Sunday, October 4, 2009

What is the difference then between a journalist and a hit man...

The quote from this article in the Atlantic is just spot-on. Of late, the prospects of a reporter seem on the dim side. Not just because the newspapers are being closed all over the nation, but also because in the democratization of the news gathering process there has been a dilution of the standards that come with Journalism.
"What’s most troubling is not that TV-news producers mistake their work for journalism, which is bad enough, but that young people drawn to journalism increasingly see no distinction between disinterested reporting and hit-jobbery. The very smart and capable young men (more on them in a moment) who actually dug up and initially posted the Sotomayor clips both originally described themselves to me as part-time, or aspiring, journalists."

I've no beef with Sotomayor, and I'm not worried (yet) about her politics and her new seat on the Supreme Court. Does it mean that I'm pleased that Fox had the rotisserie spit ready for her? Nope, I was hoping they would allow her voting record speak for her.

" What gave newspapers their value was the mission and promise of journalism—the hope that someone was getting paid to wade into the daily tide of manure, sort through its deliberate lies and cunning half-truths, and tell a story straight. There is a reason why newspaper reporters, despite polls that show consistently low public regard for journalists, are the heroes of so many films. The reporter of lore was not some blue blood or Ivy League egghead, beholden to society’s powerful interests, be they corporate, financial, or political. We liked our newsmen to be Everymen—shoe-leather intellectuals, cynical, suspicious, and streetwise like Humphrey Bogart in Deadline—U.S.A. or Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story or Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman inAll the President’s Men. The Internet is now replacing Everyman with every man. Anyone with a keyboard or cell phone can report, analyze, and pull a chair up to the national debate. If freedom of the press belongs to those who own one, today that is everyone."

The article goes on to tell how Morgen Richmond, a blogger that Googled Sotomayor's speeches, struck on one that became ammunition against her once Fox picked it up. I finished the article thinking that unless journalists switch gears and join PR firms in droves, they'll be out of a job...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Iran pipeline gets a kink...

It seems that the Russian Navy had a vested interest in keeping other navies from possibly finding the Arctic Sea freighter. A dark possibility was that the US Navy would run into it, and upon boarding, find a cargo hold brimming with weaponry of Russian manufacture. It would be a poison to a relationship with the White House, for sure. This article here has a good idea what was being sold and by whom. 
"According to reports, Mossad is said to have briefed the Russian government that the shipment had been sold by former military officers linked to the black market, and Russia then dispatched a naval rescue mission. Those who believe Mossad was involved point to a visit to Moscow by Shimon Peres, Israel's president, the day after the Arctic Sea was recovered."

The larger question is who else shops at that dealer...
Another paper also got an insider to explain what the cargo meant for Russia, and how to keep the dust-up to a minimum.
“Clearly the Israelis played a role in the whole Arctic Sea saga,” said a Russian military source. “Peres used the incident as a bargaining chip over the issue of arms sales to Arab states, while Israel allowed the Kremlin a way out with its claims to have successfully foiled a piracy incident.”

Obama's scary speech, c'mon people...

I saw this bit on CNN and I thought, is it possible that we (Utah or average Red state residents) are feeling insecure about what we've taught our kids, that we feel like keeping them home, lest the president might "turn them"? The very idea!? I'd like to think (albeit, really, whose kids listen to their parents, anyway) that my kids have heard me expound on the merits and failures of quite a few past and present administrations to so easily be duped. And that is, if indeed there is a political message in the address planned for Tuesday. If there isn't, and I'm going to bet the WH releases the text beforehand to vaccinate the airwaves against further distress, then why worry?. If indeed there is a political message in there, either overtly (join the Democratic Party, ye legions of soft -brained westerners!) or covertly (maybe a subliminal message every 23 frames, or maybe a rumble that decoded is the Real speech, backwards), then why oh why do we have to sound like a bunch of scared poultry seeing the airborne shadow of a hawk over our little yard! Can we not pick the message apart, explain why we think this or that part is idiotic and make sense? On the other hand, can we not explain to the kids that for the previous eight years we had a president that was anathema to roughly half of the population, yet few voiced widespread fear he would indoctrinate their young with the love of all things Republican?
I hope that our understanding of policy, issues and a sense of fair play brings us to where we can be somewhat assured they (the Other Party, whomever they are) can't hurt us. And come next election, we might just get the person we like in the White House.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

First week of classes, new Fall semester

This semester I'll be learning Public Relations under Linda Walton, the class is setup as a PR firm and will involve the handling of multiple clients by the class, broken down into teams.
Scott Carrier started his class warning all present that we needed to prepare to deal with the fact that we might yell and have very strong disagreements in class, and asked some of us what we listened to and how we got our news. The answers given were towards the huh? range, meaning that some classmates were unsure that skimming media sources is related to our field of study. Scott is a modest man, and was uncomfortable (I thought) speaking of his accomplishments and experience. He has a lot to tell, and being his student is always a treat. Maybe I'm easily entertained by the stories, maybe this fellow could read the phonebook out loud and I'd still pay attention. Whatever it takes to be a competent and thoughtful reporter, this man has it and it shows.
My other class is with Dr. Scott, I stumbled thru my (cold turkey) recitation of the First Amendment, but I will dust it off and get sharp on it, praises be to him for keeping the old book, now I have one book less to buy. 

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Escapism? what? we don't do that around here...

I was reading a great column by Nicole Sperling, in the EW site where she describes how the thinking goes about the process of sorting thru hundreds of movie ideas and how it can make you, or break you bad.

"In the wake of high-profile dramas flopping at the box office -- including "Frost/Nixon," "Australia," "Revolutionary Road," and "State of Play" -- studios are increasingly gun-shy about making movies that don't offer pure escapism. Even the frothy, adult-oriented caper "Duplicity" struggled to find a wide audience.

I love the idea that a Hollywood type will have a migraine, racking his or her brains wondering if this is the right moment to stick their neck out and green-light a riky project. More so if they drive something large and german, or have a manse overlooking the Pacific.

""With the economy being what it is, no one wants to get blamed for a failure," says one agent. "If you greenlight something that's [totally mainstream] and it fails, it's not your fault. If you greenlight an adult drama and it tanks, you lose your job."

Who's to blame for the sorry state of the adult drama?

Filmmakers fault studio marketers for not effectively selling serious fare. Producers blame the studios for making poor choices and spending too much money, setting dramas up for failure. Meanwhile, some executives say the films themselves simply aren't compelling enough."

While it's true, media executives do wade through knee-deep garbage trying to find gems here and there, scripts piled high on desks and such, people still cling to the notion that too much reality is not a good thing. We the audience like to think ourselves open minded, ready to be told a story with the complicated stuff that life's made of. But the numbers tell a different story.
For every Saving Private Ryan, there's ten movies about space this or pirate that.
You would have to do serious drilling in Wikipedia to find any semblance of a movie that could possibly be termed realist, or close to it.
There IS a market for movies that appeal to our sense of humanity. Gran Torino, Crash, Hustle & Flow and others are part of that group. They are modestly successful and form part of a niche. But a niche is not a trend. And to any moviegoer, it should be obvious that the movies isn't the place to see anything close to reality...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

First Amendment rights, indeed...

From time to time there's stuff that just makes me wince, and I wonder what is the possible rationale for law enforcement to want to treat the press as if they existed in separate worlds. Think about it, they share every area of work, and the press has a vested interest in the work of the police. The police should not conduct business in a hostile posture with us journalists. Which reminds me of another incident in El Paso that appeared recently, along the same vein but with the extra kicker that there's video of the incident. But the list grows, as there are many such incidents around our free land, and reporters have to pay fines to the courts, even be branded as felons in order to carry out their duties.
I guess that the possibility of arrest comes with the territory, and that the profession should have a footprint notation made in the press credentials stating: "Valid in most places, but don't think it will save you from being tossed around like a rag and shut up about the First Amendment unless you want the arresting officer to just club or tase you for the reminder".

Monday, May 18, 2009

Israel and self-preservation

I'm often left thinking about what will happen to Israel the day the USA turns its back on them and they are left to fend for themselves. I realize that the the last 60 years have been rather cozy, but If I put myself in the shoes of a conservative Israelite, could I say that the bond between Israel and the USA will always be there? Or worse, should I plan my nation's future around a kindly mother USA that should never abandon its child Israel? It would be idiotic to think that the USA will always stand behind anyone, be they Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom or Israel. The political landscape shifts too often, alliances too brief and the economies involved always take a turn in the direction of accommodating a trading partner, rather than an old friend. I read this article here that stated that point forcefully. Shimon Peres, the Israeli president reflected on Jewish history when he answered “If we have to make a mistake of overreaction or underreaction, I think I prefer the overreaction.”

"The mistrust has a long history. Arabs and Persians enjoy cordial enmity; the cultural rivalry between the Sunni and Shia universes dates back a mere 1.5 millennia or so, to the battle of Karbala in 680 and beyond.
But recent developments have envenomed things to the point that Arab diplomats troop daily into the State Department to warn that the U.S. quest for d├ętente with Tehran is dangerous."
Says a columnist in the New York Times "After all, when Israelis and Arabs make common cause, surely the danger is real".

Israel is under a very real threat of destruction. There's no shortage of Islamic nations that would erupt in celebration and would declare the day a cultural landmark if Israel were to fall. Iran has voiced such feelings in ways that Arabs have not vocalized. Yet some Arabs are loosely banding together with the Israeli lobby to argue that there is a Sunni element of stability that needs to be restored to the Middle east, where Shia Iraq has strayed and made friends with the Persian rival.
Alongside with this strategic friendship, comes the all-purpose tonic on the Shia hopes for the future in the form of Hezbollah, another thorn in Israel's side and to some degree, in Sunni strategic thinking also.
Pres. Obama now meets with all these parties and will have a taste of the giant gap that divides these nations