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Alex Hammer

A Positive Challenge to the Business of Maine Media
By Alex Hammer
Mar 11, 2006 - 9:17:00 PM

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In my life prior to running for Governor, following a strong academic and then professional career, I owned for a decade my own five division publishing company, HSC Publications, outside of (I know, the dreaded) New York City. It was a career switch from my previous work in the field of Psychology, following a Master’s degree, in which after earlier providing direct service I moved on to the management and clinical supervision of large programs. In regard to the starting and running of my publishing company, I had had some magazine and other journalistic experience prior to this, so I didn’t go into it completely cold. And what I learned in the media field gave me a growing respect and also an enhanced appreciation of the responsibilities of media reach and power.

In business and in politics one can be an “early adopter” but it is not good to be too far out ahead of (or extended from) the mainstream. I believe that you have to work with people and issues where they currently reside, “where the rubber meets the road” if you will. You can be a half step or a step ahead (or outside) and create a bridge, but if you’re not on the same general page then ideas, arguments and products seem foreign and strange and will not be well received, purchased, or adopted.

While Google, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon and some other online companies have become successful corporate giants, many others died out in the dot com crash beginning around 2000, and of course a lot of money was lost by those companies severely impacting the market (and the many involved in the market) as well. Now the internet is having a resurgence with Internet 2.0 and Media 2.0 companies built upon more realistic business plans and models (at least in comparison, yes, earnings, net income, is important). For awhile all one needed was eyeballs (website visitors) to be awash in venture capital funding. Anyway, every field becomes more efficient over time, going through bumps and bruises and false hype evolving into, hopefully, real accomplishment and acclaim. Most people now use the internet to varying degrees for their news and media needs. Many traditional media companies, as well as others such as retailers, are now employing in many instances a “bricks and clicks” approach, in which online and offline operations assist and are tied into each other into a unified whole (as well as targeting discrete audiences as well).

We’ve put up a blog and a wiki but they’re not yet drawing much attention relative to the rest of our website. This is a shame but not really unexpected. We want to provide additional interactive experiences for all those in Maine (and beyond) that wish to become involved in a way that supplements traditional offline activities. I’d like to see citizens more involved in their government generally (and not just through citizen referendums, which are not bad and reflect the will of the people) but through – perish the thought – citizens actually partnering with their government while they hold it accountable.

Not to be too casual, but what a concept (citizens and government working increasingly productively together)!!

All of us can together do more than some of us, if we can find better ways to reconcile differences and get along. Media, as well as new media (another term for media 2.0) can if well utilized foster this difficult but integrating synthesis of perspectives (at times naturally occurring and at times guided) that makes us better as a people and as a state.

I am not a career politician and I am not a political ideologue. I consider that two strong points in my favor. I am an individual that has taken the time, and continues to take the time, to understand Maine very deeply from many perspectives and using the language of those perspectives to build bridges that others may not see (maybe because they do not look for them) to benefit us all. It involves being called names by both sides, looking for connections that are not readily apparent, and truly being concerned with one’s fellow citizens of all political, economic and geographical stripes. Certainly one position can be right and one position can be wrong, and certainly is at times, but if Maine is going down the toilet, pardon the phrasing, and you’re a little more right than the other guy or gal but you’re obsessed with your rightness and not with the bridge, what kind of legacy are you – or we (if we do that collectively) – leaving for our children and future generations in regard to problem-solving and moving Maine forward.

Note:  The following sections are borrowed, slightly edited, from our blog posting at www.hammer2006.blogspot.com

In our three party system of government, executive, legislative and judicial, I sometimes believe that the media, a fourth party if you will, is in some respects the most powerful.

And with that great power comes tremendous responsibility (whether or not it is assumed).

I think about all of the government abuses that without a free and powerful media would not have been documented over the years, and that is why I believe that it is (of course) fundamental to the integrity of a democracy.

The media, performed with a high degree of ethics and professional standards, is in my view one of the noblest of professions.

While for anti-competitive and antitrust considerations we could not have a single unified national media (although we have many large international and national news organizations), I believe that as appropriate a more coordinated media system, to the extent that this also makes sense to individual economic interests, would propel our society forward in regard to more sophisticated uncovering, analysis and transparency of issues and governmental decision-making than currently exists. The same might well be true for Maine.

I realize that the over consolidation of media is itself its own worry and concern as it might give rise to a shortage of voices across the spectrum. The entire citizen media initiative, perhaps "loose" (in regard to being centrally structured) for example in millions of blogs, RSS, forums, video sharing, etc. is on the upswing and a growing and significant factor in media matters worldwide. It has been said that intelligence, or information well utilized, is the world's greatest resource, and I, believe, its greatest revolution. As we all know "knowledge (indeed can be) power" and "the pen is (can be) mightier than the sword". You even hear the military talking about the next generation of war being information and information technology based.

At Hammer For Maine Governor we believe that a mix of traditional methods and strategies better merged with leading emerging but established cutting edge practices and technologies better positions Maine further ahead in the curve of this hyper-competitive information-rich global economy that the world has become. Importantly, as the media can also do at its best, it can also empower citizen initiative and participation among those that might otherwise feel more disenfranchised or apathetic. That is why we have our blog, wiki, meetup.com etc. and participate in forums as some examples. This is a supplement or enhancement to traditional strategies not a replacement of them.

Note: End of blog excerpt

For the media to be a noble profession, what does that entail? First, I believe, as with any medium or in any endeavor, one’s heart and mind must be in the right place. And that means a desire to do good. We do not all think alike, obviously, so of course there will be differences in regard to this standard and how it is embodied in each case. However, notions of integrity, balance, fairness, and depth of research, writing, examination, editing and thinking to my mind come into play.

I get excited when I see a written piece in which the author has really gotten one’s arms around the topic and in its offering to the public has really made it their own.

They say (whoever they are) that a key to success in business is enhancing the value proposition. In simpler terms, simply adding value. Making something important in a way that a consumer, a customer, has use for it. It enhances the customer in some way.

Journalism and media enhance the customer when it embodies the above craft and ideals. Media is a watchdog but it is also, at its best and most helpful, an analyzer, and a forum for evolving and evolved public discourse. It is the town meeting and city council in its broadest respects.

We are still eight months away from the election which includes the race for Governor. I’m sorry, but at this point not enough in-depth and critical analysis by the media has been done to elevate the dialogue in Maine in regard to issues that we face as a state and solutions. We may not be a Time Magazine, Washington Post or New York Times, PBS (or even Fox News or CNN). But media to my mind, maybe because I’ve been in it and maybe just because I believe so strongly in what it is capable of, can be a potent and uplifting force in Maine, helping viewers and readers to discern and flesh out the wheat from the chaff in regard to making highly informed and intelligent decisions on the direction of this state.

The media is too special to ever be just a job. Anyone that is using it just as a parking place should get out, be remedied or be removed.

Statewide, beyond media, it is one thing to recognize lowered aspirations and another to collectively wish to move beyond them. Progress doesn’t mean turning Maine into another Boston or New York. It means evolving Maine into the highest ideals that we have as a state and in their most elevated forms. Maine can be a state that can lead the nation in many ways, and if I am ever fortunate to be elected Governor it will (or if we don’t make it then it sure will not be from a lack of great trying on my part).

Maine is, can, will and should be great.

They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Every action that we do or do not take is important. That is why it is important to live and act perceptively and with purpose. If we expect our media to use their reach and influence to its highest good to assist us in the examination and sharing of our best solutions, then that may indeed be what increasingly occurs. Any state that is ahead of us at this time in an area to which we realistically might aspire got there by some means. And because there is no (as far as we know) real finish line in life across generations, we certainly can retake the lead again.

Let’s do it Maine.

One business decision, media and otherwise, at a time.

Alex Hammer is an Independent candidate for Governor residing in Bangor. The campaign’s website is www.Hammer2006.com.


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