Don’t Tell Anyone About ...


The Grab Bag makes its 2016 debut.

For those not familiar with these posts, I string together three quick takes.

Here goes.


When You Apply for a Job with the CIA, the Question Immediately Arises, “Can You Keep a Secret?”

I enjoy studying communications of all types.

That’s what led to me to a job description from the CIA on the hunt for foreign language instructors.

Sounds innocuous enough.

And it was until the last paragraph:

Important Notice: Friends, family, individuals, or organizations may be interested to learn that you are an applicant for or an employee of the CIA. Their interest, however, may not be benign or in your best interest. You cannot control whom they would tell. We therefore ask you to exercise discretion and good judgment in disclosing your interest in a position with the Agency. You will receive further guidance on this topic as you proceed through your CIA employment processing.

How’s that for an understatement?

Apparently, teaching how to conjugate verbs in Farsi can be a matter of national security.


Three Words That Bring Out a Company’s HumanityEsquire Books 01-16

The line “we apologize” has become de rigueur in the business world. You can find media retrospectives on the apologies from Mark Zuckerberg.

There’s something about the words, “we messed up,” that sounds so much better, which is how Esquire handled being called out for lack of diversity:

What can we say? We messed up. Our list of “80 Books Every Man Should Read,” published several years ago, was rightfully called out for its lack of diversity in both authors and titles. So we invited eight female literary powerhouses, from Michiko Kakutani to Anna Holmes to Roxane Gay, to help us create a new list. Each participant made 10 picks. It’s a new year, a new We’re looking forward to reading and we hope you are, too.

It feels real, not handled.


The Ever-changing Job Description of a Journalist

Most journalists have taken to social media, particularly Twitter, to promote their stories and their colleagues’ stories. With media properties increasingly turning to the analytics to measure the performance of journalists, every click counts.

But The New York Times has taken this concept to a different level.

My colleague Bob Pickard shared the interaction with the NYT reporter Ian Urbina who emailed him to promote a series of stories called “The Outlaw Ocean.”Ian Urbina NYT Note 01-16Though it’s a form letter, it’s a damn good form letter.

I liked the word choice and the NYT condoning starting a sentence with a “But.” (High school English teachings be damned!):

“Forgive me if this is an intrusion. But we’re experimenting with some new methods for getting content directly to readers with particular interests.”

The email reads like it came from a real human being, and better yet, one of the journalists working on the series, not a promotional copywriter.

More instructive, the NYT is curating and grading out the influence of individuals with ties to a given topic  — like the environment, climate change, etc. — then proactively reaching out to those folks deemed as “influential.”

Ian Urbina might enjoy the give-and-take with readers and even cultivating a new source or two, but that’s not the end game.

Instead, the NYT is looking for the multiplier effect via these influencers, hoping they will push the stories on “The Outlaw Ocean” out on their social channels.

Sounds suspiciously like the work of another profession.

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