Archive for the ‘Changing Your Mind’ Category

Service of Changing Your Mind III

Thursday, September 6th, 2018


I respect people who change their minds for good reasons. It takes guts especially if they are in the public eye. However in some cases when intelligent people know they are slamming a stick on a beehive, why do they chicken out when they must have anticipated they’d be stung?

This is what happened when David Remnick, whom I admire, The New Yorker Magazine’s editor in chief, invited and then disinvited Steve Bannon to speak at the magazine’s October festival which for 19 years has included political, art and literary figures.


Doha Madani with the Huffington Post, covered the reactions. He wrote that a New York Times article disclosed that the former White House chief strategist was to be a headliner. “The New Yorker’s readers and staffers accused Remnick of giving a platform to Bannon’s racism and white nationalist agenda after the Times article.” One columnist tweeted that she was “beyond appalled,” Madani wrote. Some of the speakers also protested.

Madani shared Bannon’s response to the withdrawn invitation, which he’d made in a statement to CNBC: “The reason for my acceptance was simple: I would be facing one of the most fearless journalists of his generation. In what I would call a defining moment, David Remnick showed he was gutless when confronted by the howling online mob.”

Madani continued “‘I don’t want well-meaning readers and staff members to think I’ve ignored their concerns,’ Remnick said in a statement Monday evening. ‘I’ve thought this through and talked to colleagues — and I’ve re-considered. I’ve changed my mind.’ 

David Remnick. Photo:

“Remnick said he ultimately decided that, while he would still interview Bannon for a journalistic piece, a festival was not the best forum for speaking to him. An additional reason for canceling Bannon’s appearance, Remnick said, was that the magazine would have paid him an honorarium, as well as for lodging and travel if Bannon spoke at the event, rather than for an article, which would be done without payment.”

I’ve produced countless industry events but the speakers were noncontroversial–and most approved by others–so I’ve not run into a situation like this. However I think that Remnick, who is used to looking controversy in the eye, should have kept Bannon on the lineup–though moved him to a lower position rather than that of headliner, if there was such a spot.

Do you think that Remnick should have stuck to his guns and not withdraw the  invitation to Bannon; thought twice before inviting Bannon to participate in his festival in any capacity or tested the water before doing so? Have you had to similarly backtrack due to pressure by others?



Service of Changing Your Mind

Monday, November 5th, 2012


Late Friday NYC Mayor Bloomberg changed his mind and cancelled the Marathon.

With devastation and death in Staten Island, the starting point of the New York City Marathon, and crucial police and rescue services needed there and elsewhere-not to speak of generators and fuel–few people understood why the Mayor declared that the show must go on.

nycmarathonOne person I spoke with pointed out to me that we had the Marathon after September 11 and objected to it being cancelled.

Staten Island Borough President James P. Molinaro put it well when he observed that the Marathon can take place next week but his constituents couldn’t wait a week for help [and protection as many fear for the safety of their property not from the repercussions of the weather as much as from looters.]

Conjecture has it that the Mayor didn’t want to lose the $360 million in fees the city gets for hosting the event and all the tourist business out-of-towners bring. I could think of many ways for him to make up that money but that’s not the subject of this post.

I am glad he changed his mind thereby taking unnecessary strain off a city in stress. At the least city staff and the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] need to find places for thousands of NYC residents whose homes are gone or severely compromised. They have been in temporary shelters–public schools that opened today.

richardbfishercenter1The Mayor isn’t the only one to change his mind. We attended an American Symphony Orchestra concert at Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts a few weeks ago and heard a lecture by Israeli composer Menachem Zur and a performance of his Tuba Concerto which he composed in 1992 and revised in 2008.

The program notes quoted Zur where he explains why he made changes in orchestration 16 years later: “The hope is that by doubling some solo sections with various instruments and timbres, the listener’s ear will refrain from adjusting to the distant sound of the large instrument, thereby accentuating the sense of contrast and drama inherent in this ‘dimension of proximity versus the dimension of distance,’ which becomes apparent when the soloist plays solo.”

There’s not a press release, speech, memo, proposal, activity report, blog post or comment that I don’t change/improve until deadline. Many days I wish there was more time and another opportunity but there’s not. Most of us can’t revisit what we’ve decided, composed, written or even voted for.

I admire those who have the opportunity to do so and, when they should, change their minds, especially under public scrutiny.

Can you think of times you, or the person in charge, changed their mind–or didn’t–and what the repercussions were?


Service of Apology

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

apologizeAs we noted in “Service of Excuses,” [which addressed plagiarism] and in so many of the posts on this blog, everybody makes mistakes. It’s how you own up–or not–and how you apologize that then matters.

I thought that Zoe Hayes, editor-in-chief of The Exponent, Purdue University’s student newspaper, apologized without waffling for having run an inappropriate cartoon that she didn’t realize made light of rape. It was so unusual to read copy clearly untouched by lawyers and spin that I include many excerpts of her letter here:

mistake“We made a mistake in printing Friday’s sex position of the week, and I, the editorial board, and The Exponent are extremely sorry.

“Our apologies extend to the entire campus, both men and women; to alumni, parents, and current and former faculty and staff; and to anyone who saw the graphic and was offended or triggered by what was depicted. We’ve heard from many of you and understand your concerns.

“I deeply regret that I didn’t see what was depicted, and I apologize to the campus, to any survivors of sexual assault and, well, to any decent person who saw the graphic Friday and was offended. You’re right. We are absolutely in the wrong on this one and we’re doing our best to correct it.

“We erred and we’re sorry – not because of your response, but because we were wrong and would’ve been wrong even if nobody had said so.”

I first read about this letter in Media Bistro, a great resource.

What do you think of this apology? Was Hays wrong to apologize so often? [I ask this because I have been told I apologize too often.]

Have you seen similar examples either in academia, the media or in business or are most apologies muffled in fuzzy language and smothered by excuses?


Service of First Impressions

Thursday, June 24th, 2010


How reliable are your first impressions? Mine can be feeble. Whether good or bad, I’ve been happily or unhappily surprised by some.

eyeWhen it comes to people, lively eyes are important to me and these are evident on a first meeting. I eventually admired one young assistant whose eyes were expressionless–almost dead. My first impression of him was “blah to the extreme.” He was one of the best and fastest writers I’ve worked with and funny and bright as a bonus. [Don’t worry, it’s not you-we don’t know each other anymore.]

On the other hand several smart, amusing people, [some I thought were friends], turned out to be crooked, untrustworthy, sleazoids. One was caught with his hands in the coffers of the agency we worked for.

In this economy, I fear that we must brace ourselves for more of the latter. 

stapleswowAnd it’s not only people. Well known brands sell out and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll fall for a great price for what once was a reliable brand and end up with overpriced junk. Recent toaster and electric toothbrush purchases are two examples. Either a company is cashing in on its reputation, which is usually a death knell, or it’s fooling itself that licensing a lesser quality line won’t affect its higher-priced brand. While my first impression of the item on a store shelf with moderate price tag may be “Wow!” like the men in the Staples TV commercial, if my experience is poor, I scratch the brand from my “to buy” list forever.

mortgageapp2I tried to buy some vacuum cleaner bags on line yesterday and when I got to checkout, there was a form almost as long as a mortgage application. I clicked offline and called the toll-free number. Buying on the phone cost $2 less [on an $18 item] and the customer service person was an American who repeated all the numbers and addresses flawlessly. My impression had been that it would cost less for me to do all the work myself even though I was giving this company my email address–the passport to sending me countless emails about promotions and new products evermore. Go figure.

While I think of myself as street-smart, at times cynical [though occasionally gullible and trusting], I haven’t concocted reliable antidotes to people or companies that make their livings trying to cheat me by manipulating my first impression. Do you have any remedies or foolproof detection devices that weed them out?


Service of Flip Flopping

Monday, March 29th, 2010


Parents laugh when their young children make pronouncements such as “I will never marry,” or “I wouldn’t be caught going there if it were the last place on earth.” They don’t hold their children to such pronouncements. Executives are praised for changing a company’s direction thereby saving it.

Yet politicians are criticized for changing their minds. How many times do opponents bring up videos or quotes sometimes from years ago–when a 50+ year old opponent was in college–to show that they don’t have vision or have lost their way or at one time voted/endorsed the opposite point of view.

Saturday morning, [March 27th] a newsman I respect, Joe Bartlett on WOR radio, launched an interview with Pedro Espada, Jr. the New York Senate leader, with the fact that Espada had changed his mind about adding tolls to New York City’s East River bridges. Espada now thinks they are a good idea.

sticktogunIn economic times such as these, sticking to one’s guns no matter what seems foolhardy. Few shop and entertain where and as often as they used to. Millions are getting pretty good at making choices and accepting options that under other circumstances they wouldn’t consider. When faced with no job, a pay cut doesn’t seem so bad. Rearranging the living room furniture may be the solution to a space you couldn’t live with another second when the redecorating budget is used to pay unexpected medical bills.

subwaymapThe city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority is threatening to charge children for their MetroCards which they currently get free [and many note it’s hard enough to get some of the kids to go to school without cutting off their transportation]. It’s also anticipating severe bus and subway service cutbacks. In this context, charging drivers a small amount of money to enter the city with a car seems to make sense.

Empathizing with an opponent, enemy or someone who gets under your skin doesn’t make you weak. In fact, it might give you insight as to a creative solution to an impasse. You might find an alternate road or approach that lubricates rather than enrages the situation.

The country is so divided now as we face enormous hurdles. Elected officials seem to be digging in their heels so deep that to take a step would make them trip. While we’re spending all this money anyway, perhaps the Senate and House could afford to buy a few cartons of flip flops, take off their office shoes and don the rubber kind for a while.

Do you change your mind about critical matters more than before? What do you think of people who change theirs?


Service of Changing Your Mind

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

I now love–but for years felt the opposite about–beer and eggplant. Periodically I would take sips and bites of each. No change. “There’s nothing like a cold beer on a hot day,” I’d hear, but unless I’d been lost in the Sahara desert in summer, without a drop of liquid for a day, I wasn’t to be sold, until one day not long ago, in a pub in England, I changed my mind. Same thing happened when I first tasted eggplant in Turkey.

Moral: When it comes to food and drink, keep on testing or you could miss something special.

When I first encountered Twitter, I thought, “How silly.” I’ve changed my mind. When people tweet judiciously, and when a large percentage of the links they refer me to are of interest, I follow them. And reading tweets from favorite news sources is a convenient way of keeping abreast of late-breaking news.

Moral: First impressions aren’t always accurate.

I’ve always ducked when asked to fundraise yet I agreed to chair development on the New York Women in Communications Foundation board this year. Ask me what I think next May, but right now I am excited at the prospect of knocking on corporate doors looking for support of a topflight student conference and other Foundation events to ensure that the organization’s scholarship program continues to thrive.

Moral: Consider each opportunity because you may have changed your mind.

Exceptions: There are plenty of things I still won’t taste or do: eel and bungee jumping are two examples. The thought of visiting a skyscraper under construction or window washing above the first floor gives me goose bumps. And I still don’t care for grouse or liver.

What significant or insignificant changes of mind have you had and about what do you refuse to budge?

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