Friday, January 26, 2007

What's Up with Journalist Access to the Floor During State of the Union?

At the same time President Bush was preparing to make his next to last State of the Union address, I was struck by a head cold. Achy sinuses, headache, sore throat. What better way to feel better than by watching the State of the Union. I decided to turn to CNN.

I don't know why I pick CNN. Probably from my days at a boarding school in Switzerland when one of the teachers would have it on all the time during the 1st Gulf War. So they got me at a young age. But I gotta say CNN, and all the other networks, aren't doing much with their newfound access to the floor. I'm not quite sure what the physical access gets them anyway. They're able to take a different angle shot of the action, therefore our perspective has changed as viewers? We're somehow more level with the elected officials who decide much of our fates from before birth until after death? I didn't feel much in touch with Washington by watching John Roberts mingle with the gaggle of politicians on the floor, but to have CNN report it, it was the greatest wish ever to have a camera on the floor.

If there was one thing that the coverage of the State of the Union proved to me, is why The Daily Show and The Colbert Report remain ever popular: how can we take these guys seriously? Better yet, how can we take that Candy character on CNN seriously? It's at moments like those, staring into the television void that I fear for the future of television journalism. I know TV is the favorite whipping post of every pseudo intellectual in this country, but as someone who loves television, loves news, and knows some of the cats producing it, I know they can do better. Spending half the coverage on how fantastic it is to have access to the floor during the speech doesn't tell me much. Apparently, the access didn't do much for CNN's ability to hold policymakers feet to the fire as well.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The New Media Frontier..I Guess

This fellowship program I'm in at the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at the Ohio State University talks a lot about new media. It is in fact a "New Media Fellowship".

But the media itself isn't new. Radio has been around for about 80 years; television for 50, and the printed word, at least in modern western European history, since good old Johannes Gutenberg figured out the secret to movable type (I think it was in 1482, but of course the Chinese had him beat by a few hundred years.)

What's new is the ability to meld these individual mediums into a whole made possible by the world wide web. You can now watch a movie on your computer, or make an audio slideshow with photos you took from your last vacation, or publish a video newsletter (a vletter?) about your family on your home computer. And you can sit like me and blog the afternoon away in lieu of constitutional law homework.

I hear a lot about the "revolution" the Internet has had on the ability to create media, and the fear it strikes in the hearts of reporters who worry about amateurs encroaching on their professional turf. I don't see it as much of a revolution. Didn't the printing press open up a new media class of non royalty, common folk who could own the means of production of media, and distribute pamphlets that created social, religious and economic revolutions? I'm thinking of Martin Luther, of Thomas Paine, and all the unknown printers who threw themselves into the creation of new means of communicating that didn't require monks slaving hours with pen and paper to preserve ideas. And writing in the vernacular also opened up the ability for information to be understood by lay people.

So it is with the Internet. That's why it's not enough for newspaper to just publish stories on the web. I think we've forgotten that we collect information through the 5 senses, not only by digesting words through our eyes and into our neurons. Because we (western industrialized folk) are surrounded by radio and television and video and photography, we intuitively reject the way newspapers, and broadcast outlets are recreating newspapers as hypertext.

It's up to the "professionals" to now professionalize news on the web - which means thinking about why we like to watch television or listen to the radio or go to a photo exhibit in the first place. I can only answer for myself, but it's something I think news outlets will have to ponder as well, and not use a focus group either.

The Ohio Frontier

I'm coming up on three weeks in Columbus, Ohio. The responses I received when I made public my decision to leave KFAI Radio in Minneapolis to come - omigod - HERE ranged from "Why would you leave Minneapolis for an inferior city?" to "What a fabulous opportunity!"

It seems to me - just to add to the categorization we all seek to box people in - is that there are two types of people in world. One group finds its status in where it lives; the other finds status in what it lives. I think I'm in the latter group. I don't really care where I live, so long as I have access and opportunity to what I want to be doing, which isn't much. I'm not vain, so access to trendy boutiques in unimportant; I'm not a music aficionado, so I don't care about the local indie rock or pop scene; I don't really care all that much about art or theatre,

It's also no secret that midwesterners in general have an inferiority complex, and part of its manifestation is to put other parts of the midwest down. Fine with me; I'm not from the midwest, and can scoff at everyone in it, knowing full well that it doesn't matter if Minneapolis is on the cusp of being a first class city and Columbus most definitely a second class city - both are neither fully first class anything, and for those of us who have experienced first class, the provincialism of such a conflict is rather charming. Kind of like watching a Jerry Springer show.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Welcome to My Blog

Since leaving my job as the News Director of KFAI Radio, a few interested parties have suggetsed I start a blog.

So here I go: I'm in Ohio, doing a new media fellowship. No, I will not leave with an M.A. in journalism. This fellowship is where they pay me to complete a project ( in this case a multimedia website on Somali businesses in Columbus, Ohio). They also pay for classes if I want to take them. I'm taking constitutional law - watch out, Scalia!