In 1999 I was at the founding of Factiva, a joint venture between Dow Jones and Reuters, two of the leading news organizations at the time. This global JV brought together the news archival databases of both companies and made them available “on the web” which was a big deal back then.
With the right information, our possibilities are endless.
The Factiva product had a super-complicated search UI which allowed you to create complex search statements that could find articles that mentioned Ford and Aardvark in the first paragraph within 5 words of each other but only in articles written by Phillip Roth (no, I do not think such an article exists btw). This database had over 9,000 newspapers, magazines and news wires. Every single article going back decades, fully indexed and fielded for detailed spelunking. The web was only a minor side tab, we crawled something like 300 sites.
With the right information, we can seize opportunities we never realized we had.
Factiva was a huge business, 26 offices around the world, hundreds of millions in revenue each year. We sold our product to the top global companies around the world. We consulted with them on their information needs and delivered the news and information they needed to run their business. We thought we were hot shit.
If information is going to be our most valuable asset, facts will be its currency.
Playing back the marketing launch video at the top of the post, its funny how innocent it all sounds. All you need are facts to make the world a better place. With facts, all will be right.
Every fact can invigorate and improve the way we think.
Today our elected leaders will decide if testimony and documents from key individuals with first hand knowledge of the Ukraine/Biden/Zelensky affair are necessary to pass judgement on Trump’s impeachment. I really hope our Senators answer a higher calling and #TakeOneWeek to remove any doubt but I’ve become too cynical to see that happening. Facts are not needed in the “pick your truth” world we live in today.
Just imagine what we can do with hundreds and thousands of facts at our fingertips.
So back the Factiva promo video. 1999 was a time when information was scarce. You usually had to work with a corporate “information professional” to use specialized databases to locate and find what you needed. Information was mediated, curated by editors and fact-checked by many layers of the media ecosystem.
Today it’s the opposite – we have such easy and direct access to information that it’s time, focus and attention that are scarce. Because our attention is limited and we are bombarded with shiny things on the internet to look at (and of course, share), news organizations need to hoot, scream and holler to get and, more importantly, hold our attention.
I was hoping that our leaders would rise to their test during this impeachment trial but I fear this will not be the case, they will vote in their own self-interest, circling the wagons to protect themselves. It will be up to us, the public citizens, to seek out facts and the truth and hold our leaders accountable.
I hate to pitch politics as just one side vs. the other because it ignores the fact that we’re all Americans (shout out to the guy in the MAGA hat that waved and cheered me on my morning run) and are lucky that we even have the luxury to debate issues and participate in a political process, however flawed it may be.
Here are the closing arguments of the impeachment trial. It’s instructive to place them side-by-side and compare style and substance.
Let’s see how things go over the next two days in the Q&A portion of the trial. Please focus on the facts, try and remain objective while the political winds swirl around us. Everyone is speaking to a camera.
While watching, I’ll be keeping these words from New Yorker columnist, Jia Tolentino in mind.
The early internet had been constructed around lines of affinity and openness. But when the internet moved to an organizing principle of opposition, much of what had formerly been surprising and rewarding and curious became tedious, noxious, and grim.
This shift partly reflects basic social physics. Having a mutual enemy is a quick way to make a friend—we learn this as early as elementary school—and politically, it’s much easier to organize people against something than it is to unite them in an affirmative vision. And, within the economy of attention, conflict always gets more people to look.
Ambassador Taylor had to reach for his water before dropping this one.
Following that meeting, in the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kyiv. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about “the investigations.” Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.
Ambassador William B. Taylor, Opening Statement – 11-13-19
Imagine how loud the President must have been talking into his phone for someone sitting nearby to be able to overhear and recognize not only his voice but the words.
While it’s important to talk about the issues, they are all just ideas and plans until we have a debate about the structure of our political system – that is what is limiting our ability to make real changes that will stick.
Here’s Mayor Pete from last night’s debate:
[This is] the conversation that we have been having for the last 20 years. Of course we need to get money out of politics, but when I propose the actual structural democratic reforms that might make a difference — end the Electoral College, amend the Constitution if necessary to clear up Citizens United, have DC actually be a state, and depoliticize the Supreme Court with structural reform — people look at me funny, as if this country was incapable of structural reform.
This is a country that once changed its Constitution so you couldn’t drink and changed it back because we changed our minds, and you’re telling me we can’t reform our democracy in our time. We have to or we will be having the same argument 20 years from now.
On Monday, an all-star cast of actors gathered together in New York to perform a dramatic reading of the Mueller Report, the 448-page looking into Russian interference into the 2016 election. The play was written by Robert Schenkkan, a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning screenwriter and playwright. Jason Alexander, Sigourney Weaver, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mark Hamill, and many others make their appearance. John Lithgow is particularly good at channeling Donald Trump as he reads his quotes and tweets.
The performance was for one night only and was put on by Law Works, who also host the video stream above. From their about page:
Law Works partners with leaders in the legal, judicial, national security, law enforcement community, and current and former elected and appointed officials to explain how the rule of law is the foundation of a healthy democracy, to defend the nonpartisan role of the Department of Justice, and to expose current threats to core American values and electoral systems . We advocate for bi-partisan legislation to protect our judicial institutions.
Elijah Cummings implores the United States to, “get back to normal”
I know that this has been hard. I know that you face a lot. I know that you are worried about your family. But this is a part of your destiny. And hopefully this portion of your destiny will lead to a better Michael Cohen, a better Donald Trump, a better United States of America, and a better world.
Elijah Cummings closing remarks, House Oversight Committee hearing of Michael Cohen