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Mass Communication: Living in a Media World, a new text for Introduction to Mass Communication classes.

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

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

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.


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

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:

It’s 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

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

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.

Thursday - May 5, 2005

Wednesday - May 4, 2005

Tuesday - May 3, 2005

Monday - May 2, 2005