Archive for the ‘In the news’ Category

Sat 30 Oct 2010 3:34 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Media, TV

Some thoughts on the Jon Stewart speech

I just finished watching the broadcast of Comedy Central’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” from Washington D.C. I think a lot of people weren’t sure what to make of it (Is it serious of funny? Political or agnostic? Cynical or sincere?) but I thought of it as a smart marketing promotion for two very good TV shows, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. And as expected, the rally came off as a funny and well-produced live variety program.

The YouTube Moment came at the end, when Jon Stewart devoted about 10 or 15 minutes to a serious speech. He spoke about how, unlike what you see on cable TV news and in Washington politics, Americans are mostly people who work together to solve problems.

On a windblown stage on a sunny afternoon, Stewart tried to make himself the voice of reason in American media. I think he succeeded, but in doing so I’m worried he ignored the role that passion—irrational, rude, confrontational passion—plays in making American work.


Thu 28 Oct 2010 10:15 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, TV commericals

These ideas are crazy!

Here’s the best campaign ad I’ve seen this year:

I love it because it goes in for the kill with just five brutal words: “John Raese’s ideas are crazy!”


Wed 27 Oct 2010 10:26 pm   //   Posted in: In the news

“Send the next governor Andrew Cuomo a message”

This is real—an actual mailer for Kristin Davis, the former prostitution madam who is running as a fringe candidate for governor of New York. This is easily the weirdest political ad I’ve ever gotten in the mail. Who is paying for this?


Sun 24 Oct 2010 4:14 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Media, Technology

Phrase of the year: It Gets Better

The It Gets Better Project is so good, so spot-on, that it ought to be celebrated as a triumph of Internet video, social media and even the English language. I can’t find one damn reason to be cynical about it.

You’ve probably seen at least a piece of this campaign. It’s an online media project started last month in response to a series of suicides by gay youth who were bullied in school. Writer Dan Savage started a website and YouTube channel seeking videos of adults counseling kids to hang in there, it’s going to get better. Savage recorded the first video with his husband, and promoted it in Savage Love, his nationally published sex column.


Fri 22 Oct 2010 12:00 am   //   Posted in: In the news, Media, Stray data

Chart: How much tax money do we spend on NPR, anyway?

Every few years, it becomes smart politics to attack public broadcasting and call for Congress to stop funding it. This week, following the Juan Williams debacle and just a few weeks before the midterm elections, National Public Radio is taking an especially hard beating from the right.

  • Mike Huckabee: “NPR has discredited itself as a forum for free speech and a protection of the First Amendment rights of all and has solidified itself as the purveyor of politically correct pabulum and protector of views that lean left…. It is time for the taxpayers to start making cuts to federal spending, and I encourage the new Congress to start with NPR.”
  • Sarah Palin: “If NPR is unable to tolerate an honest debate about an issue as important as Islamic terrorism, then it’s time for ‘National Public Radio’ to become ‘National Private Radio.'”
  • Some dude on Huffington: “It’s clear that NPR would rather play consistently to the left than reach a balanced audience. And for that, they deserve to be pushed away from the public trough.”

I’ve never been a big fan of using tax money to support media programming; its too close to the state-run media in countries with less freedom of speech. But the truth is, in the U.S., public radio hardly gets any tax money. NPR gets no tax money directly. Most of NPR’s revenue comes from private donations. Federal money is funneled through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which doles out grants to local stations, which can use it to pay their NPR dues. How much did the CPB budget for radio this year? $90.5 million. That’s nothing.

I’ve become interested in data visualization, so just for fun, here’s a quick and dirty chart illustrating the amount of tax money spent on public radio compared to a few other choice areas. I threw News Corp’s annual revenues in for good measure. All numbers (except the TARP spending) are from FY 2010.


Fri 8 Oct 2010 7:00 am   //   Posted in: In the news, Transit

The war on trains

Yesterday the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, ordered a halt to the most important passenger rail project in the United States. That’s bad, and it gets worse. This is not an isolated local decision. This is part of a nationwide war on trains, of which Christie is the leader.

The project that Christie killed yesterday is a second rail tunnel under the Hudson River. It would add capacity to the badly overcrowded and economically vital Northeast Corridor. I ride this route often and I’m surely not the only one tired of sitting in Secaucus going nowhere while we wait for a train ahead to clear the only existing tunnel—built in 1910. Construction began on the new tunnel earlier this year, with funding by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Port Authority, and the state of New Jersey. Yet Christie determined he had the power to shut it down. “The ARC project will be terminated and staff will immediately begin an expeditious and orderly shutdown of the project,” the governor declared.

What else has the governor been up to?


Sat 11 Sep 2010 2:08 pm   //   Posted in: In the news

Getting it right

Today I’m thinking about a few hours I spent on a military base on September 11, 2001. I was into my second week on the job as a news reporter for The Carlisle Sentinel newspaper in Pennsylvania.

We watched the footage on CNN in the newsroom for a few minutes, then I was sent to gather reporting from one of our local military bases for the September 12 paper. Ultimately I contributed quotes and facts to three stories as part of the paper’s reporting team. One story was about the military, another about churches, the third about schools. Nine years later, the parts of those stories that stand out most to me are the quotes from the military professors I interviewed at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania. Keep in mind these quotes all came within a few hours of the attacks:


Sat 28 Aug 2010 8:35 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Photos

“Restoring Honor”

Who are the people of the Tea Party movement? Today I happened to be in Washington, D.C., at the same time as Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally on the National Mall. My brother and I went out to see what it was all about. Here are some photos of the crowd.


Tue 24 Aug 2010 8:23 am   //   Posted in: In the news, New York is different

Me and the BBC

(Updated 8:19 p.m. ET) A producer from the BBC interviewed me Friday for a segment on the Islamic Center near Ground Zero. You can watch the video above or see it on the BBC News web site.

Fri 9 Jul 2010 8:30 am   //   Posted in: In the news

“Dear All Of Northeast Ohio;”

I’m not about to dis Cleveland. It’s the city where my dad was born and several of my relatives still live. That said, I’m not weeping over LeBron James’s choice to abandon his hometown for a bigger market and more money. King James is exactly right to go to Miami.

In America, we are all free agents. We can move from city to city, and if one city offers more appeal than another, we should go there. It’s how many of my friends and I ended up in New York. It’s good economics; theoretically a mobile workforce should mean higher employment and better pay for workers, since people are empowered to seek out jobs anywhere.

But what about the small city that gets abandoned by its best people, who are lured away like moths to bright lights? How is that fair? Doesn’t a hero owe his hometown some loyalty?