Media Convergence

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Journalism Selections #8

PressThink

Jay Rosen interviewed former Times-Picayune reporter John Quaid about pro-am journalism. The interview was pretty interesting, especially in light of the things I've been learning in my reporting class over the past month or so. I've realized that some of the most powerful tools a journalist has are other people. Other people not only give you quotes and data and interviews, but they can hook you up with some pretty sweet story ideas, too.

Over the course of this interview, Rosen and McQuaid discuss the changing role of journalism when it comes to holding government officials accountable and the different kinds of online social networks that would be useful for professional journalists.

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Romenesko

The St Pete Times published an article about News Corp's dual involvement in the upcoming OJ Simpson book and interview. On one hand, the book's publisher is Judith Regan, whose imprint is owned by HarperCollins, the publishing arm of News Corp. On the other hand, pundits like Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera (both employed by Fox Broadcasting, also owned by News Corp) are some of the most outspoken critics of the OJ Simpson media blitz.

I have my own theory about this, but Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, puts it better than I could:

“My theory has always been that Fox News and Fox Broadcasting are the perfect synthesis. The one produces all this outrageous programming that the pundits on the other can complain about.”


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Altercation

I don't know why I was shocked to find out about the multibillion dollar buyout of Clear Channel. I guess I figured that there was some sort of natural limit to the size of a media conglomerate like that, but if there is, it's pretty evident that we haven't reached it yet.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Journalism Selections #7

Romenesko

Again, a few articles of note from Romenesko:

1. The new editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bill Marimow, sat down with Editor & Publisher to talk about his decision to join the staff of the Inquirer, which is struggling financially. The clip that Romensko excerpted stood out to me as well:

"I have come to believe that a newspaper has to tailor its mission to the resources that are available," Marimow, 59, said. "I don't think a newspaper like the Inquirer can sustain a network of national and foreign bureaus. But if the mission is defined as being the absolute authoritative source on Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania suburbs, and South Jersey, it can do it."


In light of my recent obsession with Rob Curley and his love of "hyperlocal" news media, I find this very interesting. While I don't dispute that national and foreign news is important, I do think that more news outlets should focus on their local communities. The St Petersburg Times is good about this, with segmentation that gives just about every community within the Greater Tampa Bay area its own news coverage. Today, I spent a considerable amount of time at OnMilwaukee.com, reading articles about recent events in Milkwaukee and checking out a few of the features it offers, especially the entertainment reporting.

I have no idea as to how successful OnMilwaukee.com when it comes to connecting with their community, but I know that I was riveted, and I've never even been to Milwaukee before. I've said it before, and I'll probably sound redundant at this point, but if St. Petersburg had something like this, or like Lawrence.com, I would visit it all the time. TampaBay.com is nice, but ultimately it's just a portal for other, more traditional media outlets. (I count the blog-style of itsyourtimes.com as "traditional" media, as blogs have been so ubitiquous as to be a part of mainstream discourse at this point in time.) I really love good feature writing for this reason - it lets you know what's going on in your community on a personal level.

2. The death of Ed Bradley is a tragic loss. Everything I've seen and heard of him indicates that he was not only a gifted journalist, but a wonderful person as well. This WaPo article is one of many powerful obituaries I've read about him today. This anecdote from Deborah Willis, professor of photography at NYU, really stood out to me:

Willis chatted with Bradley two months ago in Manhattan. Bradley had arrived at the New-York Historical Society to listen to her interview the artist Betye Saar. Afterward, "He complimented me on my interview! Do you know how much that meant to me?" she says.


3. Normally the business side of journalism bores me to sleep, but this article, about the clash of cultures between the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune held my attention all the way to the end.

The LA Times is known as a newspaper with a global focus, sometimes to their benefit and sometimes to their detriment. I tend to like them. They win Pulitzer Prizes and they cover lots of important international stories. Last year I read a book written by Chris Ayers, one of their entertainment reporters who became an embedded journalist in Iraq. It was self-deprecating and funny and human and I thought it was a great read. Earlier this year I found an article written by Claire Hoffman, in which she is physically assaulted by Girls Gone Wild head honcho Joe Francis, to be riveting. They do great work, yet I hear a lot of criticism about their seeming obliviousness to local news. It certainly make me think a lot about the different niches occupied by various news outlets.

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Altercation

Eric Alterman posted this article about the lack of election related news in a survey of the most emailed new stories. The author points to two potential causes:

  • Oversaturation of political ads in every other media outlet led to election burnout.
  • Voters who felt they learned all they needed to know about the candidates and issues from TV and radio


I know I certainly agree with the first cause. I was very interested in the election and its outcome, but after the first week or so of the constant barrage of campaign ads and posters and people standing on the corner waving signs, I could not wait for November 8th. I remember hearing that some campaigns had started buying up radio time, simply because they had more money to spend on advertising than there was space available. That's an insane amount of money, and an argument for publicly funded elections if I ever heard one.

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PressThink

Next week I'm going to find a new blog to cover. He hasn't posted anything since November 2, when he wrote about the Polling Place Photo Project. I checked out the site but didn't really think too much of it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Journalism Selections #6

Romenesko

Romenesko posted a provocative interview with journalist Mark Halperin a few days ago. The interview, conducted by Hugh Hewitt, covers some pretty controversial stuff on the part of Halperin, such as the fact that he has interns from Bob Jones University (which rose to fame for its antiquated miscegenation policies) and he thinks the media hates the military and loves abortion and gay people. However, I found his assertion that journalists who vote are hurting the U.S. to be the most outrageous, not to mention the most ludicrous.

Part of my problem with this statement is personal. I've been a political animal since the days of junior high, when I used to talk about being a civil rights attorney and I stuck Amnesty International stickers on my walls next to my pictures of Keanu Reeves and Leonardo DiCaprio. I'm very opinionated, and I find it baffling when people say they have no opinions. How can you know something and not have an opinion on it? How is that even possible? (I tend to think such people are either lying or very, very shallow.) I started voting as soon as I turned eighteen. My first choice of major, way back in the day in Oklahoma, was political science. Politics are a major part of who I am. I find it impossible to be otherwise.

So when I hear journalists like Halperin talk about how voting "opens up the question of how can I say I’m being objective, and fighting for truth, if I’m making a decision about who to vote for in a presidential race," it makes me ill. Not just because it's our civic duty and our right to have a say in who our leaders are, but also because it seems to me as though Halperin and his cadre of non-voting journalists have bought a little too deeply into the idea of absolute journalistic objectivity. I personally don't believe such a thing exists, and I feel as though the public is better served by knowing the biases and the opinions of the people producing their news. In other words, I am all about transparency.

It sounds like Hewitt agrees with me:

MH: Do you want to live in an America where there’s media that’s just all based on being pro-Bush or anti-Bush?

HH: No, I want to live in an America where there’s a media that I can understand, and understand where they’re coming from, so that I can correct for their deep-seated bias, which distorts the news, so that it drives the country in bad directions.

MH: So you reject the model which says that there can be a news organization staffed by people who aren’t biased?

HH: Yes, absolutely. I reject that model.

MH: All right. Well…

HH: I’ve rejected that model forever. I think most of America rejects that model. I think you guys in Manhattan and D.C. have persuaded yourselves that eventually, America will accept you back after shattering your credibility, and it’s just never going to happen, because we don’t believe you.


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Altercation

Eric Alterman is on assignment, so Salon's Eric Boehlert took over for the week. The most interesting item in this blog is a column he wrote, taking the U.S. media to task for its failure to correctly report the Rush Limbaugh/Michael J. Fox fiasco. I think he has a point. As far as I knew, Limbaugh had apologized to Fox for speculating that he might have been faking his Parkinson's in an Missouri political ad. (Just like Limbaugh faked his hearing loss from overuse of prescription painkillers? Oh, wait...) I was actually sort of surprised to hear that, but I figured, hey, maybe he realized his mistake and felt bad about it. Of course, that goes against the mantra of the right-wing pundit, which is "Never admit when you are wrong."

Well, it turns out I was right to be surprised, as Limbaugh never apologized. In fact, he said he stood by his statement. You'd never know this from any of the news media I saw or heard about the issue.

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PressThink

This guest column about the little war between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Ottawa press gallery was fascinating to me. It felt a bit like reading a satire of our own DC press corp - just with different names and "scrumming" (the equivalent of a journalistic ambush). Who knew the political media in Canada was as dysfunctional as our own?