prof. e.

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

Archive for January, 2010

Have Grammy Awards become Irrelevant?

Posted by prof e on January 31, 2010

Okay, there are a million opinions out there (reality check: Google search = about 44.4K results) about whether the Grammy awards have become irrelevant. First some quick background. The 52nd Grammy Awards, on CBS tonight, will probably have less than 20 million viewers (update: 2.13.11, they had 25.8 million viewers in 2010, the most in 6 years). Compare that to 90 million for the Superbowl next week and 30+ million for American Idol. Unlike American Idol, the Grammy awards do not incorporate viewer/popular voting. The Grammy awards are selected by industry professionals who belong to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and who skew older than the average music fan. Some argue that the Grammys are about musical consensus and we are no longer (if we ever were) a nation of consensus, especially when it comes to musical tastes. So, what do you think? Which of the following statements best describes your view of the Grammy awards?

  • There are too many music awards shows on TV.
  • The Grammy judges don’t acknowledge the artists that I like and listen to.
  • The artists don’t seem to care, why should I?
  • The performances are usually pretty lame.
  • The music industry is in a free-fall…and the Grammy Awards celebrates the industry, not the musicians.
  • Other: _____________ (fill in the blank)

Posted in media industry, music | 9 Comments »

Citizen Investigative Reporter in Hot Water

Posted by prof e on January 27, 2010

Free-agent investigative reporter James O’Keefe has switched professions from pimp to telephone repairman. O’Keefe gained fame (or notoriety) last year when he posed as a pimp to record ACORN employees advocating illegal and unethical practices. His undercover sting won him praise from conservatives who have long suspected ACORN and led to congress cutting off funding for the community organization with links to Obama.

However, O’Keefe’s  use of undercover cameras and deception raised red flags for journalism’s leading ethicists. Journalists have a long-standing tradition of investigative reporting practices, but they also have strict guidelines that must be followed to avoid the pitfalls associated with this ethically gray area.

Now, it appears, O’Keefe’s questionable practices have landed him in hot water. Yesterday O’Keefe and several of his partners were arrested on charges of tampering with phones at Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office. While we do not yet know their motives, there may be a tie to the healthcare reform deal that Landrieu struck with her Democratic partners. The deal reportedly gained her state millions in additional Medicare funds in exchange for her vote of support.

What’s the lesson for students of journalism? As exciting as investigative reporting may appear on TV, the practice of investigative journalism is a lot more difficult, tedious, and boring than it seems. To do it right, you’ve got to spend a lot of time ensuring that your methods do not cross the line that separates good journalism from shoddy and unethical vigilantism. One more thing…if you want to be a citizen journalist, best to focus on straight news reporting for awhile and leave the investigative reporting to seasoned journalists who understand the ethical issues involved.

P.S.  The name of O’Keefe’s video company is Veritas Visuals. We’ll have to wait and see if veritas (Latin for truth) comes to his defense!

Posted in journalism, politics | 5 Comments »

Justice Department Argues for Stiff Fines for Copyright Violations

Posted by prof e on January 22, 2010

In a legal brief filed this week the Obama administration argued that a judgment of $675,000 for copyright infringement is not unconstitutional. The defendant, Joe Tenenbaum, is accused of illegally sharing 30 tracks. In their argument the DOJ recognized that the stiff penalties serve the purpose of deterring millions of users from taking a chance when it comes to file sharing and illegal downloading. The DOJ earlier supported a $1.92 million fine against Jammie Thomas-Rasset for sharing 24 tracks.

Of more than 18,000 individuals sued by the Recording Industry Association of America since 2003, only Tenebaum and Thomas-Rasset opted for a jury trial. The others simply paid four-figure settlements rather than face litigation and the risk of huge damage awards.

Because of a public relations backlash, the RIAA discontinued its campaign to prosecute illegal file sharing in December of 2008. Instead they have begun working with ISPs who, they hope, will provide disincentives for those who share files illegally.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Want to Work in the Media?

Posted by prof e on January 16, 2010

A new study released this week by, and reported in the WSJ, evaluates 200 professions to determine the best and worst according to five criteria: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. Of course these are somewhat subjective criteria and your experience may be quite different from those reported by CareerCast.

So just how did the media-related professions stack up against the competition? Well, let’s look first at the very best and very worst jobs out there. At the top of the list are three math-related professions: mathematician (#1), actuary (#2), and statistician (#3…Audience Research students, please note this one!). The worst? Lumberjack (#200), dairy farmer (#199), and taxi driver (#198).

A quick scan for media jobs yields a wide range on the scale of 1-200. Here they are from best to worst.

  • #19 Motion Picture Editor
  • #23 Web Developer
  • #31 Publication Editor
  • #44 Market Research Analyst
  • #75 Newscaster
  • #79 Advertising Account Executive
  • #108 DJ
  • #112 Public Relations Executive
  • #140 Reporter (newspaper), Janitor is #141
  • #167 Photojournalist

Data used to determine the ranking came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, as well as other sources.

Posted in media industry, research | 1 Comment »

Idol’s New Season Starts Tonight

Posted by prof e on January 12, 2010

American Idol has been a huge success for the Fox TV network. Year after year at first place in the ratings, AI continues to dominate prime time TV. That kind of success yields substantial revenue. A 30-second spot on Idol nets Fox over $600,000. That and product placement deals with Coke, Ford, AT&T, iTunes and others makes this franchise a gold mine.

Earlier today I asked my Media & Society students why they think American Idol is such a hit with viewers and they offered up several very insightful responses.

  1. Viewers are able to participate in the potential rags-to-riches story line of contestants…seeing themselves as potentially rich and famous if they were just given an opportunity to compete.
  2. We enjoy seeing people make fools of themselves on TV. The Germans have a word for it…schadenfreude, which is translated as pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.
  3. The large contestant pool means that our social network may allow us to know someone who knows someone who is a contestant. The old six-degrees-of-separation meme strikes again!
  4. And, the interactivity and audience participation provided by the text voting gives viewers/voters a sense of ownership.

I think the students came up with some very compelling explanations for the success of American Idol. It will be interesting to see if that success continues. In case you haven’t heard, the big news this season is the planned departure of the acerbic Simon Cowell. Cowell reportedly turned down $144 million per year to stay. Time will tell just how much Simon’s biting commentaries will be missed by fans of the show. What do you think? Is this the beginning of the end for American Idol?

Posted in advertising, media industry, music, tv | 3 Comments »