Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Journalism In The Year 2032

Nearly two decades ago, as a young, impressionable Graphics Editor for The Orlando Sentinel, I took part in an exhilarating week-long seminar at The Poynter Institute. I chaired a dysfunctional team whose sole task was to imagine "what newspapers will look like in 20 years."

Three colleagues and I conceived and produced a board game as a vehicle meant to introduce our professional instincts and wildest thoughts while stimulating discussion.

Seminar leader Paul Pohlman asked if he could retain copies of our presentation and rights to the board game, which contained speculative references to instantaneous data delivery, reporters interchangeable within print and broadcast newsrooms, a condensed print product and delivery schedule, with specialized content aimed at subgroups within communities (sports fans, science and car enthusiasts) who just might be willing to augment additional coverage of their interests.

Sound familiar? Troubling?

Like Monopoly (TM), our board game also was loaded with landmines that included losing turns or making payments to other players based on skyrocketing newsprint prices, union walkouts, expanding corporate ownership at the expense of local ownership, and the proliferation of networked mainframes given to crashes or inaccessibility.

While some snickered, Mr. Pohlman complimented our vision and lauded our efforts, calling both “quite remarkable.” He said our presentation was so special that he would like to utilize it within Poynter’s ongoing curriculum. Today, Mr. Pohlman is adviser to the president and senior faculty member at the journalism think tank in St. Petersburg, Fla. I recently asked for his recollections:

‘Thanks for your note. I remember the board game. I showed it to a number of seminar groups in the 1990s. Alas, I no longer know where it is. I suspect that it didn’t survive during one of three or more office moves I’ve made since then. Your group predicted a tablet-like device and/or some combination of TV and computer technology. In those days I think folks were talking about search strategies for using the Web, but I don’t think we quite had a Google in mind. We are holding a TEDX event at Poynter on June 1. Participants will be talking about the next 20 years. (Your) four workshops at Poynter must be close to a record. I trust you have had a satisfying and successful career. Best regards, Paul”     — Paul N. Pohlman, The Poynter Institute

Discussions that Mr. Pohlman said will begin anew on June 1 surely will impact journalists, students, educators — and what some would have us believe is the wobbly foundation of The Fourth Estate — throughout the next 20 years. 

So, what are my designs on the future this time around? 

I know today’s college students (my own son is a sophomore at Florida State University) are looking for much more than a degree. Countless students with whom I have spoken as a recruiter on campuses throughout this nation have told me they are bound by personal guiding principles. Among them are a sense of purpose, a strong sense of urgency, unparalleled drive and intense personal and community expressions that will result in self fulfillment as they define it.  They seek the extraordinary — challenges and successes they envision can only exist beyond the realm of existing possibilities. Above all else, they are looking for honestly, lasting emotional connections to role models and accountability. Still, their professional dreams really are not drastically different than those you or I once harbored.

Journalism traditionalists had better get used to hearing from and learning from the likes of social media and tech evangelists Steve Buttry, Jeff Jarvis, Mandy Jenkins and Mark Glaser. They already stand at today’s intersection of print, digital and socio-behavioral journalism. But none have abandoned our profession’s inherent and beloved core values — integrity, accuracy, fairness, independence, transparency and community obligations. 

I believe journalism will be filled with non-traditional funding, strange bedfellows, quicksand brand loyalties, nuanced advertising and revolving doors that will equally welcome and boot leaders primed for one mission but unable to adjust to others. The resulting public infrastructure will have seamless connections between people with common interests and uncommon stories. 

News and information will continue to be our primary commodity; it will be augmented more freely 
— but at a cost  — with ideas, possibilities, virtual and real associations, spontaneous hopes, truths, entertainment and enlightenment that begin in nearby geographic boundaries and reach instantaneously into our collective global consciousness.

I suppose I can live with that — especially if along with it  comes a mindset that consumers deserve products far superior to those backed by the "good enough" mantra all too prevalent today.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Baby Names

The year my son Quinn was born — 1992 — his first name was the 492nd most popular in the United States, just behind Charlie but ahead of Julius. At the top of the heap — and among his Facebook friends — are Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Joshua, Andrew, Brandon, Daniel, Tyler, James and David.

In 1997, my daughter Kala was born. Her name was ranked 948th, just behind Kendal and just ahead of Maricela. Tops that year and sprinkled among her classmates and friends are Emily, Jessica, Ashley, Sarah, Hanna, Samantha, Taylor, Alexis, Elizabeth and Madison.

Quinn and Kala have good, strong, independent names that fit their peculiar personalities. They weren't chosen haphazardly like some on this year's list. 

Mason, No. 2 on the list to perennial top draw Jacob, happens to be the name of reality fraud Kim Kardashian's son. And Briella jumped 394 spots — to No. 497 — apparently because Briella Calafore stars in reality TV's 'Jerseylicious,' which I'm told is about battling stylists at a Green Brook, N.J., salon. Try explaining those originations to your kids in about 10 years.

My wife's name, Denise, was 30th the year she was born. She's not Lisa, Mary, Susan, Karen, Linda, Patricia, Donna, Cynthia, Deborah or Sandra, nor would I want her to be. By the way, Denise now ranks 603rd.

My own name, Kenneth, was the 15th most popular in my birth year, behind Michael, David, James, Robert, John, William, Richard, Thomas, Mark, Steven, Charles, Gary, Joseph and Donald. It ranks 170th this year. As for my kids:  Quinn now ranks 297th; Kala, sadly, is nowhere to be found among this year's Top 1,000 baby names.

The 2011 list from the U.S. Social Security Administration also reveals girls named Damaris (No. 1,000), Peyton, Milagros, Genesis, Malaysia, Juniper, Aurora, Rayne, Cambria, Sky, Phoenix, Liberty, Cherish, Temperance and Patience. I have long told my wife that I believe some women are prone to name their children after how they are feeling or the first thing that pops into their minds after giving birth. 

I'm thoroughly convinced that somewhere out there is baby Tamponique.

1. Jacob
2. Mason
3. William
4. Jayden
5. Noah
6. Michael
7. Ethan
8. Alexander
9. Aiden
10. Daniel

1. Sophia
2. Isabella
3. Emma
4. Olivia
5. Ava
6. Emily
7. Abigail
8. Madison
9. Mia
10. Chloe

Source: U.S. Social Security Administration

Monday, May 14, 2012

THE Sporting News ...

I spent nearly seven mostly happy years working in suburban St. Louis for the Bible of Baseball, a godly monicker The Sporting News had earned by the time I saw my first issue on May 13, 1966. I can tell you the exact date only because  five days earlier the St. Louis Cardinals had traded southpaw Ray Sadecki to the San Francisco Giants for  power-hitting first baseman Orlando Cepeda.

A copy of The Sporting News, which I didn't even know existed as a publication, arrived by mail in a plain brown wrapper that Friday afternoon; it was addressed to a 9-year-old me and was from 1212 N. Lindbergh Ave. in St. Louis, Mo. For the '60's, this was a Mad Men-like move to gain the attention of thousands of kids rooted in sports. I didn't know how my name got on their mailing list, and I didn't really care. I was just glad The Sporting News had found me.

On the cover of the tabloid newsprint magazine was a black-and-white photo of Cepeda, aka The Baby Bull, whom the Cards had just obtained. The Redbirds would insert Cepeda at first base and ride his homer-happy bat to in World Series in 1967 and a repeat appearance in 1968. Cepeda was the 1967 National League Most Valuable Player upon hitting .325 and driving in 111 runs. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1999. (Oh, and St. Louis eventually would flip him to Atlanta in 1969 for Joe Torre).

But back to TSN. I couldn't begin to imagine there was a publication devoted primarily to baseball, with delicious morsels about every single Major League team, statistics, columns and much more.

After a few trips to Talbert's News Agency in my hometown of Mexico, Mo., to claim my weekly dose of enjoyment, information and ecstasy every Friday, I soon secured the first of many year-long subscriptions. And I saved each and every copy. They're still in Rubbermaid bins in my basement. 

My last renewal, about four years ago, was for 300 issues for $19. The rate — and size and publication frequency reductions —probably tell you a lot about cutthroat competition, slow-to-react and sometimes hallucinating leadership (TSN Steakhouses, really?) that have led to the recent financial struggles facing this once-proud franchise, which four years ago abandoned its St. Louis roots after 122 years, for, gasp, Charlotte, N.C.

For the sake of marketing and domain, my TSN has become, simply and sadly, Sporting News. It still doesn't sound right. And if you read this piece from Baseball America — today's Bible of Baseball — you'll understand.

While some of my contributions are neatly surmised in the fifth paragraph from the bottom, the author is dead wrong about the year TSN  became a glossy, four-color magazine. That transpired with the Dec. 8, 1997 issue. Prior to that time, The Sporting News utilized process color on newsprint.

I still have a small, lucite-encased replica of the first four-color magazine in my office. (I just snapped a quick photo, and will replace it if someday I ever get around to going through those dusty basement bins).

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Quinn's Book of Basic Rules ...

It's Mother's Day and I'm alone with The Beatles, a few chirping birds outside my open office window, the sound of a soaking Midwestern rain and my thoughts.

My daughter is taking in a matinee production of Les Miserables with some school friends, while my wife is "doing the hair thing."

My son is on my mind, only because I just happened a Word document titled "Quinn's Book of Basic Rules" that he penned a couple of years ago as he navigated teen angst, bullies and an uncertain world.

I'm smiling broadly as a read how he wanted to live his life and become the man he's destined to be.


If you are reading this, you have found my book of basic rules. Feel free to read them; maybe you’ll learn something. However, I would like this back after you finish. Thanks.

Quinn Amos

P.S. Please pardon the bad handwriting. 

  1. In order to change anything, you must first change yourself.
  2. Survival is the goal.
  3. Everyone is equal.
  4. It is the evil that shows us how to be good.
  5. There’s always room for improvement.
  6. Nothing good comes from anger.
  7. Don’t let one thing completely control your life.
  8. Nothing is ever what it seems.
  9. There is no true 100% or 0%.
  10.  Don’t panic.
  11. Everyone is a variable, including yourself.
  12. Once you tell an idea to the world, it is no longer yours.
  13. Use good ideas to your advantage.
  14. You can’t change the past, so don’t dwell on it.
  15. Don’t look too far into the future.
  16. There’s no such thing as a stupid question, unless you already know the answer.
  17. Do something because it feels right, not because someone says it’s right.
  18. Take in what’s being said, not the appearance of the speaker.
  19. There is no such thing as normal.
  20. Stand up one more time than you fall down.
  21. Take a life a day at a time.
  22. Enjoy yourself.
  23. Help those in need, within your abilities.
  24. Always look people in the eye.
  25. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
  26. Treat everyone as a friend.
  27. There are more than three sides to a coin.
  28. There is no good or bad, only different points of view.
  29. You are mortal.
  30. Enjoy the little things.
  31. Whatever happens will happen.
  32. Swallow your pride.
  33. Don’t let embarrassment take control.
  34. Don’t give up.
  35. Look at yourself before criticizing others.
  36. Don’t leave anyone behind.
  37. You are not the center of the universe.
  38. Don’t do everything all at once.
  39. You must find the cause of the problem to solve it.
  40. Don’t take life so seriously; you’ll never get out alive.
  41. It’s not over until it’s over.
  42. Rushing causes more problems.
  43. It’s useless to compare yourself to someone else.
  44. Simplicity is the best answer.
  45. Everything has a reason for being.
  46. Never mix something good with something bad.
  47. Don’t spend your time finding things wrong with your life.
  48. There’s no “should” or “should not.”
  49. Don’t assume anything.
  50. Be careful what you wish for.
  51. Shake with a firm handshake.
  52. Create theories out of facts, not facts out of theories.
  53. Don’t let a victory get to your head.
  54. Don’t let a defeat go to your head.
  55. Don’t completely rule out a possibility.
  56. Don’t attack someone unless they make the first move.
  57. Destroy the status quo at all costs.
  58. It doesn’t matter how it’s said as long as you understand it.
  59. When the world seems like it’s falling apart, let it finish, then start over.
  60. Keep in mind that you don’t control change.
  61. You are who you are, not what people say you are.
  62. Don’t give the enemy back their ammo.
  63. No one has complete control.
  64. Two wrongs don’t make a right, just a bigger wrong.
  65. Forcing change upon you or anyone else can have disastrous results.
  66. If something works, don’t change it.
  67. Don’t underestimate people.
  68. Don’t over-estimate people.
  69. Everyone interprets everything wrong.
  70. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  71. Don’t force your ideas on others.
  72. Follow rules only if they make sense.
  73. Question everything.
I can't wait to find out his newest truisms destined for 74 and beyond.

In The Big Inning ...

For someone rarely at a loss for words, I didn't really know where to begin with this blog.

It quite easily could be about the sorry state of journalism — my beloved profession for  too many years. I could lend perspective and wisdom in so many ways; included among them that you can teach an old dog a few important new tricks.

Should it be about local, state, national, international — even universal — issues that dominate what passes as news these days? Don't worry, I'm sure we'll soon get to my thoughts about Fox News and con-artist terrestrial radio.

Maybe I should sit back and pontificate about sports — baseball, basketball, football, hockey and tennis — these and other games I've actively played and the professional leagues I have followed and covered since childhood. Or, perhaps, I should just focus on the best team in the National League — the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.  I've followed the Redbirds passionately since the final playing days of Stan "The Man" Musial.

Maybe is could be about great television, memorable movies, the YouTube generation, my love of Apple products or emerging content delivery methods.

And there's always room on the web for more thoughts about music, food and pop-culture, right?

It likely will touch on each of these, and more, but with a huge share devoted to my family and true friends.

I'm married and the father of two great teen-agers; although my son will be turning the big 2-0 in a few months. He currently is hundreds of miles away — about to enter his third full semester at (The) Florida State University. He is working on a dual major — Physics and Education — and living on his own and learning to cook and fend for himself. My daughter, who is four years younger, is a consistent Dean's List student, talented musician and has aspirations of someday becoming a chef in her own restaurant. Both are smart, clever, funny and first-degree black belts in Taekwondo.

My wife has been the constant thread in their lives and mine, particularly these days while I try to hold down the fort and dare to dream big for the first time in a long while. To her especially — HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, 2012!

I hope you'll drop by now and then to get to know me — and give me an opportunity to learn about you, too.