Media Convergence

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Journalism Selections #5


Here are three articles from this week's collection of blog entries that caught my attention:

1. A Reporter's Story: How H-P Kept Tabs On Me For a Year

The best thing I got out of this article - written by Pui-Wing Tam after she found out that investigators hired by Hewlett-Packard had been spying on her - was knowing that I'm not wasting my time by shredding all of my documents before sticking them out with the recycling. Not that I am concerned that anyone will be coming afer me, a lowly third-year journalism student with a miniscule portfolio consisting of work related to the campus, but never know.

Stories like this remind me of the incredible power wielded by a journalist who does his or her job well. By the same token, I'm also reminded of the fact that, even in a country filled with people who pay lip service to the ideals put forth in the First Amendment, many powerful people have no problem doing things to intimidate members of the press. Granted, it's not the same as in, say, Russia, where it's not uncommon for a journalist to lose his or her life over their stories, but it's all a matter of degree, really. Those who are firmly entrenched in power usually have no desire to let anything - let alone some piddly ideas like "freedom of speech" and "freedom of press" - come in between them and their ability to dictate the world around them.

2. An Open Letter to Jann Wenner

Journalist Michael Simmons calls out Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner on his magazine's decreasing relevance to, well, anyone, really. I'll admit, I used to read Rolling Stone, but that was when I was thirteen or fourteen and I didn't know any better. But when my dad made fun of Rolling Stone as a lame teeny-bopper magazine, I quickly switched to Spin and Alternative Press for my music journalism fix. (My dad was a teenager during the late 60s in Los Angeles, so he would know.) Later, after my critical abilities had developed to the point where I didn't just mindlessly absorb information and entertainment as it was shoved in front of me, I picked up a copy of Rolling Stone, and I was horrified. Mind you, this was after a few years' worth of reading rock-related writing by guys like Robert Christgau, Mark Jacobsen, and "the Holy Ghost", Lester Bangs, but that was enough to ruin RS for me. I mean, how can you compare some throw-away PR puff piece on Britney Spears to Jacobsen's article on Chuck Berry or Bangs' interview with Lou Reed? You can't. It's the equivalent of reading Danielle Steele after finishing A Confederacy of Dunces. The only commonality is that both were written using the English language.

I'm glad Simmons included a link to Arthur Magazine, which runs articles on quirky subjects like bingo halls, "magic mushrooms", Dolly Parton, and garage rock demigod Billy Childish. Now I just have to find a way to get my hands on a copy.

3. Hyper-local Hero

This article was the one I found to be, by far, the most exciting. It discusses media pioneer Rob Curley, who has made a name for himself in the still-in-its-toddlerhood world of media convergence by encouraging newspapers and news portals to shift their online focus away from the Big Stories - the Watergates and the Iraqs and the Plame Affairs - and get back to the stories that impact the residents of their respective communities. One project includes packaging up local high school sports, but with the kind of glitzy production values usually preserved for ESPN. Another is an interactive map of historical housing values, broken down street by street and neighborhood by neighborhood.

He also shows how to capture the 18-to-24 year old demographic, the one all of the newspapers and advertisers cannot stop salivating over, with The site focuses on "alternative-entertainment" for KU students, with articles written in a snarky, irreverent, somewhat profane voice, off-beat reader blogs, and a PDA-friendly site that features movie listings, show times and drink specials. If St Petersburg had a similar site, I would visit it all the time.



Eric Alterman posted a series of links about the prevalance of extremely negative political ads airing on television right now. USA Today and the New York Times both published articles about the recent ads that attack Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford by appealing to racist ideas about black men and white women. ABC News lists the various ads causing controversy around the country. (I agree with Alterman's take on the phony "balance" displayed in this article. As far as I knew, reporters weren't allowed to report on what is going to happen in the future - unless ABC News has a crystal ball in the middle of their newsroom.) The Washington Post ran an article that described ad campaigns undertaken on behalf of many candidates, all of which turned ordinary things like misdialed phone numbers and votes in favor of scientific inquiry into allegations of wild sex orgies involving children and Playboy Playmates sponsored by taxpayer money.

As far as I can tell - lame endings to ABC News articles notwithstanding - all of these ugly ads are coming from Republicans, which makes sense, as they have little to they can point to as examples of their worthiness of elected office. Democrats, on the other hand, have plenty to attack without having to resort to political attacks. It's not partisanship - it's common sense.



Jay Rosen must be absorbed with his new projects and his classes, because there hasn't been a new post since October 7th. I'll give him another week, but if I don't see anything by then I'll find a new blog to follow.


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