Monthly Archives: July 2008

Monster marketing

The fact that the so-called Montauk Monster is likely a marketing gimmick says something – something about bloat and spectacle and species discovery mediated by gossip blogs – but I’m not sure what. There’s an episode of The Simpsons in which the owners of a new mall plant a hoax angel skeleton as a publicity stunt. The entire town believes it’s real. When Springfield learns the truth, Lisa says to the mall owners, “You exploited people’s deepest beliefs just to hawk your cheesy wares? Well, we are outraged!” She turns to Chief Wiggum and asks, rhetorically, “Aren’t we?”

Wiggum replies, “Oh. Oh, yeah. Yeah, we’re outraged. Very, uh – very much so. But look at all the stores! A Pottery Barn!”

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African energy, European opportunity

An article from Wednesday’s Guardian outlines a European Union proposal that would see vast solar farms in North Africa power all of Europe with clean energy. From the article:

The scientists are calling for the creation of a series of huge solar farms – producing electricity either through photovoltaic cells, or by concentrating the sun’s heat to boil water and drive turbines – as part of a plan to share Europe’s renewable energy resources across the continent.

…The grid proposal, which has won political support from both Nicholas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown, answers the perennial criticism that renewable power will never be economic because the weather is not sufficiently predictable. Its supporters argue that even if the wind is not blowing hard enough in the North Sea, it will be blowing somewhere else in Europe, or the sun will be shining on a solar farm somewhere.

Scientists argue that harnessing the Sahara would be particularly effective because the sunlight in this area is more intense: solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in northern Africa could generate up to three times the electricity compared with similar panels in northern Europe.

Exciting news, at first glance. But the fairness of the plan will depend on the eventual energy-sharing arrangement, which the article doesn’t really address: will North Africa be hooked up to Europe’s clean-energy grid, or just be a one-way exporter? Western powers never tire of insisting that developing countries should adhere to emissions-reduction targets – hardly a simple demand for industrializing economies – and here’s a chance for just that. This should be considered an African opportunity to realize that ever-elusive goal, sustainable development. So why is African solar energy Europe’s to take?

The Guardian’s usually-astute international analysis fell far short here. I wonder what an eventual energy deal would look like – it’s not so hard to imagine, as renewables become more widespread and lucrative, the kind of deeply unfair oil law imposed on Iraq refashioned for North Africa’s soon-to-be-profitable solar harvests.

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Boycotts beyond Beijing?

From the latest issue of the New Yorker, on the rise of conservative youth nationalism in China and one man’s take on the proposed boycotts of the Beijing Olympics: “Boycotting the Beijing Games in the name of Tibet seemed as logical to him as shunning the Salt Lake City Olympics to protest America’s treatment of the Cherokee.”

Uh, yes. Apparently neither Evan Osnos nor Tang Jie have gotten word of Resist 2010.

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MediaScout bloggage

Sigh. Bloggage, in addition to my regular news briefings, over at MediaScout.

One from the 22nd:

10:45 pm EDT | Montreal | Drew Nelles reporting: A few interesting items have popped up in recent days for those who keep an eye on the workings of the American media. On Monday, the New York Times profiled TellZell.com, a blog with business bigwig Sam Zell – who bought out the Tribune Company last year – right in its crosshairs. According to the New York Times, TellZell.com is owned by a staffer – “for now at least” – at the Tribune’s flagship paper, the Los Angeles Times. Zell has announced a series of deeply unpopular changes at the Tribune Company’s papers, like job and budget cuts, that prompted an outcry from staffers and a rash of resignations. The anti-Zell rhetoric at the blog is delivered with a healthy dose of snark, and TellZell.com has even landed its own scoops; a post last week listed 100 people leaving the LA Times, both through buyouts or firings. Media moguls the world over, be warned: The blogosphere has given your journalists a whole new platform – one you have no control over.

Click here to read the rest.

And another one on media misperceptions of Darfur, from the 15th:

6:55 pm EDT | Toronto | Drew Nelles reporting: Covering African conflicts is always a challenge for the Western media, who too often reduce vastly complex conflicts to tribal warfare – age-old, mindless, uncontrollable. Unfortunately, after the International Criminal Court’s indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide, this trend appears slated to continue with Darfur. With the region back in the news, it seems an important time to take a closer look at the conflict’s origins.

Click here to read the rest.

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So you’ve decided to give up on writing

Blogging, journalism’s younger and boring-er cousin, has never interested me. Even blogs that aren’t confessional-type online diaries hardly seem a step up from LiveJournal. They always have a strange odour of narcissism and desperation; just because you can blog doesnt mean you should.

I’m no Luddite, but I’m not convinced this medium is a step forward. Probably half the blogs I’ve come across routinely mangle the English language. I’m told blogging helps keep your writing sharp, which is part of the reason I started this thing, but that hasn’t held up in my experience. The few times I have blogged, for the McGill Daily and MediaScout, my own writing has disappointed me. That’s part and parcel, I guess, of trying to get something online as quickly as possible, without the benefit of a second pair of eyes.

So, as to why I’m doing this. At a student-journo conference a few months back, a panel on “Landing the job/internship” told us that blogging is a good thing to put on your resume. It shows the old newsroom dinosaurs, apparently, that you’re interested in “new media.” Resume-padding is soul-crushing, but I guess there are side benefits. At least this will provide a handy online archive for my (rarely) published work.

A friend of mine, who recently started her own blog, told me: “Blogging is emotionally taxing, I don’t recommend it. You spend your entire life wondering whether your blog is too rant-ey, or too granola-ey, or too colloquial, or not casual enough, and does anyone even fucking read the thing? etc.”

Yup.

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