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Archive for February, 2015

David Carr, Gone at 58

Posted by prof e on February 17, 2015

At the risk of this blog becoming a collection of obituaries, it is important to recognize the passing of a man who The New York Times executive editor called, “the finest media reporter of his generation.” Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., the Time’s publisher and chairman, said, “David Carr was one of the most gifted journalists who has ever worked at The New York Times.”

David Carr, media reporter for The New York Times newspaper, was an enigma. No one who knew him in his earlier life as a crack addict and single parent on welfare could have seen his rise to celebrity reporter for, arguably, the greatest journalistic enterprise of the modern age.

In his regular Monday column, The Media Equation, Carr dissected the media industry and many of its key players. His writing was often acerbic but always insightful. If all that you knew about the media industries was what you read in David Carr’s columns, you’d be pretty well-informed. If he hadn’t died last week I’m sure that he would have had something pithy to say about the 3.5 hour-long 40th anniversary of SNL that aired this past weekend. And you can be sure that he’d have written something both relevant and revealing about the upcoming Academy Awards telecast this Sunday. Carr did live long enough to weigh in on the very public implosion of NBC News anchor Brian Williams and his article will give you insight into both Williams and Carr, (and the delicate balance between fame and trust), if you take the time to read it.

You can read more about David Carr at the NYT website. Or, for the visually-inspired crowd, watch Page One, a documentary about The Times, in which Carr has a starring role.


Posted in journalism, print | 1 Comment »

When the News Reporter Becomes the News Maker

Posted by prof e on February 8, 2015

Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News for more than 10 years, is stepping down from his nightly responsibilities. While it is unclear for how long he will be gone, it is a sign that Williams and NBC are beginning to take seriously the damage that has been done to his professional career by his failure to accurately remember (or his intentional misrepresentation of) events that took place in the recent past.

At question is an incident while reporting on the war in Iraq. According to various recollections by Williams he was in a helicopter that was either under fire, took a hit from an R.P.G., and/or was forced down. Military personnel who were there recall it differently and have been upset that Williams has been twisting the facts to make it appear that he was in greater danger than was the case. In a separate case, Williams’s reporting after Hurricane Katrina is also being questioned.

Social media has not been kind. The hashtag #BrianWilliamsMisremembers has dogged Williams since the story broke and fellow journalists are not coming to his rescue. Some are piling on, according to the New York Times. “Brian Williams will be fine,” Andy Levy, a Fox News commentator, wrote on Twitter. “If he can survive being hit by an R.P.G., he can survive this.”

Journalism is a business that trades in credibility and the fair exchange of accurate information in a timely manner. If any part of that equation is missing, the value of the information plummets. For a network anchor who is reported by the New York Times to be worth about $2M a year, the loss of value is significant. According to the Times, at his recent contract negotiations “Deborah Turness, the president of NBC News, called him one of ‘the most trusted journalists of our time.’” Also according to the Times,

Before the episode, Mr. Williams long had been considered one of the most trusted people in not only in the news business but in the country as a whole. He was trusted by about three-quarters of consumers, making him the 23rd-most-trusted person in the country, according to the celebrity index of The Marketing Arm, a research firm owned by Omnicom. That places him alongside the likes of Denzel Washington, Warren E. Buffett and Robin Roberts.

That was then, this is now. Brian Williams’s credibility is on the line and only time will tell if American consumers of news will forgive him the lapse in judgement.

Posted in ethics, journalism, tv | 1 Comment »

Net Neutrality and the Jester

Posted by prof e on February 6, 2015

Net neutrality, the idea that the internet should be an open network where internet service providers cannot restrict or prioritize content from any particular source, is one step closer to becoming the law of the land. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler outlined his position in an editorial published by Wired magazine, and barring any last-minute hijinks it now appears that the Obama administration will prevail in a long, drawn-out, battle with those (mainly large telecom providers) who have argued that net neutrality will stifle technological innovation and reduce incentives for expanding service.

In late 2014 President Obama staked out his position in a short video calling for the FCC to act to implement net neutrality regulations. In order for the FCC to step in they would need to reclassify the internet as falling under Title II of the Telecommunications Act–essentially treating access to the internet as a public service utility not unlike your phone, water, or electric service. Many argue that the internet has become such an essential part of our daily lives that to be without it is unthinkable.

As I was reading an article in the WSJ about the ongoing debate I came across a paragraph that caught my eye…

At the same time, Mr. Ammori tried to build wider public support for net neutrality. Last May, he spoke with a researcher for “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, ” the HBO comedy series. On June 1, Mr. Oliver unleashed a 13-minute rant in an episode of the show, comparing Mr. Wheeler to a dingo and encouraging viewers to bombard the FCC with comments.

If you’re not familiar with John Oliver, he was a former correspondent for The Daily Show.  Now that he has his own show he continues to poke fun at serious topics, just as he did when he worked for Jon Stewart. Below is the video by Oliver.

The video was produced and posted in the summer of 2014, so the framing of the debate does not take into account the developments that have transpired since. But the video does two things very well: 1) it explains in easily accessible terms the nature of the debate, and 2) it allows us a few laughs in the process. That may be the genius of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and now John Oliver. Like court jesters of old, they make their point and wield tremendous influence while we laugh along; while all too often remaining oblivious to the subtleties of their arguments.

Posted in media industry, new media, politics, regulation | Leave a Comment »