May 2005 Archive
Note that some of these links are short term and will expire after two weeks. If you have access to Lexis-Nexis at your college or university library, you can retrieve many of the stories that are no longer on the web.
Main Archive List
Tuesday - May 31, 2005
Friday - May 27, 2005
- MarketWatch's Jon Friedman's Covers Media, Media Writers
Jon Friedman of MarketWatch has been profiling prominent U.S. media writers for the last few weeks on Fridays. He writes a column that runs three times a week at MarketWatch. I came across this looking for material on Ken Auletta, but it looks like his other profiles are interesting as well. In addition to Auletta, he's looked at Keith Kelly of the N.Y. Post, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, and Michael Wolfe of Vanity Fair.
- E.J. Dionne Jr - What's Wrong With Press Critics
The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne Jr. gives his response to all the critics who are making journalists, in his words, "dangerously defensive."
- The Future of Television
Is it OK to talk about a story in Newsweek other than the brief item on Guantanomo Bay that has everyone so upset? I can? Thank you.
Steven Levy has a big story this week on the future of television. What I find especially interesting is that it deals with how scale is transforming the medium. We used to think of TV as an appliance that we put as the centerpiece of our living or family room, and that we would make an appointment to watch it from that location. Today, Levy points out, television ranges from giant HDTV screens that rival movie theaters to tiny screens carrying news and miniature television series on mobile phones. When I wrote the chapter in my Intro to Mass Comm book on television, I divided it into sections on broadcast and cable/satellite. Is there a third or fourth division I need to be thinking about now? Good stuff. Also, Conan O'Brien gives his view of the future of television, and Brad Stone looks at alternatives to traditional 30-second advertising spots.
Thursday - May 26, 2005
Getting to Know Your Sidebar Links - Blog Roundup
Here's a quick round up of some good news business/media blogs to watch and some of what's being talked about on them.
Wednesday - May 25, 2005
Reaction to Star Wars - SPOILER ALERT - STOP READING IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW....
I went to see Episode III this afternoon, and I have to admit that I really enjoyed it. By far the best of the second trilogy. Politics? It's about the rise of an evil fascist empire. Have the people who are trashing the politics of the movie seen the first three? There's nothing in Revenge of the Sith that wasn't laid out in the original films. Now, can you find parallels to today's society in Lucas's film? Of course you can, if you go looking for them. We're involved in a controversial war, we have a country divided about how our government ought to behave. (And Lucas has noted these issues in interviews.) I don't see how you couldn't get a reaction. (Unknown Blogger went to the trouble to give a fuller analysis of these issues from the point of view of a young conservative.) And Jonathan David Morris does a fascinating job of laying out what the "dark side" really is. But those who see political propaganda here just weren't paying attention the first five times they saw the other films. Far more disturbing...
As a side note, this isn't the first time an epic fantasy has been misread. J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings was often seen as a cautionary tale about World War II and the rise of fascism because it was written during that time period. But in a forward to the second edition by the author, Tolkien notes that if there was any life events that influenced him, it was the horrors he experienced as a soldier during World War I. He writes:
It is also false, though naturally attractive, when the lives of an author and critic have overlapped, to suppose that the movements of though or the events of times common to both were necessarily the most powerful influences. One has indeed personally to under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.
BTW, David Kopp has some interesting thoughts about allegory and Lord of the Rings in his blog.
SPOILER STARTS HERE
As I was saying... Far more disturbing was the fact that Padme´ dies immediately following childbirth, when Return of the Jedi clearly establishes that Princess Leia has faint memories of her mother, which indicates that Padme´ died at least three years after the birth of the twins. Now I know why it happened that way. The movie is a retelling of the Frankenstein story, and there's no way to skip ahead three years and say, "And then, for no reason at all, Padme´ suddenly died..." Now before you all get on my case and say, "Only a total geek would notice that..." let me point out that my wife, who is not a Star Wars junkie, commented on it immediately.
Tuesday - May 24, 2005
Friday - May 20, 2005
Too Much Star Wars News Dept. - Episode III, Day 2
A minimal entry today as I'm trying to get the final details taken care of for the summer distance education classes I'm responsible for. But here is a brief round up of the news about the opening of SWIII on Thursday. Watch for possible updates (if you care about such things) later on today.
Thursday - May 19, 2005
- Overly Self-Referential Dept. - I'm Quoted by Michelle Malkin
I was surprised Wednesday afternoon to get an E-mail from a librarian friend who mentioned I was quoted by conservative columnist Michelle Malkin in her column blasting media coverage of the war in Iraq. Though I don't buy into her overall argument, she did fairly present my thoughts about a recent cover of Harper's that featured a doctored photo of marine recruits. But I can't object to her comment that I am "a rare member of academia with his head screwed on straight." Cool. (Townhall.com)
- Everything That Happens in the Past Happens Again Dept. - Digital Projection Coming of Age?
If you were paying attention in class, you would remember that the 1920s were a turbulent period for the movie industry, with studios and theaters having to make the risky and expensive decision about whether to install all the equipment required for synchronized sound. The same issue is facing the studios and theaters today with digital projection of movies. USA Today takes a great look at the issues surrounding the switch to digital projection. Over the next week or so you can expect to see a number of items here on the impact of Lucas and Star Wars on culture and the movie industry. I'm going to wait with addressing the issue of whether Episode III is really just a thinly veiled attack on the Bush administration until I actually see the movie next Tuesday.
Wednesday - May 18, 2005
Newsweek Withdraws Story that Led to Rioting in Afgahnistan
Two weeks ago, in the issue dated May 9, Newsweek magazine ran a small item in its Periscope section that stated that U.S. military investigators had found evidence that guards at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had flushed a copy of the Qur'an down a toilet to get one of the detainees to talk. The reporting for the story was done by Michael Isikoff and John Barry. Now remember, Michael Isikoff is one of the most respected and hard-nosed reporters in America today. (He's the one who tracked down and broke the story on the Clinton-Lewinski affair.)
The story has been blamed by several news accounts for setting off anti-American riots in Afghanistan. Reports say that the rioting has killed at least 15 Afghans and injured many more.
In the May 23rd issue, Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker announced the magazine was withdrawing the story because of denials from the Pentagon and the fact that the original source expressed doubt about seeing official reports about the incident. Newsweek also ran an extensive story looking at how the story was reported and what the fallout from it has been.
The error in reporting would seem to be primarily that there was not, in fact, a government investigation that supported the allegations. While the story has been withdrawn, neither reporter has been disciplined for the error. Determining the reality of the actual charges of abuse would be very difficult for a reporter to do, given the lack of access to the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. In a story that ran in Newsday, Isikoff said he would keep working on trying to find out what happened and how he got the story wrong.
Tuesday - May 17, 2005
Greedo Didn't Shoot First Dept. - News and Commentary on Star Wars Episode III
As you no doubt know, Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith goes into general release at midnight tomorrow. It's kind of hard to miss as you see Anakin Skywalker's face on bags of chips, bottles of Pepsi, boxes of cheese crackers, aisles of toys, and just about everywhere else. But despite all the commercialism, I can't help but be a bit excited about it. After all, I did see Episode IV (the original Star Wars) 13 times the summer it came out. In fact, I just rewatched it on DVD recently, and the movie holds up remarkably well. And it would even without Lucas's
tampering with enhancement of for the special edition and DVD.
One of my occasional correspondents, the rambling college freshman, notes:
Its strangely funny that the title of Star Wars: Episode 3 (Revenge of the Sith) has an anagram for the word used to describe the earlier prequels.
Cruel, cruel, cruel, and besides, it only really applies to the abomination that was Episode I.
At any rate, USA Today has given Sith 3 1/2 stars and calls it the darkest and best of the six films. Pretty strong language when you recall that it is competing with Empire Strikes Back, which for my money is by far the best of the films. For a complete round up of reviews, check out Rotten Tomatoes Episode III page.
As an alternative to those from the Mainstream Media, here's couple from Ain't It Cool News - one of which was surprisingly negative, another with the key reminder that Episode III is the biggest indie film of all time. (And it is - the second set of three films were all financed personally by Lucas. And the fact that no one else had any control over the films probably had an effect on how they turned out.)
If you listen to the commentary Lucas gives with the original trilogy DVDs, it becomes very clear that he was focused on creating fantasy worlds with the last three films, not necessarily telling good stories. Because he was limited by technology in the first three, he had to keep the focus on the narrative. He also didn't try to do it all himself. He brought in top-notch writers to work on the screenplays, and hired different directors for each. The Washington Post's Sunday Magazine asks the intriguing question of what would the second set of three movies have been liked were they directed by Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, or Ang Lee?
I won't be seeing Sith until next week, but feel free to let me know what you think of it (and tell me when you first saw the original trilogy).
Monday - May 16, 2005
- Corp. for Public Broadcasting Chair Investigated for Political Influence
The culture wars continue to rage.... The inspector general for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is investigating whether CPB chair Ken Tomlinson (a Republican) is improperly trying to control the political content of programs on PBS. (Washington Post)
- Audiences Are Tired of Long Stream of Commercials Before Movies
Audiences are getting tired of sitting through 15 minutes or more of commercials and trailers before the movies, and some theaters are starting to react. The Washington Post looks at theaters that have started cutting back on the commercials or announcing the time that shows actually start. (As opposed to when the "pre-show entertainment" starts.) I might note that my own local Warner Theater shows no more than three or four trailers prior to the start of their movies. Sometimes they even start the movie directly!
Friday - May 13, 2005
Digital Rights Management Issues
If you don't know what Digital Rights Management (DRM) is yet, you will soon. It's one of the big issues in the media business right now. Let's start with the central advantage of and problem with digital media content - you can make perfect copies of digital media files that won't degrade over time and can be copied again and again and again. This is why you can rip a song of a CD, make it into an MP3 file, and then trade it around the world using a peer-to-peer file sharing network. Media companies have a name for this behavior - they call it stealing. The music industry has already been forever changed by file sharing of digital music, the change is coming in the movie business, but what really worries content producers is HDTV. Because with HDTV the networks will be broadcasting high-quality digital signals for everyone to receive. Who can then make perfect copies that can be.... well, you know the story. In fact, one of the major issues holding up full-fledged adoption of HDTV is the whole issue of content copy protection.
So what all the content producers want these days is Digital Rights Management - a way to control how digital media files can be used and distributed. Apple, for example, has fairly flexible DRM for the songs you download from iTunes, as long as you use them in the iTunes program or an iPod. Otherwise you're out of luck. Here's a couple of items from around the web recently on DRM:
Thursday - May 12, 2005
Media news from USA Today
- Someone Who Understands the Value of the Audience Dept. - Star Wars Fan Film Generates Buzz
Instead of shutting down everyone who does anything with trademarked images (Hello, Disney!), George Lucas has allowed fans to make their own Star Wars films, as long as they don't try to profit from them. This has led to a wide range of fan films, ranging from the classic Hardware Wars to the more recent Troops. But they aren't all parodies. Shane Felux, who lives in northern Virginia, has a made a very popular SW film called Revelations that has gotten extensive distribution on the Internet. USA Today looks not only at Felux, but the entire fan film phenom.
- A Different Kind of Embedded Journalist - Milbloggers Give First Person Accounts of War
Among the more interesting blogs out there are those produced by soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. Some are written under assumed names, and the military seems to have some reservations about soldiers blogging, although they don't have specific rules on the topic. Here's a few to look at:
- Supreme Court Asked To Throw Out Cooper / Miller Contempt Order
Lawyers for Matt Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of the New York Times have filed appeals of their contempt charges with the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court will decide this spring whether to hear the cases in the fall. For more on Cooper / Miller case, follow this link.
Wednesday - May 11, 2005
Tuesday - May 10, 2005
Monday - May 9, 2005
(Hmmm... sounds like Ralph needs more caffeine today.)
Friday - May 6, 2005
Today's entry has two stories that deal with a ruling Friday on what levels of rules the FCC can impose on television and video recorder manufacturers to work at preventing viewers from moving recordings they make around on the Internet.
- Viewers Still Have Rights Dept. - FCC Can't Mandate Copy Protection on Digital Television
Lately, it seems that every time you turn around the FCC and congress have granted more and more control over media content to the media companies that distribute materials and give less and less control to consumers. For example, it is legal for you to make a backup copy of a DVD for personal use, but illegal for you to break the copy protection built into the disc. So it's a positive move for consumers that a U.S. appeals court ruled Friday that an FCC rule that would keep people from transmitting digital television files over the Internet was beyond its authority. (Washington Post)
- Court Bans FCC Broadcast Flag (c|net)
A somewhat more technical discussion of the "broadcast flag" that would indicate that a digital recording shouldn't be sent over the Internet. What is interesting is the diversity of interests here. Content providers want the restrictions on how consumers can use digital recordings of broadcast materials, but home electronics companies don't want the restrictions. (They want to sell consumers cool toys to use these recordings.) (c|net)
Thursday - May 5, 2005
- Graphic Novels Head Into the Classroom
Graphic novels, a fancy name for fancy comic books, are moving into the classroom to help teach reading, but not all teachers are happy about it. Some see comics as a good way of engaging students with reading materials they like, while others see them as a dumbing down of the curriculum. And some, I suspect, still see comics as something with a lingering evil quality. Of course, those who cast a jaundiced eye on graphic novels may have been looking at the more adult oriented titles, such as the magnificently complex League of Extraordinary Gentleman series, or the noirish Sin City. (BTW, don't confuse the Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel with absolutely horrid movie of the same name. The very R-rated comic is a wonderful send up of Victorian culture, mores and manners that could never survive a transition to the screen.) (USA Today) BTW - Saturday is Free Comic Book Day. Look for your local participating store.
Wednesday - May 4, 2005
- Ahoy, Matey Dept. - How the Music Industry Can Survive Piracy & File Sharing
USA Today's technology writer Kevin Maney looks at how the music business can survive -- even thrive -- with the rampant piracy of content in countries like China. In China, most CDs on the market are pirate editions, so the recorded music serves to promote the concerts and endorsement deals for musicians. Maney argues that in China there will never be income from recorded music. Think that this is just in China? Think that it's just the downloaders who are "stealing" from artists? Take a look at what former Byrds member Roger McGuinn has to say about the recording industry of the 60s and what he's doing today. (And though he isn't mentioned in this article, Bela Fleck follows the ideas discussed in the column. Fleck makes a good living touring, and he allows audience members to freely record his shows.)
It is clear that the music industry is simply not going to be able to save itself by prosecuting pirates and file swappers. Take a look at this article from the Times of India. It's essentially the same story in India as Maney found in China, except that the Times story looks at movies and books as well as CDs. (BTW, a pirate is someone who produces hard copies of copyrighted works that are sold for a profit; file swappers give away copies of media content for free.)
Rocker Bruce Springsteen's response to the file sharing crowd has been to release his latest album on the DualDiscs format that has a CD on one side and a DVD on the other. While Springsteen's new album will sell at the normal price, most discs in the new format are expected to sell for $1 to $3 more than a plain CD. The idea here is to give consumers a reason to buy the legitimate product rather than just download the songs. Giving consumers what they want -- what a concept!
Dan Stapleton, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, argues that file sharing is only hurting the major labels (if indeed it is actually hurting anyone). He says that he has discovered most of the alternative bands he likes through mp3 files legitimately posted to the Internet to promote themselves. He argues that the real influence of file sharing has been to move the power center of the music industry from the major labels to independents.
Tuesday - May 3, 2005
- Is There More Journalistic Misbehavior or Do We Just Know More About It?
The WP's Howard Kurtz takes a look at why their have been so many journalistic scandals as of late. Are journalists behaving that badly, or do we just know about every misbehavior because we read about it in Romenesko, the definitive blog of the news industry published? (What a concept - a dispassionate blog without an ax to grind ends up being the widest read and most influential!) The spread of media news through the Poynter-based blog even has a name - The Romenesko Effect. (Of course, Romenesko isn't all serious ethical issues - he also does the wonderful, tabloidy Obscure Store and Reading Room, and unfathomable Starbucks Gossip blog.) (Be careful around spellchecks.... My web editor tried briefly to have that be an "unfashionable Starbucks blog...)
- Errol Morris: "I Believe in Truth"
Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, director of The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War, talks in an audio essay about how he believes in truth and pursuit of truth. The issue of what is truth, and what forms truth can take, is a central element in my media ethics class, and I think that Morris does a good job of presenting a filmmaker's notion of the importance and existence of truth.
- Matt & Judy Watch - The New Yorker Looks at "The Matt and Judy Show"
The latest issue of The New Yorker takes a look at how Matt Cooper and Judith Miller got into the trouble they're in over Bob Novak's outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Monday - May 2, 2005
- NOTE: I've updated the Washington Post links on the sidebar to match recent changes to its web site. Unfortunately, they no longer have pages devoted to copyright and FCC news.
- Movies & Real Life Dept. - Crusades, 9/11 & the Movies
Director Ridley Scott has a big new movie coming out this month, Kingdom of Heaven. The basic story looks at the life of a knight in the years leading up to the Third Crusade in 1187. It has claim to some historical authenticity, though much of the reality in the film is debatable. It is certainly told with 21st century sensibilities. But there has been substantial debate over the film because it looks at a fight between Muslims and Christians, East and West, religious and secular society. Some charge that the movie will fuel anti-Muslim sentiment. Others say that it sanitizes the behavior of either the Muslims or the Christians. But the big dispute, the core issue, is that movie director Ridley Scott is presenting what many will accept as the definitive version of history rather than historians. (Washington Post)
This connects to what has been an on-going conflict - how true does "based on a true story" have to be? Let's face it, it's one thing to rewrite the reality of a millennium ago. But what about when you rewrite what's happened in the last 20 years? Think about Scott's own Black Hawk Down, or Wolfgang Petersen's The Perfect Storm. Both deal with real events that have been fictionalized to a lesser or greater extent. With The Perfect Storm, the filmmaker had no choice but to fictionalize the story as no one lived to tell what actually happened on the fishing boat Andrea Gale. And yet the story in the movie deals with real people who left behind real survivors.
- Maybe It's Because People Want Good Movies Dept. - Summer Movie Season Gets Started; Fans Flock to Hitchhiker, Ignore XXX
The movie industry was surprised, but we were not, that Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy did relatively well and ended up as #1 at the box office, while XXX: State of the Union opened very weakly. Could it be that a sequel to a meaningless action movie that couldn't even keep the original star really didn't need to be made? (USA Today) (Plus a link to the BBC radio and TV version.)