Goodbye to the beat
The first “beat reporters” were probably the men sent by newspapers to hang around the criminal courts in the early 19th century. Today almost every news outlet is organized around fixed beats: “financial markets”, “real estate”, "technology", and so on. These are now so ingrained that we see them as an actual description of reality—the things the world is made of.
Today I finished reading Moby Dick — one of those things I’ve been meaning to do for a long time but never quite got around to.
Glad I finally did. It’s an amazing novel, one I can probably appreciate more now that I’m a little older and not being made to read it by a teacher. That’s often such a sure-fire way to sour someone on a book, isn’t it?
Of course, anytime you read a great book, you always want to urge your friends to pick it up. In that spirit, here’s a link to download a free copy of Moby Dick via Project Gutenberg, if you like. Several different electronic formats available (C;
Still very early days for this one, so if you have any interest or ideas regarding such stuff, please do take the plunge and join the community!
I’ve just added mobile themes to this blog, allowing easier access and an optimized presentation of the content on a mobile phone or iPad. Please try it and let me know what you think.
From the browser on your mobile device, you can now add an icon to the device’s home screen to access pmckay.com as if it’s an app you’ve downloaded. To do this in the mobile version of Apple’s Safari, for instance, you would:
(1) Navigate to pmckay.com the usual way.
(2) Tap the button on the toolbar at the botton that has an arrow pointing to the right, depicted looking as if it’s popping out of a box.
(3) On the list of options that pops up, choose “Add to Home Screen.”
That’s it. There should also be a similar trick for the Android browser that will work the same way. (Alas, I use an iPhone, so I know that browser better.)
As an added bonus on the iPad in particular, the blog now displays with a page-through sorta layout that’s similar to the app Flipboard.
Honestly, I’m still playing with this feature. Not sure whether I prefer it or a plain ol’ website view. If any of you who have iPads have an opinion one way or another after you’ve taken look, I’m definitely curious to hear it.
Trying something different this week for my Twitter stream. Figure I’ll post a “follow Friday” pick here and just let my blog software tweet it automatically. That way I’ll have a little more room than the standard 140 characters to explain why I’ve picked a certain account to FF, which is a Twitter tradition in which users recommend good feeds to one another.
My FF pick this week is Story Corp, a great nonprofit that facilitates they recording, sharing, and preservation of personal stories by Americans of all backgrounds. Story Corp material appears regularly on NPR’s Morning Edition, though I subscribe via podcast.
Without fail, I find the regular 5-minute vignettes on the podcast make me laugh, cry, or just stop — really stop in my tracks — and think about some vital episode in American history witnessed through the eyes of everyday folks. Typical is this recent installment about a pair of black men whose whole lives were transformed for the worse by an innocent incident when they were kids playing with some white neighbors in the Jim Crow-era South.
A friend just shared this really fun time-lapse video with me on Vimeo. Figured you might get a kick out of it:
For the record, Clay Shirky says in his latest book Cognitive Surplus that he hates being described as an Internet “guru,” though a lot of other people find that term to be a useful shorthand description of him. To be more detailed about it, he’s an influential professor, consultant, and author whose 2008 book Here Comes Everybody quickly became essential reading for anyone who truly wants to understand social networking.
The earlier book obviously had a lot of relevance to anyone who cares about the future of journalism. Hoping for similar insights, I picked up the recently released Cognitive Surplus, which deals with online collaboration by people using their free time.
I’m happy to report, there are a lot of gems in this one too. Among them, this:
The bundle of concepts tied to the word media is unraveling. We need a new conception for the word, one that dispenses with connotations of “something produced by professionals for consumption by amateurs.”
Here’s mine: media is the connective tissue of society.
Media is how you know when and where your friend’s birthday party is. Media is how you know what’s happening in Tehran, who’s in charge in Tegucigalpa, or the price of tea in China. Media is how you know what your colleague named her baby. Media is how you know why Kierkegaard disagreed with Hegel. Media is how you know about anything more than ten yards away.
I’m not sure this definition is perfect, but it’s one of the best attempts I’ve seen. What do you think?
I’d like to thank everyone who’s tweeted or emailed me their good wishes this week as I depart the Wall Street Journal to co-found Roscoe Labs. I’m trying to get back to everyone personally, but it may take a couple more days.
In the meantime, a coupla goodies:
While cleaning out my desk this week, I came across my old press credentials for the Chicago financial exchanges. I covered these guys on the first beat I had at the Journal, so this really conjured some real nostalgia for me.
Speaking of the commodities beat, I also left behind some souvenirs from it…
Finally, I’m just in a mood to dig up this great commercial from back in the day (though the product was crappy). I think you’ll get my point…