If you happened to be driving down a New Jersey street this morning and saw a tall, pencil-necked, sweaty geek “running” down the road cursing into what appeared to be thin air, that would be me. But what I was cursing was what I was hearing on my iPod: the latest edition of On the Media, which gave the worst possible memorial to the legacy of George Carlin with its report on the seven dirty words quoting a Miami TV critic who gave unquestioned credence to the so-called Parents Television Council, saying that we are a nation divided about indecency. Bullshit.
I’ve been a longtime listener and fan of OtM but I have to say that they have been driving me a bit crazy lately covering China and Russia more than American media and giving more time to political screeds than media news. Maybe they’re bored with the beat but I can’t see how they could be given that media are undergoing history, volcanic, accelerating, unsure, and profound change that will forever alter media and society. What a great time to cover media in America!
This is on my mind now because they had asked me to be on this week’s show to talk about the Associated Press. Whether or not they had me on to talk about it, that is an important story. But they said that their studio wasn’t ready (who needs a studio when you have a mic and Mac?). So instead, they ran a 20-minute archive piece about a guy who collected sounds. By this time in my run, I wasn’t cursing, I was merely muttering. What an opportunity lost. The AP story is rich with mines to explore about the new architecture of media and its interrelationships. And now the peg, the moment is gone.
This is more on my mind because I am a loyal listener and because I want to hear OtM cover all this huge change in media. I’d love to hear them get to Sam Zell to explain his plans for the Tribune (and I’ll bet they could) and to Rupert Murdoch to share his vision for the Journal. I’d like to hear them give attention to experiments in new ways to cover news — there are many. I’d want some perspective on all the layoffs in the business and what impact they have and whether there are better ways to restructure journalism. I’d be eager to have them explore new business models for news. If they’re going abroad, I’d like them to bring back ideas that would be useful for American media to borrow. I’d like them to use OtM as a laboratory for multimedia itself: video, wikis, collaborative criticism, perhaps. Maybe they should find and turn the spotlight on the next Brian Stelters and Adrian Holovatys — the young innovators who will save journalism. They could also turn their sharp pens on the media executives who are rearranging cubicles on the decks of their Titantics. They could start tracking how Arianna Huffington invades Chicago and how the Tribune reacts. They could explain how new tools — Twitter, Flip video cameras, iPhones — could be used to do journalism. I could go on listing stories I’d like to hear for a page (and remember, there is no end to pages on the web).
OtM should consider this a valentine not an attack. I want them to put their reporting and analytical talents to covering American media again. Please.