erik lundegaard

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Sunday March 16, 2008

Quality schmality

A story in Newsweek claims that the "expert is back" and that user-generated content on the Internet is fading. They say that in this age of misinformation people are crying out for standards and information they can trust, and, as evidence, Newsweek cites the following: 1) Google is creating its own Wikipedia using authoritative sources; 2) Mahalo is creating a search engine with quality-based rather than link-based rankings; and 3)... Well, there is no 3). But the magazine adds some anecdotal stuff about Wikipedia's dustups and Craigslist scammers, and they quote a couple of dudes, like Mahalo's founder Jason Calacanis, who says, "The more trusted an environment the more you can charge for it," but who obviously has a stake in the matter.

The expert is back? I wish.

Here's the real reason why user-generated content isn't going anywhere: It's free. Not to readers but to producers. Ask a professional writer to write about movies and it'll cost you. Ask a "fan" and it won't. Generally a fan's stuff won't be nearly as good as a professional writer's stuff, but, you know, what's "good," right? So as long as the bottom line is looked at — and it'll always be looked at — the people in charge will go for the user-generated content. They'll go for the freebie.

Cute thought, though.

Posted at 02:13 PM on Mar 16, 2008 in category Media, Culture
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Saturday March 01, 2008

W.C. Heinz: Rest in Peace

The great writer/journalist passed away earlier this week at the age of 93. You can read his NY Times Obit here.

I haven't read much Heinz but he was the writer with the most clips in The Best American Sportswriting of the Century — a great collection for any sports fan — and a source of inspiration to David Halberstam and the New Journalists of the 1960s. He also tells one of my favorite sports stories ever in his profile of football great Red Grange, “The Ghost of the Gridiron,” for True Magazine in 1958. Red Grange is talking:

“Once about fifteen years ago, on my way home from work, I dropped into a tavern in Chicago for a beer. Two guys next to me and the bartender was arguing about Bronco Nagurski and Carl Brumbaugh. On the Bears, of course, I played in the backfield with both of them. One guy doesn't like Nagurski and he's talking against him. I happen to think Nagurski was the greatest football player I ever saw, and a wonderful guy. This fellow who is knocking him says to me, 'Do you know anything about football? Did you see Nagurski play?' I said, 'Yes, and I think he was great.' The guy gets mad and says, 'What was so great about him? What do you know about it?' I could see it was time to leave but the guy kept at me. He said, 'Now wait a minute. What make you think you know something about it? Who are you anyway?' I reached into my wallet and took out my business card and handed it to him and started for the door. When I got to the door, I looked back at him. You should have seen his face.”

Great Clark Kent moment and Heinz knows enough not to get in the way of the story. Then he ends the piece poignantly. Read it, if you can. 

Posted at 09:52 AM on Mar 01, 2008 in category Media, Books
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Sunday February 24, 2008

What's the first thing you read in the Sunday NY Times?

For me it's Frank Rich's column, and this week he's got a good one. (You can read it here.) It's another of the "What went wrong with Hilary's campaign" pieces but it's smarter than most. He compares the strategy of the Clinton campaign with the way Pres. Bush handled Iraq: Assume victory and then flail about when you don't get it. Hilary assumed she'd be victorious by Feb. 5 — she said so much to George Stephanopolous in late December — but had no back-up plan when that didn't happen.

The most telling stats show how disorganized her campaign is. "In Kansas," Rich writes, "three paid Obama organizers had the field to themselves for three months; ultimately Obama staff members outnumbered Clinton staff members there 18 to 3." In Wisconsin she put up ads six days after Obama, and she had only four offices to his 11. She still has no offices in Vermont while he has four. She didn't know the Texas primary system was "so bizarre." All this from someone who claims she's ready to lead from day one. 

The most dispiriting part of her campaign is the attempt to marginalize Obama's supporters — a task that grows increasingly difficult as he wins state after state. Some in her campaign are even trotting out the whole "latte-drinking" insults. Obama's supporters, according to one speechmaker preceding Mrs. Clinton onto an Ohio stage, are little more than "latte-drinking, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust-fund babies." C'mon, can't they come up with something more original? I'm an Obama supporter. How about "Honda-Civic driving?" How about "bike riding"? All those elitists who ride their bikes to work and listen to Joe Henry and read The New Yorker and eat chicken. Chicken eaters. Jeans wearers. Book readers. Baseball watchers. Air breathers.

Posted at 09:58 AM on Feb 24, 2008 in category Media, Politics
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