Why can’t it be John Chambers running for President? On CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning, the Executive Chairman and former CEO of Cisco Systems said he’s a moderate Republican. And yet he spoke admiringly about Bill Clinton’s 8 years as President. When, Chambers said, 22.5 million jobs were created. And there was 17% growth in real per capita income. The Information Age. The last time, Chambers added, America got a pay raise.
Fast forward to the current election cycle. We’re in the Digital Age. Which Chambers thinks could have the same effect on America and its people. Only 3 to 5 times larger. Except – he says – the US is missing the bandwagon. Unable to move fast enough to create the start-ups needed if middle America is to benefit. Because business and government have to work together to make a digital plan. Something we don’t have — but every other country in the world does according to Chambers. And is implementing them. Quickly. Even countries with recalcitrant unions and socialist leanings. Like France. They have a meeting or 2 or 10. With the relevant players. How do we create a million new business jobs? What tax reform is needed? How do we “re-skill” (Chamber’s interesting substitute for “retrain”) the unemployed and underemployed? The middle class? What about childhood education? Then you walk away Chambers said — and come back 6 months later. And it’s done.
As I said — why couldn’t John Chambers be on the ballot in November?
When I look around me at this country — I see political stalemate instead of cooperation. And no urgency to change. A Congress controlled by one party determined to thwart anything suggested by the President from the other party. And vice versa. A legislative system completely broken At best a government treading water. And business? The thinkers like Chambers are in Washington this week. Trying to pound some sense into everyone. The rest are mostly making apologies to Wall Street for a bunch of less than stellar quarterly reports. Any US digital plan is far, far from the top of the agenda. Again – my thoughts – not Chambers’.
We haven’t even gotten to the general election itself yet. It’s still primary season. And yet we are already battle weary. Our ears plugged against the insults hurled party to party and candidate to candidate. Instead of the serious discussions we so desperately need. And it can only get worse.
John Chambers says 92% of the jobs created over the next decade will require some kind of technology skills. In both the service industry and in manufacturing. Requiring the courage to make fundamental changes in order to fill most of those jobs with American middle class workers earning real American middle class wages. Chambers and his co-business thinkers have some ideas. Some possible plans. But it seems to me no one who can do anything about implementing those plans is listening. Or more to the point — acting.
I have one foot in the print world and one in the digital one.
I still get my New York Times delivered every morning. But I usually read it on my iPhone or iPad, since a print subscription gets me through the digital pay wall. My magazines are still piled in somewhat dusty stacks in the living room. But when I DO read them (again – print buys digital) it’s mostly on the iPad. You get the drift.
I also read most of my books on my Kindle app. Currently I have maybe 10 in varying stages of consumption. I like the freedom to “carry” my weightless books wherever I go. I read one entire book last summer on my iPhone during daily Prague Metro trips.
Digital is always there. Especially when you’re always on the go. But news apps and e-books have to compete constantly with Facebook and Twitter and all the other social media apps you carry along. Which can – and DO – suck up all the air in the room. Or time in your life. Note I said I read ONE book last summer. And that only because there’s no wifi connection underground.
I am not alone in this discovery, apparently. The US Census Bureau data just released this week show that bookstore sales rose by 2 and a half percent last year — the first such increase since 2007! In fact, e-book sales fell in 2015 — while old fashioned print sales rose. For many – that pile of books on the kitchen table still seems to compel us to pick one up and retire with it to the couch.
Fact is — much as I love my digital print apps – when a newspaper is sitting in front of me, I can save one or two of the sections to read later. Which can be a lot harder to do with constantly refreshing digital content burying the older stories. You can say news is meant to be read immediately. And you’d be right. But there’s a lot which passes for news these days which can wait a few days. Just ask the geniuses at Twitter who are trying to destroy the much loved chronological timeline tweet feed in favor of Facebook-like, algorithm-chosen “most important” tweets.
As for magazines – unless I’m traveling – I tend not to read the digital versions — even after I’ve diligently downloaded them, chuckled approvingly at Time’s digital front page (which always comes together in ways weird and wonderful) and left one open at a video extra on my iPad as an incentive. The real thing is so much easier to leaf through, gulp down a thought or column or photo — and move on.
So I live in a world where print and digital mesh. Somewhat seamlessly. A kind of Never Land for pre-Millenial generations. Flexible. As portable as I want to make it. Always available anywhere in any form.
Right now I’m going to grab the Science Times section of today’s print version of the Times and read a few stories. While I eat a greasy, mayonnaise loaded tuna sandwich. Try that on the iMedia glass screens. You’ll never get them clean.
I miss the front page. Oh I know — I can see a digital front page on my New York Times iPad app. But social media editors are always adjusting the stories to encourage more clicks. Which often has little to do with late-breaking news. I want what today would be called, I guess, a “sticky” front page.
I’m one of those half and half people. I read almost all my news from all sources on my iPhone and iPad. Mostly iPhone. Seldom even on a legit website. But I still get the print version of a few newspapers. Like the New York Times. Daily and Sunday. I like to look at that front page in the morning — already outdated in our 24/7 world – and get a sense of what is or was important.
Most days I put the paper in the recycle pile without opening it. Mondays and Tuesdays I save the Business and Science sections for the media and health stories I can read later. On the apps — those stories are often moved to the bottom of the stack — or even dropped — before I have time to get to them.
But the front page — that’s the heart of any newspaper. The world at a glance. You just can’t get that from a stacked-up news app on the iPhone. It’s kind of like the legacy networks’ evening news broadcasts. We know the news already, mostly. But that half hour neatly sums up the newsday. Front page in the morning. Newscast at night. (Although I could certainly do without all the drug commercials with their ridiculously scary side effects). With so much information out there – true and false – most people don’t have the journalistic skills to sort it all out. Prioritize.
That’s what editors do. The 3 who are left.
Well I suppose I’ll give in soon enough. Dump my print delivery with its front page of record. But before I go — one more thought. When you’re reading and eating fried chicken or a sloppy tuna-in-a-pita sandwich –the real newspaper doesn’t care that your fingers are all greasy. It neatly absorbs whatever your fingers slop on its pages. Try that with the gorilla glass screens of the iDevices.