Posts from May 13, 2004

Mother of invention

Mother of invention

: Bravo for the backless, strapless, gel-affixed “demikini.”

Numbers

Numbers

: Below, I joined in the Stern-v-Seipp pissing match over the citizenship of Howard’s audience (defending my people against the snobbery Seipp expressed in the very nichey National Review, of course). In the comments, Eric Barrett made some wonderful calculations:

How about some numbers?

36% of voters aged 18-24 vote. This is the lowest percentage of any eligible age group. I’ll be conservative and use this number for the entirety of Stern’s listeners, even though a large percentage is surely over the age of 24.

I’ve no idea what the average age range of National Review readers is, but let’s be conservative and pick 55-64, which has the second highest voting rate of any age group, at 70%. (The highest is 65-74, but that seems a bit old to me. In any case, they only vote at a rate of 72%.)

Now, given the numbers Mr. Jarvis posted above, and disregarding invective rhetoric about the intelligence of Stern fans, this means that approximately 3,000,000 Stern fans will vote. If only 5% (my assumption) are former Bush-committed voters influenced by Stern, that’s 153,000 who will vote against Bush in the election who would not have otherwise. That’s the size of the entire National Review readership!

But even if my assumption above is completely bogus, we’re talking 3,000,000 voting Stern listeners to 112,000 voting NR readers. And (warning: another assumption of mine here) given the political spectrum of NR is fairly fixed (i.e. much of it is “preaching to the converted”), whereas Stern has fans all across the political spectrum, the NR has even less influence relative to Stern.

All figures taken from the US Census Bureau, “Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2000″ (Adobe PDF, page 6, table B).

Do not underestimate the power of the Stern demographic, damnit. If you do — if you snear that “they” don’t vote or “they” are stupid or “they” don’t care — then you’re just exposing yourself to be a snob. And I hate snobs.

The people’s news judgment

The people’s news judgment

: The great, vaunted talent/skill/art/gift from God that editors supposedly have is news judgment. I had to work my way up in the business until one day a light shone from heaven and it was decreed that I had news judgment. Editors have it. Mortals don’t.

Or not.

Glenn Reynolds puts together a bunch of opinions from many quarters that say the news business has no news judgment regarding the murder of Nick Berg.

He’s right. And now we have the means to prove he’s right. We can look at what people are talking about on weblogs. We can look at what people are searching for online (see this Google search for “Nick Berg“). We can see what people are linking to on Technorati (this takes you to the latest links on “Nick Berg“). We can look at the traffic on stories about an evil enemy killing one of our innocents versus stories about — to go to Page One of the NY Times today: stories about our “abuse” and even a story blaming us for the murder of our innocent.

The people have news judgment. And it beats the judgment of many an editor.

The people have their own newspaper now. And you’re looking at it.

: UPDATE: Even Jimmy Breslin, an old-time newsman if there ever was one, gets the new religion:

Here is the new news reporting. If something is too gruesome, too ominous for the newspaper editor’s taste, it matters not. The Internet will decide what you print, and if you don’t care, if you want to stay in the past, then stay there with your dead newspaper.

[via Leonard Witt]

Bloggers’ convention assignment desk

Bloggers’ convention assignment desk

: I decided not to apply for credentials to blog the Democratic convention (though, months ago, I had planned to) first because I think citizens who have not had the privilege of getting behind such velvet ropes (as I have had) should now be allowed in, and second because I fear I’m tainted by too many years in the j-biz: I’m afraid I might by reflex still act like a reporter. And that’s not what I want to see from bloggers at the conventions. I want to see the stories the reporters are too jaded and predictable to find; I want to hear the viewpoints of real people in the halls of power; I also don’t want more of the same, old, boring thing from this nonevent. So here’s my request to the bloggers who get in:

1. Do not cover anything we can see on TV: not a single speech.

2. Do give us your perspective as a citizen: be opinionated and, when deserved, cynical.

3. Do report on the reporters: Expose the tricks of their trade.

4. Do take assignments from your readers: ask the questions the people who can’t be there would ask (that, after all, is the real job of reporters, isn’t it?).

5. Do not take it too seriously. This is a nonevent, a media event, a carnival. Treat it as the amusement it is.

: Jay Rosen says he’s thinking about applying for credentials. He should. It’d be great to have a smart perspective of this all-in-all dumb event.

The photos

The photos

: The amazing NewsDesigner has two illuminating posts on newspapers’ decisions on running photos regarding the murder of Nick Berg in Iraq. The first rounds up what papers did. The second sums up the debate that occurred at the Dallas Morning News, where the editors ran no photo from the murderers’ video but the editorial-page editors answered by running a photo of the slime holding up Berg’s severed (and obsured) head. The paper’s editorial:

The image you see here depicts an al-Qaeda terrorist brandishing the severed head of American hostage Nick Berg as a trophy of war. This is who the enemy is. This is what our nation is up against.

This edited image shows a terrorist holding up the head of Nick Berg. We have chosen to obscure Mr. Berg’s face. But it is important that our readers see in as much detail as reasonably possible what the Islamists have done to an innocent American civilian. It’s important because this is the fate al-Qaeda and its allies intend for every one of us in the West, and for the many Muslims who oppose their plans. (Though Arab media have generally downplayed this atrocity, it’s actually more important for the world’s Muslims to see what is being done in their name.)

Presenting this photograph, which was taken from an al-Qaeda-affiliated Web site, is important because of the power of image to shape public opinion. Shocking photographs have driven the Abu Ghraib prison atrocity story, which has now become a national crisis of confidence in this nation’s civilian and military leadership, and the mission in Iraq. If we show you images of Abu Ghraib abuses, and of soldiers’ coffins at Dover Air Force base because we think you should know the truth about this war, then we should show you this image, too.

Unfortunately, NewsDesigner was on vacation last week and did not cover Abu Ghraib photos similarly, but I’d love to see a chart comparing and contrasting the coverage.

I’ve been holding an internal debate on the use of photos in all the cases the Dallas editorial cites: the old, print editor in me is fighting with the new, transparent blogger in me. The blogger is winning. It’s important for us to know what is happening in Iraq.

There are limits in each case and those limits are moving targets.

In the case of the prison, it is important for us to be open about what happened there to show the world that we have nothing to hide; we will bring criminals on any side to justice. But it is also important that we not do this to such an extent that it incites more violence in Iraq.

In the case of Mr. Berg, the editorial is also quite right that we must expose the depths of evil of this enemy. If the world had seen pictures from Dachau in 1940, would more have joined the battle against Hitler; would Germans have joined the battle? But it is right to obscure Berg’s face; he is the victim and he should not be exploited.

Similarly, in the case of the Pentagon’s rules against taking pictures of soldiers’ coffins, I agree that this is part of the story we must be able to see. But families’ privacy must be respected. Today, Nick Berg’s sister angrily told media that they would be thrown out of his funeral and that’s her right.

What all this comes down to is what we in the business haughtily call editorial judgment. To tell the story, ou don’t need to show every photo from Abu Ghraib; you don’t need to show the worst of the execution of Nick Berg; you don’t need to show the casket at the altar. But the stories do need to be told and photos are part of telling the story.

Grouping

Grouping
: Ev announces that Google is beta-testing the ability for users to create their own groups (fighting Yahoo on another front).

I just went in and created a group for the nascent Citizens Media Association hatched at Bloggercon. Nothing there so go say things…

The White House cancels more subscriptions

The White House cancels more subscriptions

: Donald Rumseld is addressing soldiers, sailors, and whopping Marines in Iraq right now. After talking about the prison abuse scandal and bringing those responsible to justice and about his own position, Rumsfeld says to cheers and more whoops:

I stopped reading the newspaper.

It’s a fact.

I’m a survivor.

And instead, I’ve been reading a book about Ulysses S Grant and the Civil War.

He also said to the troops:

One day, you’re going to look back and you’re going to be proud of your service and you’re going to say it was worth it.

Airless America

Airless America

: It’s too damned bad that Air America came out in the hands of such incompetents. We do need a liberal voice on radio, for the only way to have a conversation is to hear both sides of it.

But from a programming perspective, the network set off to do nothing but recreate the shrill voice of conservative talk radio from the other side — and be just as one-sided about it. I had hoped that Air America would be an intelligent network: NPR with opinions, NPR with personality, NPR without fear. But instead, we get the bizarro Rush, Randi Rhodes, shrieking at me every afternoon.

From a business perspective, they screwed it up royally, not getting enough funding and not lining up enough advertisers before doing on the air, so this smelled like a business failure from the start (which I said from the start).

The network gets pulled off the air in a major market. Executives keep leaving. And bad news keeps piling up.

The latest: Rhodes made a “joke” about assassinating George Bush but especially these days, when madmen plot to fly jets into our White House, that’s just not funny. But that’s Rhodes. Even on her own forum, some fans are critical.

Here’s what Michael Goodwin, NY Daily News columnist, said yesterday:

Color me confused. If Franken & Co. hate the pill-popping Limbaugh so much, why imitate his tarpit tone? Sounds like Limbaugh has simply driven them nuts.

Missing was the tension that comes from honest debate. Only Franken had guests voicing even slight distance from the party line, which is that John Kerry is perfect except he should attack Bush more.

The queen of venom, Randi Rhodes, followed Franken in the host slot. Her imitation of a cracker military type telling a soldier to “insert this fluorescent light bulb into that man’s buttocks” was revolting. She compared U.S. prisons in Iraq to the “Nazi gulag” and said, “The day I say thank you to Rumsfeld is the same day I’ll say thank you to the 12 people who raped me.”

Rock bottom came when she compared Bush and his family to the Corleones in the “Godfather” saga. “Like Fredo, somebody ought to take him out fishing and phuw,” she said, imitating the sound of gunfire.

During a day of torture by radio, I heard ads for Hewlett-Packard, Greyhound and, especially, General Motors. I asked GM why it appeared in such shows.

Ryndee Carney, GM’s manager of marketing communications, said the ads were wrongly picked up from an earlier deal with WLIB. She said the station was ordered to “cease and desist” yesterday, and added: “GM will not advertise on any Air America affiliates.”

Now I don’t like turning advertisers into programmers (any more than I like turning FCC commissioners, congressmen, or lawyers into programmers) but I have to think that GM was looking for an easy way out of a bad network.

I doubt that Air America will last to the election.