Archive for March, 2007

We can’t fool all the people all the time?

31 March 2007

In 1999, Burger King UK announced the launch of the new left-handed Whopper designed to fit more comfortably in the left hand, resulting in fewer ‘spills’.

In 1994, PC Computing blew the lid on legislative efforts to ban the use of the Internet while drunk.

In 1985, George Plimpton pulled off one of the biggest coups in sports journalism by announcing the arrival of Sidd Finch, a baseball pitcher who could throw at 168 kmph.

In 1957, BBC pleasantly shocked the world by throwing light on a surprising harvest of spaghetti in Switzerland.

All great stories except that they weren’t true. They were classic jokes pulled off by the media on April 1 of those years, which ended up making fools of readers. So in the interests of gullible readers, Jack Shafer of Slate has sat down and come up with a kit to protect them.

Read the full story here: The April Fools’ Day defence kit

Related link: The April Fools’ index

Also read: Esquire’s list of the best April Fools’ pranks on YouTube

All the booze that’s fit to drink

31 March 2007

H.L. Mencken‘s motto was clear: “I’ve made it a rule to never drink by daylight and never refuse a drink after dark.”

Ambrose Bierce said, it is “a weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure (of a drink).”

When an editor asked columnist Murray Kempton, “How much more?” the Pulitzer Prize winner “lifted his almost-completed bottle of Dewar’s and said, ‘Oh, about an inch.”

***

Tony Dokoupil charts the connection between booze and the news.

“Psychologists have shown that neurotics can make good journalists when they project their inner doubts and dissatisfactions onto the world. This is the energy behind investigative reporting and the source of journalism’s vaunted distrust of power, the argument goes.”

Read the full article here

How close can journalists get to their sources?

30 March 2007

Britain’s premier interviewer Jeremy Paxman, in conversation with Michael White, the Guardian‘s political editor, and blogger Paul Staines alias Guido Fawkes, who argues that the proximity of political journalists short-changes readers, listeners, and viewers. White’s response: Are we all lackeys or very naive? Isn’t it true of sports journalists, too?

Link via Martin Stabe

Does journalism have any power any longer?

30 March 2007

As the eyes and ears of the paying public, the media digs, probes, investigates, asks questions, writes stinging editorials, and does all the hard work that we should do and we are expected to do. But does it amount to anything at all?

It’s an uncomfortable question but somebody’s got to ask it, and Brian Cathcart does just that in an article titled “When Journalism is Powerless” in the New Statesman.

In spite of the belief that the media wields huge influence, he argues that “when it comes to the things that matter”—such as the barbarity in Darfur and the desperate situation in Zimbabwe—”most journalists are conscious of how little difference they make, rather than how much.”

Maybe it is not the duty of the media to bring about change. Still, it rankles that all we can do is create the minor ripples while the major scams lie beyond our reach and grasp.

Read the full article here: When journalism is powerless

Link via Greenslade

What every budding TV journo needs to do

30 March 2007

Every bright kid now wants to do television journalism. But what are the demands of television news? How are stories edited? How are news programmes made? Britain’s Channel 4 has just launched a fantastic interactive programme called “Breaking the News” that every aspiring television journalist might like to make use of. The site allows you to make your own version of news using raw footage.

Enter here: Breaking the News

Link via Cyber Journalist

Sauce for the goose isn’t sauce for the gander

29 March 2007

One of the most successful publicity stunts employed by an media house is Time magazine’s “Man/Woman/Person/Product of the Year” gig. What is essentially just another cover story, with all the subjectivity and biases of its editors and reporters, is packaged and sold to the world as if it is gospel truth. And every media outlet¬† in every country falls for it, with the result that a few more copies of the magazine end up getting sold.

Exhibit A: Man of the year in the year of 9/11? Not Osama bin Laden, but New York mayor Rudy Giuliani!

A slightly tinier scam is Time‘s “Asian Heroes”. Across the continent, a dozen worthies—a predictable mix of politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists, actors, sportsmen, and one unknown NGO honcho—are rounded up. In each Asian country where Time is sold, a denizen of that country is presented as the Asian Hero.

Exhibit B: Sania Mirza on the cover in India, Jackie Chan on the cover in the same week in Hong Kong!

To cut a long story short, it is a well honed marketing gimmick. It can pass off as giving the readers what is relevant to them but it wears thin. It is dumbing down with style. Little wonder, then, that even the Americans are seeing through the game.

Time‘s April 2 cover features a story about Pakistani religious extremists filtering across the border of Afghanistan “with the intention of imposing their strict interpretation of Islam on a population unable to fight back.”

That’s the cover that Indians and Pakistanis and Afghans will see. But the magazine’s American readers will see a different cover: “The Case for Teaching the Bible”, always a surefire success on the newsstands.

Blogger Paul Schmelzer wonders why Time isn’t giving the U.S. the same edition that the rest of the world is seeing on newsstands.¬† And, on Mother Jones, Rose Miller asks: “Is marketing getting in the way of the serious news in the U.S.? Or is the media afraid to tell Americans what they don’t want to hear? Only Time can tell.”

Will it?

Wanted: Researchers for global citizen journalism

29 March 2007

Oh My News, the pioneering South Korean citizen journalism initiative, has launched a collaborative, open source research into independent citizen journalism web sites around the world. It wants international citizen reporters to conduct interviews with founders of such sites, some of whom will be invited to the 3rd International Citizen Reporters’ Forum to be held in Seoul in June this year.

Red the full article here: OhmyNews opens research into global citizen journalism 

The five principles of citizen journalism

29 March 2007

Dan Gillmor‘s Center for Citizen Media has just outlined the five Principles of Citizen Journalism. It’s an attempt, as it says, to “detail the bedrock foundations of journalism to help citizen reporters grasp the fundamentals of the craft in a networked age.”

The principles are: Accuracy, Thoroughness, Fairness, Transparency and Independence.

“We’re not saying that bloggers must follow these guidelines. We are saying that if you’re committed to practicing journalism online, these principles deserve your attention.”

Read the full text here: Principles of Citizen Journalism

And the biggest drunk in journalism is…

29 March 2007

Like it or lump it, the most hilarious stories in journalism with a capital J are built around alcohol. Pete Hamill, the legendary New York columnist, in fact called his memoirs A Drinking Life with remarkable candour.

“The culture of drink endures because it offers so many rewards: confidence for the shy, clarity for the uncertain, solace to the wounded and lonely, and above all, the elusive promises of friendship and love.”

Maybe there is a bit of dangerous romanticisation there but the reading public generally assumes that all journos are alcoholics, and we do little to wipe off that impression.

Just why journos drink so much—many of them on the job, in the parking lot, in the loo—we know not. Nirad Mudur says it’s probably because we keep long hours and can’t have the social life other human beings are entitled to.

Maybe. At The Sunday Observer in Bombay long years ago, Rahul Goswami had a little placard on his dashboard: “Reality is an illusion caused by alcohol deficiency.”

And in any newspaper office, in any press club, in any city, in any country, all the best rib-tickling tales are of the drunk. There is, for instance, the classic maybe apocryphal case of Gunda Bhat, the Samyukta Karnataka reporter who was sent to cover the Bangalore karaga procession.

Come deadline and neither Mr Bhat nor his copy were to be seen. A desperate desk manages to whip up some copy using other “sources”. Mr Bhat saunters in the next morning and hands in the copy. What happened?

“The procession just passed by, that’s why,” he says, matter-of-factly. And he wasn’t wrong.

Mr Bhat, a crime reporter much loved by Bangalore’s cops, had met a policeman on duty moments after taking up his position. One thing leads to another, and the two go for a drink. Result: Mr Bhat only manages to catch the procession on its way back the next morning!

As if in salute to the drunks of the media world, Gawker is trying to spot New York’s drunkest journalists to award the “Steve Dunleavy Liver Memorial Award For Drinking In The Line Of Duty.” The honour is named after a hard-drinking Australian tabloid journalist and a legendary boozer.

Talking of Australians, here’s a fine YouTube video of a drunk Aussie journalist on an awards night.

Also read: Who were Fleet Street’s legendary drunks?

Forget newspapers, what about letter-writing?

28 March 2007

G.N. MOHAN forwards an advertisement for Australia Post, reproduced courtesy http://kuteev.livejournal.com that harks back to a not-so-long-ago past and exhorts people to put pen to paper rather than mouse to pad.

Owners, publishers, editors, journalists everywhere are wondering how long newspapers will survive in the digital age. But is letter writing as an art form any far behind? Or, like newspaper-reading, will it eventually become the hobby of a privileged few? A few privileged to have the time, the patience, and the drive, desire and dedication to walk up to the post office.

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