Random thoughts, dubious rants, curiosities and worthy citations on the media, politics, marketing, music, inanity, and animals, among other things. Words and pictures and stuff, mostly from south central Wisconsin USA
So. Fucking. Funny.
Those clowns at FOX News are so far into the "propaganda" zone, there should be a class-action suit to make them give up the word "News" in their name. Except, of course, class action suits are illegal now. Damn it.
Megyn Kelly, FOX News mid-day infotainment anchor, is known for boldly claiming things to be fact when they are anything but. She is truly amazing in her ability to do this not ony with a straight face but with absolute conviction. It begs the question: Is she a really good liar, or just really doesn't care about having any shred of journalistic integrity? Perhaps it's both. I'm certain it's not a matter of intelligence, because she's not stupid. Just wrong. A lot.
Last week she boldly told a guest that no one on FOX News ever compared anyone on the left to being a Nazi... the other N-word. For the Jon Stewart and the staff of The Daily Show, to refute this claim was just too easy.
To know me is to know I am never far from a web-enabled device. Or several. But yesterday being a Saturday, I wasn't paying much attention to Twitter, Facebook or email. My partner and I were motoring around town doing a bunch of errands. We didn't even have any music on, since we had things to talk about and the truck doesn't have Sirius radio anyway.
Somewhere on the way back to Cambridge from Madison, I pulled out my iPhone and looked at Twitter. (No, I was not driving.) My list of follows is a mixed bag of about 400 feeds, mostly made up of news sources, pundits, bloggers and fellow mass communication academics.
"Something's happened," I mumbled. That was my first utterance to Tom as he drove and I scrolled through recent tweets.
"Really? Wow. Thanks," was his reply to my empty statement. "Care to elaborate?"
I felt like an old-time radio news announcer, using rip-and-read wire service copy. "Someone's been shot. Umm, someone important. Umm, looks like maybe someone elected. Oh man, a Congressman. A Congresswoman. And a federal judge. And a lot of other people. Unknown who and how many dead. Safeway parking lot in Tucson." I continued to scroll, picking though the redundant and often conflicting 140-character dispatches.
This was how we came to know that there had been a shooting incident in Tucson and U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had been one of the many victims. Dead, says NPR. Wait a minute, says the New York Times. Conflicting reports on whether Giffords is alive, says MSNBC. "What the f***," says me.
With no decent connectivity for Internet access on US 12 in rural Dane County, I opted to move from cutting edge to old media technology. It was a minute before the hour, and I was able to get CBS Radio News via Chicago's WBBM tuned in just in time for their top of the hour newscast. Playing it safe -- and smart, I believe -- CBS News went with the conflicting reports angle and carefully said what little they knew to be true and cautiously addressed what they did not know.
Within minutes we were home. I cracked open the laptop, and jumped into the broadband chaos that was swirling around this event. And there I sat for the next two hours, watching this horrific story come into focus. Maybe a better description would be watching hundreds of pieces of a mosaic begin to fall into place, leaving hundreds more pieces still missing.
By now, NPR was already back-peddling on the report of Giffords' death. While the network did not take down the erroneous tweet that announced the death, they did live-blog the story with continuous updates. NPR also offered explanations of how erroneous information sometimes gets reported as fact, some delivered via Twitter by their own media reporter. (As if NPR needed this new scrutiny and criticism right now, given the resignation of their senior news executive over the Juan Williams debacle just days earlier...).
Meanwhile, the Twitterverse moved rapidly forward into what it does perhaps too well, a dubious skill at best: moving conspiracy theories, blame, and lots of unfounded speculation into the ether. The Sarah Palin cross-hairs graphic, the alleged scrubbing of all kinds of things on all kinds of blogs and Twitter feeds, the snippets gleaned from MySpace and YouTube accounts. Pundits, pundits everywhere with links to even more punditry. Admittedly, I was an active participant to some degree, offering a personal blog post pointing the finger at Palin and right-wing hate-talkers. (I left the post up as a reminder to myself that some things are better deferred while given time for careful consideration. Yet I stand by the opinions within the post.)
My own Facebook page became a miniature public square among my friends, several of whom are conservatives who live in Arizona. We vented frustration and anger. We exchanged and extended opinions. We swapped links. We addressed, mostly in a polite way, my right-wing extremist cousin's assertions that the Obama administration was secretly behind the shooting. We agreed mean people suck. In short, we didn't accomplish anything more than we might have if we were sitting around a local coffee shop... but the discourse was civil, and in some ways cathartic. Of course, none it it was in any way, shape or form news. I dare say, however, we may have treated it as such and ourselves as wannabe pundits. I'm still not sure if it was helpful, but we all seemed to need an outlet for discourse and Facebook was a readily available forum of (mostly) friendly others.
Perhaps the best thing that came up for me was the Badger hockey game last evening. When I go to hockey games, I become an all-hockey tweeter for a few hours. I paid as little attention as possible to all the #Giffords tweets and showed great re-tweeting restraint so as not to bug the perhaps three people who may have been following my tweets describing the game.
That reprieve didn't last long. By the time we got to a pizza place I became a lousy dinner companion because I was catching up on what my trusted Tweeps were saying. I was also jumping back into the minor shit storm that my Facebook threads had become (thanks almost entirely to my aforementioned extremist cousin, who I think is now mad at me but has not defriended me... yet).
I ended up staying on the computer until 2am once we arrived back home last night. I'm not sure why. I'd like to attribute it to scholarly research, but it was more like being a gawker at a traffic accident. Yet through it all, I watched the story unfold completely through digital sources, save that one broadcast from CBS Radio News at the beginning of things. I wandered the conservative and liberal blogs and news sites, and I read the sidebar stories and wire service copy. I streamed video. I did not turn on the television, nor did I look at the old news that was printed in my copy of the Sunday Wisconsin State Journal this morning.
So, how do I rate this digital news consumption experiment, if I can call it that? An A in holding my attention, which I attribute to my excessive news geekiness, but a C- in accuracy (with selective A's and F's for individual achievement or lack thereof.) I'm happy with the user experience and disappointed with the substance behind it.
All in all, I believe I would have been far better served as a news consumer if I had simply waited for what my local daily paper put together with their significant resources and skilled editors. But I can't wait; I want my news NOW, damn it. And therein lies a dilemma, of course. To date, we remain far from having old media accuracy at digital media speed.
Twitter and other Internet news and information platforms are great, and I love using them. But for anyone who needs a real-time/real-world example of why we need journalism education for would-be reporters and editors now more than ever in our digital 24 hour news world, the story of this tragedy in Arizona is your proof point. Further, this example also supports why we should find new and better ways to teach people young and old how to be better news consumers. Today, each of us has to take on a greater role in the editing of our own news intake. Simply understanding the technology to access news and information is not nearly enough.
I'm confident that journalists, journalism educators, and news consumers will figure out how to best deal with reporting and absorbing news at digital speeds. I just wish we'd hurry up already.
[Denver] I've spent this week attending the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). As its name suggests, this is a gathering of those who are professors or graduate students in university journalism and mass communication programs. Members are primarily from North America but there is some international participation as well.
The conference is packed with presentations, panel discussions, plenaries and poster sessions. I attended many of them and don't plan on recapping any of those here. Instead, I offer some thoughts about stuff I noticed -- or was reminded of -- during the week.
This conference program is the nerdy academic newbie version of shiny jingling keys. There were too many things I wanted to attend, and several of them made me want to rethink my core research focus based on how cool, interesting or otherwise impressive the were. Focus. I need to hold my focus.
Graduate students, for the most part, have no money. I'm lucky, as a "returning" student that I am not cash-strapped like most of my peers. I admire their determination and ability to get through their degree programs within their limited means. I am also pretty damn impressed with my friends' abilities to locate cheap beer specials, free food and other incredible deals. But I'd rather not have to split up a dinner check with 15 grad students again anytime soon. Too much analysis.
Andrew Breitbart seemed to be the go-to person whenever anyone was looking for an example of someone who had no ethical foundation, no journalistic credentials, or was simply an example of the dark side of citizen journalism. So he's got that going for him.
It's surprising, but I gather not all that uncommon, for some of the presentations, especially by graduate students, to be very sparsely attended. Often those in the audience are co-authors or others from presenters' institutions. That's not a terrible thing, but it did suck that in one presentation I went to, the discussant no-showed with no explanation. One real value in presenting at a conference is feedback, and that's the primary role of discussants. The guy who blew off my friends is a jerk. Just sayin'.
Every time I watched the presentation of statistical information, I felt like I didnt know shit about statistics. I get the general points, but the machinations behind the numbers scare the crap out of me.
I'm a scholarly fanboi. And that's really nerdy. But I was really excited to meet Patrick Plaisance and listen to Cliff Christians while at a media ethics panel discussion. I've read their work and think very highly of them. I tried not to go all Chris Farley.
Among academic disciplines, the study of journalism and mass communication is a very young science. And a lot of our brethren in the hard sciences and the established social sciences don't always take us very seriously. We continue to work on changing that. Reaching outside our own discipline is a necessary path for greater levels of acceptance and respect.
Along those lines, I was really surprised that AEJMC is just now getting around to forming a Political Communication interest group. Meanwhile, there are whole formal divisions for newspaper, magazine, PR, advertising, and radio/TV. It seems AEJMC is far more anchored to professional areas than theoretical and content-categorical ones. We may want to rethink that.
For people who use high tech equipment all the time, we sure seem to have trouble getting it to work for presentations. You'd think standard stuff like projectors would be a lot more Mac friendly too. Wise up, Epson and you other projector manufacturers!
I really empathize with people who have serious presentation anxiety issues. My years making client presentations, as well as my experience in improvisational theater, have helped me more than I give them credit for.
Based on a lot of the presentations I saw, one would think that the only two social networks even out there are Facebook and Twitter.
All in all, I am really glad I came to AEJMC. But I am really happy that I am only a two-hour flight away from getting home.
They seem to be burning through communication directors t a pretty good pace over at the White House these days. Dan Pfeiffer, the third communication director to serve in the Obama administration, recently had this to say about the nature of political news and information as reported by Michael Scherer of TIME magazine...
"We have a theory of how the news media work in this Internet age,"
explains Dan Pfeiffer, the buzz-cut 34-year-old who recently became the
third person to serve as Obama's communications director. "There is
basically a constant swirl going on."
This twister still includes the newspaper front pages, nightly news
broadcasts and magazine covers that can often shape the national
debate. But it also incorporates Sarah Palin's Facebook page, the
latest Internet attack videos and that e-mail your aunt just sent you.
"There is a constant conversation that goes on all day long, through
blogs, through cable TV, through Twitter, between reporter, subject and
reader," says Pfeiffer, who sits down the hall from the Oval Office. He
says his new job is to "make sure we are not getting swallowed up by
Gone are the days when presidents could just summon reporters from the three networks, the wire services and a couple newspapers to manage a story. No, as Pfeiffer says, it's a tornado. A cross-platform, interactive, digital feed, tweeted tornado. Repurposing content is the way of the new news world. So is stealing content, or as I like to call it: appropriating content. The traditional media provide the credibility bloggers like me... and the good ones too... need to seem even sort of legitimate. Fair use being what it is, my friends at time have figured out a way for a link like the one below to appear with every cut 'n' paste I do from their site...
Just this once, I'm not deleting this thing, since I am (usually) very good about linking to borrowed content. Credit where credit is due, whether the material is outstanding or odious.
This blog, Kerfuffle, started as a little bit of fun with a TypePad account three years ago this very day. Since then it has carried 733 posts before this one. It has served up 34,379 page views in its lifetime, with 320 in the past seven days. Comments, well, those still lag the number of posts, with only 395 so far. Many entries have been cross posted at Daily Kos, occasionally at Dane 101, and most recently at Mediated Communication, the blog of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The blog underwent a redesign about two years ago, and last year a Twitter feed was added to make up for a less than daily posting schedule. (I'd like to say that's due to a "quality over quantity" objective, but sometimes it's due to lack of time, inspiration or both.)
During these three years, I have transitioned from media director at an advertising agency to PhD student at the UW. I'm focusing on new media technologies in the J-school... imagine that.
Kerfuffle has a small but loyal number of followers. I appreciate those who stop by regularly, and especially those who take time to post comments,whether here or via Twitter, FaceBook or email. I genuinely appreciate your attention and your feedback. I hope I make it worth your while now and then. And if not, I guess I'm just happy you chose to waste time here instead of on somewhere else.
This video has been around for a while, but I still laugh at how dead-on it is. TV news is a commodity these days; one network or local station looks like the next, and then the next after that. Sure, FOX News drips of conservative memes, and everything is a crisis to CNN, it seems. But, especially at the local level, TV news is as predictable as Wonder Bread.
Charlie Brooker, columnist for The Guardian and host of the BBC program Newswipe, shows just how formulaic TV News field reports have gotten...
Parody at its best.
[Update: For video at it's best, view Brooker's report here in High Definition. I can't seem to get this thing to fit into Kerfuffle's low definition format. Time for a Kerfuffacelift perhaps.]
Like him or not, George Will is a damn good writer in terms of the technical craft of op-ed journalism. The man is articulate and well-spoken, and he knows how to translate his thoughts beautifully into print. I've met him on several occasions, had lunch with him once, and even had a few beers with him at a Cubs game. He's actually a pretty nice guy. Nonetheless, I tend to disagree with him most of the time.
That said, Will made clear a couple points about the current embrace of "teh stupid" in his Washington Post column today.
First, with regard to the possibility of a Sarah Palin candidacy...
Barry Goldwater, whose seat John McCain occupies, chose to run with
Bill Miller, a congressman from Lockport, N.Y., near Buffalo. Miller,
Goldwater cheerfully explained, annoyed Lyndon Johnson. After the
Goldwater-Miller ticket lost 44 states, Miller retired to Lockport,
where he practiced law and lived in dignified anonymity until his death
in 1983. Although he had served as an assistant prosecutor of Nazi war
criminals at Nuremberg and spent seven terms in Congress, no one
suggested he should be considered for the 1968 Republican presidential
Yet Sarah Palin, who with 17 months remaining in her single term as
Alaska's governor quit the only serious office she has ever held, is
obsessively discussed as a possible candidate in 2012. Why? She is not
going to be president and will not be the Republican nominee unless the
party wants to lose at least 44 states.
And on the rise of anti-intellectualism these days that seems to be actually chasing away smart people from the Republican core...
America, its luck exhausted, at last has a president from the academic
culture, that grating blend of knowingness and unrealism. But the
reaction against this must somewhat please him. That reaction is
populism, a celebration of intellectual ordinariness. This is not a
stance that will strengthen the Republican Party, which recently has
become ruinously weak among highly educated whites. Besides,
full-throated populism has not won a national election in 178 years,
since Andrew Jackson was reelected in 1832.
Remember when people said they liked George W. Bush because he seemed like a guy you'd enjoy having a beer with? Bush did a great job of masking his Ivy-league, silver spoon upbringing so as to appear to be a man of the common folk. Brilliant marketing. (It helped, of course, that he truly wasn't the brightest bulb on the Bush family tree, to be sure.) That was actually a leading item the criteria some people used to consider him worthy of the highest office in our nation and, arguably, in the world.
Sadly, that explains a lot about the whole Sarah Palin thing. But it makes me wonder. Do these same people want to go to a doctor who they know finished last in his class at an off-shore, unaccredited medical school? Do they want a person flying their American Airline jet who learned to fly on an X-Box? I mean, really, what's up with that? Why would you want an intellectual lightweight with little real experience (and who quit her only real political office half-way through to go on the talk-for-money circuit) to be President of the United States?
Back again to H. L. Mencken... "No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public." Or their intelligence, it seems.
[h/t to DemFromCT at DK for pointing me to the column.]
It's a rare day when Bill Kristol is the person making some reasoned sense on FOX News Sunday...
Jeez. What happened to Hume to turn him into such a hack? Way back in his ABC News days, he was actually a pretty decent journalist. Now he just lets verbal diarrhea flow from his mouth and just looks and sounds like a fool. Did he have some sort of bran trauma? Maybe it's just the intoxicating effects of Rupert's money. Either way, sad.