unless mommy is there to make sure everything is fine.) I don’t know whether it’s fear or rigid gender roles, but it is insane on many levels.
First, it’s ridiculously easy to change a diaper. You can’t stab a baby with adhesive strips and, even if you put the diaper on wrong, you can blame the baby.
“Look at that mess. Zelda is already an overachiever in at least one area, hahaha. But I changed her last time, hon, so it’s your turn now.”
Second, you don’t have to change the diaper frequently; 5-10% of the time is enough to win awards for your commitment. And, if you “admit” to changing diapers with poop in them, you’re halfway to Dad of the Year. Still, so many dads refuse to change a diaper filled with doody balls that the guys who do the dirty work can qualify for pretty much anything except a hall pass.
Being an engaged dad takes some work, but the rewards are unbelievable, including a potential room over the garage when you get old and your wife finally evicts you. In the meantime, minor tasks like changing clothes, feeding, and reading bedtime stories are a piece of cake for real men. We’re the ones with the can-do, take-charge, problem-solving chromosomes.
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Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.