Can Journalism Be Saved: A Conversation with Nicholas Lemann

March 21st, 2020

Nicholas-Lemann-canobiefilms.us_.jpgOne of the seemingly consistent things about creative destruction, particularly as a result of technology, is that we have a short memory for what came before the change. We remember just immediately preceding a dramatic shift in some vital element of our lives, but we forget what came before. It has the patina of making us nostalgic for the remembered past, even though we forget the long history.

This certainly seems to be true of journalism. We look at the landscape of what venture capitalist Jason Calacanis calls “late-stage journalism” and we see a world that is certainly far from what folks once though was the Golden Age of journalism in the 60s, 70s, and 80 and ’90s. But as a part of broader history, the picture is different. And perhaps it is only in seeing that difference, that we can adapt to the economic, political and socials needs of journalism today.

To talk about this, I'm joined by the journalist and Dean Emeritus of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Nicholas Lemann.  His story, Can Journalism be Saved, appears in the most recent issue of the The New York Review of Books.  

My conversation with Nicholas Lemann: 

David Plouffe on Beating Donald Trump

March 18th, 2020

https___cdn.evbuc.com_images_84183031_14Even if you are not a political junkie, even if you only pay attention occasionally, the one thing you should have learned is that campaigns matters. And while this is true at the most local level, it is true in bold relief in our national presidential campaigns.

 

It seems that in the modern political era, presidential cycles each layer on new accessories to the campaign process.

In 1960 it was the televised debate. In l964 it was an insurgent winning primaries and the nomination. In 1968, it was the beginning of the politics of division and the Southern Strategy. In 1976, we saw the full flowering of the power of primaries and people over back rooms. In 1980 we saw the consolidation of personality over politics. In 1992 the coming together of personality and the emerge of modern campaign techniques. And in 2008 the first full emergence of GOTV efforts, digital media, more sophisticated polling combined with old school grassroots politics.

It didn’t hurt that in Barak Obama there was also a great candidate with finely tuned political instincts and a brilliant campaign lead by a man steeped in the history of campaigns. That was David Plouffe. He continues his political wisdom in his new work A Citizen's Guide to Beating Donald Trump.

My conversation with David Plouffe: 

A Bank Behind Every Crime: Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction

March 9th, 2020

42422800_303.jpgUsually attributed to Balzac is the observation that behind every great fortune is a great crime. In this day and age, It might be paraphrased as that behind every great financial crime is a great bank.

In the case of many such crimes in the 20th and 21st century lies Deutsche Bank. In its efforts to

grow it did away with all traditional ideas of risk management. In its pursuit of fees and earnings, bank executives got into business with some of the world’s most shady and financially needy characters. Russian oligarchs, the Trumps, the Kushners, the Mercers, Vladimir Putin, and many other key Russiagate figures were among their customers.

It got involved with other banks in Germany, Moscow, Cyprus, and Moldavia; money laundering; real estate deals; hedge funds; indictments; bankruptcies; and a cast of characters orbiting it that feels more like the bar scene in the original Star Wars.

Trying to tie all of this together into one overarching narrative is David Enrich in his book Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction

My conversation with David Enrich:

When Will The Boomers Leave the Stage?

March 3rd, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-03-03%2Bat%2B6.54.3We are living through what is perhaps the last hurrah of boomer leaders. It’s hard to believe that it was only 28 years ago that we elected, in Bill Clinton, the first of only three boomer presidents, after having eight presidents, from Ike to George H.W. Bush, who represented the Greatest Generation.

Today we have a cadre of boomers, all septuagenarians, trying to make one last attempt in a world moving and changing faster than ever, trying to keep alive the aging boomer legacy.

As they do, a whole new generation is waiting in the wings. Soon, in the words of JFK, the torch will be passed to a new generation of Americans. Millennials shaped not by JFK, as so many boomers were, by their memories of 9/11, endless war and the financial crisis.

Capturing the political zeitgeist of these millennials at this moment is Charlotte Alter, in her new book The Ones We've Been Waiting For: How a New Generation of Leaders Will Transform America

My conversation with Charlotte Alter:

Hong Kong on the Brink

February 26th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-02-26%2Bat%2B9.21.3Trade Wars, intellectual property, public health, the global economy and democracy vs. authoritarianism. All are major parts of our public dialogues and all pertain to the state of China today. No other nation on the planet presents such an enormous footprint of the future. Perhaps even more so than the US.

That’s why the protests and events of the past year or so in Hong Kong are so important. Not just to the people of Hong Kong, but as a symbol of the face that China decides it’s comfortable putting forth to the world.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine brings this into the focus in his new book Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink.

My conversation with Jeffrey Wasserstrom

You Say You Want A Revolution

February 24th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-02-24%2Bat%2B9.52.4We look at our political and cultural divide today and think that it can’t get much worse. What we forget is that it has been worse. Not just when policy matters were settled by a duel or literally pitted brother against brother, but even in the 1960s and 1970s  when students where shot at Kent State. Law enforcement was murdered in politically motivated robberies, and even the bombing of the US Capitol was part of our contemporary political history and division.

A powerful example of this period is a group of left wing women fresh from their time in the Weather Underground. They got together in the early 1980s in the first blush of the Reagan years to become essentially domestic terrorists bent on opposing the political, corporate, and government ideologies of the time.

William Rosenau, takes us back to that time in his recent book Tonight We Bombed the U.S. Capitol: The Explosive Story of M19, America's First Female Terrorist Group.

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with William Rosenau:

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Nicholas Kristoff & Sheryl WuDunn: Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope

February 13th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-02-13%2Bat%2B1.53.4Back in 1962, sociologist and political activist Michael Harrington published a book entitled The Other America. In it, he argued that a full twenty-five percent of Americans were living in poverty. The book had a profound impact on both Jack and Bobby Kennedy and some said it was responsible for Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Forty-one years later in 2003, John Edwards spoke of “two Americas.” A nation divided by race, and by poverty.

And today, a full 58 years after Harrington’s look at poverty, the homeless crises is worse than ever, the streets of cities, large and small, are living evidence. The opiate and drug crises have hollowed out a large part of the country and the latest proposed federal budget reaches new heights in cutting social safety net programs.

It’s hard to think there is hope...for the country or for those left behind.

This is the world that Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn look at though a very personal lens in their book Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope.

My conversation with Nicholas Kristoff & Sheryl WuDunn: 

Can We Distance Ourselves From the Sins of Our Parents? A Conversation with the Daughter of George Wallace

February 11th, 2020

RCJBJXW5JZASRL5JVR5EYEI544.jpgIt’s hard to make the point in our 24/7 information-saturated culture, but all of us, politicians included, are a lot more than the worst or even the best thing that we have ever done.

Couple that with the fact that times change so quickly, values change, norms change and what might have been acceptable in 1962 certainly would get you fired today. This is perhaps most true with respect to the subject of race, the singular stain of our founders that we have worked 240 + years to try and redress.

The story of race is a long complicated one and former Alabama Governor George Wallace was a part of it. Today, his daughter Peggy Wallace Kennedy tries to put her fathers life in perspective. People like the great John Lewis and Congresswoman Barbara Lee have lent their hands to help her in that effort. All while our current president tries to rekindle the hatred she has worked hard to try and extinguish.

Peggy Wallace Kennedy talks to me about her memoir The Broken Road: George Wallace and a Daughter’s Journey to Reconciliation and about her recollection of her father.

My conversation with Peggy Wallace Kennedy: 

If You Spend Hours Watching Cable News, You Are Just A Political Hobbyist

February 5th, 2020

politics-is-for-power-9781982116781_lg.jPartly as a result of 24/7 cable news and its unending political coverage, politics today is simply another form of entertainment. A spectator sport at best.

We know the names of all the players. Nate silver homogenizes sports and election statistics as if we all had political bookies. We’re angry and we want purity tests for our candidates.

What we’ve lost sight of in all of this is what politics is actually for. It is, at its core, only about the wielding of power to accomplish something. Success comes not from shouting, or self-righteousness, or the sanctity of one’s views, but from the ability to muster the requisite number of votes.

This is true whether it’s about pre-existing conditions and guns or about filling a pothole or paving a road in your community.

Political science professor Eitan Hersh explains this in Politics Is for Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change.

My conversation with Eitan Hersh: 

How Can We Avoid A New Generation of Brett Kavanaughs and Harvey Weinsteins

January 31st, 2020

97e5c6-20200110-boys-and-sex.jpgWhen an event truly captivates the nation, it’s usually because it touches on something that we’re not very good at talking about. Such was the case with the Brett Kavanaugh hearing.

Reactions to Christine Blasey Ford personified a complex contradiction in our society. While many, particularly some men, respected her appearance and professionalism, they were way too quick to identify with and accept Brett Kavanaugh’s college sexual entitlement as some kind of norm. In doing that one wonders what message we are sending to boys and young men.

This disconnect between changing culture and stunted sexuality seems to lie at the heart of confusion that boys are experiencing today as they try to come to grips with intimacy and sexuality in a changing world while most are still stuck with sexuality in a 1955 time warp

It’s no wonder that people like Jordan Peterson tells his audience of angry young men to “look back to the 1950’s”

That's the world that best selling author and journalist Peggy Orenstein examines in Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity

My conversation with Peggy Orenstein:

Australia’s Climate Apocalypse: Up Close and Personal

January 29th, 2020

Merewether_Beach_Fires_Australia_1088x72By now, we’ve all seen the pictures and footage of Australia-on-fire. In many ways it’s equivalent to those Rover pictures of Mars. They make us sit up and take notice, but we have no real feel for what it’s like and how life can survive, or even if it can. For that we can only appreciate firsthand accounts of what may very well be the first great climate apocalypse of the 21st century.

Some of you may have read Judith Crispin’s harrowing account of the fires in a recent story in WhoWhatWhy. Now amidst the fire and devastation, it is an honor to talk with Judith Crispin

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Judith Crispin: 

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Silicon Valley and the Quest for Immortality

January 28th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-01-28%2Bat%2B1.39.0The not so subtle joke has always been that the two things that are inevitable are death and taxes. And while efforts are always front and center to conquer disease and extend our life span, the inevitability of death has always loomed large.

Even efforts to regenerate life and the fascination with cryogenics still acknowledged death.

Now a whole new group of scientists are trying to defy the evolutionary idea of death. The funny thing is it’s not happening in the great halls of medicine. Not at NIH or Cleveland or Mayo Clinic or at our other great research hospitals, but in Silicon Valley. There, a group of wealthy boomers, not unlike aging politicians I guess, will do anything to avoid stepping aside. This is the world that Chip Walter takes us into in Immortality, Inc.: Renegade Science, Silicon Valley Billions, and the Quest to Live Forever

My conversation with Chip Walter:

Saving America From Trump, and Democrats From Themselves

January 22nd, 2020

https___cdn.evbuc.com_images_82748647_14Last Sunday the venerable NY Times got it all wrong. They said, and I’m quoting, “On the Democratic side, an essential debate is underway between two visions that may define the future of the party and perhaps the nation.” Not so.

The only thing that will really define the future of either party and of the nation is the defeat of Donald Trump. And anything that stops short of focusing on that and that alone is a failure of imagination.

The times went on to say, and again I’m quoting, “with a crowded field and with traditional polling in tatters, that calculation calls for a hefty dose of humility about anyone’s ability to foretell what voters want.” Wrong again.

Focus groups, polling, and campaigns still matter. They matter not just in “the election,” but in the elections in the states that will actually shape the outcome of that election.

It’s not a mystery. The methods today may be more modern, but campaigns for candidates, not unlike advertising for a product, if a done right, will work!

And that, not some vague nuances of policy is the only thing that will defeat Trump.

To try and explain and reinforce these ideas I’m joined by. Rick Wilson the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Everything Trump Touches Dies and most recently Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America from Trump--and Democrats from Themselves

My conversation with Rick Wilson:

It’s Ok To Compromise and Maybe Even to Sellout Sometimes

January 20th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-01-20%2Bat%2B11.41.In our current political and social climate, when polarization is so extreme, when purity tests are often required by your tribe, the idea of compromise and what some call “selling out,” takes on added weight and significance.

But because positions and even sometimes values are often so extreme does compromise and selling out even mean what it used to? And if not, can we actually square the circle of compromise, selling out and ethics.

That's the question that Inge Hansen asks in The Ethical Sellout: Maintaining Your Integrity in the Age of Compromise.

My conversation with Inge Hansen: 

Human Nature Always Finds A Way

January 14th, 2020

71OMelbI6sL.jpgMost of you know the story of the scorpion and the frog and what it tells us about human nature. 

It’s no surprise than that our everyday encounters, at work, at home, and on the street are driven by our innate nature. Wouldn’t it be easier if there were a set of immutable laws by which to understand that nature? Law that really might have been helped that frog? 

These are the rules laid down by bestselling author Robert Greene. Greene, the author of The 48 Laws of Power and the Art of Seduction, now lays out The Laws of Human Nature

My conversation with Robert Greene:

Can the Generational Divide Lead Us Out Of Division?

January 8th, 2020

51LP1FurD2L._SX312_BO1%252C204%252C203%2We see endlessly how we are siloed with respect to politics, race, and geography. Add to this the generational silos that we all seem to live in.

Reams have been written about intergenerational conflict, particularly in the workplace. But might this be the one area where the imaginary lines of divisions can be crossed? Can the improvement of intergenerational relationships in the workplace be a kind of Rosetta Stone for better understanding of all the other issues that divide us? Issues that are fed by speed, modernity, technology, and popular culture. This is the exploration that Hayim Herrirng gives us in Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide.

My conversation with Hayim Herring:

Do You Need Further Reminders that This Is Not Your Father’s Workplace

January 5th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-01-05%2Bat%2B9.20.5The Harvey Weinstein trial, which begins this week, while perhaps extreme in its nature, reminds us of the realities of today’s work place.

Today it’s not enough to just stay on top of one's career and professional knowledge and development. There is also the changing dynamics and culture of the workplace itself. Multi-generational, multi-gender, multi-age, and the seemingly increased sensitivity and scrutiny.

The irony is that it is this very diversity, that carries within it the seeds and the power, to help us understand and to strive to function frictionlessly within it. In fact, it is only by embracing this very diversity that businesses can succeed in today’s environment.

Lauren Stiller Rikleen is the founder and president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership, and is a provider of training, speaking, and consulting services to professional services entities. In her new book The Shield of Silence: How Power Perpetuates a Culture of Harassment and Bullying in the Workplace she addresses the strengthening multi-generational teams, women’s leadership and advancement, and minimizing the impact of unconscious bias.

My conversation with Lauren Stiller Rikleen: 

Why Most Health Care is Barking Up the Wrong Tree

December 30th, 2019

https___cdn.evbuc.com_images_75613995_19Some of you may have seen the story that owning a dog gave you a 27% chance of living longer. Some of that was related to the exercise of walking the dog, some to the companionship, and the basic human-dog bond.

But suppose the reality was much deeper than that. Suppose dogs could be diagnosticians and even healers and protect us from the onset of symptoms. They can and many already do.

This is the world that Maria Goodavage, veteran journalist and New York Times bestselling author of Soldier Dogs, takes us into in her latest Doctor Dogs: How Our Best Friends Are Becoming Our Best Medicine

My conversation with Maria Goodavage

William Greider R.I.P.

December 27th, 2019

william_greider.jpgWilliam Greider always knew that the chickens would come home to roost. Over many conversations, since 1997, he seemed to know and report the truth of that old adage "that if things were going to stay the same, a lot of things had to change." My conversation with Greider in March of 2010. RIP William Greider

Something to Think About As You Eat that Holiday Steak……..

December 24th, 2019

9780691182315.jpgIt’s long been an adage that what we eat, defines who we are. That’s never been truer than in our polarized world today and beef and its mass production has long been at the center of this definition.

From the mid 19th century, the history of beef parallels, and often reflects social, cultural and economic changes. From the great plains in the 1850s to the slaughterhouses of the midwest, to the first McDonalds in San Bernardino in 1940, “where’s the beef,” has often told us who we are.

Joshua Specht tells us more in  Red Meat Republic: A Hoof-to-Table History of How Beef Changed America 

My conversation with Joshua Specht: 

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