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News with a Twisted Perception

| November 14, 2011 | Comments (16)

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Last night, I read an insightful article by William Deresiewicz in the New York Times that compared the youth cultures of previous generations to that of the millennial. The writer used two characteristics to define the differences between members of each era: the emotion they aimed to create and how it was manifested during that time.

For example, the ’80s and ’90s were known for their slackers, who best manifested their angst through grunge music and apparent lack of any kind of ambition or commitment. Hence, one saw guys with long, unkempt hair, the unbuttoned flannel shirt fad, and those stellar (and bewildering) anti-drug commercials that depicted an unambitious adult still living in a parent’s basement.

The millennial generation, Deresiewicz calls Generation Sell.

He describes the youth of this generation as a set of salesmen, and, essentially, small businesses. We are polite and personable, and whatever the reasoning may be — whether social, political, technological — we were raised in a “post-emotional” generation, without the emotion, the anger, and angst our parents grew up with.

We brand ourselves like businesses and even express different forms of art in terms of business models now. This is partly because of the way we communicate – through social media, for example – and partly because we grew up in an era when our heroes were innovators like Steve Jobs. Rather than manifesting our “emotions” through angst-infused music, we use the business plan as our form of expression.  We are a generation of entrepreneurs.

The article prompted me to contemplate this idea a little more deeply. And, naturally, being a millennial, I started googling similar stories – especially ones that pertained to New Orleans entrepreneurs. What I came across, however, was disheartening.

It was a video clip from WGNO’s “News with a Twist.” A viewpoint segment by Mike Church, posted two weeks ago and titled “New Orleans Is #1 In the Oxymoron ‘Non-Profit Businesses,’” referenced New Orleans’ recent ranking as the #1 city for young entrepreneurs.

He was not shy about voicing his opinions.

While I took offense to the title alone, I read and then watched the piece with an open mind, hoping to learn something. However, other than condescending remarks, all I could pick up were opinions that are not based on facts – or certainly not the facts that I have learned from covering for NolaVie the local entrepreneurial beat, including the event he was lampooning. Sadly, this man had been clearly misinformed, and I, for one, was appalled that this had aired on one of our news stations.

I am not out to discredit anyone or tackle editorial policy at local TV stations. Everyone has — and should have — his or her point of view. However, I felt that I had to clarify some of what I believe to be erroneous information published by such a highly influential news source.

In the opening paragraph, New Orleans was acknowledged for its recent ranking on Under30CEO.com as the #1 city in the United States for young entrepreneurs, an honor that the entrepreneurial community, city of New Orleans, and even Mayor Mitch Landrieu (who tweeted about it) were proud to receive.

The Under30CEO ranking listed New Orleans as the #1 City for Young Entrepreneurs

What Church failed to include was that we won the poll as a write-in candidate based on such characteristics as cost of living, business building resources, lifestyle, and business environment. These reasons were then posted on the same site in a follow up piece with a comprehensive list of resources, economic development agencies, growing industries, and financial incentives that put New Orleans in the top ranking for entrepreneurs. It solidified our reason for making it on the list, and introduced thousands of readers to all the great assets New Orleans has for them.

Before moving on to his description of the website, Church asked his readers to refrain from popping the tops off a Red Bull and bottle of Taaka, a cheap vodka presumably purchased by naïve, under-aged drinkers. The comment set a tone suggesting the immaturity of the city’s young CEOs who had pushed to get New Orleans on the list.

It’s a cheap shot. This group of entrepreneurs, largely under the age of 40, demonstrates a passion, drive, and energy that have positively impacted the city, as well as the state’s economy. They have created jobs for themselves in an economy and a city that lacked opportunities, and their participation has contributed to local economic development. They have been an asset in building industries that are putting New Orleans on the map, as well as bringing businesses, jobs, opportunities and money into Louisiana.

In fact, Launch Pad, which Church disdainfully brings up later in his tirade, has cultivated many small businesses in the tech and digital media fields. The growth of the digital media sector has been an essential component in creating better tax incentives for businesses in that field, bringing in large production companies, new state-of-the-art studios, more jobs, and more people to New Orleans. Because of the industry’s growth, New Orleans is now ranked #3 in the country for large budget film production.

Church then challenges our ranking and the credibility of Under30CEO.com by describing it “as a website that explores the ‘how to’s’ of getting ahead in business life without actually producing anything.” He goes on to suggest that the website gives tutorials and guides on how to “con money out of the Federal Government in the form of Small Business Administration Loans.”

The truth is that Under30CEO.com does not advocate getting free money from the government, and they very rarely write about SBA loans – loans that eventually have to be paid back. The website is not a service, nor do its editors claim to influence young CEOs into doing anything – specifically things that are unethical.

Mike Church claims New Orleans Entrepreneurs are too busy drinking Red Bull & Taaka in their parents' basements to "produce anything."

Rather, this is a membership website that helps young CEOs network on a nationwide level, and provide resources and advice that can help businesses succeed. The tutorials and guides they share on their site are written by fellow CEOs and experts who offer advice and lessons that are otherwise not taught in college to young, aspiring business owners.

In an age of smart phones and social media, some of their articles have targeted our ever-changing technology, and give advice on how businesses can use social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to build their brand, promote their product, and expand their customer base.

In Church’s last point, he challenges the idea of non-profits as a form of entrepreneurship by saying, “Isn’t profit the primary motive to become an entrepreneur or have popular Facebook and Twitter accounts replaced successful, local, blood and sweat businesses like SDT?”  While it’s a good question, I have to shape my response and defend entrepreneurship by making three separate points.

He first references certain non-profits that provide “PR services” and conduct “pitch sessions” to start-ups, and questions their involvement. While the list never claimed that these businesses are creating profit, non-profit organizations like The Idea Villageand SENO (Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans) contribute to the further development of the economy by helping entrepreneurs turn their ideas into for-profit businesses.

The Idea Village helps individuals start and grow their businesses by connecting them with local business mentors, financial institutions, and other business resources. They have successfully helped launch businesses that have collectively generated more than 1,000 new jobs and $82 million in annual profit.

Like the Idea Village, SENO connects innovators with the resources necessary to start and build a business through different accelerator and mentor programs. However, SENO emphasizes helping social entrepreneurs — individuals who want to start and grow financially sustainable, innovative, results-focused ventures. Although some of these ventures are non-profit, most are for-profit. Their primary goal is to achieve solutions to specific social problems, but still have monetary motivation as well.

Both the Idea Village and SENO conduct pitch sessions as part of their accelerator program’s curriculum. They do provide an opportunity to win capital for individual businesses, but the competitions are also meant to help participants practice delivering their ideas, a skill that is not necessarily cultivated in school, but essential to an innovator.

Although non-profit organizations like the Idea Village and SENO have received 501c(3) status and are not generating profit as their primary motive, they are still incorporated business entities, making their founders and CEOs entrepreneurs by definition. And they have the same entrepreneurial spirit as those running for-profit businesses, regardless of the cause or motive.

My third, and last, point is simple: Neither entrepreneurs nor the under30CEO website imply that non-profits and social media have replaced locally built businesses like SDT.  The whole concept of growing entrepreneurship in New Orleans is to keep creating large local businesses like that one. Many once-small entrepreneurs have gone on to create major brands. Think PJ’s coffee or Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, once young entrepreneur projects themselves. Current companies like Jolie and Elizabeth or Cordina MarGOritas promise similar success in the future. Such companies stimulate the economy, contribute to job growth, and create opportunities for more industries in the state.

And some of them have even used helpful resources such as the Idea Village and Twitter to help them get there.

In the last sentence, Church writes, “I suppose I should be grateful young folks are at least putting an effort into doing something other than nothing then again, try paying for a 4 pack of Red Bull and a bottle of Taaka with the good will of your followers on Twitter.”

He’s right: I cannot buy a Red Bull and Taaka based on the good will of my Twitter followers.

However, I can certainly buy myself a fine glass of champagne with my hard-earned money, and enjoy it in the company of my intelligent, passionate, hardworking, innovative, open-minded, successful, self-sustained, business-owning, New Orleans loving peers.

You can watch Church’s video editorial here.

Adriana Lopez writes about the entrepreneurial community for NolaVie and Silicon Bayou News. She also showcases local start-ups such as the one profiled here through her non-profit organization GenNOLA. For more information on NolaVie, visit NolaVie.com.

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Category: Entrepreneurship, New Orleans

About Adriana Lopez: Adriana Lopez writes about the entrepreneurial community for NolaVie and Silicon Bayou News. View author profile.

  • Zach Kupperman

    Nice article Adriana.  Really well written and well done.

  • http://mollyoehmichen.com Molly Oehmichen

    I also read that NY Times article yesterday. It was a thought-provoking piece on millenials and how the overall attitude of young people changes over time and affects the business world. As for Mike Church, I’m thinking we can let him know how we feel via Twitter (which he has an account on even though he seems to think it’s evil): http://twitter.com/#!/TheKingDude

  • @MrRayNichols

    Hey Molly,

    I’d like to buy Adriana a drink so I can ax her to be my Friend on Facebook.  Can you set somethin up for the three of us?

    XX

    Ramon

    • http://mollyoehmichen.com Molly Oehmichen

      Hi Ray! Adriana is @gennola:twitter on Twitter. She’s a pretty busy lady but chat her up on there and she might be able to meet up with you soon!

  • http://twitter.com/pbodenheimer pbodenheimer

    Well said. I’d never heard of Mike Church before this, so I suppose he’s succeeded in the sense that his ilk see all press as good press. His goal was clearly to say something controversial and I suppose his complete lack of knowledge on the topic shouldn’t be a surprise since taking time to educate himself on things before spouting off would take more effort than he cares to put in. 

    All I can say to those trying to improve this town one new business venture at a time is disregard the idiocy WGNO has put out there and keep on doing what you do.

  • http://twitter.com/BillyPolcha Billy Polcha

    Mike Church is a “shock jock,”  he is not to be taken seriously. 

    I disagree with plenty of William Deresiewicz’s article.  I do have a sociology degree & I am 45 y/o.

    – The Millennial Generation(MG) was raised by the the most successful middle class in the history of the USA. Success breads polite people b/c life is less stressful.  
    – Current “indie music” & “hip-hop” both have plenty of hatred & bitterness in their lyrics.
    – The Internet has made starting a business easier than it has ever been in American History.
    – USA economy is now global so there are now plenty of cheap resource available to an entrepreneur.  
    – Social Media(SM) has assisted in empowering the MG because SM makes it is easy to find groups of like minded people. These groups make the individual more confident & empowered.

    Believe it or not, but Bush #43 recognized that the sense of community was evaporating from American Society so they were advised by Dr Robert Putnam on how to improve the sense of community is the USA. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_D._Putnam). Putnam’s book “Bowling Alone” detailed the social problems occurring in the USA & how to solve them. Great read!

    Get up your great work NOLA Entrepreneurial Community!

    THANK YOU,
    Billy Polcha  

    • http://twitter.com/BillyPolcha Billy Polcha

      I want to relay a personal story regrading the lack of kindness by the Millennial Generation.

      This past August(2011) I escorted a friends’ wife to Tipitinas for The Gillian Welch Show.  I was told to shut-up twice & I was shhhh-ed 3 times. Gillian’s guitar player told the crowd that it was “OK” to tell people to “shut-up.”  I was raised to never to use the words “shut-up” & especially not to a stranger.  

      Like I said, I am 45 y/o.  I love live music.  My 1st show at Tips was 1986.  I am a DeadHead.  I love Phish & WSP.  The Radiators are also one of my favorite bands.  I have scene the shows @ Tips: They Might Be Giants, Indigo Girls, Elvis Costello, Smithereens, James McMurtry, & countless others. I have been seeing live music all over the USA for 25 years.

      The crowd at the Gillian Welch show was by far, the rudest crowd I have experienced seeing live music in my life.  We still joke that we could not have happened at Tipitians however, it did. 

      Kindest Regards,
      Billy Polcha

  • Mark Deane

    I am the producer for News with a Twist.

    Please don’t be “appalled that this had aired on one of our
    news stations.”  Our program mixes news
    with opinion. 

    In fact, we feature non-profits and their good works all the
    time (like this story on Idea
    Village: http://www.abc26.com/news/newswithatwist/snapshot-new-orleans/wgno-idea-village-20111018,0,5447420.story).  Because we tend to lean a certain way with
    our views, we chose to include a “News with a View” segment from Mike Church,
    to present an opinion that people have, but that doesn’t always hit the air on
    our show.  Kaare Johnson also provides
    opinion pieces.  But they do not represent
    the editorial opinion of the show, of the hosts, or me. Sometimes we agree with
    them.  Sometimes we don’t.  Thanks for the information you laid out in
    this article.  We always welcome
    criticism, and use it in the show when we can.
     

    • Adriana

      Hi Mark,

      Thank you for your feedback. 

      I appreciate and respect others opinions, however one should still have their facts straight before voicing them so righteously.  Unfortunately, while you may not agree with the editorial opinion, it still reflects poorly on your TV station and your show.

      As the producer, I think that you should be careful with what is aired or even published on your site.  Make sure the facts are straight, and that opinions are voiced tastefully. There was no need to be so condescending towards a group of people who are only doing good in the community. Frankly, it’s offensive and it contradicts with your other stories, such as the one about the Idea Village.

      Since you value opinions so much, feel free to include any of the information from this article in your show.

    • http://atwelfthmeow.com/ Matt Wolfe

      The problem with this stance, is that you actually have editorial control over your show and you chose to allow a factually distorted opinion piece to run over the air. My issue with this video is simple: Mike Church has no idea what he’s talking about. 

      To begin, his decision to focus on non-profits is frankly absurd. The fact that our city was chosen as a space for entrepreneurs has nothing to do with non-profits AT ALL. In fact, while lambasting Launchpad, he fails to recognize that the core mission of Launchpad is to help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into profitable businesses.

      Of course, there’s no real indication on why he chose to attack Launchpad in the first place – because he simply chose the first two items from the top of an unordered list of 25 assets that help the business community.

      Furthermore, this ranking was one of numerous ones in the past year – so, while the legitimacy of Under30CEO.com can be questioned, would the same be applicable for Forbes, which listed us as #1 on its list of “America’s Biggest Brain Magnets”? Or what about when the same magazine named the city as the #1 Metro for IT Job Growth in the USA? Maybe even when Inc. magazine named us the “Coolest Startup City in America”, he could have done the editorial. (There are many more rankings we’ve earned over the past 18 months – I just chose 3.)

      Beyond being a factual mess, the real offense here is that it chastises the energy behind the current new business ecosystem, effectively dismissing the notion that a small business being formed in New Orleans could ever grow into a large corporation. It’s also a viewpoint that fails to recognize that, while attracting a major tech company to the area sounds great on paper, there needs to be a robust workforce available for companies to lean on when they move to the area. Small tech companies offer real world training in the industries that make the products the world consumes today.

      Frankly, discouraging the entrepreneurial movement is an ill-advised move for any city, especially ours. Just because its a viewpoint that some people may have does not solely provide adequate reasoning for airing this segment.

      It is my understanding that your station wants to target the young, professional community as an audience. Airing this video doesn’t support that strategy.

    • http://twitter.com/pbodenheimer pbodenheimer

      Mark,

      While I appreciate your taking the time to reply here, I think you have missed the point of why people find the segment from your show so noxious. As the producer, you are the person making the editorial decision to  give a guy like that the soapbox on which he stands, so don’t hide behind the veil of “we’re just presenting an opinion”. 

      Are you saying you don’t have an editorial standard for a commentator to at least have a clue about the topic they are discussing? If that is the case, I would love to come in and do a commentary on the state of local news programming. I don’t know much about the realities of it, but boy do I have some attention grabbing opinions!!

      To be perfectly clear, the reason I personally am pissed about it is that you allowed it to air on a program that markets itself as “news” when he clearly had no actual knowledge of that which he was trashing. As far as journalism goes, it’s lazy at best and borderline libelous at its’ worst. Mike Church appears to me to be nothing more than a poor man’s Glenn Beck. He’s an angry white dude who blames the government, minorities, liberals, immigrants, and anyone else that isn’t like him for every societal ill. I’m confident that he tries to make his commentary as inflammatory as possible in order to get the attention of people.

      If that’s what you want your program to be, so be it, but please don’t be surprised when the people trashed by those you employ are annoyed at being called out by someone who can’t even be bothered to understand the topic they are discussing. 

      I emailed the station yesterday and I’ll make the same offer now that I did then. If you want to actually know what goes on at Launch Pad, then come down and I’ll ask one of the partners in this for-profit business to give you a tour and share what it’s all about.

      • Mark Deane

        News with a Twist markets itself as a show that mixes news
        with opinion (the “twist”). 

        In the case of Mike Church’s commentary, his segment inside
        the show is introduced as “News with a View,” and labeled “News with a View”
        during his video commentary.  On the
        website, it is in the “News with a View” category, and he is identified as “Mike
        Church, the Right Twist on the News.”   It’s his view.

        If you know Mike Church, you know what you are getting.  If you don’t, listen to him a few times or check
        out his website and you get an idea real fast.

        The idea of our show is to have a conversation with the
        viewer as if we were all sitting at the same bar after work and B.S.-ing.  Guys like Mike Church are at the bar.  Susan’s at the bar.  LBJ’s at the bar.  I’m at the bar.  The viewer’s at the bar.

        That’s it.  There are
        no veils to hide behind.  Mike’s at the
        bar.

        Great points in your article, Adriana.  Same goes for the commenters.

        I am ecstatic to have this conversation, by the way.  I think the non-profit community in New Orleans is
        great.  Let’s have a drink some time.

  • http://mollyoehmichen.com Molly Oehmichen

    It’s good to see everyone riled and up defending our vibrant, talented, and if I may say so, GENIUS community of entrepreneurs. I think the best way we can move forward from Mr. Church’s uneducated commentary is encapsulated in this poster created for US by the British in 1939: 

  • Se

    Nice Article

  • Guest

    Does anybody know who are the sponsors for twisted news ? I dont watch it so I dont know 

  • Mark Deane

    Just to reiterate the point that News with a Twist is a show of many opinions, Jesse Jackson’s at the bar: http://www.abc26.com/videogallery/66166655/Community/Rev.-Jesse-Jackson#pl-62806595