Monthly Archives: June 2007

Does a tree make a noise only for the cameras?

What is news? And who decides what is news? Is one politician attacking another, an event which happens every other day, always news? Is the stock market going up or down, an event which could happen several times a day, sometimes on the same day, news?

These are old questions and they get asked again courtesy this MSNBC video of a set of newscasters playing around with news of Paris Hilton getting out of prison. One of them, Mika Brzezinski, refuses to talk about the Hilton heiress, tries to set fire to the manuscript, and then shreds it—all the time with her eyes on the camera.

The point Brzezinski is trying to make, and it is a very popular point, is that we have had too much of Paris Hilton, that her being released is not news, and that there are bigger, more important things happening in the world.

Maybe, but is it even journalism to consciously avoid something especially after providing the oxygen for Paris’ “feats” which landed her in prison?

There is also an inbuilt belief that by depriving that oxygen of publicity to Paris, somehow she will stop doing the kind of silly things she has become famous for. Associated Press tried a week-long boycott for some time. And now Us Weekly has decided to follow suit.

But, seriously, does a tree make a noise when it falls, only when the cameras are around?

Who came first? Paris Hilton or MSNBC?

Also read: Can the media only cover what it wants to?


‘Thank God Blair called the media a feral beast’

Question: What do you do when the Prime Minister has your newspaper in mind when he calls the news media “a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits”? Answer: Hope that somebody will ask his successor whether he agrees with the surmise.

Tony Blair launched into The Independent while speaking at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism . And sure enough a reader of the paper did the needful and asked Gordon Brown the question that would have been bugging Indy.

Question: Do you agree with Blair’s criticism of The Independent?

Brown: As I said at The Independent‘s 20th anniversary party, it is a great campaigning newspaper and it always has been. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with the campaigns or not.

Elsewhere, in The Chicago Tribune, Steve Chapman argues that the Blair comment is nothing to be ashamed about. (Blair complained that the power of the press eclipses everything. For politicians, he revealed, “a vast aspect of our jobs today—outside of the really major decisions, as big as anything else—is coping with the media, its sheer scale, weight and constant hyperactivity. At points, it literally overwhelms.” The result is an unhealthy relationship between government and journalists that “saps the country’s confidence and self-belief,” asserted Blair)

But Chapman says it’s a relief to hear the comment:

“What a relief. Working in a field that, we are told, is increasingly irrelevant and outmoded, it’s nice to know that someone still regards the news media as capable of sapping the self-esteem of 61 million people who are not known for self-pity and who boast a heritage of Shakespeare, empire and the Beatles.”

Read the full article (free registration): Confessions of a feral beast

Entries invited for $15,000 journalism prize

“Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”

So said the French political philosopher, journalist and politician Frédéric Bastiat (1801–50). Now there is a prize named after him, worth $15,000, open to all published writers around the world. But the deadline is just a couple of days away, 30 June 2007.

The prize will be awarded to the entry that best embodies Bastiat’s spirit, intellect and wit. The competition is open to all writers—including think tanks and NGOs and academics —in all countries.

Previous finalists and winners include Sauvik Chakraverti of the Economic Times, Munir Attaullah (Pakistan), and Rakesh Wadhwa (Nepal). Entries can be submitted through an online submission form, or by post or fax. For more information and background about the prize, click here.

Link via Adam Smith Institute

A 24-year-old made finest (media) movie ever

Orson WellesCitizen Kane (original trailer above), a scathing biopic of William Randolph Hearst and made when Welles was a ripe old man of 24, has once again topped the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 best films of all times. And Phil Rosenthal uses the occasion to marvel at how many great movies have been on the media. How many have you seen? And what were you doing when you were 24?

All the President’s Men, 1976
A Face in the Crowd, 1957
Ace in the Hole, 1951
His Girl Friday, 1940
Network, 1976
Absence of Malice, 1981
The Killing Fields, 1984
Shattered Glass, 2003
Woman of the Year, 1942
Foreign Correspondent, 1940
Sweet Smell of Success, 1957
Call Northside 777, 1948
The Parallax View, 1974
Salvador, 1986
Broadcast News, 1987
The Year of Living Dangerously, 1982
Deadline USA, 1952
It Happened One Night, 1934
The Paper, 1994

Gender bias: do men write better than women?

YES—Men write better than women: “Male lit is violent, offensive, and crude, but it’s also genuine. Confident, without apology, ready to be humiliated, without the prudish restraint of grace, or the contemporary stink of gender guilt.”

NO—Women write better than men: “Women tell it straight. No choice but to be straight when nobody wants to acknowledge them anyway… [They] cut through the bullshit and [lay] us bare.”

Because the only certain thing in life is death

There are television shows on living, cooking, playing, buying, selling. Why not one on dying? That’s precisely the blank in the television schedule that a German company is doing. And soon EosTV will be bringing the grim business of ageing, dying and mourning, live, 24 x 7 x 365.

“Most of the programming, however, will be taken up by informational shows for the elderly. Viewers will be served up documentaries about cemeteries, shows about changing funeral culture, and helpful tips about finding a retirement home or nursing care. Those moving into their later years can watch the channel to inform themselves about life insurance, funeral insurance, home nursing services, and which companies are the best at installing stair lifts.”

Read the full article: New TV channel takes on death and dying