Category Archives: media

Frankenstein’s Monster

Are newspapers and other online publications discovering that they hate comments? Might be.

The latest to abandon comments is The Week, which issued a long explanation of their policy change. It included this passage:

There was a time — not so long ago! — when the comments sections of news and opinion sites were not only the best place to host these conversations, they were the only place. That is no longer the case. Too often, the comments sections of news sites are hijacked by a small group of pseudonymous commenters who replace smart, thoughtful dialogue with vitriolic personal insults and rote exchanges of partisan acrimony.

Yeah, no kidding.

Quite coincidentally, on the same day I spotted this blog comment exchange in the Capital Region’s foremost purveyor of reader comments, the Times Union:

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That’s really telling: even Mike Huber, the guy who created the paper’s blog section and commenting community, now pines for the days when readers had to send a letter. Bravo, indeed.

Two Sizes Too Small

First, let me say this: I love the Grinch. The Dr. Seuss book is magical — a perfect Christmas story — and the 1966 cartoon version is one of the greatest and most successful adaptations of a literary work for TV or film ever. Seriously.

Because I love the Grinch, I hate Ron Howard’s revolting film version of the story. It’s a hideous mess and if there were a way I could destroy every copy of the movie I could find, I would do it. Yes, I know that sounds a tad… extreme, but what can I say?

And because I love the Grinch, seeing him mischaracterized in the media troubles me — and every December, writers trot out Grinch as their description for every holiday evildoer. I’ve explained before (ad nauseam) that this is inaccurate because the Grinch returned everything he stole back to Whoville.

Bear with me. When would you describe a thief as being like Robin Hood? Only if he turned over his booty to the poor — not if he kept the loot. Similarly, without giving back, one can not be like the Grinch.

Nevertheless, every December the Grinch gets a bad rap. A few examples:

Woman Stealing Wreaths Called “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”

Grinch Steals Salvation Army Kettle in Oak Lawn

The Grinch Who Stole Jesus

Real-Life ‘Grinch’ Committing Christmas-Related Crimes

‘Grinch’ Arrested for Stealing Readstown’s Christmas Tree

As you might suspect, I could go on all day.

So how can you help? The next time you see Grinch misused in a news story, leave a friendly comment pointing out the error. And be nice! It’s Christmas — and you wouldn’t want to be inappropriately compared to Scrooge.

A Brief Conversation with the Dogs

Scarlett and Maddy

Scarlett: Hey, you see that Cesar Millan is dead?

Rob: No, that was an internet hoax…

Maddy: I hate that jerk! He’s so mean. What’s a hoax?

Scarlett: Yeah, I read about it on Twitter and posted it to Facebook.

Rob: Well, it’s not true. Wait… you have Twitter and Facebook?

Scarlett: No, of course not, I’m a dog, silly. I used your account. You don’t mind, do you?

Rob: Well, actually…

Scarlett: It said he had a heart attack. Serves him right.

Maddy: Jerk!

Rob: Hold up… you really should check things like that before sharing them on Facebook…

Scarlett: Oh, whatever. So he’s not dead?

Rob: Not dead.

Maddy: Booo!

Rob: And don’t post things to my Facebook account when I’m at work.

Scarlett: Well, try logging off for a change. Sheesh… let’s go for a walk.

A Nation Divided

Americans were so outraged with the Ferguson grand jury decision that many of them actually tweeted about it.

If only we’d had Twitter during the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement. Who knows what would have been possible with so many people sitting on their couches blurting out their opinions to nobody in particular.

True Crime

It’s been ten years since Christopher Porco attacked his parents with an ax, leaving his father dead and mother horribly maimed. It doesn’t surprise me that the Times Union would commemorate the brutal murder with a slide show of the “Unforgettable Crimes of the Capital Region,” but this Facebook post seemed strange.

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Seriously? Maybe “some crimes remain in our psyche” because you celebrate their anniversary with a slide show. I’m sure it got lots of clicks.

“The Ghost of Christmas Ass”

I sometimes like to share things I like from the ad world, and I found this Christmas spot particularly inspiring. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

I was not previously aware of Poo-Pourri — and this is not their first off kilter video — but you can be certain that I’ll pick it up for the house. I may even bring some to work for those people who insist on shi**ing during the work day.

What Were They Thinking?

Our public radio station, WAMC, has a pretty serious commitment to local news. They do a good job covering serious topics — so when I heard the story, College Community Shaken by Student Death it really got my attention. The piece was about the tragic passing of UAlbany student Trevor Duffy. You can read or listen to the story here. A couple of thoughts:

I can excuse that the headline has nothing to do with what’s in the story — and that the reporter, Dave Lucas, didn’t bother talking to a single student or UAlbany staff member.

It’s also understandable that he would rely so heavily on information from other media, referencing stories from WNYT, Time Warner and “some reports” as his source of quotes and points of fact.

And the story’s tortured attempt to paint this as a town and gown issue, summoning up the Kegs ‘n’ Eggs riot of 2011? I don’t agree with the premise, but it’s a harmless idea.

But what’s truly atrocious — in fact, one of the most revolting things I’ve seen recently — is how the reporter cites several items from “an account on Twitter that appears to be Duffy’s.” He uses these tweets, presented without any legitimate context, to try making a point about the student’s state of mind. That’s just downright sleazy.

Look, I understand that sometimes you need to throw something together. Every story isn’t going to be a finely cut gem — but where are the editors who are supposed to keep crap like that off the air? That’s a mystery.

Arms Race

Some people believe that crossing your arms is a sign of resistance and defensiveness. I think it’s a sign of JOURNALISM!

The Times Union has started highlighting some of their key talent like Chris Churchill, Jordan Carleo-Evangelist and Jennifer Gish — reporters who have clearly earned the right to stand with their arms crossed.

tuarms

I’ve done plenty of shoots, and the conversation usually goes like this:

Talent: What should I do with my hands?

Producer or art director: Ummmmm… I don’t know. How about you cross your arms.

The truth is that it always looks pretty good — unless you do it every single time you shoot a picture. Then the power stance starts losing its power.

Vox Populi

So, Times Union, how’s that comment thing working out for you?

When the paper introduced commenting on news stories late 2013, I wondered if it would elevate the conversation above the untreated waste often found in the blog comments.

I wasn’t alone. When the comment system was launched, Paul Block, the TU’s online executive producer, said, “Let’s hope for some positive discourse on our stories in the days to come.”

That may have been asking for too much.

For example, let’s look at a recent story about a young man subdued by taser wielding cops. Here’s a sampling of the positive discourse:

-Commenters describe the young man as stupid, a twit, and a freak.

-One comment alleges that the young man has a “serious drug problem” and has been arrested before on “numerous” charges. He also claims that the tazee soiled his pants.

-Readers assert that the young man’s father is stupid, acted to “get him out of trouble,” and that he “needs mental help.”

-There are two uses of the word scumbag — and one of the plural, scumbags.

And that was only in a handful of comments.

Look, you can judge for yourself whether reader comments add anything to online content. Some papers are very strict about what gets posted and others either don’t care or simply don’t have enough warm bodies to keep after this stuff.

It used to be if people wanted to write a comment on a story they had to mail a letter to the paper. And maybe we were all better off.