Tuesday, January 31, 2006

On the issue of anonymity vs. pseudonymity Vin Crosbie is right. Readers should be transparent, too...

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Are the "citizens" journalsits, or the journalists "citizens"?

Topix.net weblog started a "citizen journalism" venture a short time ago...and figures that News 2.0 is not Journalism and tells us why Baristanet is so good: "Baristanet is so good it makes me want to read about fender benders in a suburb on the other side of the country. But it's run by two professional journalists. Debbie Galant writes for the New York Times. Liz George writes for the New York Daily News. Liz has a degree in journalism from NYU. They're doing great journalism here, but I wouldn't call it grass roots, or "citizen"."

That's the key...great "citizen journalism" is usually done by people who either are or were journalists.

Don't believe the hype--explore it and find the truth.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Enough Excitement for One Week

I have certainly had enough excitement for one week around here. Not being a big media personage whose used to all the hullaballoo, I'm a bit exhausted. Therefore, some re-trenching is in order. Just a short break mind you...just a short break.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Facts of Life

In a woman’s world, you don’t earn any social points for staking out an extreme position and defending it against all comers. Men might garner respect for doing so, and experience the exhilaration of battle along the way; women are more likely find themselves on the receiving end of some serious social isolation, and to find the road to this isolation stressful and frightening.

--on Neo-neocon from Bookworm Room.

But you never can tell what's going to happen next.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Courting Community and Comments: "You Can Pick Your Friends... And You Can Pick Your Comments..."

Cruising around for commentary on Wednesday'sWaPo on-line panel on Interactivity Ethics , I came across the National Review Media Blog's commentary (thanks to Insta)....and as I read thru both WaPo and Media Blog commentaries, it becomes evident that how a blogger handles his/her comments has an awful lot to do with who makes up an individual blogger's reading/commenting community.

Let's start with Jay Rosen's admonition of Reynolds regarding interactivity:
I have comments at my blog, and they are completely open. I not only monitor them carefully, I'm an active presence in comment threads and I argue a lot with readers. I get mad at them too. A great many users have told me that while I write good posts, what they really like is the range of reactions from others in comments. For some, that discussion is a primary, not a second-order good on offer at PressThink.

Jay's blog, though, is very different in content and in structure to Glenn's. Jay's content isn't going to appeal to the majority of blog readers out there--and there are probably a lot of folks who read Glenn who aren't familiar with Jay. Jay is incredibly smart, and writes a blog where the arguments and dialogue take time to cogitate. Glenn, as equally smart, presents his opinions quite differently, in very different language. Even though the two men are most likely intellectual equals, Jay's content is not as accessible as Glenn's. Therefore many of the people who comment on Jay's blog are going to be thinking before they write and are going to fashion their responses quite differently. Even when people disagree with Jay, the disagreements don't usually get reduced to attacks on Jay's appearance, nor on his political leanings, nor are they threats to "knock his block off" (even if they're thinking it.) On Glen's blog, where the posts are a mixed bag, it's easy to see where comments could get personal very easily.

What does this say about the ideal of peer-to-peer communication that is supposed to exist on blogs? It can then be said that accessibility of a blogger's content can effect who ends up in the blogger's community. If you are blogging in a way that is accessible to most people (quick reads), and are following the old rules of information blogging (a few words with a link), your readership will be different from the person who posts long and wordy. The blogger, then, ends up soliciting a particular peer group by blog style as much as through demonstrated opinion.

As a blogger, you choose a particular communication style. You then, in a sense, pick your friends--audience, community, peer group--thru that style as much as with your political views, general commentary, personality, or celebrity status.

And, as I now know, if you're going to solicit a certain kind of interaction, there must be a strategy to deal with it. Bloggers can take Jay's route, or Glenn's, or any route that works for them.

But the real question at WaPo appears to be more about how an entity like a media outlet should handle invectives, not how bloggers with large readerships-- who are individuals choosing their peer groups--handle invectives. On that front, I don't believe that any one individual blogger, no matter how well-read, has the perfect answer for big media. Big media, with its top-down communication style, will have to continue to make blunders, take the heat, and discuss the issue again and again before an adequate strategy is worked out. And the strategy may be, in a manner concurrent with individual bloggers, contingent on who the big media outlet wants its peer group-community-audience to be and how it solicits that audience. When that is figured out, the solution to handling comments--free for all, moderation, or nothing--will become evident (even if not perfected--it's a process.)

An quick aside: a couple of friends told me that G.R. chose my comment on the WaPo dialogue. I figured, because of its level of invective, that it'd get passed over. Who knew? Now seeing it, in black and white for myself, I understand his point. Duly noted, Prof. Thanks for the heads up.

Friday, January 27, 2006

I'm officially a right wing blogger according to National Journal

I wonder if that's possible for a slightly right-of-center quasi-feminist to actually be a right-wing blogger?

oh, the world is a funny, funny place.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Where Seldom Is Heard, A Discouraging Word....

Quick Update: since I decided to moderate comments, the only people who have sent comments in are other bloggers. Apparently, if it can't go directly from their heads to my blog, in an anonymous hissy fit, it's not worth sending in. That's good. Saves bandwidth.

How To Handle An Instalanche: Responding to Old AudienceThink

Well, with much thanks to Glenn "Comments? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Comments!" Reynolds, I expreienced a little shitstorm over here. And if the Washington Post is interested in how an individual handles a shitstorm, the Editors and Omsbudspersons and Pundits and Image Spinners can come over and take a look and read the rest of this essay....

There was no moderation of comments. There was no deletion. There was no re-writing. Why? Because the majority of the comments were from anonymous, non-blogger sources. My interest in the blogosphere is in conversation with other bloggers and non-blogger individuals willing to be as transparent as myself--not with people who do not blog and do not identify themselves when they leave comments. Blogging is about peer-to-peer communication, not about anonymously screaming at the blogger. If ya think about it, anonymous comments are kind of like screaming at the TV. Anonymous comments are an Old Audience response to Old Media. If you are anonymous to me, I am only a one-dimensional, flat-screen celebrity to you. And there is no rule that says a celebrity blogger must respond to anonymous non-blogger comments. Celebrities don't respond to heckling, do they?

So, for the better part of the blogoshpere, Old Audience ways have not changed--they're anonymosly screaming at the TV. It's only in small pockets, among small groups out here in the Technorati Long Tail, where changes are taking place, where we are engaging one another. We don't get big comments because we're not as "smart" as pundits, nor that our blogs are not well written, nor that our blogs aren't creatively inflammatory enough. We're simply not celebrities nor personages. We're just people. We write to converse with one another. We converse with those who understand the medium, who are willing to truly and honestly engage and participate in the medium.

Most pundits don't really get blogging nor bloggers. Pundits don't really converse with people (with the minor exception of Jeff Jarvis, whose comments section isn't all that overrun and will respond to email and will speak to Average Jane bloggers at conferences) MSM likes pundits though. Pundits are just like MSM. Pundits are worried about spin and reputation and such. MSM is worried about spin and reputation and such. They can relate to one another. Neither can relate to the Long Tail because they are listening to The Audience, not Bloggers.

So, if there are some things I've learned from the shitstorm: That there really is a huge disconnect between the worlds of msm/pundit blogging and those of us who are bloggers. I learned there are a lot of fanboys and fangirls who feel the need to defend their Favorite to the death, including make personal attacks--and that most anonymous commenters are like folks who troll forums than they are like bloggers. I learned that anonymous commenting is an awful lot like yelling at the TV.

And another observation about my conclusions about Jane: We live in a soundbyte world. When I went to the Post's page to find out about the panel, I read an awful lot about the blogs and backgrounds of Jay, Jeff and Glenn. The Post made sure to inform me of the qualifications of these men beyond "blogger"--and anyone who knows anything about blogging is fully aware of who these three men, The Usual Suspects, happen to be. What did the Post tell me about Jane? That she blogs. That's it. I followed the obvious trail to her blog, the way I did when I first encountered Jay, Jeff and Glenn--because, for the same reason, I wanted to know what made her so special. By going to their blog bios, I found out a lot more about Jay, Jeff and Glenn, than I did about Jane. Modesty? But what, really, is so modest about saying one is *only* a Hollywood producer who wrote a book? Why not say one is or was a journalist or whatever one happened to be? Xeni Jardin of BoingBoing has no problem telling the world her credentials--and I can respect Xeni's opinions on media and on handling comments (and her comments on >The News Hour were spot on) because she is not suffereng some kind of false modesty--and she's been blogging a heck of a long time. So, it seems that, in the world of msm/punditblogging, a woman's credentials--as a blogger or as an intellectual/thinker-- really don't matter all that much. It's possible, for a woman, that a woman doesn't need the types and kinds of credentials equal to or better than the men. Maybe all she needs to be is photogenic--which neither three of the men happen to be (sorry guys, you're all geeks.) Think of it this way, too: if it were a man who did what Jane did to get on that panel--engage in the same kind of rhetoric--would we have read more about his background...and would he have even been considered for the panel in the first place? Maybe not. Only the Post can know for sure.

Oh, and today, comments will be moderated. One day's worth of unmoderated shitstorm/instalanche is enough for now.

**A Special Thank You To those in yesterday's comments who expressed their own dissatisfaction with Jane. My post ended up giving them a forum, too. and that was a good thing, in its own odd way. And to those special folks who, on and off blog, supported me. You guys are great!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

WaPo to Women Bloggers--It's Not What You Know...

Update: It's now June, and I've learned alot on the last six months, mostly by getting into some rather important and interesting dialogues with bloggers and journalists...since my vocabulary has evolved, and in looking back at this post, I realize that what I was looking for from Hamsher was transparency. I wanted to know more about her background--specifically what she'd done before blogging for Huffington Post. I did extensive google and yahoo searches on the day of this post, and found realitively little information about her. That was troubling to me because I knew a great deal about the others on the panel. My feelings were, and still are, that if someone is to be on a panel, I want to know everything about who he/she is.I expect the person to be transparent. Transparency earns trust. If the person isn't willing to tell me outright, and the event he/she is participating in is only giving me a soundbyte, I should be able to use whatever search engines I have at hand to find all the information necessary to know about this person. The person should have a bio that tells me who he/she is, her experience both past and present.

I have been on panels. I know people check backgrounds--as soon as my profile's up, I get googled and people find their way back to my blogs. At the time of this post, I did what I could to verify Hamsher's background and came up with nothing other than the official Huffington Post soundbyte. I came up with less information than someone could have found out about me, or any other of a number of bloggers I know, at that time. Something was just not right.

In effect, I expected transparency. When there is transparency, I can respect that person--even if he/she doesn't have an illustrious background--more than I can respsect someone who says he/she is a "blogger" and leaves it at that. Why? Because, quite frankly, the term "blogger" is, right now, subjective. It can mean someone who uses a particular tool (a blog) to communicate. It can be someone who's mastered a communication form. It can be related to a businessperson, am activist, a former reporter, a thinker or just an average schmoe looking for a voice in the media malestrom.

I do not believe that we should hide behind the subjective label of "blogger" in order to get some sort of cred with the common man--or common woman. I don't think anyone should try to be a blogger just because it's All The Rage and The Cool Thing To Be.

All bloggers may be created equal--we use the same tool. But some bloggers--by their backgrounds and the editorial process behind them--are, in the eyes of many, more equal than others.

The other term I've become very familiar with is astroturfing. The term is usually associated with political orgs that pay or otherwise support individuals in commenting, emailing, or snailmailing efforts that simulate a grassroots opinion campaign. The main hallmarks of blog comment astroturf are a series of sentiments with similar syntax left by sources that cannot be verified, or are anonymous/pseudonymous. There are many ways to say "you suck," but if a number of comments appear saying "you suck," and in a very similar manner, or are all anonymous/pseudonymous and/or unverifiable, you can bet the comments are astroturfing efforts of an org to get someone to never blog again.

In Blogger, there are ways for 'turfers to give the semblance of being legit--set up a false profile, with no trackable information, and no blog, just to comment.

One way to root out 'turfers, other than noticing their shoddy syntax and lack of identity, is to track the comments back thru a blog's stats (if you have the stats package to do that) If a series of comments are generated from the same ISP, or from the same geographic area in a short period of time, it's probably 'turf.

'Turfers are bullies, and many think they are justified in their actions because their cause is righteous. Yeah, and terrorists often feel the same way.

When I looked back at the number of negative comments, not just noting how many were anonymous, I also noticed how so many said the same thing. I wasn't able to verify if they were all from the same ISP (I have the freebie Sitemeter, so no perks), but I've got an inkling that a number of them were Astroturf.

Transparency remains one of my big concerns (right now, a bit more that astroturfing). Some members of the MSM would like journalists to reveal personal info about themselves in efforts to avoid conflicts of interest. Some newsrooms are putting out good efforts to be transparent by opening up about their editorial processes. Bloggers are fighting MSM over transparency--and I think each and every one who engages the debate has his/her own reason for not being transparent. But if a blogger is already revealing a likeness and a name, why hide in an effort to be "just a blogger"?

What then is "just a blogger"? Sometimes "just a blogger" isn't quite a blogger like another unknown blogger. Sometimes "just a blogger" should be more transaprent than even the high profile folks of MSM. Otherwise, he/she is in the same opaque-bottomed boat as MSM, and, perhaps, just as deceptive. end

Today, the Washington Post will demonstrate to bloggers all over the U.S. that women bloggers don't need much in the way of credentials to be part of a serious discussion on ethics when it host a panel on Ethics and Interactivity with Jane Hamsher sitting alongside Jay Rosen (who is probably the most qualified),
Jeff Jarvis (who's being quiet on this one), and
Glenn Reynolds (who truly puts the PUNDIT in Instapundit).

And, on behalf of my corner of the blogosphere, I'll say it loud: Jane Hamsher?

The Post and Jay Rosen prominently list her as blogging at firedoglake...but only the Post lists her as blogging at Huffington Post

Hmmm...why doesn't Jay list her as blogging for HP? Is it some sort of veiled attempt to make a Hollywood top-down communicator look like your Average Jane blogger?

What is even further insulting to all bloggers--and women bloggers especially--is that Hamsher has no background in journalism, nor ethics, nor handling comments. Hamsher says, though, in one post: "I can only speak about my own experience, as a blogger who regularly converses with numerous main stream media journalists." (BTW, I do this, too...)*Note: I followed the same soundbyte trail to find out about Jane as I did awhile ago to find out about Jeff, Jay and Glenn--from a link from another blog, to their blog, to their bio. Also, note that on the WaPo site, they tell us a great deal about J, J, & R, but not a lot about Jane, the only one of the group who was not one of the Usual Suspects. Why did the Post fail me, a soundbyte consumer, and tell me virtually nothing about the one woman on the panel and, once again, recite the pedigrees of the men? Do I really need the credentials of the Usual Suspects? Kinda odd to keep mum about the newbie, don't you think?

I love the way she so modestly calls herself a blogger when, in fact, that's hardly the case. According to her bio, she is a Hollywood Personage--a producer above anything else. She has blogged for her friend Arianna since September, '05 She co-blogs at firedoglake (yes, not even her own blog), and has only recently begun receiving comments--and I'm not even sure if she responds to them or just lets them accumulate.

The Post is merely proving to all of us out here in the blogosphere that celebrity more than anything bestows credibility. Jane Hamsher, blogging only since September, now, all of a sudden, knows so much more than so many of us about ethics, blogging, and journalism, that she is qualified to be on a Washington Post panel.

Frankly, if I were Jay, Jeff, and Glenn, I'd be seriously questioning the Post's decision to include Hamsher on the panel. Why couldn't the Post find y'all a peer? Someone with the credentials and the smarts to be on this panel?


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"Bloggers often hide messages by choosing a font the same color as the background. "

Or at least that's what they think over at CSI Miami

I'm not sure how many of y'all watch CSI Miami or any of CBS's wildly successful CSI franchises...but take a few moments to read the synopsis of "Silencer"--last night's episode.

According to the text from the trailer posted at CSI Files : A MURDER LEADS TO AN EMPLOYEE BLOG....

and that's when the wild misinformation about blogging occurs....there's all sorts of stuff about a "virtual keyboard" and "Bluetooth technology" enabling some fancy moblogging with a blackberry...yeah, that's kinda plausable...if you can afford the stuff....

but did you know that "Bloggers often hide messages by choosing a font the same color as the background. " That's right from the text folks. I kid you not. Now you know! Aren't we a crafty bunch!

Yet what's even more amusing was the graphic for what the blog looked like--very fancy and far more sophisticated than anything I've seen even from the top of the A-list--and that it was available thru some open source, quasi Xanga/Livejournal thing called "Blog-Daze.com"...I wish I could find a graphic of it, but, alas, nothing to be had. Even the fanboy/fangirl sites don't have a pic.

This isn't the first time a CSI franchise tapped into the latest trend. Thursday nite's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation the Big Daddy of CSI Miami often mines the fetish world for cheap titilation: remember the adult baby, the "furries" and of course, Gil Grissom's tryst with Lady Heather???

But at least when they do fetish, the get it *mostly* right. When they do tech, it seems that they're so far out there that they shoot their own credibility in the foot.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

WaPo Restores Comments....For the Moment...

Checking up on the Washington Post this a.m....I found that they acutally did restore comments to post.blog.

There is also a Q & A with Exec Editor Jim Brady (who is quite the babyfaced newspaperman....hmmm....how come such a young man...couldn'd find a competent, seasoned, older woman to do this job???)

The Q&A though is a fascinating bit of spin. I won't jump on the bandwagon that's excoriating the Post for its insufficient--yet rather quick--response (the Q&A took place at noon on friday and some comments were restored by 6pm-ish). Frankly, if the Post would just hire a few good blogging consultants--people who acutally blog for the personal edification, not as corporate shills--they might have been able to deal with the response adequately.

The best response *might* have been to do what newspaper-sponsored Forums and Newsgroups usually do: delete the seriously foul posts, get rid of any unrelated spam, and let everyone else hash the whole thing out amongst themselves. They can, if they want, dictate to the reporter or whomever started the sh*tstorm to not respond to the negativity. That would be their, or the sh*tstormee's, choice. Sometimes the best way to respond to sh*t is to not respond--it can be a no-win situation. But negative comments,even ones peppered with an obscenity or two, if making a coherent point and are not personal attacks, are a consequence of communication in our modern world.

Then again, there's always this attitude one could take: foul personal attacks more often than not reflect badly on the one making them, and don't necessarily reflect anything to the person being attacked. It's the old "I'm rubber, you're glue...whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you" mentality.

Dan Gillmor has a great comment about it.

Think about it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

"Hey! You Suck!"--Incivility Shuts Down Wash Post Blogs

The Washinton Post chose to close its comments indefinitely after several angry posts in response to ""a statement made by ombudsman Deborah Howell that Jack Abramoff, who is at the centre of a Washington scandal for having bribed a significant number of politicans in order to 'buy influence', payed off Democrats as well as Republicans after ."

Terry Heaton thinks this is a case of the deeper issue here is command and control from the mountain top.

But Terry misses the another salient point to the Post's actions: it may seem like a big deal, but in truth, it only highlights a general problem with incivility in the blogosphere. And that there is no clear consensus, even among bloggers, on how to handle it. Terry wants to pick on msm for its actions, but would he feel the same way about individual bloggers taking the same action?

As some of us will remember there was quite a bit of fallout after BlogHer over Ambra Nykola's poison-pen blogging about Koan Bremner's presence at the conference. Although Ambra is definitely entitled to her rabid remarks, she blocked dissenting bloggers from posting comments to her entry. Further, Ambra often shuts off commentary on posts at her blog (specifically, look up her post on Sex and the City where she did not want any dissenting viewpoints.)

Basically, she's top-down communicating to the rest of us in the blogosphere--but she doesn't seem to be suffering all that much for it.

Now, when I came into blogging, I was a veteran of the New York Times Film Forums--which, if one didn't watch out, one could end up pretty bruised and bloddy. The Film Forums ended up getting trolled so bad-- with some of the trolls launching personal email attacks against posters and hacking several posters' personal websites--that the usually low-profile Moderators chose to require registration and approval before allowing individuals to post to the Forums.

Knowing what can happen in the Wild Wild West of the 'Web, I expected, when I started blogging, to get flamed, fired on, and fumed at--and by anonymous people (because it's easier to do that when nobody knows who you are.) And, yes, it happens sometimes, but hey, I'm made of asbestos, so no biggie...

Still, there are loads and loads of bloggers who don't know how to handle it and are hurt/offended/horrified/pissed off when it happens. That's why we're having the Us and Them: A Blog Conversation Guide at SXSW Interactive in March.

When bloggers are concerned about incivility and confused about how to handle it, how can we expect msm (that is, for the most part, confused about blogging) to handle it any better?

Frankly, it's a much bigger issue than just the Post's "indefinite" response.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

When a Writer isn't a Blogger

Was Simon Dumenco--"The Media Guy" at AdAge--suffering from a case of sour grapes when he wrote A Blogger is Just A Writer With A Cooler Name? Did he, perhaps, lose out on a hot chick to the scruffy dude who said he was a blogger?? And I wonder how Simon would feel if we all stopped calling him a columnist and called him *just* a writer with a fat pretentious title and a regular salary.

Seriously, though-- Dumenco is one in a long line of "journalists" (who the heck knows where he went to school) who feel some sort of compulsion to tell the rest of us who bloggers are and what bloggers are about--that blogging is just about the software and the distinction between writers and bloggers is all an artificial construct. According to Dumenco:
OK, you might argue, blogging is aesthetically a different beast -- it's instantaneous media. (Well, since the dawn of the 24-hour news cycle, pretty much all media has had to learn how to be instantaneous.) It's unpolished. (The best blogs I read are as sophisticated as anything old-school media publishes.) It's voice-y. (The best old-school media I read tends to be voice-y.) It's about opinion, not reporting. (The best reporting to come out of MacWorld in San Francisco last week was published on blogs.) It's, well, often sloppy and reckless (and Judy Miller wasn't?).

OK, then, you might further argue, the Internet itself treats blogs as structurally distinct things. Well, sure, there are blog-specific search engines (Technorati, Icerocket, blogsearch.google.com, etc.), but the lines between blog and non-blog content are rapidly dissolving. Traditional news organizations and blogs often get seemingly equal weight as news sources in Google News. And just last week, I found out about Sprint's West Coast fiber optic network outage from the new Gmail Web Clip ticker that sits atop my e-mail inbox -- and the clip came from a blog, not a traditional news organization.

More importantly, though, I wonder who it is--other than bloggers--that Dumenco considers writers. He paints a broad stroke with his title, but narrows the focus of the term in his text to journalists--very bad form! Guess he doesn't consider folks who scribble on legal pads, and sometimes call themselves writers, to be writers. Probably also doesn't consider all those folks who pen and publish fiction to be writers either. (he also has the audacity to talk about "the best bloggers"--oh, who might that be? Obviously, the A-list. That's only one kind of blogger, too.)

So, I feel it's something of my own duty, being both a bona fide blogger as well as a bona fide published writer, to delineate some of the differences between bloggers and writers that he appears to overlook in favor of some tired, journalistic blogger-hating rhetoric:

Writers deal with Editors. Bloggers deal with Comments. Okay, Simon, I'm sure you could say this is splitting hairs, but these are two different/ Edtiors, as you are probably aware, comment--but they comment in an effort to fix your stuff. Editors comment on your spelling and grammar and wordchoice and fix your tone so your piece fits right with their publication or makes sure you conform to APA or Chicago. People who leave comments for Bloggers don't give a darned, and many don't know, about APA or Chicago rules. Commenters are more concerned with conversing with the blogger (or sometimes other commenters)--with refuting or supporting what the blogger says. Bloggers can get defensive with Comments and still publish. Writers can't necessarily get defensive with Editors or their piece could get 86'ed and they labelled "difficult to work with."

Writing is static media. Blogging is social media When someone writes a story or an article, it is meant simply to convey information. The person isn't looking to get direct feedback. They might, but that really isn't the intention. Blogging isn't static. Once again, bloggers get direct feedback. They sometimes even change a post. A writer can write one article, get it published in a magazine, and that's it. A writer can sit around for another month or longer before another article comes out, can sweat over the process for months, and still have readers. A blogger not only has to eventually interact with others, but also has to keep writing on a regular basis or people forget you were ever there.

Writers write in paragraphs. Some Bloggers don't write in complete sentences. Writers don't aggregate. They fashion coherent thoughts into paragraphs. Lots of paragraphs. Some bloggers simply aggregate and their thoughts are pretty scatalogical. They want their blogs to be places where people can find links to stories about stuff. They want to be considered good providers of information--not quick-thinking, profound pundits. Writers want to be considered more than information providers--they want to have style and have a craft.

Writers can use more than 400 words per piece. Bloggers who do that risk not getting read. Writers can have lots of words--anywhere between 400 and 2500 or more depending on the piece. Some writers can't express themselves in less. Bloggers have to be quick or risk boring their readers. I risk boring readers. So does one of the smartest long-entry bloggers out there, Jay Rosen, who doesn't seem to mind the delineation between blogger and writer (but might prefer I call him journalist.)

Some Writers never, or can't blog. Some Bloggers don't, or can't write Some bloggers would never, ever think of writing articles. Some writers would never, ever think of blogging. It's a risk/reward thing. Some bloggers hate the idea of being edited. Some writers can't get past the editor in their heads long enough to blog.

Not all Writers are Media people. Not all Bloggers are Media people either. This harkens back to the old Dave Winer whine "all bloggers are journalists." Tell the girls and guys of MySpace.com or Livejournal that they're media people and some would probably freak. Just because someone is a journaller doesn't mean he or she is a journalist-- I don't think it needs an explanation, and it certainly isn't splitting hairs. Loads of journalists don't keep journals either. Then again, the idea of who a media person is all depends on the definition of media. If media is defined as a mode of artistic expression, mainly self-expression, then by golly! all bloggers and journalists and scribblers on legal pads are all the same! I'm sure there's a ton of journalists, and published writers, and published poets, and columnists who might have a very big bone to pick with that one...

So, unless Simon Dumenco is willing give up being called a columnist, occasionally not think in paragraphs, cut down on his wordiness, and take a direct comment or two, without censoring people who disagree with him, he may want to re-think how he uses the terms blogger and writer. Because as it stands now, he may know something about the latter, in the journalistic sense, but he really hasn't shown he knows all that much about the former.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Debunking the Claims of Craigslist: 5 Mortal Wounds Crippling Print Journalism

After reading the hype-rific article on Craig Newmark and Craigslist in New York Magazine , I got to thinking more and more about the claim that Newmark's list is, like David, singlehandedly bringing down the Goliath of print journalism.

Now, if my knowledge of late 20th century history and pop culture is as good as my bible knowledge (and believe me, both are formidable), Goliath wasn't particularly crippled by the slings and arrows of the Israelites before he faced David--or at least not the way print journalism has been devastatingly crippled by the slings and arrows of a fast-changing American cultural scene and downward spirialling economy.

Saying Craigslist is singlehandedly killing newspapers is more like saying a matador doesn't need picadores to win at a bullfight. But I can see where puddin'headded, pie-eyed journalists with gaps in their knowledge of late 20th century America could make those claims.

So, over the past couple of days, I've been able to synthesize five key shifts in the American economic (and cultural) landscape that are still impacting, and will probably overtake, American print journalism--and might even get Crag Newmark's p/r people and all those gushy journalists to think again:

1) Downsizing, Networking, and the rise of Temping: Downsizing of upper level clerical and middle manager jobs effected want-ad directly. No jobs, no need to post ads. Getting wise, people began to mine their business contacts more regularly for employment opportunities--something many working and lower middle class folks had never done. When big corps that had considerably downsized needed to fill vacancies, they turned to temp agencies--the costs paid to temp agencies offset paying additional h.r. folks to screen applicants and were far less than what a company would pay in benefits for an new employee. But people are optimistic, and temps could be strung along for very long lengths of time before they figured out the temp-to-perm job was ever going to go to perm. Big corps didn't need to run large ads for long lengths of time to bring people in for jobs because temps and temp agencies were more efficient and cost effective. When push came to shove, and coprs needed people, and after people protested and it became illegal not to post and interview for a job even if a corp was going to hire from networking, corps chose to run ads on Sundays only, when more people traditionally bought the paper. People looking for real jobs, quickly picking up on the trends of networking and temping and Sunday only ads, stopped purchasing papers during the week and waited only for that one day. Revenue dropped for daily paper sales and probably stayed the same for Sunday. Ad revenue certainly dropped.

2) Courtesy Cards issued by Grocery Stores: Mom and Dad used to subscribe to the local paper not just for keeping up on local happenings, but also because each and every local grocery chain ran coupons in its Sunday and Wednesday editions. Courtesy Cards, originally issued to help store patrons cash checks, became ways for stores to offer "clipless coupon" discounts in their stores (as well as keep track of customers' purchasing habits.) There was talk for a time of completely phasing out coupons, as in-store clipless coupons were just as effective as the printed issues. Even though there are still manufacturers' coupons, issued in glossy supplements, the advent of courtesy cards and clipless coupons made it so that consumers didn't need to buy papers on Sunday and Wednesday especially if they wanted to get in-store coupon deals. Some grocers will still run ads, but people don't need to purchase the papers--and a lot don't have the time to read the ads anyway. Clipless coupons also helped to make ads smaller. Smaller ads, smaller revenue. Clipless coupons eliminated the need for economically squeezed consumers to buy newspapers. No purchases, no revenue

3) Decentralized Newsrooms: In the late '80's and into the '90's, many small papers began to be bought up by the conglomerates--Knight-Ridder and Gannett among others. They consolidated facilities along the lines of the downsizing trend going on in the rest of corporate America. Printing became more mechanized, which further eliminated, or radically changed traditional jobs like typesetters. Newspapers got leaner because there was very little local reporting. Case in point: my old New Jersey local paper The Home News was bought and consolidtated with The Asbury Park Press. Local bureaus were dismantled--the net effect being that we in the New Brusnwick region began to know more about what was going on down in Neptune than we did about the five car pileup on Rt. 1 in Edison. There seemed to be no need to purchase local papers regularly, and some people stop subscribing to local papers....and especially after the Next Big Thing...

4)Free On-line Content: if the local paper was no longer local, and its content was now provided free, on-line, why bother purchasing a print version? As a New Brusnwick resident, I could log into the new on-line version of The Home News and Tribune and read only the paltry local stories. A resident didn't even need the paper to find out about theater listings, as they were also on line, and had a better chance of finding out about the local bar scene from various 'zines that started to appear, with more frequency, in music stores--as well as from the area "alternative press." So, unless one likes the tactile sensation of newsprint rubbing off on one's fingers, and the rustling sound of paper pages being turned, all the information one used to need from a local paper--job listings, movie times, and reports on local stuff--was now free. Why buy? Revenue decreases again.

Newspapers have crashed...the final thing that burns them out of existence might be:

5) There is no such thing as a NewspaperWoman: In my survey of the newpapering industry, there seem to be second, third, even fourth generation newspapermen. Ever heard of even a second-generation Newspaperwoman? Nope! Know of any of the paltry few first-generation NewspaperWomen who are mentoring a new generation if NewspaperWomen? Nope. They may be toiling away in obscurity, but they, and their protegees (if any), aren't necessarily getting loads of press. Further, men still seem to occupy the majority of editorial positions with both major and local papers. The few women that are in editorial positions rarely make it into the club that would classify them in the same sense as the newspapermen. When women have managed to infiltrate even the Fortune 500, even fewer, if any, have been able to claim the mantle of "NewspaperWoman" and, more importantly, to add their voices to that particular Good Old Boys' Club. The few women that are allowed to occasionally dine with The Big Boys never seem to express opinions about their profession that are respected and promoted by their peers. Print journalism is possibly the very last closed shop that's out there--and that closed-minded, closed-shop mentality has, I believe, hampered print journalism's ability to perceive, accept, and flex with the changes that have occurred in American culture and economy.

Across the landscape of history, women have been integral to the continued existence of, and have made significant contributions to, philosophy, science, religion and the arts. That women are still shut out of print journalism's club of Newspapermen is, in the 21st century, not just a disgrace, but might be the final fastening nail in print journalism's coffin. What is it they say about new blood invigorating things? Apparently the newspaper industry's missed out on that one in favor of the old saw "Stay the Course."

So, perhaps, Craig Newmark isn't doing anything to newspapers that newspapers haven't done already to themselves. When Goliath has self-inflicted mortal wounds, and is reeling from loss of blood, the pebble that dispatches him need only be the size of a grain of sand. And, unfortunatley, because of the short-term collective memory of many, and the excellence of a good p/r firm, that grain of sand ends up being perceived as a rock.

Think about it.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

A Curious Little Gem In The Blogosphere

Yesterday, out of boredom, I was doing a Technorati search on media and stumbled across Scott Karp's blog Publishing 2.0.

Scott's the Managing Director of Research and Strategy for Atlantic Media and has alot on his mind. He started the blog back in December, and uses it to ruminate on the interface between New Media (blogging) and Old Media. Read his About page because I'm too lazy to parse it all out for ya.

Overall, he's really thinking about this whole thing--really thinking. Go take a look. I commented on Bloggers are So Wrong About Media because in it Scott seems to assume that all bloggers are created equal--and all of y'all know that some bloggers (mainly the A-list) are more equal than the rest of us around here. (and don't say we're not. don't piss on my shoe and tell me it's raining). Scott also discovered that being inflammatory and incendiary gets you somewhere in the blogosphere....

that's it exactly Scott...being the agent provocateur can get even a flea noticed!

But inflammatory rhetoric, like a tit-flash at Mardi Gras, will get a blogger only so far. There's got to be something beyond the snarky snap and the cranky jab. Hmmm...maybe that's why I'm so nice sometimes. ;-)

Give Scott a look....let's help the guy understand what The Rest of Us are doing out here.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

More on Snark and Journalism

Okay, so I did say I'd post the third installation of Jon Friedman's series on snark and journalism.

But, Jon...it's only the second full week of '06 and you're claiming that Gawker has it sown up for the year?!? for shame! There's a full 12 1/2 months left for the rest of the blogosphere to get more snarkarific. Who knows what might happen.

Then again, what do I know? ;-)

Still, I like that Jon quoted me in the second part, so here's the third:

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) - When it comes to the fine art of publishing snarky commentaries, nobody does it better than Gawker.

Gawker, the flagship of Gawker Media, stands apart because its editors, Jessica Coen and Jesse Oxfeld, are fair-minded and (very) funny. Oxfeld and Coen, who live in New York City, delight in skewering celebrities and newsmakers who do or say especially pompous things.

The four-year-old Internet site's wicked wit and journalistic sensibility are catching on. In November, Oxfeld noted, it had 6 million page views, its all-time high.

Unlike many pretenders to Gawker's throne, this site combines humor and basic journalistic values. Coen and Oxfeld are unabashedly sarcastic -- but seldom mean-spirited. "You take down people who deserve to be taken down," Coen said succinctly.

Their most loyal supporters keep them honest. "My mother doesn't read Gawker because it's too blue," Coen shrugged. "My mother emails me about my typos," Oxfeld said.

Oxfeld began writing for the site last June, Coen in August 2004. "I was the third permanent editor and have been here the longest," she said in an email, "which, I suppose, makes me the craziest." Coen and Oxfeld are carrying on the tradition established by such previous Gawker editors as Elizabeth Spiers and Choire Sicha.

Dynamic duo

I talked with Oxfeld and Coen on Jan. 3, over drinks in a West Village restaurant. During those two hours, it became apparent that Gawker's dynamic duo has a terrific working relationship.

They frequently finished one another's sentences, which is surprising since they work out of their apartments and can go days without even seeing one another (the two are advertisements for the virtues of instant messaging).

Oxfeld, who hails from northern New Jersey, has a background in mainstream journalism. Since graduating from Stanford University, he's had stints at Newsweek, ABC News, Brill's Content, Editor and Publisher as well as Media Bistro.

By contrast, Coen, a native of suburban Detroit who went to the University of Michigan, spent a year teaching 9th and 10th graders in South Central Los Angeles, through Teach For America. It's a national recruitment program which hopes to attract college graduates to teaching.

Then, after working in television for a year, she was accepted into the Columbia School of Journalism -- but turned down the opportunity to edit Gawker.

Actually, Coen might benefit more from a season at the Second City comedy training ground than hallowed Columbia. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Coen's gift for one-liners and deadpan humor someday catapults her to a gig on "The Daily Show."

Oxfeld said Gawker's publisher, Nick Denton (who declined to be interviewed for this piece), has said Gawker should have the breezy, informal feel of reflecting "what journalists talk about over drinks but can't write in their publications."

Because of the confrontational nature of what Gawker does, Denton has also said his staffers "have to be comfortable being outsiders."

Coen said the no-rules atmosphere is "a total blessing. We are free to say whatever we want, when we want."

And so they do. On Thursday, these snark-filled items appeared on Gawker's site:

-- "Macauley Culkin is preparing to marry actress Mila Kunis. We salute her bravery."

-- "Katie Couric's contract with the 'Today' show isn't up until May, and she can't even negotiate with CBS until then. So she'd appreciate it if you'd just shut the f*** up about what's next and focus on her legs."

-- "What's truly heartbreaking about Brad Pitt's forthcoming spawn, currently festering in Angelina Jolie's womb, is what the new baby will do to Jolie's two adopted children, Maddox and Zahara. Kids, say hi to your new, gorgeous replacement!"

Still, being needled in Gawker is a badge of honor. "The meanest thing we can do is ignore someone," Coen said.

The establishment is noticing. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd said last year that she is a fan. Her colleague, Times media critic David Carr, devoted one of his columns to chide Gawker for writing insensitive stories during the recent media pandemonium surrounding Peter Braunstein, He's the one-time journalist who led police on a cross-country chase after he terrorized a woman on Halloween in New York. Carr cited "the permanently jaded sensibility of sites like Gawker."

A few days ago, when I told a senior Time magazine editor that I was going to write a column about the leader of snarky journalism, he shot back, "Well, you've got to write about Jessica Coen, right?"

And when I interviewed Justin Smith, the 36-year-old president of The Week magazine, he marveled, "It's amazing to think that Gawker is being written by two 25-year-olds!"

Coen, predictably, shrugged off the compliment. "We're NOT both 25-year-olds," she muttered. She grinned and added, "Jesse is 29!"


Oxfeld and Coen have demanding jobs. Each of them writes 12 items a day.

The heavy workload can contribute to occasional sloppiness. Gawker commented on a Jan. 4 column in which I speculated about who's in and who's out in the media. I'd said that because of MSNBC's "serious improvement," Fox "could feel a pinch."

Gawker's unappealing interpretation: "Jon Friedman is clearly smoking crack, as proved by (among other things) his prediction that MSNBC will beat CNN and Fox News in 2006." (Among those "other things," I'd suggested that Gawker was "in" and the New York Post's gossippy "Page Six was "out.")

When I good-naturedly protested Gawker's account of what I'd written, Oxfeld dismissed me by saying I was "splitting hairs."


For now, Gawker's biggest concern may just be coping with its new-found success.

In a surefire sign that they may be coming perilously close to mass acceptance, Oxfeld, Coen and some of their Gawker Media colleagues were featured in a photo layout in the February issue of Vanity Fair.

"We look so odd," Coen told me, "but at least I got guttered."

Will success ruin Gawker? "If we start taking any of it too seriously," Coen said, "we deserve to be bludgeoned to death with September Vogues."

Oxfeld noted: "We're working to keep it from being a problem by remaining just as tough on everyone as we've always been, including - as the site becomes bigger - ourselves."

The most common quibble I've heard about Gawker is that Coen and Oxfeld don't have bylines, so the readers don't know for sure who wrote what stuff. Perhaps it's fair to say that Oxfeld is the more earnest of the two while Coen lives to get under someone's skin.

When we concluded our interview that night in the restaurant, I thanked the two Gawker editors for their time. Oxfeld, devoid of snark this time, looked me in the eye and said evenly, "I trust you'll be nice to us."

But Coen smiled. "Oh, come on," she said devilishly, "something nasty wouldn't hurt. We haven't had a good catfight in a while."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

In the Self-Important, Over-Memoired Literary World, There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

I've been following the ridiculously pathetic self-analyses of lit types taken in by fraud and the overall howlable revelations regarding the unmaksing of JT Leroy and James Frey as a couple of very crafty literary frauds.

Yours truly is certainly NOT surprised by these revelations. The voracious need of the literary world for salacious memoir has lead to a number of easily-forgetable and dopey screeds penned mostly by hip, young, upper-class misfits. The current-day crop of V-8 smack-to-the-head "oy! what were they thinking?" memoir started with Elizabeth Wurzel's Prozac Nation and Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss, gathered steam with the likes of Lauren Winner's dopey Girl Meets God, and has slogging its way towards the literary gomorrahs of Frey and Leroy.

What is it about the lit world that needs these kinds of memoirs? Why not just put them out as the fictions they are?

Simple: memoir creates instant celebrity. It's an easier path than writing ficton. Plus, memoirs--esp. memoir about sexually confused, drug addled young outlaws that remind people of the Beat Generation--are easier to market than fiction.

The literati, and some readers, like to think these sordid tales can actually happen. Probably because many of their lives are deadly-dull and they need to know that there are, still, indeed, wild-at-hearts who can, like Burroughs and Keroac and Hemingway, become literary giants.

If Frey and "Leroy" were up-front about what they were doing, and said they were writing fiction, such as author Stephen Elliott, whose books Happy Baby and What It Means to Love You are riffs on (supposedly) personal experiences, and Dorothy Allison, who penned the remarkable Bastard out of Carolina under the same circumstances, would they be less than Celebrety? Probably.

Would they be on Oprah or have hugely lucrative film deals? Probaby not. They'd probably be (heaven forbid!) teaching somewhere, or surviving on grants.

More importantly, would they even have got published in the first place? Probably not. Or, if they did, it would be with a small press like McSweeny's rather than the formidable publishers of Frey & Leroy. There would be no agents, no big-time press junkets, no hob-nobbing with Hollywood.

The problem is with how fiction is chosen for publication. Ficton writing, in general, is more competitive these days--partly because of the massive number of MFAs being produced by just about every medium to small college out there. Everybody wants to be a writer. Not everybody can be a writer. What then appears to make a writer these days is not necessarily talent but the right MFA, the right connections, and the right agent.

Don't bother sending your manuscript to a publishing house--you'll only end up in a slush pile the size of an Indiana Jones warehouse.

It's easier to say that what one is writing is a life story. It doesn't require an MFA--just connections, as Frey and Leroy's stories show. And if the memoir is super salacious or pathetic, bam! immediate celebrity.

Celebreity is far more fun than spending time grading the short fictions of eager and possibly more talented freshmen, and waiting and waiting to have something published by a name-brand publishing house rather than a small literary press.

Beyond that, though, what is affecting the publication of so many dorky kid memoirs is the hyper-fascination with young people. Memoir--and I mean real, interesting, thought-provoking life story memoir--can only be penned by people who have had lives. And I don't necessarily mean people like Bob Dylan and John Updike who've lead extaordinary celebrety lives. I mean people who are not in their 20's or even early 30's. People like Frank McCort, who didn't start out as a celebrety nor did he expect a Pulitzer Prize for Angela's Ashes, and Terry Ryan's fascinating Mother in The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio : How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less .

You can't do that kind of stuff (like win Pulitzers), nor write about those kinds of lives, until you've lived beyond the 18-34 age bracket--the tender beginning of adulthood. Being mentally disturbed, drug addicted, a born-again virgin, upper-middle-class, over-educated and spoiled doesn't automatically make one a great writer nor make one's life all that much of a compelling read.

It's just easier to polish a kid up and make him/her a celebrety than it does to take one of the old folks and make him/her photogenic again.

ah, the vanity of celebrity! ah, the gullibility of the literati!

So, all I can do is sit back and have a Nelson-styled "HA-HA!" at the lit world. They surely, and rightfully, got spanked this week.

Godfather of Snark, Meet Little Sister of Nice....

I got into a great email exchange with Jon Friedman of MarketWatch yesterday, which resulted in me being part of the second part of his series on snark: Part 2: Andersen is snark's Godfather
Commentary: Spy magazine's visionary set the bar high

Once again I'm reprinting the piece in full from MarketWatch because it's a damned good look at the phenomenon of snark. Check out the site for the Question of the Day. Part 3 will appear on Friday

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Kurt Andersen is the reluctant Godfather of Snark.

Not long after we'd sat down to talk about the State of Snark, he frowned slightly at my observation and muttered, "I know I'm going to come off sounding like an old fogy."

Gimme a break. Every writer should have such worries. (And every old fogy should have Andersen's resume!) He writes the Imperial City column for New York magazine and was its editor in the mid-1990s. He founded the late, lamented Inside.com (whose only sin was being ahead of its time). He authored the best-selling and acclaimed "Turn of the Century." He has a radio show. And he hosted an interview program with media hotshots on the Trio cable channel. He's the media business's Mr. Multimedia.

Oh yeah, two decades ago he co-founded Spy -- the much-loved magazine that raised snark to a whole other level -- with Graydon Carter, who's now the editor of Vanity Fair.

Spy tweaked the political, media and business establishments in the spirit of the magazine's wry British predecessor. That Spy also managed to jump-start the media's snark movement is one of life's happy accidents. Although the magazine is long defunct, its influence can be measured anywhere that you can read smart, funny, finger-pointing humor.

In America, Spy followed the examples of National Lampoon and Mad magazines by offering uncompromising humor that delighted in taking shots at the pompous.

Spy, of course, came along more than a decade before the Internet took hold. Words like "blog" hadn't been invented, and "snark" hadn't seeped into the daily vernacular.

As for Andersen, today he regards his legacy uneasily.

"When I talk to college students about Spy, it's like I'm describing something that happened in the 19th century," Andersen, 51, mused over breakfast in lower Manhattan last week.

"We were very lucky," he said. "We started Spy at a time when our generation had arrived at full adulthood and wanted to connect to its anti-establishment youth."

Andersen and Carter wanted to present a magazine that re-created the atmosphere of smart, edgy people "talking over drinks" about "stuff that wasn't being reported" in the media at the time.

Later this year, Miramax Books will be publishing a best-of-Spy volume titled, naturally, "Spy: The Funny Years."

Andersen, a native of Omaha, has high praise for Jon Stewart, humor writer Dave Barry, David Owen of the New Yorker, and David Carr and Maureen Dowd of the New York Times.

If Andersen is indeed the Godfather of Snark, then, he said, "Maureen is the Godmother."

Taking the easy way out

Andersen, rightfully, frets that many young journalists today take the easy way out when they try to be funny and hip, he said. He cautions writers to avoid the trap of declaring, "I'm 26, and I look at everything, good or bad, snarkily."

Or as Leslie Savan, author of "Slam Dunks and No-Brainers," put it, journalism has shifted "from dogged reporting to catty retorting."

It's a valid point. Plenty of Web writers, in particular, seem to think that entertainment passes for good journalism, that meanness alone has value. When rock bands run out of ideas, they raise the volume on their music for effect. When bloggers run out of ideas or are too lazy or uninformed to offer analysis, they simply resort to raising the snark level.

It's second-rate writing -- but what the hey? It enables bloggers to delude themselves into feeling important or, at least, self-important. And that's what matters.

The Web logs even get a kick out of eating their own. No one, even another blogger, is safe from mindless criticism. "Believe it or not," blogger Tish Grier wrote to me from Chicopee, Mass., "I recently got challenged on the title of my blog because I'm not all snark all the time. There are a number of bloggers who can't get with the idea of irony and metaphor." (bloggers note: yes, y'all know what I'm talking about here: the comments on my being "nice." nope, don't think so. smart maybe, but not necessarily nice. besides, why be snarky all the time? that's like playing one note on a piano over and over. pretty soon you get sick of it. snarking should be done judiciously and with necessity.)

For his part, Andersen likes to read "sly, wry and bemused journalism, as opposed to debasement."

It seems that a lot of bloggers, in their desperation to demonstrate that they're funny, are chiefly interested in showcasing their work as a way to get a job writing for "Weekend Update" or "The Colbert Report." They're not trying to land at the New York Times or Newsweek.

Andersen is also curious why so many bloggers seem to get their jollies by gratuitously blasting their subjects, he said. When it comes to "humanity," he said, bloggers "have to draw a line in the sand. The trick is to try to tell the truth."

Thanks for the mention Jon!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The only thing Craigslist will get you in Chicopee, Mass is a hook-up. If your lucky. And if you're willing to drive to Hartford.

So why is The New Yorker so willing to jump on the bandwagon like so many other bloated metropolitan publications and claim that Craigslist is killing newspapers when the rest of us who don't happen to live near a major metropolitan hub can't find diddly-squat on his service (other than sex, and if you happen to be a middle-aged male looking for a girl or guy. yes, lots of gay hookups on Craigslist.)

Keep your pants on folks. In some parts of this country, the only thing that works, still, are the local papers. And when I say local...I mean local...they're even talking about resurrecting the Farm Report because we have farms!...and don't think for a minute that you can find a sports report that covers anything other than AHL hockey and high school football...check out
MassLive.com and Gazettenet to see what I mean.

We're not lacking for local anything out here. What we're lacking is a touch of Metro.

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Murdoch and MySpace--Imperfect Together

The Guardian's Business section reported today on Rupert Murdoch's evil-media-mogul plans for MySpace.com...

News Corporation will start offering video downloads on its recently acquired myspace.com as it focuses on creating "more content and better content," said the chief executive, Rupert Murdoch.
Speaking at a technology and media conference in Arizona, Mr Murdoch described the potential for News Corp's online businesses as "enormous", predicting revenues of $350-$400m by 2007.

"There will be millions of downloads a day probably," he told an audience at Citicorp's annual Entertainment, Media & Telecommunications Conference in Phoenix without offering further details.


this piece by Nicholas Wapshott appeared in The Independent yesterday, explaining how much Murdoch and company don't know about MySpace.com:
Angry members of MySpace, the personal file-sharing website for young adults, are accusing Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation of censoring their postings and blocking their access to rival sites.

The 38 million subscribers to MySpace, which News Corp bought for $629m (£355m) last July, discovered that when they wrote to each other about rival video-swapping site YouTube, the words were automatically deleted, and attempts to download video images from YouTube led to blank screens

I'm sorry, but Murdoch's out to ruin a very good thing. If we couldn't already figure it out, Murdoch's all about "content" and predominantly about old business models and controlling the world of media. He has absolutely no concept of MySpace.com, its users, how its usesrs use it, and what it does. Murdoch's all about running things...and with MySpace, it will more than likely be about ruining things. Overmanagement of a site where the content is primarily user-generated will eventually discourage user-participation: and that could especially happen with something like MySpace which, up until the takeover and some bad press, thrived on a free-wheeling "do whatcha want" ethos.

Further, Murdoch doesn't seem to get the ethos of Web 2.0 either, which isn't about content as much as it is about conversation and peer-to-peer communication. What Murdoch seems to be proposing is a place where there will be much consuming (read:downloading) and not much participation. I'm sure the dowloading will have more to do with Murdoch Product than with anything produced by the members of MySpace....thus turning MySpace into nothing more than another content-driven media site.

As if we don't have enough of those already.

Murdoch's also throwing a young gun with lots o'cash at the web:
Mr Murdoch, 74, last week appointed 33-year-old Jeremy Philips to run News Corp's internet strategy and armed him with a $1bn fund to buy more sites. (from the Independent)

It's all about strategy...all about top-down communicating...all about consuming...

Which is not what MySpace was supposed to be about.

But this Web thing is pretty vast, and there are oodles and oodles of smart-alecks out there who could conceivably stay one step ahead of Murdoch's Minions (or is that millions?)

It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Snark is All The Rage!

I always crack up when someone uses the term "all the rage," because, from what I'm seeing, the "rage" is merely a bunch of hype to get folks to think everybody is doing a particular thing. Yo! It's a freakin' buzzphrase, people!! and it's usually perpetuated by some dope who wants you to buy his amazing new product
Now, given that small factoid, here's a complete re-print of Jon Friedman's 'Snarky' journalism is all the rage now
Commentary: Accent is on commentaries, not reporting
from MarketWatch (and via Mediabistro)

I've re-printed the entire piece because permalinks to stories at MarketWatch notoriously go off-line quickly and are hard to find again. Friedman does give a wonderful synopsis of snarkiness and blogs, as well as the origins of snark (see Mark Twain.)

NEW YORK -- Thanks largely to the advent of the Internet blogs, "snarky" commentaries are sweeping the craft of journalism.
Partly because the snark movement is still so new, it's tough to pin down a definition for the species. But how's this one? If something is funny, edgy, topical and opinionated -- without resorting merely to being caustic or sophomoric -- it could probably be called snarky.

"A snarky attitude can be found everywhere now, except in the New York Review of Books," quipped Kurt Andersen, New York magazine's media critic. Spy magazine, founded by Andersen and Graydon Carter, now the editor of Vanity Fair, put a face on snarky humor in the 1980s.

Crucially, TV, print and even those hipper-than-thou Web journalists are anything but pioneers. It could be contended that other pop-culture chroniclers - filmmakers, stand-up comics and late-night talk show hosts, for instance - have been snarky for decades. It has taken a while for many journalists to catch up.

Once, way, way back during the 20th century, journalism was measured by such quaint qualities as dogged reporting and meticulous fact-checking.

But the rise of the blogs has changed plenty about the craft. Blogs have caught on because they serve the public's desire for immediacy, opinion and entertainment.

The blogs seem to want desperately to be hailed as the anti-MSM -- that is, the non-mainstream media.

Bloggers have been prominent players for only a few years - with the turning point coming in 2004 when they exposed the inaccuracies of CBS' report on President Bush's National Guard record. But they feel slighted because the establishment media have shortchanged their contributions to journalism.

Snarkiness can be loosely defined as demonstrations of criticism, particularly when the target is the establishment, either in the government, the military, corporate America or the dreaded media.


When did it all begin? Who was the first purveyor of snark? Of course, it wasn't only journalists who put their stamp on it. Perhaps it all began with Mark Twain.

The Depression-era Marx Brothers' movies certainly contained their fair share of it, as "Duck Soup" skewered politicians and "Horsefeathers" lambasted higher education. Charlie Chaplin, likewise, mocked the establishment.

Andersen suggested: (Long-ago New Yorker Editor) "Harold Ross was the Godfather of Snark."

Snarkiness gained strength with the work of Harold Hayes and George Lois at Esquire in the 1960s.

Television shows had a high profile. Johnny Carson (and Jack Paar, before him, to a degree) made much of his reputation based on his ability to poke fun at politicians of all stripes.

In the modern age, I conjecture, true snarkiness has its origins started with the political humor of the likes of Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl. David Frost, the British satirist and television-interviewer-to-the-stars, and the humor of the early 1960s show, "That Was the Week That Was" (aka "TW3"), were forerunners to the "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour."

Television snark reached its apex on October 11, 1975 at the introduction of Chevy Chase's sarcastic treatment of the news during the "Weekend Update" segment of "Saturday Night Live." The show has managed to keep up the tradition wonderfully over the years. These days, the cleverness of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler of "SNL" shine through.

David Letterman's late-night show on NBC, beginning in the early 1980s, threw a light on snarkiness, too. Letterman combined a certain irreverence with his quirky style.

Through the years, many people (in and out of journalism) have set a standard for snarkiness. In no particular order and in varying degrees of effectiveness, the list includes:

Jon Stewart, Maureen Dowd, Mad magazine, the Onion, National Lampoon, Spy, Andy Borowitz, the style and songs of John Lennon and Bob Dylan, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," the Washington Post's Style section, Art Buchwald, Gawker, Don Imus, (for better or worse) Howard Stern, the Wonkette, Dana Milbank, Christopher Buckley, Page Six, Dave Barry, Jim Bouton's landmark book "Ball Four," Dana Carvey's impersonations of President George W. Bush on " Saturday Night Live," the "Naked Gun" movies, P.J. O'Rourke, James Wolcott, Woody Allen and "Catch-22."

Snarky journalism, especially when it's witty and not merely mean-spirited, has an important place in journalism. But it also poses a danger.

It's possible, if the movement continues to build more forcefully, that a generation of young journalists will take their cues and allow commentating to replace reporting.
Let's hope it doesn't come to that, though.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

He Enjoys Being a Girl....

Apparently, David Lat--the legal eagle slated to take over Wonkette has been penning something called Underneath Their Robes in the guise of a female (see the very *bad*--as in amateurish--illustration on the blog)....pretty pathetic actually. Why did he have to pretend to be a woman? Would his ravings be considered less "snarky" and less "fun" had he blogged pseudonymously as a man?

but hasn't Lat figured out that most of us know you don't have to be female to be a bitch.....

Yet I wonder still: will the folks who control Wonkette expect him to keep blogging under his pseudonymn now that he's been outed? With any vestage of transparency shot, it would be pretty silly for them to expect he become the New Wonkette, or stay the Old Article III Groupie.

But would good taste allow a blog titled Wonker and all that it implicates? I don't know, but if the bitch is willing to drop the fan dance, whip it out and let us see what he's really got.... ;-)

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Blogs As Literary Devices

Now that I'm finally over my flu/tonsillitis/whatever illness, I got to peruse MSM this a.m. and discovered Janet Maslin's delightfully tepid review of Ana Marie Wonkette Cox's new novel "Dog Days.

Um, can I stop yawning now??? Aren't Cox's 15-plus minutes of fame just about up by now? Who really cares about Wonkette writing a blog-hating roman a clef about blogging???

I think Maslin might be better off checking out some blooks to see what's happening among people who have more of a love than hate relationship with this new medium and see the potential of blog entries turning into books.

And maybe Wonkette shouldn't give up her day job just yet...

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