The pivot

from The Economist

from The Economist

One of the challenges I’ve had since starting this blog has been a lack of direction. I wanted to explore several different topics, all my interests, really, and just see what form it took or where it lead. However inadvertently, my lack of focus created a two-fold problem and both of them were a direct result of my arrogance.

  1. I thought I was so fascinating I could carry a cult of personality and people would literally hang on my every word, just waiting to hear me opine on a topic.
  2. I thought I knew more than I really did on certain topics. I offered up opinions as gospel on topics I was woefully ignorant on. That’s got to be pure hubris.

So today I’m continuing the shift in course that I wrote about yesterday and announcing the pivot. In entrepreneurship, a pivot is the recognition of a business plan that just isn’t working and changing course to find a more successful strategy.

The new focus of this site is to function as a capstone project for my Masters degree. To that end, I will endeavor to make every post factual, verifiable and beneficial to the reader. I don’t have any great works of fiction or the next great American novel burning inside me; I have a deep love of knowledge, fact, critical thinking and the Socratic method. This could wind up being a very boring blog, and I may need to pivot again. That’s fine. For now, I’m just happy to have to have some direction.

What you won’t see: click-baiting headlines, hyperbole, snark, or meaningless lists. All of these are tricks used to get traffic, but since I don’t monetize my site I don’t need to do any of that. I will also consciously restrain myself to topics I actually know about; as much as I love cars and motorcycles, I am not a motor journalist nor do I possess the driving skills that many of them do (and are required for making qualified judgments about performance vehicles). I’ve noticed in both myself and others a propensity for speaking with authority on topics in which the speaker is completely uneducated and it’s come irritate me a great deal. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias where unskilled people grossly overestimate their ability, and I refuse to do it any more.

My goal is simply to provide substance and quality writing. Fair warning: the writing will probably require a lot more practice before the quality arrives. I fully expect to struggle for a while, trying to find an entertaining way to present factual information or meaningful analysis. I look at this challenge as trying to inject humor into a textbook, frankly. If I review a piece of gizmology, it will be from the layman’s point of view. I will make every effort to not sound pretentious or like I know more than I do. Anything beyond my own opinion, you can count of having credible references for. I won’t be citing unsourced documents, conspiracy nuts, or tabloids. My goal is peer-reviewed studies or sources with a reputation for journalistic integrity.

I’ve still got one or two more drafts on my “to-do” list that I’ll try to publish in the next week, but I’ve got a lot of work to do behind the scenes again. I need to review all my tags and categories and slim them down. I have literally hundreds of tags that I used only once, I can only guess in attempts to attract attention from people who otherwise wouldn’t discover the blog. But it strikes me as dishonest to do that and then never write on the topic again. So I’ll be revisiting all my old posts, rebuilding categories, editing tags, and trying to change the outdated profile picture that WordPress publishes by default when sharing to social media.

As I review old posts I’m sometimes embarrassed by what I wrote. Some of the more puerile essays have already been deleted; an attempt at humorously talking about a night out drinking just came off as a frat boy’s poor attempt to echo Tucker Max, and that’s not who I am. At the same time, I feel like I should keep some of those old posts that I’m not proud of in the hopes of seeing growth, both as a writer and as a person. It’s a tough balance to strike. I have some posts that I’m proud of, still get a fair amount of traffic, and I want to leave up for others. I have others that I’d really prefer to take down and some I have. So I’ll be wrestling with the balance between showing growth and deleting embarrassment.

This is far from the most exciting post I could write, but I want 100% transparency with my readers. If you subscribe via email, I hope the shift in writing style is subtle but appreciated. If you visit the site, you may notice some differences over the next week or so. Because my blog has always been non-fiction, I hope you will appreciate the renewed effort for factual corroboration. I won’t begin my Master’s program until the spring of 2017, so the next year of this blog is still preparatory. I’ll likely add categories for analysis and opinion. We’ll see. But more than anything, I want to be accountable to the reader and provide true and accurate information. It may take me a little while to find my niche but I’m going give this my very best effort. Because if you take the time out of your day to read what I’ve written, you deserve and I owe you my very best effort. That’s the deal I’m offering and promise I’m making from hereon out.

Adults should hold themselves accountable for failure. … I was an accomplice to a slow and repeated and unacknowledged and unamended train wreck of failures that have brought us to now. I’m a leader in an industry that miscalled election results, hyped up terror scares, ginned up controversy, and failed to report on tectonic shifts in our country. From the collapse of the financial system to the truth about how strong we are to the dangers we actually face. … The reason we failed isn’t a mystery. We took a dive for the ratings.

In the infancy of mass communications, the Columbus and Magellan of broadcast journalism, William Paley and David Sarnoff, went down to Washington to cut a deal with Congress. Congress would allow the fledgling networks free use of taxpayer-owned airwaves in exchange for one public service. That public service would be one hour of air time set aside every night for informational broadcasting, or what we now call the evening news. Congress, unable to anticipate the enormous capacity television would have to deliver consumers to advertisers, failed to include in its deal the one requirement that would have changed our national discourse immeasurably for the better. Congress forgot to add that under no circumstances could there be paid advertising during informational broadcasting. They forgot to say that taxpayers will give you the airwaves for free and for 23 hours a day you should make a profit, but for one hour a night you work for us.

And now those network newscasts, anchored through history by honest-to-God newsmen … now they have to compete with the likes of me. A cable anchor who’s in the exact same business as the producers of “Jersey Shore”. …

From this moment on, we’ll be deciding what goes on our air and how it’s presented to you based on the simple truth that nothing is more important to a democracy than a well-informed electorate. … We’ll be the champion of facts and the mortal enemy of innuendo, speculation, hyperbole, and nonsense. We’re not waiters in a restaurant serving you the stories you asked for just the way you like them prepared. Nor are we computers dispensing only the facts because news is only useful in the context of humanity. I’ll make no effort to subdue my personal opinions. I will make every effort to expose you to informed opinions that are different than my own.

-Will McAvoy, The Newsroom

One thought on “The pivot

  1. I would never call neither you blog nor its posts “failures”. They are expressed thoughts in that moment of time. If you must insist on labeling them failures, remember that mistakes are the one thing that we can truly call our own.

    I like the direction you blog has taken and am enjoying catching up.

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