Good Enough


Mrs. Rosenblum addresses the class at CUNY.

Sunday was a crummy day in New York, so we stayed home.

I spent most of the day trying to work on my book, but its hard to maintain focus and my mind drifted.  As the aphorism goes, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”.

Having hit the 100 mark and maxed out at 108 on Freecell, I drifted over the Medialine.

My wife always tells me to stop wasting my time on places like Medialine.  “It’s pointless”.  She is probably right.

Against her good advice, I found myself drawn into an online discussion about the TV business which soon hinged on the definition of ‘good enough’.  As in, I think that the product produced by the small cameras is good enough for local news.

I won’t repeat the long and twisting line of discussion. You can read that for yourself if you are so inclined.

Today we are starting a course we are teaching at CUNY, the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.  It comes at a propitious time with respect to the discussion of what is ‘good enough’.

A few years ago, when I was teaching at NYU, one of my students came to me, extremely upset that she had received on an A- on an exam.

She could not understand why. Why didn’t I give her an A. She had answered the essay question perfectly. She had, in fact, fed back to me all the readings and all the notes from the class lecture. It was fine.  I

How come I didn’t get an A? she asked.

This was a student under enormous pressure from home to get all As all the time.

I explained that while her essay wise fine, it was good enough, it also didn’t show any flashes of creative brilliance. It was workmanlike and fine. Good, but not brilliant.  Adequate.

This, she like the folks at Medialine, found enormously upsetting.

We live in a world where, as Garrison Keilor says of Lake Woebegone, all the children are above average.

Most people are not.  Most products are not.  They are adequate for what they are supposed to do, and we can’t ask for more. In fact, we expect good enough.

When I fly Virgin to London, I am content that the plane is on time, the plane is clean and the meals are good and the entertainment system works.  Good enough. I don’t expect the plane to arrive in 3 hours instead of 6.  I am more than content to have it perform as it is supposed to.  If only Time/Warner were so good enough!

In any event, after much heated debate with the student at NYU (much like the contributors at, I said to her:

OK. If you think that this is the very best thing you will ever write… if you really believe that you are incapable of ever doing anything that will ever surpass this, and you are willing to put that in writing for me  that ‘this is the best work I will ever do’, then I will give you an A”

She paused and stared at me: “OK she said. You win.”

Today our students from CUNY are going out on the streets of New York to shoot their first pieces.

I should be so lucky that all of them come back with something that is good enough.


9 responses to “Good Enough

  1. I’m painting my house this summer… well I promised I will as soon as work slows… and to help prep the house I bought a new random orbital sander.
    It came down to a choice between two sanders. A Bosch that cost $110 or a Ryobi that was $370.
    The Ryobi I was told was practically a professional sander. The Bosch was good but not as good as the Ryobi.

    I had the Ryobi in my hand waiting in line when I though “What am I doing?
    I’m not a professional house painter. I have no time deadline to meet. I’m only painting one house and three of the walls don’t need much sanding. As long as my only ‘client’ my wife is happy with the finish that’s all that matters.
    Why do I need this much sander?”

    So I bought the Bosch. I think it is good enough for the job.

    Local news should be professional. They do have deadlines. The camera needs to shoot a lot and last a long time. They have to be able to “sell” the finished product so the finish needs to meet the critical expatiations of its customers.

    No I don’t think small cameras are good enough for even local news… but then why ask a professional cameraman, maybe you should ask a house painter… or Joe the Plumber, he’s a journalist now right?

  2. Great story Stephen, but I have to note that you didn’t ask a professional painter which sander is best. My guess is they would all say the Ryobi. But I bet you found the Bosch ‘good enough’.

  3. Actually I did talk to a painter and what he said was most professional house painters use professional sanders that are $$$ out of my price range. However some buy the Ryobi use it on one job and chuck it at the end, to them its cheap enough to be disposable. Probably none would buy the Bosh it’s not good enough for what they do… but like I said I only really have one wall to do so in my case it was good enough.
    News even local news is never just one wall. It’s a never ending cycle of non stop coverage.
    Are the small cameras up to that? Not in my experience. Not when VJ’s go off and leave the camera sitting in the corner of a busy lobby.

    Today I’m working at a station with a +11 year old camera that has spent its life as a pool/night camera and its still rocking. What stories it has told. The right tool for the job.

  4. Be careful with that 11 year old camera. You can bet when that craps out the station will replace it with a cheap Sony A1U!

  5. Not when the rest of the camera fleet is all XDCam 530’s

  6. Professional status, It happens among all professions, Somebody or an organization clicks on understanding what other people or other organizations are willing to pay or work for. Understanding and creating VALUE.

    The understanding of creating and understanding of value generally creates individuals or organizations of great focus and study to satisfy or answers to problems .
    Short version is They know their shit.

    We bestow other names depending on their field of endeavor, CEO, PHD, General,Chief, Warrior, Witch Doctor.

    Supposedly percieved as less skilled and less able to create value, such as products and services are other professions , truck drivers, carpenters, mechanics, painters , masons, etc etc

    Technology changes percieved standards of professions and organizations ability to create value .

    Example, I was a Master Technician for a Independent Vehicle prototype testing facility.
    Anything and everything that has wheels and related to the same.

    One instance was of dealing with a foreign car manufacturer of impecable high standards of build and engineering. The company wanted to baseline or verify one of only six vehicles to be made for one customer!

    Each vehicle had a price of 1 million dollars.

    Each vehicle was handbuilt.

    Each had a top speed of 187 mph.

    Each weighed 6000 pds or
    as much as a 1 ton truck

    “Good enough ” did not apply to this supercar!

    Because the engine was so stressed to create power to move the four door sedan , it would need to be replaced about every 6000 miles! yes I said 6000 miles!

    After aligning the vehicle and finding fault with the rear suspension settings , I informed the factory technician , I was told that my computer alignment machine was a fault and his car , the 1 million dollar car was perfect! By the way there was no adjustment possible due to the PERFECT assembly of the car!

    Seeking a way prove my point with out confrontation , I asked If I could align his new rental car, that I knew that was robotically assembled. He agreed. When the alignment of the rental car was finished,I found it in tolerances, no adjustment needed !
    !’Good Enough!

    Needless to say I did not receive a pat on the back for my fault finding! Come to think of it, My status only went up among my peers in the break room!

    No, don’t ask what manuacturer, I signed a form of confidentality!A mickey mouse way of adustment was created to finally get the vehicle in tolerance. ‘Good Enough’.

    Technology changes everything JUst sometimes nobody wants to believe you!

    When I decided to buy my camcorder I wasn’t interested in what I could manipulate on it. I was interested on what it could manipulate by itself.

  7. The arguments here and on medialine are about as interesting as the mac vs the pc.

    Perceived value (good enough) is a consumer choice. Get it right you survive, get it wrong you don’t.

    Content and creativity are drivers for any media, technology is not, it is a tool. Use what you want when you want (albeit that some people are more skilled with those tools), but understand it is the human element that creates the value, technology is but a means to an end. The consumer decides the value. The trick of any business is to get the balance right.

    One day this industry wont talk about technology, there will be capable tools for everyone (like painting your house), business (those that want to make money out of it) will use those as it sees fit to create value, and decide how much it will pay for it, and how often it will use it.

    Do we know undervalue house painters, or do we
    understand that they offer a different value than what you as a consumer might want at different times.

    Fortunately, or unfortunately I think the time is quickly arriving that the higher tools we use in this industry will be in everyones hands, if we are not already there.

    The industry has changed and will continue to evolve until technology is no longer a concern in the mix, then and only then will true value be found.

  8. Surely the point of us being on this planet is to constantly strive for something better than ‘good enough’, but not to be too disappointed when we don’t achieve it.

    If you’re very, very careful nothing good or nothing bad will ever happen to you….

  9. Reminds me of a joke about a bear and two guys in the woods.

    Two Guys were camping in the woods when they heard a growl and from a long distance saw a bear charging toward them.

    One fellow screamed to the other fellow RUN!! don’t bother bother lacing up your running shoes!

    You’ll never out run the bear!

    The fellow lacing up his running shoes replied
    ” I’m not worried about the bear,”
    I only have to out run YOU!

    I’d that’s Good Enough!

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