Posts from March 16, 2004

Gaining something in translation

Gaining something in translation
: Spiegel is now going to translate articles of international interest into English. That’s the power of the international Internet: A German magazine wants an audience over here. [via David’s Medienkritik, which will no longer be the only source for English translations of Spiegel… which could just be why they did it]

Spin the numbers

Spin the numbers
: Yesterday, I noted that the BBC — even the BBC — found and lead with positive notes from a poll it took in Iraq: “The poll suggests that Iraqis are happier than they were before the invasion, optimistic about the future and opposed to violence.”

The New York Times reported on the same poll this way: “Ambivalence From Iraqis in Poll on War.”

Spin.

: Wednesday, The Times reports more polling from its glass-half-empty perspective.

In some predominantly Muslim countries, where negative attitudes toward American policy have prevailed for years, disapproval of the United States persisted over the past year, although at a less intense level that Mr. Kohut described as anger rather than hatred.

Still, the survey found, people in Jordan, Pakistan and Morocco tended to view other outsiders with almost the same degree of ill will and distrust as they did the United States.

Well, gee, couldn’t one also say that this year of all years, following the war in Iraq, isn’t it amazing that Muslim countries’ attitudes toward America improved?

Worth it

Worth it
: Norm watches Salam Pax talk to people in Iraq about the war, a year later, and he concludes:

It is not going to be easy, but it was totally worth it.

Free Martha

Free Martha
: Elizabeth Spiers has the letter Martha Stewart sent to friends soliciting notes testifying to her character before her sentencing:

Many people have inquired as to whether they can help by writing to Judge Cedarbaum about my sentence. I am advised by my lawyers that it is appropriate to do so, and that they believe Judge Cedarbaum will conscientiously read everything sent to her. If you would be so kind as to write such a letter, please include your opinion of my character, my work ethic, my integrity and my probity.

And damned fine creampuffs.

Seriously, though, the woman has been punished enough. Sentence her to fine and community service and let’s be done with it.

Coming home to roost

Coming home to roost
: French President Jacques Chirac, meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, says that “all democracies are in danger of possible terrorist attack.”

Welcome to the real world, Jacques. [via the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, auf Deutsch]

: London’s police chief says a terrorist attack on the city is “inevitable.”

Sir John agreed with Mr Livingstone, who said: “It would be miraculous if, with all the terrorist resources arranged against us, terrorists did not get through, and given that some are prepared to give their own lives, it would be inconceivable that someone does not get through to London.” …

“This is not just about the railways, the underground,” he said. “It’s about buses, roads, pubs, nightclubs and the like. Remember al-Qaida attacked a nightclub in Bali.”

: Meanwhile, in Germany, liberals are pushing to create a National Guard to protect against terrorist attacks. [via Bild, auf Deutsch]

: At the same time, Bild lists the most dangerous Muslims in Germany. Keep in mind that some Germans have been less than fond of Turks and other outsiders.

After Madrid, beware of ethnic attacks on Muslims (and not just Jews now) and not just in Germany.

Star blogger: Mark Cuban

Star blogger: Mark Cuban
: Jason Calacanis adds blogs the way a bunny adds generations and so I wander over frequently see what’s new and what’s new now: A Mark Cuban blog. So far, he’s writing about his Mavericks and his TV show; I hope he also writes about HDTV and what it’s like to be so friggin’ rich.

Next: The Trump Gates Blog.

Wake up and smell the spin

Wake up and smell the spin
: A member of the team that wrote the much-linked study on the shrinking news biz (see below), Dante Chinni, writes a lament in the Christian Science Monitor that misses the point by a mile:

So it is in 21st century America, where choice reigns even when it comes to what sort of news you are looking for. Don’t like what you’re hearing about the world on CNN? Try Fox. Is The Washington Post too conservative? Tune in Air America.

Of course, on its face, there is nothing wrong with any of this – though Fox’s “fair and balanced” masquerading is at best good for a few laughs and at worst painfully dishonest. Opinion journalism has long been considered an important part of presenting a full picture of the news….

But we’re seeing something different today. Traditional old-line outlets are being abandoned….

Where are people turning? To smaller outlets that allow for more customizable news, and often to sources that validate viewpoints more than illuminate the larger world.

Opinion journalism is becoming less a way to round out the average American’s news meal and more its main course. We’ve been living in the world of instant spin for some time, but we’re now entering the world where the line between news and spin is vanishing. And of all the disquieting trends in journalism, this may be the most troubling because it touches on this country’s ability to make decisions as a people.

Everyone has opinions, but for those opinions to be worth something, they have to be based on facts so that we can come up with an accepted version of reality. That’s how democracy works. Some of the media are entering an age where facts are based upon opinion. And reality? Well, that all depends on whom you get your news from.

He’s fighting his audience — his customers, his public, his people — instead of listening to them.

There are reasons they’re doing this. Could be that they’re bored by news. Could be that they don’t find news, as he defines it, useful to their daily life. Could be that they like hearing transparent spin (rather than attempts to hide it). Could be that they believe news and spin have always been inseperable. Could be.

The father of WYSIWYG

The father of WYSIWYG
: I was there the day John Seybold coined WYSIWYG.

I was at an early publishing-industry seminar in California run by Seybold and he kept hearing us say we didn’t want to have to enter all kinds of codes and not know what became of them until type spat out of a big photocompositor (now there’s a word you don’t hear every decade). We wanted to see it on our screens.

The gentle and brilliant Mr. Seybold got up and said that what he heard everybody demanding was “what you see is what you get.” He looked skyward as he calculated the acronym. W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G. He smiled an impish smile. And then he carefully prounounced it: “whiz-zee-wig.”

And more than jargon was born. A way of creating and looking at content was given birth. I say this led to new ways to publish content in print and that led to computerized mark-up codes and it led to Quark and it led to the idea that anybody could create content and it led to HTML and it led to the browser and it led to the weblog, with a few detours and scenic stops inbetween.

WYSIWYG changed the world in its own way. And John Seybold said it first.

John Seybold died this week at 88. He is survived by some brilliant children and an industry and a new way of looking at the world.