11/21/2008 1:21:26 PM
Now that the election is over, the great scapegoat of ’08, Bill Ayers, has emerged from hiding to embark upon a grand media tour. He made his post-campaign coming-out on Good Morning America, gave speeches in Washington that drew ample coverage in the mainstream press, and has been popping up in countless other news outlets, including Democracy Now! and Salon.
The substance of the Ayers coverage may not warrant the amount of time it consumes. But if there's one Ayers interview actually worth paying attention to, it's the one he gave to Fresh Air host Terry Gross on November 18, according to James Fallows. Fallows says Gross’ interview with Ayers exemplifies how good she is at her job—and how bad so many other professional interviewers are at theirs. Here’s why he thinks Gross is so great:
…[W]hat she shows brilliantly in this interview, is: she listens, and she thinks. In my experience, 99% of the difference between a good interviewer (or a good panel moderator) and a bad one lies in what that person is doing while the interviewee talks. If the interviewer is mainly using that time to move down to the next item on the question list, the result will be terrible. But if the interviewer is listening, then he or she is in position to pick up leads ("Now, that's an intriguing idea, tell us more about..."), to look for interesting tensions ("You used to say X, but now it sounds like..."), to sum up and give shape to what the subject has said ("It sounds as if you're suggesting..."). And, having paid the interviewee the respect of actually listening to the comments, the interviewer is also positioned to ask truly tough questions without having to bluster or insult.
If you have this standard in mind—is the interviewer really listening? and thinking?—you will be shocked to see how rarely broadcast and on-stage figures do very much of either. But listen to this session by Gross to see how the thing should be done.
Image by BlogjamComic, licensed under Creative Commons.
11/20/2008 5:00:37 PM
For the past five years, the Center for Media and Democracy has singled out the PR hacks most deserving of negative attention, handing out Falsies Awards each year to those guilty of “polluting our information environment” with spin, subversion, and downright dishonesty.
This year’s nominees include Mail Moves America, which insists that junk mail is actually important communication, to “Clean Coal” campaigns from Americans for Balanced Energy Choices. (Both are front groups funded by advertisers and coal producers, respectively). There’s also an opportunity for write-ins if you think a particularly deserving person or organization is missing from the list.
In addition to pinpointing these media evils, the Falsies committee gives out the “Win Against Spin” award to honor those who have been a sharp knife of truth cutting through the B.S.
Voting ends December 1, so cast your ballot and give these nefarious nominees what they deserve!
Image courtesy of the Center for Media and Democracy.
11/20/2008 3:38:52 PM
When Michael Minelli found out that he was featured in the book Hot Chicks with Douchebags, he didn’t take the insult lying down. According to court documents obtained by the Smoking Gun, the 27-year-old club promoter alleges that statements made about him in the book are “false, harmful and vulgar,” and is he suing the book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, for libel.
The book, which was derived from the website HotChicksWithDouchebags.com, states that Minelli’s “popped-collar, spikey-haired presence was so far beyond regular douche, so far beyond uberdouche, he could spontaneously create a new element on the periodic tables—Douche Nine.” As a result of the book, Minelli “has been and continues to be the subject of ridicule in that he has been, is now, and continues to be called a Douchebag by friends, acquaintances, coworkers, employers, and strangers alike,” according to the complaint. Now, the onus may be on Minelli’s lawyers to prove that he is not, in fact, a douchebag.
11/18/2008 12:04:39 PM
“Overload!”, the Columbia Journalism Review’s current cover story, is every bit as overwhelming as its subject.
In a lengthy, thorough explication, Bree Nordenson lays out the results of a study commissioned by the Associated Press to track the news consumption of young adults around the world. The gist of the findings is grim, but hardly surprising: There’s more information out there than ever before, and this is not a good thing. “The American public is no better informed now than it has been during less information-rich times,” Nordenson writes.
Or, in numerical terms: “Two hundred and ten billion e-mails are sent each day. Say goodbye to the gigabyte and hello to the exabyte, five of which are worth 37,000 Libraries of Congress. In 2006 alone, the world produced 161 exabytes of digital data, the equivalent of three million times the information contained in all the books ever written.”
The way information, particularly news, is disseminated has been revolutionized, for better and worse, by the internet. Context has disappeared; data usually travels in a chaotic tsunami and arrives “unbundled” and often indecipherable. “These days, news comes at us in a flood of unrelated snippets,” Nordenson writes.
The rest of the article examines a number of different trends affecting the current state of news consumption: the limits of human attention, the role of media in democracy, and the new role of journalism. The piece does end on a relatively optimistic note, however; the final section, titled “Why Journalism Won’t Disappear,” contains this easier-said-than-done prescription: "If news organizations decide to rethink their role and give consumers the context and coherence they want and need in an age of overload, they may just achieve the financial stability they’ve been scrambling for, even as they recapture their public-service mission before it slips away."
11/11/2008 11:03:14 AM
After a recent, tenuous cease-fire was broken, fighting between the Congolese army and a rebel minority has resumed with intensity. The violence has garnered a fair amount of attention from the mainstream media, but how long will that coverage last?
Probably not long considering that foreign affairs, especially those not directly related to the United States, make up only a fraction of what Americans read, see, and hear: 8 percent of network news, 13 percent of newspaper coverage, 4 percent of cable news. The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting pleads with its readers to stay interested in the issue, as continued attention will encourage editors to offer more extensive coverage.
But if and when the conflict fades from America's consciousness, here are some sites from around the world with thoughtful reports on the situation and its implications:
OneWorld.net focuses particularly on the human rights aspect of the conflict.
EuropeanVoice has several articles and opinion pieces, like this column: a call to arms, both literally and figuratively, for the UN (registration required).
Al-Jazeera presents both news and multimedia features.
All Africa.com is a one-stop resource for African news and perspectives from around the continent.
Der Spiegel’s international edition not only presents information and opinion, but has also managed to snag an interview with a Congolese rebel.
UPDATE (11/17/2008): Ushahidi, an African citizen-reporting platform, has launched an interactive map monitoring the DRC conflict.
Image by hdptcar, licensed under Creative Commons.
11/10/2008 5:05:16 PM
The new website Spot.us is experimenting with an innovative business model for freelance journalists. The idea is simple: Journalists pitch stories to the site’s community, and if people like an idea they can contribute money to make the reporting possible. Users are also able to submit news tips that freelancers can pick up on and craft into pitches that they will seek funding for through the site.
Tips submitted so far include queries like “Why are San Francisco city streets in such poor condition?” and “What's the future of Bay Area newspapers given the changing economy?” Stories soliciting funding include a three-part series on cities working to become more accommodating to the elderly, and a report on how the financial crisis is impacting small businesses in San Francisco. One writer's pitch—"How safe are San Francisco bay beaches and water a year after the Cosco Busan oil spill?"—has raised $360 from 16 donors (if he raises $440 more, he'll write a 1,000-word story on the subject).
Blogger Ana Marie Cox tested a similar business model when the magazine paying her travel expenses to cover John McCain’s campaign went under before the end of election season. She asked her readers to pony up to keep her on the trail, offering various thank-you gifts in return (and ongoing coverage, of course). When she appeared on WNYC’s On the Media on October 31, she had raised over $8,000.
(Thanks, Columbia Journalism Review.)
11/10/2008 1:03:32 PM
When television broadcasting goes all-digital in February, a range of old TV frequencies known as “white space” will be up for grabs, and technology pioneers like Google’s Larry Page have been lobbying the FCC to dedicate that spectrum to free internet and other public communication.
But the National Association of Broadcasters, mobile phone companies, and other entities who stand to profit from private, pay-based communication have been fighting white space liberation.
Until last week, that is, when the FCC ruled to open white space to unlicensed use (pdf), scoring a huge victory for Page’s camp. This essentially means that online communication will be faster and available to more people, especially rural and low-income users. It will also likely result in cheaper offerings from internet, cable, and cell phone service providers as competition in those markets intensifies.
Jeff Jarvis outlines these and other benefits of public white space at his blog BuzzMachine. (“Note this historic moment,” he writes. “I’m praising the FCC.”) He argues that the internet is no longer a merely a privilege, but a right: “Access to the internet—and open, broadband internet that is neither censored nor filtered by government or business—should be seen, similarly, as a necessity and thus a right. Just as we judge nations by their literacy, we should now judge them by their connectedness.”
Jarvis also does a good job of explaining white space and its benefits in non-wonky terms, focusing on the ways it will benefit education, government, and society at large.
Image courtesy of rvaphotodude, licensed by Creative Commons.
11/7/2008 3:02:03 PM
For months the election has dominated the media landscape and much of people’s free time. Conversation topics haven’t been a problem: Whenever you needed something to talk about, the election was always there. News outlets have known this day was coming for some time, as Cally Carswell wrote in this post. Now that the campaigns is over, however, many are still scrambling to reposition themselves for the post-election world.
The Huffington Post, for example, is trying to capitalize on more local content. The site recently launched a page specifically for Chicago and plans one dedicated to San Francisco, according Russell Adams and Shira Ovide of the Wall Street Journal. The site is also trying to move more toward more non-political, lifestyle content, Adams and Ovide report. Huffington Post representatives offered free massages and facials at the Democratic National Convention in an attempt to brand their new, post-election identity.
Even with the new efforts, some on the Huffington Post site are already waxing nostalgic over the past few years. The website’s comedy-based companion 236.com recently belied the rebranding in an item headlined, “We Can't Quit W. Countdown- 50 Reasons We're Sorry to See President Bush Go.” Reason #1, “We'll never be able to get 250,000 Google search results by typing in the words ‘Obama drunk at a wedding.’”
Some websites, including FiveThirtyEight.com and Talking Points Memo, aren't turning away from their political bread and butter. Josh Marshall, founder of Talking Points Memo recently wrote that the website’s evolution has "always been bound up with my stance as a voice of opposition to the Bush administration.” With the Bush’s tenure quickly ending, Talking Points Memo is doubling down, hiring two new reporter-bloggers to cover the Democratic Congress and White House.
The problem, Adams and Ovide write, is that “news outlets that benefit significantly from an election suffer about the same amount when it's over, so the Web sites will expand now at their peril.” Talking Points Memo seems to be an exception to that rule, considering that the site began during the 2000 recount and expanded after the 2004 and 2006 elections.
Even without the election coverage, there’s still plenty of inane and amusing content to be found on the web,
Conversation topics, however, are more difficult. The Onion satirically reported that the election has left Obama supporters with “the cold realization that they have nothing to fill their pathetically empty lives.” You can watch a video of that below.
Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are
, licensed under
11/5/2008 12:09:45 PM
Newspapers from across the nation and the world scrambled last night to capture Barack Obama’s historic victory in a few pithy words.
Here’s a domestic sampling from the Columbia Journalism Review’s Campaign Desk.
And the Newseum has headlines from around the United States, from the Chicago Tribune to the Huntsville Times in Alabama (see above). The site also features front pages from the rest of the world, though many international newspapers are still a news cycle behind.
11/3/2008 5:26:46 PM
Utne Reader editor in chief David Schimke recently spoke up for the alt press at the Dole Institute of Politics, which has hosted a series of election-related panels this year. Schimke was part of the institute’s latest lively panel, “Media Coverage of Campaign 2008: Magic or Misguided?” Check out video from the media panel here, and browse other Dole Institute videos here.
11/3/2008 1:46:25 PM
After reporting significant losses in addition to rising production costs, the Christian Science Monitor has turned to a solution that it hopes will minimize losses while maintaining or even increasing readership. The newspaper’s daily content will soon be entirely web-based, with a print edition (photo features, in-depth reportage) coming out weekly. Along with the change comes a steep drop in subscription prices, from $220/year to $89/year. However, this doesn’t mean that the CSM is completely dodging the bullet: Editor John Yemma still plans to cut 10-15 percent of staff next year.
The Monitor’s transition appears to be relatively painless, but the Columbia Journalism Review warns that the strategy may not work for all troubled publications. One of the biggest variables in the plan’s success is ad revenue: Print advertisers may not want to make the switch, especially since the print edition of the Monitor skews to an older demographic than its online content. It’s also difficult to predict if subscribers who aren’t tech-savvy will adapt or simply give up. The evolution is slated for April 2009.
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