prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Archive for May, 2008

Journalism: The 4th Estate

Posted by prof e on May 31, 2008

Journalism is often called the 4th Estate because of it’s role in the political process. Historically the notion of press as the 4th estate is found in 18th century French writings. At the time the three estates were the aristocracy, the clergy and the bourgeoisie. In modern times we might think of them as the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government. While these bodies set policy, make laws and interpret the law, it is the press that reports abuses of authority and defends the rights of citizens. In essence the press allows all members of society to participate in the democratic process. Without a free press to examine and critique the political process, governments operate in secret and may easily subvert the will of the people.

The release of Scott McClellan’s book* this past week provided a reminder of the delicate relationship between government and the free press. Former White House Press Secretary McClellan served the Bush administration after Ari Fleischer and before Tony Snow and the current Press Secretary Dana Perino (CSU-Pueblo/MCCNM alum, 1994). According to press reports, McClellan now claims that the press shirked its responsibility in the months and years leading up to the Iraq war. Rather than serve as the nation’s watch dog, the press corp was too easy on the Bush administration. According to McClellan…

“If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq,” he writes.

He continued, “In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”

These quotes are from the man who, while press secretary, criticized the media for being too aggressive and for undermining the administration’s efforts to protect the country. Of course hind-sight is 20/20 and it is too easy to second-guess decisions that were made under very difficult conditions. Today members of the press continue to defend their performance in the period between 9/11 and the start of the Iraq war. Here’s a video clip in which the three network TV anchors respond to the question. What do you think? Does the press fulfill it’s role as guardian and watch dog, or is it too easily manipulated by the forces that control wealth and power?

* What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception. Currently ranked #1 at


Posted in journalism | 4 Comments »

Streaming movies to your computer, and to your TV

Posted by prof e on May 24, 2008

For years the movie industry has been trying to figure out how to distribute their products to consumers. Movies that have a theatrical release have film “prints” made, which are then shipped to theaters (BTW, printing and shipping can cost tens of millions of dollars), loaded onto projects, and presented to audiences sitting in the dark listening to cell phones and small talk while their shoes adhere to the floor. Although I’m exaggerating the down-side of the theater experience (and ignoring the positive aspects such as image and sound quality, the group dynamic that allows us to laugh, scream and cringe at exactly the same moment, etc.), the economic reality is that printing and projecting 35mm film prints is destined for the same fate as the broadsheet newspaper. But until digital distribution and projection technology (and security) improves, it is still the best alternative for the group viewing experience.

Roku's interface box for NetflixViewing motion pictures in the comfort of your own home on your Blu-Ray high definition, 5.1 surround sound home theater system is another matter. With gas at $4/gal and climbing, there’s got to be a better way than driving to your local video rental store to pickup and return a movie on DVD. Cable would like you to subscribe to their VOD (Video On Demand) service to watch something in their library. But that’s part of the problem…their library is limited. Netflix, on the other hand, has a huge database of movies available. While currently only a fraction (about 10% of their 100,000 title library) are available for streaming to your computer, the good news is that more and more movies are being added, and you can purchase a piece of hardware for $100 that makes your Netflix moves available for viewing on your big-screen TV. Think AppleTV but cheaper. The Roku costs less (Apple TV is $250), and there is no additional cost per movie if you’re on one of Netflix’s unlimited plans that starts at $8.99/month.

When broadband internet connections and large-screen HD displays reach saturation, all movies will be distributed online rather than on disc. And if you want that group-viewing experience, you’ll just have to invite your friends over to the house!

Posted in film, new media, tv, video | 7 Comments »

Fans Idolize American Idol

Posted by prof e on May 19, 2008

American Idol is a cultural phenomenon in nearly every culture in which the franchise has been licensed (about 40 to date). American Idol (AI) came to America from England in 2002, and has spread around the globe at the speed of sound, from Armenia to Vietnam. If AI were a book it would be a best seller– if a movie, a blockbuster–and if a record, it would have gone platinum! Season after season, AI ranks at or near the top of the Nielsen ratings. As we approach the end of season 7, the two Davids are set to take the stage for the final two nights May 20 and 21. But many are left wondering what is the appeal that keeps fans glued to their sets? Can it be the lure of imagining oneself taking the stage and finding fame and fortune? Or perhaps the guilty pleasure of seeing contestants humiliated week after week. Whatever the allure, AI is only beginning to show signs of ratings weakness. While Fox struggles to tweak the show’s format, fan continue to tune in and vote.

Another interesting thing about AI is the way that it so conveniently demonstrates some of the leading trends of TV programming, such as interactivity (phone voting), product placement (Coke, iTunes, Ford, AT&T, and even Kellog’s Pop Tarts!), and spin-offs (programs that are derivatives of the original program concept).

What do you think? What makes the AI franchise so successful, marketable, and universal?

Posted in advertising, interactive media, media industry, tv | 10 Comments »