Monday, June 21, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Instant analysis of the President’s oval office speech on the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was a shotgun attempt at journalism. They missed their mark.
Due to a meeting, I missed President Obama’s address to the nation last night. I arrived home to hear a harangue of criticism of the President for not being specific, for being too aloof, or for not laying out the “big picture”, whatever that is.
I just watched a recording of the speech, plus the same analysis that I heard last night. The analysts, while pontificating about the President’s weak points, themselves lack little understanding of the problems in the Gulf and how to deal with them, and this was MSNBC for goodness sakes! Further, MSNBC lacks understanding of what an oval office speech is supposed to be about and what it might accomplish if it is effective.
Interestingly, none of the national newspapers or the Austin American-Statesman immediately leaped on the alleged short-comings of the President’s speech. Sure, they dutifully reported the loyal opposition’s, er, opposition. Even the usual suspects, the columnists, took time for a more studied response.
Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post isn’t a shill for the administration. “Obama's overall message was simple: BP will pay -- and pay dearly,” Cillizza wrote in the “Morning Fix. “’We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused,’ Obama said at one point. Later, Obama said that he would tell BP chief executive Tony Hayward in their planned meeting Wednesday that the company must ‘set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness.’”
This morning (Wednesday, June 16, 2010), BP announced it will set aside $20-billion to pay victims. Analysts just Tuesday night questioned such a fund would ever happen.
The problem is that their interpretations raise suspicions and dilutes any support for the President. I’m not saying that they should be cheerleaders. No. They should offer perspective rather than rants, playing to the fears of those who may be watching and listening.
The American people have come to expect instant results, instant gratification. In this case, it's not possible, but the American people are impatient. With the BP well blow-out, we don’t have time for patience. More and more environmental damage is being done daily.
Part of the problem is prevention. Other administrations gave the OK to deep water drilling. Yesterday, the oil companies admitted that they were able to drill, but they did not know how to clean up the mess if something like this happened. It should have never happened, because they should never have been there. True, Obama recently approved limited drilling too, as he acknowledged in his speech. The drilling decision and its timing were ill-advised and unfortunate. That would have been valid criticism from the pundits.
I don't have any inside knowledge. I have been part of a presidential campaign, however. I believe there have been high-level meetings and discussions about how to deal with the blow-out from the beginning. In those meetings they found out what we heard from the oil companies yesterday. BP did start work on the one thing, the only thing that will work, drilling relief wells almost immediately. All other strategies--plans B, C, D and on have had limited success.
This is a battle no president can win, Democrat or Republican, experienced or inexperienced, because there is no immediate solution. The oil keeps flowing, the environmental disaster widens, people become angrier, and that anger has to be directed somewhere. So, Obama is beginning to take the heat, although a Gallup poll released Tuesday puts 75-percent of the blame on BP.
The network pundits say people want the President to be more passionate. Well, that's just not his way. He is deliberate. So, he's being blamed for being deliberate. I cannot believe, however, that he's been simply pacing back and forth in the oval office. He's been doing what he can, but there is so little that he can do.
He can call the CEO of BP, but the CEO of BP doesn't have a plan either. He can call out the Coast Guard and the National Guard, but they may not know what to do either. This has never happened before.
So, he is putting pressure on BP. He is. So, in the meantime, scientists and engineers for both the US government and BP are trying to come up with a "silver bullet" that might lead to instant results and instant gratification.
Oh yeah, as President Obama mentioned, there are also wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, recovery from recession, and not a few other things going on too.
Some will read this and conclude instantly that I’m just trying to pump up support for President Obama. No, this is a critique of what I saw on MSNBC—their hot rhetoric that they call analysis.
© Jim McNabb, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The Austin American-Statesman is part of a new online auction called boocoo.com. It is a consortium of some 300 other newspapers nationwide and Ranger Data Technologies. Its purpose? To attack Ebay and combat Craig’s List.
Boocoo.com was supposed to go live June 14, but it is still “under construction” and available “on a restricted basis,” according to the site. The national launch is June 21, 2010.
“The real significance in this effort is the Statesman and newspapers nationwide are banding together to strike back at eBay who has abandoned the auction format in favor of ‘buy it now’ and virtual store fronts; most items are sold for close to retail,” says Michael Vivio, American-Statesman publisher. “If you look at eBay today you will hardly find private parties selling stuff to one another. Craigslist is vulnerable because of the high number of scam ads and spam. This will be an alternative.”
Once upon a time, not that long ago, the Austin American-Statesman’s classified advertising section was robust, filling page after page with category after category of stuff for sale. Now, it’s just a post-it not for what it used to be. Vivio said that he could not say how much classified advertising has been lost at the Statesman, but, he says, that’s not the point. “Merchandise was never a big revenue item, but it did attract eyeballs. This volume has moved to Craigslist and to sites like eBay and Autotrader.
The newspapers ads migrated to the web too, putting its employment ads into the hands of Yahoo’s “Hot Jobs” and sending many of its auto ads to “AutoTrader”.
The newspaper still offers free online ads if one wants to sell just one item. It’ll run seven days for free. Meantime, Craig’s List free ads are posted until you pull them down.
Similarly, “Microsoft and Google are betting that free classifieds will bring millions of people to their websites who then can be targeted for paid advertising,” according to CBS news (June 25, 2010). “Classified ad consultant Peter Zollman says to stay in business, newspapers that have lost hundreds of millions to craigslist must go online,” the report concluded.
“Print classified advertising revenue declined 70-percent in the last decade, from $19.6 billion in 2000 to an estimated $6-billion in 2009 according to Rick Edmonds, a media analysis for the Poynter Institute, a journalism and media think tank.
Web sites like www.reinventingclassifieds.com urge newspapers to think outside the box, and that is precisely what the American-Statesman appears to be doing.
“Boocoo.com was designed in part to regain revenue lost to online classified advertising and auction sites while giving consumers a secure and competitive alternative rich in local content,” said George Willard Sr., Chairman, CEO and Founder of Ranger Data Technologies. The eleven-year-old Royal Oak, Michigan-based company founded by the former newspaper publisher is best known for its classified advertising software systems.
“The Boocoo business model is based upon the licensing of ZIP codes to the media partners who will have exclusive rights to split transactional fees generated by the auction site. If the buyer and seller are from different ZIP codes, the media partners will share the fee. If they are both from the same ZIP code, the partner retains the entire share. There are plans to license all 29,735 ZIP codes in the country; already more than 20 percent have been licensed,” according to the AA/S release.
“Subscribers and viewers will receive a user name and password that will allow access and waive transaction fees for a week prior to the June 21 national launch when fees will be waived for all consumers for a minimum of two weeks,” the news release says.
“Listing fees range from 20-cents for items priced at $9.99 or less to $1.60 for items priced $200 and above. Boocoo charges sellers six percent of the final price, up to the first $1,000,” according to the American-Statesman.
Boocoo takes on eBay. Hmmmm. Boocoo who? It’s going to take more than an eight-column-inch story in the newspaper to launch this concept.
© Jim McNabb, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
The Horns aren’t going to the College World Series, but one Austin, Texas station is ramping-up its sports department, bucking the trends at that their local competitors and many other stations nationwide.
Yes, sports coverage has been front page and first segment material for the past week as we watch what may be the end of the Big 12 Conference. It's all about TV money, but that's for another post. The point is this: In Austin right now, sports is news.
So, KEYE TV (CBS) is adding another anchor/reporter to “Texas Sports Nation”. Adam Winkler, most recently from KWTX-TV (CBS) in Waco, is joining the sports department at KEYE June 19, 2010. Winkler is no stranger to the Austin area. He earned his Communications Studies degree at Southwestern University in Georgetown.
Winkler says he played baseball, but realized early on that TV sports was where he belonged. Although Southwestern didn’t offer a specific TV degree, he used internships to gain knowledge of the business.
Winkler seems to make KEYE’s sports department the largest in the market. Bob Ballou is sports director. UT grad Courtney Timmons is his side-kick. Anthony Geronimo is their sports producer. He also shoots video and writes. Further, there is a dedicated sports photographer with the rest of the photography staff pitching in when needed.
“We realized how important the Longhorns are to people in our viewing area,” says Suzanne Black, KEYE news director. “We’ve been ramping up, and last weekend we re-launched “Texas Sports Nation” with new graphics and a new set. Adding Adam to the team will allow them to cover more angles.”
This is not to say that other Austin television stations don’t have adequate staffs. KXAN-TV (NBC) for example has three sports anchors and their chief photographer is also the sports photographer. Looking at local web sites, staffing at the other stations is much the same, but KEYE may be putting a greater emphasis on sports.
Cranking up sports is counter to trends locally and across the nation. Many stations have been cutting back on sports staffing and coverage. Local stations will limit sports coverage to two and a half minutes during the local newscast.
“Literature suggests that many stations are eliminating or otherwise revising the sports segment in response to industry conditions,” says the Sports Journal. Why? Ratings. "Sports is extremely polarizing," said television news consultant Brent Magid. "The majority can either take it or leave it, or despise it" (Greppi, 2002).
“Local TV stations now give more priority to weathercasts,” said Jim Williams of the Washington Examiner in 2009. His recent study found weather news got almost three times the amount of time on local newscasts than sportscasts.
"Sports anchors are becoming dinosaurs," Williams said. The local TV news "stars" are now the weather people. Women, particularly those in the age 18-49 demographic, are the main viewers of newscasts and they want weather, features and consumer news. Sports? Not so important. —PressBox, Baltimore Sports, October, 2009.
So, while these surveys indicate that only one third of the audience cares about sports, 72-percent want to see the weather. What’s killing sports, according to the egg-heads? The Internet and ESPN, of course.
But this is Austin, Texas. Things are different here. At least, that’s what KEYE is betting. With the possible dissolution of the Big 12, plus all the other local sports, “Texas Sports Nation” should be able to fill its time slot. Now, will it draw an audience?
One other note: KEYE TV “We are Austin” News welcomed a new reporter this past week. Julie Musgrave joined the staff from their sister Nextar station in Lubbock.
© Jim McNabb, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
I was arrested by a statement said by a candidate for the Austin School District Board of Trustees regarding the race for this nonpartisan position.
“I think what’s happened is, through some partisan electronic media, it’s become more partisan,” said Julie Cowan in the Austin American-Statesman, June 10, 2010. It’s the now tried and true tactic, when you are on the defensive, attack the media. After all, it’s the media’s fault anyway. Right? Ms. Cowan had just finished debating her opponent Tamala Barksdale on a local radio station, a form of electronic media.
The early vote for this runoff is tiny, worse than the 2 ½ % turnout for the May election. Mainstream media coverage of this important race barely scratched the surface of voters’ awareness. Now, in the final days leading up to the vote Saturday, May 12th, the race is getting some attention, but according to Ms. Cowan, the problem is the partisan electronic media.
Although the school board is nonpartisan, Ms. Barksdale makes no secret of the fact that she is a Democrat. She says it in her literature. It is no secret. In fact, it is refreshing to know up front about a candidate’s politics. Ms. Cowan does not talk about her political leanings. She did work for a Republican who was a state representative at the time.
I should also mention early on that I hosted an event for Barksdale at my home, and I am a Democratic Party block captain. (It is so liberating to be able to have unabashed politics now that I am no longer part of the mainstream media.) Does that make me part of a downtown political machine?
Most all working reporters and news managers do vote. Some do not vote in primaries, because they say it reveals their party preference. Since one can vote in either primary without being a member of that party, I voted in the primaries. I argue that it deprives me of a Constitutional right when often races are decided at the primary level.
Just because a journalist votes doesn’t mean a journalist cannot be professional and, therefore, balanced and objective.
Certainly, there are “partisan” people in electronic media and print media at the national level, but I challenge Cowan to name the local electronic media who have been making the school board race more partisan. It rarely happens at the local level. Listeners and viewers are so close to their audiences, that it could cost journalists advertisers and even their jobs if they were less than professional. In fact, it has happened.
Lately, candidates on the defensive when asked a tough question, they shoot back, “That’s a ‘gotcha question’, and I refuse to go there.” Then, they return to their prepared “talking points”. I’m sorry. It’s not a “gotcha question”. The simple truth is that it got you, and it might not be in the candidate’s best interest to answer it truthfully and fully.
So, once again, even at the school board level, it’s the media’s fault, specifically the electronic media. Shoot the messenger. The interesting thing about the broadcast or electronic media is that most of a candidate’s machinations are recorded. “The Camera Never Blinks”, was a book by Dan Rather, but of course he too was biased. Right?
© Jim McNabb, 2010