Living in a Media World 2E

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Tuesday - June 8, 2010

On Hiatus - But Big Improvements Coming Soon

Hi, everyone. The Living in a Media World blog is going to be on hiatus until early July, at which point it will be re-launched as a Word Press blog at this site. My Twitter feed will stay active during this time, so start following me there if you want up-to-date media news.


Friday - June 4, 2010

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)


Wednesday - May 26, 2010

"See you in another life, brother..."

LostABC's LOST came to a beautiful close Sunday night.

I really had hoped to put up a profound essay today about my reaction to the series and the finale. But I find myself overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by how much has been written about the show, overwhelmed by how much I would have to write to do any justice to the show, and overwhelmed by what I have to do before I can go to World Superbike races....

So let me just leave you with a couple of thoughts of what LOST was all about.

When we were first introduced to Desmond in Season 2, he uttered what was to become his signature line - "See you in another life, brother..." This line would be repeated by Desmond and (to a lesser extent) Jack throughout the series. And as we all now know, LOST ends with Desmond meeting up with all the regulars of the series .... in another life. It's not that they all died in the plane crash. The show's creators have always maintained that the events that took place on the island were really happening to the characters. They were not dead, they were not in purgatory. They were alive. So the series is all about the characters' journey through life and what they are able to learn before they die.

Second, the show is about the redeeming power of love. If we go back to Desmond, we know that one of the major themes of the show was his enduring love for Penny Widmore and his desire to return to her. Penny is, of course, short for Penelope. And Penelope was the ever-constant wife of Odysseus, holding of the suitors and waiting for her long-traveling husband to return. As the show progresses, we see Desmond saved repeatedly and in many different ways by Penny's love. We see the love theme emerge again and again; many of the characters cannot die until they have solved their issues with love. And the show ends with Jack getting the only thing he ever really wanted -- the love of his father.

I'm in the process of re-watching the series with my mum-in-law, we're somewhere near the beginning of Season 3 right now. I may have something more on this when I finish the re-watch. In the mean time, here are links to a lot of great articles and chats on the finale of the most interesting an innovative (and downright strange!) television show in years.

  • Jorge Garcia (Hugo) writing for Variety on what lost has meant to him.
  • "It could have been worse" - LA Times critic is meh on the finale.
  • Washington Post's LOST Central - An exhaustive list of all things island from the WP.
  • Snarky but funny look at the fate of LOST characters from Heather Havrilesky at Salon
  • USA Today's take on the LOST finale
  • What the ending meant
    The WP bloggers give a really good, clear explanation that matches perfectly my take on the finale. As does Kristin Dos Santos at E Online. The WP bloggers follow up with this second day analysis of the finale.
  • Was LOST a retelling of Watership Down?
    In part? Almost certainly. Lots and lots of explicit literary references came up through the series. Another one that has to be attended to heavily is Stephen King's The Stand. Damon and Carlton, the show's head writers, have mentioned this on many occasions.
  • LA Times blogger on favorite and least favorite episodes.
  • With fewer viewers than an episode of NCIS, was LOST finale really an event?
    Well, it certainly generated a lot of intensity from viewers, an enormous amount of media attention, and got people who have never watched the show talking. Is the importance of a TV show measured solely, or even primarily, by it's audience size? I say no. Take a look back at Ridley Scott's absolutely brilliant movie Blade Runner. Never a big commercial success, it completely changed how we view a noir future in science fiction films.
  • Do the closing crash images seen in the US at the end mean anything?
    Nope. Just a bridge between the show and the news.
    Lost finale
  • Jimmy Kimmel's supposed alternate LOST endings
    My original viewing of these was frustrated by the continual interruptions of the broadcast by thunderstorm warnings.


Tuesday - May 25, 2010

Friday - May 21, 2010

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

  • Is There Any Defense of Photoshopping Legislators Out of a Newspaper Photo?
    The National Press Photographers Association sure doesn't think so.

    As you may remember, Geri Ferrara, editor of the Morgantown, WV, newspaper the Dominion Post had a staffer remove three legislators from a photo the state's governor signing a bill because of "the newspaper's policy not to publish pictures of candidates running for re-election during the political season." She further defended the editing by noting that the photo was labeled as a "photo illustration."

    NPPA ethics chair John Long writes in his response to Ferrara:

    "All journalism is based on credibility.... Credibility comes from being honest with our readers and viewers and bringing the accurate information every day in everything we print or broadcast. Every story, every news photography must be accurate. Changing the content of a news photograph creates a visual lie and lying to the public destroys the credibility of every honest journalist and photojournalist in the country."

    And to top it all off, the photo editing was completely unnecessary, even if you accept Ferrara's argument. Why? Because the legislative photographer who shot the initial image also took a photo without the legislators in it that he would have supplied to the paper if the editor had asked for it. (Charles Apple has some great other examples of inappropriate photoshopping.) It's also interesting how this story spread across the Internet using social media. (I learned about through a Facebook post.) Also interesting that the story has traveled as far as Denmark!
  • Is there Nowhere on Earth You Can Escape Twitter?
    Nope. We've been talking about news breaking from climbers on Mt. Everest via Internet based posts since the disastrous climbing season of 1996 documented in the magazine article and book Into Thin Air and the IMAX film Everest. But this year I've been able to follow a climbing team via Twitter. Media are everywhere....
  • Does Claiming to Have a Free Press Mean You Actually Have One?
    Probably not.... A Slovakian artist is being sued by the country's prime minister who didn't like how he was portrayed in a cartoon.
  • What can you do with Mobile Media-Based Magazines?
    Here's what a Sports Illustrated prototype for tablet devices looks like.

  • What's Up With the New Google TV?
    I'm not sure I'm completely clear on what this is, but it looks like it might be really cool.


Wednesday - May 18, 2010

Taking Legislators Out Of Photos

Bill Signing OriginalIt's inconvenient when there are people in a photograph that you wish weren't in it. In the past, when there was an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend /husband/wife to be removed from family photos, you just broke out the scissors and cut them out. And if that left a ragged hole in the photo, that was just fine.

Today, you don't need something as crude as a pair of scissors - just dump the picture into a program like Photoshop and clip them out. No harm, no foul.

Unless you're a newspaper or other serious news organization. Then your digital editing is supposed to be limited to taking out stray dust spots, adjusting the contrast or color balance, or doing a bit of cropping.

Photoshopped photoWest Virginia legislative photographer Martin Valent ran into this when he saw a heavily Photoshopped version of a photo he had taken published in the Morgantown, WV, Dominion Post. He had taken a photo of Gov. Joe Manchin signing a bill known as "Erin's Law" designed to protect victims of hit and run accidents. The governor was flanked by the three Democratic legislators sponsoring the bill and two members of Erin's family. (Erin was a victim of a hit-and-run accident.)

I initially found out about the story through an excellent West Virginia political blog called Lincoln Walks At Midnight run by AP statehouse correspondent Lawrence Messina, but a day or two later he had taken it down. When I asked him why, Lawrence declined to comment.

The story is now spreading through an excellent article posted on West Virginia Public Broadcasting's news site.

Photographer Martin Valent is a former student of mine, and I spoke with him earlier this week about the case. He said, "I don't know what the Dominion Post was thinking or who authorized it. This was a proper photo and press release from the state legislature. I really don't know what happened."

Valent doesn't buy the Dominion Post's explanation that the photo was a "photo illustration," arguing that it was obviously intended to look like a photo, not a computer modified illustration.

Real photo w/o legislatorsThe "official story" from the Dominion Post, according to the WV Pubcast web site, is that the editor requested that the candidates be removed from the photo because the newspaper has a policy against running pictures of candidates running for re-election during the campaign season.

Oddly enough, had the Dominion Post done its homework, it could have run a photo with no change. "The funniest thing is that I had the exact picture they needed," Valent said. "They could have asked for it. They could have called me directly for a photo with just the governor and the two ladies."


Monday - May 17, 2010

A Changing Media World
Sorry for the lack of updates over the last couple of weeks. It's been the end of the semester, and I've been finishing up the testbank for the 3rd edition of Living in a Media World.

As I was working on writing a new essay question for the global media chapter, it occurred to me that this one question summed up pretty much everything there was to say about the changes taking place in the media world right now. So students, if you are taking an intro to mass comm/media literacy class this summer or fall, pay attention!

In January, I wrote:

In 2008, when terrorists attacked Mumbai, the heart of India's film industry, the news flowed out of the country over Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, and other social media, and then out to the Western world via legacy media. We saw the same pattern repeat itself with text messages and cell phone video during the Iranian election protests during the summer of 2009.

Indian social media expert Gaurav Mishra writes that news coverage of the Mumbai attacks was a story not about old vs. new media but rather about them working well together. “[T]he story is that many people, thousands of people, came together and tried to make sense of what was happening, using a new service like Twitter, and new media and mainstream media complemented each other in covering this story.”

News breaking via Twitter and other social media has now become the standard, not the exception. (Remember Truth Three—Everything from the margin moves to the center?)

Writing in his social media blog, Mishra says: "Let’s get used to it. From this moment onwards, every accident worth reporting, anywhere in the world, will be reported first, via SMA (text message), by a bystander who has a mobile phone. In most cases, the first photos or videos of the accident will be taken by a bystander who has a camera phone. If the accident occurs in a developed country, or a metro city in a developing country, the SMS will be sent to a microblogging service like Twitter and the photos and videos will be uploaded to photo- and video-sharing services like Flickr and YouTube. From this moment onwards, we will do well to expect it to happen, and reserve our surprise for the cases where it doesn’t happen."

In the testbank, I ask students to explain Mishra's point that SMS and social media will be people's major source of breaking news and then ask them to provide a concrete example of it.

Mishra is arguing that through the use of mobile phone photos and video, and with mobile access to social media, news will first move out via observers at the scene of an event. This will be especially true in areas with a limited number of legacy media reporters. He uses the terror attacks in Mumbai, India, as an example – looking at how photos of the attacks were uploaded to the photo sharing service Flickr and were then publicized using social media such as Twitter. These tools give ordinary people and non-media-affiliated journalists a global network through which they can reach individuals and reporters from legacy media around the world.

In addition to being a global media chapter question, this would be a good comprehensive exam question. The vignette for the introductory chapter, for example, starts off with how news about Michael Jackson’s death spread through social media, and the section on the long tail of Internet news from Chapter 10 discusses how the news about the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan spread out of Iran to the rest of the world via SMS messages and mobile phone video.

As I look at what topics I'm expecting to blog about in the coming year, mobile phone-based media has to be at the top.

Video Interview with Mishra from 2008


Tuesday - May 11, 2010

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

And finally - Lena Horne Remembered...
Horne insisted she never play a maid in her movie contacts.


Friday - April 30, 2010

Tweeting the Media News
Media news I found this week on Twitter


Wednesday - April 28, 2010

F*** Like a Beast: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's First Brush With National News

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has been in the national news for the last couple of weeks for signing the state's controversial new immigration bill into law.

But this is not Brewer's first foray onto the national stage - that event took place 20 years ago this spring when she shared the spotlight with Donny Osmond and alternative newspaper New Times. Here's the story about Brewers first brush with fame, based on research I did back in 1990 when I lived in Arizona:

In the spring of 1990, then Arizona state senator Jan Brewer proposed a bill that would require the labeling of record albums that portrayed sexual content in a violent context, violence, Satanism, murder, morbid violence, or the use of illegal drugs. It would also have made it crime to sell these offensive albums to minors.

The music reviewer for the Phoenix-area alternative newspaper New Times taped a series of interviews with the senator while pretending to be from the Mesa Tribune, a local conservative daily.

With the material from the taped interviews, the music critic constructed a rap tape based on the group W.A.S.P.'s song "F*** Like a Beast" using Senator Brewer's voice. He then played this tape over a sound system at noon at the state Capitol. For several weeks, stories about the conflict continued to surface across Arizona and national media. The fuss finally died when Brewer withdrew her bill from consideration.

It all started on a quiet Tuesday in February. The latest issue of New Times was dated 2/21/90, a Wednesday, but it hit the street on Tuesday night.

It was not pretty.

The cover boy was rock critic David Koen; he had his worried face all scrunched up with his hands over his ears. The bright red headline underneath the photo read:

Oy vey, what if my bubby knew?

Brewer, a state senator from Glendale, had put forward a bill to forbid the sale of records with inappropriate lyrics to children under age 18. Claiming that Brewer would never talk to a New Times reporter, Koen impersonated Mesa Tribune columnist Doug MacEachern and got Brewer to talk rather candidly on tape about the albums and lyrics she found offensive.

The story was written in the form of a memo from Koen to his editor, describing how he was "shocked" by what Brewer had to say about offensive albums and lyrics:

But when I had to listen to Jan Brewer talk dirty to me, as she did on the phone this morning, I had to rethink my whole career as a journalist. Do you know what that woman said?

Would you believe, 'F***ing is what we're concerned about'? The woman said that to me! What a foul mouth!

But she didn't stop there! She told me she'd just eaten a banana. Then she was telling me about some of the songs she thought were offensive. She told me one of them was 'F*** like a Beast'! I heard those words from her very lips!...

She told me she was only quoting song lyrics she objects to, but I didn't believe it. I think this woman likes the stuff! I mean, did she have to mention the banana?

While this story would certainly have raised controversy, it was the small sidebar that really stirred things up:


Today, you too can hear Jan Brewer talk dirty at the Jan Brewer Jam. Show up at the State Capitol courtyard and hear the senator's new song, a hip-hop interpretation of W.A.S.P.'s 'F*** Like a Beast.'

It was a good idea when the U.S. Marines taunted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega with really loud rock 'n' roll down at the Papal Nunciate. In honor of State Senator Jan Brewer and her moronic efforts to put warning labels on albums she finds objectionable, the State Capitol will be similarly rocked! Her voice, saying things that will make you blush, will reverberate off the walls from an 800-watt sound system.

The music starts at noon today, Wednesday, so come on down and watch a few legislators, and their windows, get rattled!

Of course, it wasn't just legislators who were rattled by this, the press was as well.

The story broke in The Arizona Republic on Wednesday, February 21. Under a headline proclaiming:

New Times stirs up
Brewer-ha-ha with
sneaky tactics

Brewer protested that it was "a lie" she had used a "gutter word for fornicating." But she admitted later in the story, "He had to drag it out of me." Brewer's response to the upcoming tape playing was, "They can't do that, can they?"

Senator Brewer said Koen's deception "casts a cloud over all legitimate reporters who cover the Legislature... Liars and impostors are not needed or wanted to cover the legislature." Koen declined to talk with the Republic about the story. The story, played prominently on the front page, helped build publicity for the event to be held that noon.

Coverage of the actual event was relegated to the Valley and State section of the Republic on Thursday. Again the tone of the headline was playful, with the alliterating copy editor declaring:

Raw rock raps senator,
salty tunes rattle Capitol
during anti-Brewer rally

The story stated that the offending tape was played for 45 minutes and that police did nothing to stop the event. One officer said that no arrests were made "because the courts have difficulty in defining what is obscene." Fourth graders visiting the Capitol were rapidly spirited away, but a group of junior high students joined in with the folks carrying sings reading "Jan Brewer should be obscene and not heard."

Most of the commentary from journalists about the case focused on Koen's impersonating a journalist, not his punking of Brewer. Republic columnist E.J. Montini pointed out in a commentary running next to the story that the real point of the event was to attract the attention of the press, not to discredit Brewer. (And to be fair, Montini did mention that this story could end up helping Brewer.)

When the Society of Professional Journalists criticized New Times in a statement, the censure was for impersonating a journalist:

The Valley of the Sun Chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists deplores this clearly unethical practice and asks that New Times pledge never to repeat such deception.

All journalists depend on the trust of their sources that they will report accurately and with integrity. When an incident such as this shakes the trust and prompts sources to withhold information for fear of being misquoted or worse, all journalists suffer.

Again, the critique here is of what this did to journalists, not to Brewer. New Times' readers, on the other hand, had a much clearer grasp of what was wrong with what Koen and New Times did. Here's a sample of comments from letters to the editor:

Let me add my voice to the thousands of readers who are displeased with your unethical behavior in gathering information and quotes from Jan Brewer. Not only have you set journalism back, but you have furthered the possibility of the law labeling records passing.

I think you gave the politicians a perfect reason for passing this bill. Because they now have Koen on film just babbling about how funny it all is.... So now Jan Brewer and company can point the finger and say, 'See, they're all just as stupid as that one.' So thanks a lot, Koen, on behalf of all people who know how serious this really is. You probably single-handedly blew it.

At first blush, I was upset that you folks were being less than candid in your approach to reporting. However, I should have known, you sly fox, it was a ploy to get Jan Brewer re-elected, and I think you have succeeded.

The story received continued national attention the following month when wholesome singer Donny Osmond came to a hearing to testify against the bill. Not long after that, Brewer withdrew her bill, saying that she wanted to give the recording industry's new voluntary warning labels a chance to work.


Tuesday - April 27, 2010

Guest Blog Post: South Park, Censorship, and Liberty

Editor's Note: The following is a guest blog post by UNO graduate student Charley Reed, who has been an occasional contributor to LIAMW.

South ParkOver the last two weeks Comedy Central’s flagship show South Park broadcast their 200th and 201st episodes. Having been on for 13 years, the show has covered every possible taboo imaginable but for this set of anniversary shows, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone may have gone one step too far.

For the 200th episode South Park brought back many of its old characters, including Mohammed, who was part of the Super Best Friends. Episode 504, which aired on July 4, 2001 (several months before September 11), dealt with the Super Best Friends (which also included Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Joseph Smith, and Moses) to combat a group called the Blaintologists (a parody on Scientologists). No controversy was raised over this episode, especially compared to the attention South Park got for episode 502 where the show prominently featured the word “shit” or episode 507 which dealt with sex education in elementary school.

However, a lot had happened since this episode’s original airing on, oddly enough, July 4, 2001, not the least of which was the assassination attempt on Kurt Westergard who had drawn an inflammatory cartoon of Mohammed in a Dutch newspaper; an event which was touched on by South Park immediately after the incident in a two-part show entitled “Cartoon Wars.

Parker and Stone decided to re-ignite the controversy by bringing back the Super Best Friends (among many others), and primarily Mohammed, as the maguffin of the show. The basic plot of episode 200 was that a bunch of irate celebrities including Rob Reiner and Tom Cruise wanted to kidnap Mohammed to drain his essence and transfer it to them because Mohammed was the only thing that no one could get away with making fun of.

Of course, in a nod to the “Cartoon Wars” episode, Mohammed was covered by a giant censor bar, except for when he was, supposedly, placed inside a U-haul truck, or bear costume, at the request of the Super Best Friends that he not be seen.

However, it was precisely the presentation of Mohammed in the bear costume that prompted a threatening blog post from a group called Revolution Muslim who equated Parker and Stone to Theo Van Gogh, who was killed in 2004 for his film about how females were treated in Islamic communities. As part of this threat, the poster, Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee (born Zachary Adam Chesser), said that:

We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.

Also, as part of the threat, Al-Amrikee referenced a Huffington Post story that gave information about the mansion the two share in Colorado.

By all accounts, Parker and Stone were unphased by the threats and continued the plotline in the follow-up episode, “201”. However, Comedy Central took the threats seriously and not only continued to censor any depiction of Mohammed, but also bleeped out any mention of his name and a speech at the end of the show made by one of the show’s main characters, a Jewish boy named Kyle Broflovski. This speech, according to Parker and Stone, did not mention Mohammed’s name at all, but instead was about not giving in to intimidation and fear.

What’s more is that Comedy Central, which owns the rights to all South Park episodes, only broadcast episode 201 once, at 10 pm EST. Because of the large amounts of censorship on the episode, Parker and Stone, who own the streaming website South Park Studios are refusing to stream the show as is. Additionally, episode 200 has also yet to be re-broadcast and is unable to be streamed “due to pre-existing contractual obligations,” and the “Super Best Friends” episode was taken down almost immediately after “200” was broadcast.

The reaction to Comedy Central’s censorship of South Park was loud and from all sides of the political spectrum, including CNN’s Anderson Cooper who stated:

You might not like "South Park" the cartoon. You might think it's offensive. You might decide it's not something you want to watch. That's up to you. But the notion that some radical Islamic group in America would make a threat, even a veiled one, against two men's lives because of it is chilling.

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly lauded Parker and Stone’s courage.

From within the confines of Comedy Central, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart derided Comedy Central for the censorship and called out Revolution Muslim for inciting fear which he called the “real enemy” in the modern age of terrorism.

The most recent response to the censorship is a movement called “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” scheduled for May 20, where people are encouraged to draw any depiction of Mohammed they want and spread them online; similar to the pivotal scene in the film Spartacus (1960) where all of the slaves identify themselves as a law-breaking slave named Spartacus. (Editor's Note: Since this was originally written, the artist who started EDMD has distanced herself from the event.)

While some have argued that Parker and Stone had to have been in on Comedy Central’s plans and went along with them to generate publicity, the effect the censoring has had is real… and it’s too late to put that genie back in its bottle.

It’s hard to tell what will happen in the coming days and weeks, or how Parker and Stone might address the issue in this week’s episode of South Park, if at all. However, the issue here is not the censorship of a constantly-raunchy show, because Comedy Central and their parent company Viacom, have every right to do so as a private company. What problem this does raise is why Comedy Central censored South Park. Jon Stewart hit the nail on the head when he said that fear is the real enemy in this situation and Comedy Central is its accomplice.

In the grand scheme of things, censoring a comedy show on a major cable network may not seem like a big deal with so many other problems occurring in this country, but the censorship of South Park strikes at the very heart of what this country stands for and what this country has been fighting for over the past nine years. In the span of nine-or-so years South Park went from blatantly depicting Mohammed as a flame-wielding super hero to being forced to not even say his name, let alone depict him. What’s wrong with this picture? Or, rather, lack of one.

Quite simply… the word is “liberty.”

In 1759 Benjamin Franklin stated that “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

In 1775 Patrick Henry declared “Give me liberty or give me death.”

In 1859, Abraham Lincoln wrote that “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”

The Statue of Liberty, built in 1886, which sits on the harbor of the very city Revolution Muslim is located, is inscribed with the phrase “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

In 2010 freedom of speech and creative liberty, concepts this country has fought numerous wars over, can be squelched because of a thinly veiled threat made by an easily identifiable man, and group, posting on a blog from behind a computer.

It used to be that in a fight between liberty and fear, liberty would win out every time… but now, as we have seen not just in this example, but countless other acts of censorship… from banned books to Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, America is the “Land of the Frightened” much more than the “Land of the Free.”

While it may seem silly that it took a cartoon show to raise these issues… it probably seemed just as silly that it took a bunch of Bostonians dressed up as Indians to spark the Revolutionary War.

This obviously isn’t on the same scale as the Boston Tea Party, or even the Revolutionary War … but the guiding principles are still the same. Perhaps, 237 years from now April 21, 2010 will be mentioned in the same breath as December 16, 1773.... as long as it doesn’t get bleeped anyways.

-Charley Reed


Monday - April 26, 2010

Are Fox and ABC Discriminating Against Plus-Size Models?
Or is Lane Bryant Just Looking For Attention?

Most likely some combination of both....

I first heard about this story in a tweet from Meghan McCain (Yes, that McCain's outspoken daughter). The claim is that Fox and ABC refused to run a lingerie commercial featuring plus-sized model Ashley Graham because it featured too much cleavage. Lane Bryant responded by asking why Victoria's Secret can run provocative ads almost any time featuring skinny models, but they can't run essentially similar ads featuring plus sizes.

ABC and Fox say that they didn't ban the ad, they simply wanted to either show it during a different time period (i.e. not during Dancing with the Stars or American Idol), or with revised content. ABC says that the network routinely tells VS to change its ads, and that Lane Bryant is just conducting a publicity stunt.

Lane Bryant and its supporters say that the networks can't deal with womanly curves. Meghan McCain's argument has been for some time that the media has no problem showing women with surgically enhanced idealized breasts but are put off by showing women who have real ones.

Take a look at the ads and decide for yourself. First is the Lane Bryant ad that didn't air during American Idol, following that is the Victoria's Secret ad that did run.

Lane Bryant Ad


Victoria's Secret Ad



Sunday - April 25, 2010

Hitler Finds Out About Parody Fair Use

If you read this blog at all, (or even go on the Internet at all) you have to be familiar with the "Hitler Finds Out About..." meme. People take the excellent German film Downfall in which Hitler gets angry and frustrated, and they add their own creative subtitles to it.

The Real Downfall Clip


Clearly the creators of these sometimes hilarious videos are making use of copyright materials. But are they legally within their rights? (NOTE: As you go through this post, please note that most of the Hitler Finds Out About videos have NSFW language in the subtitles.)

In an interview with New York Magazine, Downfall director Oliver Herschbiegel said that the parodies are a compliment to his work. But the film's distributor, Constantin Film, issued a takedown order last week for the videos for violating copyright.

According to the Ars Technica blog, Constantin Film did not obtain a takedown order under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; instead, the studio used YouTube's Content ID filter that lets copyright holders directly blog content using digital audio and video fingerprints. In short, Constantin can automatically block many of the videos without any intervention by the courts or YouTube.

But, you say, aren't these videos protected as parody? Yes, in fact, they most likely are. And according to the social media blog Mashable, the people who have created the parody videos can click on a check box that says the creator of the parody is disputing the takedown. That forces Constantin to go through the formal process of actually following the procedures outlined in the DMCA.

Perhaps the best explanations of the whole case are outlined in .... what else .... Hitler Finds Out About videos.




To me, the most interesting question is not how Constantin Film has fought this battle, but rather why? As I said before, the director doesn't object and the publicity of the videos would not seem to be hurting the value of the movie. It appears to me that the biggest issue surrounding the meme is that it trivializes who Hitler was and what the Nazis did. (There is reportedly a version of it subtitled in Hebrew about the lack of parking in Tel Aviv.)

Of course, offensiveness is not a legal reason to ban parody.

In closing, here's a link to an intensely academic analysis of the case from the Department of Alchemy.


Tuesday - April 20, 2010

Some Thoughts on Reviewing

We talked about reviewing in my commentary and blogging class today. Here are several links to some folks you might want to take a look at if you are going to be writing or teaching about reviews.


Monday - April 19, 2010

Media News From Twitter

I'm just back from an academic conference where one of the popular topics for discussion was social media.

Among the things I heard talked about: Of what use is Twitter?

For me, the great value of Twitter comes from following people and organizations who are posting links to interesting sources of information. A quick glance at my Twitter feed this morning shows that a large majority of the tweets include news links.

Never mind that one of the links was to a story about donuts (ooh... Donuts...) Or one without a link was a joke about the Icelandic volcanic eruption.

Here are several media news Twitter posts I've read in the last couple of days:


Friday - April 16, 2010

Some Thoughts On Using Blogging to Teach Opinion Writing

I got my first job as an assistant professor in January of 1988. That initial semester at Northern Arizona University, I taught three sections of a grammar boot camp class and one of opinion writing.

With occasional years off, I've been teaching opinion writing ever since. Although the class has changed extensively over the years, a few things have stayed constant:

  • I've always started with editorial writing.
  • I've always taught Toulmin's model for analyzing the arguments in editorials.
  • I've always had my students read Pulitzer Prize winning editorials from the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s.
  • I've always had my students write columns to length.
  • I've always had my students read Mike Royko's "Save a Kitty From Extinction."

About 10 years ago or so I started railing against the DTPs, or Dreaded Talking Points. The DTPs are when a writers start parroting back partisan talking points from the left or right without adding any real understanding to the issue.

None of these constants have anything to do with the topic of today's blog post - Using blogging to teach opinion writing.

Except for one thing:

I'm still teaching the same basic class with most of the same learning outcomes I was trying to achieve 22 years ago. What's changed is that I now have a powerful and effective new tool to use with my students as I try to help them develop their voice, style and effectiveness.

Last year I started having my students write blogs as a part of the class. Now, as I come close to closing out my second year of having them blog, I've found I have several good reasons for doing so:

  • Blogs are the future of opinion writing.
    Say what you like about blogs, much of the very best opinion-based reporting is being done on the Web.
  • Blogs let you experiment with ideas.
    One of my students this semester experimented with writing about the concept of innocence before coming up with a wonderful column about his mom's relationship with a tree swing. Without a blog to play with ideas on, he might never have developed this particular column.
  • Blogs let you experiment with forms.
    When you write for a newspaper or give commentary on television, you are severely limited by the form you are working in. For example, I give my students 575-625 words for their columns. This year's Pulitzer winner for commentary, Kathleen Parker, says she jealously guards her 750 words. But online you can use photos, drawings, video, audio and text together or separately to tell your story. My students have video commentaries coming due in two weeks, but we've had a couple of video efforts in class already. New York Times blogger Christoph Niemann tells fantastic little stories through Legos, coffee stains, and maps.
  • Blogs encourage interaction within the writing community.
    In a typical writing class, students will have limited opportunities to read each others work and comment on it. With everything students write going up on their blogs, students can collaborate, comment, commend, and critique at will. There is less of this going on than I would like, though I certainly could require it and grade on it. But even without requirements, I have seen nice rounds of feedback moving between students.
  • Blogs encourage real rough drafts.
    One of the biggest problems my students have faced over the years is their refusal to write rough drafts. They start work on a column or editorial the night before it is due, and if it turns out well... Great! But if the idea isn't working, it's generally too late for them to change topics and the piece falls flat. But with my blogging requirement, students have to post to their blogs at least three times per week. With those posts they can try out ideas, post rough drafts, write long versions of pieces that will ultimately be much shorter, write things that are really research or experiments rather than fully realized stories. Journalism students with their love of pushing deadlines are terrible candidates for rough drafts, but when they actually use them, their writing improves. I found this to be dramatically the case once I started using blogs in class last year. The best writers kept writing at the level they always had, but the mid-pack writers started turning in significantly better work.
  • Blogs develop the idea of public writing.
    We are often willing to write more powerful, personal things in a private journal than we are for a public forum. But if journalism is fundamentally about writing for a paying audience then private writing is lovely doesn't let you discover what you are willing to say in public. With a blog, you have to come to terms with the fact that your mother might be reading your work, or your roommate, your significant other, your professors, the chancellor of the university. Over the years I have had some great columns written that students say they would never be willing to publish. As far as my class is concerned, the things you aren't willing to publish don't have much value. As students are required to post all of their final drafts to their blogs, they aren't given the option of submitting work they aren't willing to publish.
  • Blogs encourage regular writing.
    Just as runners need to log the miles if they are going to improve, so do writers need to write if they are going to develop an identifiable style. With a blog, students have a regular outlet for their writing.
  • Blogs extend writing beyond the end of the semester.
    While most students stop posting to their blogs once the semester is over, a select few keep up their blogs. Some will go dormant for weeks or months at a time until the students finds that he or she has something to say. Others will maintain the habit they've started.


Wednesday - April 14, 2010

2010 Pulitzer Prize Winners Announced

The 2010 Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday, and for once the big news was who didn't win. The non-winner was, of course, the National Enquirer which was in the running for its expose´on John Edwards and his mistress.

I fully realize that its not the most important one, but the prize that most excited me was Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post winning for commentary. (Parker was one of four winners at the Post this year.) I have been a huge Kathleen Parker fan for years because she manages to transcend traditional partisan labels. She is basically a moderate Republican who is willing to both attack and defend both Sarah Palin and Barack Obama. And it makes me look good as I just showed a C-SPAN interview with her in my commentary class last week.


Perhaps the most significant Pulitzer this year went to the New York Times Magazine and the non-profit investigative news project ProPublica for a story looking at the work done by doctors in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. The fact that the NYT needs help with reporting from a non-profit group is getting a lot of attention. (ProPublica has also been getting a lot of attention during the last week for its This American Life NPR radio story on the Magnetar hedge fund.

Here are links to the rest of this year's prizes:

And finally - a special citation to Hank Williams that needs no justification.


Monday - April 12, 2010

Advertising News


Saturday - April 10, 2010

Remebering Sago

With all the news about the latest West Virginia mine disasters, I have seen an uptick in people visiting the posts I wrote about the Sago mine disaster back in 2006. The current event is very different from Sago, and the news media certainly have not made the same mistakes this time around that they did with Sago (i.e. publishing grossly inaccurate stories that hadn't been verified). But one thing that has stayed the same is that the national media don't cover coal mining safety unless there is a major accident. Back in 2006, I wrote:

In my previous entry, I suggested that the national press corps could do a better job of covering safety issues relating to coal mines. It seemed to me that the only time the press outside of Appalachia looked at the issue was when miners died. So rather than just pontificate, I decided to take a look at Lexis-Nexis.

Search screenHere's the search strategy for those of you who want to play along at home. For 2005, I looked for stories in major newspapers that mentioned mine safety and coal within 10 words of each other, and didn't mention China. (China has had a huge number of mine disasters, and most of the stories you'll find on Lexis-Nexis without that exclusion deal with China.)

The search yielded 17 stories. If you exclude stories from foreign papers, you're left with eight stories. One of these dealt with limits on Christmas lights in a coal mining town in Maryland. That leaves seven. Three of them were from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a major daily in the heart of coal country. That leaves 4 stories on coal mine safety in major newspapers in 2004.

A search of West Virginia media, on the other hand, shows 70 stories on the topic ran. All of these are from the Charleston Gazette or the AP. (The Charleston Daily Mail isn't included in the Lexis-Nexis archives.)

Now I would fully expect there to be much more coverage of mine safety in West Virginia than in that nation at large, but only four stories?

For the sake of completeness, there have been 30 stories run in major newspapers that meet these search criteria in the last week, of which 2 came from foreign papers, for a total of 28.


Wednesday - April 7, 2010

Columns Worth Reading

This semester I'm teaching a course on commentary and blogging. Here are a few columns I'm assigning to my students that you might find of interest for developing class discussion. All of these deal with both controversial issues and how the media deal with them:


Tuesday - April 6, 2010

Reaction to the iPad's First Weekend on the Market

The reaction to the iPad's launch over the weekend has been all over the place, from "I gotta get one" to "What's all the hype about?" (Me? I want one something fierce, but I'm following my rule and waiting for version 2 to come out on the market. Never buy a first generation Apple product.) Here's a sampling of articles from across the web:


Friday - April 2, 2010

Da'Sean, Joe, and Jonnie

Three of my former students will be playing in the Final Four for West Virginia University Saturday night. Congratulations and all my best to Da'Sean Butler, Joe Mazzulla, and Jonnie West. Let's go, Mountaineers!



Thursday - April 1, 2010

Media News (Mostly) I (Mostly) Found Through Social Media


Tuesday - March 30, 2010

How Much Does It Cost To Be First With Apple Products?

I've written in the past that I don't think it's a very good idea to buy the first iteration of any new Apple product. As much as I love Apple's products, the first version of everything is over priced and buggy. So, as much as I want an iPad, I'm going to wait for version 2. But this raises the question of how big is the real price of being an early adopter of Apple technology. What's The Big Deal has the inflation adjusted figures of what people have paid for the first version of various Apple products. In today's dollars, the first Mac Portable would cost $11,000, and the Lisa (the first personal computer with a GUI) would be more than $21,000. Here's a graphic illustrating their examples:

Apple Costs



Monday - March 29, 2010

How Far Can Cartoonists Go?

Political rhetoric has been pretty heated the last few weeks, and hot rhetoric tends to lead to even hotter political cartoons. Here are links to several recent cartoons from the United States and around the world. Be forewarned. Many of them are quite harsh. Most will offend someone. Some contain harsh language or disturbing drawings. All of them are worth taking a look at and discussing. Most of these cartoons are located at the wonderful Daryl Cagle Political Cartoonist Index site.

  • Too Harsh for Print? - Milt Priggee's Cartoon About Tea Partiers
    Priggee expected some controversy over his cartoon because it contains the "n-word." But most of the complaints have come about how he portrayed the tea partiers. Along with the cartoon is a note from the site editor and from the cartoonist.
  • Pushing the Raunchy Limits - International Cartoons
    Cartoons from around the world that push past the limits that American newspapers are comfortable with. Some deal with serious issues such as the recent priest abuse scandal, while others make fun of Tiger Woods' recent uh.... problems. Following the cartoons is some interesting discussion as to whether it's appropriate for Cagle to even post the cartoons to his site.
  • Meet Mr. Fish
    Dwayne Booth, aka Mr. Fish, was until recently the staff cartoonist for the alternative paper LA Weekly. The paper is owned by Village Voice Media (which despite the name is really owned by the old New Times alt weekly chain), and over the last year, Village Voice Media has laid off all of its cartoonists. Daryl Cagle writes that Mr. Fish is by far the furthest left of any of the columnists on his web site, and there have been none more critical of President Obama. Mr. Fish speaks with a much harsher voice than most newspaper cartoonists, so don't look at his work if you're going to be easily offended. Anyone who thinks standard cartoonists are too over the top need to look at what Mr. Fish has done. Strong sauce indeed.


Thursday - March 25, 2010

Words (and Vocabularies) Matter

I've written previously about how the words used by the media matter a lot on how we perceive things around us.

Think about how the media accelerates the adoption of activist language into the mainstream. Take the medical term "intact dilation and extraction" that describes a controversial type of late-term abortion. About three years ago I did a search of the Lexis-Nexis news database that showed newspapers used the medical term only five times over a six-month period. On the other hand, "partial birth abortion," the term for the procedure used by abortion opponents, was used in more than 125 stories during the same time period. Opponents even got the term used in the title of a bill passed by Congress that outlawed the procedure, thus moving the phrase into the mainstream through repeated publication of the bill’s name.

So let's take a look at something going on now. Typically the news media refer to supporters/opponents of abortion/abortion rights as either pro-choice or pro-life. Note that these are the preferred terms of the two groups.

Now National Public Radio's ombudsman Alicia C. Shepard has announced that it is going to change these terms from euphemisms to statements as to what the groups actually stand for. NPR is going to go to using the terms such as abortion rights supporters or abortion rights opponents. The blog Get Religion, which critiques media coverage of religious issues, thinks that NPR's language change is a good thing, even if the writer does not have any confidence that these clearer terms can survive the rapid-fire world we live in.


Wednesday - March 24, 2010

Rude, Crude, and Socially Unacceptable Media News
There's been a lot of raunchy media news, commentary and humor out and about over the last few days. Here's links to several of them. Unlike the usual content here, all of the following will contain naughty NSFW words. No naughty pictures - just words.


Tuesday - March 23, 2010

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)


Monday - March 22, 2010

And We're Back

Sorry for the recent lack of posts. It's been a busy time and spring break to boot. But enough excuses. Here are several recent media stories you ought to be paying attention to:


Tuesday - March 9, 2010

More Media News I Learned/Sent On Twitter


Thursday - March 4, 2010

Media News I Learned On Twitter


Tuesday - March 2, 2010

Social Media and the News - Chile

The trending story here at Living in a Media World is the rapid rate at which social media are becoming a leading source of real news for people.

We saw this in January with the rapid spread of the news about the Haitian earthquake spreading by Facebook and Twitter, not only among individuals, but also through news organizations.

Before that it was news from the election protests out of Iran and from the 2008 terror attacks from Mumbai. These are all stories where the news itself was flowing via social media, not just links to the legacy (MSM) media.

But this weekend the story of social media as a source of news became personal for me. A source of community journalism.

The news of the earthquake in Chile on Saturday hit my family with a shock. Benny, one of my eldest's best friends, is on a Rotary student exchange to Chile right now, and his host city is about 60 miles or so from the epicenter of the quake. To make matters worse, his mother was visiting him. All of Benny's friend's started posting "Tell us you are alive" messages to his Facebook page. All of his dad's friends (myself included) started posting "Tell us Benny and Roz are ok" messages to his Facebook page.

Benny's dad quickly got the word out that he had heard nothing, but was assuming that meant everyone was ok. He also told us to keep watching Facebook for updates. Later in the day, he announced that Benny and his mom were safe, traveling about 500 miles from where the quake had happened. It was an enormous relief to us all.

I've been writing for a couple of years about how important social media are as a source of breaking news. I've joked about how all the news I need I can get from Facebook. But this time I mean it - Social media are great sources of news when you want it to be about your own community, your own group of people you care about. And this is something all news media, including community media, really need to understand.


Friday - February 26, 2010

Wearin' Black For Johnny Cash

Today would have been Johnny Cash's 78th birthday. Fans are being urged to wear black in his honor. Are you wearing black today? I am.

It would be impossible to to talk about Cash's entire career, but let me just mention the brilliant American recordings he put out with producer Rick Rubin in the later days of his career. Here's a video of what may be his greatest recording ever, a cover of Trent Reznor's Hurt. (As a side note, I've owned a copy of the song for some time but just saw the video for the first time today.)



Thursday - February 25, 2010

Journalism and Ideology Part II

Earlier this week we looked at discussion of who were the top journalists from the right or left. Here are a couple of more readings on ideology and journalism:

  • Ana Marie Cox Talks About Reporting With a Point of View
    Ana Marie Cox is one of my favorite progressive reporters/commentators because she comes at it with a real appreciation for mid-country conservatism. I think much of the lib/con conflict could better be framed as a central-states-rural/costal-states-urban conflict.

    (As a side note, I was really offended as a Midwesterner by NYT columnist Gail Collins who recently disparaged North Dakota for getting two senators even though it has a tiny population. That sort of patronizing attitude towards the central states explains a lot of the charges leveled against the "media elite." Her problem isn't that she's liberal (though she is), her problem is that she is an urban journalist with no appreciation for the rural United States, something many urban conservatives share.)
  • Tony Rogers- Why Is Investigative Journalism Liberal?
    Blogger Tony Rogers recently interviewed my friend and conservative journalist Danny Glover. In the interview they discuss why investigative journalism skews liberal and what conservative journalists need to do about it.

    By and large, the two of them make a number of good points, especially those related to the reformist attitude that informs much of investigative reporting. Rogers looks at the roots of contemporary investigative reporting in the Washington Post's Watergate investigation. And he correctly notes that there are liberal investigative blogs, such as TPMuckraker; while conservative blogs skew more towards commentary.

    But Glover argues that investigative journalism tends to have a pro-government bias -- i.e. government is the solution to our problems. Maybe. But I have a hard time seeing how bringing down President Nixon can be seen as pro-government. Or the investigation of President Clinton's sexual misconduct by Michael Isikof of Newsweek.

    I personally think there is more of a pro-scandal bias going on here. But, as I said, I think there's a lot of value in this article - especially in the call for good quality investigative journalism of all flavors.


Tuesday - February 23, 2010

Columnists for My Commentary Class

In my commentary class, we're starting work on column writing this week. Here are some links to columnists of various stripes from my favorite paper, The Washington Post:

And finally - In class today we saw a great film on opinion writing based on the work of Terry Jones. Here's a link to his more recent commentaries.


Monday - February 22, 2010

Journalism and Ideology
Regular readers of this blog know that I'm not a big believer in there being any unified bias or political orientation to American journalism beyond the basic journalistic values outlined by Herbert Gans in his non-ideological book Deciding What's News. (Most books on media bias start with a premise that it exists and then sets out to prove it. Gans looked at what was being reported, and then tried to extrapolate the values behind that reporting. Much more illuminating.)

But this last week there's been a lot of talk being generated about a couple of lists published through Tina Brown's news/commentary site The Daily Beast by Tunku Varadarajan. First came a list of the top 25 conservative journalists, followed by a list of the top 25 liberal journalists. Number one on the conservative list? Paul Gigot, editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal. Number one on the liberal list? Daily Show host Jon Stewart. Fascinating that the top journalist from the right is traditional "mainstream" media and the top journalist from the left is a cable television comedy show host. And this is a list created by a conservative thinker -- Varadarajan is a former assistant managing editor for the Wall Street Journal and a research fellow for the conservative Hoover Institution.

As I said, there's been a lot of talk online generated by these lists. The first objection is that most of the folks on both lists are opinion journalists - editorial page editors, bloggers, TV/radio talk show hosts. In some cases, they are people most journalists wouldn't even consider to be journalists.

The left has complained that there are many people who are genuine lefty journalists who didn't show up anywhere on the list - Seymour Hersh, Jane Mayer, Jeff Sharlet, and Amy Goodman, to list a few mentioned whom I would agree strongly with. There have also been complaints from the left that Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt was number three on the list of liberal journalists. because many lefties view Hiatt as a neocon, not a liberal (at least when it comes to foreign policy).

On the right, there have been complaints that there is too much Wall Street Journal on the list (wonder how that happened?), complaints about talk radio hosts being on the list (even Rush Limbaugh says he shouldn't be on the list because he has too good of a reputation to have it sullied by being called a journalist.) And much like the left's objection to Hiatt, righties say that number seven David Brooks of the NY Times is a conservative in name only. On the other hand, noted conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer didn't make the list.


Friday - February 19, 2010

Talking Movies

  • Roger EbertEsquire Profile of Roger Ebert
    Movie critic Roger Ebert became one of the first big name movie reviewers with his long run on first public television and later on syndicated television. But in recent years he's been restricted to writing rather than speaking when he lost his jaw, his ability to eat, and his ability to speak following cancer surgery.

    Esquire's Chris Jones, who wrote a brilliant book about the astronauts stranded on the space station following the Columbia accident, profiles Ebert. And in a really interesting twist, Ebert, on his blog, tells how he feels about the article. What makes this particularly interesting is that Ebert wrote for Esquire back in the 1970s.
  • Are Actors Doing Motion Capture Really Acting?
    In other words, why didn't anyone get an acting nomination for Avatar. Not to be cruel, but it could be because no one deserved one. But the question is serious: Are actors who don motion capture suits and have animation layered on top of them still live actors? This is going to be a big issue in years to come.

    Here's an example of the before and after video of actors from Avatar.


Thursday - February 18, 2010

Media News Round-Up


Tuesday - February 16, 2010

Super Bowl Blog-Off: Vote For Your Favorite
My blogging students were all asked to write a blog entry about the recent Super Bowl, and you get to pick your favorites. Read them all, then cast your vote for your three favorites here. One vote per person, anyone can vote, deadline is Sunday, Feb. 21, 11:45 p.m.


Monday - February 15, 2010

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)


Friday - February 12, 2010

Super Bowl Commercials 2010 Part III - Commercials That Worked
For all the lousy, offensive, ineffective commercials out there, there were also those that did a good job of appealing to audience members, improving brand image, or moving consumers to action. (Or maybe even all three!) Here's a discussion of those special few:

My Favorites

  • CBS David Letterman Spot
    David Letterman's 15-second promo featuring Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno was brief, funny, and an attention getter. What more could you ask for. Reportedly Letterman wrote the spot himself. No surprise there - good concept and good writing leads to good commercial! Letterman says he wanted to do the off-beat promo because "it was funny."

  • VW PunchDub Finds Nostalgia, Fun, and Brand Image
    Volkswagen revived the old kids game of punchbuggy in their Super Bowl ad, reminding us of our childhood, our love of Volkswagens, and of the brand itself. And unless you are offended by Stevie Wonder doing a blind joke, it was in good taste.

  • And My Favorite (Along With Many Other Judges) - Google's Romance
    It stands out from all the rest of the ads with virtually no talk and no people. It tells a complete romance story in under 60 seconds with a beginning, middle and end. Just a beautiful ad. If you haven't seen it, watch it now.

So Enough About Feelings.... Whose Ads Worked?
Nielsen rated the commercials in multiple ways - which had the most viewership and which had the most measurable effect:


Wednesday - February 10, 2010

Super Bowl Commercials 2010 Part II - Commercials That Probably Weren't Worth $3 Million Per 30 Seconds
We know that Super Bowl commercials need to be edgy to gain traction, and even crude, offensive ads can be effective. But crude and offensive doesn't guarantee success, and it may not help your brand. Here's a look at some of Sunday's less wonderful ads. (BTW, I'm not going to bother mentioning the GoDaddy ads that are as deliberately tasteless as possible.)

  • Book Clubs and Literary Bloggers Hate On Bud Light
    But does anyone really care? More it was a relatively non-memorable ad from AB. More of an issue of dumb men than smart were numerous other Bud Light ads, but they just didn't really make a hit with people, with the possible exception of the LOST themed ones...

  • E-Trade Babies Should Not Have Sex Lives
    I saw numerous tweets complaining about how creepy the E-Trade babies were this time out, especially those that dealt with implications of their sex lives. Which is a shame because the one that started the series about creepy party clowns was brilliant.

  • Does Misogyny Sell Product to He-Man Women Haters?
    A lot of ads during the Super Bowl implied (implied, nothing -- screamed is more like it) that men in committed relationships with women were being emasculated, and the only way they could reclaim their manhood was by buying something. A few of these ads were pretty clever, most of them weren't. Here are some examples:

    Flo TV - Injury Report

    Dodge - Man's Last Stand

    Bridgestone - Your Tires or your LIfe


Monday - February 8, 2010

Super Bowl Commercials 2010 Part I - Tim Tebow, IMC, and the Focus on the Family Commercial.
It was not a brilliant year for Super Bowl commercials. Few, if any, stood out in viewer memory. Ad critic Bob Garfield points out that even the ever-reliable Anheuser-Busch beer ads were unexceptional. But that doesn't mean there weren't any interesting commercials out there. So, for the next couple of days we're going to be looking at what was aired during the biggest TV commercial event of the year.

Most of the attention pre-game was placed on the Focus on the Family pro-life/anti-abortion ads staring football standout Tim Tebow and his mother. Actually, all the PL/AA part of the ads was... not in the ads.

Watch the ads and then think about how you would react if you had heard nothing about them in advance.... Would you really know these were PL/AA ads?

No, I didn't think so.

What you really had was a bit of Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) with the Super Bowl ad buy being used as a way of generating attention for Focus on the Family's message. In this case, the unstated message is that Tim Tebow and his mother are both glad mom didn't abort a dangerous pregnancy.

But the overall technique was pretty similar to that used by Breathe Right or Denny's. Buying an ad for the Super Bowl if you are not one of the regulars draws attention to you. Media outlets start covering your ad and your organization. Other organizations start talking about you. You engage in PR and promotion to draw attention to your brand/organization. Use the attention and your ad to drive traffic to your web site where you provide a more well-developed message. Good, solid IMC.

By and large, Super Bowl broadcasters have not allowed advocacy/issue ads during the game. For example, back in 2004, CBS refused an ad from the United Church of Christ welcoming gay church members. (Here's a sample of UCC ads that have been rejected by the networks at other times.) But in this case CBS reportedly worked with Focus on the Family for several months in scripting this ad. The network also told journalists that it had "moderated its stand" on advocacy ads aired during the Super Bowl. That may mean that the network can't afford to turn away paying customers any more.

At any rate, here are two versions of the Tebow Focus on the Family ads.

Focus on the Family Ad #1

Focus on the Family Ad #2


Thursday - February 4, 2010

Twittery Media News
My tweets for the last 24 hours. Can you really do anything significant in 140 characters?


Wednesday - February 3, 2010

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)


Monday - February 1, 2010

Tweeting the News
Things I learned today about the media industry from Twitter:


Sunday - January 31, 2010

More on the iPad


Thursday - January 28, 2010

Why Should We Care About Apple's iPad?

iPadOn Wednesday, Apple announced its new tablet computer, the iPad. No doubt about it, it is incredibly cool. It’s Apple, after all. The bottom-of-the-line version with insufficient RAM is not too expensive, but equipped the way you'll want it, it will not be cheap. It’s Apple, after all. It had been the target of endless speculation for the last couple of weeks because the company kept a very tight lid on it. It’s Apple, after all.

Following the announcement, my Twitter feed was full of tweets proclaiming, "The iPad is really cool, really nice, but it isn't the second coming."

To me, however, the important thing to remember is that all media technology has a hardware and a software component. I think what will make the iPad stand out is not just its great hardware but the the infrastructure behind it to make distributing printed material like newspapers, magazines and books over the Internet profitable. It’s Apple, after all.

(If you haven’t seen Wired’s thoughts on this topic, you should do so. This article got me thinking about this, and helped me coalesce my own thoughts on the topic.)

To follow what Apple is up to here, set the wayback machine for 2001 with the introduction of the iPod. The iPod was an incredibly cool piece of hardware (It’s Apple, after all…), but as cool as it was, I think it was iTunes that made the device stand out. This was a comprehensive program that would let you scan in your existing music, incorporate your “shared” music, and buy legal downloads, all with a consistent environment to work in. What’s more, while you can certainly make purchases though iTunes with a credit card, you can buy iTunes cards with $15 - $100 of value on them at almost any store. This opens up the online transactions to everyone, not just people with plastic.

Then in 2005, Apple started selling a new iPod that could play video, and the company started selling single episodes of current TV shows for $1.99 each. At the time I wrote:

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.

Then, in January 2007, Apple announced its iPhone, which answered the question of "What would a truly mobile, use it anywhere, Internet enabled computer look like?" Because if you think about it, the least innovative part of the iPhone is the phone part of it. What makes the iPhone special is that it is such a great mobile media device. At the time I wrote:

Apple announced it's new iPhone on Wednesday, and in typical Apple fashion it is absolutely too cool for words. As the NYT's David Pogue puts it, the iPhone is "not so much a smartphone as something out of Minority Report."

In typical Apple fashion, the iPhone is already becoming a pop culture icon, just the way the iMac and iPod did before it.

In typical Apple fashion, the iPhone is redefining what we think a cell phone should be able to do. It's not enough for it to have a lame "mobile" browser. It's got to have a fully functional standard browser. It's not enough for it to have voice mail, it's got to have a voice mail system that looks just like E-mail. It's not enough to be able to show movies, it's got to have widescreen video. It needs to be smart enough to turn off the power hungry screen when you put it up to your face to talk.

In typical Apple fashion, it's somewhat ahead of its time (and I don't mean this in a good way), so everyone who doesn't have to instantly have one would do well to wait for the second generation.

In typical Apple fashion, it has a my-way-or-the-highway idiosyncratic interface that says however Steve Jobs think you should use it is the only way you should use it because he's cooler than you are.

In typical Apple fashion, the company neglected to clear all its trademark issues in advance, but instead just assumes that "Hey, we're Apple, and we'll clear up all our problems because we're too cool not to have what we want."

In short, it is a typical, mind blowing, infuriating Apple product. I'm glad I've got a new PDA that I won't be ready to replace for a couple of years, which gives the technology the time to catch up to Apple's brilliant vision.

BTW, Apple is no longer Apple Computer. Just Apple.

So where does the new iPad fit in? It takes a second look at the question the iPhone asked with one key difference - "What would a truly mobile Internet-based media device look like if it didn't have to be a phone?"

Steve Job's answer is the iPad. It will excel at displaying printed materials like books, magazines and newspapers and provide a fully integrated store to market these. It's Apple, after all....

It's late tonight, so I'm going to end this too-long post. But in part 2 of this entry sometime this weekend, we'll look at some of what the iPad will deliver. In the mean time, here are a couple of thoughtful pieces on the iPad:



Wednesday - January 27, 2010

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)


Tuesday - January 26, 2010

A Tale of Two Movies

  • Buried sells at Sundance for $3.5 Million
    Buried is a small Spanish film about a contractor in Iraq trying to escape after being buried alive in a coffin. It has been a hit at the Sundance Film Festival, with sold out screenings, and it has now been picked up by Lionsgate for $3.5 million. This is, of course, what every small filmmaker hopes for. We're going to follow the story of Buried here over the next few months and see how it does. One reason I'm interested in it is that it was written by Chris Sparling, the husband of my favorite diabetes blogger, Kerri Morrone Sparling. (She writes the wonderful Six Until Me blog.) This is a very low budget film, the complete opposite of the current hit Avatar, but it holds incredible upside potential with it's tiny budget and low acquisition cost. We'll talk more about this later.

    Which brings us to our second movie....

  • Avatar Still Making Lots of Money, Becomes #2 on American Box Office, and #1on International Box Office
    As the third edition of Living in a Media World is rapidly approaching its printing date, I'm facing the problem of Avatar. The problem? I talk about Titanic being the top grossing movie of all time and use it as an example to illustrate some key points in the movie chapter. But in about two weeks from now, more or less, Avatar will be the number one box office champ in the US. (And not so oddly enough, both Titanic and Avatar were hideously expensive James Cameron helmed flicks.)

    Now the Avatar haters out there will be delighted to point out that the only reason it has made so much money is that tickets are so expensive. Domestically, 80 percent of Avatar's income has come from 3D screenings, including the 16 percent that has come from 3D IMAX showings. Movie goers are paying as much as $15 a ticket for the 3D screenings, compared to $8-9 for conventional showings. But.... that also means people want to see this movie in 3D badly enough to pay $15 to see it, and to see it multiple times. (As for me, I've seen it locally in 2D, and am planning to see it in 3D IMAX when I go to Omaha in another week.)

    To be fair, Avatar is only 26th on the inflation-adjusted list, a list topped by Gone With The Wind, initially released in 1939, followed by Star Wars in 1977. (Confession time: I saw Star Wars 13 times the summer it came out. This was pre-cable where I lived, and pre-VCR.)

    But we should also keep in mind that Avatar cost somewhere between $300 and $400 million to make and promote, so while it is printing money this winter, it did cost a huge amount to make. So it's return on investment is nowhere near as good as the microbudget Paranormal Activity (which so far has made $108 million on a budget of $15,000. This is why we are interested in following Buried).


Monday - January 25, 2010

Social Media and the News From Haiti
Back in 2008, when terrorists attacked Mumbai, the heart of India's film industry, the news flowed out of the country over Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, and other social media, and then out to the Western world via legacy media. We saw the same pattern repeat itself with text messages and cell phone video during the Iranian election protests during the summer of 2009.

Indian social media expert Gaurav Mishra writes that news coverage of the Mumbai attacks was a story not about old vs. new media but rather about them working well together. “[T]he story is that many people, thousands of people, came together and tried to make sense of what was happening, using a new service like Twitter, and new media and mainstream media complemented each other in covering this story.”

News breaking via Twitter and other social media has now become the standard, not the exception. (Remember Truth Three—Everything from the margin moves to the center?)

Writing in his social media blog, Mishra says: "Let’s get used to it. From this moment onwards, every accident worth reporting, anywhere in the world, will be reported first, via SMA (text message), by a bystander who has a mobile phone. In most cases, the first photos or videos of the accident will be taken by a bystander who has a camera phone. If the accident occurs in a developed country, or a metro city in a developing country, the SMS will be sent to a microblogging service like Twitter and the photos and videos will be uploaded to photo- and video-sharing services like Flickr and YouTube. From this moment onwards, we will do well to expect it to happen, and reserve our surprise for the cases where it doesn’t happen."

When the massive earthquake hit Haiti on Tuesday, Jan. 12, legacy media (what many call the "mainstream media") once again depended on images, video and words coming in by way of social media. Here are several articles that illustrate how our media landscape is changing when it comes to covering breaking news:


Thursday - January 21, 2010

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)


Tuesday - January 19, 2010

How We Learned About The News From Haiti

The news from Haiti has been so overwhelming that I'm somewhat at a loss as to what to write about. So I will instead let you read how my students in Global Media Literacy first learned about the news from Haiti. Keep in mind that a number of these comments come from international students for whom English is a second langauge. Very interesting how many students depend on word of mouth for their news.

  • I received the information by seeing newspaper, which was USA Today. It was not my newspaper, but a student puts the newspaper under her chair. I could see the topic on the first page.
  • First I heard someone talking about it and then I went on the internet and checked Since then I have been checking that website. (El Pais is Spain's leading newspapaer)
  • Internet news, television news in Café Cerza.
  • I received the information about Heidi from people (my roommate, a couple of professors in the class.
  • I know that from the interpersonal communication. I didn't watch TV and internet when I talk with my friend, she said to me "do you know about earthquake?" So I know about it.
  • I heard about it through people and then seen it on the news.
  • I've received most of the information about the earthquake via television and the internet. I don't read the paper much so those are my primary source of information.
  • I have gathered most of my info on the news channels CNN and MTV.
  • Most of the information I have seen on the situation on Haiti was from NBC and others news casts.
  • CNN; Nat. Disasters teacher/ 4 chan/6/
  • Friends randomly bringing it up, television news, online websites, classroom discussions
  • Altell/Verizon internet off of mobile phone news.
  • Word of mouth. I have only heard of what happened from people. I probably should watch some stuff about it.
  • I first learned about the earthquake through the internet, but I got most of my info on it through the television.
  • The fox news update on Hits 106 in the morning and a status update on Facebook.
  • Most of the information I received about the earthquake in Haiti came from news broadcasts on TV. Mostly from CNN.
  • Through internet articles on google news and
  • I saw a picture and headline on the newspaper. Other than that I haven't gotten any news on the earthquake.
  • I have received most of the info via my Natural Disasters class. She has spent two days on it and has assigned a paper assignment on it. TV was also a useful resource.
  • I have received information about Haiti from My Natural Disasters Class.
  • I have received most of what I know about the earthquake in Haiti from the internet.
  • I have received most of the news from Haiti from my girlfriend who has sponsored a child in Haiti for two years and from watching broadcasts on CNN
  • Most of what I've learned came from watching CNN while working out in the gym and from my professor in my natural hazards class.
  • The internet on sites such as BBC news or C-SPAN, etc.


Wednesday - January 13, 2010

NBC Meltdown Continues - Jay/Conan Cage Match Edition
Back in December of 2008, NBC announced that Tonight Show host Jay Leno would be moving to prime time, thus providing the fourth-rated network with an inexpensive way of programming the last hour before the local news. But local affiliates were reportedly nervous about this because many people bail on the Tonight Show after Jay's monologue. After an unusually candid interview with Broadcasting & Cable magazine, it became clear that Leno was not particularly happy about making the move.

So now the news has broken that Leno at 10 p.m. Eastern is not working, and that they are bringing him back to 11:30-35. (That would be 10:30-35 Central, for those of you, like me, who live on the prairie.) This creates a big problem for NBC because Conan O'Brien has been slogging away at the 12:30 slot for years with the promise that he would be given the Tonight Show chair when Jay left in the fall of 2009.

NBC might claim they are keeping their promise, but if Jay comes back at 11:30, the Tonight show would be bumped back to midnight.... Suffice to say that Mr. O'Brien was not amused, and he has announced to the world that he will be leaving NBC if the Tonight show gets bumped to the late time. Here are links to a few cartoons dealing with the whole fight.

This is absolutely news, if only because it shows how utterly clueless NBC is about where their business (their audience!) is headed. But what amazes me is how much people care about the injustice of how O'Brien was treated by NBC. (Kudos to O'Brien, who in his statement pointed out that his life is (and was) pretty good.

Jay Leno on NBC's Cluelessness:


Conan O'Brien on NBC's Cluelessness:



Tuesday - January 12, 2010

Blogs For My Blogging Students
Here's a list of a dozen blogs for my blogging students to look at. They go from the most corporate to the most personal. They will give you some idea of how blogs get used:

  1. The Daily Beast
    Tina Brown's online publication. Is this a collection of blogs? Kinda, but it looks more like just plain ol' new media to me. (But I do read it regularly.)
  2. Howard Kurtz's Media Notes
    Kurtz writes conventional stories and columns for the Washington Post, but he also does lengthy, link-heavy, quote heavy posts for the Post's web site that look an awful lot like blog posts, even though they aren't posted using standard blogging conventions. He also has a great Twitter feed.
  3. Io9
    A science fiction/fanboy blog from the Gawker/Nick Denton family of commercial blogs. (I also read the very rude Wonkette political blog, even though it is not nearly as good now as it was in the Ana Marie Cox days.
  4. Bombi(llo)
    A pop culture blog, heavy on video and images, by St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter Julio Ojeda-Zapata. He's also a pioneer in the area of using Twitter for reporting. He also writes the Your TechBlog.
  5. Starbucks Gossip
    A blog about.... well, you figure it out, from Jim Romenesko, who does the long-running press issues blog for the Poynter Institute. (Read the Starbucks blog for fun. Put Romenesko's Twitter feed on your Must Read list.)
  6. That is Priceless
    Re-titling of of old masters paintings. I discovered the blog using....
  7. Culture Monster
    An arts blog written for the Los Angeles Times. My college friend Lisa contributes to this blog.
  8. Six Until Me
    A blog about living with diabetes written by Kerri Marrone Sparling. You can get an explanation of Six Until Me here.
  9. Random Culture
    A marketing blog by marketing professional (and LOST podcaster) John Keehler.
  10. No Coffee, No Workee
    Blog by Jena who just graduated from UNK and is now teaching English in Cambodia.
  11. Erik Goes to Germany
    Blog by Erik, who is a UNK student who has spent the last semester in Rostock, Germany.
  12. Holding On And Letting Go
    A blog by Erik's mother about family life.


Monday - January 11, 2010

The Color of Social Media

  • Bright yellow
  • Black, Jet black
  • Gray
  • Heather gray
  • Blue
  • Purple striped
  • Red with pink lace
  • "Am I the only one wearing pure, virginal white these days? Whores!"

Then, of course, there was my friend Brian who had no idea what was going on, who set his status to azure d'or because he didn't want to be left out of the list of people "blurting out colors." Which led to a great deal of amusement from his female friends.

What was this all about? Somehow, no one is exactly sure how it started, women started posting the color of bra they were wearing without any comment beyond the color as their facebook status last Thursday as part of an effort to build awareness of breast cancer. It wasn't part of a campaign by the American Cancer Society. The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation wishes it could claim credit for the meme. The foundation has two people employed to work on social media, but the group had nothing to do with the event. (Though the Washington Post reports that the Komen Foundation Facebook page grew from 135 fans to 135,000 fans over the course of the day!)

The bra color postings became an Internet meme, a clever bit of online culture that spreads and mutates across the net. These include LOLCATS, rickrolling, and the ever popular Hitler Finds Out ...

Not everyone was amused by this. One of my wife's facebook friends wrote:

"You know, if the millions of women who sat around writing about their bra colors wrote a $10 check to the breast cancer society, they'd be in a lot better shape than what they are with everyone proclaiming their bra colors. This happens to be one of the most nonsensical things I've ever seen."

In principle, the friend was right. But it sounds like there was an increase in contributions to cancer foundations. There was certainly an increase in talk about breast cancer.

And a lot of confused men....


Thursday - January 7, 2010

Things That Actually Matter


Wednesday - January 6, 2010

Up Your Geek Quotient

  • Pop Candy - The Lost Supper
    Who cares about The Da Vinci Code? Decade the meanings in the two versions of the Lost Supper. Lost returns for its final season starting in February.
  • 100 Quotes Every Geek Should Know
    And what could be geekier than Wired magazine? But no "Use the force, Luke"? I don't think so....
  • Avatar Passes the $1 Billion Mark World Wide in Three Weeks
    A lot of folks were looking for James Cameron's sci-fi epic to fall on its face because it was too expensive, too weird, too long, too James Cameronish.... But after three weeks in theaters, Avatar has grossed $360 million in the US, and $702 million in the rest of the world. With that kind of box office, it really doesn't matter whether it cost $300 million or $400 million to produce. For the record, that puts Avatar at the number 4 spot on the all time worldwide unadjusted gross. And by the time you read this, it will have passed Pirates III and be closing in on Return of the King. Here are a couple of more on Avatar while we're at it:


Wednesday - Dec. 23, 2009

Entertainments For Little Christmas Eve
Scandinavians call the night before Christmas Eve "Little Christmas Eve." Here are a couple of media entertainments for your holiday viewing pleasure.

  • Have Very Blondie Christmas!
    80s icon Blondie has a new music video out - a power-pop version of "We Three Kings." Merry Christmas to all! (Thanks, Clicks and Pops)

  • Are HP Computers Racist?
    This isn't a serious question. Obviously, a computer doesn't have an opinion on racial equality. But... HP is dealing with a bit of a public relations problem from a tongue-in-cheek YouTube video that illustrates that fancy new facial recognition software for a new Hewlett Packard computer works great on white faces and not at all on black faces. Oops.... (Not sure where I originally came across this, but the link is to Wired's Gadget Lab.

  • Christmas Caroling With The Roches
    Maggie, Terre and Suzzy sing favorites. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


Thursday - Dec. 17, 2009

Chris Henry Was Supposed To Be My Student

The news was tragic. Cincinnati Bengals player Chris Henry died this morning in a senseless accident - falling out of the back of a truck being driven by his fiancé. The outpouring of Facebook statuses and Tweets was immediate.

"Very sad to hear of Chris Henry's untimely death...

"RIP Chris Henry ... troublemaker, but a life ended WAY too early... tragic. :("

"A sad day for fans, wherever you may be. RIP CH."

It was a sad day for all who loved to watch Chris Henry play football, and an even sadder day for his fiancé and three children.

Chris Henry was supposedly one of my students several years ago. I say supposedly because although he was enrolled in my class, he never showed up. He wasn't the sort of person you could miss, even in a 350-seat class. By the end of the semester, he had left the university to go on to his checkered NFL career.

Chris Henry could certainly play football. I don't know whether he was ever really able to be a student.

During my 20+ years as a university professor, I've seen a number of athletes who are excellent students and many more who are hard-working, dedicated students. I have seen the hard-working athletic support staff trying to make sure student athletes perform well in the classroom as well as on the field or court.

But I have also seen student athletes struggling through multiple-choice tests with scores that were no better than random guessing. And these students were trying. They would spend the whole 75 minutes of test time attempting to figure out the answers. I am convinced that a few of them couldn't read the test.

I know that many athletes use their talent to pay for an education they couldn’t get otherwise. And I know that Division II and III athletes oftentimes compete simply to be able to compete. I enjoy watching college football and basketball.

But that doesn’t eliminate the real tragedy of Chris Henry. All that mattered was that he could play football. No one ever held him accountable to be a fully developed human being.

The death of Chris Henry was a tragedy. On many, many levels.


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