McCormick Foundation recognizes Key West Watch biz plan

Key West Watch was named one of three runners-up in the annual McCormick Foundation New Media Women Entrepreneurs Initiative. The program, which awards grants to start-up companies owned by women, this week recognized four winners and three runners-up from a field of 227 applications.

Being a runner-up on this list is a very big deal. Competition for the grant program is fierce. To make it to that final round is pretty darn sweet. I’ve worked on the Key West business plan since 2007, when it was nothing more than a napkin and some scribbles. I’ve believed in it, and to have that plan recognized as one that’s got the legs to make it, is, well, way cool.

The top four projects split $56,000 in grants; we remaining three get bragging rights, and clearly, I am taking advantage.

This puts Key West Watch in amazing company with six other women-owned projects Projects like these demonstrate the diversity, power and effectiveness of women in business. It is a humbling experience to share a list with them. (And, I’ve invited them all to Key West next year for an anniversary celebration.”

Read more about the awards and the winners.

Here’s the list of winners from yesterday’s news release:

The winners are:

  • ClearHealthCosts.com, an ambitious effort launched by former New York Times editor Jeanne Pinder to do what many thought couldn’t be done: bring transparency to health-care costs by helping consumers compare significant variations in local prices for the same medical procedures.
  • Symbolia, a tablet magazine spearheaded by media strategist Erin Polgreen that will blend investigative journalism with comics and illustration.
  • Carolina Public Press, a non-profit, in-depth, investigative news site for western North Carolina, launched by journalist Angie Newsome.
  • The Seattle Lesbian, a daily news site started by two journalists, Sarah Toce and Charlene Strong, who aspire to roll their initial success with news and traffic to a national network of sites.

Runners-up included:

  • Florida Voices, a digital opinion and commentary project to capture the conversations on state issues.
  • Key West Watch, a web, print and social media initiative to connect off-island Key West homeowners to news and public policy decisions that affect island life.
  • The FilAm, an online magazine for Filipinos in New York.

Obama administration should re-think contraception mandate

If the Susan G. Komen foundation board can reverse its tone-deaf decision to pull grant funding from Planned Parenthood, then the Obama administration can say “oops, we goofed” and rethink its decision mandating religious organizations include contraception in their employee insurance plans.

I think health insurance plans — public and private — should cover contraception. They didn’t “back in my day.” I am uneasy with this government vs. religion mandate.

You wanted “the pill,” you scrimped on the grocery money to buy it. Ditto with surgeries, though there was that oddity in which vasectomies were covered, but not tubal ligation. (Always, always, the guys ….) These days, most plans pick up the tab, minus, of course, the obligatory co-pays and deductibles.

I think we walk a First Amendment tightrope, though, when the government tells religious organizations historically and theologically opposed to contraception that they have to include contraception (what’s next? Abortion?) in their insurance plans.

So, when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius rolled out only a very narrow exception — Catholic organizations that employ mostly Catholics can skip the contraception mandate — the battle was engaged. Because, that teensy exception meant Catholic universities, for instance, had to provide contraception in their insurance plans.

No one is mandating employees avail themselves of contraception, simply that it be included for those who choose to use. Understandably, the Catholic Church is on the pulpit against the mandate and reactions nationally have been — perhaps — surprising, as the mainstream media does two things: disagrees with the mandate or calls for a “re-think.”

The Kaiser Foundation is collating information and reactions at its website.

I started this post counting myself as a “disagree with the mandate,” but I’m going to conclude it as a “re-think” that includes far broader access to exemptions.

I find the mandate distasteful because it is heavy-handed. And, yet I can’t bring myself to say do away with it. Because, where does the line get drawn? Exemptions for any Catholic organization — including the ones that get state and federal funding? Exemptions for any Catholic hospital?

Although religious organizations may discriminate in favor of hiring those of their own faith, these days, doing so isn’t going to fill all those jobs on school and college campuses or in health care. So, church-affiliated businesses reach into wider workforce and customer bases and as they do, the faith-based employee and customer pool no longer shares similar religious values.

The Obama administration narrowly defined the exemptions to make it easier to implement the mandate nationwide. That makes sense; it reduces the “if this, then this” slippery slope of who qualifies for which sliver of what slice of which exception. Angels dancing on pinheads would be simple in contrast.

But, in drawing such a fine line distinction, the administration cut it too close. Time to say “oops, we goofed” and more broadly define those exemptions.

Know a good ad rep for Key West Watch?

A final Midwest Winter: The view from our deck is beautiful in every season.

More on the ad rep in just a minute…

I bet half of my friends and acquaintances think we’re already in Key West. Wish we were, but we’re spending one more snow-and-wind-chill winter in Rockford, IL, though there’s been (thankfully) precious little of both this season.

We’re winding up two decades of “stuff,” from getting the house sold to disentangling from jobs and projects. I’ve been working on the back-end of the business plans, ensuring Key West Watch has the architecture it needs.

I’m also looking for an advertising/marketing sales rep to join me for the start-up. The successful candidate for this contract position will (1) embrace the possibilities of the web world and its digital offspring and still believe that print works; (2) be a news and information junkie; (3) be able to close the deal; and (4) believe that credibility in news, advertising, marketing and services is the foundation of a profitable operation.

If that be you or someone you know, email your cover letter, resume and contact info (keywestwatch@cunningnet.com). If you’re the right candidate, you’ll know how to tell the tale.

We’ll make a quick trip to Key West in March, come back here to pack it up — and assuming we get this house sold, we’ll arrive with the moving van this summer. Key West Watch goes soft launch in third quarter and will be live with the arrival of season.

Newt Gingrich, Rod Blagojevich: What do these guys have in common — besides the hair?

Illinois voters ought to be able to tell the nation a couple of things about governance by charisma, ego and brilliance run amok. After all, we danced with Rod Blagojevich for a lot of years before the ex-governor flamed out while selling Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat.

None was better than Blago in front of an audience. Witness him at Rockford Register Star Editorial Boards, which I did many times. Having a governor in for an edit board always draws a full house. Even Pat Quinn gets a decent showing. Having Blago meant standing room only.

He could sing, weave tall tales, spin a vision for the state with which few would argue. He could remember what seemed like everything, from names and titles to questions asked the last visit. Veteran board members gave it up and sat back to watch the show.

It’s hard not to channel Blago while watching the Newt Show. The brilliance is similar; ditto the vision thing. So are the abilities to absorb complex information and re-purpose it to strategic ideas that make — at the moment — perfect sense. There’s the chuckling and eye contacting; the remembering of things.

Blago is the more charming of the two, and there are other differences, including the great hair color.

I never saw Blago lose his temper the way that Newt does publicly, though there are plenty of reports that he did. Blago didn’t walk about actively hating the news media; he used his not inconsiderable skills to manipulate it to his advantage.

Illinois’ ex-governor rode that hubris right off the ranch. Given enough time, Newt Gingrich will follow. It won’t of course, be the first time for Newt; his former Congressional seatmates will be more than happy to explain the 1990s back story.

Gaad, how we Americans love these charismatic politicians. Let’s hope we don’t have to learn on a national stage — as did Illinois on its state stage — that governance by brilliance-run-amok ought be a non-starter.

Who needs “real” journalists when there’s all that free stuff?

It started with letters to the editor — missives from newspaper readers that are equal parts tinfoil hat and insightful commentary. Letters to the editor were the first “user generated content.”

Add in a couple pounds of the ubiquitous “press release,” a tablespoon of original poetry, a cup of weddings, engagements, anniversaries and obituaries and a handful of dead deer and big fish photos and newspapers had a ready-made recipe of content provided by their readers.

Oh, and from the really olden days, pick up a pinch of the “local correspondent’s three-dot column” that included such closely followed items as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith and their four children returned this week from their summer vacation in the north woods.”

There’s nothing new about what we today call “user generated content” or UGC for short. Newspaper readers have always been happy to send along items for publication, proud to see their efforts rewarded with a bit of newsprint and ink. Or, in the case of those far-flung local correspondents (also known as housewives back in the day), 10 cents an inch or a penny a word.

I like that stuff. It connects a community and reflects its collective life. Weave it together with the work of the professional journalists and one has a strong partnership that serves the First Amendment well.

Here’s the rub. User generated content is replacing professional reporting. What worked well as a partnership is morphing into a “well, if we can get it for free, why the heck do we need to pay professionals” strategy for saving money. No news organization these days escapes the spreadsheet directive to lop off professionals and replace them with free UGC.

Stephen Colbert does a most excellent riff on the expense cutting addiction to user generated content in his video commentary on the layoffs of 50 CNN editors and photojournalists. As always, Colbert’s hilarious until he smacks you like a two-by-four to the head.

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