Posts from March 26, 2004

Can you be as boring as Kottke?

Can you be as boring as Kottke?
: There’s a new contest memeing its away around blogs: Can you put up a post as boring as Kottke’s latest?

The opening bid from Jason: A post about his building’s doormat.

To which Rob replies: “All blog entries have now apparently been used up.” And he sees that bid and raises it with a post about his new colander.

Never one to be outdone, Michele ups the betting with a post about garbage bags.

Well, I hate to be left out of this game, so lemme tell you about my office:

I hadn’t cleaned my office in at least five years. So I had a guy from the building bring up a dumpster and I filled it with with whiteboards that won’t erase anymore because the old ideas on them are encrusted with age; expensive brochures passed out by promising-but-now-dead companies at Internet Worlds as far away as Berlin; lawyer letters and contracts for many promising-but-now-dead companies; many promising-but-now-dead Internet magazines; and business cards for many promising-but-now-unemployed Internet executives. My office is now so empty and dusty that it looks as if I, too, am a promising-but-unemployed Internet executive. But I will bring some Pledge from home (unscented only, please) and then I will look employed and efficient again.

Your bid.

The Daily Stern afternoon edition: Creeping FCCism

The Daily Stern afternoon edition: Creeping FCCism
: The FCC decides to regulate the content of satellite programming. By what frigging authority?

Satellite television providers such as DirecTV and the Dish Network will have to follow the same rules for political and children’s advertising as over-the-air broadcasters and cable TV operators under regulations announced yesterday.

The rules issued by the Federal Communications Commission require satellite operators to allow political candidates to buy advertising time on their systems and to sell it to them at the lowest rates they offer to commercial customers. Like cable systems, satellite operators have commercial time on the networks they carry that they can sell.

Michael Perko, an official with the FCC’s media bureau, said the commission acted now because of the increase in satellite service. The FCC reported in January that 23.7 million Americans received television via satellite, 22% of all households that pay for television. Cable, with 70.5 million households, has 75% of the market.

By that rationale, then the FCC should start regulating newspapers and magazines because they’re in a lot of homes, too.

Damnit, let’s get this straight: The FCC is a two-bit licensing agency and it is not charged with (a) protecting our morals or (b) selecting our content. They try to get away with that on broadcast because of the allegedly limited bandwidth on public airwaves (which is bull these days since there are so many ways to broadcast content). Satellite is not broadcast. But that doesn’t stop the creeping FCC. Mark my words: They’ll try to find something involving content to regulat on the Internet next.

Small world gets smaller

Small world gets smaller
: Amy Langfield has a great small-blogosphere post here.

The Center for Citizens’ Media and journalism

The Center for Citizens’ Media and journalism

: Harry raises important issues regarding my post yesterday proposing the Center for Citizens’ Media.

There is so much to say about the relationship of “journalism” and “citizens’ media” that I chose not to get into it in my post yesterday (it was late and what I really wanted to do was jump off of Howard Rheingold’s quote — but that’s just an excuse). So let me make a few things clear:

First, citizens’ media is journalism. Not an issue, not an argument. It’s a new kind of journalism but that’s hard to define, for the Jell-O is still warm.

Second, I don’t mean to say that citizen journalists need to learn things from big-media journalists or that they should become just like big-media journalists; I hope not, for it is the diversity of viewpoint and voice in citizens’ media that I treasure.

But I do believe there are tricks of the trade — and yes, Fleet Street Blogger, it’s a trade or a craft, not a profession and certainly not an art or a science — that could be useful to those citizen journalists who would want to learn them and so I see value in having the means to teach them.

I start with practical means of protection, such as libel law, but this extends also to things that empower citizen journalists, like teaching them how to take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act. I see value in the creation of an open, online curriculum sharing useful tricks of the trade.

The fringe benefit: It demystifies the priesthood of the journalist.

Third, I do believe that there will be benefit in bringing together big- and little-media: They need to understand the value each brings to society. They should create links that can lead to better information (that is, it leads to big media reading and quoting the citizens now that we, too, have a press). And, I hope, this will show that most practioners of big- and little-media work hard to do the right thing (the cynical assumption that the big “they” are all biased jerks is just as wrong as the snotty assumption that the “they” of weblogs are just blathering loners). I’m not headed for any Hallmark moment; I hope that big- and little-media still argue and check each other, for there is value in that. But I’d rather see them arguing about substance than snot.

In the end, it can be argued easily that big media would benefit more from all this than citizens’ media, for it would see that this provides a new source of information and diverse viewpoint and it builds a new relationship to the people formerly known as their audience. But I believe everybody can benefit.

I was going to quote Harry’s post on this but it’s too seamless so just go read it. This discussion is just what I was hoping for.

: The other thing I meant to mention: What’s needed to start such a center? Why, of course, funding. If you know anybody…

: UPDATE: Thinking about this, I may have gone overboard separating citizens’ media and journalism because I was agreeing with much of what Harry said.

I disagree with him in part: Citizens’ media is journalism. It need not be like the journalism we have known. But it can and should strive to improve its quality and education and discussion can help that.

Oprah, pontificating panderer

Oprah, pontificating panderer

: Back when I was the TV critic at TV Guide, I shocked our flack when I refused to appear on Oprah.

I had appeared on Oprah once before, to talk about the fall season, and it was an unpleasant experience. But that wasn’t why I refused this time. Instead, this episode of Oprah was supposed to be all about Oprah’s own rebirth and reformation as a responsible broadcaster. And I was supposed to be there as a TV critic to bow down before her. I refused.

Remember that Phil Donahue started this form of talk TV. But it was Oprah who trashed it, bringing on people to confess their sins and fight just so they could be on TV (such is the draw of fame that people will fight to be famous even if that only makes them famous for fighting). Then, many went lower than Oprah and when it got out of hand, Oprah suddenly decided that she would stand above it. Nevermind that she started it.

The truth is that ever since then, Oprah still tittilates and sensationalizes but she has to cloak it in a veil of pompous pontification.

The very day that Howard Stern was fined, Oprah broadcast sexual and excretory material that was even more explicit (I’ve complained and so have many others). But you can bet she won’t be fined.

But she’s still at it. Yesterday, she had another show about teen sex just so she could get sex on the air. From the transcript:

WINFREY: It’s casual.

Ms. WEINER: It’s really casual. Sex in general is casual.

WINFREY: Like–so you can do it–on the back of the school bus and everybody

knows that you’re doing that and that is not a big deal?

Ms. WEINER: Well, you want to know what? Wat–look at what they’re watching.


Ms. WEINER: We are watching people having sex on TV every single day.

WINFREY: Yeah, I say that. I say that. Hello.

Ms. WEINER: I mean, like, that’s it.


Ms. WEINER: That’s it.


Ms. WEINER: If that–if that’s what they’re looking at, that’s what they’re


WINFREY: You know what? I said this–I said to–this to some friends of mine

s–who have teen-agers who were so appalled at what was going on with their

teen-agers’ life. And I go, `We grew up with “Andy Griffith.” We grew up

with “Andy Griffith” and “Mary Tyler Moore.”‘ Just imagine you’re 13, 14

years old; from the time that you have been born, look at how sexually

provocative television and the media has been in the past 15 years, and that’s

all you’ve ever known or seen.

Hypocrite. Oprah: You can’t act as if you don’t bear considerable responsibility for this. You brought sex to afternoon TV. Now I don’t think you should be fined for that and I don’t think you should be taken off the air for that; I just don’t watch you. But you’re doing nothing different from Howard Stern — except getting away with it. So cut your holier-than-thou disapproval of sex on the rest of TV. You are the Queen of Trash.

: By the way, I haven’t yet received so much as the courtesy of an automated reply to my Oprah complaint.