Archive for the ‘Monday MediaCritique’ Category

From the ‘No Shit Sherlock!’ Department

Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

Checking the morning Drudge headlines gives me two “Well, duh!” headlines:

Women more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection than men…

Bin Laden fate still unknown…

I’m still trying to figure out how James Taranto is going to headline these. The first sure looks like a “Bottom Story of the Day” or “World Ends, Women Hardest Hit.” The second should be a “What would fate do without Experts?” except there is no expert mentioned in the headline. Perhaps “Bottom Story of the Day,” but it still has some political signifiance. Maybe he’ll work in a psychic or ESP angle.

Pop Quiz…

Saturday, September 3rd, 2005

If you are Chicago Tribune National Correspondent Michael Martinez, what can you not say and maintain your vaunted objectivity? Hey! Buddy! The buses are over there! Turn around! (registration required).

The article describes the challenges in in evacuating an entire US city. There was a group of people holed up in the seven-story parking garage of a post office near the Superdome and were unable to board the buses that were evacuating the Superdome Refugees:

At the post office, refugees swarmed visitors, asking for help for a sick relative in need of medicine or a child who hadn’t eaten.

Among those waiting were Paula Jackson, 52, a licensed practical nurse, and her 14-year-old daughter, who is paralyzed on one side and requires a feeding bag. “They’re emptying the dome first, and they’re leaving us to weather the elements,” Jackson said.

“It’s like it’s at your fingertips, if you just stretch out your arm, but you can’t do it,” Jackson said of the buses. “I don’t picture how they can go to the nation telling what great assistance they’re giving us. At ground level, ground zero, it’s poor, poor, poor service.”

Darrell Dozier, 39, a pizza deliveryman in New Orleans, agreed. “They’re ignoring us,” he said. “I want to get out of New Orleans. I just can’t live like this.”

Very sad. Terrible. If you could do anything to help these people, you would, wouldn’t you? Like say, if there were more buses accessible around the back of the building, you’d tell them wouldn’t you? Apparently, Mr. Martinez would not, but he will exploit their image for a heart-string tug…

“Sadly, Jackson and Dozier could have boarded a bus if they’d known they had only to walk around the garage to an alley between the post office and a bus station. The two-block trek eventually leads to a back entrance to the Superdome, where Louisiana National Guard commanders were directing people to a long line for buses evacuating refugees.”

Asshole! If only someone had known there were long lines of buses just a hop, skip and a jump away. If only there had been one person who could have told them. Oh right. There was, but he decided to keep this little nugget for his story. Bastard.

Hat Tip: Mrs. Bixby (Not Her Real Name)

You don’t know JACK. In fact, no one does

Monday, June 13th, 2005

While driving back from the City last week after cheering Mrs. Bixby (Not Her Real Name) on for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, I noticed that the radio was playing a decent mix of old and new music. I assumed I had left Nine FM on when I was last in the car. That is, until this large announcer voice burst out with “This is JACK FM, 104.3.”

“104.3? That can’t be right!” I thought. I checked the radio and sure enough, the dial read 104.3 FM. To quote Vizzini (as I often do), “Inconceivable!”

I was in quite a state of shock. My friend, who was assisting me with child-wrangling while Mrs. Bixby (Not Her Real Name) was gone for the weekend, couldn’t understand my dismay and distress. See, she was born in Plano, IL, but moved to the Quad Cities area at a young age. Unlike me, she didn’t grow up with Dick Biondi. She didn’t remember Magic 104, nor, later, Oldies 104. She didn’t know the pleasure of being able to turn on a station and know that it wouldn’t blow out your eardrums with noise or profanity and that you had a better than even chance of hearing a song you know and/or love.

Apparently, without warning to us faithful listeners, Inifinity Broadcasting decided to change to some new Canadian format that eschews DJs and any thematic format. As they proudly say, “We play whatever we want and we don’t take requests.”

I am not the first or only person upset by this. Chicago Sun-Times Chicago media critic Robert Feder writes about the change here and publishes reader reaction here.

Bill Dennis seems somwhat perplexed by the hubbub.

My response is quoted in it’s entirety:

“I’ve been meaning to blog about this for the last week. What started all of this Jack discussion in Chicago is that Infinity Broadcasting had the wise idea to replace Oldies 104.3 WJMK in Chicago, a station that has successfully broadcast the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s format since 1984, included some of the most beloved deejays in the Chicago area and had been an absolutely reliable station to listen to if I didn’t want my kids to hear profanity or overly loud music, with JACK shite.

I’m young enough that my entire living memory of radio includes and involves Oldies 104 (formerly Magic 104). My dad listened to it because he hated contemporary music. It’s what he and I both grew up to.

The worst part is not that JACK is soulless, without DJs, and without theme. The worst part is that we already have three simulcast stations (NINE FM) that do the same thing. And better. To screw over Dick Biondi who has given 20 years of his life to that station and banish him to the internet is deplorable. To do so and replace it with such drek is unforgivable.”

My wife and her parents were equally perturbed and disheartened by this news. In breaking the news, I simply asked both my wife and her mother (in separate conversations) one question. “If you had to choose one Chicago radio station that wouldn’t change formats, which would it be?” Both women responded with Oldies 104. Both were disappointed to find out which Chicago radio station changed formats.

I have personally chosen to remove 104.3 FM from my presets dial and if I am in the mood for mixed music, I will listen to NINE FM which replaced some bad Top 40, 80′s or Spanish-language stations. The channels they replaced had been through several format changes before settling on the IPOD shuffle format. It has worked for them and, while still starting out, they seem to be doing well. Oldies 104.3 was one-of-a-kind and could be heard as far away as Michigan. It was a comfort to hear when returning from a road trip, an aural taste of home. I’ll sorely miss it.

The worst part of the whole deal was the mistreatment of the dedicated and loving staff and DJs who now have to live out the remainder of their RADIO contracts on the INTERNET. Shameful. Biondi was a Chicago institution and he deserves better.

Not Guilty

Monday, June 13th, 2005

Great. Michael Jackson is Not Guilty on all 10 counts.

Can I go back to not caring now?

Life imitates Satire

Monday, June 13th, 2005

I love the Urban Legends Reference Pages. I get the RSS feed. I surf it when I’m bored. I love being able to recognize those doofy celebrity story emails and dubious claims in forwards. It makes me feel smart. (Really, I’m usurping someone else’s hard work I guess, but there’s value in knowing which sources can be counted on as definitive and trusted).

I read on Drudge today that Steve Jobs tells Stanford grads that dropping out was the best thing that ever happened to him. My snopes sense began tingling so I did a snopes search on “Steve Jobs drop-out” and hit this old SatireWire piece that had been snopesed about Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, telling graduates that they ought to “drop out and start-up.”

Memorable quotes include:

“Please, take a ood look around you. Look at the classmate on your left. Look at the classmate on your right. Now, consider this: five years from now, 10 years from now, even 30 years from now, odds are the person on your left is going to be a loser. The person on your right, meanwhile, will also be a loser. And you, in the middle? What can you expect? Loser. Loserhood. Loser Cum Laude. “

“Hmm . . . you’re very upset. That’s understandable. So let me stroke your egos for a moment by pointing out, quite sincerely, that your diplomas were not attained in vain. Most of you, I imagine, have spent four to five years here, and in many ways what you’ve learned and endured will serve you well in the years ahead. You’ve established good work habits. You’ve established a network of people that will help you down the road. And you’ve established what will be lifelong relationships with the word ‘therapy.’ All that of is good. For in truth, you will need that network. You will need those strong work habits. You will need that therapy.

You will need them because you didn’t drop out, and so you will never be among the richest people in the world. Oh sure, you may, perhaps, work your way up to No. 10 or No. 11, like Steve Ballmer. But then, I don’t have to tell you who he really works for, do I? And for the record, he dropped out of grad school. Bit of a late bloomer.

Finally, I realize that many of you, and hopefully by now most of you, are wondering, ‘Is there anything I can do? Is there any hope for me at all?’ Actually, no. It’s too late. You’ve absorbed too much, think you know too much. You’re not 19 anymore. You have a built-in cap, and I’m not referring to the mortar boards on your heads.”

Now, the Ellison stuff is taken at a mean-spirited laugh and Job’s speech (link is to Stanford’s summary article, I couldn’t find the text) reads as inspirational, telling students to take advantage of rare opportunities presented by unexpected conditions.

I have tried to use the same approach to my own life. I didn’t grow up with many advantages. I really only had a loving family (despite some rocky times after my mom died) and my above-average intelligence. It took time for me to appreciate my family, and I all but wasted my intelligence skating through classes which were too easy and doing just enough to pass classes that were challenging. I thoroughly regret that now. However, I went to college and earned most of a Journalism degree, mostly because I worked at the Western Courier, the school newspaper, and I worked very hard at that. However, I slacked where possible in classes. After a very disheartening situation at the newspaper, I quit at the end of my sophomore year and really coasted through the next semester. By the end of that semester, even if I could have afforded to go back in the Spring (I couldn’t), I don’t think they would have let me back in academically. I worked for my Dad’s company (as I had been doing on breaks) for a little while until I was able to snag an interview with a major retail company’s home improvement back office using a high school friend as a contact. I started at $8.06 an hour doing clerical compliance filing and by the time I left three years later, I was making $33,600 as a Technical Support Specialist. In that time, I had also taken a second job, leveraging the same contact for an interview, switching job 1 to part-time evening work. I worked real hard at both jobs, but hated job 2 and when, 9 months after starting Job 2, a technical position I wasn’t qualified for opened up, I leapt at it. I beat out my same friend for the position, but neither of us was as qualified as they needed (and they weren’t going to find someone who was for the price they were willing to pay); however, he left completely and I never did, so I won.

After about 15 months in that job, I had become a jack of all trades (IT), but a master of none, and frankly I was getting kind of burnt out on desktop/laptop support, especially since I had no formal training, was beginning to reach the limit of my knowledge and couldn’t get any training from the company. I had a limited amount of telecom knowledge from the job, enjoyed that aspect the most and decided to find a new job in that field, if able, and learn all I could.

I found a job contracting for a major personal telephone service provider and starting absorbing information from everywhere I could. After four months there, I was “released from my contract” because they valued punctuality over performance. I worked hard there, but, due to a hairy commute and my natural late-starterness, I couldn’t seem to comply with the Employee Handbook’s Zero Tolerance policy for tardiness. That’s the way the world works.

I was released in November, two weeks before Audrey was born, and my dear wife, Mrs. Bixby (Not Her Real Name), became our sole breadwinner, even though she had intended on quitting to become a stay-at-home Mom. Instead, I became a stay-at-home Dad while I was looking for work. I wouldn’t trade one minute of those three months for my life. They were precious and irreplacable. It made it more difficult to return to work after Madelyn was born, that’s for sure.

At any rate, I found a new job, contracting in a new telecom group at a major insurance provider. I learned more in that 6 months contract than I had in the last three years. I did so well, in fact, that the company hired me full-time at the end of my contract and I will celebrate 3 years in August.

The problem is that I have such a history of touching down, learning what I can and moving on that it is difficult to actually settle down and do the work I am hired for without the nagging thought that there must be something more to learn and somewhere else to learn it. I have consistently moved higher in pay scale and I think I am reaching a plateau here, which of course could be alleviated with a move elsewhere. However, being an intelligent man, I know the value of putting your time in at a Fortune 100 company and truly absorbing the values, expectations and culture of a large firm because it can only help me later. I’m feeling the itch is what it comes down to, but I am staving it off for the long haul because my family needs what stability I can provide.

My career has been about taking chances, learning what you can and doing better for yourself. I think I have taken Jobs’ lessons to heart, even before he spoke them. As unique opportunities or circumstances arise, you must be willing to act on them, trusting your gut along the way. Right now, my gut says stick it out and do your best. It’s just my wanderlust acting up and that goes away after a while.

I didn’t intend to post this much, but I got rolling and here’s where I rolled. ;)

Quick Post Monday MediaCritique

Monday, May 23rd, 2005

It seems that President Bush’s string of election victories, begun with the Afghani elections, continues in Germany, if John Fund at WSJ Opinionjournal is correct. I wonder if the rest of Europe is paying attention.

I was listening to Laura Ingraham on the drive to work this morning, as is my wont, and she was talking to Howard Fineman, Deputy Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief for Newsweek, regarding the Kuran Kurfuffle and he made an interesting comment about Michael Isikoff, the writer of the brief piece in question and the man inexplicably charged with cleaning up the mess with the able help of Evan Thomas.

Please forgive what paraphrasing may exist as I don’t have a transcript, and I am relying on my increasingly faulty reporter’s memory.

“I can assure you that Mike has no idealogical agenda other than making life difficult for whoever is in power,” Howard Fineman, Laura Ingraham 5/23/05 radio program.

While Fineman admitted that a blind-spot exists in the MSM coverage of the military because few reporters have any experience or acquaintances with experience in the military, but here he reveals a blind-spot about the role and duty of journalism [hmm... a bit of a non-sequitor there, but I'll leave it -ed.] He doesn’t seem to understand that the role of the journalist is not, or rather shouldn’t be, “speaking truth to power;” it is, or should be, reporting the facts, in appropriate context, in a timely and newsworthy manner. By “newsworthy,” I mean that some stories, while true and extant, don’t merit publication because they are so common as to be assumed or are simply unnecessary gadfly-ism. “Making life difficult for those in power” falls into the latter category. Not every story is Watergate and not every war is Viet Nam. The inimitable James Taranto ably describes such adversarial journalism here, here, here and the follies it brings here.

If your entire ideology consists of antagonizing those in power (a common pasttime when those in power are Republicans), then you can’t help but introduce bias by your story selection, article tone and editorial review. If all Isikoff wants to do is make the Administration in power squirm, he is going to be a little quick on the trigger to fire off a story from a trusted but anonymous source with an axe to grind against those in power. This is how stories like the Texas Air National Guard memos and the Koran flushing, the leaked Election Day raw exit poll data and the “missing” Iraqi weapons stores (and where did that story go, I wonder?) got released too early and came back to bite the reporters in the ass.

Patience, circumspection and accuracy should be the motto of any reputable news organization, not “You heard it here first!” and “Late-Breaking Exclusive!”

So much for a quick note. This has been your Monday MediaCritique… as good a choice for recurring Monday category as any I suppose.