Help Boston-bound Students Pursue Journalism Dreams

Until this week, I didn’t know about the Urban Media Institute at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis, which provides inner-city high school students with media training opportunities. That all changed when I received an email about this amazing program.

Students are doing some pretty cool things. They’ve produced newspapers, a centennial yearbook and broadcasting segments with Channel 20, the local PBS affiliate. And they teamed with the Indiana Chamber to discuss the future of journalism with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein when that duo headlined our Annual Awards Dinner in 2012.

What’s next in these students’ “journalism journey?”

Fundraising efforts are underway for a trip to the National Scholastic Press Association’s (NSPA) Convention/Competition, “The Revolution Starts Here,” on November 14-17 in Boston. Students will hone their skills, network and learn from others. In short, it’s the experience of a lifetime. But without donations, the trip is out of reach. You can help students succeed by assisting in making this trip possible!

Learn more about the Urban Media Institute at Arsenal Technical High School and the NSPA trip (the deadline for donations is October 31) at

The sky truly is the limit for these talented students – and for the Hoosier businesses that may one day employ them.

Boston Magazine Changes Cover on the Run, Reflects Spirit of Recovery

For all Americans, there are many dates that resonate, sadly, all too well. For me, the first was the Challenger explosion. I remember exactly where I was at the moment the shuttle erupted in the sky. I can still picture all of my classmates crowded in the tiny gymnasium of my small elementary school, watching on TV.

Or learning about the Columbine tragedy from the couch of my first apartment. Who can forget where you were when the first plane struck the World Trade Center, or when an elementary school in Connecticut transformed into a killing field? Sadly, we can add one more event to the list. On Monday, April 15 we all stopped in horror as bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

We witnessed people from all over the country – but especially Bostonians themselves – come together in support of a city. On Facebook, people replaced profile pictures with images of shoelaces twisted into ribbons, a sign of support for the runners, spectators and everyday citizens affected by the terror. One of the most poignant acts of solidarity in my mind was the playing/singing of “Sweet Caroline,” the Boston Red Sox’ unofficial anthem, in stadiums and ballparks across the nation, including at the home of Boston’s nemesis, the New York Yankees. Elsewhere, the Milwaukee Brewers showed a video tribute to the city of Boston at a recent home game that included the theme-song from Boston-based “Cheers.” And nothing gave me chills more than at the entire crowd singing the "Star Spangled Banner" at the Boston Bruins first home game after the bombing.

So how does a magazine capture all that emotion? Can it even be done? The answer is a resounding yes, as Boston Magazine proved.  The magazine’s current cover features hundreds of shoes worn by runners in the April 15 marathon set up to form a heart, with the words “We Will Finish The Race” in the negative space. It is a simple but poignant image.  And it is all the more amazing given the deadline staff faced.

Staff members at the magazine were in the midst of wrapping up their May issue when they got news of the explosion. They immediately knew they had to do something that would re-write their magazine, literally. I can tell you from my experience to have to do what they did, change the direction of the magazine, is an incredible undertaking. Scrapping much of their content in honor of all those who were there was bold and tremendous. It required everyone on staff to step up and contribute in a way they may not have normally. Editor John Wolfson explains how the idea came about and what it took to put hundreds of runners’ shoes on the cover and in the magazine in the span of only days. But it was worth it. These efforts truly honor and tell what Boston and America is all about, coming together in the midst of such tragedy.

For me, when I think of the marathon bombings years from now, I’ll recall this cover.

Social Media Hot Spots for Job Seekers

The largest city in the United States has the highest volume of social media jobs. No surprise that New York is atop both lists (based on 2010 population figures and a recent report from OnwardSearch, an Internet marketing staffing company that used job postings as its basis for comparison).

Size isn’t always a determing factor when one views the rest of the list. The top 10 social media hot spots for jobs included the following (with their 2010 population ranks in parentheses):

  • 2. San Jose (10th in population)
  • 3. San Francisco (13th)
  • 5. Boston (23rd)
  • 6. Washington, D.C. (25th)
  • 7. Baltimore (22nd)
  • 9. Seattle (24th)

Rounding out the social media top 10: Los Angeles, 4; Chicago, 8; and Philadelphia, 10. Each are among the top five in population.

Go the opposite route and the largest cities not showing up on the social media top 20 are San Antonio (7th in population), Jacksonville (11th) and Indianapolis (12th). Making the biggest jumps (low population, top 20 in jobs) are Atlanta, Minneapolis and Miami.

What does all this prove? Not sure. There may have been a disconnect between city population totals and metro area job postings. Nevertheless, social media is here to stay (and the jobs are widespread).

Time Equals Results for Students

Reforms come in various shapes and sizes. For example:

  • Health care reform dominated the headlines in 2009 and early this year. No one is quite sure what we ended up with, although many in business are convinced it’s going to cost a lot of money and more and more John/Jane Q. Publics are not happy with what they’re learning about the government intrusion into their medical doings.
  • Local government reform in Indiana has stalled the last few years because a:) some Hoosiers like the way the system was set up in 1851; b:) politics is taking precedence over policy (imagine that!); c:) the people who prefer the status quo have spoken louder, or at least more effectively, than the proponents for change; or d:) some combination of all of the above.

Today. however, we’re talking education reform and it’s an area in which the overall results are sometimes mixed. (But then almost any reform is an improvement over a status quo that fails far too many young people). But the focus is spending more time on task; in Massachusetts, the official name is a rather straightforward Expanded Learning Time. And ELT is working.

The U.S. trails most other industrialized nations in school days. So Massachusetts has added 300 hours per year in select schools. Included among the results:

  • ELT schools gaining in test results at double the state average in English language arts and math; and at five times the state average in science
  • Broadened opportunities for students, including enrichment programming in a variety of subjects
  • Increased student demand. One Boston middle school went from underenrolled to a waiting list in three years
  • Higher teacher satisfaction
  • Stronger community partnerships

No, you can’t just keep the doors open longer. No one said it is easy. But it does seem to be one of the more common sense reforms that could yield positive results for students of all abilities. Yet, in the Indiana General Assembly, time is spent each session fighting off legislation that would actually shorten the school year.

Maybe it’s no coincidence that Indiana’s local government structure and school day calendar (to meet the needs of students who had to help out on the family farm) were set up around the same time. Both are in need of a serious update. We’ve got to start somewhere — for schools, that might be with more, not less, learning opportunities.

Read Massachusetts’ More Time for Learning: Promising Practices and Lessons Learned.

Are You Confident About National Security Choices?

I’m all for national security. Nothing like going out on a limb there. But when I read a rather inconspicuous news brief about three cities being upgraded to the hish-risk tier for terrorist attacks (providing them a combined $67 million in federal funding for 2010), my mind harkened back to the 2006 Homeland Security Department list that included nearly 8,600 terrorist targets in Indiana — more than any state in the nation.

It seems a bit more logical that Boston, Philadelphia and Dallas (the cities upgraded) would rank higher than the popcorn distributor in Berne, Indiana, (one of the 2006 target entries) but it still makes you stop and think. The three additions bring the top-tier category to 10. The total pot of money across the country is $2.7 billion.

The quote attributed to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano didn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. It read: "What it represents is an assessment of risk versus looking at some other factors, such as population densities and other things of that sort."

At the same time, Omaha, Nebraska and Bakersfield, California, were added to the second-tier list for the first time. A portion of the funding from two New York cites — Albany and Syracuse — was cut to make room for the additions.

Here’s another lackluster quote from a "lucky" recipient. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, who represents Dallas, said drug and gang activity in the city adds to its risk profile. "Of course nobody likes that but I’m glad to have the attention given to it."

Just makes you wonder how these evaluations are made and how the money is being spent. Security, yes. Government decision-making, I’m not so sure. 

Study Ventures Into Capital World

The Silicon Valley and Route 128 have long been identified as the homes of venture capital. For the unitiated, that’s the San Francisco and Boston areas. Throw New York in the mix and the three regions are home to nearly half of all VC firms and a like number of VC-backed companies.

The State Science & Technology Institute reviews some recent research that says what appears to be bad news (it is in some respects) for other parts of the country has some silver linings for investors.

Venture firms exhibit a strong local bias, according to the study. A firm is almost six times more likely to invest in a local firm, controlling for other factors. The authors note, however, that out-of-region investments have a higher success rate than in-region investments. One explanation is that firms have a higher barrier to investing out of their home region and tend to restrict their investments to low-risk and higher-yield opportunities.

Despite the greater likelihood of success in out-of-region investments, firms based in venture capital centers outperform firms in other locales. These regions have a greater number of opportunities, pools of talented employees and benefit from knowledge spillovers. The authors suggest that this concentration may be a rational allocation of resources and make sense for investors.

The researchers advise that anything a region can do to increase the number of successful venture-backed investments in a region can greatly increase the likelihood of future deals. Once a region has experienced a few successes, they are much more likely to become the home of branch offices, which in turn are prone to invest locally. Also, once a firm has invested in an out-of-region area, they are much more likely to invest in that region in the future.

Indiana has certainly seen increased outside investment and realized some success stories. More of each will lead to … more of each.

Massachusetts Still Not Getting It

Hate to pick on the state that saw many great years with our own Larry Legend, but…

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council is taking Massachusetts to task for some questionable tax-related decisions as of late. Here’s the skinny:

According to a recent story in the Boston Herald, Governor Deval Patrick wants to do the following:

  • Extend the state’s 5 percent sales tax to alcohol sales in package stores. Bars and restaurants already pay the tax.
  • Extend the 5 percent sales tax to candy sales.
  • Extend the 5 percent sales tax to soda sales.
  • Impose $75 million in new motor vehicles taxes.
  • Increase the meal and hotel taxes by one percentage point.

What will these tax hikes actually accomplish? Consumers will face higher prices, and businesses will face higher costs and lost business. So, in the end, it will be bad news for an economy that’s already badly beaten and bruised.

For good measure, keep in mind that Massachusetts is not exactly sitting pretty in terms of its competitive position with other states.