October 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
Wednesday - October 26, 2005
- It's Just Like TiVo, Except Not Nearly As Good Dept. - Time Warner Cable Offers Start Over Service
Time Warner Cable, working together with NBC Universal, is offering its customers a service called "Start Over." Part of TW's digital cable package, it allows viewers who join a show already in progress to rewind back to the beginning and start it over. USA Today notes that viewers can pause or rewind the program, but they can't fastforward through commercials. In short, it's a dumbed-down TiVo-like service that you don't have to program in advance. I find it fascinating how media giants will keep fighting to maintain the status quo of advertising supported content where consumers are "required" to watch the commercials.
- Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)
Monday - October 24, 2005
- Questions Worth Asking On A Monday Night
Friday - October 21, 2005
- Judy, Judy, Judy Dept. - Judith Miller's Sunday NYT Article
Judy Miller gave her long-awaited account of her testimony before the Plame grand jury in Sunday's Times. Not everyone was impressed with her explanation of why she went to jail, and why she finally gave in and testified. Here's a round-up of articles that have run on the topic over the last week. Sorry there isn't more commentary to along with the links.
Wednesday - October 19, 2005
- Covering Complicated Conflicts - Can the Press Handle Evolution v. Intelligent Design?
Journalists oftentimes have trouble covering complex scientific issues because the model of balanced reporting doesn't always fit when it comes to talking about scientific issues. For example, how do you cover an issue where there is clearly a right and a wrong answer? Or how do you handle an issue where there is much more evidence on one side than on the other. Does presenting them as equal serve your audience?
This becomes especially problematic when the science is politically charged, with issues such as global warming, stem cell research, and the impact of pollution.
Then there's the whole issue of reporters having slept through science class, and so they don't really understand the issues being raised and claimed.
So it's not surprising that journalists have trouble covering the issue of teaching evolution in the science class. How does a journalist deal with the charge that evolution is "just a theory" when the reporter doesn't have a clear idea of what constitutes a scientific theory. Or how does a journalist deal with charges that science is a religion? (Especially if the reporter slept through philosophy class.)
The linked article here is the cover story from a recent issue of Columbia Journalism Review on why journalists have trouble covering the debate over the teaching of evolution and intelligent design. To go with this, I give you as examples several stories that have run recently in the mainstream press on the issue.
Just to be clear, I'm treating evolution as an issue in the realm of science (with all of the rules that go with it); and intelligent design/creationism as a topic in religion/philosophy (with all of the different rules that go with it). If you were to ask me, the huge problem is that journalists can't distinguish between the two perfectly legitimate different fields.
Monday - October 17, 2005
Major Judy Miller Update Coming Tuesday
But you'll have to deal with a mundane iPod followup today that I wrote on Friday...
- Not Everyone Loves iPod Video
Slate's Jack Shafer explains why he is so annoyed at the way the press rolls over to have its tummy scratched every time Apple rolls out a new iPod device. He notes that on launch day all the usual suspects lionized Apple for what he says is an aggressively mediocre video player. Even a confirmed Apple fan has to find some measure of agreement to what he says. But I think he largely misses the point. iPods are not a big deal because they are great hardware; though as music players go, I think they are fantastic. No, what makes the iPod video such a big deal is that it provides a whole infrastructure for delivering the kinds of programming people want to watch (or listen to). I also find it interesting that Shafer's column is available as an audio podcast from Slate.
Friday - October 14, 2005
- The Earthquake In Slow Motion Continues
Journalist Ken Auletta, writing in his book Three Blind Mice wrote that the television networks were facing an earthquake in slow motion in the late 1980s. There was the rise of cable, the growth of VCRs, the growth of new broadcast networks, and audience members who started to think that they ought to be able to control what they watched and when they watched it.
That earthquake continue rattling on through the 90s and Y2Ks with the growth of digital cable, satellite television, and the digital video recorder.
And then on Wednesday, Oct. 12, Apple set off what may turn out to be one of the biggest tremors in this ongoing quake. Apple announced a new version of the iPod music player that would now handle video files as well as music. All well and good, you say. We've had cool digital video players before. But the big news was that Apple was partnering with Disney to sell ABC's top rated television shows through the iTunes music store. These programs, including Lost and Desperate Housewives, will be available the day after they air on the network and will cost $1.95. They will come without commercials. So, for $1.95 you can download a legal copy of your favorite show to watch on either your computer or your iPod.
What makes this so revolutionary is that it is changing the entire economic framework for television programming. Instead of selling audiences to advertisers, Apple is selling programs to consumers, who will pay directly for the programming.
As I told my freshmen in class this morning, all mass media have both a hardware and a software component. There's been cool video hardware before (though you would be hard pressed to find anything cooler than an iPod). But there has not been a truly revolutionary new source of programming for these devices that can be used by ordinary people. The fact that Disney is willing to sell their top television titles the day after they air on broadcast in a form that you can keep and replay as often as you want is truly a major change in the media world.
Mark my words, Oct. 12, 2005, was a big day.
- Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)
Wednesday - October 12, 2005
- Plame Game Dept. - More Theories Than You Can Shake a Stick At
Fishbowl DC new guy Patrick Gavin continues to prove that he deserves his spot at what is for me the best (if not most comprehensive) media news blog out there.
Today's entry lays out every conspiracy theory relating the entire Plame case, comparing the whole story to an episode of Lost. In it, he looks at why prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has gone after journalists so hard, speculates on who his targets actually are, what Judith Miller might have done wrong, why she stayed in jail so long, what Karl Rove's involvement has been,
who buried Jimmy Hoffa, and what major media critics are saying. Any of you who thinks Miller testifying before the grand jury was the closing act of this political opera is confused. It is at best at the close of the second act (of a three or four act show).
Required reading for anyone who has been following this story from the beginning.
- Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)
- Is Laura Bush Part of the Liberal Media?
I'm always suspicious of charges that the media is biased in favor of liberals/conservatives. I'm generally convinced that those making the charges are not really interested in the truth of the charges, they just want to score points. Which is why I was stunned this morning to read that First Lady Laura Bush is "using liberal talking points" to criticize conservatives who dislike Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. Laura Bush... liberal talking points... I'm having trouble here....
Monday - October 10, 2005
- Playn' The Plame Game
A round-up of items on the Plame/Miller/Novak/Libbey/Rove(?!) story. Thanks to FishbowlDC and Wonkette for many of the links.
- Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)
Friday - October 7, 2005
Wednesday - October 5, 2005
- Product Placement Becomes Plot Placement
It used to be enough for brand name products to be sitting around in the background of television shows. In a practice known as product placement, sponsors pay to have their products featured in movies, television shows, magazines (and more magazines), rap songs, and even video games.
But in an era where consumers are avoiding commercials through channel surfing, VCRs and DVRs, advertisers are looking for stronger ways to get their messages across during programs.
And this 'something stronger' is plot placement - where the product becomes central to the plot, not just incidental. (This can also be referred to as branded entertainment or brand integration.) As an example of traditional product placement, check out how someone in House generally will use an iPod sometime during an episode. But NBC's The Office goes much further, with a character raving about how his butt looks in a new pair of Levi jeans.
According to this great in-depth look at the topic from the NY Times, Mark Burnett financed most of the start-up costs of Survivor through product placement. And during the 2004-2005 television season, there were more than 100,000 product placements on the six English-language broadcast network. Advertisers generally pay a fee for placing the product in the show, as well as buying traditional ads to go with the program. Though in some cases, the product is truly needed by the story line, and no money changes hand.
Tuesday - October 4, 2005
Monday - October 3, 2005