Megan Charlop

19 March 2010

The first thing you noticed was the color of Meg’s hair. No one had hair like hers – a deep, rich red-orange. As she got older, her hair weathered into a softer rust-red laced with gold.

Then you’d notice Meg’s big hazel eyes, that smile beaming at you from her open, round, face.

I’m sitting here trying to reconstruct a life from this poor excuse of mine for a memory. I resent needing to do this. I’m furious at the injustice of her absence. Read the rest of this entry »

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Friday dog day with Mingus the Super Dog 8 Jan 2010

9 January 2010

A walk at the end of the day w Mingus the Super Dog cleared the brain and eased the soul. Here is the noble canine, after we’ve come down the hill. I spent most of the walk thinking about journalism and politics, and questions of balancing independence with strategic focus.

And just now, watched David Corn and Kevin Drum do a superb job talking with Bill Moyers, breaking down the story in our current issue on why and how the banking industry has “intellectually (as well as politically) captured Washington pols. A great show. Really feeling tonight all the pride and honor of working with guys like these – and the rest of the MoJo team.


Mingus the Super Dog at Kehoe Beach, New Years Day 2010

1 January 2010

Because it is most definitely not a work day


The Erdos Number and social nets

31 December 2009

My friend Don – we’ve been pals since elementary school – has one of the strongest moral centers of anyone I know (here‘s an example of what I mean, and here’s another side to this guy). I can remember back in high school sitting around a camp fire having one of those “meaning of life” conversations, when he caught me up short with the simple, obvious, and still true question we’re all struggling to answer. The question, he said, was simply, “how to live.” What are the ethics of a life well lived, he was asking. I still think that’s the essential question, partly because it’s something we can actually do something about.

Which brings me to Paul Erdos.

The other day I was listening to a show about “Numbers” from my absolutely all-time favorite podcast, Radiolab. The show featured a story about Paul Erdos and something called Erdos Numbers. (Sidebar: walking Mingus the Super Dog up the hill and down the hill yesterday I was thinking about this post, and it occurred to me that – while they’re quite different – Radiolab’s the aural equivalent of my all-time favorite magazine, the late, lamented, wish-it-was-still-around Whole Earth Review aka Coevolution Quarterly. Why? Because both are rich in sideways thinking, bringing the unexpected together with the everyday in brilliant moments of insight.)

Read the rest of this entry »


my new offi-cle. Or is it cub-ice?

30 December 2009

Hopefully not a sign of the Peter Principle at work. New work space, with a door that locks, but walls that leave a six foot gap to the ceiling.And a window out to the fire escape that doesn’t lock (but does open: yay. fresh air!)


Fairfax, Xmas eve, 2009

25 December 2009


Asymmetrical power relations in the social sector: Lucy Bernholz’s “Disrupting Philanthropy”

11 December 2009

Lucy Bernholz’s “Disrupting Philanthropy: Technology and the Future of the Social Sector” has gotten a lot of attention on the Intertubes and among the twitterati (hashtag: #disruptphil) the past few days – and rightfully so. Her plain-English portrait of how digital technology is already changing the face of philanthropy and NGO life is, I think, a foundational document for what comes next. It’s that good.  (BTW, it’s one of those weird Futurama disconnects that Lucy works at BluePrint R+D 2 blocks away from the Mother Ship, with Jack Chin, who was one of the first people I met in the SF NGO scene way way back – and we’ve never met in person. We’re promising coffee in the new year, right Lucy!?)

It sounds like philanthropy is approaching one of those “whoa, what comes next” moments that us folks in the media/journalism world have been living through for, well, years. It makes for a fun ride (if your livelihood doesn’t depend on old models that are shakier by the day) and is definitely food for thought and the young at heart. So with one foot in (30+ years of) nonprofit life and the other in journalism world with more than passing interest…
Read the rest of this entry »


Mingus the Super Dog: he’s back!

11 December 2009

And he’s wishing everyone a Happy Hanukah!

As for me – it’s been a slow time here at Maimonides Ladder the past couple of months – my attention/energy/thinking cap has been focused elsewhere. Particularly with changes at MoJo, with Madeleine Buckingham and me taking on lead management roles in early November as Jay Harris, after 19 years, stepped back. Not to mention putting a budget for next year together. And all that end of year fundraising. And a fantastic event in NYC with Mark Bittman. It’s not over yet, but it feels like we’re reached the top of the anxiety curve. Couple of posts in the works…

It’s been quite a year, though.

Hasn’t it, Mingus?


The pioneers who paved the way

7 December 2009

(Cross posted at Alan Mutter’s Newsosaur)

With fresh non-profit news ventures seemingly turning up left and right, you would think this was a brand new idea.  But it’s not.

A wide variety of non-profit news ventures have been providing unique, professional-caliber, and invigorating perspectives on our world for many years.  A number of ventures – like the Center for Investigative Reporting, Ms., or my own organization, Mother Jones – predate the popularization of the Internet by more than two decades (and let’s not even begin to count how many years The Progressive, Harpers, NatGeo, or The Nation Institute have been around!).

The pioneers of non-profit news cover the full array of media, from magazines, to radio and television, to online. Here’s an incomplete list of nonprofit journalism orgs that pre-date the latest wave (you can find links to many of these at the Media Consortium website – of which many but not all are members):

Read the rest of this entry »


Why Your Idea to Save Journalism Won’t Work (A Checklist)

18 October 2009

Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing links to this Metafilter item on Why Your Idea to Save Journalism Won’t Work (A Checklist). (An anonymous commenter points to the origin of the checklist, over at Slashdot.)

Your post advocates a

( ) technical ( ) legislative (X) market-based ( ) crowd-sourced

approach to saving journalism. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws owing to the avaraciousness of modern publishers.)

( ) It does not provide an income stream to the working journalist
( ) Nobody will spend eight hours sitting in a dull council meeting to do it
( ) No one will be able to find the guy
(X) It is defenseless against copy-and-paste
(X) It tries to prop up a fundamentally broken business model
(X) Users of the web will not put up with it
( ) Print readers will not put up with it
( ) Good journalists will not put up with it
( ) Requires too much cooperation from unwilling sources
( ) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
(X) Many publishers cannot afford to lose what little business they have left
( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business
( ) Even papers run by trusts and charities are already going bankrupt

Specifically, your plan fails to account for

(X) Readers' unwillingness to pay for just news
( ) The existence and popularity of the BBC
(X) Unavoidable availability of free alternatives
( ) Sources' proven unwillingness to "go direct"
( ) The difficulty of investigative journalism
( ) The massive tedium of investigative journalism
(X) The high cost of investigative journalism
( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
(X) Editorial departments small enough to be profitable are too small to do real reporting
( ) Legal liability of "citizen journalism"
( ) The training required to be even an rubbish journalist
(X) What readers want, in the main, is celebrity and football
( ) The necessity of the editing process
(X) Americans' huge distrust of professional journalism
( ) Reluctance of governments and corporations to be held to account by two guys with a blog
( ) Inability of two guys with a blog to demand anything
( ) How easy it is for subjects to manipulate two guys with no income
( ) Rupert Murdoch
( ) The inextricably local nature of much newsgathering
( ) The dependence of all other forms of news media on print reporting
( ) The dependence of national press on local press reporting
( ) Technically illiterate politicians
( ) The tragedy of the commons
( ) The classified-driven business model of much print publishing
(X) The tiny amounts of money to be made from online ads for small sites

and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

( ) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical
( ) That the US press dropped the ball on Iraq is a symptom, not a cause
(X) Print advertising pays so well because advertisers *can't* work out the return they're getting.
( ) Information does not want to be free
(X) Society depends on journalists producing news that few readers are actually all that interested in, quite honestly
( ) That your friend was misquoted once in a paper does not mean journalism is bunk
( ) Everybody reading the same story is a feature, not a bug
( ) Having a free online "printing press" doesn't turn you into a journalist any more than your laser printer did
(X) Wall Street won't allow newspaper groups to back off from 20% profit margins
(X) Newspaper executives are second only to record industry executives for short-sighted idiocy
(X) E-paper still doesn't give publishers back their ad monopoly and hence its revenue
(X) You can't charge for online content unless all your competitors do it too, all at once.
( ) Ethics are hard to hold up when your bills are due
( ) Citizen journalists are almost as good as citizen dentists
( ) "Gatekeepers" can help keep out undesirable things
(X) Publishing less often makes you even less relevant
( ) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
( ) Free society depends upon a free press
( ) Democracy is bad enough with the press we've already got
( ) You think print is bad? Imagine Fox News, as a blog. That's what your idea will turn into.
( ) Reader-generated content is to professional news what YouTube is to big-studio movies.
(X) Have you read the comments on news websites? They make YouTubers look like geniuses.
( ) You are Jeff Jarvis
( ) Or Dave Winer

Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

(X) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your house down!