The Power of Love (or: Things My Mother Does Not Know About My Father After 29 Years of Marriage.)

If you are reading this, then there is a good chance that my mother knows everything about you. She knows when you were born and how much you weighed. What elementary school you went to. Your favorite type of Girl Scout cookie.

Everything.

I can say this with certainty because she really does remember everything. I’ve seen her whip out personal trivia on people she hasn’t seen in decades, and I’ve seen them stumble for an explanation on how she could have remembered something so forgettable. The first time I saw the show “Chuck,” I thought: a Jewish person with a Polish-sounding last name and a database of totally useless information stuck in his head? Hey, that sounds like my mom!

Which is why I was so surprised to learn last week that when it comes to my father — with whom my mother has been married for the previous 29 years — my mom doesn’t really know that much.

At all.

It started innocently enough at first. My mother wanted to transfer some airline miles between frequent flier accounts. We logged onto Delta’s website, and logged in with my dad’s information. (He had the miles.) They asked us to first submit two security questions for my father. Our choices were:

Mom looked at me. “Are there any other choices?” she asked.

I just stared. “Mom, one of the options is, ‘Where did you meet your spouse?’ Come on, you remember that one.”

“Don’t you?”

Mom kept staring at the screen. Then she yelled up the stairs.

“Billy! Where did we meet?”

Now, I’ll say this: some of those questions are tricky. I don’t even remember the name of my first pet. (Or even what type of animal it was. A goldfish, maybe?)

But it’s also worth wondering: Should a woman who’s been married nearly three decades really get foiled by a Delta security questionnaire?

Especially on a question involving herself?

Lessons From My (Attempted) Week Without Twitter.


I took the week off from Twitter last week. Not with any real purpose in mind, really. I just didn’t want to tweet, and I thought that maybe, it’d open up some free time for me to read the paper or be productive.

But it didn’t.

I kept checking Twitter — habitually. I keep reading stories on the Internet — habitually. And when I sat down for breakfast, I did so with my laptop in tow.

And habit isn’t really the right word here. It’s ritual now. I have a routine for checking news, and something like last week’s spontaneous break isn’t going to change that.

For proof, see this. And this. And this.

Which is where I started thinking about how we can apply this information to newsrooms.

What news organizations need to do is create stories that demand attention. So much of our media is just noise in the background: TVs on mute, tweets ignored.

It’s why, in the launch of Stry, we put this line in our mission statement: “We’re a news organization that’s not easily distracted.” We’re focused on building a team of reporters who’ll focus on the important issues, not the headlines, and we hope it shows in our stories.

And the lesson for publishers: invest in well-reported, original content. Your readers/viewers/listeners can tell the difference.

Introducing The Roadside Journalism Assistance Network.

There is a fad coming. The buzz inside journalism circles is that great reporting needs to be supported by multiple revenue streams. Walmart won’t support the Beijing bureau anymore, and a paywall might not either. Something else needs to fill in the funding gaps.

Smaller news organizations are looking for their extra sources of revenue, too. Some are encouraged by a chain of joint hyperlocal sites/coffee shops launched(1) in Germany. But I’ve got another idea.

See, I’ve been spending a lot of time at Starbucks lately. That’s what freelance reporters tend to do: find a coffee shop and park themselves there. But my friends and family seem to know this too.

And they’ve been taking advantage of it.

Now that they know I’m around — “and since you’re only typing, Dan,” they’ll say — they’ve made me their go-to emergency contact. This past week, I’ve been the guy they call when their car needs a jump start, or when their cover letter needs a last-minute edit, or when they’re hoping for a ride to the thing in the place that’s only half an hour away, and, Sorry, Dan, but it’ll be during rush hour.

So I’ve been running these errands free of charge. But I think there’s a larger network of coffee shop-based reporters just like me, and I think it’s time we cash in.

With RoJAN.

That’s the Roadside Journalism Assistance Network, as I’ve taken to calling it. Here’s how it’ll work. We’re going to build a network of reporters across the country. When they arrive at their nearby coffee shop, they’ll log into our system. They’ll pop up as “live” on our national map of available reporters. Then, thanks to our handy mobile app, anyone looking for immediate assistance can check to see where the nearest RoJAN reporter is based and contact him/her.

Meanwhile, our reporters will be waiting. They’ll respond to any call — Need a tow? Need an edit? Need a fantasy football dispute settled? — and then they’ll accept payment.(2) Unlike AAA, which costs hundreds of dollars each year, RoJAN will make its money by being speedy, efficient, multi-talented and price-effective.

In other words: it’ll be cheap, it’ll be quick, and its employees will be more versatile than a Swiss Army knife. RoJAN: the roadside emergency service for any problem.

And here’s the best part: once the reporter has finished serving the client, that familiar seat at the Starbucks will be waiting.

Fellow reporters: your alternate source of funding has arrived.

  1. And recently closed
  2. Via Square, of course.