Friday, June 26, 2009

Whose Michael is it anyway?

A week ago I was torn between thinking that the media circus surrounding Michael Jackson's death was too much, and feeling like it was warranted by goosebumps I feel whenever I hear "Man in the Mirror." Many others were feeling the latter, as his music was, well "the soundtrack of our lives." (Sorry, worst turn of phrase ever.) To be fair, a lot of the coverage is coming from and being driven by the blogosphere, facebook, twitter, youtube and random people moonwalking down the street, so perhaps the mainstream media is really taking its cue from the people. For a man who received unprecedented media attention for most of life-- a lot of it negative in the past two decades -- it stands to reason that it would only reach a climax with his death.

But now, here we are a week later and all the major cable networks are following Michael Jackson's hearse and motorcade while all sorts of "industry experts" talk off camera about his impact, legacy, popularity. And all the while, I am pretty sure I heard that seven Americans died in Afghanistan yesterday. Isn't the primary role of CNN, FOX and MSNBC to cover things such as Americans being killed in foreign wars?

I'm not suggesting that they don't air the actual memorial service, but the parking and driving adventures of the motorcade a good two hours before the service starts? And not to single-out any one "journalist", but I thought Anderson Cooper interviewed heads of state and covered ravaged New Orleans? It is very unclear to me why he was voice-overing the memorial pre-show.

I thought there was a division of labor where entertainment "journalists" covered entertainment and the "real journalists" covered the rest. But really, that was so 80's... when Michael Jackson was really someone to revere.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pomp & Circumstance

While there are many great examples of questionable, poor or sensational media coverage to draw from today, I am instead going to focus on an event that is not getting any media coverage at all.  That event would be today's  Hunter College Commencement Exercises at Radio City Music Hall, a ceremony in which I will be sporting a grape-hued gown and mortar board alongside 3,000 of my closest friends.  

My college journey began in September, 1994 and now it's over. It really went by fast. 
Just kidding.  

When it comes to graduations it is very difficult to use phrases that are not cliche.  But I really do believe that everything happens for a reason.  Just think:  if I had graduated from Providence College in 1998 this blog would have never existed. Hard to imagine, right? 

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis will be the speaker, so I will let you know how that goes.  It's a very happy day, in any case. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Would You Rather?

Dan Rather Signs On To Produce, Host News Show

I forgot to mention that several weeks back, I heard Dan Rather speak at The City College of New York in a lecture called, "Democracy and the 24-Hour News Cycle." Rather's talk--which began and ended with two great anecdotes about his working life before he was one of the three "voices of God"--was, not surprisingly, critical of the fact that most mainstream media is owned and operated by major corporate interests that favor profit over content and who have a cozy relationships with government officials. (Sidebar: He did not once mention his $70 million lawsuit against CBS)

To his credit, Rather went to great lengths to take part of the blame for the dumbing down of the news, but he warned that those who believe newspapers are vestiges of the past or who think their proponents are merely waxing nostalgic should take heed: a healthy democracy depends on a strong and independent media. When newspapers go, Rather said, so goes what remains of original, investigative reporting. 

He spoke about the 20-minute news cycle that existed when he first started in the business (CBS and NBC carried 20 minutes of news at the end of the day) and the difference in coverage that was shorter, more vital, and not tied to profits. What a difference 40 years makes.  Many of us like to think of ourselves as extremely informed because we can go online or turn on the t.v. at any time and get the latest "news," but how much understanding can really be gleaned from a 15 second clip?  When does more actually become worse? 

You can listen to his entire speech here

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Press & The Pols: So Happy Together

No matter the party in power or the man in the oval office, no event better illustrates the cozy relationship between the press and politicians like the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.  

At its most base, the system works like this: government officials offer access and in return for that access and close proximity the press does not criticize too much or ask too many hard questions. Nothing says democracy like a good party, so to celebrate this friendship between the fourth estate and the government, there is a big black tie dinner every year sprinkled with celebrities. 

What a difference three years makes. Remember Stephen Colbert's roast of President Bush and the media which, oddly enough, received a scant amount of media attention? The mainstream media coverage ignored Colbert's jokes and instead focused on the Bush impersonator who preceded him in the line up. Some argued that the press was uncomfortable with Colbert's performance, making fun of the President essentially to his face. But what really made the press uncomfortable were Colbert's jabs at them. 

It's definitely awkward, but worth another look:

Flash forward to last Sunday night. Wanda Sykes is the comedienne. Barack Obama is the president. She makes a (bad? even offensive?) joke about Rush Limbaugh's kidneys failing and the possibility that he was the 20th hijacker on 9/11 and the media swarms. 

Considering the criticism the media has received for its seemingly all too favorable coverage of the now president, I would have thought Wanda would have made more jokes directed their way.  But maybe she learned a lesson from her predecessor: those afflicted with Insider Syndrome prefer that you don't mention it.  If you do, they will just edit you out.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bristol's Baby Blues?

The Palin family has obviously had a contentious relationship with the media, which makes me wonder why Bristol would willingly subject herself to said media. She is now the ambassador for teen pregnancy for the Candie's Foundation.  I'm just not clear on how she can be a spokesperson for abstinence, considering she has a baby. Still I give her credit for trying to use the fame thrust upon her to talk about the perils of teen pregnancy, but then I watch these interviews and wonder, is she?

I'm not saying Miss Palin is an easy interview, but come on Chris Cuomo. I think the Candie's Foundation , whose mission is "to educate America's youth about the devastating consequences of teen pregnancy" (italics mine) may need to help her with her message. Or perhaps, Mr Cuomo needs to work on his interviewing skills.

If you think that was awkward, press play:
At least Matt Lauer tried. Does he look like a bully ? Is her dad there for protection? Is asking about Levi too personal? Does Miss Palin realize she is on TV talking about one of the most 'personal' subjects possible? Maybe she just really dislikes Matt Lauer.  She stares at her sleeping baby for most of the interview.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: John Edwards Broke His Wife's Heart

                               30th Annual Outstanding Mother Awards
So Elizabeth Edwards goes on Oprah to help her promote her new memoir. I don't know why she wanted to write another memoir, especially one about her husband's affair and the aftermath, but she is entitled to do as much.  (Although from the looks of their house in the promos, she does not need the money.) Oprah is vigorously promoting this exclusive interview in which she was apparently allowed to ask Edwards any question she wanted. The ads are really dramatic and creepy, but fine.  My question--my problem really-- is why is Oprah's interview with Elizabeth Edwards the teaser for the 5 o'clock news and in the Times and everywhere? Where is the news?

Does anyone really care about John Edwards anymore or his maybe baby with the other woman? Maybe you do. Obviously someone does. But why? Is he running for anything? Such rehashing of public betrayal and private pain so long after the fact is fine for a memoir or a talk show, but on the news and in the New York Times?

I guess book publishers, show producers, news ratings gurus, and perhaps Mrs. Edwards herself are banking on schadenfreude as an irrepressible American impulse. Elizabeth Edwards had cancer, during which time her husband cheated on her and may or may not have fathered a baby as a result. Feel better now?

It's clear that journalists are sick of writing about the economy (see swine flu), so why aren't they digging around for the next politician who is or was cheating on his wife?  If it's the misery of others we so long to see, let's at least make it about someone we might be able to vote for or against.  Then at least it is news-- base and ugly, sure, but news. This is no news at all. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe...

to remove your surgical mask, this is what I heard at the top of hour during the morning commute on more than a few radio stations -- 1010WINS and 77WABC  among them:  NEW YORK CITY TEEN BLINDED AND BABY BRAIN DEAD FROM RACCOON ROUNDWORM.  I think the Daily News broke the story.

There is not much to say about this really, except that just when the local media decided it might have been a tad heavy-handed with the swine flu, it was deemed prudent to sound the alarm to New Yorkers about raccoon roundworm.  A disease, I might add, that occurs when people, in these cases children, come into contact with raccoon feces.  Now, there are many potential hazards associated with raising children in the city: asthma, strollers on the subway, finding a decent public school, etc.  Brooklyn children playing catch with raccoon feces does not seem like something we should be adding to the list.   I will give the Daily News a pass if it was a one time story. Any flagrant follow-ups by any of the aforementioned organizations will garner a big wag of the finger by me.  That goes for you too MSNBC