Archive for the ‘A Map to Mr. Magazine website’ Category

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Bauer Media Group’s President & CEO, Steven Kotok, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni On Publishing During A Pandemic: “It’s Just About Keeping That Human Connection.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 2, 2020

“Publishing During A Pandemic” Part 4

“So far so good, but it’s still pretty early. But it’s still the same going forward. The weeklies are weekly; the 17 times per year are still 17 times per year; the SIPs are on sale for three months, so there’s ample opportunity for shoppers, even if they’re in the stores less or more to run across them. And if they fit their needs, they will still fit. The topics we cover: inspiration, health, food, are just as relevant now. Other areas, like news, there’s more interest in maybe other things, where there’s less interest in some, but I think for us our core pillars are just as relevant.” … Steven Kotok (On changing any of Bauer’s publishing schedules at the moment)

Bauer Media publishes two of the largest selling magazines on the newsstands: Woman’s World and First for Women. One is published weekly and the other 17 times a year, so publishing schedules are tight, even when the world isn’t the uncertain place it is today.

Steven Kotok is president and CEO of Bauer Media Group USA. Bauer’s focus through this whole tragic pandemic has been the safety of its employees and staying engaged with its audiences. According to Steven the transition to working from home was a lot of work, but went surprisingly well and now they’re just concentrating on producing the same quality content and connecting with their readers. As far as changing anything about their publishing schedules right now, he said everything was, “So far so good, but it’s still pretty early.”

Steven also adds that Bauer is a family company in every sense of the word, with a fifth generation of ownership, and taking care of its employees and readers is paramount during this precarious time in everyone’s life. Be it business or personal, the company cares about what’s going on in everyone’s lives. He believes that keeping that human connection will see them through, after all, that has been Bauer’s core since the beginning.

So, please enjoy this fourth in a series of  Mr. Magazine™ interviews on Publishing During A Pandemic with Steven Kotok, president and CEO, Bauer Media Group USA.

But first the sound-bites:

On the status of Bauer Media during this pandemic: It certainly took a lot of work, but it was surprisingly smooth migrating to 100 percent working from home. Things happened a lot faster than we expected. I think it’s been about three weeks ago that we set a week where every department was going to have a practice day from home. We planned this in advance, but that practice day actually became everyone’s first day working from home. No one came back after that. Things definitely overtook us in a rapid way, but we’d done enough planning that in a sense it was, I don’t want to say seamless because everyone put so much hard work into it, but it wasn’t very disruptive because of the level of planning that we’d done.

On any change in Bauer’s publishing schedules or frequencies: So far so good, but it’s still pretty early. But it’s still the same going forward. The weeklies are weekly; the 17 times per year are still 17 times per year; the SIPs are on sale for three months, so there’s ample opportunity for shoppers, even if they’re in the stores less or more to run across them. And if they fit their needs, they will still fit. The topics we cover: inspiration, health, food, are just as relevant now. Other areas, like news, there’s more interest in maybe other things, where there’s less interest in some, but I think for us our core pillars are just as relevant.

On whether having titles on newsstands in supermarkets is a blessing in disguise for Bauer since grocery stores are remaining open: It’s definitely not a blessing in any way, because of how negative it is, but I would say that it has changed patterns. And as far as newsstand, a lot of the disruption is definitely in travel and terminals, that sort of thing. But we’re still pretty early into this thing right now. We’re not seeing a lot of ups or downs. In Europe they’re seeing some lifts in their television magazines and puzzle magazines. Here, it may just be too early.

 On what message he would send out to his staff, readers and advertisers during this pandemic: Number one is that Bauer is a family company in every sense of the word. We’re fifth generation ownership, but we’re also a company that’s had some of the same people who have worked for us since the ‘80s. First and foremost, it’s family first and people have to take care of their families and make sure that their families are safe. That’s always been a part of who we are; we’re very serious about business, but we want to do it in a way that the families can be taken care of. And that’s number one.

On whether he had ever imagined anything like the pandemic happening in all his years of publishing: Certainly not something like this, but I think in publishing these muscles are pretty well developed for people in all types of media. It’s an industry that has seen a lot of rapid change and a lot of challenges, so whether it was 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis or just the structural changes that have been going on, this is an industry that’s really built up those muscles of adaptation. I believe we’re well able to adapt to this new business reality. There are only so many times you can be shocked at a sudden change.

On whether he thinks once the pandemic is over, it will force the industry to change, such as in the logistics of publishing: That’s a good question. I think there’s certainly a lot of things, such as if we were going to all move to work from home on purpose, we probably would have planned it after a year. Then here we are doing it basically in one week’s notice. I do think a lot of rapid changes that seemed large can really happen swiftly, but I believe it all depends on the consumer. We’re in the business of reaching and engaging with the consumer, so if consumer behavior changes in some material way, that would change the industry.

On anything he’d like to add: Just on the working from home front, the last company I worked with, we were 100 percent from home and I learned a lot from that. For our business at least, we ask the managers that the first thing they do each day is spend 15 minutes with their team in a little group, and I think that human connection is important. We’re not together physically, but we can still start the day with a check-in, whether it’s on business or just personal stuff, just getting that point of contact.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steven Kotok, president and CEO, Bauer Media Group USA.

Samir Husni: What is the status of Bauer Media during this pandemic?

Steven Kotok: It certainly took a lot of work, but it was surprisingly smooth migrating to 100 percent working from home. Things happened a lot faster than we expected. I think it’s been about three weeks ago that we set a week where every department was going to have a practice day from home. We planned this in advance, but that practice day actually became everyone’s first day working from home. No one came back after that. Things definitely overtook us in a rapid way, but we’d done enough planning that in a sense it was, I don’t want to say seamless because everyone put so much hard work into it, but it wasn’t very disruptive because of the level of planning that we’d done.

Samir Husni: Any change in plans in terms of your publishing schedules; any change in frequency or so far so good?

Steven Kotok:  So far so good, but it’s still pretty early. But it’s still the same going forward. The weeklies are weekly; the 17 times per year are still 17 times per year; the SIPs are on sale for three months, so there’s ample opportunity for shoppers, even if they’re in the stores less or more to run across them. And if they fit their needs, they will still fit. The topics we cover: inspiration, health, food, are just as relevant now. Other areas, like news, there’s more interest in maybe other things, where there’s less interest in some, but I think for us our core pillars are just as relevant.

Samir Husni: Is this a sword with two edges for you? Most of your sales are on newsstands in supermarkets, which are still open. Is it a blessing in disguise that you have titles in grocery stores?

Steven Kotok: It’s definitely not a blessing in any way, because of how negative it is, but I would say that it has changed patterns. And as far as newsstand, a lot of the disruption is definitely in travel and terminals, that sort of thing. But we’re still pretty early into this thing right now. We’re not seeing a lot of ups or downs. In Europe they’re seeing some lifts in their television magazines and puzzle magazines. Here, it may just be too early.

We have a travel page and obviously we’re treating that a little less actionable and more aspirational, something you might want to dream about, rather than like you’re going to take a trip next month. It’s not a blessing in disguise, certainly, but it may just be too early to see the effect.

Samir Husni: What message would you send out to your staff, readers and advertisers during this pandemic?

Steven Kotok:  Number one is that Bauer is a family company in every sense of the word. We’re fifth generation ownership, but we’re also a company that’s had some of the same people who have worked for us since the ‘80s. First and foremost, it’s family first and people have to take care of their families and make sure that their families are safe. That’s always been a part of who we are; we’re very serious about business, but we want to do it in a way that the families can be taken care of. And that’s number one.

Number two comes out of that. Part of being a family company and having five generations of ownership is, we’re not a public company; we’re debt free and owned by the family, so we think in terms of decades and generations. Our strategy hasn’t changed and that’s not by default, that’s by an act of decision from the top that has been discussed. As unfortunate as this is, this strategy of our business and our ability to reach people and to be paid for the content that we produce, and to connect with our audience, all of that remains. If ad budgets are different in Q2 or Q3; if store traffic is up or down, we don’t see anything changing about the long-term trend.

It really is being a family company that permeates everything, in our concerns for the employees and their families and in how we approach this, as a generational project more than a quarter to quarter project.

Samir Husni: In all your years in publishing, did you ever imagine anything like this would happen?

Steven Kotok: Certainly not something like this, but I think in publishing these muscles are pretty well developed for people in all types of media. It’s an industry that has seen a lot of rapid change and a lot of challenges, so whether it was 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis or just the structural changes that have been going on, this is an industry that’s really built up those muscles of adaptation. I believe we’re well able to adapt to this new business reality. There are only so many times you can be shocked at a sudden change.

The human cost and the human factors are very shocking when you hear some of the numbers of the potential toll, but from a business perspective, as much as this is something that we never certainly foresaw, it’s not out of the range of types of challenges that we’ve faced at a business level. I certainly wish it was more of a financial crisis than a health crisis, in terms of the human toll of the people in this country, but from a pure business perspective, I think all of us in this industry have become accustomed to facing unexpected challenges.

It’s not  that we’re frozen and don’t know what to do, we all know what to do, the specifics of how we execute. The tactics we’ll have to figure out as we go. I don’t think anyone expected that we’d all be working from home, but that  level of change is something that as an industry we’re at least, emotionally prepared for.

Samir Husni: Once this pandemic is behind us, do you think it will force the industry to change, as far as maybe the new logistics of publishing?

Steven Kotok: That’s a good question. I think there’s certainly a lot of things, such as if we were going to all move to work from home on purpose, we probably would have planned it after a year. Then here we are doing it basically in one week’s notice. I do think a lot of rapid changes that seemed large can really happen swiftly, but I believe it all depends on the consumer. We’re in the business of reaching and engaging with the consumer, so if consumer behavior changes in some material way, that would change the industry.

I don’t think our production processes and so forth would necessarily change. Because even though we were working in our offices, things had become so electronic that moving files from editor to an art director, even if those people are sitting farther away, those processes were already in place and completely digitized.

So, I think the big question that, whether it’s Coca-Cola or a magazine company, how will this impact consumer behavior. That remains to be seen. I don’t think any of  us know the answer to that, but in terms of how we operate, I don’t think that’s going to change drastically. We need to adapt to whatever consumer behavioral changes are coming, but I don’t know that anyone knows what those are going to be.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add? Any words of wisdom?

Steven Kotok: Just on the working from home front, the last company I worked with, we were 100 percent from home and I learned a lot from that. For our business at least, we ask the managers that the first thing they do each day is spend 15 minutes with their team in a little group, and I think that human connection is important. We’re not together physically, but we can still start the day with a check-in, whether it’s on business or just personal stuff, just getting that point of contact.

As far as words of wisdom, we have to keep that human connection with our employees and our readers. In our case, with our ownership, Mrs. Bauer has really spoken from the heart about what this business means to her and how much she appreciates what everyone has done to adapt. If there are any words of wisdom, it’s just about keeping that human connection, whether it’s with the people you work with or whether it’s with the readers who really keep the whole thing running.  That’s been our focus, even though it’s how we operated already, and in a time of crisis you reach for your core. And our core is human connection and audience engagement. And it’s more important now than ever, throughout the organization.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Technoskeptic Magazine: Leading A Revolution In Framing Today’s Role Of Technology In Our Life & Society – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Mo Lotman, Founder, The Technoskeptic Magazine…

October 18, 2019

“I always felt print was important; it’s always been important to me. I don’t read the same way online as I do in print; I much prefer reading in print. In fact, I often don’t even bother reading things online, because I’m just too frustrated and annoyed with the whole process. I feel it’s very difficult to even grasp things. There is that physicality of print that helps to establish some kind of tactile permanence to the material you’re reading.”… Mo Lotman

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

The mission of The Technoskeptic is to promote awareness, critical thinking, and social change around the use and impact of technology on society and the environment. In short, the magazine’s founder, Mo Lotman, thinks it’s time we all reflect on what the Internet, social media and the many devices and platforms this media offers is doing to us, the human race, and our planet.

The Technoskeptic, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit corporation which produces a magazine, podcast, and events exploring the intersection of technology and society from a humanistic perspective. In pursuing its mission, the magazine and the movement aspire to serve as a resource, build community, and change culture.

Mo Lotman, its founder, is an author, public speaker, voice-talent, and radio personality. He wrote the pop-culture retrospective Harvard Square: An Illustrated History Since 1950 and he was the host and originator of Nerd Nite in Northampton, Massachusetts. I spoke with Mo recently and we talked about this very dynamic attempt to make people more aware of what technology has implemented into our society and everyday lives. From social media to screens in front of our faces almost 24/7, Mo seeks to share his belief that we don’t need technologies to survive in our world today. We have them, yes, and we all use them, but we don’t have to give our souls to them in the process.

According to Mo, The Technoskeptic was first imagined in 2013, partially in response to the Edward Snowden revelations of that year. Mo became disillusioned and somewhat angry at what he deemed was a serious problem with how people felt and thought about technology. It’s a fascinating discussion with a man who asks us to rethink what we may be allowing technology to do to ourselves and our environment.

So, without further ado, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mo Lotman, founder, The Technoskeptic.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of The Technoskeptic magazine: It was really born out of a lot of frustration, sadness, heartbreak and anger that came out of a number of things, but I think the precipitating factor was the Snowden revelations in 2013. That’s what really moved me from just sort of raging, with my fists shaking toward the sky, to wanting to be more active and trying to do something to address what I saw as some serious problems with how we were thinking about technology and how we were using it. I don’t want to overstate that, because it wasn’t just that, but that was the precipitating moment. I think with Dolly the Sheep, there had been a kind of skepticism growing in my mind for 15 years or longer, by that point, so it was more like the culmination.

On why he felt creating a print product was the answer to all of his skepticism: It wasn’t a print publication at first. Although, I will say it was always my intention that it would be a print publication, because I feel like, among the many other problems that some of our technologies has caused, the Internet culture has really lowered people’s attention spans, comprehension and their retention of information. I always felt print was important; it’s always been important to me. I don’t read the same way online as I do in print; I much prefer reading in print. In fact, I often don’t even bother reading things online, because I’m just too frustrated and annoyed with the whole process. I feel it’s very difficult to even grasp things. There is that physicality of print that helps to establish some kind of tactile permanence to the material you’re reading.

On how he would define the magazine: The magazine was born out of the mission, which is to foster awareness, critical thinking and behavioral change around the use and impact of technology, society and the environment. That’s what I’m trying to do. I guess you could say, we need a revolution. (Laughs) I think a lot of people think that same thing, just in different spheres. Some people think we need a political revolution; some people think we need an economical revolution; I think we need a revolution, and we may need all of these things, but we need a revolution in the framing of technology. And in order to have a revolution of the way we use technology, you first have to have a revolution in thought. Any revolution of any kind has to have a framework or a basis in some kind of theory or thought or… I hesitate to say manifesto, but there has to be some kind of change in the way people think about things or relate to things.

On whether he views the magazine as a serialized manifesto: That’s interesting, no one has asked me that in quite that way. Actually, I would like it to be, because I believe a lot of the problems that we’re facing, societally and culturally, do relate back to technology, even when it’s unconscious. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of superficial examination of different technologies, and I think what we’ve seen recently is encouraging, in the sense that there has been a pushback against some of the excesses of what, I guess you could call, some of the platform, monopolistic capitalism of the 21st century: the Facebooks and the Googles, and the surveillance model.

On whether it has been a challenge for him since launching the magazine in the fall of 2018 or a walk in a rose garden: No, I can’t imagine launching anything that would be a walk in a rose garden. It’s incredibly challenging, and you’re fighting against huge currents of culture. What we’re trying to do is countercultural. It may be less countercultural now than it was when we started, which is great, but it’s still countercultural. And anytime you’re doing something like that, you’re going to struggle and I knew that going in, so that was the bargain I made.

On whether he feels like the lone wolf in the wilderness when it comes to his views about technology: I don’t think it’s a complete wilderness, I believe there are other people out there, which is why I wanted to do this. And I feel like those people are probably feeling incredibly isolated, frustrated and helpless, because that’s how I feel often. So, I do want to reach out to those people and I want there to be a sense of solidarity among a group of people that could lead to a movement and a change in thought. Anything like this has to start small because, again, you’re kind of fighting against prevailing culture, but as we’ve seen time and time again through history, all of these great social movements started small and had to gradually build up recognition and steam.

On the next step for the magazine: I guess the next step is to hopefully be able to reach more people, to gradually grow the circle. There are things that I would love to be able to do that we can’t quite do right now for lack of resources. I would love to have a more proactive investigatory arm of The Technoskeptic, because I think there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be looked into, that requires more intensive journalistic effort, and unfortunately, that is expensive and takes a lot of time. So, I wish we could do a bit of that.

On whether he feels the media industry left its “spouse” print too soon for its “mistress” digital: (Laughs) Maybe you’re leading the witness here, but yes, I do feel they lost their way, not just about print versus digital, but also the model through which they’re attempting to bring the news to us, if we’re talking about the news specifically. Journalism has been decimated by the digital era, there has been a lot written about this. I think it’s either a 50 or 60 percent loss in the ranks of journalists over the last, however many years, since the Web exploded, which is an extraordinary loss because that’s the gatekeeper or the watchdog of democracy. And if people don’t know what’s going on in their towns, especially with local journalism, it’s impossible to have a democracy when you’re in complete darkness about what’s happening.

On anything he’d like to add: Just that we need help. If people are resonating with this message and are interested and want to get involved, we absolutely need help. And that means any kind of help; we certainly need financial help and any other kind of help, such as any writers out there, editors or marketers; people who want to volunteer to work, they should feel free to get in touch.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: To be honest with you, I don’t know the answer, but if I had to guess I would say that the misconception is I’m against technology just because I hate technology, or something of that nature. But there’s actually a perfectly good reason for the way I feel and it has to do with thinking of a sort of balance. The universe has worked, certainly on earth anyway; we think of natural systems as reaching an equilibrium and being in balance.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Just that I care. I’m trying to make the world a better place.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Well, I don’t have an iPhone. I don’t have a cell phone at all, for one thing, but I love to play music: I play games; sometimes I sing; I like to go dancing. But I’m probably just spending time with friends, that’s very important to me. And that usually means in conversation, more so than going to a movie, for example. Not that I’m against movies. Being in communion with others is really the best thing and I think that’s what all of us want.

On what keeps him up at night: Honestly, if anything would keep me up, it would be just trying to keep this organization going, because it is very challenging.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mo Lotman, founder, The Technoskeptic magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of The Technoskeptic magazine.

Mo Lotman: It was really born out of a lot of frustration, sadness, heartbreak and anger that came out of a number of things, but I think the precipitating factor was the Snowden revelations in 2013. That’s what really moved me from just sort of raging, with my fists shaking toward the sky, to wanting to be more active and trying to do something to address what I saw as some serious problems with how we were thinking about technology and how we were using it. I don’t want to overstate that, because it wasn’t just that, but that was the precipitating moment. I think with Dolly the Sheep, there had been a kind of skepticism growing in my mind for 15 years or longer, by that point, so it was more like the culmination.

And then I had a friend at the time, we were both talking about this same sort of feeling. Initially, she was involved and we started working on the idea together, but she ended up going off and doing other projects, so she didn’t stay around for long, but we’re still very good friends. But that was enough to get the momentum building to the point where I got the site up and running and started to really work on it in earnest.

Samir Husni: Why did you think creating a print publication was the answer to all of this skepticism?

Mo Lotman: It wasn’t a print publication at first. Although, I will say it was always my intention that it would be a print publication, because I feel like, among the many other problems that some of our technologies has caused, the Internet culture has really lowered people’s attention spans, comprehension and their retention of information. And I think that’s been borne out by the work of various people that have studied it, like Maryanne Wolf. And the work of Nicholas Carr, he gets into the way we differ in our comprehension and retention reading online versus reading in print.

I always felt print was important; it’s always been important to me. I don’t read the same way online as I do in print; I much prefer reading in print. In fact, I often don’t even bother reading things online, because I’m just too frustrated and annoyed with the whole process. I feel it’s very difficult to even grasp things. There is that physicality of print that helps to establish some kind of tactile permanence to the material you’re reading.

And it is a cultural change in the sense that how is it competing for information in your brain and when you’re online you’re really always just constantly searching around for more information, clicking links and going down endless rabbit holes. Whereas in print, you’re really focused on whatever it is you’re reading. Your attention is not constantly being tugged away. For all of these reasons I thought print was important. And I still do.

Samir Husni: How would you define the magazine? What’s your elevator pitch for The Technoskeptic?

Mo Lotman: The magazine was born out of the mission, which is to foster awareness, critical thinking and behavioral change around the use and impact of technology, society and the environment. That’s what I’m trying to do. I guess you could say, we need a revolution. (Laughs) I think a lot of people think that same thing, just in different spheres. Some people think we need a political revolution; some people think we need an economical revolution; I think we need a revolution, and we may need all of these things, but we need a revolution in the framing of technology.

And in order to have a revolution of the way we use technology, you first have to have a revolution in thought. Any revolution of any kind has to have a framework or a basis in some kind of theory or thought or… I hesitate to say manifesto, but there has to be some kind of change in the way people think about things or relate to things. I believe everyone has a unique set of gifts that they can offer to the world in whatever way they that they’re able to offer them and in the services of whatever they find meaningful and important.

For me, this seemed to be where my skills lie. I would not preclude doing other activism and I do sometimes, but I seem to be pretty good at this type of thing – communications. And so this is the way that I believed I could hopefully make some kind of small impact.

Samir Husni: Do you view the magazine as a serialized manifesto?

Mo Lotman: That’s interesting, no one has asked me that in quite that way. Actually, I would like it to be, because I believe a lot of the problems that we’re facing, societally and culturally, do relate back to technology, even when it’s unconscious. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of superficial examination of different technologies, and I think what we’ve seen recently is encouraging, in the sense that there has been a pushback against some of the excesses of what, I guess you could call, some of the platform, monopolistic capitalism of the 21st century: the Facebooks and the Googles, and the surveillance model.

That’s finally come out into the open more and people are finally starting to acknowledge that there’s something really screwed up about it. And that’s incredibly gratifying and hopeful. But at the same time I don’t think people are really questioning the underlying premises of some of these things, it’s more as though: well, there’s this problem with social media because the companies that are running social media aren’t doing it right. Or we’re having this climate crisis because we’re just not consuming the right types of things, instead of saying that perhaps social media as a concept is just not beneficial for human flourishment because of the ways that it encourages people to interact with each other. No matter how you do it.

And maybe the goal of this intense consumption is causing problems of global warming, regardless of how green the products you’re using are. So, I think there has to be a more fundamental reimagining of how we are using technologies, and how they change us, and what the ultimate aims of the technologies are, because at the moment everyone is trying to get the most efficient… everything is about efficiency or speed or money, but those are not really the highest goals of human flourishing.

Samir Husni: Since you launched the magazine in the fall of 2018, and with the website and everything you’ve been doing, has it been a walk in a rose garden for you or have you had some challenges along the way?

Mo Lotman: No, I can’t imagine launching anything that would be a walk in a rose garden. It’s incredibly challenging, and you’re fighting against huge currents of culture. What we’re trying to do is countercultural. It may be less countercultural now than it was when we started, which is great, but it’s still countercultural. And anytime you’re doing something like that, you’re going to struggle and I knew that going in, so that was the bargain I made.

And my guess is, it would continue to be that way; it’s going to be hard to have people reimagine things that they’ve pretty much taken for granted for decades or even centuries. It’s a difficult thing to root up these deeply-held convictions, and I don’t really want to call them that, because it’s more like the air you breathe. It’s not even something you consciously think about. The goldfish doesn’t know what water is. It’s just there surrounding us all the time and people don’t think about it all. So, it’s difficult. It’s a challenge to get people to think about it. I certainly run into people who vehemently disagree with what we’re doing and that’s par for the course.

We also see a lot of people who are very encouraging and are extremely happy that we’re doing what we’re doing, and are grateful to just find out there’s something else and some other people who get it, so that they’re not feeling so alone. And I do think a lot of people do feel kind of like lonely voices in the wilderness if they have the temerity to say that they’re disturbed by our relationship with technology.

Samir Husni: Do you feel like the lone wolf in that wilderness when it comes to your views about technology?

Mo Lotman: I don’t think it’s a complete wilderness, I believe there are other people out there, which is why I wanted to do this. And I feel like those people are probably feeling incredibly isolated, frustrated and helpless, because that’s how I feel often. So, I do want to reach out to those people and I want there to be a sense of solidarity among a group of people that could lead to a movement and a change in thought. Anything like this has to start small because, again, you’re kind of fighting against prevailing culture, but as we’ve seen time and time again through history, all of these great social movements started small and had to gradually build up recognition and steam.

Sometimes it takes decades or even centuries. I hope it doesn’t take that long in this case. But there are obvious cases with civil rights and the feminist movement, anti-slavery and many more; it took tremendous lengths of time and dedication. But even smaller things like the relationship of smokers; I do think that there is a lot of analogs there, the way smoking was so prevalent in this country and at some point people just said, enough. this is killing people. There’s an entire industry devoted to addicting people, including children. It’s killing them and it’s also ruining the quality of life for everyone around them.

When that recognition started; when the surgeon general came out with that first warning in the ‘60s, it was 30 or 40 years before there were real cultural changes in this country regarding smoking, but now there is such a difference. I grew up when you could smoke on airplanes and I’m sure you did too, so it’s a tremendous cultural difference. With something that was incredibly addictive, with maybe not the majority, but at least half the country doing it, the change we have seen is pretty remarkable. I do think things like that are possible. Unfortunately, sometimes they take longer than you’d like.

Samir Husni: As you move forward, what’s the next step for the magazine, the movement, everything?

Mo Lotman: I guess the next step is to hopefully be able to reach more people, to gradually grow the circle. There are things that I would love to be able to do that we can’t quite do right now for lack of resources. I would love to have a more proactive investigatory arm of The Technoskeptic, because I think there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be looked into, that requires more intensive journalistic effort, and unfortunately, that is expensive and takes a lot of time. So, I wish we could do a bit of that.

I would also love to do some more community-level outreach. We’re actually about to start something here in Boston, I think we’re going to call it “Analog Sundays.” We’re going to have an event at a bar where everyone is not allowed to use their cell phones, they have to actually talk to each other. So, ways to get people to interact without technology, and that can remind them of what is great about the things we have already.

Obviously, there’s much to criticize, but you also want to be able to bring something positive to the table. I think the flip side of whatever criticism we get is that there’s so much that we’re capable of without technologies. And we’ve forgotten that. I think we’ve lost faith in our own abilities, which is very depressing to see. People have forgotten that we have these capabilities; we can find our way in the world, both literally and metaphysically without an app.

Samir Husni: Do you feel that the media industry has failed to recognize what you’re describing and fell in love with this new mistress called “digital” too quickly and left its spouse “print” high and dry?

Mo Lotman: (Laughs) Maybe you’re leading the witness here, but yes, I do feel they lost their way, not just about print versus digital, but also the model through which they’re attempting to bring the news to us, if we’re talking about the news specifically. Journalism has been decimated by the digital era, there has been a lot written about this. I think it’s either a 50 or 60 percent loss in the ranks of journalists over the last, however many years, since the Web exploded, which is an extraordinary loss because that’s the gatekeeper or the watchdog of democracy. And if people don’t know what’s going on in their towns, especially with local journalism, it’s impossible to have a democracy when you’re in complete darkness about what’s happening.

I have a friend who works in city government and she tells me that she can’t believe the stuff that the administration is doing, but there’s no one to report it. There’s just no one there. So, it’s like the stuff we don’t know that’s probably going to get us more than the stuff we do know that’s horrible. (Laughs)

So, I think the media was just completely infatuated by the Internet, and in a way it’s hard to blame them, because we all were that way. No one knew what was going to happen; no one knew what it meant; no one knew how to monetize it. The result was they just fell behind and they sold out. They sold their souls to the aggregators, mostly because I don’t think they knew what else to do. But what they probably should have done was create the paywalls initially that they tried to scramble and put up 10 or 15 years later. Had they done that, maybe we’d be in a different place right now.

If there’s anything positive from it, it’s that you are now beginning to see the makings of a new model for journalism, which is the nonprofit model and that’s what we are. And I do hope that works, but of course, nonprofits are constantly scrambling for money, so I do wonder if that’s the real solution.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add about the magazine or being a nonprofit?

Mo Lotman: Just that we need help. If people are resonating with this message and are interested and want to get involved, we absolutely need help. And that means any kind of help; we certainly need financial help and any other kind of help, such as any writers out there, editors or marketers; people who want to volunteer to work, they should feel free to get in touch.

Samir Husni: What is the biggest misconception you think people have about you?

Mo Lotman: To be honest with you, I don’t know the answer, but if I had to guess I would say that the misconception is I’m against technology just because I hate technology, or something of that nature. But there’s actually a perfectly good reason for the way I feel and it has to do with thinking of a sort of balance. The universe has worked, certainly on earth anyway; we think of natural systems as reaching an equilibrium and being in balance.

Of course, there’s change all the time and these changes, over great periods of time, can transform things. But within those grand time scales there’s a lot of homeostasis, there’s equilibrium, and there’s a natural balance to the world, and that is what keeps the natural world healthy. And I think we’ve really upset that balance. We’ve really blown through all the boundaries and we think that we can control everything and force the world to bend to our will. And we can’t. When we do it, we create a lot of sickness. And I think the sickness is in ourselves and it’s a sickness that’s obviously effecting the environment right now, which almost everyone should be able to acknowledge at this point.

And so, that’s the problem and I don’t think that adding new technology is going to help us because it is that technological mindset that has really caused the problems to begin with.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Mo Lotman: Just that I care. I’m trying to make the world a better place.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; on your iPhone; or something else? How do you unwind?

Mo Lotman: (Laughs) Well, I don’t have an iPhone. I don’t have a cell phone at all, for one thing, but I love to play music: I play games; sometimes I sing; I like to go dancing. But I’m probably just spending time with friends, that’s very important to me. And that usually means in conversation, more so than going to a movie, for example. Not that I’m against movies. Being in communion with others is really the best thing and I think that’s what all of us want.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Mo Lotman: Honestly, if anything would keep me up, it would be just trying to keep this organization going, because it is very challenging.

Samir Husni: Thank you.  

For more information about The Technoskeptic and its mission, click here.

     

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