Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Shall We Go Eat Worms?

It's an interesting question: which institution has lower approval ratings, Congress or the media? Apparently, Thomas Jefferson's pillar of democracy hurt democracy itself in 2007, according to 36 percent of respondents. Think how many simply don't like us all that much.

Today, being online (in the technical and figurative sense) means being able to process small nuggets of information quickly and having even smaller, relatively unfiltered reactions in an even quicker response time. We are also forced to disperse our reactions, rather than hash them out in one big 750-word, 20-inch column, and adjust them to microwaved reactions from others.

Most reporters know, or at least believe, that this isn't what their jobs are supposed to be about. We used to be focused on reporting a story in toto. Now we're distracted, dispirited, and somehow aware that a large part of knowledge dissemination is impersonal but subjective, while newspapers in the Elysian format are personal (someone actually wrote the thing, instead of using Wikipedia/Youtube/Buzzfeed as "sources") and objective (what's the format for Facebook? Comment, link, react to comments on link.)

In public houses in American colonial times, the owner would secure several newspapers to a rack with iron bars running down their spines, so people could read the papers without stealing them. That bar is long gone, and the fate of newspapers is undecided.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chicken Fried Snobbery

Why am I carrying the load for Naoum up in this piece? I guess he slept through "Writing Chops" class in law school.

This is one of those "Defending the Deep South" posts I'll probably feel obligated to post now and again, as a former resident.

Living in Mississippi turns your off-site friends into reporters. I don't think I even need to give sample questions. One of the things I would tell them is that I lived near the biggest inland body of water in the state (the Miss. River does not count), the Ross Barnett Reservoir just north of Jackson. Barnett, if you'll reach back to Civil Rights History Class, tried to bar James Meredith from being the first black man to attend Ole Miss. The ugliest kind of civic demonstrations and violence blackened (there, I said it) the state under Barnett's approving gaze. "Oh wow!" my friends would say, and I could hear the Gears of Disapproving Thought hitting 6,000 RPM: 'Not a surprise that honor that old cracker son of a bitch.'

But hold up, Yankee boy! If you drive into very liberal Washington, D.C., from Chevy "Che!" Chase, MD, on Connecticut Avenue (a liberal state, for what that's worth), you will pass a Newlands Street, named after former Nevada senator Francis Newlands. Newlands, when founding the Chevy Chase community, explicitly barred blacks from owning homes in the area. I believe a search of local tax records in Montgomery County may show that some homes' ownership deeds may still contain these provisions.

If we had to strike the names of racists, pedophiles, homophobes, religious bigots and other assorted and classifiable jerkwads from the sight of young children who go out in public, President Obama would have to appoint a Secretary of Nomenclature. Let's keep it away from the guy who ginned up TARP.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Reading is Un-comfortable?

Why is it that, as a reporter, I feel perfectly within my rights and completely at ease looking at random web sites on my lunch break (which is always taken at my desk when it's taken at all), but begin to get all ferrety and uncomfortable if I pull out a book instead and read at my desk? Why do I feel self-conscious when that happens? Perhaps it isn't just reporters, or this reporter, who feel this way. And would I feel less twitchy if I pulled out an Amazon Kindle instead of a paperback?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Running Item: The Butt of Jokes (And Cars)

"D.C. Metro: Mind the ($29 Million Budget) Gap."

"This Tag Was Once Eaten By Potomac River Sharks."

"Len Bias Did Cocaine. What's the Excuse for Press Bias?"

"DWB: Driving While...Blogging."

"Cops on Segways: Please Do Not Laugh Audibly."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"And Throw Your Integrity in There Too..."

A small but instructive example of how journalistic ethics are getting dinged. From a good friend...

Last year, a very large state-wide newspaper in a Southern state planned to do a typical treacly holiday story about a fire department collecting toys for underprivileged kids. After a few weeks of collecting the toys, come Christmas-time, the paper's photographer goes to snap pics of all the toys the good firemen have gotten, only to see that the boxes at the fire station are empty. Not one toy has been donated. The photographer goes and tells an editor, "The Grinch took them all!" or something to that effect.

So the editor responds: "Well, Ms. Photog, you've got kids, right?"

Photog: "Yes..."

Editorialista: "And they've got toys, don't they?"

Photog: "Yes, but-"

Editorialista: "Well, go grab some of your tykes' toys, chuck them in the boxes, and take some pictures."

I was also told at least one story about newspapers becoming much less embarrassed about horsetrading copy for ads. Unfortunately, the spluttering bladder that is the economy can show how flimsy journalistic pretensions are. Pen > sword, except when we're stabbing ourselves in the eyes with it like circus freaks for dollars.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I would prefer these guys over Rush.

(Caption: Rush)
Since when have Thugs and Gang members been tech geeks? I would not know where to even start to set up my own Naoumsense Pirate radio station. Although anything having to do with Pirates is great!
(This store in San Fran uses a pirate disguised store front to mask its non commercial function of a tutoring center...Brilliant!)
I think the Feds should give these guys a break for atleast being original. The pimps and dealers should also give them a cut for all the extra business they probably brought them. HA!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Sorry that the posting has been slim on my end...I guess you can say that I have actually been working the past week and have not let my newly found hobby get the best of me.

This morning I attended the ARRA Broadband Initiative Kick Off. To make this quick and painless, what I am talking about is a meeting between three agencies, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). This meeting was held so that a bunch of suits can gather in a large hall (harumph harumph harumph) and hear the heads of each of these agencies talk about absolutely NOTHING. (Technically the real purpose was to kickoff the conversation on how the Federal Stimulus monies that were provided for nationwide broadband deployment are going to be doled out and allocated inorder to promote the quickest build out of the fastest and most economically efficient broadband technologies to the UNserved and UNDERserved areas of our country.)

The head of each organization basically spouted off the same rehearsed generic uninformative script...(we need to make this happen fast, blah blah blah, we need to hear comments from the public, blah blah blah...we as a country have fallen way behind in broadband...). They also targeted the plight of the "downtrodden yet tech savvy, willing to track the market, farmer in Arkansas" and the "the sick child, in a hospital shack somewhere in the Illinois wilderness whose parents will loose their farm if their doctors cannot create telemedicinal joint efficiencies with their Champaign counterparts"(This sounds very dirty)??? I am not making this up, these exact examples were brought up three times this morning and seem to be the poster children of the Rural/ Nationwide Broadband penetration discussion.

Ok...where was I? Ohh yah! The Meeting/Hearing. I do not understand the point of these hearings. Aside from reciting the same scripts, when asked what they intend to do on certain issues, the heads of the organizations, throw the ball back to the audience..."Well good question, but that is why we are hear, to get more comments from you and hear what you have to say." I think if these officially came out with an initial stance on questions like...What is the definition of unserved area/ underserved areas, and what should the floor be for minimum broadband speeds, this comment process would be much more effective.

They are looking for a Rural Broadband Strategy...or so they say. The FCC has a giant building full of economists and engineers. What are these guys getting paid for? I understand the Administrative law process, it is slow and tedious...and we do not want to rush something that is so important to the future development of our country, but if all these agencies expect to move fast on these issues, the same old politician's answers will not cut it. We need action and decisions.

Set a very high broadband speed as a floor. (Or at least impose a scalable approach.) Start off by reaching out to the unserved areas first. Set guidelines for a standardized methodical broadband mapping plan. And, latch on to other shovel ready utility projects that are already creating new infrastructures and make sure broadband wire is bundled in with these other projects.

So why should you care? Well because as a country we have dropped from first to around 20 in terms of nationwide broadband penetration and broadband speeds. This is embarrassing. AND for all you pseudo fascist finance types on Wall St, by kick starting nationwide broadband deployment we would be kick starting the economy at the same time, (oh yah and saving your jobs.) I kiiid I kiiid...kinda.

Peace Out...for Now.