Danny Glover Interview by Paul DiPerna | Blau Exchange


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April 23, 2007

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Danny Glover Interview by Paul DiPerna | Blau Exchange

  1. 1. Site Search Danny Glover Interview moderated by Paul DiPerna Paul DiPerna: Danny... How did you know that you wanted to go into journalism? Danny Glover: home introduction Journalism was my fallback career of themes sorts. I loved writing from an early age -- I interviews index wrote a "Happy Days" play while in the second grade -- but I never thought of it as a profession until college. subscribe to email updates Like many of the students in my small town, I chose to go to trade school during the afternoons in my junior and senior years of high school. My guidance counselor was RSS for interviews disappointed in that decision because I was in the top 10 percent of my class and he Glover's Bio wanted me to focus on college-prep Paul's bio and projects classes, but I wanted to be an electrician. I should have listened to my Paul's email counselor. I was book smart enough to become a licensed electrician, but I'm incompetent with tools in my hand. My next choice was to take my interest in electricity and parlay it comments policy into an engineering career. Then I took higher math. I deduced that if I privacy policy could barely survive pre-calculus in community college, and only thanks to the generous grading curve of a mediocre teacher, I'd never survive engineering school. About that time, my cousin said she was going to go to West Virginia University to become a journalist. That sounded like a good plan to me. I became a bit disenchanted with my career choice after a year at WVU because of professors who told us budding journalists that we'd have to work like dogs for no money and do menial tasks like writing obituaries and police reports. My brother invited me to live with him in Florida for a year while I decided what to do next. That proved to be a life-changing move. After a few months in Florida , I landed my first newspaper job as a "copy clerk" with The Tampa Tribune. (That was back before pagination, and copy clerks literally ran copies of page layouts back to the production room.) Within a month, I was promoted to full-time obituary writer, and I knew I was on my way. I was living on little more than minimum wage as an obit writer, just like my professors had predicted! I worked in Tampa in 1988, the year of the first presidential "Super Tuesday," and that's the day I got hooked on political journalism. Paul DiPerna: What were some of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in your early professional days in news reporting, back in West Virginia or in DC at Congressional Quarterly? Any anecdotes? Danny Glover: The most challenging part of working at a small newspaper in West Virginia was being left on my own to develop as a journalist. I received some good mentoring and feedback during a 10-week internship in Charleston, W.Va., but most of the editors I had in Morgantown showed no interest in nurturing and coaching young reporters.  Even  worse, they did very little editing, so what I wrote often was exactly what made it into print.
  2. 2. A good example: When assigned to cover the opening of a new mall -- not exactly the turf of the government reporter -- I decided to be "creative" with my lead. I was sure the editors would kill it and rewrite my sorry attempt at retail poetry into a straight news lead. I never actually expected a story that began, "'Twas the night before opening and all through the mall, every creature was stirring, each one having a ball," to be published. But it was -- and under my byline! The lead was bad enough that I remember exactly what I wrote without any clip to remind me. But being left on my own was rewarding in a sense, too. I liked being given room to grow as a reporter without an editor constantly breathing down my neck, and I became a better writer precisely because my editors were so hands-off with my copy. There was no greater incentive to improve my work than seeing typos, misplaced modifiers, redundancies, cliches and all other manner of bad writing under my name. The jump from Morgantown to Washington was a big one, and to a lesser extent, I found myself on my own again. Although I was hired into an entry-level position at Congressional Quarterly, the editors there work with so many talented, knowledgeable people that they expect everyone to know what they're doing from Day One. I didn't -- and I struggled as a daily reporter. My high point came in 1993-94, when the debates over both health policy and tobacco regulation were big. Both were huge stories, and I covered them daily. I hate tobacco -- it killed my grandmother -- and when I mentioned that to my editor once, she paid me one of the best compliments of my career: "You couldn't tell it by your balanced reporting." Paul DiPerna: What was it like to work as editor at IntellectualCapital.com? Danny Glover: I was actually the associate editor. The editor, former presidential candidate and Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont, and a managing editor ranked above me in the chain of command. They hired me to bring some journalistic experience into the publication. Working at IC was the most rewarding -- and relaxing -- job of my life. I loved the break from daily deadlines (IC published weekly), and although I wrote a monthly column on congressional history, I loved the freedom to write about topics other than Congress other weeks of the month. I developed interests in technology, media criticism, family issues and more. My interests at work often were driven by my life outside work. In 1999, for instance, I wrote about infertility, parenting and adoption -- all while my wife and I were going through infertility, dreaming of starting a family and eventually doing so by adopting from Guatemala . While at IC, I wrote a personal essay about "Our Long Journey To Parenthood", something I never could have done while at CQ. It's one of my favorites. I also loved the spirit of innovation that infused IC's parent company, which included Policy.com. The staff met regularly to brainstorm about new features and publications, but we didn't have endless meetings and focus groups. When we settled on a good idea -- like SenateVote.com during the impeachment trial of former President Clinton -- we implemented it within days. One idea that I implemented was a weekly feature called "In Your Backyard." It featured commentary by local experts about policy controversies in their regions that also had national appeal. The thinking behind it: Who better to write about "mountaintop removal," for instance, than the editorial writer from Charleston, W.Va., who opined on the topic regularly? One of my bosses at CQ always told me I
  3. 3. needed to "think outside the box," and to the extent that I now know what that lame catchphrase really means, I learned it at IC. The mindset I gained there is behind my personal online projects, including AirCongress and MisterCritter.com, where I self- published my children's book, "George Washington Beaver and the Cherry Tree." Paul DiPerna: Can you describe for us the motivations behind MisterCritter.com and publishing "George Washington Beaver and the Cherry Tree"? Danny Glover: Back in the spring of 1999, a family of beavers chose the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., as one of their chewing grounds. That was bad news for the cherry trees that line the basin -- and for the beavers because the cherry trees are celebrated every spring for their blossoms. The beavers made national news as the National Park Service tried to capture and move them out of the area. While commuting to work one morning and hearing the latest news on the beavers, my wife, Kimberly, said I should write a children's book about the beavers chewing down the cherry trees and connect it to the myth of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree. Thus was born George Washington Beaver. On my next day off work from IntellectualCapital.com, I spent about four hours writing a story that weaved major events and characters from American history into a book designed for children and parents. The 17-year-old brother of a friend illustrated the book. I chose the pen name Mister Critter before I wrote the book, after meeting an animal specialist whose last name, no kidding, was "Critter." It was the perfect name for a wannabe author of children's books with animal characters. I decided to put my book online at MisterCritter.com after failing to find any interested publishers. I saw it both as a promotional tool -- I secretly hoped that some publisher would "discover" me through the Web site -- and later, as a sales vehicle. Not long after the site went online, I was discovered -- by the nonprofit arm of the National Park Service that published books for stores at parks and monuments (like those near the cherry trees). I worked with them for a few months but made the rookie mistake of not getting a contract. After doing rewrites and having my illustrator add pictures at their request, I insisted on a contract before going further. The Parks and History Association (now apparently defunct) balked. A few years later, I had another bad experience with BookLocker.com, a print-on-demand publishing firm. But I managed to get the book into e-book format under that agreement and revived MisterCritter.com to sell both the e-book and a printable coloring book. Paul DiPerna: How do you go about distributing your children's book? Danny Glover: "George Washington Beaver and the Cherry Tree" is only available in electronic form. People can place orders online, and I fulfill the orders. If I could ever get the book into print, I would try to distribute it in Washington, especially during the National Cherry Blossom Festival each spring. Paul DiPerna: AirCongress is a wonderful website, providing videos and podcasts covering political matters in the nation's capital. In a recent interview here, Marshall Poe had expressed that online video (particularly short videos) should eventually revolutionize journalism and the news media. It seems to me AirCongress is the kind of project he was thinking
  4. 4. It seems to me AirCongress is the kind of project he was thinking about. In contrast to televised C-SPAN, AirCongress is a place where a visitor (as viewer or listener) has many more options and much more control over what he or she will consume. What led you to the creation of AirCongress? Danny Glover: It's interesting that you mention C-SPAN because when I first had the idea for AirCongress (I called it CapitolPod back then), I thought of it as C-SPAN for the Internet. But because the Internet does give people more content control, AirCongress takes the C-SPAN concept to the next level. Visitors can find audio and video content only by their congressmen, about their state or based on their favorite issues, for instance. Or they can just follow the presidential race if that's all that interests them. I had the idea for AirCongress when I realized: (1) how much audio (and then video) by lawmakers, federal agencies and more was available online; and (2) how difficult it was to find that content. I love that the Internet makes it possible for anyone, including me, to be a publisher, radio host (see BlogTalkRadio) or video star on YouTube. But that also means it's easy for the best content to get buried. The mission of AirCongress is to organize the content in a user-friendly format and also call attention to the most important material via features like "Podcast of the Week" and "Producer's Picks." Paul DiPerna: Are you working on this by yourself, or do you have some help? Danny Glover: I currently do all of the work myself -- and I'm exhausted!  I'd love to  get more people involved, especially journalism students who want an introduction to politics and public policy or "citizen journalists" who might want to interview their congressmen, for instance. Paul DiPerna: How do you think you might be able to fund AirCongress for the long term? I imagine that it would be difficult to sustain if you are the one doing all the work all the time. Danny Glover: AirCongress, like any other blog, is a passion. Initially, I envisioned it as a nonprofit and even applied for some small grants to cover the costs of Web design because I wanted something that would look more professional than what I can create with my limited skills. I decided to make it a commercial venture when one design firm I approached expressed an interest in getting a stake in the business. I ultimately did not hire that firm, but their faith that AirCongress could be a successful business convinced me to give it a shot. The primary revenue streams I envision are advertising, sponsorships, and syndication. I'm a client of Blogads, and AirCongress had its first buy through that outlet recently. I also signed a syndication deal with an outfit called Newstex that shares revenue with bloggers, and I'm actively exploring other opportunities. Sustaining the site long term -- and expanding it in ways I've been considering -- certainly would be difficult if I worked solo, but that has never been my intention. One thing I would like to do is use AirCongress as a training ground of sorts for budding journalists (or citizen journalists) who want to gain some experience covering federal policy and politics. They could interview their congressmen on behalf of AirCongress,
  5. 5. They could interview their congressmen on behalf of AirCongress, for instance, or they could take on tasks like doing the summaries of White House press briefings that I've posted. I just instituted a new feature called the Monster Media Mash-Up that collects podcasts and videos by mainstream media organizations into one blog entry for ease of listening. That also is a task that others could do. For a site like AirCongress to succeed, it's important to have frequent content, and so my goal eventually is to make it a group effort. If anyone is interested, they can contact me by email. Paul DiPerna: Last week I attended the Politics Online Conference in DC (March 15-16), and I saw that you had some videos posted from the event. In your opinion, who were some of the more interesting panelists? Danny Glover: I wasn't able to attend the conference. I just posted videos that I found online and the ones I saw were only excerpts. Paul DiPerna: I understand you were recently promoted to Editor for National Journal's Technology Daily. You also blog for National Journal's Beltway Blogroll (reporting on the political blogosphere) and Tech Daily Dose (reporting on tech legislation and policy matters). This must be a ton of work... How do you manage the contrasting sets of responsibilities?  And  then balance with your personal life? Danny Glover: Yes, it's a ton of work, but managing it all is not as great a challenge to me as it might be to others because of my experience working in daily journalism. There's nothing better than multiple deadlines a day to teach you how to multitask! Professionally, Tech Daily comes first. The few posts I write for Tech Daily Dose are part of my job as the editor, so that's not much of a burden. Senior writer Andrew Noyes does most of the blogging for us. After being promoted to the editor's job last November, furthermore, I knew I was going to have too much on my plate, so I gave up the column about blogs I had been writing as a companion to Beltway Blogroll. I've also cut back significantly on the amount of blogging I do at Beltway Blogroll and on the number of blogs I read/scan daily. And my writing has become more blog-like -- more links and block quotes, shorter blurbs, fewer "deep thoughts." Had I been promoted a few months earlier, AirCongress might never have gone online. But by sheer coincidence, I was promoted from managing editor to editor the same week that my designer was finalizing AirCongress. By that point, I had invested lots of time and effort, and a small amount of startup money, into the venture and wanted to see if there was a market for it. I've been quite pleased with the response thus far. Although AirCongress still typically only attracts a couple of thousand visitors a week now, the audience has developed more quickly than my niche readership at Beltway Blogroll. The downside to AirCongress is its impact on my free time, especially with my wife and children. Of course, one of my goals for years has been to freelance full time so I can work from or near home and avoid three-hour daily commutes. That was a key, long-term motivation for starting the site. Paul DiPerna: What are some of the most interesting stories you've come across
  6. 6. in the past couple of months? Danny Glover: The biggest story, and the one that drove the most traffic to AirCongress, has been the "Vote Different" YouTube video, aimed at Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Thanks to my friend David All, who first alerted me to the video, AirCongress was one of the first sites to call attention to it. Eventually, the story went mainstream, especially once it was revealed that a tech professional doing consulting work for Sen. Barack Obama, one of Clinton's rivals, had created the video. I'm glad that AirCongress played a small role in calling attention to that video, and my aim is to make AirCongress the place where journalists, bloggers, government-types and other "influentials" will turn to track online audio and video in the political and policy realms. I expect plenty more mash-up mischief in the 2008 campaign. Other recent examples include videos portraying Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper and John McCain as a double-talker. This is a revolutionary time for online audio and video, and AirCongress is here to chronicle it all. Paul DiPerna: Why do you think political blogs like Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Drudge, Daily Dish, etc.. have become so popular? Do you have any particular favorites? Danny Glover: Political blogs across the spectrum are popular because they bring a fresh voice to an arena long dominated by the establishment. They typically are written by people who want to challenge the status quo, both outside and within their chosen political parties. American history has been marked by bursts of populist angst and engagement. This is the latest episode but also arguably the most powerful because of the technology that the populists have at their disposal. I suspect that like all movements, the "netroots" and "rightroots" eventually will lose momentum or be consumed by the very establishment mindset they despise. But for now, they represent the promise of political reform. I read/scan blogs across the political spectrum because the mission of Beltway Blogroll is to explain their impact on politics and policy, so I have more favorites than most people. They include Instapundit, Captain's Quarters, Talking Points Memo,TPMMuckraker, David All, Ezra Klein, The Huffington Post, Mary Katharine Ham, Michelle Malkin, and ThinkProgress. Paul DiPerna: I noticed that Kos, Wonkette, and Daily Dish were not on your list of favorite blogs, and they tend to be among the most popular. Any particular reasons for leaving them out? Danny Glover: My blog reading is largely focused on the sites that generate the most insights for Beltway Blogroll and AirCongress. I subscribe to more than 100 feeds and periodically change my subscriptions based on how useful the blogs have been to me professionally over the years. Among those blogs are ones that I also enjoy reading personally. When you asked for a list of favorites, I chose from among the top sites that fit into both categories. I like Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish and was excited when it became part of the Atlantic Media/National Journal company earlier this year. But I didn't list it as a favorite because it doesn't yield much in terms of content for Beltway Blogroll. The same is true for Wonkette. I subscribe to Daily Kos and read it almost daily for my coverage of the blogosphere, but I personally prefer reading sites like
  7. 7. MyDD and TPMMuckraker over Daily Kos. Paul DiPerna: Recently (back in December, I think), many political bloggers got upset with you regarding an op-ed piece that you wrote for the New York Times. Can you tell us a little about what you wrote, and why some well- known bloggers got ticked off? Danny Glover: My New York Times piece actually was a follow-up to one I wrote earlier in the fall for NationalJournal.com. MSNBC picked up that piece through National Journal's relationship with that company, and the Times contacted me after seeing the piece. Both stories focused on bloggers hired by campaigns, either to blog for them or to advise them about using the Internet and interacting with online political activists. I reported their roles with the campaigns, some of the things they said about their candidates or the opponents, and (based on campaign finance records) how much the bloggers were paid. Most of the bloggers angered by the Times piece (and to a lesser extent my earlier story) were leaders of the "netroots" movement in the Democratic Party and their friends. Patrick Hynes, the one Republican blogger who I singled out for not openly disclosing his consulting relationship with Sen. John McCain's political action committee, actually e-mailed to tell me he didn't understand why the Democratic bloggers found the piece so objectionable. I didn't fully understand the gripes myself -- but my wife had fun telling our friends some of the names the bloggers called me :) Paul DiPerna: Among the 2008 presidential candidates right now, who do you think is using the web most wisely and effectively? Why? Danny Glover: Technology Daily strives to cover the candidates objectively, so I'll leave the analysis about any in particular to the kinds of observers we use as sources. But in general, the 2008 candidates as a whole are more determined than any crop in history to understand and use the Internet to get elected. They are trying new tools, hiring more online experts (look at the four names on this John Edwards list alone) and engaging the Web's political community every chance they get. McCain even invited a couple of bloggers to travel on his "Straight Talk Express" bus tour in March. The consensus, even among many Republicans in "the consensus... the field, is that Democrats are is that Democrats the innovators in political are the innovators technology and Republicans the followers. But both parties in political have embraced the Web this technology" election cycle. There's also Unity '08, an Internet-based movement to create a "bipartisan presidential ticket." All of which points to 2008 being a pivotal year for the Internet in presidential politics. Paul DiPerna: Do you think Unity08 has a chance to make as large an impact as, say, Ross Perot's 1992 third party bid? Danny Glover: The initiative is very intriguing, but it's hard to see who in either Democratic or Republican presidential fields would consider running on a bipartisan ticket. On the other hand, depending on how the
  8. 8. primaries shake out and who wins and loses, there is potential to capture the imagination of the independent voter core, who may be feeling a bit unrepresented these days. Paul DiPerna: What do you think is Unity08's best case scenario next year? Danny Glover: Independent or third-party candidacies rarely win as much of the vote as Ross Perot did in 1992. No such candidate had done as well as Perot since Teddy Roosevelt ran on the Bull Moose ticket, and Roosevelt had served almost two full terms as president before then. I would be surprised -- pleasantly, of course, because I'm a journalist and love a good story -- if the Unity '08 ticket does that well. But depending on the nominees for that movement (and for the two major parties), I think it's possible for the Unity '08 ticket to attract as many votes as, say, a Ralph Nader in 2000 or a John Anderson in 1980. Nader arguably tipped the election to President Bush and the electorate remains as divided as it was then, so that is a potentially huge impact. Paul DiPerna: I recently saw that Tech Daily launched a Facebook forum for technology, policy, and politics. How is it going so far? What are your expectations and goals for the new online community? Danny Glover: The Facebook forum has 68 members so far, and I created a forum for AirCongress that currently has 36 members.  My hope is  that the group will spur discussion about technology policy and political issues and perhaps even a few story leads. I also see it as a way to foster interactivity with Tech Daily's readers and perhaps expand our audience. While Tech Daily's core publications require subscriptions, we have been adding free content - - like our Tech Daily Dose blog and our Tech Policy Pod podcasts/blog, plus subscriber-focused content that I republish at Tech Daily Dose and/or Beltway Blogroll. If more people outside the Beltway discover Tech Daily through our blogs, podcasts or presence on social networks, I hope they'll like what they see and consider subscribing. Paul DiPerna: Are you looking forward to any particular events, projects, or plans that happen later this year? Danny Glover: I'm a newshound, so I look forward most to the events that no one can predict or plan -- the fall of world empires (Soviet Union/communism); changes of power in Congress; elections decided by the Electoral College rather than the popular vote; the creation of a federal department, and one that is very tech-focused, for the first time in decades (Homeland Security). All of those developments have happened in my still relatively young career. And while Homeland Security was an offshoot of terrorist attacks that any American would change if they could, they spawned a regular stream of intriguing storylines for publications of all kinds, even niche ones like Tech Daily. April 23, 2007 home | interviews index | Join the email list | RSS for interviews | Paul's email Blau Exchange, est. 2006 | Blau Exchange, All Rights Reserved 2006-2008
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