Posts from May 4, 2005

Prime Time Jive

Prime Time Jive

: The tawdriest angle in Prime Time Live’s tawdry story about American Idol and Paula Abdul tonight was that ABC thought this was a news story worth an hour of prime time.

The next reality show: The Jilted Lovers Hour.

The deck chair beat

The deck chair beat

: Terry Heaton’s getting lots of well-deserved links for his open rant to TV news people whoa re not paying attention to the future.

Where is the passion to get out in front of where the industry is going? TV newspeople are generally curious and intelligent, so this puzzles me. If you’re not moving in that direction, you’re moving in the opposite direction, for there is no standing still in this rapidly changing environment. I’m reminded of the FedEx commercial where the woman informs the new worker that his help is needed. Upon learning that the problem is in shipping, he says, “But I have an MBA.”

Secondly, TV newspeople are reluctant to assist in the economic well-being of the companies for which they work. This is a very dangerous time for broadcasting. 2005 is the nervous-breakdown year, and yet you are concerned with your resume tape and growing your broadcasting career while the foundation upon which it’s built is crumbling. Again, you are supposedly intelligent people. Why would you do that?

It’s not just local TV news, Terry.

Isn’t this a wonderful world?


Isn’t this a wonderful world?

: While tending the inspiring new Global Voices harvest of blogs around the world, Rebecca MacKinnon comes across something remarkable that seems to be legit: An all-girl Afghan band called the Burka Band. Listen to their single, Burka Blue.

: LATER: Jeff Hess was, like me, dubious at first but then saw all the press the Burka Band has gotten in Europe and so he says:

It wasnít the Peacemaker nor the Trident that brought down the Soviet Union, it was Coca Cola and Leviís. Will Rock ëní Roll topple the mullahs? Could be.

Better yet, a girl band.

Radio made the video star

Radio made the video star

: Tonight Brian Lehrer, one of the best interviewers on radio, started a new TV show with the City University of New York on NYC cable and the internet. I always like being on Brian’s WNYC radio show because he pushes me with his questions and doesn’t just listen to blather; he thinks about the stories he’s telling; and he’s good with callers, which isn’t easy. So I was delighted to be one of the first guests on the TV show. I was part of a segment about the videos that got hundreds of Republican National Convention protesters (and bystanders) freed: The power of citizens’ media. You can watch the first show here. His first season lasts another eight week, every Wednesday at 7p.

: Oh, and the Lehrer show put out a call for you to send them video that illustrates the real New York. Calling all vloggers. Hey Rocketboom and Send in your videos!

Pot calls kettle hot

Pot calls kettle hot

: NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin writes a most befuddling column today calling blogs “amoral.”

His excuse: An NPR reporter put up the redacted report on the shooting of the car carrying an Italian communist journalist/hostage in Iraq and bloggers discovered when they downloaded it that they could read and reported the redacted pieces, including some that affect security. Thus, Dvorkin concludes:

…the blogosphere has proven once again to be an amoral place with few rules. The consequences for misbehavior are still vague. The possibility of civic responsibility remains remote. It is a place where the philosophy of “who posts first, wins” predominates.

Somebody put a leash on that dinosaur.

Because a blogger does something you say is wrong, Mr. Dvorkin, all bloggers are now amoral? By that logic, then, when someone at NPR says something liberal, then all of NPR is liberal. (Hmmm.) And if a reporter lies then all reporters lie?

NPR screwed up but when that’s discovered it’s the bloggers who are amoral?

Few rules? Actually, there are many rules — but they’re not necessarily your rules, they are the rules of the public you serve. They sometimes have different rules and often, sir, you and your network and our profession fail their rules. Who made Dan Rather honest? Journalists or bloggers?

You dismiss bloggers and their rules and thus your audience and the public in one broad slap. You separate yourself from the public you want to serve.

And you do so with attitude: “Once again,” you say without links or citations, “once again” blogs prove to be amoral. Give us your evidence, please.

Civic responsibility? I’d say that blogs are a living expression of civic responsibility — they are the citizens holding the powerful responsible. What could be a better expression?

As for the attitude that he who posts first wins: Well, isn’t that how all news media — yes, even NPR — act? Do you really want to be 10th with the big story?

Now get aloada this NPR hubris:

At the same time, readership for newspapers and viewers of network television news continue to fall.

Public radio — for the moment — seems exempt from that trend. Public radio’s listenership continues to rise. But NPR needs to know what it is doing right to attract these new listeners. Is there a downside to this growth?

I honestly don’t understand his point? Is popular success cooties for an NPR hand?

He goes on to say that media is edging close to bloggers — even on NPR:

Even one of NPR’s newest programs, Day To Day is collaborating with, the online magazine. On NPR, these online journalists contribute their editorial perspectives and edgy insights — with gasps of dismay from some listeners and occasionally from the ombudsman too.

It’s not just blogs he finds distasteful. It’s the internet.

He continues:

The appeal of the blogs? Humor seems to be the biggest attraction. Ironic detachment from the news, an ability to deflate egos and refreshing, undisguised opinion are also valued. All are antithetical to most news organizations.

Deflating the powerful and self-important used to be a hallmark of journalism, until it became powerful and self-important itself.

Humor? Hey, we’re human. When you don’t laugh at the absurd in the news — and there’s plenty that absurd and funny — you once again separate yourself from the public. You snot up the news. You make the news dull and pompous. And you wonder why people turn elsewhere?

“Undisguised opinion”? Beats the hell out of disguised opinion, which is what too much of the public sees in too much journalism.

American newspapers traditionally and scrupulously segregate fact-based reporting from opinion by designating pages for each. Radio and television try to ensure that opinion remains secondary to reporting. Conclusions should be drawn warily. Bloggers tend not to care if they, and their readers conflate opinion and fact. It’s part of the appeal of the blogosphere.

As news organizations fight to regain their battered credibility and vanishing audiences, the blogs and the number of people who read them continue to grow. The blogs entertain, they provoke, and they are not constrained by journalistic standards of truth telling.

Well, many would argue with your first assertion. But even so, if new organizations do such a good job of this, as you say, then why must they now “fight ot regain their battered credibility and vanishing audiences”?

In an attempt to find allies — fellow dinosaurs huddling against the cold of their ice age — Dvorkin quotes the outgoing ombudsman of the Washington Post:

The ombudsman at The Washington Post, Michael Getler, has made similar complaints about his e-mail being clogged by the blogs.

In other words, if Dvorkin is quoting him correctly, he is complaining about readers clogging the email of the person charged with listening to readers. You call it a “clog,” I call it a conversation.

And actually, Mr. Ombudsman, I think it would be wrong to reveal information from that report that could compromise security. I’ll bet even some of the people who did it would think it is wrong if they realized what they were doing. And so perhaps the better thing in your role would be to try to educate them and teach them the values of journalism to improve the public discourse. Instead, you sneer at it.

Or should I say you roar at it?

Fighting for the First Amendment

Fighting for the First Amendment

: I signed onto TV Watch, an organization unveiled today that “opposes government control of television programming and promotes the use of parental controls” — or as I would put it, opposes the FCC/religious-fringe jihad against the First Amendment.

All I’m really doing is lending my name and quote, along with others on a bipartisan list, in the cause of defending free speech. But I am delighted that someone is finally stepping forward to give Congress and the FCC cover to defend the First Amendment against assaults from the so-called Parents Television Council and others who would use government to censor what we can see (and hear and read and click on).

TV Watch released a survey that says Americans prefer to chose their own entertainment and don’t want government to do it:

: 86 percent of Americans say more parental involvement is the best way to keep kids from seeing what they shouldnít see. 11 percent say the government should increase control and enforcement of network television programming.

: By nearly four to one, Americans say more government regulation is not the solution, personal responsibility is.

: 91 percent of Americans ñ and 80 percent of those who say they ìoftenî see things they feel should not have been aired ñ say that ìsome people will always be able to find something on the television or radio that offends them. But the sensitivities of a few should not dictate the choices for everyone else.î

: Even among the most sensitive viewers, those who ìoftenî find television content objectionable, 74 percent of respondents said they prefer ìpeople exercising personal choice over what they watch on television,î and not ìgovernment regulation of what is appropriate.î

Here are some quotes from fellow signatories (some of them roped in by me):

: ìFreedom of expression is more than the sum of individual free speech rights. It’s part of a larger culture ñ a democratic culture ñ with a robust public sphere of inquiry, learning, art, and political debate. To protect freedom of expression we must do more than prevent government restraints. We must encourage and support the institutions and practices that make the public sphere healthy and vibrant, and that give everyone, rich and poor alike, a chance to participate.î

— Jack Balkin, professor, Yale Law School

ìThe solution to the problem of objectionable content for some is not heavy-handed government regulation that chills free expression for everyone. Rather, parents and consumers need more choices ñ better choices ñ and better information about those choices, so they can decide for themselves what to watch and what to avoid. Thatís not just better for creative artists ñ itís better for all Americans.î

–Jonathan Rintels, executive director, Center for Creative Voices in Media

ìWhy would we give more control to government when consumers have all the control they need over their individual TV sets? If the FCC has the power to remove or alter programs that you don’t like, it also has the ability to kill programs that you love. Thatís why it makes no sense to empower Washington bureaucrats when we can use the tools we have to decide for ourselves and our children which programs we watch.”

— Braden Cox, Technology Council, Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“One of the FCC’s original missions was to promote cultural diversity. But the indecency warriors threaten that mission. Creativity flourishes in an environment of free speech.”

— Susan Crawford, professor, Cardozo Law School

ìInstead of forcing yet more government regulation on the American public, it is time we find a solution that respects the rights of private citizens, the intelligence of the American consumer and the role of a limited government.î

— Nick Gillespie, editor Reason magazine

“Right now, the FCC only hears from a few well-funded, politically motivated groups. Despite their claims, they donít speak for the majority of Americans. Itís time for the rest of us to speak up and tell the government that we donít want them limiting free expression based on one groupís idea of ëgood taste.í”

— Amanda Toering, director of SpeakSpeak

îI donít like many things on television, but I also donít want the government determining what I can watch. A fundamental conservative principle is at stake here ñ protection against a big government dictating how we should live.î

— Stacie Rumenap, deputy director, American Conservative Union

îThis is about individual rights and responsibilities. If we increase government control over this powerful medium, politically correct enforcement of TV will follow the next liberal into the White House. We don’t need the PC police deciding what is appropriate programming.î

— Grover Norquist, president, Americans for Tax Reform

“We must protect the First Amendment and our right to free speech from efforts to regulate media ñ television, cable, satellite, or internet ñ that try to silence anything that could offend anyone. This lowest-common-denominator approach is driving the best creativity off TV, it is putting a chill on public discourse, and most important, it is interfering with parents’ rights to set our own standards for or children. The remote control gives us all the power we need. We don’t need to give that power to the government.”

— Me

The survey was funded by media companies (members include News Corp. and Viacom — both of which are fighting FCC fines, at last — and NBC Universal). No one is paid to be involved.

The organization promotes more information, ratings, and use of the V chip. I’ve said in the past that I’m not a great fan of the V chip (because it, too, allows the nannies to complain and get content that offends them marked with the scarlet V). But it’s what we have and so I certainly agree that information and the chip beats the hell out of government censorship.

And I strongly believe that it is time for Americans to rise up and oppose the fringers and nannies and defend the most precious principle of American democracy: free speech.

: More of my posts and rants on the topic here.

: Reuters story on the launch here. Broadcasting & Cable’s here.

Biz blogs

Biz blogs

: By the way, Business Week’s blogs are good and they’re on my RSS list (except they keep crashing FeedDemon on me).

Pussycat press

Pussycat press

: Matt at (a good blog with which I intermittently agree and not) has a worthwhile discussion about the tactics of a press corps that goes for getting in its questions more than getting answers, a press corps that doesn’t keep pushing until it gets answers.