Archives for category: news

I’m excited to announce the newest report from the Kettering Foundation, Developing Materials for Deliberative Forums. It’s a handbook for anyone interested in creating materials to support deliberative conversations on difficult public issues.

30813.inddThis report has been a long time coming. It was one of the first things I was asked to complete when I came on staff at Kettering.

Our aim was to collect what we have been learning about “issue framing” and make it accessible to people so it didn’t seem like such a mystery. Throughout the dialogue field, people often talk about issue framing as some kind of specialized skill that only certain people can do — or that takes huge amounts of money, people, time, and other resources. But we’ve learned that it is relatively straightforward and really just takes a careful attentiveness to a few principles and key ideas.

Developing Materials is available here on the Kettering Foundation web site, or you can download it here: Developing Materials for Deliberative Forums

It’s also available for free in hard copy! Just drop me a line at and let me know you’d like a copy.

Here is an excerpt:

When issues are named and framed in public terms, we can identify the problem that we need to talk about (naming) and the critical options and drawbacks for deciding what to do about that problem (framing). . . .

A framework that will prompt public deliberation should make clear the options that are available for addressing the problem and the tensions at stake in facing it. It should lay bare what is at issue in readily understandable terms.

Three key questions drive the development of a framework for public deliberation:

  • What concerns you about this issue?
  • Given those concerns, what would you do about it?
  • If that worked to ease your concern, what are the downsides or trade-offs you might then have to accept?

Responses to these questions, together, can generate a framework that makes clear the drawbacks of different people’s favored options. Facing these drawbacks and coming to a sound decision about what to do is the ultimate concern of deliberation.


JUDGE BEST by Flickr user meormeor

"JUDGE BEST" by Flickr user meormeor

The meaning of “professional” has changed drastically over time. It used to solely designate someone who had completed specialized training and been accepted into an organized group of others who pursue the same calling. These days, it often just means “someone who gets paid for what they do,” or “someone who works in an office.”

But even the “old” definition actually misses the mark, because it’s focused on the individual and not on society. So even using a strict designation, we can have “profession creep” so that all manner of occupations can become professions simply by adding a tough training course and a sanctioning body. For instance, there’s actually a group of “communications professionals.” I don’t dispute their skill, but I question the label.

Because, if you look at the role professionals play in society, a different definition comes to light:

A profession is someone to whom society grants special powers in return for special service that requires special skill.

This is a public definition of the word.

For instance, we give the police the power to carry weapons, use force, and detain us in return for their vital service protecting the peace. We allow medical doctors to wield almost God-like power over our well-being, in return for their service in healing the sick. We give judges power to remove our freedoms in return for their service in deciding disputes according to the law. All these uses of “professional” are rooted in the needs and perspective of the public, as opposed to the individual.

Using this litmus test, many occupations lose their “professional” status because they either lack the special powers or the special service aspect.

I have been interested lately in this as it relates to Journalism. I have written before about the differences between Journalism and news gathering. Lately I have thought about it more, as I have been involved in developing a new “citizen journalist” project that I’ll be writing about more in upcoming article.

There are professional Journalists, by the public definition: we grant them special powers (secrecy and protection of sources) in return for their specialized skill in illuminating the truth. But in a world where Journalism is being replaced by newsgathering, the perceived need for Journalism is waning. People can get their news from nonprofessionals, and don’t focus as individuals on whether they want Journalism or not.

This seems to me to be a problem that we need to address on a public, societal level. Though individuals may not perceive a personal need for it, a free society demands that Journalism be present and be robust.

People these days pooh-pooh professional training for Journalists, because so many amateurs are getting into the act — or what looks like the act. (I am one of them.)

But there come times when we need more than news (what happened) and need Journalism (deeper truth, investigated and uncovered). If there is no profession, I fear that there won’t be this Journalism around when we need it.

* They Knew
* DC Buys Foreign Electric Cars
* Journalist Slams Media Narcissism


Here are the stories that interest me this morning, along with my take on why they may be of interest to philanthropy and nonprofit leaders.

  • Lawmakers briefed in detail about torture. Reports are surfacing that a number of members of Congress had been briefed on the use of “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has previously denied being given any details. The CIA submitted a report on Wednesday that outlined meetings with dozens of lawmakers and “presents the most thorough information we have on dates, locations, and names of all Members of Congress who were briefed by the CIA on enhanced interrogation techniques,” according to CIA director Leon Panetta. The information is drawn from contemporaneous memos and files. (A Pelosi spokesman says it confirms the Speaker’s contention that she had “been briefed only once.”)
      Waterboard by flickr user waterboardingdotorg

      "Waterboard" by flickr user waterboardingdotorg

    • My take: People were not as “in the dark” and “out of the loop” as they now like to say. Please let this chapter of our contemporary history be  closed.
  • DC buying electric cars. The mayor of our nation’s capital has announced a deal between DC and Nissan where up to 100 electric cars will be purchased, along with charging stations to support them. 
  • Newspaper big criticizes media “narcissism.” Pulitzer-winning Walter Pincus has written a lengthy essay in which he lays out his major worries for journalism. “My profession is in distress because for more than a decade it has been chasing the false idols of fame and fortune,” he writes. “While engaged in those pursuits, it forgot its readers and the need to produce a commercial product that appealed to its mass audience, which in turn drew advertisers and thus paid for it all. While most corporate owners were seeking increased earnings, higher stock prices, and bigger salaries, editors and reporters focused more on winning prizes or making television appearances.”
    • My take: This piece echoes my own sense that placing journalists on a “democratic pedestal” for so long has created a professional culture of entitlement. Bunker mentality will do that. Yes, journalism is critical for a healthy democracy. But it needs to pay its way by being useful, not by patting itself on the back.

Thanks for reading.


* Cell Explosion
* NASA Back To Earth
* Nick Cave Pens Gladiator II? 


Here are the stories that interest me this morning, along with my take on why they may be of interest to philanthropy and nonprofit leaders.

  •  More cell-only households than landline-only. For the first time ever, according to a survey released by the Centers for Disease Control, the share of U.S. households that only have a cell phone has surpassed the share of households that only have a landline telephone. 20% have cell-only, 17% landline-only. (In 2003, it was 3% cell only to 43% landline-only).
    • My take: This has obvious implications for survey research, driving up its cost, although many pollsters say they are working on ways to weight data to account for the shift and still only call landlines. But that tactic will run out eventually, as cell-only becomes the norm. Eventually, landlines will be only for data. Think about similar demographic shifts: social networks vs. email; online content vs. physical cd’s and movies. Surely there are more. Which ones will upend how your organization does its work?
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds by flickr user jennder (Me: I was at this show.)

    Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds by flickr user jennder (Me: I was at this show.)

  • NASA back to Earth. Obama is expected today to announce a review of NASA’s manned spaceflight efforts, to be led by former Lockheed Martin head Norm Augustine. The last space shuttle launch is planned for 2010, and the first manned missions of the new generation of Ares craft. Some observers worry it “will be like 1975 all over again,” when Nixon unexpectedly cut the Apollo program. 
    • My take: It’s a damn shame. Space flight is forever taking budget hits, especially as scientific illiteracy becomes more prevalent and accepted even among otherwise educated people.  This may be a chance to demonstrate the commercial viability of space flight.
  • Nick Cave rejected Gladiator script discovered? The Guardian reports that a rejected script by artist Nick Cave may have been unearthed. According to accounts, actor Russell Crowe and director Ridley Scott asked fellow Australian Cave to draft a sequel to Gladiator. Any sequel would face a key hurdle: Crowe’s character, Maximus, dies at the end of the film. In Cave’s purported script, “Crowe’s Maximus meddles with Roman gods in the afterlife, is reincarnated, defends early Christians, reunites with his son, and ultimately lives forever – leading tanks in the second world war and even mucking around in the modern-day Pentagon.” Here’s a full synopsis. The studios, sadly, just couldn’t take it and passed.
    • My take: Cave may be the most singular artist alive. Anything he does, or is rumored to do, is . . . well, it’s just cool.

Thanks for reading.


* Shoplifting Up
* Have A Drink
* All The News That’s Fit



Contra la ley by flickr user Daquella manera

"Contra la ley" by flickr user Daquella manera

Here are the stories that interest me this morning, along with my take on why they may be of interest to philanthropy and nonprofit leaders.


  • Study: Shoplifting up amid worsening economy. A study released yesterday by the Retail Industry Leaders Association found shoplifting to have increased across the board over the last four months.  61% of the stores surveyed found increases in “opportunistic” theft, and 72% say they’ve seen a rise in organized retail crime.
    • My take: No surprise but it will get worse.
  • Study: Drinking up amid peace dividend. A study by the Rowntree Foundation finds a clear increase in drinking in Northern Ireland since 1986. It’s gone up on the Emerald Isle more than it has in neighboring Great Britain. Researchers say the trend may be due to a higher standard of living stemming from the peace process.
    • My take: While it sounds like a minor issue, lost productivity and illness from over consumption of alcohol is a large problem worldwide. Yet because it is so ingrained in Western culture, it is hard to address in the same way that smoking and seat belt use have been. Watch for this to change over time. 
  • Student: Teacher scolded me for reading the news. The case of a  Traverse City, Mich. student is getting attention after he called the Rush Limbaugh show to complain that, while reading news headlines during free time at the computer lab, he was told to turn off the objectionable material by the teacher. The problem? He was reading FOX News and not the BBC. From the transcript: “[T]oday I was on the Internet reading Fox News, and my teacher came up behind me and found out I was reading Fox News and yelled at me in front of the whole class and said I was not allowed to read Fox News in class, that I’m only allowed to read BBC and stuff of that nature.” The school says it is investigating.
    • My take: Episodes like this don’t help counteract charges of bias in the nation’s classrooms and on campuses. Many of the charges leveled by conservatives have merit. Journalism, public education, philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, and academe really ought to look carefully at such charges rather than dismiss them. 

Thanks for reading.


* Uncle Sam Biggest Supporter Of Cities
* Globe Not Dead Yet
* Kindle For Textbooks?



Tent city u district by flickr user jragon

"Tent city u district" by flickr user jragon

Here are the stories that interest me this morning, along with my take on why I think they may be of interest to nonprofit and philanthropy leaders.


  • In a first, funds from the U.S. government is the largest revenue source for cities. “Uncle Sam has supplanted sales, property and income taxes as the biggest source of revenue for state and local governments,” says USA Today. With stimulus money beginning to flow and tax collections down, this state of affairs is set to increase to the tune of $300 billion over the next two years. State and local governments spend about $2 trillion per year all told. The G makes up about 23% of that total.
    • My take: Wow. A stark indicator of the depth of this recession (along with the new tent cities). Experts don’t expect a turnaround in this until 2012.
  •  Boston Globe gets a reprieve. Six of the seven unions in question have agreed to concessions with the New York Times Company, prompting the Grey Lady to give the Boston Globe a new lease on life for now. NYT purchased the family-owned Globe in 1993 and recently filed papers allowing it to close in 60 days.
    • My take: If a paper newspaper can’t survive in hifalutin Boston, where can it survive? Still, this really just buys time — the whole business is changing.
  • Amazon’s new large-screen Kindle good for textbooks. Details are emerging about Amazon’s planned announcement tomorrow about a new, large-screen Kindle. The device is said to be pitched at the university market. However, NYT’s Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. will be at the event.
    • My take: Now that’s what I’m talking about. A perfect use for digital delivery. Course textbooks are huge, expensive, and sometimes hard to come by. This can change that whole ecosystem irrevocably. No more “used” books, more just-in-time delivery, no inventory. What will student unions sell?

* Conflicts Over “Climate Change”
* Boston Globe DMW?
* Bigger Kindle

Here are the stories that interest me this morning, along with my take on why I think they may be of interest to nonprofit and philanthropy leaders.

    Wind Vs. Coal by flickr user rpeschetz

    "Wind Vs. Coal" by flickr user rpeschetz

  • Climate change conflicts and controversies are growing. The rift between Reps. Henry Waxman and Chris Van Hollen are growing, as the two had it out in a recent private leadership meeting. Waxman wants to push forward this session for passage of the sweeping Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. Van Hollen says that if is destined for defeat in the Senate (which it may be), best not to bring it up. Meanwhile, critics say that the bill was written in large part by lobbyists and interest groups, and contains a provision that directly benefits one of the authors, Duke Energy Corp. Against this backdrop, communications strategists are urging environmentalists to use more approachable language to talk about these issues because the existing terminology is so politically charged.
    • My take: Environmentalists say the “science is settled” on climate change but the policy response definitely is not. This is a very visible example of the difference between “vision” and “strategy” — and the fact that simply getting all players to agree on a “vision” is necessary but not sufficient.
  • New York Times Co. to shutter The Boston Globe. The lifeline of The Boston Globe appears to be running out as its parent company has filed notice with the government that labor negotiations have not been successful. The move allows the New York Times Co., which bought the Globe in 1993, to shutter the paper in sixty days. NYT is seeking $10 million in labor concessions from a variety of unions, as well as changes in seniority rules. Talks broke down recently as the company was forced to admit a $4 million accounting error. 
    • My take: Many observers say it’s unthinkable to imagine that Boston, home of the nation’s most respected universities, could be without its own daily newspaper. I say you’re darn’ tootin’ it’s thinkable. While it’s easy to complain of mismanagement by the absentee owners, the economics in the news business are increasingly just not there.
  • A new Kindle will likely be announced this week. Industry observes say a new version of Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader will be unveiled this week. The announcement is evidently scheduled for May 6. This new version will be a large-screen format. Some newspaper observers are pinning hopes on the device to put some wind in the sails of failing subscriptions — the large screen is thought to be perfect for reading tabloid and broadsheet articles.
    • My take: Don’t held your breath, guys. People will not line up to pay upwards of $400 for a device that will then give them the opportunity to then pay for the privilege of reading your news. People dig Kindle for the books; the other stuff is gravy. Newspapers will have to change their business model, not just hold out for the deus ex machina of a new gizmo.

Thanks for reading.


* H1N1 Not Seen As Super Dangerous
* S.D. Cops Texting Drivers On Checkpoints
* Souter To Retire


Here are the stories that interest me this morning, along with my take on why they may be of interest to nonprofit and philanthropy leaders:

  • H1N1 (“swine”) flu is not seen as dangerous as previous ones. Researchers are concluding that the H1N1 flu now declared a pandemic is not as dangerous as flu strains that have caused earlier pandemics (for instance, that of 1918). The mortality rate for ordinary seasonal flus is between .06% and .24% — about 36,000 deaths annually in U.S. H1N1 is expected to be on that level. For context, the 1918 influenza outbreak killed 50 million people worldwide. Scientists caution, though, that the virus could mutate into something more aggressive.
    • My take: Needed perspective. In today’s anti-science climate, it is easy for panic to spread and facts ignored. Scientific ignorance, in my view, is a deep public problem.
  • Police Car Lighs by flickr user davidsonscott15

    Police Car Lighs by flickr user davidsonscott15

  • South Dakota police have a program that texts drivers before sobriety checkpoints go up. Thought to be the only one of its kind in the nation, the program allows South Dakota drivers to sign up to receive text messages that tell them when, and in what general location, sobriety checkpoints will be set up. Exact locations aren’t specified.
    • My take: A great example of thinking outside of the box your role puts you in. SD police decided it was smarter to keep people off the road in the first place, than catch them in the act. It’s law enforcement TQM!
  • Justice David Souter to retire.With oral arguments for the court term now over, Justice Souter plans to retire at the end of this term.
    • My take: Obama’s first Supreme Court pick. He is very likely to get at least one more. Though it is hard to imagine this one changing the character of the Court too much (Souter by and large is aligned with the liberal wing of his colleagues), ever since Bork no nomination has been smooth. This will be a firestorm as conservatives pressure their Senators to dig in and fight.

Thanks for reading.


* Specter Donors Want Money Back
* Facebook CFO Runs For Office 
* Fresh vs. Lame 100 Day Reporting


Here are the stories that interest me this morning, along with my take on why I think they may be of interest to nonprofit and philanthropy leaders.

  • Arlen Specter fallout continued.
    Arlen Specter from CBS News

    Arlen Specter from CBS News

    Allaying fears (mine included) over “fillibuster proof” majorities, newly-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter voted against the Obama administration’s budget on his first day with his new party. Meanwhile, his erstwhile party continues to hate him. Donors are lining up to demand their money back and Specter is giving it back when asked. (Republicans asking for their money back include colleagues Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, and Bob Corker.)

    • My take: Political fundraising is ‘wayyy different than nonprofit fundraising but the issues of donor intent and givebacks play out in each arena. This is something nonprofits ought to have a policy on, and be upfront about it.
  • The Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook is running for California Attorney General. Chris Kelly launched his campaign yesterday (actually, an “exploratory committee”) with a Facebook page and a standalone site
    • My take: It will be interesting to see how the Kelly campaign values the Facebook page, and how they handle the in-kind donations aspect of it. Will he need to part ways from the company? His Facebook page has a vanity url — do all candidates get that? What is it worth? 
  • Amid the 100 Days Of Obama hoopla, and its tiresome reporting, there were some standouts. The Politico’s Eamon Javers has a good roundup of some of the better insights generated by the ordinarily cliche-filled 100-days meme.
    • My take: It’s hard to be in the journalism business. People expect stories pegged to arbitrary (and sometimes inane) events — then complain when they seem thin. Gotta have a thick skin! 

Thanks for reading,


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* Test Scores Up Since NCLB
* Colleges Using Social Media
* Consumer Confidence Soars
* Fewer Child Porn Sites


Here are the stories that interest me this morning, along with why I think they may be useful for nonprofit and philanthropy leaders.

  • Math and reading scores rise for 9- and 13-year olds.
    Think, by Flickr user ccarlstead

    Think, by Flickr user ccarlstead

    Since the passage of 2002’s controversial No Child Left Behind law, math and reading scores have risen, according to the definitive national test on the issue. Says WaPo: “Performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which offers a long view of U.S. student achievement, shows several bright spots. Nine-year-olds posted the highest scores ever in reading and math in 2008. Black and Hispanic students of that age also reached record reading scores, though they continued to trail white peers.”

    • My take: I have always felt that opposition to NCLB was in large part about fear of measurement, which is something that nonprofits and philanthropies grapple with all the time. What if you measure my program and find it to be a failure? But, you can flip that: Things that get measured typically get more energy put behind them, and so they improve.
  • Colleges are using social media as a recruitment tool. According to the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, the share of colleges not using social networking as part of its outreach fell from 39% last year to 15% this year. This includes blogs as well as commercial social network sites (primarily Facebook). However, 37% of admissions offices with blogs don’t accept comments on them. And there was an interesting drop: The number of colleges using social networking sites to research potential students dropped to 17%  (from 21% in 2007)
    • My take: It’s all about the execution here, and there are troubling signs that colleges are out of touch. Andrea Jarrell knows a lot more about this than I do, but here are my opinions from a social media perspective. They should be increasing their proactive, researching use of social networks, as this would allow them to better target admissions messages. And, according to the CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, “Social media tools, like Facebook, Twitter and blogs, are key to communicating with this generation of students.” This suggests a misunderstanding of “this generation of students,” for whom the key is texting. Sorry, kids don’t Twitter.
  • Consumer Confidence Index soars. In a stark turnaround, the Conference Board announced that April’s closely-watched Consumer Confidence Index rose twelve points to 39.2, the highest level since November and topping analysts’ consensus expectation of 29.5. “The Present Situation [which meausres how shoppers feel now] rose slightly to 23.7 from 21.9 last month. The Expectations Index, which measures how shoppers feel about the economy over the next six months, skyrocketed to 49.5 from 30.2 in March.”
    • My take: Consumers feel OK about how things are now, but have an overall sense that the bottom is near and the next few months will show improvement. I am not a firm believer in the wisdom of crowds, but on this I’ll give it some small credence — if only out of hope. The state of the economy has a huge impact on the nonprofit and philanthropy worlds, as so much is driven by foundations’ budgets, which are fundamentally connected to the stock markets.
  • Watchdog group reports fewer child porn sites.The Internet Watch Foundation said more public and law enforcement attention has made it harder to operate child pornography sites, which “are often removed within hours,” according to the group. However, those that remain online are more likely to use very graphic images (58%, up from 47% two years ago), and 24% of the children used in the photographs and videos appear to be 6 years old or younger.
    • My take: This is one of the remaining evils on the planet. It’s good news that heightened awareness can reduce the apparent activity level, but troubling that what’s left is increasingly hardcore.

Thanks for reading,