Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Wed 30 Sep 2009 8:10 am   //   Posted in: Media, TV

Fox & Frenemies

Item! A gym patron in Columbia, Maryland, named Ann Geddes (not the photographer!) is trying to get her gym to remove Fox News from the TV lineup in the exercise room. The Baltimore Sun.

Geddes and I disagree on this point. As I wrote back in November, I enjoy watching Fox News at the gym because it makes me angry, and anger helps me exercise harder!

Since November, however, I have changed my mind about something I wrote.


Tue 22 Sep 2009 7:42 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

Information Darwinism

I still remember sitting in my 9th grade science class and seeing, for the first time, a simple explanation of DNA. It blew my mind how elegant a solution it is to coding information: A zipper of matching teeth. Sometimes a mutation occurs that helps a species stay alive and reproduce. It gets copied ferociously, and we call that evolution. It’s beautiful.

In some ways, the spreading of news via the Internet these days is like natural selection. I’m going to single out Twitter here—not because Twitter is the only place information Darwinism is happening, but because it’s easiest to explain. On Twitter, people are sharing millions of facts every minute. Some of these facts get retweeted, copied. The most valuable, urgent and interesting information gets copied with great speed. Definitive, immediate news of mass interest (think: death of a celebrity) spreads the fastest and the farthest. Contrary to my prediction a few months ago, Twitter is surprisingly good at preventing the spread of bad information. Sure, a few people will copy a false rumor or a non-story (“URGENT! Earthquake reported in ___!”), but there seem to be enough influential Twitterers who know how to check facts, debunk false rumors, and consider history and context. Look at Wikipedia for evidence that, generally, crowdsourced editing works way better than you think it should.

We’re moving closer to an information ecosystem in which the fastest, best versions of important stories thrive and multiply.


Thu 6 Aug 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Media, Movies, Over!

I will probably never buy another DVD

Last year, I spent $20 for a cable that connects my computer to my TV. It has more than paid for itself. A few months later, I’m streaming most of my home entertainment over the Internet. This week I watched “The Hunt for Red October” from Netflix. The experience delivered just as much Cold War nautical awesomeness as it would have on a DVD. And I can play it again any time I want.

Which makes me wonder, why own DVDs at all? My modest, tightly-edited DVD collection takes up one shelf of a narrow bookcase. Like my long-obsolete CD collection, seeing it sometimes fills me with buyer’s remorse. Eight discs of “Arrested Development” sit there mocking me, now that every single episode is available free online. “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Casablanca,” and “Vertigo” are there too—and also available streaming from Netflix.


Mon 3 Aug 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

Twitter Shame and Facebook Rage

I want to talk about two emotional reactions I felt recently as a result of social networking sites.

twitterbird1. Twitter Shame

I was at a networking event with some other journalists, and one reporter decided to get provocative. “I just don’t get Tweeter,” she said, deliberately misstating the name. “Who cares what you’re having for lunch?”

Ah, the lunch fallacy. I rushed to Twitter’s defense. “Actually, I find it quite useful,” I said, delivering my well-practiced argument in support of using Twitter for journalism.

And then, suddenly, I ran out of gas. A wave of intense embarrassment washed over me. Am I really this much of a tool? I imagined someone tape-recording the conversation, then playing it back to me later, snickering at my emotional defense of a tech start-up in which I have no stake whatsoever. I felt Twitter Shame.


Mon 6 Jul 2009 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Media


This is an actual ad, evidently trying to persuade old people to give up paper bank statements:


Geez, why stop at the mailman? Trust no one!

Tue 30 Jun 2009 10:00 pm   //   Posted in: Books, Media

The fall of Chris Anderson

Wired editor Chris Anderson and I are in the same line of work. The difference is he’s the top editor at a major business magazine, while I’m a mid-level editor at a small business magazine. He’s published a successful book called The Long Tail and is a popular public speaker; I can claim no such accomplishments. You might say he’s very skilled at his job. Until recently, I would agree.

A week ago, a reviewer for the Virginia Quarterly Review discovered that Anderson committed plagiarism in his upcoming book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. In at least seven passages, Anderson fills in his argument with background paragraphs he copied from Wikipedia.


Mon 29 Jun 2009 8:32 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

What happened to the blog comments?

I made some small design tweaks to the History Eraser Button blog over the weekend. One change was to eliminate comments. You can still read comments on old posts, but no new comments are allowed. Why? Three reasons:


Fri 26 Jun 2009 8:46 am   //   Posted in: Media

The real reason nobody trusts

It’s time for another round of Guess the Anonymous Source!

If you were near a computer, or in an office, yesterday around 5:45 p.m. ET, you knew Michael Jackson had died. You knew this because reported it (credited anonymously) and word spread quickly. It took the newspapers, wires, TV networks, and other trusted legacy news sources another 30 minutes to an hour to report Jackon’s death themselves. (Today the Associated Press has a good tabulation of the media timeline.)

News sources often cite one another when breaking news is going on—CNN cited The Los Angeles Times with its initial reports of Jackson’s death. So why won’t anyone cite Is it because mainstream news outlets hate getting scooped by blogs?

No. It’s because is widely thought to pay for tips. It’s hard to confirm this, since most of the people who accuse TMZ of this practice are competitors—and some of them pay sources too. But every time TMZ publishes a leaked police report nobody else has, suspicion deepens.

Is paying sources so wrong? Network TV offers its guests lavish perks to appear on news shows. Magazines pay celebrities large sums for exclusive photos. And there’s so much pressure to have a competitive edge. But in cases of breaking news, most journalists feel you’re supposed to get your information through hard work and connections, not checkbook journalism. Paying for information upsets the source-journalist dynamic in a dangerous way. Can you really trust a source who’s willing to sell out like that? And oh yes, it costs money, which nobody has right now.

Among mainstream journalists, offering cash for news tips is considered so toxic that even the whiff of possibility that it’s happening makes the entire site contaminated. I believe that’s the real reason CNN would credit a Los Angeles Times report about Michael Jackson dying, but not a similar report from TMZ.

Blogs have always been willing to flaunt traditional journalism ethics, and it’s good to have some mayhem in the mix. But until TMZ, no one was worried that blogs would start bribing emergency workers for information. That would be ridiculous! Blogs didn’t have any money! But TMZ does. It’s owned by AOL, which is currently being spun off from Time Warner (which also owns People and CNN, go figure). It’s probably AOL’s most valuable property.

Mon 22 Jun 2009 8:56 am   //   Posted in: In the news, Media

My thoughts on the Neda video

Of interest if you’re paying attention to the Iran protest coverage: I just posted some ramblings on why the Neda video represents a new kind of reporting on my work blog, PDNPulse.

Wed 17 Jun 2009 8:11 pm   //   Posted in: Media

Poets as reporters

The Forward has a story about a newspaper in Israel that, for one day, asked authors and poets to write the news:

Among those articles were gems like the stock market summary, by author Avri Herling. It went like this: “Everything’s okay. Everything’s like usual. Yesterday trading ended. Everything’s okay. The economists went to their homes, the laundry is drying on the lines, dinners are waiting in place… Dow Jones traded steadily and closed with 8,761 points, Nasdaq added 0.9% to a level of 1,860 points…. The guy from the shakshuka [an Israeli egg-and-tomato dish] shop raised his prices again….” The TV review by Eshkol Nevo opened with these words: “I didn’t watch TV yesterday.” And the weather report was a poem by Roni Somek, titled “Summer Sonnet.” (“Summer is the pencil/that is least sharp/in the seasons’ pencil case.”)

What an excellent idea! Once. (Memo to Newsweek: No.) All of us who write news should aspire to wield language as forcefully and precisely as a poet. But reimagining the conventions of journalism every time you write a business story would be hard to do and tiresome for readers. It would get in the way of efficiency, a too-often-neglected quality in reporting.