Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ohio Using the G.L. Science Center's Leader
As a Poster Girl for Attracting Coastal Talent

From an ad campaign that's running in the Wall Street Journal, and presumably other national outlets as well (we'll be on the lookout for that). We think it's one of the most effective business-attraction ads the state of Ohio has run in many years, quite possibly the best ever:

The Photos: Linda in front of the Science Center's familiar wind turbin, and frollicking with her two kids outside the Rock Hall.

The Headline: Linda Abraham-Silver left L.A.'s hustle for better balance. In Ohio. The State of Perfect Balance.

Body copy: Linda Abraham-Silver was all California. Born in San Francisco, she lived and worked in L.A. for 17 years before joining the Great Lakes Science Center in 2004. She's all Ohio now. Professionally, Ohio's contagious cooperative spirit has helped Linda accomplish a lot at the Great Lakes Science Center in a short time. Projects to add a wind turbine and solar panels were completed much faster than they could be in L.A., thanks to the incredible collaboration among Ohio's corporations, foundations and the city of Cleveland. Personally, Linda and her family love Ohio's low-stress lifestyle and the extra time they have to spend together, taking advantage of cultural opportunities like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that are incredibly diverse and often spectacular. Still, her greatest thrill has been simply walking her kids to school in clean, safe neighborhoods. When Linda left California, she never looked back. She found her perfect balance in Ohio. Find your balance at

You can read more about all this at the Ohio Business Development Coalition's blog. Click here to see Abraham-Silver's ad in the (we think considerably less effective) "Believe in Cleveland" campaign.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Second Half of Poverty Power Couple
Set to Speak at JCU on November 8th

Last year, I told you about what Childrens Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman had to say when she came to John Carroll to speak about the nation's epic prison population. Next month, her husband Peter Edelman, an equally powerful voice on the subject of poverty, will also be appearing on campus. He'll come armed with a new comprehensive plan to combat poverty in the U.S., assembled by the progressive new D.C.-based think tank, the Center for American Progress. Its founder is Bill Clinton's former chief of staff John Podesta, who's also currently an Edelman colleague, as a fellow law prof at Georgetown University (the capital is an incestuous place).

Mr. Edelman famously quit a top position in the Bill Clinton Administration to protest its sweeping changes in welfare policy. In a further bit of delicious irony, if there's ever a second Clinton Administration, Ms. Edelman will in an enviable position, since she is widely considered to be Hillary's only true female mentor. The respective husbands will just have to figure out how to deal with their no doubt still-tense relationship, while the wives focus on how to undo some of the collateral damage caused by '90s Clintonian welfare reform.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Ringing Endorsement (Well, Almost)
For the Benefits of the Amateur Spirit

'In any amateur approach to weighty subjects, the perils are obvious. They need hardly be cited. Yet there is one advantage: you are not obliged to be loyal to the expertise you have studiously acquired, and you do not have to confront the displeasure of one's learned colleagues by forcing them to come face-to-face with a radically new concept. Of course, amateurs rarely succeed.'
--from Norman Mailer's introduction to On God--An Uncommon Conversation

Monday, October 22, 2007

Celebrating a Unique Regional Treasure,
Retiring Tech Guru Jim Cookinham

This week, Crain's Cleveland Business was good enough to publish my thoughts about the enormous contributions of Northeast Ohio's leading tech evangelist, Jim Cookinham, who recently announced his retirement. Since the piece won't be available online to non-subscribers for a couple of weeks, I'm publishing it here. And a special welcome to new readers from Crain's.

Jim Cookinham's Lasting Legacy

It certainly didn’t hurt that he looked like Moses, sent over from central casting with a silver beard, booming voice and almost pastoral presence to play the role of a region’s technology evangelist.

But that was only part of Jim Cookinham’s enduring influence. Now that he’s announced his retirement from his day job, it seems a proper time to assess the man and try to understand what made him such a widely admired leader.

Almost from the first day he began his assignment as head of the newly formed regional software association, NEOSA, I followed Jim’s experiment in grassroots economic development with enormous interest. Cleveland’s civic leadership, after all, has a history of ulitimately treating such initiatives poorly. For many years it permitted a small-business organization, COSE, to blossom into a national model as an independent entity, only to absorb it in a takeover when the larger and more traditional companies grew tired of being overshadowed. After all, we have a reverence in this town for grand plans, rather on the order of the old Soviet five-year plans, which attempt to control events from the top down. For at least the last generation, that’s taken the form of following McKinsey-style, community-wide strategic initiatives.

They have their place, of course. Unfortunately, they also tend to leave out elements crucial to the mix. In a presentation to the now-defunct Enterprise Development organization a few years ago, Cleveland native Mario Morino, who built a fortune as a software entrepreneur, had a piercing observation about how to best encourage economic growth in the 21st century. “I want to argue that serendipity should be a part of a region’s economic policy,” he said, noting that structure sometimes blinds us to opportunities. “I think entrepreneurism is structured chaos. Where some people see pandemonium, other people see opportunity.” Effective leadership, he argued, will only come from someone who can build trust and win credibility from the old guard as well as from those who are more comfortable with chaos.

Jim Cookinham intuitively understood all that. Soon enough, in fact, he came to embody the description. A former naval officer, trained as a nuclear engineer, he also had a less buttoned-down side. As an early adopter of personal computers, he loved talking with geeks about technology, while never forgetting the larger picture—people.

Like all of us, he had his flaws. Some thought he kept the operational details of NEOSA a little too much to himself, and failed to quantify the economic effect the organization was having. That led to his funding being squeezed, which resulted in a loss of the group’s autonomy and an eventual merger into the Greater Cleveland Partnership.

And yet, he was only too happy to share the spotlight with those whom he believed had the best interests of the region at heart. For a time during the dot-com boom, he was the poster boy for the region’s new economy. If there was a software conference convened or a story written about the subject, he was the one inevitably featured. But when then-Mayor Jane Campbell appointed a charismatic young cashed-out dot-com millionaire, Tim Mueller, to head her development department, he welcomed it, even though it diluted the attention paid to him. He selflessly welcomed all the help he could get for his cause.

Later, we got another glimpse of Cookinham’s character when NEOSA lost its independence. Instead of griping, he continued to evangelize about his issues, only this time as an institutional insider with an outsider’s perspective. He must have won internal converts, because he was given control of the chamber’s training and human development portfolio. True to form, he kept innovating, convening a host of ongoing peer network discussions, where CEOs, CFOs and other cohort groups could bolster each other’s learning curves through structured conversation. In many ways, it was really a continuation of the monthly sessions of structured serendipity he convened for NEOSA in the tasting room of a local brewery, where he helped knit together a thousand business conversations and connected like-minded people as few can.

Still, I think his real legacy will flow from countless private sessions, where he diligently served as a sounding board for hundreds of people, listening to their business dreams, offering advice when he could, and connecting them with others who might help them realize those plans.

I continue to encounter the fruits of that work. Only recently, I met a fellow named Doug, who marveled over how Jim would meet him for a series of chats in the café section of a local Heinen’s supermarket, during a time when he was in transition. To this day, he can’t quite get over how wise, how astute and especially how caring Jim Cookinham was.

It was said of Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral and other important structures, that if you seek his monument, just look around you. I’d say the same is true for Jim Cookinham.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mike Royko, The Play

I've written before about how, even a decade after his death, iconic Chicago columnist Mike Royko's voice lives on. I've also written about how our own Dick Feagler doesn't quite measure up, and recalled a bit of pre-9/11 Royko wildness. Now comes word that Royko's work has been fashioned into a play. I'd love to see it, but for now, I'll have to settle for hearing about it through Chicago media columnist Mike Miner's updates.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Odds & Ends

Craigslist Ads Still Free In Cleveland, For Now. Could this be the next big indicator of whether your city is hot and hip: does Craigslist charge to post job ads there? The popular online directory/connector has just added a handful of coastal cities to the short list of cities in which it charges $25 for job listings. We'll see if that list continues to grow.

Taking on in a Vertical Niche. I've previously noted in this space (or maybe it was somewhere else) that Cleveland, at least until recently, was something of a world headquarters for magazine trade publishing. That's a remnant from the days when it was a dominant manufacturing center. But trade publishing has fallen on hard times lately, owing to the Internet and some other factors, and the region's two industry giants, Penton and Advanstar, have also suffered. Both now have fewer magazines than they once did, and some of them have moved their offices elsewhere. So it's especially nice to see that some of these pubs continue to innovate, looking for other ways to make their daily bread by connecting their audiences. This online job board for the veterinary industry seems like a good idea. While continues to command much of that market, it's also true that in most industries, one dominant online job board has emerged (like, for instance). We'll see if the vet job site becomes that dominant player. Besides allowing vets to post their resumes and troll for employees for their offices, the site contains career advice drawn from Advanstar's two magazines devoted to that industry.

Temper, Temper... Perhaps the sector's hard times have made manufacturers a little testy. At least that's the impression I got from this snarling entry about Al Gore on the blog of the National Association of Manufacturers. At least the blog's name is interesting: Shop Floor. My recommendation is this: that the trade group consider getting some coaching in diplomacy if it hopes to win minds to its cause. Perhaps they might even recruit the writer behind this official State Department blog, which is saddled with the unfortunate name of DipNote. So perhaps a barter is in order. NAM could help the State Department with names, and State could help the trade group to be more diplomatic.

Lifelong Learning. The tagline on the blog associated with News University (A Poynter Institute initiative, funded by the Knight Center) says it all: "The Best Journalists Never Stop Learning" Of course, that's true of every profession and craft.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Our Favorite
Book Title, Part 5

Occasionally, book titles are so good, so elegantly crafted that they almost force you into closer inspection of the book, regardless of who the author or what the subject might be. We think that's the case with this new book, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet. Of course, it only helps that the subject is also of special interest. For earlier Favorite Book Titles, go here, here, here and here.
UPDATE: You can download a free copy of the first chapter here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Imagine There's No...Killer

'I understood his words, but I didn't understand his meaning.'
--Mark David Chapman, responding to his attorney's question about why he shot and killed former Beatle John Lennon. I was struck by this chilling quote as I recently flipped through yet another new book about the iconic band. To review earlier Beatles-related items, click here and here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Want to Know What's Wrong With Our Politics?

This. But then, you already knew that television ruins everything it touches. Until Congress somehow summons the gumption to insist that the networks and individual station owners must make ad time available to candidates for free or at greatly reduced cost--over airwaves owned by the American people--our political system will continue in its present feeble state. And candidates will continue to pay far more attention to perpetual fundraising duties than to the country's problems or their constituents' concerns. A decade ago, when the problem was far less acute than now, former Washington Post political reporter Paul Taylor led a campaign to force this issue. Unfortunately, it never succeeded.
UPDATE: Given all these dynamics, this spoof of a headline in the online paper The Onion (like many Onion headlines) is uncomfortably close to the literal truth: "For a majority of likely voters, meaningless bullshit will be the most important factor in deciding who they will vote for in 2008."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Another Best Lead of the Month

'In the last days before his gentle eviction, Danny Ray Pickrel roller-bladed down the Detroit Avenue sidewalk, picking up litter and stuffing it into a scavenged plastic bag. A sinewy man of 50 years who could pass for 35, he'd raise one foot in the air, pointing it out front, then deep-knee bend on the other to reach down and pick up a beer can or a fast-food bag, all the while rolling along. It was a beautiful day, and in tweedy woolen pants cuffed up like knickers, and a jacket that didn't quite match, he was smiling.'
Actually, this entire lovely, revealing piece about a "beloved vagabond," written by my friend Michael Gill in this week's Cleveland Free Times, qualifies for such recognition. With this piece, Michael proves once more why he's become one of a handful of the region's ablest, most important chroniclers. He routinely comes to all his subjects with the kind of open eyes, open ears and open heart that simply can't be taught in journalism school.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Isn't It True for All of Us?

'It took me a long time to become a human being.'
The late Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, in a 1987 interview. His life is being re-interpreted with the publication of a new biography, which was reviewed today by former New York Times Book Review editor Charles McGrath. John Updike also reviews it in this week's New Yorker.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Surveying Journalists on Blogs

'Blogs and bloggers seem to be becoming more and more credible sources of information. Companies are monitoring blogs and even participating by either creating their own or joining the multitude of online conversations already taking place. Many of Marketwire's clients consider blogs an important part of their communication strategy. What about you? We're asking for your participation in this quick survey to find out what you, as a journalist, think about blogs and their place as a source of information.'
--From a survey of journalists, conducted by Marketwire, a press-release distribution service that partners with the Society of Professional Journalists. SPJ has received some criticism for its decision to let the company sponsor its speakers' bureau.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Now She's a 'Humanist'

See what winning the Pulitzer can sometimes lead to? The lefty Chicago-based journal In These Times interviews PD columnist Connie Schultz, and calls her a humanist, that squishiest of all terms. Even more awkwardly, it refers to her "lovely husband's campaign trail." Chalk it up, I suppose, to a young, star-struck interviewer, who obviously bonded with her subject during a phone interview. Ms. Schultz's former PD colleague Bill Sloat (who took a buyout offer) isn't quite so admiring. He's been peppering her with criticisms for months on his Daily Bellwether blog, no doubt out of concerns about her inevitable conflicts as both a journalist and political spouse, but perhaps also growing out of some ancient newsroom feud. Meanwhile, I've been remiss in linking to these two interesting interviews that blogger extraordinaire Jeff Coryell did with her some time ago. Jeff is one of four political bloggers contributing to the new PD blog Wide Open, which I previously wrote about a little here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Best Lead of the Month

'To the terrors of public speaking--the dry throat, the nervous bladder, the fear that your notes are not in your pocket (even though two copies were there, and a third one folded into your shoe, when you checked 30 seconds ago, and a minute ago, and a minute and 30 seconds ago...), the fear that no one will show up to hear you, the desperate hope that no one will show up to hear you, concern that your material will fill about 20 minutes of the hour you are expected to entertain, alarm that you'll only be halfway through that same material when your hour runs out and the fellow in the first row starts looking exaggeratedly at his watch and making mad decapitation gestures, mental self-abuse and visions of Alzheimer's because you cannot remember that fellow's name even though you just spent two hours at dinner with him--and he is wearing a large badge (you cannot read the badge, which is a relief because it means that you are wearing your reading glasses, something that otherwise would also be weighing on your mind as the moment approaches)--to all these and more must be added a new horror: You might be introduced by Lee Bollinger.'
--From Michael Kinsley, writing recently in The New Republic. Bollinger, of course, is the cowardly president of Columbia University, who in introducing Iran's president as a campus speaker apparently felt he had to prove to the Israel lobby that he can be just as recklessly, mindlessly jingoistic as George Bush. The only problem is that he's supposed to be representing a university, supposedly a place where intellectual inquiry reigns. The most bitter irony of all, and too little remarked upon, we think, is that his academic specialty is...the First Amendment. To review earlier Best Leads, go here, here, here, here, here and here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Entrepreneurial Instinct Starts Young,
Except When JCU Tries to Obliterate It

The editors of Inc. Magazine, knowing that most entrepreneurs begin hatching money-making ventures at a tender age, were smart enough to sponsor this neat contest for the best lemonade stand in America. I thought it was a uniquely creative way to signal an interest in the next generation of readers while also scaring up some web traffic. But for me, it also brought to mind a shameful mini-chapter in my alma mater's recent history. A couple of years ago, according to this account in the alt-weekly the Scene, John Carroll University's chief of security strong-armed a couple of neighborhood kids who were trying to sell lemonade to thirsty attendees of the university's commencement exercises, and booted them off the campus. Not trusting Scene's reporting, I recently called the mom myself, and she confirmed the paper's account.

I wish I could report to you that this apparent hostility to emerging entrepreneurs was an isolated incident. Unfortunately, it's of a piece with much wider problems at the school, a fundamental retreat from its values. The JCU Entrepreneurs Association--which was once a beacon to all sorts of people in business for themselves, a wonderful social network that also helped encourage a cross-pollination of business mentoring--decided a few years ago to close off membership to anyone whose company's annual revenues fell below a million dollars. Now, I understand the plan is to soon raise that minimum to $2 million. When I asked the executive director how the organization could possibly follow such an un-Jesuit path as this, his reply was this: it creates a better pipeline of donors to the school. "That, too, is a Jesuit principal," he said with a grin. It helped soured me for all time to the group, and perhaps even eventually to the school itself. But the university is learning the hard way that when it forgets about friend-raising, as it has in recent years, fundraising will suffer as well. Donations have been falling for some time.

The university recently got a wake-up call about all of this, the kind that should have opened the eyes of even the most hard-bitten defenders of the approach of catering exclusively to the well-off. The nation's leading foundation for encouraging entrepreneurship, the Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation, recently decided to invest in building the pipeline of entrepreneurs in this area. To do so, it decided to sink six-figure, multi-year support into five universities in the region. But it had one caveat: the money (between a half-million and three-quarters of a million per school) must be put to work by the arts & sciences departments rather the business schools, because Kauffmann has learned that business schools historically don't do much to support and encourage the formation of new and emerging businesses (just take a guess at where the JCU EA is housed--yes, in the Boler Business School).

Given those parameters, JCU should have been a shoe-in, right? Its Jesuit focus, nourished by several hundred years of grounding in the primacy of a liberal arts education, and the fact that it has historically produced hundreds, perhaps thousands, of graduates who went on to establish businesses, set it apart from the region. Unfortunately, it bombed the presentation, for which it seemed entirely unprepared. "We were just dying to give it to John Carroll," one Kauffman judge told me. Instead, the funding went to Hiram College, Baldwin-Wallace, Oberlin College and the College of Wooster, all eminently worthy choices. But it also went to a complete dark horse, Lake Erie College, which is on no one's list of molders of great entrepreneurs, but which now might well develop into such a place.

I wish I could say that that decision felt like a righteous punishment for the school's recent spate of horrible, non-Jesuit, decisions. Instead, it only causes me anguish.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ch. 19 Tries Airbrushing Its Most Embarrassing
Moment: Anchor Sharon Reed's Naked Coverage

In the nearly five years we've been bringing you this blog, we've endeavored to keep this a family-friendly environment. Okay, so we occasionally ogle attractive actresses (here and here), giving our middle-aged libido a little imaginative room to roam. But we've never delved into the raunchy side of life much (except for forays into political corruption), and certainly never linked to naked videos.

Until now, that is.

When we learned recently that Cleveland's Channel 19 news, a leader of the region's idiot culture, was trying to airbrush history so as to erase the record of its most embarrassing moment ever, the 2004 gimmick in which anchor Sharon Reed disrobed to "cover" a Spencer Tunick mass naked art shoot, we figured we had to act. The tabloid news operation has been trying to intimidate various sites into taking down the video, arguing that it violates the station's copyright. This is a silly argument on several levels, not least of which is the fact that the station initially milked the gimmick by permitting Reed to appear on such national venues as the Letterman show to discuss her moment of shame. And anyone who knows anything at all about copyright law knows this short clip would easily fall under "fair use" provisions of intellectual property laws.

So anyway, here's that three-year-old peep-show clip masquerading as news (and here's a great Connie Schultz deconstruction of the sad incident, which she argues amounted to sexual harrassment). I hope my fellow bloggers from around the region (and perhaps beyond) will also link to this clip, and send a message to the whoremongers who run the "newsroom" at Ch. 19 that history can't be rewritten.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Some Like It Hot

'Write it, and write it hot.'
--the late British novelist D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), author of one of the 20th century's racier books, Lady Chatterly's Lover. Or to be more precise, one of the racier books for its time (forty years after it was first published, its once-scandalous sexual content would be considered quite tame). You can learn more about him here.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Sometimes, Numbers Tell the Story

Some especially telling statistics from the October Harper's Index:

· Percentage change since 2004 in U.S. immigration to Canada: +46
· Total amount that U.S. Catholic dioceses have paid out since 2002 in child sex-abuse settlements: $1.073 billion
· Number of escort services and McDonald's restaurants, respectively, in Washington, D.C.: 26 & 23

In the same issue, Cleveland Councilman Mike Polensek's infamous letter to Arsenio Winston is reprinted in its entirety, under the derisive headline "Constituent Outreach." Last week, Winston pled guilty to drug trafficking.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Tribe Gets Off to a Good Start

Game One of the playoffs went unexpectedly well for the Indians last night, with a lopsided victory. Here's hoping for more of the same in game two this evening. A handful of observations:

Can we stop obsessing over the ridiculous non-issue of Lebron James rooting for the Yankees? Only someone without a life of their own (and possibly without a brain in their head) would waste even a minute worrying about who a 21-year-old kid chooses to root for on the baseball diamond. Is Cleveland's civic self-confidence that fragile that grown people are fretting about this? As new PD sportswriter Terry Pluto observed on WCPN yesterday, from the volume of complaints streaming into the paper about it, "you'd think he wants to blow up the Cleveland Public Schools." Time to grow up, folks (not you, dear reader).

The Indians front office did make one classy move yesterday: inviting longtime bleacher-dweller drummer John Adams to bask in national publicity by throwing out the first pitch. For 34 years, the AT&T technician has been showing up with his drum, banging away through some very lean years in old Municipal Stadium. Along with the Browns' rabid Dawg Pound devotees, he's come to symbolize the town's long-suffering sports fans. Only he's a much better symbol, I think, because he embodies a strain of humble blue-collar work ethic that we could all use some more of.

Finally, this complaint about the team's Chief Wahoo logo, from a fan who posted his thoughts on the New York Times baseball blog today: "Is there ever a point in Cleveland where the fans feel a little silly to call their team “the tribe” and use that racist redfaced logo? Would it be acceptable to have a depiction of someone in blackface grinning ear to ear? Of course not."
UPDATE: The Plain Dealer chose to continue to stoke this meaningless "controversy" with a juvenile point-counterpoint pairing of stories (headlined "Lose the Lid" and "Keep the Hat") on its secondary front page. But at least Patrick O'Donnell, who drew the latter assignment, asked the right question: "Does our regional self-esteem hinge on whether our athletes think just like us?" That sounds a tad familiar, doesn't it?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Do You Doubt It?

'Doubt is half a writer's life. Two-thirds. Nine-tenths. Another day, another doubt. The only thing I never doubted was the doubt.'
--the character Nathan Zuckerman, musing aloud in Phillip Roth's The Anatomy Lesson.