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Monday, February 4 2013

Sportswriters - out of touch with TV

I woke up this morning to read several columns skewering CBS for not providing adequate entertainment during the Super Bowl blackout. It seems that all of the columnists tried to offer helpful suggestions for what CBS should do the next time the power goes out during the Super Bowl.

I'll run through several of those suggestions and explain why those are impossible at worst, or unhelpful at best.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: But never has the vapidity of NFL commentators been more painfully in evidence. It is amazing, in the year 2013, these are the people who are paid to talk live on television. That's their job. Professionally.
They are paid to talk live on television in the same way that Diane Sawyer is paid to talk live on television. Both "The NFL Today" team and Sawyer are mostly reading from a teleprompter, with a couple of bad jokes ad-libbed into the broadcast. You put Diane Sawyer in a scene where she has to run a 30-minute broadcast off the cuff, and the vapidity points will very quickly add up.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason just sort of mumbled, confused, which led, lord help me, Shannon Sharpe to fill the void.
Boomer Esiason was not on TV during the blackout. He was seven floors above, sharing a broadcast booth with Kevin Harlan on Dial Global Sports.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: I couldn't help but wonder how much better NBC or ESPN would have been with this. They would have at least had a reporter or two hanging around. I guarantee you Michele Tafoya or Sal Paolantonio have at least some information for us there. I guarantee you, they wouldn't have. An honest NFL official would have said "I don't know anything." A slightly more loquacious official would have blamed the utility for cutting off the SuperDome's power. In reality, the problem was a breaker inside the SuperDome, meaning the information Solomon Wilcots would have been sharing would have been wrong.
And, what's more, even though Michele Tafoya and SalPal have "experience" on NFL sidelines, their experience is only as deep as being fed information from a team spokesperson on injuries, and whatever they can observe from their reserved area on the sideline.


You may remember something similar happened on a Monday Night Football game at Candlestick Park earlier this NFL season. Stuart Scott and the rest of the ESPN "MNF" crew were there, and the time-filling was no less inane. There was no explanation for what happened to the power, although ESPN did have video of an explosion from their blimp that they kept showing, and speculating about. Eventually, ESPN did get an estimate of how long the delay would be out of Candlestick Park officials (possibly by the Public Address system). Other than that, they didn't seem to seek any comment or hold the NFL's feet to the fire.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: CBS, in an unforeseeable circumstance that you sort of nevertheless have to have a backup plan for (this being the Super Bowl and all), was left without its pants on the biggest sports day of the year.
CBS did have a back-up plan. They had a generator installed to run their equipment (most of it, at least). They had their studio crew on site. The only thing they didn't have on reserve was something to talk about!

Further, the Super Bowl, that happens once every three years, is a special case. During the regular season, CBS and FOX have the ultimate. If there were to be some kind of lengthy delay in one game, they simply switch their stations to another game. No need to fill 30 minutes without any advance warning. Because the Super Bowl is the only game happening, and the final game of the season, there is extremely little that you can talk about other than the mechanics of the game itself.

Finished with Mr. Leitch.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News: There is a major screwup and the NFL won’t put someone on the air — and CBS won’t push the league — to try to explain what’s going on? That’s mind-boggling.
No, that's what billions of dollars will do. CBS has no incentive to do anything that might upset Roger Goodell, whose enterprise makes CBS billions more than it pays back to the NFL.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News: Why not take a camera and microphone on the sidelines for an interview [with one of the players who was stretching on the field?
A: The NFL explicitly forbids broadcasters from interviewing players a certain number of hours before, or during, a game.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News: At one point, CBS had a shot of John Harbaugh screaming at some suit who we assumed worked for the NFL (we take that grand leap because CBS never identified who the gentleman was). Why not stick a microphone in Harbaugh’s face and ask him why he was angry?
A: See above. Coaches are also off-limits. I'm a little surprised that the gentleman from the League wasn't identified, although Dial Global Sports did identify him as "just a messenger."

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News CBS’ inability to report the news, dig into all angles of the story, is a direct result of how the NFL controls the media. If normal coverage is limited and restricted, it stands to reason that league suits would try to black out all coverage of a Super Bowl blackout.
Hey look. Someone finally said something that is true.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News In the end, the league could have looked even worse -- If CBS had done its job.
This, I truly do not understand. CBS's job is to make the NFL look bad? Moreover, how could the NFL be made to look worse than having its Super Bowl interrupted by 30 minutes of darkness in New Orleans? It seems to me that the reality of the situation, that a breaker in a maintenance room somewhere in the Super Dome opened, makes the NFL look less bad.

I'll quickly summarize my opinions:
1) CBS did the only thing it could with its studio team. It was not good TV, but they had no alternative.
2) The NFL, and most other sports leagues, have quite a bit of leverage over how their league is covered. You may remember some commentators thought the NFL would somehow punish ESPN for its criticism of the TOUCHCEPTION (a.k.a. "Fail Mary") between Seattle and Green Bay this year. That doesn't seem to have happened, but the threat is a big money concern to the media companies that cover the NFL.

Saturday, December 15 2012

Shameful coverage of Newtown shootings

Before I start, I should state that I of course feel badly for the Newtown community and especially for those who had friends and family in the school. I have nothing new to add to the piles of sympathy they have already received. I do, however, wish to point out that the media made things worse.

Starting about noon yesterday, reports started to filter in about a school shooting in Connecticut. So, let's review how this story would have worked in 1980, on the dawn of the cable news era:

- Shooting occurs. Local police schedule a press conference, which local newspaper, TV and radio reporters would dutifully attend to learn the "official" details.
- Afterwards, reporters look around the scene for people to offer their comments.

- After that, a 3 paragraph story moves on the AP wire. It would look something like this:

A lone gunman entered a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school on Friday morning and opened fire, injuring or killing dozens.  Few details are available at this time, but at a press conference, police chief (Name here) said the suspect was among the dead.  No motive had been determined.
(Name here) described the scene inside the school during the attack to the AP: "First hand account here."
Another witness at the scene said the suspect carried what appeared to be a machine gun.  Police believe the assailant drove to Newtown from his home in New Jersey, and are hoping to interview family.  They have not confirmed whether the suspect has a criminal past.

The TV stations would have some film of the press conference, the PM newspapers some stills of the school's exterior. No more information would likely come out until a second press conference late in the evening, but in time to make for longer stories in the morning papers, with several sources and maybe a hundred words of analysis.

Now, let's review what happened yesterday. Before I go on, I should note that I did not watch this unfold in real time. Most of the below information was gathered from meta-reporting.

Around noon ET, stories begin to appear about a school shooting in Connecticut with almost zero details. By 2pm ET, we think we know who the shooter is, and have a basic idea of how many casualties. Soon after that, we learn that the shooter's identity has been mistaken by the local police. The shooter had apparently taken his brother's ID with him.

I'd like to pause there and reflect. The name of the gunman was published in hundreds, nay, thousands of outlets worldwide - all because the police department didn't do their job post-facto.

Lesson for police spokesmen around the country: release no details until you're absolutely sure. Lesson for journalists around the country: being wrong just because everyone else was wrong isn't a good excuse.

President Obama schedules a statement for 3:15 ET, a lightning quick turn for the President of the United States.

In the middle, we get TV reporters trying to extract stories from 5 year-olds. This should never have been permitted. Not by the producers at the TV station, not by the parents of the kids, not by the photojournalists, and not by the reporters. Responsible journalism is supposed to be a part of the curriculum in journalism school, and this was something most bloggers wouldn't even fathom.

By about 4pm ET, the story is running out of steam, and the broadcast networks return to regular programming. Many local stations continue coverage during their 4pm local news. Reporters have had time to fan out across the country to find out why the local school is safer than the one in Newtown, and interview local experts on criminology and psychology.

At 6:30, the network newscasts take the air. Due to the short distance between New York and Newtown, all of the name anchors are there, and many of the newscasts are extended to one hour.

In prime time, coverage shifts to the cable networks. I couldn't bring myself to watch MSNBC or FOX News, but I can imagine the sort of things hosts on both networks were saying. I didn't really want to watch CNN either, but it was on at the gym. Here's what I saw: Piers Morgan interviewing two authors at the same time, one arguing for more gun control in the general population, and one arguing to repeal the ban on guns in schools.

Morgan all but physically attacked the pro-gun guy.

Morgan also had a former friend of the shooter (apparently last contact was 8 years ago!) and some psychologists. So, here's what you have, less than 12 hours after the shooting. You have authors hawking their books on CNN. You have psychologists and former friends psychoanalysing a suspect with whom they had nothing in common, also on CNN. You have Piers Morgan rah-rahing British laws on gun control, still on CNN.

For the 11pm news, my ABC affiliate, WEHT, spent their entire A-block on the shooting, despite ABC having just aired an hourlong 20/20 special live from Newtown. When it was time for sports, anchor Brad Byrd made some comment about how it must have been hard to cheer for a basketball team tonight in the wake of what happened in Connecticut.

The problems, as I see them with yesterday's media coverage:

- Too fast, too furious

Only in a 24 hour news cycle would the wrong shooter's name have been so widely disseminated. The time between the wrong name being reported and the right name being reported was about an hour. Also, the media moved much to quickly toward analysis.

- Too much

In a 24 hour news cycle, you must have 24 hours worth of content. And this story could not provide it on its own. There was no explosion to show on film over and over again. No one to turn into a hero. Very few eyewitnesses who were willing or able to provide their version of the story. Not much other than to watch the casualty count rise.

And so, despite consumer demand, CNN and the others would have put together better coverage by putting together less coverage. Maybe 15 minutes out of an hour. Throw out the authors, keep one psychologists, and most certainly do not try to equate 5 year-olds to college students.

- Too invasive

I've written a thousand words without even mentioning how offensive it must be to be a friend or relative of one of the victims, and receive an interview request in the first 12 hours. http://dailycaller.com/2012/12/15/abc-ny-times-reporters-go-full-on-vulture-tweeting-friends-family-of-connecticut-massacre-targets/

Just because the Daily Caller only caught a couple of these incidents, I bet every news organization was contacting these poor people. Fortunately, the young victims' names were not released at that time, but they are expected to come out today - giving yet another opportunity to pour on.

Sunday, August 12 2012

Support for NPR

Support for NPR comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.

You may have heard this line on your local NPR member station after news bulletins. Its not surprising, the arts and public radio have been linked for decades. When public radio first became common around the country, almost all of the stations ran classical music, except for the presentation of "All Things Considered" and later "Morning Edition."

Classical music is one of the major things the NEA funds, along with opera, theatre, folk art, and the visual arts.

The thing is, the classical music is disappearing, as are other "artsy" programs.

Locally, WNIN has just announced "next-gen WNIN," which relegates classical music to the late evening and overnight hours. Further, they are removing WHYY's extremely popular "Fresh Air" program, which often interviews actors, directors, dancers, authors, and other generally interesting people.

So too did a recent decision from WGBF in Boston to drop jazz to air news all night. And Vermont Public Radio. And WESA (nee WDUQ) in Pittsburgh. And Western Kentucky University's public radio network a couple of years ago.

I'm OK with local stations having the right to choose which programs they air, but maybe the National Endowment for the Arts should move its support elsewhere since NPR's member stations are choosing politics over art.

Wednesday, November 30 2011

RIP James Gilmore Jr.

James Gilmore headshotJames Gilmore Jr. himself was deceased nearly 11 years ago. But his company, Gilmore Enterprises lived on -- until today, when the sale of its final major asset closed.

It seemed to me like this was a good time to look back at a man who had fingers in many industries. By the time he was fifty-one, Gilmore had won a term as mayor of Kalamazoo, MI, purchased a string of car dealerships, operated numerous broadcasting outfits, helped run a family department store, and taken an Indianapolis 500 championship.

Continue reading...

Saturday, November 19 2011

End of NEWS25 Sports Channel

Just minutes ago, Mark McVicar said farewell for the final time on the NEWS 25 Sports Channel. As reported by Jacob Newkirk over the last few weeks, McVicar is among those losing their job shortly as Nexstar takes over operation of WEHT December 1, and today's Mater Dei/Guerin Catholic game was the final scheduled local broadcast before the channel shuts down.

During my time in college, I was able to work with several current and former staffers of the NEWS 25 Sports Channel, from McVicar himself to some of the producers, statisticians and camera operators.

I would take the opportunity to work with any of them again if it arose, and I hope everyone lands a position quickly.

Sunday, September 25 2011

Competition: When It Isn't Optimal

This evening the National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for a remote portion of the Evansville television market with approximately 8,000 people and a population density of 30 per square mile. The weather service warned for the possibility of a weak tornado, surely an EF0.

Two of the television stations in the market have the blanket policy that "whenever a tornado warning is issued for our DMA, we will carry continuous coverage."

Combine that with one of those two television stations carrying the Colts/Steelers game when that tornado warning is issued, and the first reaction is to look at the competition: if they don't cut in, we won't either and just hope nothing happens.

When that fails, it doesn't take long for some folks to be upset. Upset Football Fans

After about five minutes of a fill-in meteorologist fumbling, not knowing what to say other than explain how unlikely it is that there is anything damaging actually happening in a remote corner of the DMA and that he'd rather be watching football too. Meanwhile, the staff in the the control room rigs this up:

Picture-In-Picture Football

Let's back off for a moment and look at the big picture: who benefits from policies like this? Is it the public, or is it only insurance that the media outlets, who make big money on weather coverage, don't get egg on their face by missing even the tiniest event?

I'm not suggesting that these decisions be made based solely on what programming is on the air. I'm suggesting that a decision to insert a 60 second bulletin could have been made because of the lack of severity in this situation. Perhaps, in those 60 seconds, folks could have been directed to watch the competing station for full coverage.

Friday, July 29 2011

A Requiem for Integra Bank

Integra Bank is one of three victims of the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency this week.
Integra Bank Headquarters

The Integra Bank headquarters was bustling at dusk this evening as executives, regulators and rank-and-file employees prepared for a long working weekend

Integra was based a short distance from my home, and I held a relatively small amount of stock in the now-failed bank. I don't imagine a whole lot of people care about the fate of their bank, so long as the full faith and credit of the United States Government backs up their deposits. (Which appears to be about 3 more days)

The national news reports about the bank focus on it being the third-largest failure of the year, with assets of $2.2 billion and $1.9 billion in liabilities; the first collapse in Indiana since 2009 and only the second in the whole banking crisis. The national reports indicate how Old National and the FDIC are sharing the losses. But they're lacking the backstory.

When the banking crisis first hit U.S shores, we knew that Integra was in trouble. The bank was losing money before the front fell off the industry. Then Integra took millions of dollars in TARP. $83.5 million, in fact. I saw this number in 2008 and thought that no bank their size could possibly lose that much money, and felt that the company's stock was a relatively safe investment, especially at its price of around $1/share at the time. As time rolled on and Integra began selling banking branches and laying off employees, the investment seemed less and less safe. For about nine months, it has been apparent that a receiver would be appointed after a dismal fiscal 2010 where the company lost more then $9 per share.

From here on out, the future of Integra's 52 remaining bank branches are somewhat unclear. Old National Bank will take over the branches and rename them. It seems certain that some branches will be closed because the two banks most of their geographic footprint. It is too early in the game for Old National to know how they will pick which branches to close and which to save. For example, the combined company will have 23 branches and 71 ATMs with an Evansville address. In some areas, Old National and Integra are a few hundred yards separated; a clear redundancy. I also would expect some branches to be closed in smaller towns like Rockport and Mt. Vernon where both banks had a branch. I suspect Old National will probably keep nearly all of the Illinois and Kentucky branches open, because, although both banks already operate in the state, both have a very limited presence.

By the way, the photo in this entry was taken from the Old National Bank parking garage. You can see another building owned by Old National Bank at the left, in white. One thing that will clearly not get in the way is geography.

Monday, June 27 2011

Television Branding Suggestion

With WTVW losing its FOX affiliation this week, I humbly submit two branding concepts sure to increase viewership.:

NewsWatch7 Turn to 7

"Turn To 7" could even be supplemented with awesome jingles like this: Turn to 4

Nevermind that the two concepts are both based on the logo of two canceled CBS soap operas.

Monday, June 13 2011

CNN Debate Notes

John King: One of the worst debate moderators I've seen this decade. Partially to be blamed on the format with seven candidates competing to get the most face time in the two hour block. His frequent stumbles on questions frustrated me.

Debate Format: There were at least 10 different people who asked questions. That didn't make the job any easier for King. The number of commercial breaks seemed over-the-top, and the crowd in attendance should have been prohibited from distracting, time-consuming applause. The "this or that" questions also chewed time.

Ron Paul: As abrasive as ever, but he seemed to be the only candidate who gave a straight answer to every question.

Michelle Bachmann: Didn't always seem comfortable, but generally made a good impression on those who were not familiar with her.

Newt Gingrich: As I wrote on Twitter during the debate, Gingrich actually made a few good points. In particular, his response on the immigration question, that some middle-of-the road solution needs to be found. On the other hand, he probably made a gaffe when talking about "loyalty tests" for federal employees.

Tim Pawlenty: Pawlenty's biggest moment in the debate was unfortunately a loaded question. King asked which vice presidential candidate from 2008 was stronger: Biden or Palin. He went off on a rant of how Joe Biden was "always wrong", whatever that meant. His second biggest moment was the opportunity to lambaste former Gov. Mitt Romney on "Oh-Romney-Care." Pawlenty declined, backing away from his comments.

Mitt Romney: Romney had a pretty good night. There were no standout shining moments or gaffes. The other candidates mostly left him alone.

Rick Santorum: Another pretty boring performance.

Herman Cain: Seems to have cemented himself to sit in the 3% range with Ron Paul with today's performance. With his complete lack of political experience, he'd have to be twice as good as the other candidates to have a chance, and he's showing mediocrity and a few gaffes. His comments on Sharia law were just weird.

Thursday, December 9 2010

Producer - Talent confidentiality

Bob Lamey, longtime radio broadcaster for the Indianapolis Colts has been roundly criticized this week for some comments he made off the air last Sunday as the Colts entered their first three-game losing streak in years.

Kent Sterling's Opinions
What he said

I don't have any personal connection to Bob Lamey. Never spoken to him personally or anything. I've also never personally spoken to Kent Sterling, but I disagree with him soundly.

Let's say I'm the producer in question, and let's say that I'm not recording the game. But I do listen to the feed from the stadium during the commercial breaks, and I hear Lamey say that Manning ought to be benched, in favor of Curtis Painter, who looked laughably bad in the pre-season. It seems to me that Kent Sterling would instruct me to bottle that up and never tell anyone about it.

My journalistic senses tell me this story is far too juicy to pass up. I'm hearing the Colts #1 homer tell me that Manning should be benched. I'm pretty likely to at least tell some of my co-workers, my girlfriend, the guys at BW3's what he said.

Of course, in the absence of a recording, the name talent could deny, deny, deny and probably never face consequences. But I don't feel there should be implicit confidentiality just because two guys work together and one of them is famous. There might be some level of understanding if the talent is friendly but gaffe-prone (and in my opinion, Lamey is gaffe-prone even when he's on the air). There might be some level of understanding if the sporting team being broadcast is truly awful. But I can find no reason why Lamey has a legitimate complaint with the team, nor can I see a reason why his comments should have been kept private.

Now, the staff at 1070 the Fan in Indy might need to face some music, because, while I don't necessarily feel that the talent's ramblings should be kept confidential, they probably didn't need to make one of their fellow hosts (the Colts air on 1070) look stupid.

Sunday, October 24 2010

Opining on Public Media

I've been reading lots of people trashing NPR over its firing of Juan Williams the last few days. I'd like to join in, but make it a little more local.

Here in Evansville, I have access to WNIN-FM, and Western Kentucky Public Radio. The transmission sites are about ten miles apart. And the programming is mostly duplicative.

Here is a listing of programs that are identical between the two stations during the workweek midnight-4am: Classical Music (different classical music programming, but still classical music)
4am-9am: NPR Morning Edition
1pm-3pm: NPR Talk of the Nation
3pm-6pm: NPR All Things Considered
8pm-midnight: Classical Music (different classical music programs, but still classical music)
Further, both stations run "WHYY Fresh Air" at 11am and Noon, respectively.

To put it another way, during the 120 hours which comprise the typical work week, 60 hours are completely identical, word-for-word, and 100 hours are similarly themed (the 40 hours per week when both are running classical music plus the 60 identical hours).

I've always been bothered slightly by this, but I realized that there are almost no NPR stations which do not carry Morning Edition or ATC. When WNIN added Talk of the Nation for ten hours every week, I became a little more frustrated with the situation. After all, I can sit in my office with a portable radio and switch between the two services at will. I liked the ability to choose between TATN and classical music with Daniel Moore every day.

This sour grapes moment brought to you by Juan Williams.

Monday, October 18 2010

An Election Trend

One thing I've noticed this year is that no candidates are mentioning their own political party in their advertisements. I was watching the news after Sunday Night Football, and every ad during the last three commercial breaks was a political ad. Not one of them said I'm (name), a (party) running for (office) In fact, the only political party that was named was the Democratic party in a PAC spot that said "my Democratic opponent voted for a budget which would have bankrupted the state" (the opponent went unnamed).

Also, the tone of the ads was overwhelmingly negative.

The trend is not limited to television, though. I received pamphlets on my doorstep from candidates for local offices, and none of them mentioned a party. (All Republicans.) There are yard signs on my block, all of which give the candidate's name and the office which he or she is seeking -- but not their political party. Why? Do the consultants think that the labels Republican and Democrat are both damaged? If so, why is nobody running as a third party? The only race with a third party candidate is the Senate race, where the Libertarians have fielded Rebbecca Sink-Burris against Brad Ellsworth and Dan Coats.

And no, not even that spotlight race mentions party in its materials.

And by the way, what the hell is an "Aqua Buddha?" Does anybody else think Paul Conway's campaign manager was high when he approved that? And when was the last time a Democrat trashed a Republican on religion?

Monday, October 11 2010

New York Times writes on EverCookie; HTML5

(via Tony Beavers)

Sunday's New York Times did a piece on how HTML5 allows more information storage on your machine, profiling the EverCookie javascript that was created to stash data about you on your machine in ten different places.

The Times overview of EverCookie and HTML5 storage left out one important detail: standard HTTP cookies, and older, non-HTML5 technologies, can do much of the same thing. The only difference is that Amazon.com would no longer need to store your buying preferences on their servers, but they could opt to store them on your machine.

Because the HTTP cookie is already identifying you personally as a specific Amazon customer, the type of information that can be stored is the same. And because the information is stored on the Amazon servers, there is no way you could ever delete it.

One thing I do like about the article is its reference to browser security settings which are outdated in an HTML5 environment. Does "InPrivate" browsing in IE9 stop storage of cookies? Does it also stop the storage of HTML5 SQLite databases? How about read operations from such a database? Perhaps the better question is, does IE support this newfangled HTML5 at all? (I don't think so.)

The Times would be right about this, if the state of affairs that they were warning about was not already the established state.

Reference

Friday, September 17 2010

Local Election Coverage

WNIN and WNIN-FM are currently running a program about the upcoming election.

There are four members of the panel:

  • Dr. Robert Dion of the University of Evansville
  • Les Shively, a local attorney and Republican commentator
  • Pat Shoulders (occupation unknown), a Democrat
  • Mizell Stewart III, editor in chief of the Courier & Press

The program is a farce.

Callers asked questions like

  • Who is more friendly to 2nd-ammendment rights?
  • What are the differences in the qualifications between the two Congressional candidates?

They couldn't answer either one of them very well.

They (mostly the two commentators) have been playing political football about Congressman Brad Ellsworth and what he did and did not vote for.

Then Congressman Ellsworth called in, wanting to "correct" some inaccuracies. He got attacked by both Shively and Shoulders, for voting for the stimulus and "Obamacare" but being pro-gun.

Please, if you're going to go on radio and TV to talk politics, do some reading, conduct some interviews, or something. Be Prepared!

Monday, August 16 2010

LIN Media Experiment: Commenting with Facebook Credentials

This is slightly old, but I just became aware of it last evening.

In July, LIN Media rolled out a comment system based on Facebook Connect. WISHTV.com was one of the first adopters. This expanded their base of potential commentors from a few thousand to a million instantly.

And apparently it brought chaos. As blogged the following day: Whoopsie. How did this happen? Why did users not self-censor their thoughts to a level that most parents could live with?

I suggest there are a few elements:

  • An exceptional story. The shootings that are referenced in the links above are the same ones I commented on the day they took place, and while my blog post was not supportive of Indiana Black Expo for its history of violence, I did not descend into out and out racism. (Although that's a matter of opinion)
  • A new system. Regular comment-writers probably did not realize that their old stored credentials which showed only a username had been replaced by their new (and also stored) Facebook credentials. They were not expecting their name to be associated with their comments.
  • Racism Itself - It isn't always clear what is racist and what is not. I'm sure there are at least a few people who would say any condemnation of Indiana Black Expo is racist.

Publishing on the Internet with one's real name is still a relatively new idea. Based on the responses to Jason's original blog post, a number of people remain uncomfortable with it (or at the very least, uncomfortable with Facebook).

It would be an interesting experiment. If everyone published under their real name, people with obscure names would seem to be at a disadvantage. People searching for "Chris Smith" become increasingly unlikely to find the right Chris Smith.

Monday, August 2 2010

Bias in the past

Bernie Goldberg wrote a book called "Bias" some years ago after retiring from CBS News.

But about the time that Goldberg was born, the press had bias too. But there was one significant difference. Competition.

I was looking at an old newspaper (from the early 20s). The masthead said:

Reliably Republican in Politics

This was a small-town paper in the days when telephones were rare. It was published only once a week. (The particular issue I was reading described a train derailment.)

And, in the 1920s, this small town had two newspapers. One leaned left and the other right. They consolidated in the 60s.

Why can't FOX News drop the "fair and balanced" tag to say something more accurate? "We're redder than MSNBC" would be a start. I'm not one of the hippy-dippy FOX News haters, but the slogan has always grated on me, especially after I read "Bias" upon its release nearly ten years ago.

How can you object to bias if you're warned about it?

Friday, July 23 2010

MSM Does it Again

If you're looking for inaccuracies in technology reporting from the MainStream Media (MSM), I suggest you read the BBC's report on vBulletin.

Let's begin at the first paragraph.

(T)o collect reams of personal data.

I don't know about the average forum user, but I don't have much personal data on online forums. Email address would be about it on most boards, sometimes I'd add a date of birth or real name if it were required.

Paragraph 2:

(A)llows anyone to easily access the main administrator username and password for a site.

This is not strictly the case, and it is misleading to boot. Yes, some web hosts make you use a single username and password pair for the control panel, FTP, and any MySQL databases linked to your account. These are few and far between in the 2010 Internet (although I used one such host as late as 2008). So it _could_ be the "main administrator" revealed to the attacker, but likely not. Most web hosts now require setting up separate usernames for databases and FTP accounts and so forth. Moreover, this sentence has been misinterpreted to mean the vBulletin administrator account. It is not, and vBulletin accounts should not be hijacked from this attack. '1

Paragraph 3:

This would also allow hackers to access data, such as e-mail addresses, and edit the site at will.

Not true unless the "main administrator" conditions discussed above were true.

Paragraph 11:

vBulletin is software that is used to power the vast majority of internet forums and discussion boards on the web.

"Vast majority" is a vast overstatement. That would imply upwards of 90% in my mind, and there's no way vBulletin has that many million customers.

As a more general kind of statement, this article saddens me. You never want a technology story like this in the MSM. Even if all publicity is good publicity, you're still upsetting the clients already in existence.

'1: I am not aware of the sort of password hashing vBulletin uses. It could be possible to find a collision or what have you depending on this bit of information.

Monday, July 19 2010

The Christmas Shoes

I had the regrettable experience of learning about the song "The Christmas Shoes" this past Christmas. Some radio DJ had the gall to play it two nights in a row on her request show.

Well, today I was reminded that its really just a Christmas bastardization of C. W. McCall's much less sappy "Roses For Mama".

And I'll probably listen to it again come December.

Sunday, July 18 2010

Indiana Black Expo Strikes Again

Tonight, Indianapolis Metro Police report eight people have been shot near the Indiana Convention Center. The event which has been going on all week is the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration.

Now, if you look at the crime statistics for the downtown Indianapolis area, you'll find they are very low. Let me define "downtown Indianapolis" as the area between West and East streets and the North and South splits of I-65/I-70.

Looking at the data in the last 90 days, there were 110 "crimes against persons" reported in the area. There were six cases of aggravated assault and three rapes reported. The vast majority of the reports (estimate 80%) filed by IMPD for the previous 90 days were for unaggravated assault.

Eight shootings is unheard of.

There is historical precedent, though, for a spike in violent crime the week of Black Expo. The 2007 expo saw shots fired into the air, but no one injured. People were shot in 2006. Fatal shootings were recorded twice in the 1990s, and Mike Tyson began his trek to infamy by raping a woman, also in the 90s.

Its so unfortunate that the event has been tarnished so many times. The Summer Celebration itself is a very good thing for the community. The security concerns outside the expo are puzzling to me. There is always a heavy police presence, yet incidents like this continue to happen.

What more can the city of Indianapolis and IBE do?

Saturday, July 17 2010

The People Who Like to Hear Themselves Speak

Some people like to hear themselves speak.

Traditionally, these are radio people. So much so that the "puking DJ" has become a staple of every-day conversation.

But the question entered my mind: Does George Clooney like to hear himself talk? He does essentially the same thing as the DJ, just in a more solemn and believable way. They both (theoretically, at least) earn fans when they nail their parts.

Why would Clooney (or any other actor of any serious cachet) not like to hear himself speak?

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