Thursday, October 15, 2009

Being for New Media

Yesterday, I was thoroughly amused that right in the middle of a conversation on Afghanistan, Wolf Blitzer broke away for "breaking news." Do you know what the news was? Well, Rush Limbaugh had been denied the opportunity to own an NFL team after he had long berated NFL players. There were two issues that sprung up immediately. First, how is this that a respectable newscast like CNN could view this as "breaking news?" Second, how is it that the people who watch Limbaugh, who are probably working class folk, allow such a one to benefit by viewing his show? I turned off CNN posthaste!

Now, today I'm watching CNN and they have wall-to-wall coverage of the kid who it was believed had gotten into a balloon and was flying hundreds of feet off the ground in an invention that his dad had created. For two hours, CNN followed the silver balloon in the air and called on experts who spoke on the possibility of the direction of the balloon and where the kid might have been hiding. It was high drama. CNN created all kinds of scenarios. Finally, the balloon landed and there was no child. Oh, my! Now, this bit of drama added more speculation and scenarios, calling on many experts who talked about heat technology to identify the boy. It was getting dark. Where was the basket? Where had it dropped? Thank God for Google Earth! What other kind of technology will be needed to locate the boy?

I was getting very annoyed at the coverage. Yes, I had hoped that if the boy had climbed aboard that he would be found safely. I even said a prayer. But how did we know that the kid had indeed climbed aboard? Where were his parents? Who allowed it to take off with the possibility of the kid climbing aboard? Either his parents should be investigated by protective services or CNN is running with this story because it's a slow news day? Is health care reform, increasing foreclosures, joblessness, banking reform, Afghanistan, and Iraq not fast enough, not meaningful enough? I got the feeling that CNN was loving a story that could indeed have had a tragic ending for ratings. I cut if off. I had heard enough of this sensationalism. I switched to see what Ed on MSBNC was covering.

Just as I flicked on The Ed Show, Ed was holding an interview with the psychic mother of Wife Swap who had lived in the kid's home for two weeks for this ABC show. But soon Arianna would be on. Oh, good, I thought. They're probably going to be talking about her latest post, "Why Joe Biden Should Resign." But to my utter annoyance Ed began with the story on the balloon boy. I assume he forget who he was dealing with because Arianna shot back with something like "Okay, I understand why the story was covered initially, but why are we still talking about it. The boy is safe -- now on with it. (By the way, he was hiding out in the garage attic at home.) Why are you still covering it?" I must admit to ROFL! The sensational Ed was caught in his own sensationalism. I must also say that his holding the government's feet to the fire with regards to health care reform and joblessness has been noteworthy.

But Arianna's question was perfect for network news en masse. It was one that I was dying to ask. Ed became a little testy and tried to offer a lame excuse. How could he excuse having the psychic Wife Swap mother live on his show talking about extraterrestrial beings? I couldn't believe my eyes or ears. Ed let this psychic go on and on, even apologizing for interrupting her while Arianna was cut short a few times. Amazing! At the top of the 7:00 news hour Hardball lead with "a story that transfixed a nation." The balloon boy had been found. Oh, Keith, it's 7:59. Please don't lead with this story. Does anybody really wonder why old media is becoming more irrelevant while new media continues to pave a new path? Go Arianna and Huffington Post!


The Write Girl said...

Hey Judith,

I can understand your frustration. I wasn't home to watch the fiasco but I'm sure it will be cycled yet again for the 11:00pm news. I agree, it would be awesome to have diverse medias who actually cover new stories and different angles!!

Judith Ellis said...

Hey The Write Girl - I actually laughed so hard when Arianna asked her very poignant question. I don't think Ed was prepared for that. It was a beauty!

Corrie Howe said...

I was so busy today feeding the varsity and JV soccer teams (40 teenagers) and packing for a mini-vacation that I missed all the fun. I've been reading about it in the blogs. I agree with you. I probably would've been annoyed at the TV too.

My degree is in journalism. And I really hate what journalism as turned into.

Judith Ellis said...

Corrie - It seems clear that this mother, who chases storms with her kids and invents contraptions of all kinds, has a very different routine than yours. I greatly admire her and her husband's exploration of science with their kids. (Hopefully, no one will get hurt. But there is more to life than socceer. Sorry. Sometimes I get really annoyed with socceer moms. Of course, you're different :-)) I was mainly irritated at the coverage that went on through the night and to this hour. Sigh! Blessings to your and yours and the good that you do. I enjoy reading your blog. Your kids are very funny.

zorro said...

How is it not sensationalism to suggest that Biden resign?

Judith Ellis said...

Zorro - While there are various grabbing news story headlines, the essence of the Biden post is quite relevant. There will always be a bit of sensationalism in media. This I do not deny or think that it will ever end. Walter Conkrite did so with the tone and cadences of his very voice. For me, it's a matter of degree. By the way, did you read the post or see Arianna's appearances on various newscasts?

zorro said...

I watched her on the Ed Show at the msnbc website.
First off, she is no Walter Cronkite. Cronkite was an actual jounalist who rarely offered his opinion - the first time he offered his opionion was after visiting vietnam in the late 1960's. He was an experianced WWII newsman who became a national news anchor when news and showbiz were not joined at the hip. (we need more of the old-old media, not the new-media. The old-old-media actually went out and found news. The new media is for the most a parasite - the are mainly aggregators of news from the Internet. That is about all Huffingtonpost is - that and Opinion ) Arianna campares Biden resigning to Nixons Attorney General resigning over watergate -
Nixon broke the law and that is why his attorney general resigned. These is absolutely no comparison to Watergate and the war in Afghanistan that Obama inherited and is attempting to clean up. As I see it, Arianna thought she had the big news of the day. Morning Joe talked about her Biden resignation idea. They covered it the rest of the morning on MSNBC. The balloon boy stole her thunder and that is why she was upset (as I see it). What she said on the Ed interview made me belive this even stronger. According to her Wiki entry, Arianna was a liberal in the early 1980's, a Gingrich conservative in the late 1980's and 1990's and now she is a liberal again. I find this a bit much. People are free to change thier minds, but I believe when thier views swing this drastically, they might want to stay out of serious political commentary. I think her post on Biden was a type of stunt - a bit more subtle than the stunt the balloon family may have played, but it is still a stunt to drive traffic to her web site.

Strawberry Girl said...

I too am wondering what has happend to hard hitting investegative journalism. How much pop candy can we stand anyway?

Judith Ellis said...

Zorro - I clearly see your angle with regards to Arianna and I wholeheartedly disagree with it. But I do think that you have a point about how new media does not go out and look for information but instead get its media from the media itself. Your point is well taken. (By the way, there are both reporters and bloggers on the Huffington Post. The photos, positions and bios of each person who posts are presented along with each and every post.) I will also concede that President Obama is trying to clean up something that he has inherited. I think Arianna's point for Biden was simply stand up for what you believe. I know that she has sources and inside information that you do not have.

You mentioned that Arianna was upset that she was upstaged by the "balloon boy" I happened to know for sure that this was not the case in the very least. The reality is that she asked to come on the Ed Show to talk about Afghanistan but this was the scene when she arrived: "Andy Stern, the president of the SEIU, was coming out of the remote studio. 'I was pre-empted," he said with a laugh. "Balloon Boy! They are going to devote the whole show to it.'" They did not pre-empt Arianna obviously but lead with the ballon boy story which nearly everyone now believes to be a hoax. In fact, the kid admitted so himself live on national television and then the next day puked twice on two different shows after being obvious berated for his honesty. The look on his dad’s face tells the story. Arianna was right!

With regards to the comparison between Walter Cronkite and Arianna, you conflate the issue. My point was that there will always be sensationalism in media and the way that Cronkite used his voice was a bit of sensationalism, not to mention the music that accompanied breaking news and the like. I disagree with you that Arianna's point about Biden's resignation was a stunt or totally for sensationalism. (But I agree with you from the standpoint that sensationalism will always be a part of the media.) Her greater point was a principled one, one of LIFE AND DEATH which is precisely what the war in Afghanistan with no end in sight is about. For me, this is a far more egregious matter than the lie that Nixon told and Agnew’s resignation.

The relevancy of her changing parties has nothing to do with nothing at all. Many Republicans were first Democrats. What does that say? All Republicans are now irrelevant? I don't think so. Oh, one other thing, I agree with you about that time when news was not joined at the hip of showbiz. But, of course, there was always a showbiz element to news. Cronkite wore custom tailored suits and was very meticulous about his appearance. He was very aware of his image. After all, television is about vision or it would be radio.

New media is here to stay. The question is how it will be formed? I think we have a great opportunity here to forge a new path with the Internet. But I agree that there are pitfalls. There always are when forging new paths. By the way, President George H. Bush called Rachel and Keith "sick puppies" and blamed the "cables" (I guess it's sorta like his son President George W. Bush’s the "internets") for the incivility in the media, forgetting that in many ways he was the grandfather of such with the Willie Horton ads. I mentioned this here earlier this week in another comment.

Thanks for your comment, Zorro. They're usually thoughtful and researched.

Judith Ellis said...

Pop candy is a good way to define it, Strawberry Girl. As there is no nutritional value in it, too much of it will make us unhealthy. President Bush Sr. tried to address this and indeed made some very good points. But he ended calling Rachel and Keith "sick puppies." Of course, some would call the policies of his son, President George Bush Jr., and Dick Cheney sick with a capital S. Which I wonder has the greater affect, policy or talk? While both are can be detrimental. I think in this case in particular, policy far outweighed talk. In fact, some might say in ALL cases such is true.

zorro said...

Arrianna did not just change parties. She went from left wing to right wing to left wing - and then expects people to value her opinions. For me, she has absoulutely no creditablity. As to the idea that the new media is here to stay, where will they get actual news when the old media goes away? Are there reporters who who work for Huffington each and every day and are paid by Huffington to go out and find news?
I read somewhere that the founders of Google are even woriied about these types of issues.
As for people dying in war - in war, people die. The question is whether or not it is neccessary. I do not beleive Arriana is a serious enough person to pay attention to in such matters. Joe Biden is. Whether or not Obama takes his advice, Obama needs Biden as an advisor.
The idea that Cronkite somehow sentionationized the news in any way through the tone of his voice is lost on me. It does not come close to suggesting the the Vice President resign over a disagreement about anything ( a first, by the way - and it would go a long way to destroying Obama's Presidency - to be replaced by?)
I'm sure she also knows it would never happen - which for me, points to the fact that she did it for one reason only - to get on CNN and MSNBC (which happened) - so she can drive traffic to he web site.
BTW - Ed Shultz also has shifted affiliations. He started out as a Rush Limbaugh clone and went left when he realized there was no room for another heavyset right wing talker.
Ted Turner is back in the news. He has been saying that he'd like to take over CNN again and have them do more actual news. I have no idea if he has a chance of making that happen.
Also, my respect for Oberman and Maddow dropped significantly when they both reported on the same night that Orin Hatch put a provsion in the health care bill giving special treatment to states the had names staring with a "U". Hatch said he might do it during a meeting, but he was only being sarcastic.

Judith Ellis said...

Thanks, Zorro.

1. Regarding Arianna you, needless to say, are more than entitled to your opinion. I'm cool with that. I just totally disagree.

2. If Google is worried about the Huffington Post that's their problem. I guess they’ll have to deal with it or else.

3. Regarding war, it’s obvious that people die in war; does that mean that we have to have more senseless non-winnable ones where contractors benefit mainly and people die? It’s that industrial war complex but the profits and pocketed among a selective few. War has been outsourced.

4. I think you have still not gotten the Biden point as you wish seek to discredit Arianna. OK.

5. I respect V.P. Biden.

6. Regarding Cronkite, let me try it this way. All sensationalism is sensationalism it is a matter of degree. That is my point about Cronkite and the media specifically. I studied elocution and vocal music. Media types, especially in Cronkite days, knew precisely how to use their voices as instruments to affect story-telling.

7. Didn’t know that about Ed but it doesn’t surprise me. Although, I have appreciated his views with regarding to holding government accountable.

8. Read about Ted Turner and agree. But there’s room for everyone. There need not be an either/or scenario here.

9. With regards to the “U” situation, if I’m remembering correctly YOU are the one who wrote of it here. I had not heard of it. When I asked you if you were serious you said that it was absolutely so and even gave me a link which I looked up and responded to you. Hatch may have backpedaled but he most certainly put it out there and it did not seem like a joke. I had to question YOU about it.

10. Am I detecting a bit of wishy-washy lefty-righty sense in YOU? :-)

11. There are people in the national media that I know personally and trust. Others, I do not and do not trust. And there are still some others that I have no knowledge of who they are personally but identify that they are good respectable people.

12. There is a lack of decorum and honor in media and we need to address this.

13. Hmm? What do you say about Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh?

14. We can vote for what we want to see more of with our clicks, voices, and purchases. Hit them were it hurts most: the purse. I believe in active citizenry on an array of issues.

I appreciate the discussion.

zorro said...

The people at google are not afraid of huffingfton. They are afraid that the 'new media' (since they mainly pilfer from the old media) will one day they have no content.
A far as Hannity and Limbaugh go, they make stuff up and spin stuff to get ratings -
Oberman and Maddow (at the moment) only spin. But I'd like to see news with as little opinion as possible - which puts an enormous gap between Cronkite and Huffington.
The is very little room for actual news these days -
For example, why did it take so long to find out Health Insurance companies are legally allowed to colude on pricing? Obermnan was complaining about it the other day like he has no power to do something about it.
On Morning Joe a few months ago, Carl Berstien and Chuck Todd were on. Todd was complaining about the spin on policy that comes from Robert Gibbs. Bernstien jumped all over Todd - he told Todd that you don't get news from white house press secratries - you go and find it. Todd actually got upset and defended himself. He was upset that he would actually have to go out and dig up news.

I like Eds views myself - and the reason for this is he knows his audience - he's just an entertainer who might not believe in anything. He might be just playing a part. Its like they have all taken a que from the folks who put those WWF wrestling matches together.

Judith Ellis said...

"The is very little room for actual news these days -
For example, why did it take so long to find out Health Insurance companies are legally allowed to colude on pricing? Obermnan was complaining about it the other day like he has no power to do something about it.
On Morning Joe a few months ago, Carl Berstien and Chuck Todd were on. Todd was complaining about the spin on policy that comes from Robert Gibbs. Bernstien jumped all over Todd - he told Todd that you don't get news from white house press secratries - you go and find it. Todd actually got upset and defended himself. He was upset that he would actually have to go out and dig up news."

I completely agree with the essence of this statement. Got it about Google too. Thanks. I would still like to emphatically say that there is a place for ALL media and with the Internet we can forget about certain elements of traditional media returning. I do hope, however, in paving that path forward with new media that there will be greater substance. I believe that there is such substance on The Huffington Post.

zorro said...

When was the last time Ariana said something strongly postitve about Obama?
I don't think I've ever seen her say anything supportive about the guy. I've seen her on Morning Joe griping about Larry Summers. I've seen her on Bill Maher say Obama should not have gone to Europe to make a pitch for Chicago for the Olympics (This pretty much cemented my opinion of her. She did not need to weigh in either way here - its just not that important).
Has she shouted from the hilltops
(and susequently made it to the
"cables") about Obama's Nobel?

The is much more motivation for her to critisize Obama than to praise him. She is definiely buddy buddy with Joe Scarboro. Joe seems to have little problem with her views, but catagorizes Paul Krugman as a Stalinist. Ironically, there is an opionion piece on the Huffington post by a contributor who thinks Krugman critisizes Obama to keep his name in the news. The piece (of course) says nothing about Arianna's critisim.

Judith Ellis said...

"I love America (our president) more than any other country (president/prime minister, etc.) in this world and exactly for this reason I insist on the right to criticize her (him) perpetually."

-- James Baldwin