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Mass Communication: Living in a Media World
Watch for the second edition coming Summer 2007 from CQ Press!

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

Holiday Season, 2006

I'm not going to have regular updates for the next couple of weeks, but I will keep adding to this post with the wealth of Year in Review features that are everywhere right now. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years to you all!

Year In Review Part IV -

Year In Review Part III -

Year In Review Part II - Washington Post Edition

  • A Year in the Life of an Ombudsman
    Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell looks at her first year on the job as the paper's reader's representative.
  • Howard Kurtz - Have We Lost The "Ed Sullivan" Moments?
    OK, so I'm cheating. This item isn't really a year-in-review story, but it does look at a longtime trend - the loss of common experience through media.
  • Top 10 CDs of 2006
    Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac lists his "Jewel Case Treasures" for the year. How long will it be until critics give the top 10 downloads of the year? That said, I can't argue with the top two picks. And I must confess ignorance of all the rest other than the Bob Dylan album.

Year In Review Part I

  • Magazine Rack's Year In Review
    Larry Dobrow writes regularly about the magazine industry for Media Post. Among his important trends for 2006 are going to tighter niches and launching first on the web. (May require registration, but worth it!)
  • Ad Age's Top 10 Magazine Covers for 2006
    Among the best was the New Yorker's thoughtful Sept. 11 dual-cover and Annie Leibovitz's Vogue cover featuring Kirsten Dunst. (And we are surprised to see an Annie Leibovitz cover among the top 10? When, in the last two decades, has there not been at least one great Leibovitz cover?)
  • Hot Trend for Book? Scandal!
    A Million Little Pieces, How Opal Mehta...., If I Did It all showed that there actually was such a things as bad publicity.

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Wednesday - Dec. 20, 2006

Media Are Everywhere Dept. - News From The Top Of The World
Once upon a time, the big adventure was to take a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. That's actually one I'm still hoping for, BTW. But thanks to the wide window of the media, we are gradually (or maybe not so gradually) expanding our horizons as to what constitutes a normal place to go on vacation. Today, it seems as though everyone is going to Mt. Everest. There certainly is enough media content being generated there. Here are several recent examples:

  • Skiing The Seven Peaks
    Kit DesLauriers became the first person to ski down the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents. (Climbing the Seven Summits has become somewhat routine these days, but skiing back down is new....) Unlike many of the people who've attempted climbing the world's tallest peak, it would seem that DesLauriers is a highly experienced mountaineer who likely belonged on the mountain, but that's not the point here. DesLauriers had a professional photographer along to document the attempt, and project resulted in a cover story from Outside magazine, a podcast at Outside Online, a major story in the sports section of USA Today (complete with interactive maps), an NPR story, and most fascinating of all - through a series of web-based dispatches posted throughout the expedition. Don't get me wrong here - I think that expeditions such of this are incredible and well worth doing, especially by teams as well prepared as this one. But what I find fascinating is how a trip like this starts to appear achievable to others because of the stories available through the media. This is not a criticism of the media, by the way. This is an inevitable outcome of the stories being out there.
  • Climbing Everest As A Television Drama
    You certainly can't accuse the Discovery Channel of overly romanticizing climbing Everest. For the last several weeks, Discovery has been running a fascinating series about a well-run commercial expedition called Everest: Beyond the Limit. Other than some really cheesy voice overs, the series has told the story of one expedition in great depth and honesty. As I write this, I've yet to see the last episode, but some of the climbers are clearly having problems. What is amazing about this story is that in addition to the climbers whose story is told, all the camera people had to climb the mountain as well. The story is also told through miniature cameras mounted to the climbing gear of the local Sherpa guides. One of the guides who worked the trip told a reporter from that he felt the series did a good job of telling the expedition's story. Expedition leader Russell Brice gives a lot of very interesting backstory on the trip at his company's web site.
  • Into Thin Air, 10 Years Later
    As I discuss in my textbook, journalist's fascination with Everest really exploded with 1996's disastrous climbing season, which was documented in Jon Krakauer's article for Outside magazine, his book Into Thin Air, and the IMAX film Everest. Outside gives a worthwhile look at what we've learned about people, the media and Everest since 1996, including a look at a climber who died during the filming of Everest: Beyond the Limit.

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Monday - Dec. 18, 2006

Naughty Or Nice In The Media World

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Friday - Dec. 15, 2006

Nipples, and Curse Words, and C-SPAN, Oh My! Dept. - Broadcast Indecency Rules Update
C-SPAN is not generally the place you turn on the dial (if televisions still had dials) for profanity, nudity, and other forms of broadcast indecency. But those will be the topics of discussion on Wednesday, December 20, when the Washington, D.C. network of record airs the oral arguments by broadcasters against FCC indecency rules. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York approved the televising of the hearing. What makes this all the more interesting is the potential for the debate about indecency to be indecent.

As you all no doubt remember, all of the giant indecency fuss broke when Janet Jackson exposed her nipple during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Interestingly enough, since then, the Super Bowl halftime show has featured only male performers. This year the show will feature Prince, who once wore see-through pants on the MTV Video Music Awards. We've also had ABC stations scared to run a Veteran's Day showing of Saving Private Ryan and PBS stations bleeping a Frontline documentary about soldiers in Iraq. The FCC even investigated an NFL promo featuring a member of the cast of Desperate Housewives in which she pretends to get naked.

(The hearing C-SPAN is running does not deal with the Jackson case. They deal with Fox's live broadcasts of the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards and the bad words said on it by winners and presenters.)

(Media Post's TV Watch requires registration, but in return you can get the great Media Post online newsletters. Well worth the bother.)

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Wednesday - Dec. 13, 2006

Somebody's Gotta Pay The Bills Dept. - Advertising In The News

  • Obesity Scare Doesn't Stop Food Ads Targeted At Children
    Worries about childhood obesity haven't slowed the pace of food advertisements targeted at young people. In fact, sales of food ads are up at both Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. The nature of the ads and the formulations of the foods being sold have changed somewhat, however. (Mediaweek)
  • Media Life - A Great Source of Media Planning News
    I just found Media Life earlier this week while I was looking for news about something else. This a great publication with news about media planning. Probably a bit heavy for Intro to Mass Comm, but a great source for those of you teaching or studying media. I'll be adding it to the sidebar next time I update it.
  • Ad Networks & The Long Tail
    You all know about omnipresent Google ad words, but there is a whole area of online ad placement, known as advertising networks, that don't get as much attention. These companies take ads and place them on third party ad sites across the net and work at keeping the ads away from objectionable content. These are the companies that are bringing ad revenue to some of the web sites that are furthest out on the long tail. (Ad Age)

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Monday - Dec. 11, 2006

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

  • How Are Minorities Doing On Television These Days?
    The presence of minority characters on network television is getting better, but is still a long way from representing their presence in American society. The author notes that Grey's Anatomy, created and produced by a African-American woman Shonda Rhimes, has a diverse cast; and I would add Lost to the list as well. There are, however, virtually no leading American Indian roles in movies or television. (Washington Post)
  • Is Anyone Other Than The Spaniards Going To Feed The Fashion Models?
    The fashion industry is still wrestling with how thin models ought to be. At the Madrid fashion show this year they required that models have a minimum BMI, but the fashion industry is paying more attention now that designers in Milan are starting to worry about anorexic models. Interesting story from Robin Givhan of the Washington Post.

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Friday - Dec. 8, 2006

Everything From The Margin Moves To The Center Dept. - Knickers In The News
For the last week or so, underwear, or the lack thereof, has been the big
story, and it's a prime example of the concept of tabloid laundering.

For those of you who have spent the last week reading the Iraq Study Group report, bad girl of the moment Britney Spears has been showing off her C-section scar (and everything surrounding it) to paparazzi by getting out of cars wearing short skirts an no knickers. (No, I'm not giving you a link to the photos.)

The photos, of course showed up first on the web sites devoted to celeb flashing and in the tabloids. But the story, if not the photos, have all migrated into the mainstream press, which loves the excuse to talk about a poptart's privates. And so we see stories from ABC News and Fox News (which if it were really interested in moral purity could have chosen not to run the story...). Even the New York Times ran a bylined story. So is partying without panties going to be the next big trend story? Probably. USA Today ran one on when it's appropriate to "go commando." And the Toronto Star from our friends up in Canada gave the trend story a political twist by noting that Margaret Trudeau, the wife of Canada's former prime minister, did the flash-the-nether-regions thing at Studio 54 back in 1977.

BTW, Britney (and Paris and Lindsay and...) is not the only underwear story this week. The environmental group ForestEthics has persuaded lingerie marketer Victoria's Secret to start using recycled paper in their catalogs. The group had campaigned for the change using a variety of tactics, including the parody web site Victoria's Dirty Secret that featured models in underwear carrying chainsaws. A brilliant bit of PR.

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Wednesday - Dec. 6, 2006

Lessons Learned This Holiday Season

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Tuesday - Dec. 5, 2006

Christmas Music You Probably Haven't Heard At The Mall
So the Christmas/Holiday/Hanukah/Kwanza season is upon us. We've had to hear about the War on Christmas (WOC), which is apparently about stores not sufficiently commercializing a religious holiday. We've had to hear the main critic of the WOC slip up and talk about his "holiday web page." And we've had to endure every bit of bad Christmas and holiday music imaginable since the Monday before Thanksgiving.

But I am here today to recommend a bit of Christmas music you likely haven't head over and over again. The links will take you to places where you can find these CDs if you are so interested. Merry Christmas one and all!

  • John Adams - El Niño
    El Niño is a modern Christmas oratorio by composer John Adams, best known for his opera Nixon in China. It covers much of the same territory as the Christmas portion of Handel's Messiah, and while it has its roots in the minimalist style, it is also very lyrical and listenable. BTW, if you were as disappointed in the new movie The Nativity as I was, jump to the section of El Niño where Mary explains to Joseph how she came to be pregnant, and just what Joseph's reaction was. (Actually, that scene in the movie worked relatively well. It was the second half, after M&J leave for Bethlehem that the movie turned weak....)
  • The Roches - We Three Kings
    Maggie, Terri and Suzy's one-of-a-kind Christmas album withe Brooklyn-style Frosty the Snowman and an a capella Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light. Beautiful Christmas music with no sense of irony, and fun holiday songs with tons of it.
  • Robin & Linda Williams - The First Christmas Gift
    If you saw the Prairie Home Companion movie, you saw a lot of this great old-time-music duo. Any Christmas album that has "Shotgun Shells on a Christmas Tree" has to be a winner. My wife and I saw them perform many of these songs on Mountain Stage last year, and it was magical.

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Friday - Dec. 1, 2006

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

  • Is Al Jazeera English Finding Its Niche?
    Al Jazeera launched its English-language service last month, but it's having trouble finding any US cable or satellite services willing to carry it. So for the time being it's being seen by Americans primarily on broadband. TVNewser reports that Al Jazeera English's coverage of the funeral for the assassinated Lebanese opposition leader this week showed what the network can do. Seems to me that instead of running away from Al Jazeera, Americans ought to be taking a look to see how a big part of the world looks at us.
  • And Just Who Is That "Senior Administration Official"?
    Why, it's White House press secretary Tony Snow! Want to see the power that official sources have over reporters? Read these two transcripts from Wonkette that show Snow going from press secretary to senior administration official. And the reporters all just play along. Sigh. (BTW, this is a blast at the press for playing along, not at Tony Snow for getting away with it.)
  • Is Jon Stewart Channeling Howard Beale?
    Lots of talk about what makes Jon Stewart so popular. Could it be, as Dan Froomkin suggests, that Stewart's great virtue is that he is willing to speak out when politicians start spewing "bulls#@%." Are any of you old enough to remember the great scene in Network when crazed anchor Howard Beale proclaims on the nightly news:

    "Good evening. Today is September 24 and this is my last broadcast. Yesterday I announced that I was going to commit public suicide, admittedly an act of madness. Well, I’ll tell you what happened...I just ran out of bullsh@t. Bullsh@t is all the reasons we give for living. And if we can’t think of any reasons of our own, we always have the god of bullsh@t. Well if there’s anyone out there who can look around this demented slaughterhouse of a world we live in and tell me Man is a noble creature, believe me that man is full of I don’t have any bullsh@t left. I just ran out of it you see."

    (Thanks to Patrick at FishbowlDC for the link.)

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