News and Power Inside the Beltway

Well, I guess like most things in life timing is everything. You’re either ahead of the curve. Or sucking a tailpipe. And what appears to be new and hip today may be just a technological upgrade of something that has been happening for years.

Here’s an example.

When I worked at Goodrich — back in the technological dark ages of typewriters and black-and-white copying machines — we had one person on the PR staff who spent the better part of his days, every day, finding, clipping and distributing news stories to members of senior management and other miscreants.

And in those days cut and paste meant just that — yep, cut it from a dead-tree edition of a newspaper or magazine and paste it on a sheet of white paper. Then a secretary — remember the days before secretaries became administrative assistants? — huddled around a copier producing multiple copies seemingly as quickly and effortlessly  as Octomom knocks out babies.

Many forests were lost in the pursuit of this one important corporate goal: make sure that the executives had the most up-to-date information from as many sources as possible and as soon in the day as possible. Ah, the good old days. You actually had to fill your time without the playful diversions of Facebook and Twitter. Oops. I digress.

Well, preparing and distributing news stories and highlights is still happening — only now with the benefits of technology. Here’s from a story in the NYT “Where News Is Power, a Fight to Be Well-Armed“:

Bobby Maldonado has the morning routine of a well-trained marathoner.

With the help of three alarm clocks, he gets up at 4 a.m., is showered and out the door in less than an hour, and scans his BlackBerry almost constantly as he makes his pretimed 12- to 13-minute trek to the Red Line Metro stop where he catches the first train downtown.

He knows exactly where to stand so he can get into the car that deposits him just steps from the escalator at the Farragut North station. “It’s an efficiency thing,” he explained, “so I don’t get stuck behind people, so I hit the crosswalk at the right minute.”

Cutting diagonally across Farragut Square, he arrives at his office at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on H Street just after 5:30 a.m. There, in a darkened cubicle, he scans the Internet for the day’s news and condenses it into a two-page memo that he shoots off to Thomas J. Donohue, the Chamber’s president, and other top executives before 8 a.m. He is never late.

Mr. Maldonado, 26, is one of the dozens of young aides throughout the city who rise before dawn to pore over the news to synthesize it, summarize it and spin it, so their bosses start the day well-prepared. Washington is a city that traffics in information, and as these 20-something staff members are learning, who knows what — and when they know it — can be the difference between professional advancement and barely scraping by.

“Information is the capital market of Washington, so you know something that other people don’t know and you know something earlier than other people know it is a formulation for increasing your status and power,” said David Perlmutter, the director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa. “So any edge you can use to get stuff faster, earlier, better or exclusively is very important.”

For Mr. Maldonado, who said that “the information wars are won before work,” that means rising early to browse all of the major newspapers, new polling data, ideological Web sites and dozens of news alerts needed to equip his bosses with the best, most up-to-date nuggets.

Wait, what’s this? Mr. Maldonado gets up at 4 a.m. And according to the NYT article, Andrew Bates, who monitors media for the White House press office, also gets up at 4 a.m. — while Megan Leary, over at the Treasury Department, doesn’t even show up at work until 5 a.m.

If, as Mr. Maldonado says in the article, “information wars are won before work,” then it is no wonder that the USA is sucking a tailpipe. The movers and shakers Inside the Beltway don’t start moving to the Power Alleys until mid-morning: 5 a.m. or later. Arrrgh.

As those who read this blog know only too well, this pajama-clad citizen journalist — even on days when I sleep in — is generally up by 2:30 a.m., searching the Internet for truth, justice and discount movie tickets.

Looks like I’ve traveled a long way on the road from actually clipping and pasting with sissors and glue to being ahead of the curve with even the tech savvy Inside the Beltway.

And if the Congress and administration are really serious about cutting spending, why don’t they just subscribe to my blog?

Hey, I’m up way before the DC folks — and when it comes to monitoring news, timing is everything whether you are doing it digitally or the old-fashioned way.

Just sayin.’

 

 

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