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

Looking for Student Blogs

It's fall, and once again I'm looking for links to blogs being written by student journalists. If you have one, or know someone who does, drop me a note!

Dr. H

Friday - Sept. 29, 2006

Media News Round Up
Facbook privacy, Kerry and the media, and the little robot that could.

Thursday - Sept. 28, 2006

Everything Popular Is Wrong Dept: Who's Consuming What?
Oscar Wilde was fond of disparaging popularity even as he desperately sought it. I wonder what he would have made of this round-up of popularity news?

Wednesday - Sept. 27, 2006

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

Friday - Sept. 22, 2006

Trends in Media
While I haven't talked about it much here, in my Intro to Mass Comm lectures, I talk about a number of "truths" or long-term trends in the media. I noticed today as I was researching my blog, some prime examples of two of them: "There are no mainstream media" and "Everything from the margin moves to the center."

Tuesday - Sept. 19, 2006

  • To Boldly Split Infinitives Dept. - Star Trek Turns 40
    With every thing else going on, Star Trek's 40th birthday slipped by without mention by me. Few creations have had such a lasting effect in our media world. There were the three short seasons of the original series; seven seasons of Next Generation, seven seasons of Deep Space Nine, seven seasons of Voyager, and a couple of seasons of the ill-conceived prequel series Enterprise.

    I will confess that I've probably spent more time watching Star Trek in one form or another over the years than any other television franchise. I will even confess to not only having been to a Star Trek convention as a teenager, but to having created the program book for one. I also have spent two absolutely delightful evenings in the company of actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original series. The series (and the accompanying movies) presented a generally optimistic view of the future where humankind survived World War III and transcended our very real differences. Star Trek was the show that would have existential debates on the meaning of being human. The main link here is to an appreciation of the franchise by On The Media's Brooke Gladstone, a self-described Trekker. (Trekkie is hopelessly patronizing.)

    As a side note, I have mixed feelings about the announcement that Paramount is redoing the special effects of the original series for a re-release into syndication. I finally bought the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD because George Lucas at last saw fit to release the 70s/80s versions as bonus disks with the Special Editions. (Here's my problem with the SEs.)

    UPDATE: I was just sent a link by one of my editors to a site that has fan-generated Star Trek episodes.

    Link Me

Monday - Sept. 18, 2006

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

Friday - Sept. 15, 2006

Follow-Up On Starbucks and Plamegate
Here's the latest update on a couple of stories we've been following here. Personally, I'm starting to like the Starbucks one better....

Wednesday - Sept. 13, 2006

How Far Does Our Tolerance Of Free Expression Go?
We all know that the First Amendment is supposed to protect us from the government putting limits on our freedom of expression. But that doesn't mean that our land is free of attempts to limit speech at a variety of levels. Here are a few examples taken from recent entries at the delightfully whacky Obscure Store & Reading Room:

Tuesday - Sept. 12, 2006

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe) - Sex and Lies Dept.

Monday - Sept. 11, 2006

Stories of Remembrance - Sept. 11, Five Years After
Put aside your politics and the divisiveness that has split our country for a day and remember those who died, those who loved them, and those who told us their stories.

  • StoryCorps Collects the Stories of Families of the Victims
    StoryCorps is trying to record at least one remembrance from every family who lost someone in the Sept. 11th attacks. This link is to the story of Monique Ferrer, whose ex-husband worked on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower. Along with Ms. Ferrer's story, there are two others included on the page.

    StoryCorps is a Library of Congress project that is travelling around the country collecting stories of real life from ordinary Americans. All of the oral histories they record will be stored in the Library of Congress archives. Select stories from the project are broadcast weekly on National Public Radio. Eventually, all of the Sept. 11 stories will also be archived at the World Trade Center memorial.
  • The Photojournalism of Sept. 11
    The images of Sept. 11th are stark and impossible to forget. There are the giant, unimaginable images of the planes hitting buildings, buildings collapsing, a field in Pennsylvania, the Pentagon. And then there are the most personal of photos. Richard Drew's desperate image of Norberto Hernandez falling, Thomas Franklin's inspiring image of firefighters raising the flag, or a baby being fed in Brooklyn following the attacks. An analysis of the photos of Sept. 11th from NPR's Day to Day.
  • Music for Remembering Sept. 11 - John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls
    Contemporary composer John Adams won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for On the Transmigration of Souls, his haunting combination of voice, ambient sound and music that remembers the victims of Sept. 11. In an interview posted at the New York Philharmonic web site, he discusses the ability music has to capture our feelings about the unfathomable:

    Modern people have learned all too well how to keep our emotions in check, and we know how to mask them with humor or irony. Music has a singular capacity to unlock those controls and bring us face to face with our raw, uncensored, and unattenuated feelings. That is why during times when we are grieving or in need of being in touch with the core of our beings we seek out those pieces which speak to us with that sense of gravitas and serenity.

    Link Me

Friday - Sept. 8, 2006

  • Is It Possible To Know Too Much About Our Facebook Friends?
    So it would seem. There has been a large-scale backlash against the college-and-university social networking site Facebook. The controversy surrounded a new feature on Facebook known as News Feed, which tells all your "friends" on Facebook everything you've done on the site. Who you've commented on, who you've broken up with, who you've added as a friend. Why so controversial? Because initially there was no way to block this information from going out. Everyone knew everything you did on the site whether you liked it or not. This quickly gave rise to protests (reported on in this link) that was accomplished through (roll the irony) Facebook groups! As I write this, there is a message up on Facebook with a full apology from founder Mark Zuckerberg admitting that the site messed up. Supposedly there are now full controls on Facebook to control what information goes out. We will see. (While I discovered the updated controls when I logged on to Facebook today, my Google News search shows that, unsurprisingly, the most up-to-date news on this story is coming from student newspapers. Here's a shout out to the Central Michigan and Case Western papers.)

    BTW, if you have a Facebook account, you can join the Living in a Media World group!

    Here's the full text of Zuckerberg's message to subscribers:

    An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg:

    We really messed this one up. When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I'd like to try to correct those errors now.

    When I made Facebook two years ago my goal was to help people understand what was going on in their world a little better. I wanted to create an environment where people could share whatever information they wanted, but also have control over whom they shared that information with. I think a lot of the success we've seen is because of these basic principles.

    We made the site so that all of our members are a part of smaller networks like schools, companies or regions, so you can only see the profiles of people who are in your networks and your friends. We did this to make sure you could share information with the people you care about. This is the same reason we have built extensive privacy settings – to give you even more control over who you share your information with.

    Somehow we missed this point with Feed and we didn't build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I'm sorry for it. But apologizing isn't enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends' News Feeds, and it also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other person know about. If you have more comments, please send them over.

    This may sound silly, but I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested. Even though I wish I hadn't made so many of you angry, I am glad we got to hear you. And I am also glad that News Feed highlighted all these groups so people could find them and share their opinions with each other as well.

    About a week ago I created a group called Free Flow of Information on the Internet, because that's what I believe in – helping people share information with the people they want to share it with. I'd encourage you to check it out to learn more about what guides those of us who make Facebook. Tomorrow at 4pm est, I will be in that group with a bunch of people from Facebook, and we would love to discuss all of this with you. It would be great to see you there.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this,


    Link Me

Thursday - Sept. 7, 2006

Media Business News Roundup
No witty, fun items today. Just lots of news about giants of our media world from USA Today.

  • Universal Music Group Makes Top Bid for BMG
    BMG is, of course, Bertelsmann Music Group. UMG has offered 1.6 billion Euros, or $2.1 billion. If the deal goes through UMG would become the world's largest music publisher. (USA Today)
  • CBS Using TiVo To Promote New Shows
    TiVo subscribers will be able to watch the pilot of the new CBS sitcom a week before it's shown on regular broadcast television. CBS is taking a stab at embracing new technology rather than pretending it doesn't exist. To me the big question with all of these new distribution channels is, "What happens to affiliates?"
  • MySpace Goes After Long Tail
    Fox's MySpace is starting to offer unsigned bands a way to sell their music as unprotected MP3 files. MySpace is trying to take on iTunes with the lowest end of the commercial pool - bands that don't have any other way to sell their music to young people. These are the bands that inhabit the long tail of the music market - i.e. the very many bands that sell a very few songs. (BTW, if you haven't read Chris Anderson's book on media economics - The Long Tail, you need to do so now!)
  • Viacom Gets New CEO
    Cable programming pioneer Tom Freston has been pushed out as the CEO of media giant Viacom to be replaced by Philppe Dauman. Viacom has gone through extensive changes in the last year, with the biggest of it being split back into two separate companies: Viacom and CBS. As of Wednesday night, the stock market was not impressed. The change in management comes a couple of weeks after Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone announced that Paramount Studios (owned by Viacom) was severing its production deal with Tom Cruise. While much has been made of the Hollywood politics of the deal, there is at least one argument to be made that declining growth in the DVD market is making studios a little more cautious in their deals with stars.

    Link Me

Wednesday - Sept. 6, 2006

  • The Voice Behind the Face - The Most Famous Performers You've Never Seen
    We all know that voice actors like Mel Blanc and Billy West do the voices on 'toons. And major animated films like The Incredibles or Monster House tend to attract top-name talent to do the voices. But when the voices don't belong to the performer on stage, we don't always pay a lot of attention to the person whose voice is getting used. It's easy to forget that in Star Wars' initial release James Earl Jones wasn't credited with the voice of Darth Vader!

    The point of all this? There are two new books out by famous voices you don't know.

    The first is Marni Nixon's I Could Have Sung All Night. Nixon dubbed the signing (ala Singing in the Rain) for Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

    But the one that is actually the most interesting to me is Kevin Clash's My Life As A Furry Red Monster. Clash is the puppeteer who has been performing as Sesame Street's perpetual three-year-old Elmo for the last 20 years. (He is also, in case you were wondering, six feet tall and African American.)

    These two stories from NPR on Tuesday are fascinating to me because they illustrate how clearly television, the movies (and the recording industry, as far as that goes) create illusions for us. Now we know that a furry red monster is not real, but we do buy Elmo as a three-and-a-half-year-old. And we believed for many years that Deborah Kerr could sing. (Kerr actually outed herself by giving Nixon credit for the singing in King.) But whether it is a cartoon, a puppet show, a musical, or even just a simple movie, our media entertainment is an illusion, not real. Shadows flickering against the wall of our cave.

    Link Me

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