August 2013

August 2013

A lesson for life. Reputations – and sometimes fortunes – are now flattened within days and without trial. There is the court of law and there is the court of polarized public opinion. In an age of frenzied media and instantaneous analysis, the prudent person, iconic or otherwise, knows how to guard against both. For starters, watch your mouth.

The pendulum, having swung, pauses to swings again. In a rather startling flip of The Washington Post sale to a digital entrepreneur, two experienced businessmen with absolutely no newspaper experience bought The Freedom Group of newspapers, including The Orange County Register, a top 20 daily. In the past year, The Freedom Group has hired 350 new staff members, turned two community weeklies into dailies, and seen jumps in subscription and ad revenues. “It’s time,” says CEO Eric Spitz this month, “to stop chasing the digital ghost.”

You gotta believe! Way back when, the top 20 or so universities in the country were subjected to quantitative measurement of things like their endowment size, number of Ph.D. graduates, Nobel Prize winners – you get the idea. The survey found all 20 schools fell within a reasonable range of one another on every point – with one exception. Asked if they believed they had gone to the best school in the country, a few graduates of every school surveyed said, “Well yeah, sure,” and more than 90 percent of respondents from one school replied with a resounding yes. That was Harvard. The same affirmational dynamic is at work here in a now-famous appearance by a sophomore at a school not far from us. Intense, funny and short. Watch the full speech here.

You could look it up. Vocabulary evolves. The Baby Boomers introduced “cool,” “dude,” and “groovy.” What about today’s youth? Oxford Dictionaries recently added “selfie,” “emoji,” “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device), and “srsly” (short for seriously). Appropriately, Oxford also recently added the term “digital detox.”

Searching for the subs. Contractors, those people who make Really Big Things, are running into a new set of problems with subcontractors. Too busy. Can’t bid on contracts. Try us next year, say some. Is the recovery that steep? Nope. It’s just that the sub shops (if you’ll pardon the expression) shrunk during the last five years and now apparently lack the confidence to expand.

That’s most of the rooms in Holland, China, England and North Dakota. Stephen Foster and The Beach Boys (now there’s an act) might not have heard, but nostalgia has been defined as a disorder since the 17th century. That’s when thousands of soldiers left home for extended service on the battlefields for the first time in history. Now, research in Holland, China, England and North Dakota demonstrates that merely thinking about the cherished past can boost a) your self-worth, b) your confidence and c) your body temperature if you happen to be in an uncomfortably cold room.

Quote to note. “The whining schoolboy, with his satchel, and shining morning face, creeping…unwillingly to school.” – William Shakespeare


Thanks for reading,

The Blanchard Award was given last Monday night to Robert S. Jepson, Jr., the successful Chicago entrepreneur (The Jepson Corporation) and wide-ranging philanthropist (The University of Richmond, much of colonial Savannah). The Ledlie Group has administered the award, for outstanding stewardship and ethics in business, since its inception five years ago by Margaret DeFrancisco.

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