Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Taking a couple of days off

There will be no new postings on this blog from Wednesday through the weekend. My older son and I are heading off to Cub Scout camp. I'll provide new comments, postings and thoughts about the media again on Monday, Aug. 4.

Thanks for your consistent attention and periodic responses to this blog!

Anthony

Another sign of the growth in stature and importance of citizen journalists

I've made no secret that I'm a proponent of citizen journalism, though I also acknowledge that there are some legitimate questions that news organizations need to consider as they use citizen journalists' reports.

Here's another example of mainstream media organizations accepting the power of the individual citizen in the journalism process. Of course, if the MSM see these people as free or cheap labor, then you'll hear me roar. And if you listen carefully...you can hear my voice starting to warm up:-)

Gee, what a surprise

Journalists are finding it hard to do their jobs in China, just days before the Olympics begin.

I was fully expecting these kinds of stories to be delivered. This situation reminds me of that old saying that "it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission." In other words, the Chinese government is going to look for ways to scuttle International Olympic Committee rules -- which it acquiesced to when it submitted a bid for the Games -- and then offer an apology when it gets caught.

What is going to be more interesting is to see what happens when a journalist, for lack of a better phrase, chooses to fight back. There might be one in this group.

More speculation...or a legitimate story?

I'm inclined to give the Washington Post the benefit of the doubt on this story...I think there's some substance here. Doing so means that there might be some definition to the Democratic presidential ticket.

Meanwhile, John McCain appears to be moving forward with...and clarifying...his selection process.

The "M" word is now being publicly discussed

In the aftermath of the FCC's (poor, in my opinion) decision to allow the merger of satellite companies XM and Sirius, "monopoly" pricing concerns are now being expressed. By whom? Would you believe by a member of the FCC.

I walked into an electronics superstore the other night, and as my two boys were looking for something with my wife I snuck over to the satellite radio display. I was dismayed at the prices that are currently available.

I then had an interesting short conversation with one of the salesman. He said that he'd never own a satellite radio system for as long as he drove as little as he did. When I told him of the disappointing experience I had with one of the companies (and serious-ly, I'm never going to name it), he mentioned that trying to listen to a portable system in a large downtown city or in your house without the docking port was a recipe for poor reception. Mind you, no one suggested to me that the docking system (read an extra expense) was necessary.

In my mind, safe your money and skip satellite radio, unless you are in a car and want the constant programming. Otherwise, I don't think it's worth the price (or the headache).

Is WI-FI radio a viable option? Consider the choices available to you, in this story. Does anyone have experience with WI-FI radio? Please share if you do.

Monday, July 28, 2008

No (free) wireless Internet for you!

So, who's playing the grumpy, angry man this time? If you guessed the companies that COULD provide us free wireless IF THEY WANTED TO...you'd be 100% correct.

And in a somewhat related story, China now has more Internet users than the United States.

Arrest of Radovan Karadic

The news that I've read in recent days is that Serbia has reacted with calm to the news that its former leader Radovan Karadic had been arrest for war crimes. But independent reporters and bloggers from inside Serbia note that there has been some unrest, with some of it aimed at journalists.

What becomes of photojournalism...

...in an era when everyone can be a photographer? An important article to consider from Columbia Journalism Review.

A legitimate competitor for Google?

Looks like a Google alum is attempting to out-Google Google!

Perhaps this search engine will collect less personal information than Google!

Bias? What bias?

A new report throws some cold water on the idea (expressed here and in multiple other places) that portions of the mainstream media have been favoring Barack Obama.

Any thoughts?

Oh, boy...it's time to speculate once again!

About? Oh, come on...you know: Who's going to be a vice-presidential nominee!

Won't it be great when the media actually have a story to report -- meaning when senators McCain and Obama name their running mates!

The NFL moves forward...

...on the idea of allowing fans to see games live on the Internet. Now, slow down there; the plan (as with almost everything else having to do with the NFL) involves proceeding cautiously.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

It's one thing to ignore McCain...

...but it's another thing to not name him.

Check out this editorial in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The editorial board ought to be ashamed of itself. It names Barack Obama, and correctly identifies him as the "likely Democratic (presidential) candidate," but then in the very next sentence somehow forgets to name John McCain. "If the probable Republican candidate wins, of course..." begins the sentence. McCain's name is not in it.

This cannot be chalked up to an editing error or an inadvertent oversight. This is a mistake in editorial judgment. The newspaper's editors should explain this mistake to its readers.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Another look at the intersection of politics and sports

Threats to the Olympic Games -- specifically threats from groups that want to use the Olympic stage to promote their (usually vile) political agendas is nothing new. However, when a bold threat to disrupt the Games is made, it is news. Such is the case today.

Today's terror in India

You can examine this terrible day in a variety of media reports, including examples I've provided here from CNN.com, Reuters, and the BBC.

But I also encourage you to consider looking at what bloggers and others are writing about this crisis. Global Voices has reactions from some bloggers in India, which can easily become a flash point for a wider crisis.

There will certainly be additional reaction to this situation in the coming days. You should consult a wide number of sources as you attempt to understand what happened today, and what might come next.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Another shot is taken at the Chinese media system (UPDATED)

This time it comes from Forbes magazine, which suggests that censorship AND corruption are combining to deny serious journalism from taking place inside China.

Now before you think that the Chinese government is to blame for the corruption, read the aforementioned article carefully. It would appear that a serious dose of media ethics needs to be given to some Chinese "journalists."

UPDATE: Citizen reporters keeping an eye on China report that a popular blog site has been shut down, less than two weeks before the Olympics begin.

The deal is done...

...XM and Sirius will merge (unless an unlikely judicial ruling takes place). This article from Broadcasting and Cable is quite good...notice the number of built in links.

Randy Pausch has passed away

The name might not be instantly recognizable, but if you know anything about "The Last Lecture" then you are sure to know why this man made such an impression on so many people.

Before the Olympic flag is raised...

...John McCain will have named his running mate. So say those close to the Republican presidential nominee, in this report from the Washington Post.

The strategy would make sense. It would take some of the media attention away from Sen. Barack Obama, and it would ensure that in the glaring spotlight that is the Olympic Games that this important decision doesn't become an afterthought.

It was impressive

I've seen large chunks of Sen. Barack Obama's speech in Berlin, and it was impressive. He touched the emotional chords that many European want to hear -- they want an America that leads the world, wants to be a partner with its European allies, represents moral and courageous leadership, and, perhaps most importantly, fails to carry any arrogance.

There are multiple newspaper and broadcast reports for you to consider this morning, as you evaluate how well Obama did.

The Wall Street Journal notes that there were times in which Obama's message was not well received, but I would counter that assertion by saying that no person can deliver a speech that would be fully receptive to a vast audience such as Europe's. The Chicago Tribune reports that although the setting was European the intended audience was American. The imagery of an American politician delivering a key address in Berlin certainly would not be lost on most people in this country. In fact, according to the New York Times, the largely German audience seemed to gain its deepest appreciation in Obama's comments that urged Americans to do and be better in the future.

And as we approach the political conventions...

...you might want to consider four that all lacked this year's conventions will: order, structure, calm.

A fascinating article in the Smithsonian highlights four conventions that were anything but typical of what we see today.

More on the coverage of the presidential candidates

It's everywhere these days -- adulation for one presidential candidate, dismissal of the other. Check out what happened in New Hampshire the other day.

As I watched the BBC News tonight (10:00 p.m. ET newscast), I was struck, as well, by how that stately news organization was treating Sen. Barack Obama as if he were a rock star. I'm still trying to access the newscast from the BBC's Website, but it was surreal to me to watch the BBC anchor as she delivered her portion of the program from the United States gushing about Obama, who gave a speech in Berlin earlier in the day.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

CNN has a thing for speculating...

...when it comes to guessing who will be the vice presidential nominees. Yesterday one of its political blogs discussed the up and down fortunes of two potential nominees. Today, the network is at it again.

Funny thing is, if you read deep into this story you'll find that the man at the center of the story appears to have no interest in being John McCain's number two. Kind of kills that story, no? So why run with it at all?

The importance of giving back


I've made no secret on this blog that I believe it is critically important that our young people understand as much as they can about history. However, that history need not be told to them only through the textbooks and other materials they read. History can come alive and valuable lessons learned through talking to people who helped make it.

That chance, albeit on a small level, was presented to several local Cub, Boy and Girl Scouts today. A group of about 15 of them served in a variety of roles at a World War II Veterans Recognition Ceremony, hosted by State Rep. Matt Smith.

My son along with two other Cubs from another Pack led the Pledge of Allegiance at the event. Another group of 4 Boy Scouts were the Color Guard. The Girl Scouts handed out medals to each of the veterans.

The photo that is part of this posting includes the Cub and Boy Scouts who took part in the ceremony. Care to take a guess which one of those boys belongs to me :-)

What can $19.7 million get you these days?

How about a merger. Confused? Don't be. XM and Sirius will pay almost $20 million in fines...and in exchange an apparently satisfied FCC commissioner will cast her (and the deciding) vote for the union of the two satellite companies.

The reaction -- pro and con -- seen in this Washington Post report will be typical of the mainstream media's "objective" coverage of the deal. The bottom line -- the consumer is almost certainly going to be a (the only?) loser. We can expect fewer choices and more costs, if the fears expressed in the just-highlighted article come true.

I tried one of the satellite companies once. I'm not going to name which one because (serious-ly) I don't want to get into any trouble. The service was a disaster. I canceled my subscription and returned the unit (a birthday gift, by the way, from my wife and our boys) three days after opening the box.

The portable systems are not all they're cracked up to be. At least that's my conclusion.

A decline in the health of newspapers...

...equals a decline in the health of our democracy.

That's the premise of this opinion piece. And it's spot on.

Throwing cold water on the speculation...

...about a vice presidential selection. Sen. John McCain says he's not made up his mind on this important topic.

See what happens when you move away from speculating and do some actual reporting.

Should McCain complain? (UPDATED)

I think he's justified in complaining about the apparent love-fest the mainstream media have had with Barack Obama, but this article suggests that doing so comes with some risks.

At the same time, at least some media are willing to admit there is an imbalance in coverage. And the imbalance is evident to our colleagues overseas.

A few thoughts/questions on this topic as we move ahead:
1. If you are convinced that there is a bias, what media sources are you turning to/away from for reporting of the election?
2. Have your choices changed because of this election?
3. The conventions will provide us with the next "huge" story, and I acknowledge I'm overlooking the announcements of vice presidential running mates. Take a critical look at the amount of coverage in the newspaper and on the television. Let's see what differences, if any, exist.
4. Can a "biased" media (if that's in fact what we're dealing with) capable of getting Obama elected?

Stay tuned. There is sure to be more on this subject in the upcoming days and weeks.

UPDATE: At least one media critic says that we should be careful placing too much stock in the incessant coverage of Obama. Count me among the skeptics.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The ugly side of championship-level sports

A report on the MSNBC.com Web site indicates how easy it can be to get blood doping accomplished in China.

The documentary appeared on ARD television, a German television network. My last German-language class was taken as a senior in high school (don't ask the year...I won't tell you!!), and therefore "Ich can sort of Deutsch sprechen" (I can sort of speak German...did you like the "sort of").

If you are a German linguist, feel free to help me find the report...and if you can find an English translation, I would very much appreciate it.

You go, Gertz!

Washington Times' reporter Bill Gertz has refused to reveal his sources used to help him write a series of stories about espionage.

Good for him!

McCain's VP list is getting shorter

One person has pulled out...and recent comments by McCain suggest that one person might be pulling ahead.

Ah, don't you just love it when the media play the speculation game! It's about as fun as reading another story about another poll.

I'll believe it when I see it (UPDATED)

NBC officials are promising that their coverage from next month's Olympics will not be over-saturated with American athletes and American stories. (Pardon me, I need a minute to stop laughing.)

Let's face it: the network needs the Olympics to be a huge ratings winner. The network has invested $900 million (in rights fees alone) plus thousands of personnel and manpower hours into this event. Do you think they're not going to return to the tried and true (read red, white and blue) and tired, too philosophy of showcasing America's athletes?

The International Olympic Committee might not like it (my research of the 1984 Games demonstrated that the organization was livid at ABC for its pro-American coverage), but it is powerless to stop it. (Funny, the IOC seems powerless to stop many things.)

Meanwhile, the Beijing Olympic organizers are promising (again) that press freedom will be a hallmark of these Games. (Pardon me, I need another minute to stop laughing.)

These two stories reflect the political realities that underscore these Olympics -- international friendship and political goodwill are important, and they can take you a long way. But at the end of the day, you are catering to a domestic political, economic, cultural and social climate.

Therefore, expect NBC to go wild in its pro-American coverage. And expect the Chinese to try to thwart press freedoms wherever they can. Once you accept both of those premises, you can sit down in front of your television or computer and enjoy the Games.

UPDATE: Speaking of I'll believe it when I see it...check out this pronouncement by the Chinese government. Wow, if this turns out to be true, does that throw some raw, red meat to the media horde that is about to cascade upon China.

2 more votes...no decision yet (CRITICAL UPDATE)

That's the nuts and bolts of the recent actions by two FCC commissioners, who have cast their votes relating to the proposed merger of XM and Sirius.

Based on additional details in this article, two other commissioners are still to vote. Right now, the consensus is that two have voted for the merger, and one has voted against it. As you might expect, the votes are along party lines.

I've made no secret in this blog that I believe the merger -- as currently proposed -- is a bad one. The "monopoly" term is one that much more strident critics of the plan have used; I'm not prepared to go there...yet. But I do see the potential for the consumer to be harmed, for prices to go up, and for a diversity of voices to be (likely) denied.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Adelstein has voted no. It's now 2-2, with, as the experts projected a few days ago, the final vote being cast by Deborah Tate. I fear she will approve the merger.

Sadr City, part 1

The New York Times is beginning a series about life in one of Baghdad's so-called slums -- Sadr City.

As an aside, I've been disappointed about one thing in recent media reports about when U.S. troops should come home from Iraq. Set aside for a moment whatever feelings you have about the war, as I ask you this question: What would you expect Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to say when asked about U.S. troops in his country?

Do you really think that he would publicly support any plan that would keep troops of a foreign country inside his nation any longer than they absolutely had to be there? Now, I know there's going to be a robust (and fair) debate about how long is justifiable. But again, set your personal feelings aside. Of course, Mr. al-Maliki wants the American troops out of there. What else would he be expected to say?

Imagine this scenario: "We need the U.S. troops to stay because our military and domestic police forces are ill-prepared to defend this country and keep it safe." Do you really think that's a recipe for instilling confidence in those forces? And do you really think that's a recipe for keeping him in power?

My point is this: the prime minister is doing what any leader of any country would do in that situation. He's representing the interests of his people.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The law of unintended (or intended, in this case?) consequences

If you make it difficult for someone to get where they want to go, then they might just choose not to go. And this story confirms that might be happening in Beijing, where decent hotel rooms are being reserved for sharply lower than expected rates. Why? You guessed it...people aren't coming.

The FCC reacts to the "Super Bowl halftime show" lawsuit

With the FCC hearing here in Pittsburgh at the top of my agenda yesterday, I failed to provide a link or two to stories surrounding a Third Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that overturned the commission's fine against CBS for the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake Super Bowl halftime fiasco.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced yesterday he was "surprised" by the Court's ruling. Martin, as you will see in the link provided to you, is hoping that the Supreme Court, as early as this fall, will clarify the indecency spectrum.

I agree with the Court's ruling, though I maintain that the Super Bowl program was a disaster from the get-go. Why such a "stunt" was ever imagined is beyond me. But setting that aside, I also agree with Martin -- the Supreme Court will need to be the final arbiter on this important issue.

This Court (and there was a fascinating article about it in a recent TIME magazine) has proven to be less ideologically driven than perhaps first thought (or feared). I would anticipate a 5-4 ruling about indecency, which in reality means that the issue would not really be decided.

Stay tuned.

FCC follow-up

As I mentioned last evening, I thought the FCC's hearing in Pittsburgh was an excellent event despite a couple of bumps in the road. I'll mention those quickly, not elaborate on them, and then move on.

In no particular order, I thought the negatives were:
1. Unnecessarily lengthy remarks by the 5 commissioners, at the beginning of the hearing
2. A lack of diversity in the panelist pool
3. A failure to include members of the public earlier in the process
4. A house that was not full

Now, some general thoughts about the sessions and where we might be going from here.

I found the best presentations to be those that focused on people, not business needs. I was especially impressed with the remarks made by Carnegie Mellon professor Rahul Tongia, who reminded the FCC commissioners and the audience that we not only must consider who has access to technology but who doesn't. In fact, this morning I sent him a short e-mail letting him know I appreciated his remarks.

I also enjoyed the comments made by Scott Wallsten, who noted that the understanding the methodology is critical when attempting to determine how many people use broadband or other technologies. Last night, I encouraged you to access his paper, which he referred to in his presentation. I'm still not sure I agree with Wallsten's comments, meaning that I think broadband is being used less in this country than Wallsten suggested, but I do think his "stick to the science" approach is valid.

For their part, I thought the FCC commissioners were aware of the problems and three of them (Kevin Martin, Michael Copps, Jonathan Adelstein) appeared to ask pertinent questions. I was very disappointed at the end of the second session, when Chairman Martin and fellow Republican members Deborah Tate and Robert McDowell appeared more interested in allowing a representative from AT&T to defend his company's business practices and less interested in asking pertinent questions about the issues of broadband.

Because my colleagues and I needed to leave, I didn't see the public-comments session. I knew at least one person who was going to address the commission, but I was disappointed when I heard that the list of people who had signed up was not long.

I hope my comments assisted you in better understanding the hearing. Remember, if you go to the FCC's website you can access additional details about the hearing and the broadband issues.

In short, I think we have a broadband problem until we reach the point that it becomes affordable and accessible to everyone. That kind of commitment will take money, political pressure, partnerships between the public and private sectors, and the desire of the American people to want this necessary technology.

A second political convention in Minneapolis...

...is getting bigger (at least that's what its organizers want you to believe). Check out what ABC News is reporting about Ron Paul's plans to hold a 'Campaign for Liberty' convention in Minneapolis...at the same time that the Republican National Convention is taking place.

Revenge?

That's how the reporter who penned the controversial New Yorker magazine piece about Barack Obama describes the decision made by the campaign to not allow him to travel on the senator's plane to the Middle East.

The New York Times wouldn't...

...so the New York Post did. Here's the editorial written by Sen. John McCain that the "Gray Lady" thought was inappropriate for her pages.

Of course, the (in my opinion completely inappropriate) decision by the New York Times is generating significant conversation. The Los Angeles Times reports that the paper's choice is sure to fire up the Republican base, which already is white-hot angry at the mainstream media for its perceived (real?) love affair with Sen. Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, Politico notes that 49% of respondents to its survey believe the media are attempting to assist Obama in his election efforts.

What does all this tell me? The media have a problem -- and I don't think for this election that the die can be uncast (pardon the terrible word usage, by the way). There is a firm sense among many people (this blogger included, for what that's worth) that the media want Obama to win. The reasons why can stretch from here to Iraq and back, so we'll set those aside for a moment. And that perception provides sufficient ammunition to those who also believe that the media are biased (and liberal).

Am I willing to adopt that position? Not yet. However, I do admit that I cannot justify the Times' decision in any way. Nor can I find any justification for the 'we love Obama' attitude.

Come to think of it, this becomes an interesting discussion point in our classes -- how will we as educators tackle this question in the fall?

Charles Van Doren speaks

I discuss the "quiz show scandal" in my introduction to mass communications class. Now I can add the words of the man behind the scandal -- Van Doren has written a piece in a monthly magazine.

Monday, July 21, 2008

FCC meeting in Pittsburgh, session 2

6:37 p.m.: Session two has begun.
.....

6:39 p.m.: This session begins with a terribly thinned out crowd. Dr. David Farber, an emeritus professor at Carnegie Mellon, is sharing a story about the many, many discussions that have been had in the past about "why do we need to make the computer run faster?" Needless to say, the Internet could be substituted for the computer, and that's his point: what is possible in the future is only possible if people continue to refuse to listen to those who ask "why." That requires the "technologists" (Farber's word), the politicians and the public working together.
.....

6:43 p.m.: The desire to increase speed of computers can be blunted by the desire to place regulations in place that NOW might look wise but in reality will be short-sighted, Farber adds.
.....

6:46 p.m.: Farber adds that in his opinion the reason that ISPs are attempting to place limits on the amount of gigabites each person can download has less to do with how much we download and more to do with the ISPs fear that so many people will download something at one time that they will crash the system. I glanced quickly at the five commissioners, and I saw only Commissioner Copps making a note of what he said.
.....

6:51 p.m.: Once again, I'm not going to be commenting on what each person says during this second session. As I did in the first session, I'm attempting to also provide a flavor for what is happening here and also linking comments to the general political, technological, geographical, and social environments.

Dr. Rahul Tongia also from CMU has offered a critical point -- we not only must continue who is in the network but who is not involved. For example, if we examine 19 people who have broadband...we get a picture. If the total number of people who can get broadband is 20...the picture is not all that bad. However, if the total population is 100, suddenly we have 81 people "outside" the environment and therefore lacking a competitive advantage. Moreover, if some combination of those 81 people have dial-up and cannot (for whatever reason) get broadband, they, too, fall behind.

A well-thought out presentation from the new dad. Dr. Tongia noted at the beginning og his session that he and his wife recently had twins.
.....

6:58 p.m.: Dr. Tongia's comments were excellent. What a fantastic presentation. I found his conversation powerful because he spoke to and about the aforementioned "Joe and Josephine American." I encourage you to review his presentation. Go to the FCC Web site, which should have accessible files from today's sessions. Download it and review what he said. There is plenty in what he said for advocacy groups and educators to use in their discussions with others.
....

7:05 p.m.: By 2015, all residents of Pennsylvania will have access to broadband. So says Rebecca Begley, who is representing the state at this FCC hearing. "Much of the state is already covered," she added. This is an impressive goal, and I would hope that the state can actually get to universal broadband access before the deadline. And her comments have me wondering if this issue of broadband access ultimately will be a states' issue and not a federal government sponsored effort.

Is that a good thing? I'll leave it to you to decide.
.....

7:10 p.m.: Keep in mind, of course, that access is not the same thing as usage. I'd be curious to see what Pennsylvania and other states (not to mention the federal government) are doing to ensure that residents (especially young people) in all communities learn the benefits of broadband. This likely will require efforts in schools, libraries, and many non-profit agencies. Will the grants and other money necessary to make this happen be there?
.....

7:15 p.m.: Scott Wallsten of the Technology Policy Institute is about to blow holes in the argument that there is a broadband access problem in the United States. He is suggesting that per capita connections (which I cited earlier) is not an appropriate measure of how many people access broadband. The correct measure instead is how many people within the house use broadband, he suggests.

"There is no crisis," Wallsten suggests. He adds that we need much better data to determine how effectively broadband is being used in the U.S. Solid data can be achieved through the Census surveys, and this is a point I agree with.

Next, Wallsten believes it is important to inventory the data and surveys that already exist. Finally, and perhaps most important, Wallsten is encouraging a discussion about reaching low-income people...not rural areas.

Wallsten says his complete paper on this topic is available on the Technology Policy Institute Web site. You can access it from the link highlighted above. (See "The Good News..." about halfway down the page.)
.....

7:29 p.m.: The q-and-a portion of this session has begun. Commissioner Michael Copps hasn't asked a question, but he's hammering away at the idea that the "let the market decide" can work. He suggested that the history of this country is that the federal government, state governments, and the private sector always worked together to build what this country needed. He wondered why that historically successful partnership is now seen as impractical. (Ah, yes, you know he would inject a clearly political point into this session.) Funny thing is...I think he's right. Do you?
.....

7:45 p.m.: Scott Wallsten is being given a chance to review the value of international comparisons (again, where th U.S. ranks in the broadband discussion). He is (wisely, I think) not turning this into an argument of the methods used in collecting various data. Instead, he's arguing for assurances that we have good data and good policies. I encourage you to review his paper (see link above), which I intend to download tomorrow.

I do agree with Wallsten's contention that if we allow political ideologies to get in the way of the discussion, then we will not get to the roots of the problems. However, in today's polarized national political discussion, I wonder if that is possible.
.....

This session is winding down and my colleagues and I will be scooting out of here before the public-comments period begins. I'll attempt to provide a complete reaction to what was discussed today, sometime tomorrow.

Greetings from CMU (updated regularly as FCC hearing continues)

4:10 p.m.: The participants for the first session are taking their seats; we are perhaps 10 minutes away from the beginning of the FCC public forum here in Pittsburgh.

The auditorium is not full. My poor attempt at "guesstimating" suggests the facility, which seats about 400, is half full.
.....

4:14 p.m.: The FCC commissioners have entered the building. The roundtable guests also are seated. I'm guessing we're five minutes from beginning.
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4:15 p.m.: I was surprised at the lack of security for the event. My colleagues and I walked right in without having any bags searched. In fact, it took me longer to establish an Internet connection.
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4:17 p.m.: We begin. As we do, we auditorium might be 3/4 full. I'll consider that a disappointing crowd; I'd been hoping for a full house with the possibility of a standing-room only crowd. No chance.
.....

4:20 p.m.: Rep. Mike Doyle, a member of Congress from Pittsburgh, is providing the second opening remarks. He notes that bringing this session here allows for a typical community to have a say in and to see the first-hand workings of the commission. Doyle says that an open Internet is critical for the future of U.S. businesses, families, government and other relevant groups. He wraps up his remarks by calling on the FCC to pay close attention to the many people who will speak at this session, in order that the commissioners will have a better ability to judge the importance of broadband and an open Internet.
.....

4:27 p.m.: FCC chair Kevin Martin begins his opening remarks by noting that broadband can the key to America's future, but relevant financial considerations need to be kept in mind. He's reviewing the improvements or programs that the FCC has made or enacted that have, in his words, dramatically increased the number of broadband lines and users in the country. (As he says this, I'm reminded of the commentary in yesterday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that noted the U.S. is 15th in per capita use of broadband. In other words, there is a long way to go.)
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4:33 p.m.: Martin is noting that advocacy groups are providing the impetus in acknowledging that the cost of broadband is a critical factor in understanding why fewer people than expected use it.
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4:34 p.m.: Commissioner Michael Copps has stepped to the podium. Chairman Martin introduced him. Interestingly, as they walked past each other, no handshake was offered by either man. Instead. Martin took his papers (now rolled up) and politely tapped Copps on the arm and shoulder. Seemed rather perfunctory to me.
.....

4:36 p.m.: Copps notes that unless broadband is working for every American, it is not working. "It's a civil right," Copps says. The public is one of the stakeholders in the discussion about broadband; broadband is "how we're going to communicate in the future," he adds. In a not-so subtle swipe at media consolidation, Copps mentions that broadband cannot be owned by the few for the (supposed) benefit of the many.
....

4:40 p.m.: Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein has now taken the podium. No offense against Adelstein, but it is my sense that at this point the comments of the commissioners should have been cut to a couple of minutes per person. We're perhaps 25 minutes into this session and not a word has been spoken by the attendees. Speaking of that, the first session is made up of 9 men, 8 of them appear to be Caucasian. With the four (white) men and one (white) woman who make up the commission, there is nothing in the way of diversity on the stage.
.....

4:51 p.m.: Commissioner Deborah Tate begins her remarks by reaffirming that the Internet is critical for both urban and rural America. Tate notes that the U.S. is the largest broadband country; however, access remains the key. This is principally an issue of geography and cost.
.....

4:55 p.m.: Piracy and illegal downloading are critical issues in the entire broadband framework discussion. Tate notes that 2/3 of the 20 billion annual illegal downloads are of U.S. music. Moreover, Tate is making a point that is important but I think her word selection is inaccurate -- she began discussing why it is important to keep children away from pornography and similar offerings on the Internet, but soon after she began referring to child pornography. These are clearly different things, and although both are important issues they are not the same thing. One has to do with access, while one has to do with smut.
....

5:00 p.m.: Finally, commissioner Robert McDowell is addressing the audience. McDowell is examining the issue of Internet regulation, a murky matter if there ever was one! It has flourished, in McDowell's words, because engineers, not politicians, have taken the principal role in creating and maintaining it.
.....

5:03 p.m.: The commissioners are done! Finally. Mark Cuban, a Pittsburgh native and the founder of HDNet and the owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, is the initial speaker. He notes that digital media is not just the Internet. It can include 3-D coverage of games, concerts and other entertainment options, in Cuban's opinion. Interestingly, the speakers are being kept to 5 minutes each. That time limitation should have been put on the commissioners as well. Some of them attempted to keep to around 5 minutes, but others were no were near that. In an environment such as this, the more people who are heard in the shortest possible period of time allows for a more effective program.
......

5:10 p.m.: Jon Peha, a Carnegie Mellon professor, is now speaking. He's making the obvious point that as technology improves, the differences between the computer and the television will blur. Issues and concerns about competition and intellectual property are among the most important that need to be addressed in this kind of environment, Peha notes. Does network neutrality protect illegal transfer of legal content? is another important question to ask. What constitutes a violation of copyright law and how can it be proven? is another relevant question.

Sure, Peha is an academic but I found his session to be the most informative to this point.
.....

5:16 p.m.: Marck Cavicchia, the founder of Wherever TV, is now speaking. He notes that there are only a few companies that are currently controlling the Internet -- meaning your choice of provider or how much information you can download (without additional fees). Time Warner is one example that Cavicchia is noting. Why are they doing this? "They want to limit consumer access so as to make more money for themselves," he said.

Cavicchia appears to be a bit nervous, and I think because of his time limit he's rushing through his remarks. Nevertheless, he's delivered a devastating critique of the business practices of the leading Internet providers. I'm finding myself agreeing with everything he says.
....

5:21 p.m.: I'm not going to provide my reactions to and comments from every person who addresses the commission. Needless to say, there are some people on the platform who are concerned (how's that for a benign term!) with the current regulatory and business environment. What is interesting to me is that many of these folks are coming from the business environment. While there is nothing wrong with that, I wonder if these sessions would have been more effective with corporate and non-corporate voices being heard in a kind of back-and-forth forum. I fear that the public comment period (which is scheduled to begin around 6:30) will be the only chance that non-corporate types are heard. I recognize that Dr. Peha is not from the corporate world; however, he, too, is part of what I'd call the "official" world (and yes that means that I am part of that, as well).
.....

5:35 p.m.: Returning to my comment about who is speaking in this first session, I wonder if a grassroots representative should have been invited and included. I noted much earlier that there is little diversity in the make-up of the panelists. Frankly, at this point there is little diversity in their comments; each person in some way or another is hinting at the power and positive qualities of the Internet/cable/broadband, while noting that there are issues that they must overcome in order for the consumer to benefit. These concerns are legitimate, and I'm not in any way opposed to hearing those comments. But a different voice would be welcomed at this point. I like to refer to "Joe and Josephine American" in my classrooms -- a hint to my students that they ought not forget the importance that everyday Americans have in news stories. A Joe or Josephine should have been included here.
.....

5:45 p.m.: We've lost audience as the 90-minute opening session winds down. That is not a good thing. Part of that can be attributed to the clock -- it's approaching the dinner hour here in Pittsburgh and some people who were here are heading home. Moreover, a large group of young students was here; that group, too, has left. However, the absence of these additional people is clear. I'm guessing that we're again at about 1/2 full. Considering the importance of the FCC and the role it plays in our lives, I'm disappointed at the attendance drop.

Now, a moment of honesty -- three other faculty and one of our students joined me here today, and at least one of us needs to leave around 6:30 for a personal event. That means that we won't be here for the entire meeting.
.....

5:51 p.m.: The q-and-a part of this session has begun. Cuban is responding to a question by Copps about the fear that there will be compounding pressure to get viewers on the Internet to rival the numbers that "old" media were expected to reach. Cuban notes that the cost of providing high-quality programs on the 'Net is important, and as a result there is a need to ensure that independent content providers are well-received. Nathan Martin, the CEO of DeepLocal, notes that the idea of the 'Net being a place where anyone can publish or deliver content is a failing argument. Sure, anyone can deliver a message but in reality the corporate giants who control the Internet play a vital role in determining how a message is received and how many people truly see and respond to it. What the men who addressed that question did not add is that the "buzz" that a Website or other program receives from OLD MEDIA is critical in determining how many people actually see it.
.....

6:00 p.m.: Not surprisingly (at least to me), the q-and-a session is more interesting than the short comments each person made. In this kind of environment, there is an actual conversation (yes, the broadcaster in me can't be killed!) taking place between the commissioner asking the question and the person responding to it.
.....

6:10 p.m.: So, what has been learned in this first session? A fascinating discussion remains to be had about the future of the Internet (a term I'm using in the broadest possible sense here) and how it will be delivered to and used by the typical American. Whatever sense that anyone might have that the answers are simple and that the "big shots" somehow have all the answers is foolhardy. In fact, they ARE asking the questions that we would if we were in their positions.

Next, this is an excellent environment for academics, students, corporate executives, independent producers, and other relevant groups to keep the conversation going. Will they ever agree on everything? No way. But if you care about these questions, then you, too, (not YouTube!) should get involved. For academics, this means a treasure-trove of research possibilities. For their students, the same can be said. For the business world, there will be pressures to both be creative and pro-active but to also be cost-effective. For the consumer, it means ensuring that he/she is a player at the table and gets the best technology he/she can at the lowest realistic cost.

Next, no conversation can be had (or be considered complete) if the reality that making broadband available at a cheap price and to everyone (regardless of geography) is essential. We cannot continue the so-called "digital divide," which exists in too many pockets of this country.

I read a story in today's paper that (going from memory) close to 1/4 of people 18 through 29 believe that America's best days are behind it. That's a sad statement. The story noted that the U.S. was strong enough to win wars, strong enough to become the largest economy in the world, and strong enough to overcome other obstacles, but it appears that too many people fear that it cannot muster the strength to now address its critical problems.
.....

6:21 p.m.: Session one has ended. There is a 5-minute break, and I think my colleagues need to leave. If we stay, then I'll continue blogging.

Has the coverage been fair? (UPDATED)

It's inevitable in politics -- blame the media for their coverage. Call it unfair. Call it biased. Call it one-sided. Call it whatever you want. We've heard those criticisms before, and we'll hear them again and again in the future.

But this article reinforces in my mind that the national television media made a mistake following Sen. Barack Obama on his current international trip. The mistake is not going with Obama. Instead, the gross error in judgment is going with Obama after choosing not to go with Sen. John McCain, who has made three such trips over the past 4 or 5 months.

It's hard to justify these decisions, although media executives attempt to do so.

UPDATED -- Speaking of attempting to justify what appears to not be justifiable, the New York Times is offering an (ahem) interesting defense of its decision to not run an editorial written by McCain. Mind you, the paper just last week ran an editorial written by Obama.

What in the name of not taking sides is going on these days!

Voters rights event in Pittsburgh

I saw a blurb about this event in this morning's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. For those interested in getting people involved in the political process, the session ought to be mandatory.

Of course, considering it is located across the street from my office, I, too, might duck in to hear some of the conversation.

What happens when politics and sports come together at the Olympics? (UPDATED)

Just by itself, that's a loaded question. Now imagine you are an executive from NBC, with $900 million invested into the upcoming Beijing Olympics, and you are attempting to answer that question.

Scenario: An Olympic athlete uses the Opening Ceremonies (or a medal presentation) to show his/her support for Tibetan independence, human rights or any other such cause. He/she intentionally waits to highlight his/her protest until the moment he/she knows that a television camera is pointed at him/her. The Chinese censors order a video kill, but NBC nevertheless has the video. Does it use it?

Answer: Unless NBC wants to lose a significant amount of its international credibility, it had better show the video.

The network, in my opinion, is far better off upsetting the Chinese rather than abandoning its freedom of the press rights. Yes, doing so runs the risk of having restrictions put in place -- the onerous government might eliminate NBC's live capabilities for the remainder of the Games. (Let's see how the International Olympic Committee reacts to that!) Or the government might mandate that any NBC video and story be approved before airing. (Yeah, right.)

As you read the article highlighted above, pay special attention to the comments of one International Olympic Committee official pertaining to what the organization knows now versus what it thought it knew seven years ago (when the Games were awarded to Beijing). My immediate reaction upon reading that quote: How naive were these people? Did they take everything the Chinese government and Olympic officials said at face value and without offering any serious questions? Why did they not insist on certain conditions -- in writing -- as part of the Beijing bid?

UPDATED: Came across this news report...I've never been a fan of announcers providing play-by-play and analysis from a studio hundreds (or thousands) of miles from the actual event. Now NBC is going to do it for 10 sports that it "covers" during the upcoming Games. Ugh.

Using product placement as a source of revenue

One Las Vegas station is doing it. Let's hope others choose not to follow.

Enough said on this "brilliant" idea.

The election already is over...

...in the minds of one group of voters (and bloggers). Hmmm, funny, but without a single vote being cast at this point, how can the race be thought of as over?

Now, I'll admit, I do believe that at this point the election is Sen. Barack Obama's to lose. But I base that assumption on the 2006 midterm elections and the general sense within the country that the policies and actions of the Bush administration either have failed or simply not worked as well as they could have.

Tuition free...work 10 hours a week

Sounds like a scam, right? Wrong. The details in this article should make all of us think about the college experience.

New voting technology...new headaches?

Expect it. That's the theme from this New York Times article.

Do note that there are some suggestions contained in this article that you as a voter can use, in an attempt to overcome any potential problems.

My fellow educators also should be able to derive a few localized stories from this technology theme as the election nears.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hooray, we're number 15!

"We" in this case refers to the citizens of the United States. And we find ourselves ranked 15th in broadband usage (per capita). What can we do about it? Some suggestions are offered in this commentary, which appeared in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

McCain-Romney?

If you had asked me two or three months ago if those two had any chance of being the GOP 2008 ticket, I'd have laughed. But it is becoming clearer that Romney brings some clear strengths to the Republican ticket. Moreover, as this story suggests, there appears to be a rapidly developing personal bond between the two.

Does all this mean Romney will be McCain's running mate? No. But I can tell you, I'm not laughing at the possibility any longer.

Can't make it to Pittsburgh for Monday's FCC hearing?

No problem. You can either listen to an audio stream or watch a Webcast. Here are your details.

As mentioned a couple times this week, presuming I can get a wireless signal inside the auditorium (and imagine my surprise if I can't!), I'll be blogging my thoughts on Monday. Please share your ideas and reactions with me.

Katie Couric dismisses those rumors...

...that she's on her way out at CBS. I remind you once again of something I have stated on numerous occasions -- it is my firm belief that Couric will become the host of CBS' long-suffering morning program...once the elections are over.

China's government continues to confuse

One day, the message is positive. The next day, the message is not. Today is one of those bad days.

Now, it is not fair to expect that the Chinese government is going to magically reinvent itself as the Olympics approach. Nor is it fair to expect that any positive changes that come from the Games stand a good chance of gaining traction and becoming part of social, political and cultural fabric of the nation.

Frankly, the Olympic spotlight ensures that anything that takes place within China is going to be magnified.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Alpha Kappa Alpha centennial celebration (UPDATED)

A colleague and I stepped onto our hotel elevator this morning, and there we were met by an elderly African-American whose energy level made me blush with embarrassment. She was ready to start her day!

She told us she and an estimated 25,000 of her sorority mates were heading into downtown Washington for a rally. A short time later our elevator doors opened, and as I stepped out into the lobby I was met by perhaps 20 more women, almost all of them wearing AKA (Alpha Kappa Alpha) shirts. They, too, were about to exit the hotel and make their way to the rally.

At that moment, I wondered what AKA was. Here's a bit of information about the group and its plans while they are here in Washington.

What struck me about the group standing around the lobby was the ages of the women -- they ranged from perhaps 8 to 80. And that difference suggested to me that AKA is an organization that recognizes the important role that all women -- regardless of her age -- can play in making a difference.

I'll be curious to see the kind of media coverage they receive tonight on the local and national television newscasts and then in tomorrow's daily newspapers. I'm also hoping that I bump into that woman I mentioned at the beginning of this post again before I leave tomorrow. I'd like to hear how the march went.

UPDATEL: Here's the first version of the Washington Post's coverage of the march. And why am I not listing a story from The Washington Times? I can't find one on its Website.

Just yesterday I noted...

...that we should watch for Chinese government officials making public pronouncements about supporting media freedoms during the upcoming Olympics. Well, take a look at this headline.

My comment included this caveat -- at the same time these announcements were being trumpeted at home and savored by the international audience, I asked that people pay close attention to what the government actually did.

Stay tuned.

Of course, let's not forget that China is not the only place where critical questions about media freedoms are being asked. Consider these stories from Georgia and Tunisia.

Not even the Wall Street Journal is immune...

...from cutting staff.

It would be easy to talk up this decision as "typical Rupert Murdoch." However, I see it another way: the media industries appear to be in panic mode, and any piece of bad economic news brings about justification for cost-cutting. But I wonder how creatively people within the industry are thinking about the problems that beset them.

Let's take the newspaper industry, as an example. Why is it that there has been no substantive reporting or commentary about HOW to bring about substantive changes? Why has no one routinely examined if the content structure ought to be re-examined? I'm not implying that there have not been internal discussions. But I want to know why there hasn't been more public conversation about these talks.

My point is this: yes, the newspaper industry is facing problems. But minus leading journalists and communicators floating ideas for discussion (or providing critical reaction to internal conversations), the public consensus is going to be that the industry is panicking, slicing jobs and seemingly waiting with fear and trepidation for its death.

Monday's FCC hearing in Pittsburgh

A full schedule of guests and planned activities has been announced for the Monday FCC meeting in Pittsburgh. Find those details here.

Presuming that my broadband wireless works (wink, wink!), I'll plan to blog my thoughts from the meeting.

When your profit drops from $18 million...

...to just under $15 million, what do you do? Apparently slash staff. That's what Media General did last week. Today, those financial reports were released.

And that grand. Make money...cut people. Brilliant.

Now, Media General is not the only job slasher these days, and the "trend" toward job cuts is showing no signs of letting up.

Well, ain't that interesting!

John McCain makes an international trip...no network anchors follow him. That's happened three times over the past four months.

However, Barack Obama heads overseas and...presto, network anchors follow. Hmmm, the "liberal bias in the media" believers are going to have a field day with that one. And they should.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hello from Washington

Yes, the Moretti Summer Road Tour continues. But this time my travels are for work. Three of my colleagues and I are in Washington for a training session at the Associated Press. We'll be here through Friday.

Washington ranks as one of my two or three favorite cities; and although I won't have the chance to do as much sightseeing as I normally try to do, I always appreciate the excitement and energy in this city.

I'm also looking forward to soaking up the media environment here. (Funny, but as I say that I confess that I'm watching the Triple-A All-Star Game. Yes, some habits die hard.) The various print and broadcast media in this city are among the nation's best. Hard copies of the Washington Post, Washington Times and Politico await me in the morning, and the local newscasts will be watched.

48 hours in this city...probably not enough for me, but I'll take it.

A tight job market...

...for both long-time and less-experienced television talent. A sign of the times that hopefully will change soon.

I find it tough to swallow that organizations -- run with a corporate mentality -- are willing to shed staff and cut into newsroom resources (this story from Green Bay is simply the latest example) as a means to ensure a strong financial page. As you continue to read stories in upcoming weeks about these difficult economic times, note the number of companies/corporations that report a drop in profits. Not a loss. Simply a drop in profit. (And in many cases those profit margins were set at unreasonable levels.)

A violation of free speech?

A shameless attempt to prevent a politician from reaching his constituents? Or just summertime bluster in Washington?

At first blush, I'm siding with the politician in this case, and if that means that rules need to be rewritten so that the so-called new media technologies are considered when it comes to communicating with constituents, fine.

It's time for some campaignin'

Courtesy of JibJab. Yup, those folks are at it again. Get ready to laugh.

Another day...

...another story that adds to the confusion about what is actually happening in Beijing (and what will happen once the Olympic Games start).

We probably shouldn't be surprised by this report and others like it. Clearly the Chinese government will attempt to restrict as much as it can while giving public assurances that it is cooperating with International Olympic Committee requirements.

Less Brit?

It appears that long-time FOX News anchor Brit Hume is retreating...from the spotlight. Hume reportedly is surrendering some of his work load.

Too bad. Hume is a solid reporter and anchor who -- with the death of Tim Russert -- might be the pre-eminent political journalist on television.

4:50

That's 4 hours, 50 minutes...or how long it took to wrap up the 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game. And what a game it was!

Your friendly blogger here stayed up for every hit, walk, good call, close call and commercial. At 8:30, I actually thought about not watching the game, but I gave in to my 'aw, come on...when you were younger, you couldn't wait for the All-Star Game...so be a kid again' sentiments.

Am I glad I did.

In case, you're wondering, the game ended around 1:35 ET this morning. So, I'm not necessarily working on a full-night's sleep today. But I am working on a large set of great memories. I'll take that, through the occasional yawn!

Race still divides us

A sad but apparently true statement, at least if the results from a recent poll and its corresponding story are true.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A split decision?

No question about it. As has been true with too many recent FCC decisions, the commission's membership appears sharply divided. This time, the issue is the planned merger of XM and Sirius.

Two commissioners appear to favor it, and two others appear to oppose it. So, who will apparently cast the decisive vote?

Promoting and bashing China?

Can you do both? Apparently one international advertising agency thought it could. Can you imagine the fallout from this one!

The general consensus...

...is that the Obama cartoon featured on the front of The New Yorker magazine was a bad idea. So says a group of cartoonists.

Some critical questions to consider, as you come to your own conclusion about the depiction:
1. Was the depiction designed to offend? Or to get you to think? Or something else?
2. Does it accurately (through its satire) reflect the thoughts and fears that some people continue to have about Sen. Obama?
3. Are there any free speech issues to consider?
4. Is the message appropriate for the audience that typically reads the magazine?
5. How would you have changed the depiction, if you had the chance?

Targeting bloggers?

There's no question that the answer is "yes." But there is a larger issue -- is the targeting fair or unfair? You decide after reading this.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Will Olympic athletes from one country pack "protest kits"?

One human rights group says its prepared to hand any Australian athlete who wants one a kit that contains clear expressions of support for human rights and Tibetans. But there are some potential trouble spots for any athlete who accepts the package.

And if you want to learn more about the group behind this effort, link here.

You know that Christmas classic "Grandma got run over by a reindeer"?

Use that rhythm...and sing this song (made up by me) --

The paper got run over by the tee-vee…

As we watched in our comfy living rooms…

Now we all are watching talking heads…

And learning absolutely nothing…



Except that there are lots and lots of fires…

And everyone else is getting shot…

Yes, blood and gore…they top our local newscasts…

As the newspaper industry goes to pot.

I wonder when I'm going to read a headline...

...that looks something like this: Obama dodging McCain.

When you think about it, this story essentially delivers that message. Which raises the question -- is he?

I want my...I want my...I want my...

...broadband! (Yes, it doesn't have the same rhyme -- nor reason?? -- as the old MTV jingle but you get the idea.) Check out this Boston Globe editorial touting the virtues of a national policy that would make broadband universal in this country.

Where's the money in local television?

Where do you think?

This information ought to be interest to anyone considering jobs in television. Denver ought to be considered "typical" for local television. Of course, all markets vary, but the information in this story provides a good gauge of what the money market is like.

NBC is close to selling out...

...its online inventory for the Olympics. The 12-hour (from the East coast) time difference helps to explain why the network is convinced there will be significant Web traffic for the upcoming Games.

I'm one of the people planning to make extensive use of the Web opportunities for the Games. I particularly interested in seeing where and how the political issues associated with the Olympics are evident on the 'Net.

Billy Packer out at CBS?

Media reports indicate that CBS and Billy Packer, its long-time college basketball analyst, will part ways. A formal announcement is expected today.

Not a sad day, as far as I'm concerned. I've consistently found Packer to be abrasive and someone who offered comments that appeared to be more veiled opinions. Do I know the man? No. Have I ever worked with him? No? Simply offering an assessment here. Nothing more.

Is Barack Obama obligated to...

...purchase advertising time on African-American media outlets? An interesting question. One set of answers is found in this article.

Meanwhile, The New Yorker magazine is being widely criticized for its cover and its depiction of Obama and his wife.

A tribute to Tony Snow

You will find many media reports praising the late Tony Snow. This one, from Washington Post media commentator Howard Kurtz, is among the best.

When being the "center" of attention might not be a good thing

Democrats seem to be have developed an almost love-hate relationship with Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman. And he clearly is paying a price for running as and considering himself to be an independent.

I don't know Lieberman (in fact, I've never met the man), but my sense is he is one of the true gentleman of Capitol Hill. More people of the character and commitment he has are needed in Washington. I think there is an interesting study to be done about media coverage of him.

Is China blacklisting American and Western scholars...

...who write critically of the country? One group of academicians says that answer is yes, and they would like to see something done about it.

If their allegations are true, I, too, would like to see something done about it. It's a sad day when a person who writes something that you don't like is barred from entering your country. Of course, when a government endorses the denial of certain freedoms, perhaps we ought not be surprised.

Planning to be seen and heard

Protesters -- largely shut off from the media spotlight in 2004 -- are taking steps that they hope will ensure that their faces are seen and voices are heard during the upcoming political conventions.

As someone who values free speech, I hope they succeed.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

New York, New York

My wife, our boys and I are spending another weekend on the road. We find ourselves in New York visiting my family. Yesterday, the four of us and two of my aunts took in day one of the http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com/nyy/fan_forum/asg/fanfest_fun.jsp at the http://www.javitscenter.com/ in New York City.

Holy cow, what a fun day. The boys got autographs from former Major League players, enjoyed various baseball activities, got to see a mock All-Star locker room, sat in a mock dugout, ate a lot of food, ate more food and had a blast.

The four adults who accompanied them were exhausted by time the day was over.

If you are in New York, or can gain access to Fan Fest tickets, take in the event. If you are a baseball junkie, you are sure to have a good time.

A conundrum...

...why are journalism programs across the country adding international/study abroad programs at the same time that news organizations are cutting back on their foreign bureaus?

That question is tackled in this report.

Among the relevant answers, in my opinion (and some of which are discussed in the article):
1. Non-profit universities and for-profit news organizations are obviously dealing with different "bottom line" issues
2. There is a demand by students to know more about the world around them
3. University programs are looking for any niche that will distinguish themselves from their competitors

I found this article to be of interest to me. I think you will come to the same conclusion.

An interesting challenge for Ph.D. programs...

...in all disciplines. A new report (summarized here with an internal link to the actual report) indicates that many freshly minted Ph.D.s do not feel they are prepared for the demands expected by their universities.

Tony Snow is dead

The former White House press secretary and noted conservative columnist lost his battle with colon cancer today. He was only 53. An obit from the New York Times highlights his career.

Kudos to the Chinese government...

...for doing the right thing: The government has announced that international broadcasters will have access to locations throughout Beijing during the upcoming Olympics.

I reiterate something I asked earlier this week: If the Chinese are willing to bow to international pressure and standards during the Games, then why are they not willing to allow this kind of media freedom on a daily basis? A rhetorical question, I admit; but I do think it is one worth considering.

Can they compromise on the compromise?

At least the political foes in Zimbabwe are talking, though this report from TIME magazine suggests they their reasons for sitting down are different. And what they hope to accomplish might not be possible.

Meanwhile, international efforts to sanction Zimbabwe hit a roadblock earlier this week.

Will there be a "For Sale" sign outside NBCUniversal?

Jeff Zucker says no...but GE's handling of its divisions suggests the answer could be yes. Learn more here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

China says "yes" to media freedoms...

...during the Olympics. Let's hope they follow through on these promises. But I'm left with another thought -- if the Chinese are willing to ensure media freedoms during the Olympics, then why won't they extend that assurance to include what happens AFTER the Games end?

A controversial Senate decision

Done correctly...wiretapping is a necessary and useful tool. Done incorrectly...there are legitimate concerns about individual freedoms being violated. Your thoughts on this Senate decision are welcomed.

One cable news network chooses to air...

...critical remarks made by Jesse Jackson about Sen. Barack Obama. A smart decision? An ethical decision? Should others have done it as well?

Also note how quickly Rev. Jackson apologized for what he said.

An assessment -- both positive and negative of...

...a person who has been consistently criticized by this blogger. What are your thoughts about Kevin Martin, as you read this?

Attention, citizen journalists

One Tampa Bay news outlet wants you...actually 20 of you.

Now keep in mind this is both an exciting and dangerous trend. On the one hand, a local (and powerful) news organization is recognizing the potential that citizen journalists can have as sources of news. On the other hand, this also is a concern because these citizen journalists can in fact be inexpensive substitutes for the real thing.

Let's see how this plays out...and the ramifications are something we will want to discuss in our classrooms and in other places as the months go by.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Another reason to use public transportation?

It might not be long before major municipal transportation systems provide free Wi-Fi on their buses and trains.

As a public transportation user already, I would benefit from such a decision. For others, Wi-Fi could be the extra little nudge that gets them out of the cars.

One month to go!!

The Beijing Olympics begin in one month, and this report from Reuters indicates that the prep work remains in high gear.

Meanwhile, you can expect fewer Western media at the Games. A political decision, you say? Not a chance. It's a simple matter of economics.

Of course, the climate in which the media are likely to operate once they get into China won't be the best one.

I am going to pay special attention over the next month -- and then during the Games themselves -- to see what public stand the International Olympic Committee takes regarding: human rights, media freedom, freedom of speech, etc. If anyone wishes to argue that these are not issues that should be considered by the IOC, then I would call you a fool; this is an international organization with clout. How it chooses to use it is up to its members.

That being said, if the IOC membership (and most especially President Jacques Rogge) opts to speak out, then how will these people respond to questions that they are injecting (or acknowledging) the role that politics plays in international sports?

Why Obama in 2008 mirrors Reagan in 1980

An interesting assessment of Barack Obama's chances to win the White House is offered by conservative Pat Buchanan.

He draws on the comparisons that this year's presidential election has to 1980. Buchanan, in a reasonable argument, suggests that while Obama might be angering the left wing of his party, the moves he has made in recent weeks suggests he is attuned to middle America's concerns about him.

It won't be Obama-Webb

The Democratic senator from Virginia says he does not want to be considered for the number two spot on his party's presidential ticket.

Obama's acceptance speech location, day two (UPDATED)

Needless to say, the media's budgets are being blown sky (mile?) high because of Sen. Barack Obama's decision to move his acceptance speech from the smaller and indoor Pepsi Center to the larger and outdoor Invesco Field at Mile High.

At the same time, there are logistics considerations to keep in mind.

UPDATED: I talked to someone this morning who is on the periphery of those talks, and he indicated to me that the concerns about scaling back coverage from Denver and/or relying on a pool feed for Obama's speech are real. Media executives certainly have their hands full with this decision.

And as I review Obama's move, I'm left with one thought -- why wasn't this decided sooner? I doubt that someone in Obama's camp woke up one morning over the past week and thought, 'Hey, let's move the acceptance speech to another location.' His political team is too savvy to make what has to be considered an unorthodox decision on abrupt notice.

At the same time, if this had been discussed at various times within the campaign, then how did it never leak? I'm also guessing that a few people at Invesco Field and within the Democratic Party were in on any preliminary conversations.

In other words, the air-tight quality of this story was impressive.

The All-Star Game will have a full house...

...of advertisements!

Monday, July 07, 2008

What is TAMI?

And why do you need to know about it? Here's your answer.

DTV is not the only issue causing headaches these days

Television and cable executives also are gearing up for what might be nasty retransmission consent discussions.

Of course, at the heart of all of this -- $$$. But describing the discussion as being only about dollars is inadequate.

NBCUniversal is the new owner of...

...The Weather Channel. Did anyone ever imagine that weather would be worth $3.5 billion!

655 consecutive weeks

How many? 655. How long is that? More than 12 years. What am I referring to? Here's your answer.

Where's the Veep?

He/she might be found on this link.

A "Mile High" acceptance speech? (UPDATED 2x)

Media reports in Denver this morning indicate that Sen. Barack Obama will deliver his party's nomination acceptance speech at Invesco Field at Mile High, the home of the Denver Broncos.

So what, you ask? The reason why the decision is interesting is that the party's national convention is at the Pepsi Center, home to the city's professional hockey and basketball teams. That facility seats about 20,000. The football stadium seats almost 76,000.

Slow down, before you consider Obama's move to be one of arrogance. Remember that in 1960, Sen. John F. Kennedy delivered his address at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which was not the site of the party's convention.

Media analysis of this decision ought to be swift and thought-provoking. Speaking personally, I disagree with the choice. I believe that an event of this magnitude ought to be held at the location where all other events are taking place. Moreover, the speech inside a (relatively speaking) small arena seems more akin to politics, while a football field gives off a kind of rock-concert quality.

Meanwhile, likely GOP nominee John McCain is facing potentially damaging internal squabbling over his party's political platform.

UPDATE: The national television networks are scrambling to come up with a plan to cover Obama, should he choose to deliver the acceptance speech at the larger stadium. Needless to say, Obama would make the media's life a lot easier if he'd stay inside the Pepsi Center.

UPDATE: It's official -- the acceptance speech will be at the football stadium.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

If affordable, available and fast Internet for everyone matters to you

Then I suggest you access this Website...and consider adding your name to the list of people who believe that any kind of digital divide negatively affects this country.

Further signs of an impending Internet crackdown in China?

Based on the information in this post, the answer appears to be yes. It might be worth your time to monitor non-mainstream media sites in the coming weeks; these sites could allow you to receive a more street-level assessment of what is happening in and around Beijing as the Olympic Games near.

Bush says he's doing the right thing...

...by attending the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics. He said earlier today in Japan that being in Beijing gives him a better opportunity to discuss human rights and the other concerns he and the West have about China if he's sitting with the Chinese political leadership.

He might very well be correct, but I think there are some other critical questions to consider:
1. Will his lame duck status ensure that the Chinese will listen but care little about responding to him?
2. What happens if other Western leaders announce that they will not go to Beijing?
3. If the political situation within China somehow changes in the next month, then would the president reconsider?

I reiterate what I said yesterday -- his decision to attend the Opening Ceremonies should surprise no one. The fact that he's being asked so many questions about it suggests to me that the media traveling with him are desperate for a news story. There's no question that his lame duck status guarantees little political news is likely to come from this trip.

Meanwhile, there is an interesting story in today's New York Times, which reports how Taiwanese table tennis athletes are hoping for a chance to play their Chinese counterparts in the Olympics. The underlying message is simple -- in this "battle," politics and sports are intertwined.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Proof of a stolen election?

The British newspaper The Guardian has posted a video that seems to indicate strong-armed tactics in last week's tainted presidential election.

President Bush will attend the Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies

His decision should surprise no one, and media coverage of his choice is likely to follow a somewhat tired objectivity approach -- stories are almost certainly going to follow a script in which both sides (the administration and the human rights advocates) are quoted, and no questioning of the decision is made.

However, editorial pages in the major newspapers are sure to reflect the paper's political stance.

I find it disappointing that the president's announcement was made during a holiday weekend, a time when Americans pay less attention to what is happening around them as they celebrate this country's birthday.

It also is a bit ironic (cynics and others will want to substitute another word) that the choice was announced as America recognizes its freedom, something that is in too short a supply in China.

The passing of Jesse Helms

The death of the long-time North Carolina senator triggered a memory for me -- the "hands" political advertisement used by him during one of his campaigns.

That ad might very well be one of the three or four most recognizable ones of the past 40 years. Considering that the creator of the "Daisy" ad died about a week ago, it is somewhat ironic that two men linked to two controversial (but effective) political ads died so close to each other.

Hangin' out in the 'Burgh

Believe it or not, it's a cool thing to do. But don't believe me...just ask The New York Times.

Pittsburgh has been home for my wife, our boys and I for three years now. We've only begun to explore the many historical and other sites in the city and its surrounding areas. We're planning to make it home for a long time.

If Obama does this...

...he's likely to get skewered from both the left and the right. But it might be the correct decision. It will be interesting to see how the media respond to what he does vis-a-vis Iraq...and to what the inevitable political fallout will be.

Everything (sort of) new is really new...

...when you've not been back in 5-plus years. I'm spending part of today in Athens, home of Ohio University, where I earned my Ph.D. Wow, the old place doesn't look like I remember it.

I came around the corner where Scripps Hall stands, and sitting across the street is the (new, at least to me) Baker University Center. Impressive looking. I thought about going inside, but a car horn coming from behind me gave me a not so subtle hint that I might need to keep on going.

A few other new (again, to me) places seem to dot Court Street, where, in case you are wondering, I didn't spend any of my evenings! I've got to go back to one of them before too long -- lunch beckons!

At this point, I'm at the Athens Book Center, which at some point since I left has moved closer to the university. A couple of book purchases, a hot coffee (on an empty stomach -- brilliant move on my part!) and free Wi-Fi...and I'm good to go.

Athens is quiet today, although I would guess that news about the university president's salary ruffled a few feathers this week. Not hard to figure out why...this is a holiday weekend and the majority of the students have already left town for the summer. These were some of my favorite months when I lived here. There's something about a college town that turns into a sort of empty place that I've always found enjoyable.

What that says about me, I'm not sure. More about and from Athens later.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A one-sourced story

Read through this story, and as you do note the news agency that posted it and the source of the information.

What problems do you see? Let's start with the obvious -- there's only one source. I invite you to add to the list.

Did FOX News alter photos of New York Times' reporters?

The answer appears to be yes (which is troubling in itself). The reason for the changes are even more bothersome (at least to this observer).

The bad news continues

This time it's the Los Angeles Times, in my opinion one of the nation's top 5 newspapers, that is planning to cut staff and news pages.

We can expect "news" such as this to become a regular part of media discourse in upcoming months. These cuts of course are not unique to the journalism world; other industries are slashing employees as well.

Ru$$$$$$h Limbaugh

Why being Rush...means being Rich.

Set aside the opinions you have of Rush Limbaugh for a moment (yes, that might be hard for some people to do)...I think there is a larger issue associated with this contract: Limbaugh's employer. Notice it's Clear Channel. No other radio organization could pay Limbaugh this kind of money, and Clear Channel couldn't do it without the reach it has achieved through buying up the number of radio stations it has.

This story, in other words, is a deregulation believer's dream.

A changing political climate on America's college campuses?

Oh, I'm sure that this story from the New York Times is going to lead to a robust conversation in the blogosphere.

Can't you hear the liberals saying, "See, we told you things were not as bad as the right made them out to be"? And can't you hear the conservatives saying, "See, we told you that liberal and professor were two terms that go hand-in-hand"?

China continues its crackdown... (UPDATED)

...on the eve of the Summer Olympics. This time, a journalist is jailed.

When and where will the International Olympic Committee voice its objection to this kind of treatment of journalists? Granted, the IOC is impotent at this point; it can protest all it wants, but it cannot stop the Games from moving forward. But some formal stand would be appreciated by those of us who value a free and vibrant media.

UPDATED: Of course, China is not the only country that is demonstrating its disdain for a free press. Check out what is happening in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Microsoft and Yahoo! update

Is it just me...or does everyone want to buy Yahoo? (Let me amend that -- is it just me or does everyone with bazillions of dollars want to buy Yahoo?)

This report suggests Microsoft is not giving up its attempts to acquire the portal.

Why WI-FI is a necessary thing

I'm visiting my wife's family for the holiday weekend. They live in a small town in southeast Ohio. The distance between their house and the county library is perhaps 1-1/2 miles. But the (digital) divide is much greater.

My in-laws are considering getting cable (they've recently moved from one house where cable was impractical because of how far out in the country they were to another). Last night, in what can only be described as "here goes Anthony about to bang his head against the wall," I turned on the laptop I'm currently using...hoping, praying that I would find a WI-FI signal. Uh, not so much.

This morning, I traversed that 1-1/2 miles to the county library. Here the wireless is perfect. (As an aside, I stopped by a local fast-food chain on my way in and asked if it had wireless. It did, for a fee of about $2 for 2 hours. Call me cheap, but I'm not paying for something that ought to be available to everyone.)

So, if you happen to find yourself in southeast Ohio someday, hop in to the Meigs County Library. The wireless is free. The air conditioner is on. Can't ask for much more!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Here's another example of solid journalism

This time it comes from the BBC, whose correspondent John Simpson interviewed Zimbabwe's opposition political leader Morgan Tsvangiari in secret. This is a fascinating interview, and it allows Tsvangiari to explain why he believed it was necessary to abandon his plans to run in last week's presidential election.

At the same time, I encourage you to look at this impromptu press conference held by a spokesperson for the country's president, Robert Mugabe. He says the West can "go hang," in response to being asked about criticism of the aforementioned presidential election.

I glanced last evening at the World News on BBC (it was the 9:00 p.m. ET report). This was the top story. The reporting was solid.

A legitimate story? Or fishing for an angle?

As will be true with so many things attached to this 2008 presidential campaign, the answer to that question likely will be predicated upon where you fall on the political spectrum.

So, for your consideration -- this story from the Washington Post. It outlines what could be construed as special treatment for the Obamas when they purchased a house a few years ago.

The answer: $800 million

The question: You're going to have to link here for that.

Amazing to think about -- $800 million.

Another day...another series of job cuts

This time it's in Tampa Bay. I find the language used by management to be a bit troublesome. Let's see if you agree.

When the Freedom of Information Act works...

...you know it. And this appears to be one of those situations. Note also that it was a group of students at the university who instigated the request.

Consider this for a discussion in one of your classes.