Media postsSunday May 17, 2009
Unfortunate Graph of the Day
"So [John Lennon] embraced the heady freedom New York offered, leaving his mop-top past behind like a new arrival from a small town, eager to become who he wanted to be. New Yorkers, in turn, saw the city anew through his wide, endlessly appreciative eyes. Sadly, such open-heartedness would prove his undoing in a town that proved tougher than he ever imagined it could be."
— Anthony DeCurtis in "His Kind of Shell-Shocked Town" in The New York Times' Week in Review section, about Lennon and NYC in the 1970s.
- ...leaving his mop-top past behind. By the time Lennon chose to live in NY in 1971, he'd left his mop-top past behind about 5-6 years earlier.
- ...in a town that proved tougher than he ever imagined it could be. Is "tougher" the right word here? How about "more homicidal"?
- ...in a town that proved tougher than he ever imagined it could be. Also, "town"? What connection is there between Mark David Chapman and New York? Almost none. Dude was from Texas, lived in Hawaii. He represented tourists, not New Yorkers, and certainly not New York itself. Odd, odd piece.
The Journalistic Mission of Bill O'Reilly
In Brian Stelter’s article in The New York Times yesterday about the ambush journalism that Bill O’Reilly practices, which a producer of “The O’Reilly Factor” calls “part of the journalistic mission of the show,” and which is compared (favorably) with what Mike Wallace did on “60 Minutes” and (unfavorably) with what Michael Moore does in his movies, O’Reilly, in drawing distinction between himself and Moore, says he does what he does because “there’s no other way to hold these villains accountable.”
You don’t need to read any more.
Quick: What’s goal no. 1 for any journalist? To get the story first. To scoop the other bastards.
What’s goal no. 2? To be as objective as possible in doing this.
Journalistic mission? These villains? Does he know he's sticking his foot in, if not his own mouth, then his producer's mouth?
And what villains? Murderers? Torturers? Bernie Madoff types?
Not exactly. The ambushees include Mike Hoyt, executive editor of The Columbia Journalism Review, who assigned a story on right-wing media to a writer with a supposed liberal background. There’s Hendrik Hertzberg, my man from The New Yorker, who, the Times writes, “was confronted for what Mr. O’Reilly described as taking a ‘Factor’ segment out of context.” (No word from the Times on how Mr. Hertzberg described the incident.) There’s also Amanda Terkel of thinkprogress.org, who organized a protest against O’Reilly.
These are the villains. People who disagreed with Bill O’Reilly.
From what I remember of those “60 Minutes” segments, Wallace and his producers would use the ambush technique, when they used it, to confront either legitimately powerful people and/or crooks. It was a technique unmotivated by politics or personal vendettas.
Michael Moore, when he uses the ambush technique (which is often), uses it to confront legitimately powerful people: U.S. congressmen and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. His ambushes are, more often than not, motivated by politics but unmotivated by personal vendettas.
Both are examples of the journalistic mission, the journalistic mission, to speak truth to power.
Most of O’Reilly’s targets are less powerful than he is. His ambushes are simply another bullying aspect of his show. It’s less speaking truth to power than power picking on truth.
Weekly, Not Weakly
Leave it to David Carr. After reading about dailies folding left and right, and particularly after reading Clay Shirky's sharp essay last week, the question I kept asking myself and others was: What about alt-weeklies? How are they doing? Can they become like the dailies of the 21st century?
I was particularly interested in locally owned, locally produced alt-weeklies like The Stranger in Seattle — as opposed to those weeklies put out by Village Voice Media: City Pages, Seattle Weekly, SF Weekly, etc. National retread crap with only a few local voices.
So here comes Carr, with his Monday Media Equation column, answering, on a singular scale anyway, my very question. The Austin Chronicle, founder of South by Southwest, is doing very well thank you. Money quote:
“We don’t do gotcha journalism, our coverage is very policy-oriented, and always local, local, local,” [Chronicle founder Louis Black] said. “Even during the Bush years, which were a very big deal here, we never put anybody that wasn’t local on the cover. We don’t do out-of-towners."
The new model?
You Say You Want a Revolution
Clay Shirky has an astonishly temperate, reasoned piece on the future of newspapers in the digital age. The money quote, for me:
It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.
He focuses on newspapers and journalism but I'm wondering how much of his argument can apply to the book-publishing industry and authors. It's my assumption that authors can survive on an iTunes model, because, in theory anyway, they're selling something unique: their voice. It's not like, "If I have to pay for the Times' story in Iraq, I'll just read the Post's, which is free." If you want to read John Grisham, there's really only one place to go.
Anyway check out Shirky. Sober reading the day after The Seattle Post-Intelligencer killed its print edition.
Read It Read It Read It
The must-read of the week, for anyone who cares about viable newspapers in either print or Web form, is David Carr's column in The New York Times today. He argues in favor of collusion among newspapers in order to save newspapers. I agree. Whole-heartedly.
Yes, eliminate free content. Yes, no more free rides to aggregators like Google. Yes, no more free rides to me. I've paid for The New York Times online in the past and I'll pay for it again in the future, if it comes to that. I hope it does. I'll pay for a good, smart, local newspaper as well, whether in print or online form, whether daily or weekly. A weekly print version, with daily online updates, also makes sense. It just has to be worth my time.
Read Carr's piece all the way through. Times are tough, times are scary, but a world without investigative journalists would be much, much scarier.