V7 (July)

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Occasional links & observations from
Steve Bogart

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12 July 2001

"I think the networks should pay everyone. Hard-news sources, soft-news sources, everyone. It will serve to remind us that, at this point at least, there is no reason to confuse television news with journalism."
-- Nora Ephron, former reporter-turned-novelist-director [NY Post]

Monday I found myself in possession of a copy of USA Today (this is unusual). Lo and behold, there were several interesting stories...


Media's big fish salivate as FCC reviews ownership cap -- Rule change could bring even more consolidation [USA Today]

Key media ownership limits are expected to be relaxed, or eliminated, as they come under attack in the courts and at the Federal Communications Commission.

Once it starts ... no one knows where the next round of mergers might stop. Some of the expected rule changes would make it theoretically possible for one CEO to run AOL Time Warner, NBC, Clear Channel radio and The New York Times.

Powell "is promoting the most radical view of media consolidation that any democracy has ever supported," former FCC chairman Reed Hundt says. "It's an experiment with the underpinnings of democracy. There isn't any consumer demand for this consolidation. Not a single person in America would say it's a good idea. It's exclusively driven by ideology and business interests."

The appeals court and the FCC will look at the mandate Congress included in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 for the agency to block any TV broadcaster from owning stations with a combined reach of more than 35% of all U.S. homes.

A bipartisan group of 14 members of Congress [wrote] a June 29 letter to Powell supporting the current limit. "We are committed to making sure that as the media industry evolves and consolidates, the voice of local broadcasters is not stifled or silenced," says the letter, whose signatories include Sens. Trent Lott ... Jesse Helms ... John Edwards ... Barbara Boxer...

"People as consumers are probably indifferent" to the changing media landscape, Hundt says. "For people as citizens, well, that's different."

I'll note that my previous entry was posted before this article came out...

I disagree with the concluding paragraph of this one:

Online, no line: That's the ticket -- 'Killer app' lets you buy it, print it [USA Today]

Like booking travel and trading stocks, buying tickets to movies and to sporting, theater and music events online has taken off, growing to some 30% of ticket giant Ticketmaster's business. Most of the USA's movie chains now offer the ability to purchase seats online, with some offering print-at-home service.

Ticketmaster's Pleasants says printable tickets are just the beginning. "I can see a future with paperless tickets, where you download the information into your cellphone and have the phone scanned when you enter the arena," he says. "People usually carry their cellphones with them, and they'd rather pull them out than fumble with a piece of paper."

People have been 'fumbling with pieces of paper' for centuries now, and it seems to hold up pretty well as a solution: if you can't go to an event, you can give your tickets to a friend or sell them to an acquaintance... No one has to worry about whether they own (and bring) the proper device which accepts the right data format, they just have to remember where an important piece of cardstock is. I like going places where I don't have to carry my phone, myself...

If one could tie the ticket to a physical identifier (fingerprint? retinal scan?) so you wouldn't have to bring anything extra besides yourself, I could see that partially replacing paper tickets, but not completely (how do you give your ticket away?). I think paper tickets are a very good solution as they are.

Score one for index funds:

Experts' stock picks lag market -- Average return is down 22% [USA Today]

That's worse than the Nasdaq's 19% drop, the Standard & Poor's 500's 10% fall and the Dow's 5% dip. ... The mediocre performance from Wall Street's elite does little to bolster the confidence of investors seeking guidance.

Advice for not screwing up at your place of work:

'On the Job' steers workers around blunders [USA Today]

* Keep voice mail brief. "Even 10 extra seconds . . . is enough to be truly annoying."

* Know when to be quiet. "Young workers generally have more trouble knowing just when to be quiet. I am cautioning against the tendency, which is widespread, to talk for the sake of talking."

* Avoid becoming a high-maintenance employee who asks endless questions (in a pesky way), can't shrug off minor insults or asks for guidance every step of the way.

* Choose e-mail words carefully. You can't take them back.

The July 18 Macworld expo is supposed to bring a new iMac (probably not flat-screened, though) and possibly new professional desktop models, as well as new software and possibly other new hardware. If you're thinking about buying, I'd hold up for a couple of weeks...

This year's prime examples of intentionally-bad writing (many more available at the site):

  • Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, 2001 Results [SJSU]
    Winner: Detective
    The graphic crime-scene photo that stared up at Homicide Inspector Chuck Venturi from the center of his desk was not a pretty picture, though it could have been, Chuck mused, had it only been shot in soft focus with a shutter speed of 1/125 second at f 5.6 or so.
    -- Ms. Rephah Berg

    Winner: Children's Literature
    Terry the Tarantula and Wendy the Wasp were frolicking and cavorting together in the Flowery Meadow, (as they were the best of friends in all the Enchanted Forest of Miggly-Wompsly) when, all of a sudden, and with no warning whatsoever, Wendy accidentally stabbed Terry with her stinger, making her very sad for she knew that soon her poison would paralyze her friend and after a while her eggs would hatch inside him, and then her happy wriggling larva would slowly eat him alive, but Terry tried to smile and would have told her not to be sad as this was how the Circle of Life was continued, but he was in too much pain and, as I mentioned before, paralyzed.
    -- Delano Lopez

A cute little fairy tale:

  • The Princess Who Kicked Butt by Will Shetterly [, via Windowseat]
    Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a land ruled with the very best intentions, if not the very best results, by the King Who Saw Both Sides of Every Question and the Queen Who Cared for Everyone. When their first child was born, the Fairy Who Was Good with Names arrived at the castle in a cloud of smoke...

One of the men who wrote American Terrorist (which I haven't read, but now might) provides a post-mortem on the media bonanza he and his co-author experienced:

  • Inside the M______ news maelstrom, two reporters become a story by Dan Herbeck [Buffalo News]
    March 29 - [Diane] Sawyer's one-hour special airs on ABC, but it focuses on M______'s most hurtful comments about the bomb victims, and those comments ignite a firestorm of controversy. Unfortunately, much of the public's anger is directed at the messengers, Lou and me. The book will not be out for five more days, but people who haven't read it are accusing us of glorifying M_______.

    March 31 - ...When our publisher asks a Wal-Mart official to just read the book before making this decision final, Wal-Mart refuses. Lou and I decide it's kind of cool, in a way, to be banned from Wal-Mart, but it also hurts a lot to be prejudged.

    April 3 - ...[Geraldo] Rivera tells America that our book is a solid piece of journalism, and he urges his viewers to read it. Paul Heath, one of the bombing survivors, comes on the show and thanks us for writing the book. This is the first support we've had after days of bashing, and we're really gratified. // During a commercial break, Rivera tells us, "If you guys were on yesterday, I would have been bashing you, too. But I've read your book, and that turned my opinion around."

    April 10 - I do a talk show with a very outspoken radio host in Los Angeles. He tells me he doesn't agree with my stance against the death penalty. I tell him I once witnessed an execution, and didn't much enjoy it. "For me," he fires back, "seeing one of these animals put down would be better than going to Disney Land!"

Quite the admission of basic sloppiness by Rivera there.

Good advice, applicable to many things:

  • Ask Tog: How to Deliver a Report Without Getting Lynched [Ask Tog]
    Apple, at one time, brought in an outside usability consulting firm to look over our shoulders. They delivered a report directly to the executive staff that was in tone very much like the one discussed above [i.e. needlessly harsh]. Work in design all but ceased at Apple for the next couple of months while everyone in the HCI community exploded with hurt and rage.

    The job of a usability professional or interaction designer is to be an integral and helpful part of the process. Even if you are called in as an outside consultant -- and even more so if you have taken it upon yourself to volunteer a review -- you must be exquisitely sensitive to the feelings of your most important audience, those who will actually change the product or service you are reviewing. If they are in any way connected with the work that has gone before, even through acquaintanceship with the old team, they will resent any suggestion that the original product was screwed up. If they resent it, they will make you pay.

Actors on The West Wing are apparently paid wildly varying amounts... so four of them are banding together and skipping script readings [Entertainment Tonight] to get more bargaining power.

It seems to me that Leo, C.J., Josh and Toby should be paid at least as much as Sam...

When did the PC cease to be a productivity tool and instead become a vehicle for selling me more crap?
-- Paul Victor Novarese, at Hack the Planet

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Last modified on 1/25/01; 10:44:43 AM Eastern 
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