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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Looks like the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is convening to determine whether Janet Jackson’s covered nipple was indecent or a fleeting, accidental moment on live television for which CBS should not be fined

If CBS wins, it will insulate television and radio broadcasters from sudden or accidental slips of the tongue or “wardrobe malfunctions” from the people being broadcast through their airwaves. 

I understand people’s discomfort with the idea that the major networks could be a source of violent programming, sexual content, or foul language.  I really do.  But I found it funny during that Super Bowl, where it seemed every other commercial was about erectile dysfunction, where the entire halftime show performance used sexual undertones, where scantily clad cheerleaders danced on the sideline, where the major sponsors consistently used sexual images to sell their products, that everyone went into orgasms of outrage when Janet’s breast was uncovered. 

I’m shocked!  Shocked to see that nudity is going on here! 

And if I remember correctly, that was the Super Bowl during which Moveon.org was not allowed to air a political aid because it would have been “inappropriate.” 

 What a fucked up sense of values we have. 

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The media watchdog group Parents Television Council has issued a report which states that sex and violence are on the rise during what is traditionally called the “Family Hour” on network television. 

The group studied 180 hours of original programming on six broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, MyNetworkTV and the CW) during three two-week ratings sweeps periods in 2006 and 2007. It found that instances of violence had increased 52.4% since a similar study in 2000-2001 and that sexual content had increased 22.1%.

The Parents Television Council is hoping that the FCC begins to regulate violence on television the way they already regulate “indecent content.”

The network response is that with the vastly increased number of options available to families, with so many more channels now available in the basic cable package, there is less need to provide that type of programming. 

 To be honest, I agree with the networks on this one.  One of the reasons the FCC had the authority to regulate television was a combination of two factors – 1. the finite number of frequencies used to transmit broadcast signals were publicly owned and 2. there was a scarcity of options in broadcast television.  To the extent that #2 becomes less of an issue, the authority of the FCC to regulate broadcasting should be diminished. 

What the regulate-television-on-behalf-of-families crowd seems not to be able to understand is that television is a value neutral tool.  Like the internet, it has nothing to say about what it is transmitting.  It is not a substitute for parenting in respect to instilling values and exposing kids to what’s out there in the world.  Developing technology that allows “parental controls” to prevent kids from watching whatever they want while the parents are not around is appropriate.  

But the world is a dangerous place sometimes.  And people have sex all the time (at least that’s what I hear…).  I’d like my television shows to have something thoughtful to say about reality.  It’s an art.  Sometimes good.  Sometimes very, very bad.  But it should be free to tell stories that are important and relevant to all of us, even if often it does not.   

Artificial restraints based on someone’s notion of “sensible family” programming simply isn’t the appropriate role for the government.  Especially if there is a vastly less intrusive way to accomplish what is purported to be the goals of the movement. 

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Greg Sargent has an excellent breakdown of the public relations campaign to make it look like the surge is working and how the media has enabled it.  This sort of thing really is a life or death issue.  The longer this type of crap goes on, the more we’re dying over there. 

This is not a game. 

The conduct of this war should not be evaluated in terms of a political campaign.  Policy principles on the war are infinitely more important than a political career.  Stop playing the game!  Right now, while the cocktail circuit orders another one on the company tab and tells the latest clever anecdote about who said what to who, young men and women are risking their lives conducting dangerous missions which are not designed to get us any further along toward our objectives. 

It’s a disgusting excercise in “looking busy.”  Meanwhile, our media establishment continues to pretend that the dog and pony show is the real thing. 

I wrote this just over a week ago

2. This “Surge is working” meme being pushed by the Bush administration and certain supporters of the war is the function of knee-jerk analysis.  Of course having more troops to conduct more military operations will have an effect on tactical issues.  But tactical military issues aren’t the source of the overall problem.  This war is not primarily about fighting enemy troops in the field of battle.  Killing a bunch of people won’t actually make things better. 

We are trying to prop up/create/maintain/establish a unified Iraqi government which provides security and government services to the people so that markets can function, schools can operate, and people can begin to invest again in their communities.  None of the so-called signs of progress being thrown around loosely by war supporters speak to these issues and therefore evaluating the efficacy of the surge is premature, at best. 

The fact that many war supporters are relying so heavily on skewed data to push their version of the war in the media is an indication to me that they still don’t get it.  They believe the war can be fought and won in the media.  Good public relations is a part of any effective war campaign in this day and age but it’s not an alternative to the facts on the ground. 

But then again it’s convenient to define the war’s progress with the way the media has portrayed it.  It makes pundits who support the war “soldiers” and makes those in the media who don’t play along “the enemy.” 

Somebody please wake up. 

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CBS13 Sacremento in covering the Larry Craig gay sex scandal actually roleplays how to solicit gay sex in a public bathroom.  Hilarious.  God bless local news. 

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There’s an interesting discussion over at Ezra Klein’s for anyone who’s ever been a reporter or been interested in reporting. The impetus was this post at Penquins on the Equator:

I was rather surprised to learn, for instance, that TNR’s fact-checkers don’t check quotes with subjects; they just check quotes against the writers’ notes, which strikes me as less than optimal, particularly given that Stephen Glass fabricated notes to deceive the checkers

Ezra explains that this is common practice for most media outlets that do fact-checking (which is not, of course, most media outlets):

Here’s why: Quite often, a subject will ramble on in an interview and say something they didn’t quite mean to say. These are, generally, the quotes most worth using. But if read back, the subject will deny it, or argue over context, or generally try to edit out whatever bit of illumination they actually let slip. So you don’t give them the second edit.

Some of Ezra’s commentors seem appaled by this, accusing Ezra of meaning that journalists are more interested in getting a salacious quote than getting the truth, and why do reporters still take notes these days anyways, instead of just recording everything?

I agree 100 percent with Ezra’s explanation of why you don’t call sources back to check quotes. I’ve done this a few times, and it can be a disaster. Best case scenario, they just want to “improve,” what they originally said, and you end up wasting time talking to them about the same subject again, risk offending them if you tell them you’re going to stick with the original quote, or appease them and end up with a shmaltzy press-release-esque revised quote from them. Worst case scenario, they said something interesting or revealing off-the-cuff that, when repeated to them, they’ll inevitably want to change and, again, you either go with the original quote anyway, thereby offending them and risking losing a source, or you lose the quotes that were interesting and revealing in your story. Not to mention that by the time fact-checking takes place, a story is usally done, and to change quotes around then would mean the writer has to go back and reconfigure the whole story.

As for the recording interviews thing … well, it’s kind of a pain in the ass. A lot of interviews are conducted by phone, and not all phones are set up to record conversations. When things are recorded (on the phone or in person), there is always the risk that something will happen to the recording, which means the reporter will have to take notes as well as record — in which case, the reporter is probably gonna go from his/her notes anyway. Listening back to the whole recorded transcript of an interview is time-consuming, especially if you’ve interviewed someone with a tendency to ramble. At daily newspapers with tight deadlines, you often just don’t have time to essentially do an interview twice. And I imagine it would probably be a strain on fact-checkers if they had to go back and listen to the entire recorded conversations of everyone every reporter talked to to make sure quotes were not only accurate in wording but in meaning and intent.

All of this to “solve” something which, you know, isn’t really that much of a problem. To paraprhase Ezra, everyone knows the name Stephen Glass because this kind of thing is so rare, not because it’s so common.

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Pretty much the short version of this post is “what he says.” 

 But let me add a couple thoughts which I have been chewing on for awhile.

1. This “Blame Maliki” movement is completely self-serving.  I have absolutely no doubt the guy isn’t what we hoped he would be.  But I think that says more about our hopes and the tactics we’ve used in Iraq that have undercut his authority.  The movement is a smokescreen to “give it more time” when the next guy comes in to take his place.

2. This “Surge is working” meme being pushed by the Bush administration and certain supporters of the war is the function of knee-jerk analysis.  Of course having more troops to conduct more military operations will have an effect on tactical issues.  But tactical military issues aren’t the source of the overall problem.  This war is not primarily about fighting enemy troops in the field of battle.  Killing a bunch of people won’t actually make things better. 

We are trying to prop up/create/maintain/establish a unified Iraqi government which provides security and government services to the people so that markets can function, schools can operate, and people can begin to invest again in their communities.  None of the so-called signs of progress being thrown around loosely by war supporters speak to these issues and therefore evaluating the efficacy of the surge is premature, at best. 

The fact that many war supporters are relying so heavily on skewed data to push their version of the war in the media is an indication to me that they still don’t get it.  They believe the war can be fought and won in the media.  Good public relations is a part of any effective war campaign in this day and age but it’s not an alternative to the facts on the ground. 

But then again it’s convenient to define the war’s progress with the way the media has portrayed it.  It makes pundits who support the war “soldiers” and makes those in the media who don’t play along “the enemy.” 

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The BET is catching a lot of heat with its new, edgy, hip-hop heavy video campaign to promote literacy and black pride.  I think it’s great and smart, to be honest.

And it’s a pretty bold move for a network that has had its fair share of criticism for perpetuating negative stereotypes.  This video campaign takes these stereotypes, makes them larger than life, and then uses them to make its points. 

I especially like the Lil Jon caricature when they start chanting “R-E-A-D-A-B-O-Ohhh-Kaaaay!” 

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