Friday, 28 August 2009

The Press

“That would take away the whole redneck right-wing extremist thing.”

Culture Shock Dept

Alan Korwin reports from Arizona:
I mentioned to the local NBC-TV affiliate that the media seemed to be avoiding the fact that Chris, the well-known local libertarian with the rifle (and a sidearm), was black.  “Well, we’re not supposed to mention race if it’s not a key part of the story.”  My eyebrows shot up.  You have a black man with a gun! At a rally for the black president! That’s not relevant?”  So she sheepishly admitted, with a chuckle, “Well, that would take away the whole redneck right-wing extremist thing.”  This is known in “news” circles as objective reporting.
Chicago’s WGN couldn’t believe we have the right to keep and bear arms out here.  I had to tell them most places have RKBA, a surprise to them in their little cloister.  “Do people shoot each other on the streets a lot?”  They actually asked that.  These folks aren’t in a bubble, they’re in a vacuum...


(Via:  Unc)

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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Press

In re: Reader’s Digest

Several folks have noted the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of the Reader’s Digest Association, parent of the magazine Reader’s Digest.  Common in many comments: “I used to read the Digest, but don’t anymore.”  Usually followed by the reply, “you haven’t missed much”.

Count me as another of those for whom the Digest’s place in my life has fallen from “must-read” to “who-cares?”  For me it began in the late1980s, when the magazine began to narrow its focus, perhaps in an effort to avoid surprises for what it saw as its core audience (i.e., “old people”).[1]  The bill of articles became less interesting, and more predictable:  Too much “disease of the month,” and “I am Joe’s Coccyx.”  Too much “Drama in Real Life™,” instead of “real book” condensations.  From a magazine that was hard to throw away[2] it became “hard to pick up.”  And a publication that had once promised “articles of lasting interest” began to consist, mostly, of articles of no interest whatever.

Inevitably Mr. Lileks, the web’s master of Things Archival, has posted a scan of the front-cover table of contents from the Digest’s January 1941 issue.  He finds that issue’s topics “insufficiently diverse by modern standards,” but I don’t know: I see stories about current events, the entertainment industry, technology, life and relationships, foreign affairs, domestic politics, some short fiction, even a couple of Dramas In Real Life (in the days before the “TM,” yet!).  What’s absent is the kind of fundamentally unserious crud that clutters current issues:

...the usual green-flecked gruel ladled out in on-the-go portion sizes.   Grill healthy!  Travel deals!  Cut your home costs!  Lose 10 pounds for good!  Vegetarian Recipes!  Advice from experts, like Elizabeth Edwards and Bob Newhart!
Ah, the People®-ization of the magazine industry!

But I don’t believe that’s the explanation, or at least, not the whole one.[3]Stolen from Lileks. So why not visit his site?  Part of the change has to be because mining the seam of other magazines’ content has become more difficult.  Look at the magazine names on that1941 contents page:  American Mercury. Collier’s.  Liberty.  Cosmopolitan.[4]  Saturday Review of Literature.  Even Life.[5]  All gone.  In fact, it’s hard to name a general-interest (i.e., non-political, not intended for a specialist audience) magazine that publishes long-form articles or essays any more.  The demise of such publications means that anyone who expects to do a Digest today must work harder at seeking out suitable material.

But instead of bowing to the necessity of casting their nets farther and deeper, the Digest’s operators lost faith in what they were doing, and chose to morph the magazine into one containing
...the same subjects [you’d find] in any modern newspaper or glossy women’s rag, written in the same perky tone, aimed right at the 30-something mom who sorta thinks Kate is a bitch but you know, that hairstyle does work for her.  People for whom free-floating anxiety over inconsequential matters is a hobby, a habit, a proof of virtue.
(Lileks, again.) Apparently no one thought to ask why anyone would bother to collect a magazine that ran the same ten articles (or indistinguishable versions of them) every month.  Or why anyone would want to purchase such a publication in the first place.

Could the Digest again be something that I would buy?  I believe it could, but “restored” is the key word:  For me, any new Digest would have to be more like the old Digest, in terms of both significance of content and editorial philosophy.  That could happen, provided the ownership and an editorial staff get behind the concept, and truly believe in the product. (A big “provided,” given the present incumbents!)  Certainly suitable articles can still to be found.[6]

And then, of course, there’s always the web: A likely source for material, but also a marketing tool.  After all, the Digest was a successful aggregator and portal long before either word had anything to do with computers.

Posit a “Webbie’s Digest:” A print publication that not only mines other print publication, but also finds, selects, edits, and gives permanent publication to the internet’s “articles of lasting interest”?  Marketed not just by mailing out sweepstakes coupons, but through the very websites that are sources of its content.  Once a month- 12 times a year. 

Would anyone buy such a publication?  (Would you?)  Could it attract enough advertising to support itself?

Might be worth a try.

National Review:  InDigestible
MSN Money:  Reader’s Digest to file for bankruptcy
Daily Pundit:  Slip Sliding Away

[1]  Although the Digest had been predictable long enough for Mad’s Joe Orlando to do a dead-on parody (unfortunately, not to be found on line) in- wait for it!- 1957.  (Specimen article title: “How To Get a Lot Out of A Little”)

Back in the old days, it seemed, the second-most-collected magazine in most homes- after National Geographic- was the Reader’s Digest.

[3]  Although the hiring of former Time, Inc. editor Eric Schrier by (former-American Express-er) CEO Thomas Ryder can’ t have helped.  (See Miller’s story.)

[4]  That’s the pre-all-sex-all-the-time version, I’ll have you know!

[5]  In its familiar all-pictures incarnation, not the humor mag of 20 years earlier.

[6]  For example, the current Trains magazine (an enthusiast/industry publication) contains a comprehensive article on states’ proposals for using stimulus dollars for high-speed rail development.  And September’s Opera News has a comprehensive roundup of the trials and tribulations of America’s regional opera companies in our time of financial crisis.  Either article should interest the general reader.

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Thursday, 20 August 2009

The Press

If the facts don’t fit the narrative, omit the facts!

Paging Walter Duranty Dept.

On Tuesday, MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer fretted over health care reform protesters legally carrying guns: “A man at a pro-health care reform rally...wore a semiautomatic assault rifle on his shoulder and a pistol on his hip....there are questions about whether this has racial overtones....white people showing up with guns.” ...

Following Brewer’s report... host Dylan Ratigan and MSNBC pop culture analyst Toure discussed the supposed racism involved in the protests...

Not only did Brewer, Ratigan, and Toure fail to point out the fact that the gun-toting protester that sparked the discussion was black, but the video footage shown of that protester was... edited [so] that it was impossible to see that he was black.

Hot Air:  Unreal: MSNBC edits clip of man with gun at Obama rally to support racism narrative

Tam:  Spin & Sabotage
[In the comments]
Clean cut and clean-shaven?  Check.

Pressed and dressed and wearing a tie?  Check.

Skin of a rich, dark hue?  Check.

The guy was a PR genius.  He laid out the sucker bait for the meejia and they eagerly snapped it up.

Posted by: Old Grouch in The Press at 15:15:03 GMT | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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Thursday, 13 August 2009

The Press

Associated Press’ “Tracking Beacon”

Via: Romenesko

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