Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage


Jan 24

A Social Media Milestone: A Crowdsourced State of the Union Address?

Posted: under Amusing Nonsense, Conspiracy Theories, Politics & New Media.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Teleprompter is Us

Tonight’s State of the Union address is being billed as “the most interactive political act ever.”

Well, other than the crowdsourcing that brought people to the guillotine during the French Revolution. Although, if you read through the comments sections on some of the danker political blogs, there’s certainly reason to look back on The Terror as a relatively sane & genteel epoch.

Anyway – it appears that Obama’s web team has spent the past year (or more) preparing to swing into full campaign mode.

From ReadWriteWeb:

In December 2011, I wrote in the ReadWriteWeb Predictions for 2012 that the presidential candidate with the best social media campaign would be the one to win the White House in November 2012. I also said that President Obama would likely be reelected. While social media is not the be all, end all factor in determining the results of elections, pundits will argue that it has greater weight now than it ever has. Candidates pay attention to what their Twitter followers are saying.

(snip)

To a certain extent, tonight’s State Of The Union will be the biggest campaign stump speech that Obama will give all year, except for maybe the Democratic National Convention. Around the State of the Union speech, the President has built a robust social media campaign to give citizens a voice. This is how government should be run. Open. Transparent. Interactive. Go to where the people are as opposed to making them come to you.

 

UPDATE:

Let’s see how that interactive thingy worked, shall we? ue

The YouTube questions were pretty much what you’d expect – a mix of the rude, the longwinded, the unanswerable and the insane.

Tell EMINEM to Put another Album out..(Name is E=Mc2)
Are you going to liglize weed?
What are your plans for a Zombie Apocalypse? Because you know, if you planned for zombies, you planned for everything.
Dear Obama, is the republican primaries as hilarious for you as it is for me?

im scared of this year. Do u think that think year that the world might end (by the simi-end of Dec. 2012) or it’s completely a myth?

mjh186, Santa Monica, CA
What are you going to do with all the police who think they are all that, just because they can do almost anything they want without getting caught doesn’t make them better. Also my friend told me a police was setting a role model of cussing a 5 grdr
Will you tell us why you passed the SOPA? Do you have anything againsy gay people? Can YOU stop making Cigars? What do people have to have in order to become the president? Is the world gonna end in 2012? PLEASE ANSWER ALL THESE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS!!
mr.president wat do u think about the immagrashin are you think about giving paper 2 those in need
123deadmau5, sunvally cal
I would love to know why marijuana not legal. It is really good for you they said on cnn News it don’t do anything to your lungs compared to people who smoke cigarettes. Also it kills Brain cancer cells and blocks heart blockages.
panterafan6969, Richmond, Virginia
Mr. President, Church’s Chicken or KFC?
train2failure, Long Beach
Why you are spending more money to grab genitles at airports, sell children, traffic weapons, drugs, eugincs depopulation…rather than allowing non corrupt technicians associated with The Venus Project to solve every human need including yours?
Mr. President, if you want my vote again this November, please answer this: WHERE IS THE CHANGE!?Minimum wage still doesn’t cover our basic necessities.A human being cannot survive on these wages with children. How are your children doing? Quite well
I’ll keep my guns, money and freedom You can keep the change you communist bastard!
Can you speak to the American people about the Fema camps ? Maybe quell some of the fear that’s spreading thru the country ?
I can has moonbase?
commanderq, Australia

The Quora questions were a helluva lot better.

Some are pretty interesting: What are the estimated costs to taxpayers of the new agencies proposed by President Obama, such as the Trade Enforcement Unit?

Others are clearly partisan: Why did Obama just rag on George W/Republicans? Was it merely because it’s an election year?

Some are just goofy: Did Jon Favreau write the 2012 State of the Union?

 

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Jun 19

Town Hall Meetings on Medicare and the GOP

Posted: under Politics & New Media.
Tags: ,

This is a short clip from the recent “Town Hall” type meeting that brand-new Rep. Karen Bass had with her constituents here in Cal-33. This has got to be one of the most diverse districts in California, if not the entire U.S. in these Gerrymandered times.The room was a real mix of black, white, Asian, Latino, old, young, male, female … there were even a couple of Tea Party types loudly blaming Bass in the hallway outside the room. I half expected them to act the fool during the meeting, but somehow these old white angry men wilted in the face of the loud cheering that Bass got.

Which is my one objection to the whole exercise. There was a lot of preaching to the choir here. She told the people in the room what they wanted to hear – that the GOP is planning on destroying Medicare, jobs, the economy and basically everything else. Which may have a bit of truth to it – but seems to be the kind of exaggeration and spin that seems to piss off so many of the constituents when they see it coming at them from the other side on Fox News.

The best part of the meeting was when Bass brought up one of her pet issues – foster care. She mentioned that she was working with Michelle Bachman. The room erupted in boos. But to her credit, Bass stood up there and said that despite not agreeing on just about every other fact under the sun, she and Bachman were working together on reforms to the foster care system. And that Bachman had fostered 14 kids on her own, and graduated each kid from high school, while simultaneously raising five of her own.

The room went quiet, and you saw a lot of people raising their eyebrows and looking sideways at each other.

“Respect,” muttered a guy in the row behind me.

In these polarized times, that kind of reaching across the aisle, no matter how out of the limelight the issue, is something that we need more of.

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Apr 19

Children of Chernobyl: Persistent Effects of Long-Term Radiation Exposure

Posted: under Online Video, Politics & New Media, Ukraine.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

200,000 deaths. Could Fukushima get this bad?

This video was produced by my students at the University of Mohyla‘s Institute for the Digital Future of Journalism in Kiev, Ukraine. It’s in Ukrainian, so my English-speaking audience won’t be able to understand the narration or interviews.

Which is kinda beside the point, after you look at these kids.

Child victim of radiation poisoning from Chernobyl

Children are particularly vulnerable to the radioactivity spewed out in a meltdown. Their bodies are growing, and as part of the growth process, the body is constantly looking for calcium to add to their bone structure.

In light of the recent disaster at the Fukushima Reactor Complex in Japan, it is more than a little chilling to look at these pictures of deathly ill children that are still – STILL – turning up in “cancer blooms” in Ukraine, long past the time when the rest of the world considered the whole matter done & dealt with. That’s the thing about true nuclear meltdowns: they don’t just go away when the news cycle gets bored of them (they way it so clearly has with the Fukushima situation).

children dying slow death from Chernobyl radiation poisoning

The problem is that Strontium-90 looks to the body like calcium. So the children's bodies grab it and add it to the calcium being deposited in the bones. And once it's there it quietly goes about poisoning the bone marrow, causing strange and unpredictable cancers. Mutations. Leukemia is about as benign as it gets.

So look at these images.  Remember that back in ’86, the governments — in the USSR and elsewhere – were also saying that there was nothing to worry about. That the levels of radiation that were released were so low that they posed no real danger. Nothing to worry about. Move along.

It came as quite a surprise to me to learn that there is a widely known (but officially denied) statistic: 200,000 people have died as a result of the radiation leak at Chernobyl. Apparently, even the average Ukrainian on the street (Dmitri Six-Pack?) knows that the government has drastically underplayed the casualties. The problem is that it is devilishly hard to pin down what it is that has caused a death 5, 10, 20 or more years after an event. Was it the radiation? Or heavy metals in the groundwater? Second-hand smoke? Or just genetic bad luck?

doctors try to figure out the root causes of the cancer crisis
Valiant Ukrainian doctors refused to shut up about the root causes of the cancer crisis. Some of them paid a heavy price for not going along with the program. Not shutting up.

When I was teaching at Mohyla, coincidentally, across the hall from my classroom, there was a doctor’s conference being held. The doctors were quietly furious. They felt that they had been screaming their lungs out about this problem, but that they were being ignored, hushed up.

Even arrested and carted away for daring to contradict the official line.

They had come to a journalism school to meet directly with people who they hoped would help them sound the alarm. To tell the story that things weren’t what the Men In Charge were saying.

“At least 500,000 people — perhaps more — have already died out of the two million people who were officially classed as victims of Chernobyl in Ukraine,” said Nikolai Omelyanets, deputy head of the National Commission for Radiation Protection in Ukraine. “[Studies show] that 34,499 people who took part in the clean-up of Chernobyl have died in the years since the catastrophe. The deaths of these people from cancers were nearly three times as high as in the rest of the population.

“We have found that infant mortality increased 20 percent to 30 percent because of chronic exposure to radiation after the accident. All this information has been ignored by the IAEA and WHO. We sent it to them in March last year and again in June. They’ve not said why they haven’t accepted it.”

Evgenia Stepanova, of the Ukrainian government’s Scientific Center for Radiation Medicine, said: “We’re overwhelmed by thyroid cancers, leukemias and genetic mutations that are not recorded in the WHO data and which were practically unknown 20 years ago.”

It’s impossible to look at these pictures and not feel a small sliver of dread in the pit of your stomach.

tiny child pulling adult-size IV around
So many children have gotten awful, incurable cancers that they have had come up with all kinds of special equipment to treat their frail, tiny bodies.

This is going to happen in Japan. The invisible killer has already been unleashed there. The radioactive poisons released into the ocean are, by definition, heavy metals. They aren’t going to go very far. At least, not at first.

So decades from now, the fish that eat the crustaceans that eat the plants that grow in the muck … those fish will have Strontium-90 in them. Cesium-137. Ruthenium-106. Phosphorus-32. Plutonium. Uranium. God knows what else.

I haven’t seen a TV news show yet that has come clean about what is being released into the environment. The closest we got was on the Bill Maher show last Friday night, where scientist Michio Kaku said it plainly: “This is a giant science experiment. And we are all the guinea pigs.”

child cancer patient - staring eyes
The parents of these children do what they can to cheer them up. Note the little stars and decorations on the surgical mask. I’m not sure if this makes it better, or even more heartbreaking.

 

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Sep 30

Taiwanimation: No Longer Parody, But Actual Useful News Interpretation

Posted: under Amusing Nonsense, Online Video, Politics & New Media, Video.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

A while back, I was asked to give me take on “The Emerging Visual Language of Online Video” as part of Rosental Alves’ amazing yearly journalism conference in Austin.  I made the room laugh when I showed parody videos like the “SoulWow” and others, created by the People Formerly Known As The Audience.

Check out this interpretation of Bob Woodward’s book on Obama & Afghanistan:

My larger point (other than getting a cheap laugh, which is never to be, well, laughed at) was that the first impulse of video-makers is to take things that they know and love, and that their friends know and love, and to do their own snarky take on them. It’s what we see when little kids get their mitts on video cameras for the first time, and produce their own home movies.

It’s what Spielberg did when he was a kid and producing his own WWII epics in his backyard. My sisters, cousins & I did this back in the (mumble mumble) decade, with 8mm film, and a script based on what we had seen of ads of movies like Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (we couldn’t get into R-rated theaters in Wisconsin).

For the average user, producing a video is an inherently daring process. Any media creation is, really – but creating a video is so much harder than typing into a WordPress text window (ahem), that it ratchets up the anxiety. As any good comedian can tell you, laughter is the release of anxiety.

Creating funny, sarcastic or absurdist videos is a way to laugh at yourself, before everyone else does (again – check with comedians as to why they became class clowns – something to do with avoiding beatings from the bullies, I expect).

But now these videos are coming into their own. Before the book has really cleared out of the news cycles, already there’s a video (pretty good quality, too), interpreting it in a way that makes you pay attention.

In the attention economy … this is pure gold.

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Nov 05

Kazakhstan: Old Stalinist Repression in a New CyberWar Wrapper

Posted: under Blogging, Conspiracy Theories, Online Video, Politics & New Media.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Under the guise of “protecting citizens from terrorists and porn,” the government in Kazakhstan is eliminating freedom of speech and of the press via a particularly toxic cocktail of Old Stalinist School beatings, jailings and intimidation – and cutting-edge CyberWar attacks.

I conducted a series of interviews with journalists, bloggers, opposition political leaders and human rights workers in the cities of Astana and Almaty, Kazakhstan. I was there because in mid-October of 2009, the US State Department invited me to travel to Kazakhstan to do a series of training sessions on New Media and how journalists there could learn from the mistakes that First-World TV & newspapers have made, to prepare themselves for the future.

While I was able to show them some of the new technologies and techniques in online video, mobile, social media and web monetization that I’ve developed an expertise in, I found that their crisis is far more serious than that of US publishers and journalists, whose problems revolve around absurd levels of debt entered into by multi-billion dollar corporations, and the lack of a coherent business strategy.

Kazakh journalists are quite literally fighting for their lives – and losing.

I found this out myself, when I wound up in the hospital with a severe case of food poisoning, the night before I was scheduled to conduct a class for the pro-democracy rights workers, independent journalists and dissenting bloggers. I feel almost ashamed to bring this up, because compared to what the Kazakh journalists go through, barfing for 8 hours seems like a resort vacation. Still, the embassy doctor told me I was on the point of cascading organ failure from radical dehydration. Next stop: a pine box in the cargo hold on the way back to Los Angeles.Medical supplies

A couple days and 4 liters of IV fluid and antibiotics later, my vision cleared and I was finally able to reschedule with the Kazakhstan’s most independent journalists and bloggers. (I had to cancel a trip to Shymkent, where even more dissidents hoped to get my help.) They wanted to interview me, because they were suspicious about my absence. “You don’t honestly think that what happened to you was an accident?” they asked. I admitted that in my most paranoid moments, I wondered…

“There are no coincidences here,” they told me. They went on to state that repeatedly, journalists, human rights workers or others who have come from the U.S. or Europe to meet with them, mysteriously get sick – just the way I did – are hospitalized, and wind up going home a couple of days later without ever actually meeting or doing any work.  They all wanted to shake my hand and congratulate me for joining the club of journalists who have gone to the hospital because of their political beliefs.

I will never know if it was just a bad piece of chicken, or if I barfed out some heinous admixture of polonium and whatever PCBs/Dioxins they fed to the former president of Ukraine that turned his face into a puffy, pockmarked lunar landscape. But I will admit that seeing a couple of goons waiting in an SUV every morning to tail us around contributed to my motivation to publish this piece.

First – a bit of scene-setting: Kazakhstan is an enormous country, spread out over vast empty sub-Siberian steppes (as you can see in my pictures here), with a relatively tiny population of 16 million. It’s floating on an ocean of oil and gas, and may soon be the world’s leading exporter of uranium – check out the Wikipedia entry, if you want more facts & figures.

Put simply, Kazakhstan is a popcorn shell jammed in the teeth of international war & petro-diplomacy. It’s stuck between China to the east, Russia to the north, and Afghanistan & Pakistan to the south. They export a billion barrels of oil a year to Russian refineries, and their natural gas keeps the lights on throughout Western Europe. The U.S. uses their airspace and bases for the war in Afghanistan, and rocket launches from the old Soyuz complex near Baikonur keep the International Space Station functioning.

Nursultan Nazarbayev has been president of Kazakhstan since it split off from the former Soviet Union in 1989.  Just this year, the constitution was changed to basically allow him to be president for life, and it’s a tossup as to whether or not there will ever again be open elections.

While I was there, I visited the cities of Almaty and Astana, which represent the past and the future of Kazakhstan. In 1997, Nazarbayev decreed that the capitol would be moved from the ancient city of Almaty, which is in a green valley just north of the Himalayas, on the old Silk Road, to Astana, which lies in the midst of 1,000 miles of Siberian steppes, surrounded by nothing.

A brief aside on Astana: the best way I can describe this city is to ask you to imagine what would happen if you downloaded the brains of Albert Speer and Walt Disney into a 14-year-old ADHD sci-fi fan & meth freak, and then gave him a trillion dollars and asked him to design the capitol city of Mars.  Dubai in the tundra? Shanghai without the workers or industrial base? Calgary with a creeping sense of menace?

The oil billions have funded the construction of massive towers and buildings; of wide boulevards, lined with struggling fresh-planted saplings; of monuments to the ego of Nazarbayev, where wide-eyed rural citizens line up, and hold up their babies so they can put their tiny hands into the impression of the Glorious Leader’s hand, memorialized forever in a 20-pound block of solid gold.

“It’s all one giant money-laundering scheme,” a journalist confided to me. “The government says that it’s putting up these buildlings, making this city out of nothing for the future of the people of Kazakhstan. They keep comparing this place to Washington, D.C.

“But what it’s really about is that they budget $200 million, maybe for a new library or art gallery. ‘For the people, for the culture of our country,’ they say. Then they build it for $50 million, maybe $20 million.  The rest all disappears.”

There is no real reason for this city, built for giants, and inhabited only by people who work for the kleptocracy, to exist, other than what you can read in “Ozymandias.”

““My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Yeah. It’s like that. Particularly the parts about the “sneer of cold command.”  If you squint a little bit, from atop the big observation towers, you can see the tangled rusted girders sticking up out of the blasted, brown tundra.

As you’ll see in the following videos, the main problem they need help with is the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that are unleashed on them when they dare to step over the line and criticize the government, write about the massive corruption in the banking system, or report the latest bombshell from the president’s ex-son in law. (He fled the country, and now lives in Austria, from whence he periodically releases embarrassing information – such as audiotapes of government officials conspiring to murder & steal.)

In the interviews that are included here, the Kazakh journalists talk about these kinds of problems – of the beatings, intimidation, jailings, fines, cyber-attacks and other methods by which freedom is being systematically strangled to death.  I will write more about this issue in other postings, but for now, I think the greatest impact is for you to hear their raw voices.

I apologize in advance for this video.  I had to blur the face and distort the voice of this journalist, to protect him from the brutal reprisals that are becoming almost commonplace in Kazakhstan. I wish that I could show you the blood clot in this man’s eye, or the fading bruises at the corners of his mouth.

I wish that you could see the way he hunches his shoulders when talking about the beating, stomping and kicking orgy of violence that landed him in the hospital recently, or the anger that replaces that fear when he talks of the beatings that have been inflicted on his colleagues.

I hope that you can still hear in his voice the raw sadness and sense of loss that is evident when he talks about the feeble FlashMob protests that are the only act of defiance left to them, and how even that is being systematically taken away.

But I cannot. I cannot bring this story to you in this open and honest way; maybe it is paranoia, but if it is, then it is well-founded paranoia. The pervasive fear that has been pounded into journalists in Kazakhstan is communicable, and if I have succumbed to it as well, so be it.  I would rather err on the side of caution with these interviews than expose some of the people in them to further harm. This is also why I have beeped out the names of some of the other recent victims, as well as other information that would make it easy to identify this person.

I do recognize that this journalist’s voice and accent make what he is saying a little hard to understand, and so I am adding subtitles.

These journalists told me that the hardest part for them is the feeling of being utterly alone; that the daily outrages against them have been covered up, denied, made to disappear as they themselves are being made to vanish, one by one.

I decided to share these improvised videos (recorded before and after training sessions I led) because the journalists and bloggers I met pleaded with me to share their stories in the hopes that someone in the outside world would pay attention.  To them, the internet represents the last, best hope of writers and photographers and editors who dare to speak truth to power. They have been pushed to the brink, and the DDoS attacks now threaten even that.

I was authorized to show the face and voice of journalist Yevgeniya Plakhina of Respublika.kz, and so she appears here undisguised, although there were some subjects that we discussed that she later requested be edited out. I will post some of the other videos in a later post, since this is getting a bit long.

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Oct 17

Happy Students in Astana, Kazakhstan

Posted: under new media.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This is the last class I taught in Astana – they were very engaged with the idea of moving from traditional media to “New Media,” particularly with blogging.  The main question on everyone’s mind was “How do I drive more traffic to my site?”

I didn't know the Russian phrase for "Group hug, people!" So I just stood in the back and spread out my arms.

I didn't know the Russian phrase for "Group hug, people!" So I just stood in the back and spread out my arms.

I showed them some of the very basic tools to promote your content – the simplest being the blast e-mail alert to people you’ve signed up on a subscription list.  A couple of people in the class were already up on Twitter, and I sang that particular gospel, as well as the advantages of setting up Facebook groups or using the same functionality in the Russian equivalent, which is a Classmates.com-alike.

As always, the skill level in the audience was very uneven. Some people were way out in front of the pack, others seemed to be lost. I tried to deliver a wide variety of tools to hit everyone. I got just a couple of hours to do some very basic tourism after this session.  The scale of the construction going on here is truly awe-inspiring.

It's pretty chilly here; not snowing yet, but it's thinking about it - thus the heavy clothes. Also, behind me is the new Presidential Palace.

It's pretty chilly here; not snowing yet, but it's thinking about it - thus the heavy clothes. Also, behind me is the new Presidential Palace.

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Apr 14

John Battelle’s keynote at OMMA 2009 – part 2

Posted: under advertising, Digital Migration.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

“So much cash sloshing around that we forgot that the interface is going to change completely.  Again.” – John Battelle

Excerpts to come…


mmm

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Feb 09

Ukrainian Sarah Palin Berated by Exasperated Director

Posted: under journalism, new media, Online Video, Politics & New Media.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Hire this director and have him start whipping Christian Bale into shape.

This video had my class rolling with laughter – it’s slightly NSFW (mainly with the cussing in the subtitles, although if your office has Russian speakers, they might object).

This is the mayor of Kharkov, and he was trying to record a TV campaign commercial, but couldn’t manage to string enough coherent words together to spit out a sentence. Apparently, he’s notoriously stupid – “The Sarah Palin of Ukraine” – and is the subject of much mockery & head-shaking.

I was particularly impressed by the torrent of expletive-laced abuse hurled at this guy by the director (who we see in some of the early shots). I think this must have come at the end of an exhausting filming session, because the director is just going off on him in a way that would put Joe Pytka to shame.

Gems include: “Try to have an expression. Come on, at least try. Let’s go, let’s go.” “Misha, stop this crap.  Really, stop it.”

D: “Why the fuck did you take your hand away?
M:”I finished?”

D: “So fucking what. You finished! Sit one second, motherfucker. OK, we have to do this all over again. From the top…”

D: “Your face is boring. Nobody is going to give you any money.”

Please, can anyone out there who has access to the footage of Palin campaign commercial filming post the outtakes to the web? Because I think the wolf-shootin’ turky-genocidin’ Caribou Barbie must’ve had sessions like this.  Then again, maybe she had the offending directors fed to polar bears.

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Jan 30

Bailout Cash for Newspapers? A Cure That Would Only Worsen the Underlying Disease…

Posted: under Blogs, Digital Migration, New Marketing, new media, Newspaper Deathwatch, Politics & New Media.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I posted this as a comment here, already, but it bears repeating.

While the concept of a bailout for newspapers (and allegedly for good journalism) seems attractive at first blush, I fear that in practice, the billions in bailout funds would suffer the same fate as the billions bestowed upon the banking industry.

That is, they would be swiftly pocketed in the form of “well-earned bonuses,” and only a few crumbs would make it down to the level where the money would actually do any good.  While I’m not in the “burn baby, burn” camp the way many other digital triumphalists have been (and there’s at least a faint whiff of that hereabouts), I think that dumping fat stacks on media conglomerates will not solve the underlying problems of the crumbling of business models.

Now then – a Manhattan Project (of sorts) to build solid business models to support quality journalism? That would = the hoary “teaching a man to fish” paradigm.

I know faith in The Invisible Hand is in short supply these days (and where it can be found, it’s usually being in the stocks in the town square, being pelted by posters on Angryjournalist.com), but the fact is that there is a demand for something to perform the function of information dissemination that newspapers do/have done. If the Drug Wars have taught us anything, it is that where there is a demand, and money is attached to that demand, there will correspondingly be a supply.

This is all growing out an essay on the op-ed page of the NY Times and chittering in the Twiterverse, as the nervous journalists see the vultures staring downward, and big guy in the hood with the scythe striding through the newsroom.

By endowing our most valued sources of news we would free them from the strictures of an obsolete business model and offer them a permanent place in society, like that of America’s colleges and universities. Endowments would transform newspapers into unshakable fixtures of American life, with greater stability and enhanced independence that would allow them to serve the public good more effectively.

o-rly-2Well, allow me to respond to that one.

Not to get all Reagan on you, but that is complete and utter madness. Newspapers are so important, so crucial to our lives, that it is the duty & obligation of the government to preserve them?

Wow.

OK, it’s a given that journalists have something of a Messiah Complex.  You have to have something else going on psychologically to get into this low-pay high-stress field. But this is really crossing the line. And making an unfortunate conflation between the newspaper industry and good journalism – yes, it gets done at newspapers, and there are some magnificent examples of this. But the industry is asphyxiating itself, and dumping wads of cash on it will not solve the underlying problems.

Government intervention here would create more problems than it would solve. Allison Fine is onto this issue:

So, the fundamental premise of the need to endow newspapers and preserve them at public expense is that false information exists on the Internet? Of course it does, as it does on TV, on the radio (should we also consider endowing Rush?) in magazines, and in many, many newspapers. Which media would the authors like to choose as being least likely to contain false information? And which medium do they think did the best job of  bringing the lies and corruption of the Bush Administration to light — hint, don’t look at newspapers, Josh Micah Marshall and his Talking Points Memo website would be a much better bet.

So, the fundamental premise that only newspapers can hold government accountable is specious. But that isn’t my biggest issue with the article. It is the naive assumption from those outside of the nonprofit sphere that 1) nonprofit status is intended for companies that don’t have a viable business model, and 2) raising billions of dollars in endowment funds is doable, particularly in today’s economy.

If anything, the effect of billions spent on preserving the newspaper format as it is, without any changes, will mean that we’ll all be getting print products dumped on our doors that are increasingly ad-free.  Yeah, there will be a number of advertisers who will still be there because the eyeballs are there.  But the trends of readership of mass print products are not heading up (niche and community newspapers are another story).

Worst of all, the preservation of a business model that is clearly no longer functional will suck the oxygen out of the room for the products that should (and are, in some cases) being developed to do the job that newspapers have done.  Artificially propping up newspapers in their current form will stifle the innovation in the marketplace, and long-term, only make the inevitable collapse worse.

We’re kinda seeing that take place in the real estate and credit markets right now. The government artificially propped up the economy for eight years with crazy spending and stupid low interest rates.  Instead of hard work & ingenuity to produce real growth, it was Free Money Day Every Day, as real-estate speculation in areas like Scottsdale, Las Vegas, Miami & L.A. led to the “$30,000-a-year millionaire” who made $10,000 in arcane mortgage kickbacks every time he/she signed his/her name to a loan document.  The results of that are the global economic meltdown we see occurring right now.

Meanwhile, driven by the market economics, ESPN is starting to experiment with setting up a disaggregated local blog network to cover sports at a granular level.

ESPN sees the writing on the wall. In their industry they need strong stories to promote sports and strong sports to drive interest to their stories.  A fan that is underserved by his newspaper is less interested in following his team on ESPN.  Additionally, there is big advertising money for ESPN if it can become the resource for local sports.

This is a long term proposition, however. Even the mighty ESPN cannot yet afford to hire 30 beat writers to cover each NBA team. Instead it is working towards its goal by teaming with independend bloggers in a win/win/win proposition.  The bloggers have a chance at monetizing their efforts, ESPN can become the central resource it wants to become and fans can get the information they want as a new, viable local sports media business model starts to thrive.

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Dec 27

Obama’s an “Evil Illegal Alien”? Really?

Posted: under Conspiracy Theories, Politics & New Media.
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I threw up a little in my mouth when I read this:

Southern Baptist Pastor Wiley Drake bashed Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren this week, saying “God will punish” Warren
for agreeing to give the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration next month.

“I pray He is kind to you in this punishment that is coming,” Drake wrote in a widely-released e-mail. In it, the First Southern BaptistChurch of Buena Park pastor criticizes Warren’s “recent plan to invokethe presence of almighty God on this evil illegal alien,” a referenceto Obama.

The fact that such obviously insane people are allowed to walk the streets of Our Fair Nation is the most searing indictment of the
long-term effects of the Reagan revolution on our mental-health safety net.
  The minute the parishoners stop the gravy train for this lunatic is the day he begins his downward slide to wandering the streets of the South Bay area with a matted beard, visible body odor and cardboard boxes tied to his feet. 

This is some industrial-strength crazy hatin’.

In early 2008, while he was the pastor for the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Reverend Drake was a vocal supporter of Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee‘s presidential campaign. He sent out a letter personally endorsing Huckabee. However, the letter was on church stationery; thus, to the Internal Revenue Service, Rev. Drake was endorsing a political candidate as a church leader and endangering his church’s tax-exempt status.

Rev. Drake’s violation of federal tax law was reported to the IRS by an advocacy group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), which had warned him for endorsing Dick Mountjoy for a U.S. Senate race with a Southern Baptist Convention letterhead.Rev. Drake asked his parishioners and others to pray for revenge using an imprecatory prayer for the punishment, shame, and even deaths of AU officials.

And For. The. Win.

In October 2008, Drake, stating he was still a candidate for vice
president, announced that he had filed a lawsuit seeking to have the
Secretary of State of the State of Washington “de-certify Barack Obama
because he has refused to release proof of being a Natural Born Citizen”

Holy shit! This knucklehead is STILL buying into the unbelievably disgraced and laughably false Obama-hatin’ birth certificate Nigerian Prince scam!

And now he’s even attacking one of the most powerful figures in the Evangelical Christian world for his association with Obama? Damn, man.  When I saw a short notation on the screen of Fox News, talking about the Rick Warren imbroglio, I noted the short sentence, “If Democrats realized how terrified Republicans are of Obama adding Rick Warren to the team, they’d stop opposing this.”

Looks like they were onto something.  This could further the fractures in the Republican base – splitting the reality-aware Evangelicals away from the batshit-crazy Evangelicals like this specimen:

We are seeing the evolution of a truly reality-divergent slice of our population.  The Obama-haters have their “grassy knoll.”  It’s as though the wackos with their conspiracy theories about plastique charges in the WTC or cruise missiles fired into the Pentagon, had an official spokesman.  Someone who has a radio audience and actual political power.  And who says shit like this.

Even if he were born in Hawaii, he was born to an American-citizen
mother and a British-citizen father. That’s a proven fact. According to
these fellows, the constitutional definition is no matter where you are
born, both parents have to be Americans. Even if he were born on U.S.
soil, that’s a moot point because he’s not qualified. Phil Berg’s case
says we have evidence, proof, that he was not born on American soil.
His own paternal grandmother says he was born in Kenya. That’s what got
me turned on. I’m a pastor. I have a tendency to believe people. When I
heard an elderly paternal grandmother—speaking in Swahili, if it was
interpreted right, and I think it was—say that she saw her grandson,
Barack Hussein Obama, come out of his mother here in Kenya, I can’t
imagine why she made that up. There is no motive for lying. In all
honesty, she’s just bragging on her grandson.

Man, even the citizen reporters down in the O.C are getting fired up over this fruitbat & his congregation. (h/t to CNN’s excellent iReport)

Hey – here’s a marketing opportunity for the paranoia-enablers – get the Wiley Drake congregation list and start spamming them with aluminum-foil “Survival Hats” necessary to protect their brains from the inevitable Taliban mind-control rays that are going to start coming outta them internet tubes after Barack Hussein takes power.

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