Published on: September 12, 2013
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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
Normally I save the book reviews for Friday's OffBeat section, but this week I'm going to make an exception. I just finished reading a nonfiction book about politics and media that in many ways reads like a satirical novel, reported in depth with just enough gossip, and that provides some critical business lessons even for the private sector.
The book is by New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich, and is entitled "This Town: Two Parties & A Funeral, Plus Plenty Of Valet Parking In America's Gilded Capital." And I recommend that you either pick up a copy or download it - whichever is your pleasure - and read it.
"This Town" is an incredibly sad and incredibly funny, take-no-prisoners look at the intersection of media and politics in Washington, DC, essentially suggesting that there are few people and institutions in the nation's capital that are looking out for actual citizens. Not elected officials of either party in any branch of government, who generally tend to be more focused on accumulating sustainable power. Not the media, despite being so-called watchdogs, but often about as ferocious as a dog - it may bark and growl from time to time, but rub its belly (or offer it shrimp) and it tends to get awfully compliant. And certainly not the culture that has evolved in Washington, which is all about accumulating and protecting one's power and perquisites. And money. Let's not forget money. There is a black hole where Washington's head and brains ought to be, and there may be no escape.
"This Town" is not partisan in tone; in fact, once I finished it, my main concern was that Leibovich may never be able to get anyone in either party to talk to him again. Except, of course, that people will always talk about themselves if they think it will do them some good. (Leibovich does not spare himself from criticism ... he concedes that as part of the media establishment living in DC, he is in fact part of the problem. If it is a 12-step process to escape this trap, "This Town" may be good for at least a couple of steps in the right direction, starting with "acknowledge the problem.")
As I read "This Town," one of the things that kept coming back to me was a statement that a friend once made: "Don't breathe your own exhaust." By that, he meant that people should not become so impressed with themselves and their organizations that they forget about their broader mission, that they forget that whoever they are and whatever they do and however exalted a position they hold, they are serving someone or something, and that servant leadership never is impressed with itself.
I think that's an important lesson. I think that it is one that needs to be learned not just by politicians and the media, but also by the people who run businesses, no matter what the size or venue.
It isn't just politicians who often escape the consequences of their actions. There are plenty of top execs who fail royally and then are rewarded with a fat severance check for doing so (and usually go one to get a couple of board seats somewhere).
"This Town" is a really good book, and you can check it out on Amazon.com here.
In fact, there's really one problem with it. There are parts of it that will make you want to throw up. Because we may not even have the best government money can buy.
That's what's on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: