Published on: November 12, 2008
Yesterday, Michael Sansolo contributed a column about the importance of context, using as an example the arrest of 10 college students in upstate New York for disturbing the peace by playing the “Star Spangled Banner” at one in the morning to celebrate the election of Barack Obama. His point was that context is everything – you have to know the whole story to make a judgment, rather than just pieces.
His column elicited two very different responses.MNB
user Mary S. Carpenter wrote:I agree with your article, context is key. However, your first paragraph didn't actually give the truth, so context wasn't the problem with understanding why these students had been arrested. They were not arrested for playing the national anthem, they were arrested for disturbing the peace (or violating a noise ordinance). How they disturbed the peace was by playing the national anthem. It is these skipping (or glossing over) the little details that get us all in trouble. Details are important, just as context is.
I respect the views of others, even when they don't agree with mine, but when reports are sensationalized just to mislead, that's when I have a problem. Saying that the students were arrested for playing the national anthem is a headline one would expect in a supermarket tabloid.
to a supermarket tabloid is hitting below the belt.
That said, I think you just made Michael’s point. Details and perspective, I think, are what give a story context. If you only hear part of the story, you can't come to an intelligent conclusion.
I do have to say, though, that the cops who arrested the college students could have shown a little more discretion. They were celebrating democracy in a way that I certainly would not have done when I was a college student back in the mid-seventies. (I remember celebrating when Nixon resigned, but I don't recall anyone my age playing or singing the “Star Spangled Banner” as a response….)
Maybe just asking them to be quiet would have been a more reasoned, even contextual response?
user Bob Vereen wrote:Just wanted to say that was a very impressive editorial; great lecture on context, an important point made well.
On a tangential point, MNB
user Beatrice Orlandini – who reads us every day in Italy – had some thoughts about the international reaction to Obama’s election:Every story has many sides to it.
I can give one. The emotion for Obama's election was here in Italy, and in Europe in general, was incredible. It's not only because he is black (or half-black). His election to us all means that "change", real change, is possible.
Even in stagnant times like these. So, yes, we are in a recession. Yes, the times are difficult. Yes, uncertainty looms ahead of all of us. But, there is hope that things can change, and for the better. And his victory speech, as well as McCain's, thrilled us all. You have no idea how many times it was downloaded, forwarded, printed as an example of a new way of doing politics.
A politician whose words you could actually believe. Unheard of!
His election can also mean - once again - the strengthening of our ties with the USA.
The anti-American sentiment was pretty strong in the past years, and the Bush administrations had a lot to do with it.
My American friends were bewildered when they came to Italy. They couldn't understand why as Americans they were so unpopular.
Now, I am aware that with our Prime Minister we should be the most unpopular nation on earth, but that's another matter....
Here, in the Old World, America has regained a lot of respect. I'd be happy if the same applied to my country.
I will make two points here.
One is that I looked at a pile of newspapers yesterday while walking down the street in Vigo, Spain…and almost all of them had on the front page a story about the meeting on Monday between President Bush and President-elect Obama. And more than a few people in Argentina and Spain have told me over the past week or so that they were riveted when watching the Obama-McCain debates.
We Americans sometimes don't realize the impact that the practice of our sometimes-imperfect democracy has on the people of other nations, who aspire to achieve what we can occasionally take for granted.
Second, I would be a little careful with statements like Obama’s “election to us all means that ‘change,’ real change, is possible.”
Possible, yes. But keep in mind that up to now has been the easy part for Obama. It only gets a tougher from here, and change of any kind may prove to be an elusive and difficult achievement.
Responding to yesterday’s notes about comments made about cooking by Kraft CMO Mary Beth West, MNB
user David Peterson wrote:Kraft CMO Mary Beth West seems to have the same ideas about people cooking that I have had for quite some time.
“People want to be involved, but not committed.” If a recipe has more than five ingredients and/or steps to prepare, most people will skip it and Google another one.
I’ve been accused of being too in love with Wegmans for my own good…and one MNB
user offered the following critique of how we covered Wegmans’ announcement that it was lower prices in anticipation of costs going down on specific goods, but was jumping the gun because of the economic woes being felt by many of its shoppers:I think that Wegmans is on top of their game in most cases and the PR they put out is great. This is one case where their message is being spun to overshadow reality.
I am sure that Wegmans is not sharing the profit margins they operate under. Let us not forget that Wegmans is, in most markets, perceived as a high-end retailer and higher prices must be charged to pay for their 107K foot sales floor etc. Reads to me that they are lowering prices because their sales may be down and are trying to spin it their way rather than saying, "Our prices are much too high for this economy and we are lowering them to compete."
The spin with "anticipated cost decreases" is just to capture the attention of popular media; which it did because they have had huge success with other positive message campaigns.
Kevin, let's be realistic. Prices are not going to come down and Danny & Colleen Wegman are not lowing for the reasons stated. Our company is still receiving price increases and manufacturers are mostly saying that increases can be expected into 2009. Sounds like hype to me and that the company (Wegmans) may have to charge a little less in order to compete for a share of the basket.
I have to admit that I was surprised by the amount of grief I got about a comment I made regarding a story about how nutrition concerns and resultant rules and regulations have made old-fashioned school bake sales an endangered species.
I wrote:I take the nation’s obesity crisis as seriously as anyone, but I also fear that we are turning up the heat so high on this issue that we are baking all the fun out of life. And that’s a shame.
There’s nothing wrong with serving healthier foods in school cafeterias, though I think that schools are only getting it half-right if they don't combine such initiatives with efforts to teach kids about nutrition, proper eating, and the importance of moderation.
But I have to admit that I get a little
verklempt over the desire to control every morsel that kids eat…right down to the notion of banning bake sales or the ability of a parent to bring in cupcakes to the classroom to celebrate a child’s birthday. It’s like we get so focused on political correctness that we can't allow ourselves – or our children – to loosen up a little bit.
Not to over-analyze this, but maybe that’s because we’re better at imposing rules and regulations than we are at teaching. It is no wonder; imposing laws is easy, while taking advantage of teaching moments is a lot harder.MNB
user Ellen Ornato wrote:When my sister’s kids were little her PTA created the “No Bake Bake Sale.” Granted, it was Dobbs Ferry, so their results might be a bit skewed. What they did was send home a note that said, “We don’t want to bake and you don’t want to buy it/eat it. Please send $5.” They raised $3,000!
user wrote:I’m right alongside the idea of getting rid of bake sales – not because of their calorie content but because they are a dated remnant of decades past. While there are obviously a lot of people who love to bake, for most mothers of school age children (especially those who are also juggling careers) baking is not part of our day-to-day lives – in fact, many people rarely if ever bake for themselves.
In decades past, such events made sense since Mom simply had to make an extra batch of whatever she was going to make anyway – and other Moms had a motivation to buy something from a bake sale since it offered her family something different than she usually made for the after dinner dessert.
But now…not so much. I’ve actually seen store-bought cupcakes at bake sales (contributed by a Mom who just didn’t have the time or wherewithal to bake her own) that probably sold at the bake sale for less than what she bought it for!
There are far more 21st Century ways of raising money.
Still another MNB
user chimed in:We did a recent analysis of junk food available to kids at our local elementary school (exclusive of school lunches). With approximately 30 students and 180 days of school, between birthday treats, bake sales, and class parties, the kids were offered junk food approximately once every four days. I agree that food has a place in celebrations, however, getting junk food 25% of the time seems like too much.
Okay, okay…I get the picture.
Finally, I got the following email from MNB
user Vicki Harkonen, who is the marketing coordinator for PureCart Systems, regarding a Wall Street Journal
story we referenced about clean up systems for supermarket shopping carts:Kevin, we’re avid readers of your website.
We were predominantly mentioned both in print and online in the Wall Street Journal this morning. We’re really disappointed that you chose to mention cleansing wipes, protective covers that minimize infants' contact with the seat, full-cart liners and portable, snap-on handles carried by consumers, but overlooked the product predominantly focused on in the article (PureCart)? Help us understand why you mention all of these other products and not even recognize our option too?
To be honest, it certainly wasn't deliberate…just an editorial choice made at an ungodly hour while coping with jet lag. And I didn’t name any specific companies…though you’re correct that I did not mention your solution either by name or concept.
However, flattery will get you everywhere … so as a one time only deal, I will quote what the original Journal
story said about your company: PureCart's cleaning devices, launched two years ago, are now in 21 grocery stores in the U.S. Each machine costs about $7,500 a year for a store to rent; the company tells grocers that stores that provide the machines will draw more customers.
Bashas' Inc., a chain of 160 grocery stores mainly in Arizona, has begun offering the PureCart-washing system in four of its stores and is looking to roll out at least 10 more in the next couple years.
Hope that makes you feel better.