Tag Archives: Media

From the Department of Things I Should Have Read 24 Months Ago

So I’m two years behind the times on this one, but for those of you who have never read “Pat Dollard’s War on Hollywood,” do so now, please. I am currently reading The Best American Magazine Writing 2008, and “Pat Dollard” is a standout. The writing is utilitarian and clear, but it’s a compelling portrait of a scary human being. It’s very long, and very worth it. To entice you to read, I present the following titillating tidbits:

Hours of tape Dollard has shown me but not yet made public reveal an embedded reporter running out of control. In one sequence, filmed at a checkpoint where Marines are stopping civilian cars, Dollard himself cuts in front of the Marines to accost the driver. He leans in the window and shouts, “You got any bombs, dickface? Any booms? Any women?”

Dollard backs away, laughing, then shouts to nearby Marines. “Will you fucking kill something while I am here?”

Dollard enters the frame, totally nude, a decrepit satyr. A montage ensues of him performing various sex acts with her, intercut with close-ups of the girl smoking a glass pipe. There is unintended comedy: while Dollard is having sex with her on the couch, it catches fire, and the two fail to notice until flames engulf their feet. There is intended comedy: Dollard performs anal sex with her while simultaneously talking on the phone with an agent at William Morris.

The next day I visit. He greets me at the door drinking root beer and ice cream from an enormous bowl.

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iMedia

The Guardian’s Jemima Kiss has a good post that simultaneously shrugs off the whining about the decline of the traditional news media and dismisses the much-vaunted iTunes solution. Kiss points out that publishers still largely control media content, unlike record labels at the height of the file-sharing age, among a host of other problems with assuming some similarity between the two situations. New models for journalism won’t look anything like iTunes, Kiss speculates. Instead, they’ll look like souped-up versions of the online media already out there.

There’s another problem, I think, with comparing file-sharing to accessing print media online. Content isn’t just under the control of publishers; it’s (mostly) offered for free online by those very publishers, on sanctioned websites, with no uncertainty or risk. Part of what makes iTunes attractive (I assume – I’ve never bought anything through it) is that it’s a virus-free alternative to torrenting or file-sharing, and the quality of the file is guaranteed. But it’s not like anyone worries that some article is going to turn out to be a virus or a garbled bootleg.

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The future, soon enough

My goodbye to MediaScout, from the MS-Canada Blog:

2:05 pm EDT | Toronto | Drew Nelles reporting: On December 8th, the day MediaScout announced it would soon go on an indefinite hiatus, two other things happened. The administrators of the Pulitzer Prizes announced that they would start accepting entries from online-only news outlets. Also, the Tribune Company – publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, among other newspapers – filed for bankruptcy.

These three events vary in scale, but what they hold in common is obvious. As Jon Stewart recently joked, “What’s black and white and completely over?” Media are on the move. We should not be nostalgic for some era of glorious print muckraking that never really existed; newspapers have been narrow ideological tools and rapacious advertising vessels as often has they have exposed injustice and challenged power.

But we should also be realistic. The internet is not a panacea. Globally speaking, online access remains a limited privilege. Yesterday’s news conglomerates now own leading web publications. Independent media are wonderful, but lack resources. Blogs are, uh, blogs – diffuse and democratic, yes, but also the publishing platform of choice for party hacks, cowards, and the batshit insane. And in any case, the imminent death of the printed page has likely been exaggerated.

MediaScout occupied both of these worlds, the dodgy past and the hazy future. We aimed to explain how and why different outlets covered the news differently. Like the media sources we critiqued, we weren’t always successful. But when MediaScout worked, it was the potential of the internet on display. Lightning-fast summary and analysis. Instant context. Exploding the myth of an unbiased media. MediaScout would have been impossible in an earlier era, but the web allowed it to thrive.

Like many online upstarts, though, MediaScout fell victim to a lack of funding. This will be online media’s greatest challenge, as no funding source seems ideal: neither the insatiability of CEOs and advertisers, nor the fickleness of subscribers and donators. MediaScout’s obstacles were also those of publishing and the internet at large, obstacles that will not go away. Maybe we will be back. More likely, we won’t. In today’s climate – media, economic, whatever – that uncertainty is fitting.

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Skimping on substance

From the MS-Canada Blog:

Skimping on substance

8:38 pm EDT | Montreal | Drew Nelles reporting: The public editor’s column in today’s New York Times is, unsurprisingly, about the paper’s coverage of the current US presidential election. And it’s not a positive assessment. Public editor Clark Hoyt’s assistant determined that, since late August, only about 10 percent of the 270 election articles in the Times have been about the candidates’… Read more »

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The lesser of two endorsements

From the MS-Canada Blog:

The lesser of two endorsements

4:45 pm EDT | Montreal | Drew Nelles reporting: It goes without saying that the New Yorker is better than Esquire. One represents the standard against which all other magazine writing is judged, rivaled only by, well, its rivals: Harper’s and the Atlantic. The other is a men’s publication well past its hugely influential heyday. So the marked difference in their endorsements for the US presidential… Read more »

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For sale: one national newspaper

In today’s Globe, Lawrence Martin discusses what the apparently-imminent sale of the National Post would mean both for the paper and the country’s media. What I like best is Martin’s frank acceptance that newspaper ownership shapes content. Not everyone shares that view. I once took a class on media and politics; the professor, a hardscrabble conservative, insisted that not enough empirical tests had been done to determine how corporate ownership affects news content. He argued, for example, that the case studies in Manufacturing Consent couldn’t be taken as representative – that they were chosen because they were flashy and obvious.

But read a CanWest or Newscorp outlet, and it can be hard not to feel like an Asper or a Murdoch is whispering in your ear – especially given the degree of editorial involvement the Aspers reportedly have. I appreciated my professor’s enthusiasm for challenging received wisdom. But with or without an empirical study, it will be interesting to see how the Post changes, if and when it changes hands.

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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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