Posts from January 3, 2005

Media on media

Media on media

: I’m going to be on Hugh Hewitt‘s show tonight at 8p ET to talk about the blog explosion. I haven’t had a chance to buy his Blog book yet. Shhh. Don’t tell him.

: Ya gotta love it: I started the day on liberal Air America and the Morning Sedition show. I ended the day on conservative radio and the Hugh Hewitt show. In the middle, I was quoted in the classy Wall Street Journal and in the, well, uh, common denominator of Inside Edition. And in the meantime, I confounded all sides right here. Ain’t media wonderful? Or is that isn’t? Or is that arent’?

The five stages of media death

The five stages of media death

: Clay Shirky responds to the article complaining about Wikipedia by one of its ex-founders with a point-by-point refutation and the observation that Wikipedia’s detractors are going through the Kubler-Ross stages of death:

It

Marginalizing your own public

Marginalizing your own public

: I smell an editor with a grudge at work in The New York Times’ wrong-headed story on blogs today.

The headline and lead are not all all backed up by the rest of the story.

“Myths Run Wild in Blog Tsunami Debate,” says the headline — but then the guts of the story show that they did not run wild at all. Myths were propagated by one crackpot site and knocked down immediately by the citizens of the internet.

“Myths Shot Down Better Than In Old Media,” might have been a better head.

The lead continues the sin:

As the horror of the South Asian tsunami spread and people gathered online to discuss the disaster on sites known as Web logs, or blogs, those of a political bent naturally turned the discussion to their favorite topics.

To some in the blogosphere, it simply had to be the government’s fault.

On Democratic Underground, a blog for open discussion and an online gathering place for people who hate the Bush administration (www.democraticunderground.com), a participant asked, “Since we know that the atmosphere has become contaminated by all the atomic testing, space stuff, electronic stuff, earth pollutants, etc., is it logical to wonder if: Perhaps the ‘bones’ of our earth where this earthquake spawned have also been affected?”

The cause of the earthquake and resulting killer wave, the writer said, could be the war in Iraq. “You know, we’ve exploded many millions of tons of ordnance upon this poor planet,” the writer said. “All that ‘shock and awe’ stuff we’ve just dumped onto the Asian part of this earth – could we have fractured something? Perhaps the earth was just reacting to something that man has done to injure it. The earth is organic, you know. It can be hurt.”

The ridicule began immediately. Online insults, referred to colloquially as flames, rose high on other sites.

This is the equivalent of The Times getting a crackpot letter and declaring that the citizenry has gone nuts en masse. No, The Times uses its judgment and doesn’t print that crackpot letter — just as weblogs use the judgment of citizens to shoot down the crackpots… if they are even noticed at all.

The reporter gets in one sop to blogs:

In many ways, Web logs shone after the tsunami struck: bloggers in the regions posted compelling descriptions of the devastation, sometimes by text messages sent from their cellphones as they roamed the countryside looking for friends and family members. And blogs were quick to create links to charities so that people could help online.

But that’s not enough. I read a great number of blogs covering the tsunami and I found more compelling stories than I heard on TV or read in The Times; I found a faster response to the news with more information and more first-hand reporting; I found caring people who came together to share information that could save lives; I found quality and no crackpots. But you can always find crackpots … when you go looking for them.

In this, The Times is trying to marginalize blogs — making them look like the domain of nuts — without realizing that they are only marginalizing their own readers. See this weekend’s Pew study: The people are reading blogs. And I’ll just bet that Times readers read blogs disproportionately.

I could be wrong, but I smell the fine hand of a grizzled, old, grouchy, change-hating editor in this. When a story is mangled in such a way, when the facts in the story don’t back up the spin of the headline and lead, that’s often the case, from my experience: An editor sent a reporter out to create a story with a prefab spin and didn’t want to be bothered with the actual reporting that came back.

Looks like a case for Sherlock Okrent to me.

Sprint sucks. Palm sucks

Sprint sucks. Palm sucks

: The TreoCentral store is selling the new Treo 650 for $319 with a two-year contract but only to new customers. Meanwhile, Palm is selling it to existing customers for $599. What the hell is the difference whether I’m new if I sign a friggin’ two-year contract? In fact, you should be giving me the break because I’m already a customer and you didn’t have to pay hundreds in marketing dollars to acquire me as a customer. But pull this crap and you lose me to a competitor real fast.

Stupid Sprint sucks. Stupid Palm sucks.

: UPDATE: I just emailed the head of national media PR for Sprint suggesting that they read the comments and bile that welled up as soon as I posted this. Let’s see whether they listen to their customers….

In fact, why don’t you all email Mr. Nicholas Sweers yourselves. Let Sprint know what its customers think of it.

Coming together

Coming together

: Bush has appointed his father and Bill Clinton to lead a private fundraising effort for tsunami relief. This begins to make up for the foolish move the White House made attacking Clinton for expressing his sympathy for the victims when tragedy struck.

Brilliant mobs

Brilliant mobs

: The amazing TsunamiHelp blog SEA-EAT has set up an automated news blog through which people in the region can post news directly online via SMS.

Catastrophic equivalencies

Catastrophic equivalencies

: We’ve been hearing a lot about equivalencies lately: People are comparing the money pledged to tsunami relief to the money spent on the inauguration. People are equating the money dedicated to tsunami relief to the money spent on the occupation of Iraq.

Well, let’s look at this tragic equivalency, too:

By the latest count, 160,000 people have died in this tsunami.

A month ago, Tony Blair said that 400,000 victims of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny and murder have been found in mass graves in Iraq.

Both are humanitarian tragedies, humanitarian issues, humanitarian needs.

But, of course, we heard little outcry demanding support, sympathy, and American resources brought to bear for Saddam’s victims; quite the contrary. Neither do we hear sufficient outcry about the scores of Iraqis killed day after day by the terrorists in their midst. Instead, we hear that everything in Iraq is America’s fault. And we hear that America is stingy. We hear political equivalencies.

It is wrong to politicize the tragedy in south Asia as if it should be seen as anything other than a humanitarian crisis without sides. And it is wrong to ignore the long-standing humanitarian issues in Iraq as if it were nothing more than a political football.

Could we have handled and be handling Iraq better? Of course. But remember that fighting a war, defeating terrorists/insurgents, and building democracy are not inexpensive.

Could we do more to help the victims of the tsunami? We could never do enough.

What’s the point of comparing all these tragedies except, each in its own way, to exploit them to make a political point?

There is one equivalency that matters: human suffering and the need to help.

: See also Matt Margolis.

: UPDATE: A commenter corrected me and I was away from the Internet until now to update this. I heard a BBC show this weekend on which Tony Blair said there were 200,000 Iraqis found in mass graves; this was cited in a larger discussion about new geopolitical realities of dealing with tyrants and terrorists without countries. When I went to find the comment, I found the USAID link above and did not realize it was from a year ago, not a month ago, and since then the number has changed.

: LATER: See much discussion in the comments on the accurate number of bodies in the mass graves in Iraq. It’s somewhere between 5,000 and the unknown. The complainers are right to push me on the accuracy but they are wrong in that they miss the point: It’s not about numbers. It’s not about equivalencies. It’s not about competition. It’s about individual human lives, no matter how many. So pick your number: 5,000 in a mass grave or 290,000 disappeared and presumed dead. Does freedom matter? Is freedom worth money? Is humanitarian relief worth money? Yes.

A snark from column A, a snark from Column B

A snark from column A, a snark from Column B

: Since everyone and his uncle now has a blog, Beautiful Atrocities provides that uncle a handy guide to creating the all-purpose blog post.