Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Saddest Moment of All

Terry Heaton's wife Alicia suddenly passed away earlier this week...

I don't know Terry Heaton personally. I know his blogging because I end up reading him daily for my work with Corante. Terry, though, is someone I've come to respect--not just for what he knows about broadcasting and revenues and all that stuff...but because he's a fantastic observer of the world, a compassionate human being, and took the time to write his thoughts and share them.

And because of knowing these things about him, I felt as awful about his loss as if he were someone I knew locally. He and Alicia weren't married long--but that doesn't matter. It's what he wrote about her on his blog--an unashamed openness that only men truly in love feel confident enough to express.

I have been thinking of Terry all week...just sending a prayer from time to time, when it hits me what his sorrow might be like...because he shared how strong his love could be....

Friday, April 28, 2006

Marx is attributed with the sentiment that religion is the opiate of the masses...well, in China, still supposedly under the reign of communism, the opiate's got to be porn...because now that they've banned Technorati porn and the New York Times are about all you can get Over There from Over Here.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Jack Shaffer has stern words on why writers plagiarize. Of his reasons, I think that "Ambition often Exceeds" Talent may have been part of not only Kaavya Viswanathan but also Ben Domenech (lest we forget Mr. Red State).

Jack also rightly says that writing is hard work--but also, if you want to be published, a writer has to get used to having all that hard work pulled apart by an editor. If a writer is precious about his/her work, the editor's pen will indeed be mightier than the sword.

When the editor's pen is too much, present the editor with something that will make him/her just love you to pieces!

Plagiarism probably comes from someplace where there's a mixture of huge ego, inordinate drive, and flagging self-esteem....stuff that no amount of cheating or stealing that getting published could ever fix.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Case of Immaturity and Irresponsibility

Since the story of Kaavya Viswanathan, her coming-of-age novel, and the alleged (perhaps unintentional) plaigarizing of several novels by Megan McCafferty, I've been wondering if Ms Viswanathan is as calculating as James Frey or if something else is going on here...

So, I listened this a.m. to her appearance on the Today Show. I didn't watch--as watching a very pretty, very young woman get choked up an try to bail herself out of a very bad situation might elicit two responses from me (as well as the rest of the public.) We could either 1)be sympathetic and forgive her outright or 2)get seriously pissed and want to excoriate the kid.

Listening only, I thought " oh geeze! this is just a kid! the world thinks because she's smart enough to go to Harvard, and pretty enough to look like a grown woman, that she's got the mind and sophistication to author a novel."

I concluded that Ms. Viswanathan's only crime is being very young--and not being who publishers promoted and projected her to be.

The problem, then, is not with her, but with a publshing house--Little Brown-- assumed a young person to be someone that she is not--mature enough to pen a spotless novel. The publisher rushed someone to press who should possibly have knocked around a bit, publishing in small presses, going to college, reading her stuff to peers.

That rush, perhaps, comes from a need for money--not a concern for quality work nor for the reputation or life of a young person. They saw a very marketable commodity--young, Asian-Indian, Harvard, pretty. The didn't see a young person who may have needed time to learn.

It seems, too, that Little Brown--and probably a lot of publishers--are unfamiliar with what makes a writer. They are unfamiliar with the process of writing. Many of us who write, when we are young, will do riffs or variations on themes. We read voraciously, internalize what we read, and say to ourselves "I want to write X genre of novel!" We set about doing it. Our efforts might be really fantastic, but most of us don't have access to publishers, or aren't nervy enough, to submit our ramblings for review.

And we kind of know, deep down, that our stuff needs work--that we need maturity.

Historically, the best writers are writers who have lived lives. They've gone out and done things, experienced life, met people, have observed others and themselves. For the longest time there has been a philosophy that writing, unlike mathematics, is something that gets better as a person gets older because of these factors. The facility with language as well as the knowledge of life, combine to create an individual, who, if they've been practicing their particular process, can write novels, short stories, etc.

This is not to say that there aren't those prodigies--or that coming-of age novels can't be written by young people. Yet even in that genre, the best coming-of-age novels have been written by someone beyond that particular age range : Judy Blume, who wrote "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret" when she was 40-something.

Prodigies are few, and, perhaps, aren't necessarily attending Harvard. The perception that a 19-year old attending Harvard is somehow not capable of plagiarizing may also have been part of the publisher's myopia. We are often judged by our social class, and a young person who goes to Harvard might have a better chance of getting his/her draft novel in the hands of a publisher moreso than someone who attends a County College or State University. That's a consequence of social class and social connection--it sucks, but unfortunately, that's The World.

So, I feel a bit of compassion for Ms. Vishwanathan--even though she'll eventually, I'm sure, emerge from all this pretty much spotless. I look at her and I see a young person who was rushed to maturity when she may have been better off growing up at the same rate as her peers.

Update Dan Gillmor offers a link to several passages from Kaavya Viswanathan's book for comparison. it does not look good and could call into question her previous academic work. makes me wonder if she had plagiarized in the past.

Update: Author Megan McCafferty responds: Apology Not Accepted--and I don't blame her. She is not obligated to accept the apology and her publisher has every right to seek restitution from Little Brown. That's the consequences LB will have to take.

Final Note: When we see people as brands, compaines (publishers included) look for the prettiest and most salable of human commodities. Ms. Vishwanathan was a wonderful commodity for Little Brown and looked--both literally and figuratively--to make them a nice bundle. Had they taken a few moments to see her as a person, rather than as a marketable brand, they might have read her work a bit more carefully, compared it to others in the genre, and found the plagiarized passages sooner. Remember, Little Brown are the adults in this situation as much as they are the business entity, and even if she was crafty enough to pass off the someone else's work as her own, they should have been able to call her on it. If checking for plagiarism isn't part of a book publisher's job, perhaps it should be as much as it should be for a newspaper.
Update Dan Gillmor offers a link to several passages from Kaavya Viswanathan's book for comparison. Please see more commentary here

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

If I'm Already Transparent, Do I Have to Get Naked, Too?

The whole L.A.Times/Michale Hiltzik hoo-ha brought up the whole transparency thing yet again (Jeff Jarvis blogged it twice so it's pretty high on the meter.) There's pretty much agreement across a great number of blogs that transparency wouldn't have hurt Hiltzik all that much, and his lack thereof, not his feuds with fellow bloggers nor the medium of blogging, is to blame for his woes...

Yet barely a month ago, the delightfully curmudgeonly Nick Carr offered Seven Rules for Corporate blogging in response to something Scoble either did or said (I'm not sure and I haven't been following their level of hoo-ha to parse it all out.) Carr, however, offered two salient points about corporate blogging: 1) don't do it and 2)"People blogging on behalf of their employers don't need to wear suits, but they should wear clothes. Independent bloggers can afford to blog "naked." Corporate bloggers can't."

And then today Steve Outing pens
this piece about giving journalists their own spaces (like MySpace spaces) so that they can be a bit more personal with the public and also suggests that people might want to have personal pages on the websites of various newspapers.

all I can say, in my best New Jersey bagleshop vernacular is "oy vai!"

Now, let's start by getting a few things straight here. Transparency is a good thing. Transparency means that people know who you are, know something about you, your opinion, and maybe a few other things. You don't have to be naked to be transparent. You can, like a fan dancer in a burlesque show, still keep some things a mystery while still letting people know some things about you.

Being naked, however, has different implications and might be interpreted in a much broader sense than being transparent. I sometimes think the guys who lobby for more nakedness (as opposed to nudity) in blogging are rather blind to a lot of the human condition. First, just how naked IS naked? If I blog about my personal life, I'm definitely being naked--but the fact of the matter is that my personal life just might have a bit more spice to it than a lot of other folks' lives and my attempts at being naked may be just a tad TMI for most....

So, then, is the degree to with we are naked determined by our professional standing, by our creative pursuits, or by the fact that we have rather regular bourgeois lives with not a hint of scandal?

From my experience, it's usually those with the nice bourgeois lives that love to be naked and like to urge others to do the same. Then again, what are they losing if they blog about their wonderful romantic dinner with the wife/husband, the camping trip with the kids, or what their friend of a billion years said over coffee and donuts? All they are doing is re-affirming an American ideal and reflecting the life experience of many others. Their nakedness is kind of like being naked in a nudist colony.

So, basically, by calling for more folks to be naked what we're really asking for is a lot of folks to tell us about their fairly bourgeois lives....

Because if you live something of a rather spicy bohemian life as I do, you just might risk your credibility--and worse, your corporate hire-ability.

Yet I'm sure some are thinking that I'm missing the point about businesses blogging naked. Not really. If a business gets too naked in its blogging--if it goes the way of the topless and bottomless dancer--it too risks credibility. If a corporate blogger gives away too much about a product or about internal squabbles, the corporate credibility or product credibility could be put at risk.

Likewise with a journalist. Do we really want to know about Marureen Dowd's most recent date or the dinner Tom Friedman had with his wife? Knowing these details about these individuals can leave them open for some real credibility pot shots--if anything it would turn them in to paparazzi-worthy Personalities. Perhaps what the newsroom doesn't need is more Personalities...nor paparazzi.

And, it would also be a disaster for the journalist who isn't quite cut from the same cloth as the guy who goes to little league games and charity fundraisers. Being naked sometimes calls for values judgements about others based on how "normal" their life happens to be...and that is hardly the measure of a good, if not superb, journalist (Ernest Hemingway.)

So, perhaps the better term, when it comes to anyone who's blogging for a business, or for a newspaper, or for anyone whose professional life might be impacted, the concept of transparency might do a lot better than being naked.

Just a thought.

Note: Susan Mernit once commented to me that I was gutsy for linking my personal and professional blogs...I'm not sure if it's been a measure of guts or a lack of brains on my part. I do know that it has, to some degree, had a negative impact among some business folk in the area. Yet there are others who think that it's wonderful and I should be praised for being open about my life (and that my "naked" writing is far better than my "transparent" writing.) Yet once the geni is out of the bottle, it's damned hard to get that sucker back in...

Can a Deodorant be Your Friend?

Rupert Murdoch and the guys who concocted MySpace seem tothink it's a possibiliy.

But when there's so much talk of people as brands, and of how important it is to turn your Self into a brand, can being friends with a deodorant, or music company, or soft drink, be all that far behind?

I consume, therefore I am.

Monday, April 24, 2006

SavetheInternet Wants Stop Telco Pitbulls Before They Bite

Launched today, is a grassroots, non-partisan coalition which aims to lobby Congress to support Net Neutrality and stop Big Telcos from constructing a two-tiered Internet that would inhibit the free flow of information that so much of us have come to depend on.

Basically, speedy net services will be parsed out to those who can afford it--and if you have the right service. For instance, if you have Comcast, who may have its own music download service, and you want to downlowad from iTunes (or another cheaper service), Comcast will be able to slow down your access to other services so that the "better choice" for music downloads will be their service.

It could also decide which political candidate is the "better choice."

This is not really new--just a re-packaging of what they used to do in the days of dialup. Case in point: in the days of crappy dialup, AOL was the only dependable system--but not only did they charge an extorition-like hourly rate over a certain number of contracted hours, they also restricted access to information from competitor's services and sites they deemed "inappropriate."

When free, more dependable and unrestricted dialup, became available, people opted out of AOL. Then highspeed broadband came along and even though it's a tad more expensive than dial-up, the access and speed is worth the charge.

However, what we are paying for broadband (or dsl) service apparently is not enough. BigTelco--ATT, Verizon, etc--have re-concocted a pay scheme that makes AOL's hourly charge look downright cheap. But it's not just the cost--it's the inhibited access to information that is what will hurt us the most.

Yeah, some folks might think this will stop porn before it pops up on the kiddie's computers. It's not porn, though, that it will stop--it's the free flow of commerce across many different industries (like the example above). It's the free-flow of political information (and, yes, political echo-chambering and infighting and other nonsense, but that's life in a democracy. if you're not used to it by now, too bad.) There will be no amount of wonky Search Engine Optimization techniques that will help a small business if it can't pay upfront to Big Telco for access. Big Telco will decide what websites will be best for you, letting big business's big bidders outdo educational institutions and small businesses at every step.

This is bad, folks. Really, really bad.

Certain memebers of Congress have already started "pushing a law that will ban Net Neutrality." If we don't start to speak up now, we stand to lose a lot of the freedoms we have the right to exercise. If Big Telco becomes our gatekeeper, we lose what so much of us, thru our blogs, small businesses, civic organizations and general chitchat, have created out here. Without our use of the internet, there would be no internet. But like drug dealers who dole out samples of heroin and crack in order to get people hooked, the telcos know that many of us who are "heavy users" (as we were referred to in a recent Pew Char. Trust report) rely on the internet for one reason or another. But the difference between drugs and the internet is that while drugs destroy lives and communities, the Internet and those of us who have used it freely have created communities, businesses, and jobs.

The Internet is no longer a luxury item and the playground of a few high-powered tech geeks. It is part of our way of life. We consumers are the ones who have been using on-line newspapers, movie-ticket buying services, photo sharing sites, blog platforms, Ebay, Google, iTunes, Everquest,, and the local chambers of commerce and public library websites. We are now being asked to pony up for something that we have put our own 'sweat equity' into since the late '90's--for without Us and our useage patterns, the telcos would see no benefit to them in creating a two-tiered system. We keep this world spinning.

And, furthermore, what are We? China?? That's the only *other* place on the planet where they've proposed, and got, a two-tiered Internet...

Think about it.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

When the Nearest City is Springfield, How Am I Supposed to Tag It?

As I was looking for some information on the L.A.Times story, I got to poking around the tags for various cities in Massachusetts. . .and found something very curious about the ubiquitious city name of Springfield, which, geographically, is the closest city near where I live in Chicopee...

I found that there is indeed a tag for Springfield. Illinois. Or at least that's the Springfield where people blog and use the tag. No one really blogs about Springfield Massachusetts. We have bloggers, and a couple of them blog about Springfield. But nobody tags their blogs "Springfield"--and if any of us did, they'd probably get us confused with Springfield, Illinois, or one of the plethora of Springfields across the country.

Then there's our local paper. Some cities have tags for their local papers. We have one paper(kind of like the Chicopee mayoral election and it's one candidate). It's called The Republican. If I type in "Republican," I get everything about the republican party and republicans in general. Nothing about The Republican newspaper.

I look up a tag for Northampton--a trendy little town with bloated real-estate prices just up the road aways from where I'm at. There's a few posts--rather old--and one has to be careful not to confuse Northampton,Massachusetts with Northampton of the Old Country...the place where soccer is called football.

Noho, a common term for Northampton (although those born here remember it as 'Hamp and think Noho's the indication of a transplant), is another tag. But that one's apparently reserved for a Japanese blogger who's on MSN Space--and for an area in Manhattan...

There's a tag for Amherst--a notable town, mostly since the University of Massachusetts is located there, as well as Emily Dickinson's familial estate. But there's not much tagged. It's pretty much a dead tag.

Then, there's a "Boston" tag. Better yet, there's a "Boston Globe" tag. So I can not only find stories tagged "Boston" but also those tagged "Boston Globe" in case I'm looking for blog stuff on the Boston Globe. The Boston and Boston Globe tags are pretty current and kind of interesting.

As far as the tag of Massachusetts is concerned, there's nothing going on in the state west of Boston...

Through all my digging, I'm brought back to the notion that there's not much going on in this part of the world, and as far as the blogosphere's concerned, it's pretty much virgin territory. I think, too, that if I wanted to tag it, would I have to tag everything with the general Springfield tag, and would people know to check that tag out? Would they be peeved by the notion that lots of other Springfields might be using the same tag?

Then I wonder about all the stuff I read daily about how the blogosphere is taking over and how interactivity is ubiquitous like the town name of Springfield. I read how the journalism and "dead tree" newspapers are toast, all to be replaced by blogging and media websites and I get to thinking that the Media Revolution that so many pundits living in the vast metropolii of this fair nation keep blathering on about is probably going to pass right along this bucolic countryside. . .perhaps not changing it much...because our one paper, the Republican, has its blogs segregated and commnent-free, and the other paper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, locks its articles behind a subscription fee (but I'll have more on this...I'm finding something very strange going on over there...)

So, perhaps the blogosphere as I *think* I know it, isn't quite the blogosphere that exists in this part of the world...or, at least it doesn't in Techorati Tagville, that's for sure.

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Busted! L.A.Times Columnist Pulls Wool Over Poly-Pseudonymous Postings

These days, it seems that breachs of ethics in the blogosphere are going on at an alarming rate. Yes, I know y'all think there's no such things as ethics out here in the Wild Wild Blogosphere, but if the recent yanking of L.A. Times columnist Michael Hiltzik's blog is an indication, we not only have an ethical code, but we can, when we want, police ourselves (even if it's out of a kind of "gotcha!" mindset.)

Here's the deal: Hiltzek decided that he wanted to mess with some conservative SoCal bloggers that he disagreed with--most notably Hugh Hewett and L.A-D.A Patrick Frey. Rather than going about the fight transparently and in a forthright manner, Hiltzik decided to get all cheeky and poly-pseudonymous on their asses:
The deceptive postings grew out of a running feud between Hiltzik and conservative bloggers in Southern California. One is Hugh Hewitt, a radio talk show host and blogger. The other is an assistant Los Angeles district attorney named Patrick Frey, who maintains a blog under the name Patterico's Pontifications.

When commenters on Frey's Web site criticized Hiltzik, an examination by Frey of the Internet addresses involved showed it was the Times writer who responded in remarks posted under the name "Mikekoshi."

Frey wrote that "the evidence is overwhelming that he has used more than one pseudonym. Hiltzik and his pseudonymous selves have echoed each other's arguments, praised one another, and mocked each other's enemies. All the while, Hiltzik's readers have been unaware that (at a minimum) the acid-tongued 'Mikekoshi' . . . is in fact Hiltzik himself."

I'm laughing, yet I'm not. I'm wondering if there was some policy at the L.A.Times that forbid their bloggers from commenting on the blogs of others. Yet I'm also thinking Hiltzik's a just an ego-driven schmuck who thought himself smarter, cooler and more righteous than his opponents or his readers. More than anything I'm absolutely freaking disgusted that another high profile reporter who blogs decided to act like such a cheeky little ass. Did Hiltzik really think that the guy he's trashing wouldn't try to trace back the pseudonymous one's identity in an effort to nail down exactly who would want to put out so much trash-effort (the multiple pseudonymns)? Did Hiltzik think he was being "cool" and web-savvy and a real blogger with his antics?

Perhaps Hiltzik figured "it's the blogosphere! I can do anything I want out here!" Wrong. We have our ways, and Patrick Frey has a clue as to not only what those ways and techonlogies are, but also how to use them...

So here's a belated clue for Hiltzik and others: if you blog, and you blog under a certain name, and esp. for an organization, do everyone around you a huge favor and blog forthrightly and transparently. Don't get all pseudonymous (or anonymous) in digging at your opponents while using your work computer. Your organization's ISP will show up and you will probably get popped. And nobody really likes pesudonymous comments, esp. if they are on the one hand negative and on the other sound like someone who's got a case of multiple personality disorder.

I still wonder if the L.A. Times had some kind of policy about their bloggers engaging other bloggers. Newspapers can be kind of funny about blogging (I know one alt paper that outright forbids its staff to blog). If the L.A.Times did forbid Hiltzik from engagement, then he would have had no recourse but to blog pseudonymously, esp. if he wanted to believe himself to be a "real blogger."

On the other hand, if he was just being a cheeky ass, Hiltzik deserves everthing he gets, as he monkeyed with some of those unwritten blogger ethics codes. He should have erred on the side of transparentcy and posted under his own name. He shouldn't have tried being Mr. Cool and engaging in mock conversations with himself on other people's blogs. That's kind of like spamming someone, and is truly the sign of a dork. Had he been forthright and transparent, it would have given him some major credibility in the blogosphere and even among his opponents--because even though we might disagree, we're all bloggers under the skin.

Update: Hiltzik did violate a Times blogging policy, but his blog is back up...thanks Independent Sources, where there is also this great comment: "What shouldn’t be blamed, even unconsciously, is the medium. It would be easy for the LAT to learn the “lesson” that reporters or columnists can’t be trusted with blogs.

I hope they go the other way. While I don’t enjoy Hiltzik’s blog — too self-righteous, too ad-hominem, and too venomous — the LAT should let more staffers blog, not less." amen to that!

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I recently got splogged--seriously. Here's what happened: someone scanned this blog, picked a post I did several months back when I had tonsilitis, then built an entire splog around a quote from that post. There's even a link to the original post, but quite frankly, that link is like a smack in the face--like the splogger was saying "oh, thanks for helping me create splog!"

What to do next, I do not know...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

United 93: Propaganda Film or Part of the "Healing Process"

Universal Films has set to release United 93,on April 28. When I saw the poster in the theater lobby a few weeks ago, I thought to myself "wow, isn't it a little too soon and in bad taste? Or is the Bush administration engaging in some heartfelt propaganda so that we continue to support the Iraq mess?" After this morning's Today show (video here) I'm pretty sure it's the latter...

Here's a quick synops of the inaccuraces and disingenuousness of the report: first, we get Michael Owku, who reminds us that they made *a whole bunch* of movies right after Pearl Harbor...and shows a clip from Tora! Tora! Tora!" which was made some 25-plus years after Pearl Harbor...during the worst part of the Viet Nam war...

Still, films made about Pearl Harbor shortly after Pearl Harbor were meant as propaganda films--their whole reason was not, as Owku suggests, to help the "healing process" or in rememberance of the "victims" of Pearl Harbor. FDR was still having a tough time persuading some of the populace to get involved in Europe's war, and the best way was to give them some good old rah-rah propaganda...

Owku neglects to mention that the men who died at Pearl Harbor were at the time, and even now, not considered "victims"--they were military. Very different from the civilians on United 93. We kind of expect Very Bad Things to sometimes happen to military personnel. That's why, when they die, which is usually during a war, or during an act that might cause a war, they are called War Heroes. We tend to consider their deaths a bit differently than we consider the deaths of a bunch of civilians.

Which makes me wonder the true motive for making a film about reluctant Heroes who "saved" the White House from attack...

Because the motives for the films that were made during WWII about events ocurring during WWII (like the Bataan Death March and the destruction of the Sullivan family ) were meant to keep the public support of WWII at a high level...

Sure, the Today report goes on to talk about Apocalypse Now and Platoon and mentions they were made 20 some odd years after Viet Nam.

Well, both films aren't really statements about Viet Nam--they are stories whose backdrop is Viet Nam, but the stories aren't about Viet Nam per se. Platoon if we see it as Oliver Stone's memoir of Viet Nam, is really an anti-war film. Apocalypse, taken from Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," is an anti-colonialism story. Wouldn't it have been *against* our best propaganda interests to make these films *during* the Viet Nam war? Is it quite possible that *neither* film could have been made during the Viet Nam war for many reasons?

Owku doesn't mention Anzio and Hell in the Pacific which *were* made during the Viet Nam war (1968, to be exact)...oddly enough...

We also hear in the report from Alice Hoagland, whose son was one of the United 93 Heroes, say how she and her family live with United 93, and 9/11 every day, and this is part of their healing process....

So, their "healing process" now has to be Our Nation's healing process--a healing process promoted by a company with vested interest (GE is the parent of Universal and NBC) in the war effort?

"healing process" or propaganda film?

Not to mention that the report--and please take the time to watch it--is structured as if it is an impartial news story. (Esp. egregious is Couric doing the interviews, since she's slated now to be a hardcore CBS anchor.) Yes, it is mentioned that Universal and NBC are under the same parent company, GE (which, btw, has a lot going on with the military), but it's kind of mumbled, as if an afterthought. We focus on the two dapper-dressed Family Members, and the Filmmaker, and we are told about his, and the crew's sensitivity to getting the story right.

Is there any way to get this story right?

Not when the company that has a vested interest in both the U.S. military and in selling a film about a tragic event. Not when the trailer elicits such an emotional response that even theater owners consider not showing it. And, more importantly, not when it was probably known that the high emotional dudgeon of this film would be a great catalyst for stirring up support for a costly, and questionable, war effort.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Brand? Schamnd!

It's well-known among many that I have a complete distates for the whole idea that we are all *brands* of some flavor or another, yet Simon Dumenco completely sends up the brand idea AND the Post's Page Six gossip scandal:
For a guy like Stern, it wasn't enough to be an enterprising reporter (or, well, an ethical reporter). A reporter just grubs around for facts, but a reportorial "brand" -- an instantly recognizable man-about-town dandy who wears a "trademark" fedora, as Stern does -- well, a brand can do business with a billionaire! A brand can be a "media consultant" (Stern's other dubious claim to Burkle's money). A brand can have a clothing line! The key thing is just to be a brand -- a brand that people are buzzing about!

Of course, brand stewards tend to become convinced of their own invincibility, until one day when they wake up and find that what once was, say, The World's Most Powerful Gossip Brand is now The World's Most Unintentionally Hilarious Gossip Brand. (It's now impossible to read nice "Page Six" items without snickering and wondering: How much did that cost?)

on the one hand I want to say "owch!" but on the other, I have to agree with Dumenco. Everybody's out to make themselves into a brand. Quite frankly, I ditched the domme-esque photo of me in the police hat *because* someone said the hat was a way of "branding" myself. argh! Being tethered to a really uncomfortable policeman's hat was NOT what I had in mind when I set out to build a reputation...but apparently nowadays the idea of reputation is tied into the idea of brand.

Seems kinda strange to me...then again, consider Stern...

Next I'll have to have a tm symbol after my name. Sheesh! It's a lot of madness, and I'd like to say "stop the madness!" but Susan Powter beat me to that one years ago. . .
Will Katie Couric blog now that she's at CBS?? oh, god I hope not! that's all we need...and, unfortunately, probably what we'll get.

Friday, April 14, 2006

$.02 for your $.02: Helium Knowledge is a message board with a twist: it promises to pay you for your opinions if enough people like what you have to say and give your answers favorable ratings. The catch is that after you either answer a question or enter and answer your own question, you have to spend some time reviewing responses of others.

It's a message board. Sheesh!

If you have time for the scheme, give it a shot. I just don't have the time to spend on it in order to make the pennies it's offering.

"It Was All Great Fun 'Till Somebody Got Hurt": Cali Court Set to Define Blogger's First Amendment Rights

The flap over whether or not a blogger, or someone's blog, constitutes a piece of journalism, and whether or not the blogger is entitled to the same first amendment rights as a journalist has made it to the Appellate courts in California and will be decided next week.

oh, great.

Michael S. Malone in his Silicon Insider column details the shitestorm that got stirred up by none other than Apple Computer after it got pissy when ZDNet reporter Jason O'Grady, revealed, on his blog "an arcane Firewire breakout box, code named Asteroid, for Apple's GarageBand podcasting software product."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has stepped up to help O'Grady with his appeal, while a slew of other folks including Jay Rosen, Glenn Reyonolds and Eugene Volokh are helping prepare the amicus brief. Not to mention that the A.P., L.A. Times, SJ Merc, and the Society of Professional Journalists have stepped up to defend O'Grady.

This is all well and good, but something's a little odd about it all. Let's look at O'Grady's blogger status--he's a reporter, most likely a journalist, who's also keeping a blog. Perhaps Apple has a problem with a reporter doing what he likes both on and off the clock. Or perhaps Apple's peeved that the stuff that O'Grady wrote about didn't appear on ZDNet or some other mainstream outlet. Malone writes:
I think this case really comes down to the definition of "journalist." Ask yourself: If O'Grady's original story had appeared under his byline in The New York Times, would Apple have ever brought suit? Of course not. Note that Apple didn't even have the guts to take on Ziff-Davis, but rather went after O'Grady's poor little ISP. What the Apple lawyers have bet on, it seems, is that they can pivot the case upon the question of whether a blogger is a real journalist or not — and then convince the judge he's not. In other words, Apple v. Does 1-20 is turning into one of those cases that define an era, an attempt to freeze and categorize a world that is undergoing a massive transformation. And whenever you try to do that (from Dred Scott to the latest FCC regulations) you not only get the answer wrong, but you don't even ask the right questions.

I worry, though, about the chilling effect a ruling like this might have on people like myself, who aren't really considered "reporters," who don't have formal journalistic educations but who may publish from time to time; people who might use the term "citizen journalist," yet are also mindful of those who are journalists. I am worried about how municipalities or corrupt local governments might lash out against citizens who find things out and report them on their blogs. I am worried about how this kind of opinion might stifle what is going on out here in the blogosphere, among individuals who desire to have a voice in media rather than just passively sit by and let an ever-present all-encompassing Big Media tell us how we are supposed to think.

If a ruling comes down against O'Grady and his ISP, citizens, who are already pretty frightened by the scare-stories about MySpace, will be even more intimidated into not expressing themselves for fear of being sued by some mega-corporation.

Censorship at its worst.

What is most desperately needed is for there to be some better thinking, and writing about the differences between types and kinds of blogging and journalism.
All bloggers are not journalists. All bloggers do not aspire to be whistle-blowers, corruption-busters, political pundits, internet bullies or compulsive journallers--so to lump us all under one rubric to make us more manageable under the law is, I'm sure, a violation of *some* inalienable right.

Let's just hope that the California Courts, and Apple Computer, don't get the opportunity to determine who we are, and our rights for us.

(thanks to JD Lasica for the link--even if he's tired of the discussions)

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Icerocket's blog search engine sold to Think Partnership Blake sez: "I am thrilled that IceRocket is uniting with Think Partnership, enabling us to connect the huge and growing blogging community to the business opportunities and network provided by Think Partnership, especially Litmus Media’s Valid Click network and PrimaryAds’ affiliate marketing network,” said Blake Rhodes. Mr. Rhodes further stated that “we have spent significant time evaluating many opportunities within the interactive marketing and advertising space, and have concluded that Think Partnership was clearly positioned as one of the premier companies in our market as well as being a leading edge technology based company with the resources to execute on this exciting opportunity.”

“I am looking forward to the completion of this deal and working with Think Partnership. Both of our companies are focused on providing the highest integrity services to our users and building core enabling technology that can eliminate click fraud and “splogging” on our networks in real time.” said Mark Cuban, of IceRocket."
AOL is losing revenue because dialup is dying so it's transforming itself into a network with shows developed by Mark Burnett and Ashton Kutcher.

Mike Burnet and Ashton Kutcher.

Thank god I didn't eat lunch before I typed that....

ABC/Disney, Like, Gives Us Something for Nothing (Not)

By now, y'all have probably read the bit about ABC/Disney offering 4 of its best to be streamed online for free. But not so fast on the free! Y'all will be a captive audience to three one-minute commercials by the advertiser of your choice. This scheme though isn't new. Back in 2000, when we were still dealing with overpriced dialup, K-Mart offered "free" dialup with a service called ( To get the free service you had to watch a commercial for K-Mart that featured The Judds.

There was they thought, no way consumers could get around it any more than ABC/Disney is hoping they will be able to get around their featured advertisers. We did. At first we turned the sound down. Then, we walked away. Finally, when we had to reboot every time we got booted off from the lousy connection, we simply switched to another carrier that wasn't going to bother us with ads by The Judds. When word got around that "free" meant being tortured by The Judds, a lot of folks figured out free wasn't free and went somewhere else. Perhaps this was not as sophisticated as "hacking" the promo, but it worked for us more than it did for K-Mart.

Umair Haque knows people will walk away or hack around--in How Not to Think Strategically About the Future of Media, pt 193941 also sees the strategy of Disney as repackaged old stuff:
All of which tells us something very important: when you tack on a nose job to a decayed strategy, you stop yourself from being truly innovative.

My reasons for thinking it's not innovative are different than Umair's, but our conculsions are the same--people will get around the force-feeding of ads. No doubt about that.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

WaPo Wants Bloggers!

In case you didn't already hear about it: is looking for bloggers...
The paper’s ombudsman, Deborah Howell, has informed RAW STORY that Jim Brady, executive editor of, is looking for a liberal blogger, along with a conservative one, to replace Ben Domenech who resigned after only three days of blogging, when his earlier writings were discovered by mostly liberal bloggers to be racially insensitive and – in multiple cases – plagiarized.

The paper doesn’t plan on making any formal announcement, but the news should be welcome to many critics on the left who felt that it was unfair to hire just a conservative blogger in the first place.
(well done Ron Brynaert!)

It's kinda cool that they're actually going to try it again...and that they will try a different strategy for recruiting bloggers to fill these positions (read further in the article for this info). WaPo will look at bylines and background...

I've noticed, even in my own modern-age blogging career, that there are new paradigms for recruiters and "job hunters" (how I hate that term) as there are new emerging paradigms in media and business. Media outlets and p/r firms, when looking for bloggers, are going to have to do a lot more than post an ad or go with the popular/well-connected person: finding the types and kinds of people a media outlet or a business might actually *want* as a blogger is going to take a more personal approach.

In other words, y'all are gonna have to get to know our friends and part of our communities. Relying on resumes and stilted interviews loaded with baited gotcha questions meant to turn over all sorts of personal info y'all can't ask us about aren't going to work any more, if they ever did for anything other than menial, no-thinking-required jobs. If y'all want good bloggers, y'all might have to engage us in personal conversation rather than expect us to dazzle you with perfectly spun b.s.

Gary Goldhammer in Journalism Hope has a few predictions of how this might play out in newspapers overall:
If every citizen is a reporter, then every reporter is a freelancer, able to speak his or her mind in multiple formats directly to and with the audience. Reporters don’t work for organizations anymore – they work for us. . .In this new model, reporters, not newspapers or networks, are the brands. If they left we would follow. Our relationship and trust network involves them, not the organization for which they work. They are the brands that matter.

So, another tip for Jim Brady and WaPo--check the blogger's brand. Is he or she trusted, and not just a pretty face surfing the pop culture zeitgeist? Do they know and follow the basics of good journalism and have they proved this with their blogs? Do they have some insight into issues, and not just a good command of verbal vitriol?

It won't be easy, and it will require that media orgs not just think outside the box, but, possibly, way outside their top-down comfort zone.

Brave New World indeed!

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Faceparty Gives MySpace a Run For Money in UK

The GuardianUK kicks up a little dust today when it reports that young people in the UK are turning to something called Faceparty that, at first, sounds an awful lot like MySpace:
The site allows its 6 million members to send each other messages. Members have their own mini-sites with pictures of themselves and details of their tastes. They can browse other members' sites and start conversations with thousands of people they have never met.

Now here's the difference:

Members are encouraged to sign up for special privileges: for £24.95 a year they are no longer restricted to sending five messages a day, and for an additional £38.95 over-18s can buy the right to see the site's adult content.

So, now you don't have to worry about your teenager having to respond to 100 or more email and accessing inappropriate content! (that is, unless the kid steals your credit card...)

Continued safety issues, and bad press might eventually put a kink in MySpace's armor. And if parents get a whiff that they can actually have control over what their kids are exposed to, as well as how much they can email on social networking sites, there may be a mass migration from MySpace to a safer domain...but will that exodus be a Fond Farewell or Bataan Death March?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Boston Globe's Goodman Blasts Blogger Bigmouths

In her recent Boston Globe editorial, Ellen Goodman blasts bloggers who were dopey enough to believe statements made by Jill Carroll under still in captivity--and who then wrote acerbically about it:
An online jeering section bought it hook, line, and sinker without waiting to hear that the videos were made under threat. As Alex Jones of Harvard's Shorenstein Center said, ''They were gulled by a clever piece of propaganda and ought to be ashamed of themselves."

The printouts on my desk describe the 28-year-old journalist, a hostage and victim for 82 terrifying days, as something between Patty Hearst and Baghdad Jane, between a traitor and ''Princess Jill." TBone posted a potshot, calling Carroll ''a liar" and the kidnapping ''a total scam." PA Pundits said that ''I still just can't get past her being (for the most part) unharmed." And Debbie Schlussel called her a ''spoiled brat America-hater."

And although Goodman notes it wasn't just bloggers (the lovely Don Imus, paragon of fair journalism, also shot his mouth off on this one), she does suggest that bloggers apologize to Jill Carroll for their remarks...

Frankly, I don't think it's Goodman's place necessarily to chide the entire blogosphere for the actions of a few. I would like Goodman to take a gander at this piece by Tom Merritt in C-Net that makes some very good distinctions about insiders, outsiders and the blogosphere, and then I'd like to ask Goodman if the bloggers she's upset with, who are people expressing some shoot-first-ask-questions-later opinons, were really worth her lather. (with the possible exception of Debbie Schlussel, they really weren't...see MartiniPundi for a further explanation.)

I'd also like to consider that by mentioning the blogs she's seeking to punish, that Goodman might have actually helped their stats. One rule in the blogosphere that Goodman doesn't get: sometimes for a small blogger, bad press is a good thing. So, Goodman's chiding might actually have helped these bloggers, who few have heard of, actually gain in reputation.

Shoot yourself in the foot much, Ellen??

Seriously, though, on the matter of personal opinion: if a person has an opinion that is in bad taste, and they are only one out of millions of individuals that have opinions that are in bad taste, should someone who is basically an insider like Ms. Goodman, who is also not a blogger, be telling these outsiders not to have their opinions?

Personally, I think these particular blogger's opinoins ARE in bad taste--but it's up to them to change their minds and decide to apologize. It's not up to me or any media personages or anyone else in the blogosphere to put pressure on them to change their opinions. What happened to the patriotic ideal that I might not like what someone says but I'll defend their right to say it??

oh, guess that doesn't exist for people who are not jumping on a zeitgeist-loaded bandwagon. Guess Dr. Phil was right when he had some anti-war Iraq war protesters on his show, filled the audience with military personnel, and then proceeded to pillory the protesters in an effort to get them to support the troops. Guess that's okay because, after all, in the rhetoric of the day, those protesters should apologize to the good men and women who are fighting for freedom...

And, no, I don't like the idea that Jill Carroll had to come back from such an awful experience and hear this kind of garbage--but she doesn't have to read it either. She probably didn't even know this stuff was there before Goodman shot her mouth off about it.

Kind of like an older sibling tattling on a small fry, or a town gossip shooting her mouth off and making a tempest in a teapot. . .

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

They've Got *Some* Nerve!: TV Journos Caught In Compromising Position With VNRs

With all the squaking that's done by some journalists about how awful it is for "citizen journalists" to be able to post whatever sorts of video they want, imagine how *fabulous* I felt when I came across this report: Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed, issued by the Center for Media and Democracy:
Over a ten-month period, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) documented television newsrooms' use of 36 video news releases (VNRs)—a small sample of the thousands produced each year. CMD identified 77 television stations, from those in the largest to the smallest markets, that aired these VNRs or related satellite media tours (SMTs) in 98 separate instances, without disclosure to viewers. Collectively, these 77 stations reach more than half of the U.S. population. The VNRs and SMTs whose broadcast CMD documented were produced by three broadcast PR firms for 49 different clients, including General Motors, Intel, Pfizer and Capital One. In each case, these 77 television stations actively disguised the sponsored content to make it appear to be their own reporting. In almost all cases, stations failed to balance the clients' messages with independently-gathered footage or basic journalistic research. More than one-third of the time, stations aired the pre-packaged VNR in its entirety.

TV news is supposed to be produced along the same lines as print journalism. It's supposed to be fact-checked, and it's supposed to be balanced....oh, I must be living in pollyanna-land again...

This is so much worse than the Wal-Mart bloggers who were merely opportunistic dumb-asses. This is a serious ethical breech committed by people who believe themselves to be higher on the food chain than the average opportunisitc dumbass.

As a matter of fact, this puts them on the level of what would politely be called abusers of the public trust, and would also be called, in colloquial terms, major scumbags.

Now, I can hear the excuses--that budgetary concerns causes them use VNRs with impunity. When local TV news programs start at 5pm and run until 6:30, I guess the filler has to come from *somewhere*

But, given that so many 77 stations that use VNRs with impunity are are
...not limited to small-town stations with shoestring budgets. Nearly two-thirds of the VNRs that CMD tracked were aired by stations in a Top 50 Nielsen market area, such as Detroit, Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. Thirteen VNRs were broadcast in the ten largest markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston.

I'm sure we can draw a small conclusion that the reason they use VNRs without disclosure doesn't have as much to do with economic necessity as they'd like us to believe.

The reason why, though, the stations felt no particular need to disclose that they were broadcasting what amounts to infomercials is beyond me. As I've said before regardless of who you are, if you're going to use a p/r piece, let people know you're using a p/r piece.

Makes me wonder, too, if these particular major scumbags are going to say that they're "protecting sources" by not diclosing VNRs? I wonder if they'll say "oh, we wouldn have found the same information some other place"? I wonder if they'll admit to simply being lazy asses looking for a kickback (a distinct possibility.)

And if it's such a financial burden for local news programs to fill their hour and a half of time with programming that upholds journalistic standards, why don't they simply cut their blathering back about an hour or so? Why don't they just have the same 20 minutes as the bightime broadcast news programs?

Or why can't we simply have more re-runs of bad old made for tv movies like we used to when I was a kid? I'm sure that Lifetime, Oxygen, and AMC haven't bought up *all* those bits of tv ticky tacky.

At least when we watched those, we knew for sure that everything was fake.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Conference Brings Media and Masses Together

A great summer conference coming up (june 29-july 1): Democracy & Independence: Sharing News and Politics in a Connected World....

One of the primary aims of this conference and roundtable summit is to bring together pioneers and thought leaders with people so that all can actually have a face to face dialogue. It won't be the standard talking heads talking to each other.

about freakin' time.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bertlesmann's "MySpace" is The New Blog Black

From CNet: Bertelsmann looking to create 'MySpace' for older set
German media group Bertelsmann plans a return to the Internet and is looking at transforming its Direct Group of book, CD and DVD clubs into an Internet networking scene for older people.

The company believes that Direct Group can turn its aging customer base of around 35 million to its advantage by changing its traditional clubs into Internet communities of like-minded people united by their similar cultural interests

um, isn't this what is supposed to be? or at least that's what we were lead to believe...

oh, but the Bertlesmann folks think:
People are getting older...and older people are getting lonelier and they will need communities where they can share their interests," Chief Executive Gunter Thielen told Reuters in a recent interview.

There's something very creepy in Bertlesmann's depiction of "older" people, considering just about anyone who's not 18-34 is considered "older" in the demographic sense. Once again we're getting a depiction of people who are not 18-34 as a bunch of sad loners who need what Bertlesmann, out of the generosity of their profit-seeking little hearts, wants to give us.

I wonder what they would think if people were actually getting younger?

Yet as I learned at SXSW, and as I know from my own social software experiments, if individuals are used to message boards or forums, they might not be interested in keeping blogs. They also might not be interested in "networking"--and if they are, might already use something like LinkedIn

Grownups (won't use the word "adults"--it's got a hinky connotation in this sense) are getting a lot more netsavvy these days, and I'm not real sure there will be all that many takers for Bertlesmann's project outside of its already established customer base.

Although, IMHO, the moniker "MySpace" is becoming a buzzword for any media company that wants to start some sort of network-y, bloggy type of site. To spin a fashionista phrase in the tech terms: "MySpace" is the new black.

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We Are Not Disabused...So, the New York Times has a new look....
We have expanded the page to take advantage of the larger monitors now used by the vast majority of our readers. We've improved the navigation throughout the site so that no matter what page you land on, you can easily dig deeper into other sections or use our multimedia.

This *still* does not address the matter of the Times keeping their best content, as well as some archived articles, behind the fence of Times Select, the pay service it debuted a few months ago....

We also wanted to give our readers a greater voice and sprinkle a little more serendipity around the site by providing prominent links to a list of most e-mailed and blogged articles, most searched for information and popular movies. A new tab at the top of the page takes you directly to all our most popular features.

Um, the "blogged articles" feature doesn't give readers links to the blogs that wrote about them, just to the articles that people wrote about. The Times honestly doesn't understand that it's not that we want to know what *articles* were blogged about, but *who* was blogging about them....(although for the aforementioned article, it does indeed list the blogs that blogged about the article)

I can't say I'm horrified or crushed--just a bit disappointed.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Checking out Vision Monthly

As a compulsive blog commenter (yes, I really need something like Shadows or Squidoo), I cross paths with lots of different, interesting people in my travels...Ethan Johnson, the editor of the newly launched e-zine
Vision Monthly is one of those people...

Ethan and I have bumped into each other on blogs belonging to Terry Heaton and Shelley Powers (and probably on the blogs of a few others too--I think he's got a bit of the compulsive commenter in himself, too. When he asked me if I might want to contribute, I thought "sure!"and I went to check it out...

so here's the deal: Vision Monthly is ad-free, with a $2 per download suggested donation (payable via PayPal)(thanks Ethan) That's not a bad deal, really--for a magazine that's not giving readers the same old "why did Nick Leave Jessica" crap...

Seriously. I don't buy a lot of mainstream mags because I'm not celebrity-obsessed. And there's just so many 'beauty tips' one can read before she's realized she's seeing the same ones from when she was a kid...

I downloaded and took a copy with me on my SXSW journey.

I found I was reading stories written by people I might actually like in real life...people with *lives* rather than just episodes of tragedy and triumph (yeah, I get tired of those, too.)

So I decided to take Ethan up on his suggestion that I write an essay for the April '06 issue...pony up the $2 donation, download and enjoy!

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

One of my favorite bloggers, Sour Duck has a great post on herSXSW observations. I always appreciate S.D.'s clarity, honesty and forthrightness, even when she knows she might be rocking the boat. A great lady indeed!
MSM's love affair with ME continues: my other blog is in the latest Newsweek Blog Report column! It's the piece titled "Sex! Sex! Sex!" Go to Newsweek and follow the link back. Could've knocked me over with a feather.