March is Woman’s History month, and when it comes to powerful, controversial women, Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the UK and known to many as the Iron Lady, is on the top of the list.
In the announcement of Ms. Thatcher’s death in 2013 the AP wrote: “The Iron Lady, who ruled for 11 remarkable years, imposed her will on a fractious, rundown nation — breaking the unions, triumphing in a far-off war, and selling off state industries at a record pace.” When former President Ronald Reagan died in 2004, the AP lead paragraph stated, “Ronald Reagan, the cheerful crusader who devoted his presidency to winning the Cold War, trying to scale back government and making people believe it was “morning again in America,” died Saturday after a long twilight struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.”
One could argue that both Thatcher and Reagan were doing the same things, just on different sides of the pond. However, I find it interesting that a woman enabling change is imposing, while a man is a cheerful crusader. Words matter.
Was Thatcher a “imposing” because learned she needed to be act that way in a man’s world? Or she was just born that way? It is tough to know if the job made her the way she was or if she got the job because of the way she was. I wonder how Margaret Thatcher would have been viewed if she softened her tone. But, I wonder if a softer tone would have gotten her elected for 11 years as the Prime Minister. I wonder if a softer tone would have helped grow England’s economy.
No one will ever know the answers to these questions, and quite frankly it really doesn’t matter. What I do know is that there continues to be a double standard and a very thin line in how women are judged in our world: women should be strong and confident, but not so confident their will is imposed on others. I am not sure if anyone can walk that thin of a line, so why don’t we just stop drawing lines?
My wish for all women leaders out there is to stop feeling like we need to keep a baby bassinet next to our office, be the perfect blend of sweet and resilient, keep a high powered job while still making it to soccer games, and somehow have time to make sure our make-up is absolutely perfect. I am just as guilty as the next woman for putting these standards out there for myself and honestly, I am exhausted.
To be a good woman leader you don’t need to be the most empathetic person in the boardroom. You just need to be a good leader. Just like the guy in the suit next to you. So let’s stop judging (myself included), and let’s just start leading.
I am not sure about you, but it is next to impossible to not be wrapped up in partisan politics these days. My hope is that one day soon we can start to bring our country together again but it is tough in our current environment to imagine a united country.
It is so easy to live in a polarized world now. On Facebook I don’t have to hear from anyone who does not like the same things as me. On Twitter I can follow whom I choose and ignore the rest, even pretending the rest does not exist. I can choose to listen to MSNBC and read the Huffington Post, while someone else chooses to listen to Fox News.
Nearly half our country voted for change. Perhaps it is not the change Clinton supporter wanted believe in, but nearly half of our country wanted change they thought a Trump Administration could bring. Hillary supporters can lament that Lincoln should have let The South secede from the Union, whether our electoral college is relevant, post facts and figures about correlation between voting trends and college education, and curse email servers and media coverage everywhere. Or we can come together as the United States of America (United being the operative world). We have a great country and I hope everyone who voted for Secretary Clinton can put aside their disappointment and fear, and those who voted for Trump can be gracious. We know a house be divided against itself cannot stand. In order to stand together we need to listen to one another. Reacting emotionally is a time-tested poor strategy. It’s time to work on unifying our great country.
Facebook’s trending news topics are a hot topic of conversation, but I can’t help but think we are blaming the messenger, not the message. Saying Facebook is ruining journalism is kind of like saying Microsoft and spell check have ruined my grammar. Sure I could slow down and check the words I mistype, or even open up an online dictionary, but I don’t. I look for those red underlines and let technology fix my flaws. Likewise, Facebook is merely a delivery technology that we can choose to pay attention to, or we choose to actively seek out multiple news outlets, look for facts about what is happening around the world, and read various opinions from experts, pundits, and journalists. But, for the most part, most of us don’t.
What would happen if we did? In my current research I am doing it every day. Yesterday morning on FoxNews I was overwhelmed with political infighting, on CNN I heard all about Bill Cosby’s trial, and on NPR I learned about President Obama’s trip to Vietnam. On the BBC and the New York Times, I read about the Islamic State and the Turkey’s hidden war with Kurdish rebels. And if I just followed Facebook’s trends? I would be well informed about Jupiter’s moons and an elephant giving birth at the Dallas zoo. (Over the past few days, since Mark Zuckerberg met with right-leaning leaders, the amount of political news in the “Top Trending” corner seems to be on a downward trend of its own).
Frank Bruni, Ross Douthat, and many other reporters are highlighting the impact of Facebook on news. While the medium of news is a necessary conversation perhaps we also need to talk about the message itself, and how we can take ownership for being informed, rather than trusting the latest technology. Democracy only works when citizens participate and are informed about issues the impact society, not just themselves.
Christina Tangora Schlachter, PhD is the Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Communication Institute and studies the impact of 24×7 information in our world.
Over the past decade I have been studying the impact of excessive information in our workplaces and world, and no messages are as intense or lengthy than those on the US Presidential campaign trail. But information overload is not just caused by Mr. Trump’s twitter account and 24×7 news. To understand why we have too much information, I go back 120 years to see where it all started.
In 1896, Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan changed the way Americans were involved in elections by traveling the country to give speeches, rather than the voters traveling to see the candidate. RNC Chairman Mark Hanna answered with significant fundraising, building a war chest for McKinley totaling $3.5 million, larger than any previous campaigns. “‘There are two things important in politics’, Hanna once said. ‘The first is money and I can’t remember what the second one is.”[i] The war chest provided McKinley with unprecedented negative campaigning against Bryan. McKinley’s work was not unanswered, as publisher William Randolph Hearst put his newspaper empire to work for Bryan.
And that is how the modern campaign strategy of selling a candidate was born.
Selling candidates will not go away, and with social media it will just continue to grow. This leaves voters with massive information to weed through, or choose to focus on the one image or message in the media (e.g. Walter Mondale and taxes, Howard Dean and WHOA! fist pump, or more recently, Jeb Bush and low energy).
I can’t help but wonder if we could limit the information overload by borrowing policies from other democratic nations. In Mexico, law dictates campaigns can officially start 147 days before voting. In France, the cycle usually lasts only 2 weeks. Canada’s most recent election cycle was the longest in its history at a lengthy 11 weeks. In the UK, campaigns hover around 5 to 6 weeks.[ii] This year, Prime Minister Turnbull started the longest election campaign in Australia since the 1960s –it will officially be 56 days.[iii]
If we allow our presidential campaigns to last 365+ days, there is potential for 8760 hours of presidential meals and missteps. Cut that number in half (say only 6 months of active campaigning) and it is just basic math – there is half the amount of airtime/Twitter-time to fill. Many candidates will find a way to run without formally announcing, but perhaps limiting the potential airtime for election coverage would spur elections to focus a bit more on the issues and not simply about selling. And if not, at least our brains could look forward to a break from what appears to be non-stop presidential chatter.
Christina Tangora Schlachter, PhD is the Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Communication Institute. Her current research focuses how constant information may impact the brain’s decision-making function.
[i]Hanna quoted in Kazin, M. (2001). The Nation; One Political Constant. The New York Times, from http://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/01/weekinreview/the-nation-one-political-constant.html
[ii] From http://www.loc.gov/law/help/campaign-finance/comparative-summary.php#durationand http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/10/21/450238156/canadas-11-week-campaign-reminds-us-that-american-elections-are-much-longer
This week, the NYTimes asked readers: Is Facebook Saving Journalism or Ruining It? I wonder if we are missing the bigger issue. What are your thoughts? This was my commentary:
Facebook compliments traditional journalism, or maybe it will replace it. But are we missing the bigger point? While we need real journalism to learn about information in the world, being connected to the news through personal experience is what creates social change. Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media platform could be the perfect opportunity to share this personal connection. Nicolas Kristoff’s Facebook page is the perfect example: the every day citizen can connect with the realities of devastating human rights conditions around the world. From 2009 to today, his “likes” have grown from 50,000 to almost 642,000. While not everyone may have the opportunity to see trauma and the devastation of disregarded basic human rights, social media is a tremendous tool to bring those connected opportunities closer to society.
Unfortunately, Kristoff’s “likes” are about 1/10 the “likes” Dancing with the Stars has received (currently hovering around 6 million likes). Perhaps it is not just journalism that needs to change, maybe we need to change what we “like”.
Join the conversation on the NYTimes page or post your thoughts here.