A shout out to my friend and Nieman colleague Richard Lister, who was profiled in today’s Harvard Crimson.
Archive for April, 2011
I can’t believe it’s been nearly two weeks since Harvard icon Peter Gomes passed on. I enjoyed reading the obituaries of him. There was a kind of affection for him that I found unusual for stories about religious figures, particularly Christian ones. Perhaps that was because of Gomes’ confounding nature. Or that his lengthy service at Harvard never made him aloof from the small town of his youth.
Or perhaps it was just his iconoclastic preaching style
I only heard Gomes preach once, last fall at the generally terrific Morning prayer services at Appleton Chapel. I was, honestly, disappointed by his homily. He talked of the renovation of the chapel and how it brought in the light, with its metaphorical relationship to Christ. I mostly remember how he tottered across the floor from the main sanctuary to the pulpit in the chapel. I remember worrying that he wouldn’t make it. Just weeks later, he had his stroke. The loss was definitely mine.
Elmore Leonard’s 10 tips on writing came up in a talk today. It’s 10 years old, but new to me, so I’m posting it. Plus, I chuckled at the first — into my head popped that elemental cliche “it was a dark and stormy night….” Always good to be able to laugh about writing.
i went yesterday to see a talk by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, two MIT economists considered stars in policy realm of global development. They were touting their forthcoming book, “Poor Economics” (Andrei Shleifer, who introduced their talk, cracked that the book was not about the state of the field).
The basic argument is that the poor are not creative people imprisoned by their lack of money, yearning to be set free to build good lives for themselves. No, the poor are like almost everyone else — they want nice things. For instance, Duflo and Banerjee found in their research that when people who make $1 a day increase their wages, they spend 1/3rd of that increase not on more food, but higher quality food. Nor does their research show that the poor are, as Banerjee put it, “capitalists without capital.” Only 15 percent of Mexico’s poor were entrepreneurs in 2002. By 2005, business failures meant only 6 percent of those poor were still operating, and only 1.8 percent had retained the same number of employees.
A survey showed that most poor people — 75 percent — want their sons to grow up to work for the government, either directly or as teachers. Another 18 percent hope their sons will get jobs at private firms. That leaves a tiny fraction who want to see their children become entrepreneurs. Banerjee says the reason is simple: it’s too hard to be an entrepreneur, and too risky. I feel that way sometimes, myself.
It looks like a promising book, and a fresh look at a crucial area of development economics. It’s due out in early May.
A lovely interview with Rebecca Skloot, Author of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”
One of the students in the Sunday school class I teach wrote as part of an exercise that one thing he brings to the congregation is a good additude. I liked the idea of “additude” so much I asked if he spelled it that way on purpose. It turns out he misspelled attitude. But I intend to adopt it: Additude (n), How a positive demeanor adds something powerful to a group, or a day.
As my Nieman year careens towards completion, one thought that sometimes makes me anxious is ‘now what?’
“Wait,” you might say, “aren’t you still a talented and successful freelance writer? Won’t you go back to that life?”
Oh, right. I’m an award winning journalist, even. To help me remember that, I won another: Outstanding Business and Technology Article from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. I won for a piece on Warner Music Group and its effort to forge a future in the digital world, Take Us to the River. It ran in Fast Company in July of last year and was the last feature I wrote before the Nieman year started.
Kudos also to my friends Barry Yeoman and Jonathan Green. Barry won the Arlene Eisenberg Award for Writing that Makes a Difference, for School of Hard Knocks, his piece on the malign nature of some for-profit colleges. Jon’s book Murder in the High Himalaya won for General Non-fiction.