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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Small-town press

While most of the country’s bigger newspapers groan about loss of ad revenue, declining readership and circulation woes, there’s a segment of the industry experiencing a boom of sorts – the small-town community newspaper.

Proof of that is found in great little story in today’s LA Times. It details the efforts of the tiny town of Atwater, Minn., at running its own weekly newspaper.

Once a thriving agricultural town, Atwater began to gray (literally) as its young people headed toward the big cities. But today the town has rallied with a librarian/photographer, teachers, an editor and local businessmen pulling together to cover the town (population 1,047).

It’s almost cliché to say reporters dream of retiring from a big newsroom to edit or publish a small community newspaper. There’s a reason for that: It’s a chance to apply your expertise on a small scale in a way to matters to people. Small community papers will cover the small electrical fire, the high school football scores and the changes in the church service schedule.

Community newspapers are the essence of local news. And in these days of shrinking newspapers, local news appears to be what readers want. Reading this story reminded me of the days before secure newsrooms when anyone would wander in off the streets, whether it was the local gadfly, the homeless or the crazy conspiracy theorist with his latest tale.

Every day, people stop by to gab and gossip in the newsroom — three desks, two computers and a coffee maker set up in an old butcher shop. Over the months, residents also left envelopes stuffed with donations, mostly in dollar bills and personal checks, totaling more than $20,000. The money, which has kept the paper financially afloat, has continued to pour in since the broadsheet published its first issue in October.

What's happening in Atwater is reflective of one of the newspaper industry's few bright spots — a slow but steady rise in small suburban and rural newspapers. In the 1960s, there were about 5,500 weekly community newspapers in the U.S., according to Brian Steffens, executive director of the National Newspaper Assn. Today, there are more than 8,000; more than one-fourth have a circulation of 1,500 or less.

The Managing Editor of The Wiregrass Farmer in Ashburn, Ga., about 75 miles south of Macon, e-mailed me recently in response to an SPJ awareness campaign, saying that what works for the dailies doesn’t work for his 2,800-circulation weekly. And yet while daily circ declines, his is growing. “One of us is doing something right,” he wrote.

Starting the writing day

Many writers have told me that they have built up mnemonic devices to start them off on each day's writing task. Hemingway once told me he sharpened twenty pencils; Willa Cather that she read a passage from the Bible (not from piety, she was quick to add, but to get in touch with fine prose; she also regretted that she had formed this habit, for the prose rhythms of 1611 were not those she was in search of). My springboard has always been long walks. I drink a great deal, but I do not associate it with writing. — Thornton Wilder

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Everyone has a story

This month's Columbia Journalism Review has a great cover article on StoryCorps the innovative project designed to capture the stories of ordinary people and archive them at the Library of Congress.

You may have heard some of the excerpts on NPR. Kiera Butler writes about the potency of these stories while visiting a Mobile Booth in New Orleans French Quarter. The brainchild of David Isay, he started StoryCorps because he believed that "most people had something not only worth saying, but worth preserving," writes Butler.

"StoryCorps tells people they matter and they won't be forgotten," he says.

Capturing stories has been on my mind a lot lately. A week ago I was helping my grandmother with some landscaping and took some time to go through my grandfather's old trunks. I'd write more about that here, but I'm working on an essay about what I found. Suffice to say that he managed to document so much of his life -- his early fascination with the progress of aviation, the developments of World War II, his writings as a star student at Lincoln High School, his service as an engineer in the U.S. Coast Guard, his misplaced optimism as a city councilman.

There's a rich treasure of information about him in those trunks and I plan to spend a lot of time in the coming months digging through it all. But I also realized that at 84, I need to get my grandmother's stories down. My thought was to record her just talking about growing up in the Depression, living as a wife and mother through the uncertainty of World War II, the value of female friends over a lifetime, the heartache and joy of motherhood and grandmotherhood, outliving the love of your life...

Gram has this melodic voice that she puts to good use as a member of the St. Bartholomew parish choir. I can't hear "How Great Thou Art" without hearing her voice. I realized that I don't want to ever lose that voice, so I'd like to capture her on tape talking about her life, telling her story in her own words.

I have so much guilt about not spending more time with her. There isn't a week that goes by that I don't think I should just pop over. She understands and prefaces every conversation with, "I know you're a busy woman." I hate that she feels that way about me because she is way to important in my life to be relegated to a "to do" list.

But now I have another reason to visit. Michael has recently become attached to her and it was through my Grandpa and his trunk. He's the one who keeps asking me if I'm going to write about Grandpa. Anyway, Mikey came out in Grandpa's Coast Guard hat and ironically wore it in the same jaunty fashion my Grandpa did. It made me, Gram and my mom smile. Last weekend Mikey had a sleepover at my parents and part of the weekend included a trip to Gram's to try on Grandpa's "suit" as he calls it and get some pictures.

Gram was only too happy to get that heavy wool suit out of the closet where it has been for decades. And being the sweet woman she is, she also had the patience to answer a 7-year-olds many questions about a Great-Grandpa he never met.

Saving the region

Bridget Ginley of Erie.Effusion is this week’s “Behind the URL” at BFD.

It was posted later than usual because I got distracted this morning reading comments of this post in response to PD’s Quiet Crisis series on state of economic development organizations. Aside from a few tangents that added little to the discussion, it was an interesting look at activity vs. action, action vs. inaction, old guard vs. new thinkers, outside economic development vs. inside economic development, lawyers vs. entrepreneurs, establishment vs. entrepreneurs, nonprofits and for profits, taxpayer money, state and federal money, technology transfer. Oh heck, if you’ve got an hour to spare, read through the comments. Props to George Nemeth for providing the forum, to Henry Gomez, Becky Gaylord and Sandra Livingston for the original reporting in the PD and to Valdis Krebs for getting the conversation started.

My two cents? Having once served as editor of COSE Update magazine I can tell you that waiting or relying on the Greater Cleveland Partnership to make anything good happen in this town is a waste of energy. Here’s how the collective psyche over there thinks:

The new airport runway is going to save the region.

Saving NASA Glenn with save the region.

Electing Jane Campbell as mayor will save the region.

Team NEO will save the region.

JumpStart will save the region only if we put our sticky fingers all over it.

A new convention center will save the region.

Casino gambling is the key to saving the region.

You get the drift. They have no idea what will save the region.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

It's Wednesday...

...and that means it's time for another installment of Behind the URL on Brewed Fresh Daily. Don't miss today's profile of MaryBeth Matthews of Street Smarts.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Cliffhanger in Spillane obit

My favorite line from the obit of mystery writer Mickey Spillane in today's WAPO:

He also carried on a long epistolary flirtation with Ayn Rand, an admirer of his writing.

My bipolar coiffure

I have a love-hate relationship with my hair. I’m smart enough to recognize that the quantity and thickness of my hair is a good thing. But when it comes to styling … well, let’s just say I’ve got Attention Deficit Disorder.

There are women I know, good friends of mine in fact, who have had the same hairstyle for more than a decade. Not me. I need to mix it up a bit. Can’t be wed to any one style for too long without itching to change.

Sometimes the need grows out of finances – as in I don’t have the money required for upkeep of a short ’do. Other times it’s out of sheer laziness that I’ve allowed my hair to grow. “Has it really been six months since I had a haircut?”

I guess I could consider myself lucky because my tresses are naturally wavy and that affords me a little built-in versatility. Do I wear it straight? Or curly? And when it’s longer, as it is now: Do I wear it up? Or down?

I’ve let my hair go now for quite a spell more out of forgetfulness to schedule an appointment than anything else. By the time I thought of calling to schedule a hair appointment, summer was upon us. And summer affords a certain ease with longer hair that I can let go curly at the pool or wherever.

And so…my hair is a curly mop of shoulder-length hair, not that many have seen its actual length because in this heat I pull it all back into a ponytail because I can’t stand to have hair on the back of my neck or in my face.

One of my girlfriends asked if I trim my own ends when I go for long spells without a haircut. The answer is no. I never put scissors to my own hair (brings back memories of a bad hair experience in college). I just let it go, split ends and all.

But I’ve reach maximum frustration with the old coiffure. ‘Tis time for a change. I love to change styles—frequently. It’s been a lifelong thing for me, as evidenced by school photos. One year long, one year short, next year long, next year short. I suppose I’m fortunate in that I don’t have curls incapable of being tamed into a smooth ’do (except in this humidity). And I don’t have poker straight hair lacking bend without the assistance of a curling iron (which I’ve not owned since high school).

I like change and I like it to be noticeable. And when I decide I want to make a hair change, I don’t like to wait six weeks to get in to see my stylist. Imagine my jubilation when I called last week to try to get in before I head to Chicago later this summer when the receptionist said my stylist was available this Thursday. A week! I could get in to see her in only a week!

So of course I’ve talked of nothing else to my girlfriends. “Have I mentioned I’m finally getting my hair cut this week?”

Until recently, I’d gone to the same stylist for 15 years. She knew that when I came in and said, “Let’s cut,” I didn’t mean a quarter-inch at a time. No sir, when I make up my mind to go short again, I mean to see a difference. But she’s now owner of the salon I patronize and has cut back on her cutting hours. So I’ve found another I like who, I think, appreciates my willingness to experiment.

My hubby, who contrary to most men loves my hair short probably more than long (“because I can see your face”), also wants to see a difference, particularly given the expense of my haircuts. “Did you get it cut?” he’ll ask. (I reminded him how good he has it because he has only sons.)

I also remind him that my decision to cut my hair once again will require more frequent trips to the salon, hence more cash spent on the wife. But, as a wise friend of his recently said, “If it makes her feel good, it’s worth the money.”

Of course this haircut is only the first stop at the salon. Mon Dieu am I in need of a highlight! That will have to wait until next pay period. Wouldn’t want to put the old fella into cardiac arrest when he looks at the bank statement.

“You spent how much at Bella Capelli?!”

Monday, July 17, 2006

The secret is no secret

Freelance writing remains a mystery for many. What do we do all day and what is the secret? I found the best answer yet from Christopher Johnston, a fellow freelance writer and panelist at this year's Imagination Writers' Workshop and Conference at CSU.

Chris's answer was: "The secret of freelance writing is that there is no secret.

We get up every morning and go to our desks and research story ideas and pitch them to editors and write and revise articles. Be forewarned, the question, "What are you working on?" could elicit a rather lengthy response.

Chris' larger point to the audience of primarily creative writers was that successfully managing a solo writing career in which you get paid means viewing yourself as a business in which you are the sales and marketing department, accounting, editorial and janitor all rolled into one person.

It's not easy, but for the self-starter, multitasker personality, it can be particularly rewarding. Freelancing is the business of ideas and a writer's capacity to execute those ideas in the form of a story. It requires just as much professionalism as any other business--and perhaps more because there are many others to whom editors can turn.

Someday I'd like to see a panel of freelancers talking about their biggest mistakes and how they overcame them. I've had "less than" moments that I struggle to explain and that still wake me at night, filling me with self-doubt. But as a good friend once told me: There's a point when self-doubt becomes paralyzing and is no longer useful to the writer. That's when it's time to move on and get back to work.

While Googling...
Just because I never know where a Google search will take me, I thought I'd share this link to William Faulkner's Nobel Prize speech in December 1950. Here's a brief excerpt to tantalize, your motivational speech of the week:

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things.

The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mid-afternoon companion

Riley hates thunder. Since I've been freed of my office with wireless, I've taken to working for long stretches in my living room. Thunder and fireworks used to not phase my pup, but after the Fourth of July weekend, she's been a little skittish. So I let her move from keeping my feet toasty in the A/C to my side on the couch.

She kinda blends in, doesn't she?

Behind the URL on BFD

The latest Behind the URL is posted on BFD. Read all about Adam Harvey.

Send me an e-mail if you're interested in being profiled.

Reading the final stretch

There's a magical point in good books when a writer has sufficiently hooked me into the story that I can do nothing else but finish the story. A few minutes ago I just finished John Irving's "A Widow for One Year." At 537 pages, I thought it would take me a while to read. But last night I reached the point of no return, plowing through the final 200 pages.

This wasn't a literary masterpiece, nor is it Irving's greatest work. I'd say "A Prayer for Owen Meany" holds that distinction. Throughout the story I kept thinking of how little I liked the main characters. Ruth Cole was a hardened woman, a writer of some note though I can't say the subject of her novels sounded appealing to me. Leary of people in general and stubborn in her unwillingness to see how her real life played out in her novels, she wanted certain things for herself, but seemed for a while utterly ineffectual at righting her course.

Eddie O'Hare seemed doomed to be a bumbling 16-year-old forever, with a perpetual hard on for the older woman who seduced him as a boy. His only moments of grace came when he assisted old women after Ruth had publicly reduced them to nothing. Ted Cole was a letch of a man and not much better as a father to Ruth. Hannah Grant was his female alter ego and hardly the ideal best friend to Ruth since she had to keep one eye on her wandering, predatory friend, destined to repeatedly let her down.

And then there is Marion Cole, Ruth's mother so overcome with grief from the tragic death of her two sons before Ruth's birth and the emotional vacuum of a loveless marriage, that she leaves her 4-year-old daughter for fear that her grief would be contagious and that in loving her she would risk losing her. It's hard to find much emotional attachment to Marion. She makes periodic appearances throughout the story and yet her presence or non-presence looms over everyone in the novel. Yet as a mother I can identify with certain vulnerabilities, certain unspeakable and unthinkable fears that Marion embodies.

There were parts of this novel that seemed to veer off into the ludicrous. Having never written a novel, it seems to have taken an extraordinary amount of words to set up Ruth's ultimate love. In the middle of the book as we're getting extraneous, detailed views of Amsterdam's red-light district, it almost feels as if the wheels have come off the narrative. Only later does it become apparent that Ruth's devastating experience there is what changes her outlook and ultimately the course of her life.

She softens, she learns to love, she becomes a mother, she loses and then she finds the love she's always wanted. Just think it could have been accomplished in fewer pages.

Before she becomes likeable as a woman, I was drawn to Ruth the writer. I liked reading how a plot line for new book would form in her mind and how she would test it and develop it mentally before ever committing a word to the page. How her brain would wander around the characters and the idea, bringing in certain details, discarding others. One assumes this is how Irving begins his writing process since he writes of it so intimately. If not, then he does a good job of faking it.

What ultimately hooked me in Irving's story is the power to change our lives for the better. I'm a firm believer in second chances, in redemption and in the human capacity for forgiveness.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The passing of Judge John M. Manos

I was saddened to read in this morning's paper that long-time U.S. District Judge John M. Manos passed away.

He was a remarkable person who I had the privilege of interviewing in 2003 for a Spotlight profile in Case Alumni magazine. I remember telling the editor at the time that he had enough stories to fill a book. What a fascinating project that would have been.

That he was still on the bench at the time of his death didn't surprise me. As he told me then:

"I’m going to keep going until I die,” he says, adding that a survey by a national association of judges found that judges who quit, engaging in no other work, died within two years.

“I enjoy the courtroom and I enjoy the cases. It keeps me alive,” he says.

We spoke for nearly an hour while he was at his home recovering from surgery. I could easily see how legions of law students fell under his spell. His stories, his passion for the law and his consummate preparation made him a singular force on the federal bench. And yet he was willing to share what he knew and that's what made him legendary.

He was a model for perseverance, attending law school at night so he could continue supporting his family with his day job as an engineer. Not one to rest on his laurels, he maintained a prodigious caseload even in his later years.

But perhaps he is most remembered for his commitment to his family and to helping young lawyers. As his son-in-law Patrick McLaughlin was quoted as saying, "The bottom line is that they just don't make many like him anymore."

Hannah Allam is latest Quill profile

Hannah Allam, Cairo Bureau Chief for Knight-Ridder, is the latest Ten profile in Quill magazine. Allam served nearly two years as the Baghdad Bureau Chief and is now a one-woman bureau in Cairo.

Next up is Jack Shafer, press critic at Slate.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Update on CYO post

It seems last paragraph about the Bay Football Camp prompted a phone call to Coach Gary Sherwood. Here's an udpate and clarification from him.

UPDATE FROM COACH SHERWOOD: It’s a program for Bay kids. It's a tiny district and it needs all the players it can get. "Our approach is to get kids involved in the game of football and if we can get them to stay and play in our football program that's great," says Sherwood.

A summer's day...

Could there be a more beautiful day than today? If only summer could be like this every day...

I should be at the pool with the boys, but deadlines are looming. Instead, I'll take my laptop on the patio to finish pruning my story. Besides, there is a quiet joy found in sitting still that cannot be had at the municipal pool.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Willing to write off our right to know?

New Yorker Editor David Remnick weighs in on the absurd, but not unprecedented, behavior of the Bush White House attacks on New York Times.

The Bush Administration can’t really believe that these newspaper stories have undermined the battle against Al Qaeda; what’s more, it knows that over the decades papers like the Times have kept many stories and countless particulars secret when editors saw that it was in the interest of national security and military safety to do so. The Times banking story disclosed no leads, named no targets. To say that it risked lives is like saying that an article revealing that cops tap phones to monitor the activities of the Mafia is a gift to the Five Families of New York.

For all its faults and all my quibbles with both its coverage and operations, The New York Times is in the unique position of being able to cover or uncover what Americans should know about the action and inaction of our federal government. But I worry that in this climate we've all but ceded our right to know in the interest of safeguarding our country. If we give up all the freedoms that made us the United States of America, doesn't that mean we've let terrorism win?

Here's one Minneapolis writer who urges us to be thankful that the Times and the Washington Post and the New Yorker and the Atlantic and countless journalists who are independent and affiliated are working to secure the foundation of our democracy.

From Monday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Adam Platt: Rather than demonize the Times, be thankful that it's doing its job

On this Independence Day, a great newspaper needs and deserves our support.
Adam Platt

Happy Independence Day. In between grilling, lawn mowing and fireworks watching, take a few minutes to secure your right to know what your government is doing, a cornerstone of our freedom. The best way I can think of doing so in today's America is to go out and buy a copy of the New York Times. Or subscribe. But one way or another, pay for it, regularly.

Right now, more than any other nongovernmental entity (and most governmental ones, where whistle-blowers are punished, scientists are muzzled and the public is regularly lied to), the NYT protects America's freedom. I'm embarrassed to admit that I let my Times subscription lapse because I had no time to read it. You may be in the same boat. So give it to a local library.

Because whether you or I are informed or not, America needs the Times on the beat. It sets the table for our national discussion, puts second thoughts in the minds of public sector liars and abusers of power, and empowers the rest of the American media.

Currently the Times is taking major pummeling from the White House, the conservative media and many Americans for publishing details of the international cooperative called SWIFT, which has facilitated U.S. scrutiny of global financial transactions in the name of preventing terrorism. Last year, the Times exposed the government's vast antiterrorist electronic eavesdropping program, which was operating, in the opinion of many Republicans and most Democrats, outside the law with no oversight.

Before you pigeonhole me as a limousine liberal, I am personally inclined to give the White House the benefit of the doubt on these programs, even though they are inevitably prone to abuse by an overzealous, secrecy-mad administration. Such is the nature of the threats the nation faces. And I am willing to grant the Times' critics that the SWIFT revelations were merely that. There was no implication of illegality or wrongdoing. Gratuitous? To some. The truth, to me.

What I am not willing to cede is my right to know that these programs exist, nor my elected representatives' right to scrutinize them. In the United States we elect a president, not a king (not that you'd know that these days).

The Times, for its efforts, has been accused of all but treason in many quarters. (OK, Ann Coulter calls it treason.) What is most chilling is that so many Americans are willing to write off their fundamental right to know what our government does. This, despite repeated evidence from administration after administration, Republican and Democrat, that the White House is prone to make its own rules, lie to the public, and duck accountability.

What renders the administration's outrage at the Times so hollow is that it has acknowledged since 9/11 that it is using every technique at its disposal to monitor terrorists' communications and impede their fundraising. If Al-Qaida were capable of pulling off 9/11, did it take the NYT to clue it in to the fact that its phone conversations, e-mail communications and financial transactions were subject to electronic scrutiny?

For those who think I am being too easy on the Times, remember that SWIFT has its own website (, describing its capabilities and expertise. (White House flak Tony Snow: "I am absolutely sure [the terrorists] didn't know about SWIFT.")

Ironically, it is not the cries of treason that could most readily neuter the Times. It's the accelerating consolidation of the newspaper industry, which has led dozens of privately held family-owned newspapers to regrettably sell to publicly traded conglomerates that are under pressure to bring more to the bottom line.

Just this summer, Knight Ridder passed into history and Tribune Co. went into play. They were and are quite profitable, but not as profitable as some media businesses that invest less in a public service mission. And there is talk that the Times, publicly traded but family controlled, is not meeting Wall Street's expectations.

The Times (and its wire service, which appears in the Star Tribune and virtually all other North American newspapers) is uniquely influential due to its sense of mission and global resources. But a Times with margins that met those of the most profitable media businesses would not be so. And if the company were put into play like Knight Ridder, it might fall under an owner without the stomach for fending off accusations of treason.

So this Independence Day, don't just read the Times online for free, skim its columnists in these pages, or merely discuss it at your pool party. Pay for it. Safeguard its future and our freedom.

Adam Platt is a Minneapolis writer.

Behind the URL on BFD

The latest Behind the URL at Brewed Fresh Daily.

Monday, July 03, 2006

An Irish odyssey begins

Next summer my husband and I plan to spend a week in Ireland. It's something we've talked about doing since we were 23. At the time we agreed that the summer of our 40th birthdays would be a good time to go. Alas, that time is nearly upon us. Danny turns 40 in December and I turn 40 next September. It's also a celebration of our 15th wedding anniversary, which is actually in about a month.

Why Ireland?

It was one place my husband, not bitten by wanderlust as I am, agreed to visit. And I am wooed by its passionate people, infectious in their personalities, tough and yet loving, lyrical in both written and spoken word. Plus there's an austere quietness about the landscape that I find compelling.

Being the careful trip planner that I am, I've been on the e-mail list for Irish tourism board for a while now and I'm seeing all kinds of great deals. The good news is that I think we can make this trip for less than originally budgeted. Here's what we'd like to do. If you've been and have suggestions or good links to visit, please send them along:

We plan to stay in one location throughout our visit and drive to various sites, etc. Our thought was to rent a cottage in a small town (possibly Galway) and become immersed in the local culture. You know, visit the pubs, attend the churches, walk the country lanes. But of course we'd also like to see the sites -- namely Dublin, Cliffs of Moher (though Danny does have a thing with heights) and County Clare, where his McGee relatives are from.

I'd like to visit the literary sites -- Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw and particularly W.B. Yeats. I want to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College, St. Patrick's Cathedral and Corcomroe Abbey, home of the Cistercians, also known as the Trappists, the order to which Thomas Merton belonged.

And I'd like to visit the Aran Islands, though I've promised my boys that I will not outfit them all with Irish sweaters for the next Christmas card.

"The Management Myth"

UPDATE: From today's LA Times, Charles Kesler weighs in on why government is not a business.

I’ve long been skeptical of the MBA because I think it’s not applied usefully in business. How many businesspeople have alphabet soup behind their name and yet lack basic common sense? I find it a travesty to encourage young undergraduates to continue immediately on to graduate school when they have not one scintilla of experience, context or perspective in which to place their new education.

For example, How could a 24-year-old with limited business experience know that management is all about people?

And so it was with great pleasure that I read this piece by Matthew Stewart in the June issue of The Atlantic Monthly. He writes:

During the seven years that I worked as a management consultant, I spent a lot of time trying to look older than I was. I became pretty good at furrowing my brow and putting on somber expressions. Those who saw through my disguise assumed I made up for my youth with a fabulous education in management. They were wrong about that. I don’t have an M.B.A. I have a doctoral degree in philosophy—nineteenth-century German philosophy, to be precise. Before I took a job telling managers of large corporations things that they arguably should have known already, my work experience was limited to part-time gigs tutoring surly undergraduates in the ways of Hegel and Nietzsche and to a handful of summer jobs, mostly in the less appetizing ends of the fast-food industry.

The strange thing about my utter lack of education in management was that it didn’t seem to matter. As a principal and founding partner of a consulting firm that eventually grew to 600 employees, I interviewed, hired, and worked alongside hundreds of business-school graduates, and the impression I formed of the M.B.A. experience was that it involved taking two years out of your life and going deeply into debt, all for the sake of learning how to keep a straight face while using phrases like “out-of-the-box thinking,” “win-win situation,” and “core competencies.” When it came to picking teammates, I generally held out higher hopes for those individuals who had used their university years to learn about something other than business administration.

Something other than business. If I had the money and the time, I’d go back to school and audit courses to learn about things that interest me — history of the Middle East, links between Christianity, Judaism and Islam, how women writers of the early 20th century plied their craft…. In the absence of being able to afford formal education, I turn to the written word—both classic and current—for inspiration and knowledge.

(When my sons' wonder how I know some bit of info or history, I always respond with, "Because I read a lot.")

Rousseau and Shakespeare are every bit as relevant to the dilemmas faced by managers in their quest for productivity as any of the management literature.

Stewart gives a brief intro to management theory and its inherent flaws and concludes:

The recognition that management theory is a sadly neglected subdiscipline of philosophy began with an experience of déjà vu. As I plowed through my shelfload of bad management books, I beheld a discipline that consists mainly of unverifiable propositions and cryptic anecdotes, is rarely if ever held accountable, and produces an inordinate number of catastrophically bad writers. It was all too familiar. There are, however, at least two crucial differences between philosophers and their wayward cousins. The first and most important is that philosophers are much better at knowing what they don’t know. The second is money. In a sense, management theory is what happens to philosophers when you pay them too much.

Stewart’s theory boils down to three things:

Expand the domain of your analysis!
• Hire people with greater diversity of experience!
• Remember the three Cs: Communication, Communication, Communication! Remember Plato: it’s all about dialogue!