Posts from April 6, 2004

A Maureen Dowd in every pot

A Maureen Dowd in every pot
: Well, now the right has one, too. It has its very own Maureen Dowd.

Read David Brooks’ column today and tell me that it (a) makes one damned bit of sense, (b) is worth the price of the ink in his periods.

It is an amateurish exercise in what I call speculative humor: trying to find jokes where they don’t (yet) exist.

He’s trying to be funny, but he fails. He’s trying to be cute, but he fails. He’s trying to say something but he fails.

It’s just like the worst of Dowd.

Equal-opportunity twittery.

National Pussyfooting Radio

National Pussyfooting Radio
: You have to hand it to NPR for finding new euphemisms. Tonight, on a story about the homeless in California, they were called the “placeless population.” Now even “homeless” is a bad word.

And we used to call people who didn’t work “bums.”

How many sell-outs does it take?

How many sell-outs does it take?
: Tonight I see Bob Dylan in a Victoria’s Secret commercial. Huh?

: Joe Territo has a link to the commercial.

The Daily Stern

The Daily Stern
: Action on the Senate indecent “decency” bill could come as soon as tomorrow (conveniently, while Stern is on vaca):

If Senator Sam Brownback gets his way, the Senate could be voting on anti-indecency legislation as early as tomorrow. To fast-track a vote, Brownback and other supporters of his Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2004 are lobbying to get the bill placed on the Senate’s unanimous consent calendar.

However AFTRA and the Creative Coalition are mobilizing efforts to delay a vote. According to The Hollywood Reporter, AFTRA is attempting to persuade at least one senator to object to putting S. 2056 on the consent calendar. That would likely delay a vote until after the Senate’s April 12-16 recess.

AFTRA and the Creative Coalition’s biggest objection is a section of the bill that would impose $500,000 fines against performers found to have made indecent remarks on the air. Calling those penalties “both excessive and misdirected,” AFTRA forwarded nearly 1,500 signatures and letters to Senate members last week protesting the legislation. Other groups in the creative community also oppose the bill, including the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Musicians, and the Association of Independent Video & Filmmakers.

There are other provisions in S.0256 that could raise objections, like an amendment that would freeze the FCC’s revised ownership rules for one year, and a section that would place violent programming under the same regulatory auspices as indecency. However, Brownback is working on a compromise that would remove some of the more objectionable provisions.

Prized?

Prized?
: Dan Gillmor urges us to look at the Pulitzer winners and ask whether bloggers could produce such work. “Reporting and editing of this caliber is why I hope Big Journalism survives and, despite its failings, thrives in the emerging world of grassroots journalism.” Fair point.

Dave Winer asks why these journalists couldn’t have blogs themselves to use them in their reporting. Fair point.

I come at this from an other perspective and ask why the Pulitzers matter. Too many news organizations edit their work with a prize jury in mind instead of their readers. I’ve said before that if I ran a paper or a TV news show, I wouldn’t enter anything into contests, for the contest that matters is serving our readers and viewers.

That’s why I’m glad that this blog world hasn’t gone prize mad. Oh, we have various popularity contests and that’s fine. And I think it’s good to recognize quality where we see it (I was a judge of The Week’s opinion awards and was glad, mainly, for the attention and respect they gave to blogs).

But I see bloggers lusting after links and traffic more than prizes and that is how it should be.

More information

More information
: See the posts below on Zeyad reporting what he saw and heard in Iraq — and what he concluded from it.

Zeyad gave us an eyewitness account of what was happening. From that frightening perspective, he concluded that there was a coup underway. He reported later that things had quieted down and pulled back from that dire view.

This illustrates a lot about the future of journalism.

Here was have a correspondent giving us a perspective on the evens in Iraq that we were not getting — and likely could not get — elsewhere. That makes it valuable. Period.

But it’s just one report from one perspective.

You could say that what was needed on top of this was an editor to give us context and confirmation and lots of good, journalistic values. Well, fine.

But what I really think we need is more information. If Zeyad — and we — had been able to go to a score of fellow bloggers’ posts from all over Iraq, we would have had a broader view of what was happening. We need more perspectives, more correspondents, more information, more weblogs.

And we all need to act as editors as we read these weblogs and judge them in their own context. When I read Zeyad’s post last night, I thought the word “coup” was overblown and I said so — but I still thought his report of the scene he could report on was well worth passing on to you. I knew it was written in the heat and fear of the moment — and, frankly, that is what made it all the more dramatic and important.

If I had reported from the World Trade Center as the attacks and aftermath, I would have been wondering whether a frigging nuclear bomb had landed in Manhattan; others wondered just that at the time. So my perspective would not have been the most reliable in the longrun. But if I had been able to publish what I saw and felt at that moment (as I could with the tools I have today) wouldn’t you have read it and considered it valuable? Wouldn’t you also have known to let other reports and time give it context? Of course. In the future of journalism, we can all be correspondents. We can all be editors.

: Update: Stuart Hughes, who has covered the war in Iraq, agrees: “Personally. I’d rather be second, third or even last and be 100% sure of my facts than be first and wrong — be it in my blog or my work for Big Media.” Yes, but I’m still damned glad to have the immediate witness of the Zeyads, so long as we put it in perspective.

Illu

Illu
: Sometimes, illustrations in print drive me nuts. The urge to prettify a page and break up verbosity often leads to nonsensical or even offensive images. When I got to run a magazine, assigning illustrations was the bane of my existence.

I was reading The Times’ science section today and saw a story about CPR often being improperly administered, causing some patients to lose their lives. Serious, sad stuff.

But the illustration (in the paper only) showed a guy being blown up by an air pump as if a balloon. Yuk, yuk. It was worse than uninformative; it was tasteless and offensive. I’m not sure what I would have done if I’d had the colored ink in my hand. If I were the editor, though, I hope I would have thought twice and thrown that illu in the garbage.

One thing I’ve learned online is that information doesn’t demand to be illustrated. When it’s useful — when the picture tells the story or the graphic explains the facts or the illustration sets the mood — that’s fine. But illustration for illustration’s sake is a waste of ink.

Do not remove label under penalty of law

Do not remove label under penalty of law
: A fabric-care label in apologizes in French for President Bush: “We are sorry that our President is an idiot. We didn’t vote for him.” [via Loic]