Category Archives: media

The People’s Choice

Here’s something interesting: the Times Union has dropped the media category from its annual Best of the Capital Region readers poll.

So what, say most of you — but at local media outlets, winning in the Times Union Best Of — or certainly, Metroland’s annual  poll — was always a big deal. Being named the best is a point of pride, regardless of who’s number one in the ratings.

Lord knows these polls are not scientific, and in recent years, there have been allegations that some winners used social media to unfairly sway the voting. Is that really unfair, trying to win a popularity contest by encouraging your friends to vote? That’s called being popular.

It’s anybody’s guess why the media category was dropped. This whole poll thing does sound like a lot of work, and it could simply be about newsroom resources.

In the interest of full disclosure, my old blog, Albany Eye, won for best local blog years ago. Looking back at my career, I would have been way better off being best local plumber than best local blogger.

Fake Take

Oh, fake news. It’s all the thing these days — but it’s nothing new for people to believe anything they read.

Americans have been gullible for a long time, and 100 years ago, journalist H.L. Mencken put it to the test with a story titled, A Neglected Anniversay. Mencken concocted a history of the bathtub in America, filling it (the story, not the bathtub) with fake facts that to readers seemed perfectly reasonable. The story was so successful that it was widely cited for years afterward.

You can excuse the American public in 1917 for not checking its facts — indeed, for most of the 20th century, research meant going to the library or cracking open the home encyclopedias.

Today, checking facts is easy. It only takes a moment to figure out if a story you see on Facebook is real, with a bit of Googling or a visit to Snopes.com.  By the way, Snopes says there are so many fake stories out there that they’re having trouble keeping up.

But this isn’t really about the truth. People who read something they want to believe aren’t going spend time figuring out if it’s true or not. You probably have a few of them on you Facebook feed — and the only truth they care about is the one in their head.

When Black Friday Comes

I’m not a shopper, so the whole Black Friday thing makes me want to puke. But for deal hunters, Friday is the Super Bowl of buying and many wild-eyed shoppers will be clutching the gigantic Thursday Times Union.

Newspaper circulars remain an effective way to advertise, so Thursday’s five-pound edition must be a real money maker. The paper has taken to flogging the hell out of the Black Friday special edition, even heavily promoting its release as an “event.”

Marketing newspapers has never been harder, but I must say, five pounds of newspaper does sound attractive. That would get me through a lot of litter box changes.

By the way, if it’s Thanksgiving, that means it’s time for the best side dish ever invented, Albany Eye Sweet Potato Crunch. I first shared the recipe in 2006, so this is an anniversary of sorts. And for those interested in history, it was posted just weeks before Albany Eye would crash and burn in a most spectacular manner. Good times!

Panic, Worry and Chaos

I do enjoy that Times Union newspaper.

One day it’s the overwrought prose of this week’s Joe Bruno profile, and the next, a story so bad it looks like it was written by a fifth grader.

Case in point, a hilarious story I read this morning titled Vehicle strikes Colonie tavern; apparent burn victim. Who could resist a story with such a puzzling headline?  Readers were rewarded with passages like this:

Steve Cheslow, a Times Union employee who was at the tavern, said he heard “a big boom.” One man was rolling on the ground. Everyone was concerned about the cook in the kitchen. There was panic, worry and chaos, and everyone was told to get out, he said.

You can read the whole thing here; I saved a PDF because this story won’t last long on the website before being cleaned up or deleted. On the up side, we are offered some interesting details:

“It just went ‘poof!'” said patron John Ashley, who was with his wife. He said he tried to get the man to safety. The fire happened during the popular karaoke night.

Well, no need to worry about the radio stations swiping this story and reading it on the air. For them it would need too much re-writing.

Special Comment

This election season would not be complete without the voice of Keith Olbermann.

Thanks to GQ magazine, we’ve been able to hear Olbermann’s views on Donald Trump — exclusively Donald Trump — in a series of web videos called The Closer with Keith Olbermann. This one below is not his most devastating takedown of Trump, but as a dog lover, it is my favorite:

I miss having Olbermann on TV. It may be that the settlement of his lawsuit with Current TV means he doesn’t need to work the sort of jobs he did before, and if so, bully for him. To say Olbermann’s relationship with management has never been great may be the understatement of the decade.

Either way, Olbermann’s unshackled commentaries on Trump are one of the good things to come out of this dismal election.

UPDATE: Another Trump reference surfaced this week in a NY Times story. He referred to Arsenio Hall as follows:

“Dead as a doornail,” was his assessment of Mr. Hall in a previously unreleased interview from two years ago. “Dead as dog meat.”

Some Mother’s Son

Facebook: it’s America’s favorite place for heaping ridicule on people — especially those accused of crimes. But when you combine that with the irresistible urge to make fun of someone different? Well, that’s when you truly get online magic.

All the local news outlets posted this story about Carlos Rodriguez, a Florida man arrested for attempted murder. This is not something that would normally get national exposure, if not for this: Mr. Rodriguez’s lost part of his skull in an automobile accident, leaving him with a profound deformity.

So what do we have here? News outlets posting a story with no local significance, just for the shock value of the mug shot. Then their audience has the opportunity to make cruel remarks about the man’s appearance.

That’s a sick and sad state of affairs.

Maybe before people write stupid shit about Carlos Rodriguez on Facebook they should consider that he is someone’s son or brother. He’s clearly a guy that’s had some trouble, things that most of us can’t even imagine. Empathy, anyone?

I’ve discussed here before how TV stations and newspapers don’t bother trying to moderate comments on their Facebook pages. And why should they? All those little clicks add up.

Click This

Baby Eaten by Snake!
Police Shoot Man in Dunkin Donuts!
Adorable Kitten Watches Olympics!

You’ve seen the sensational headlines your local TV station or newspaper post on social media. Local news has learned that Facebook and Twitter are a great way to drive traffic to their websites — and they do so in a way that’s quietly sneaky and subversive.

How’s that? They conveniently forget to tell you where things happened in the social media posts. You see, by omitting the dateline, a reader might think the eaten babies, donut eaters and kittens are right here in the Capital Region. And you click.

Then you’re somewhat disappointed to learn that the snake ate a baby in Florida. Yes, of course — that’s Florida for you.

I consider myself a savvy news consumer and they trick me with these posts all the time. Shame on me, but who can resist those headlines? I’m only human, so crazy stories, picture galleries, inane polls — sometimes I can’t help myself but to click.

Finally, some homework. You must watch  John Oliver’s commentary on the state of journalism — and pay particular attention to the Spotlight parody.

Don’t Die Like My Brother

Interesting story in the New York Times about the upcoming retirement of Garrison Keillor after his last Praire Home Companion show. I’ve listened for many years — even when it tried my patience — and I’ll miss Keillor.

The show’s future is uncertain. They’ve named mandolin virtuoso Chris Thiele to take over hosting duties, but that will account for just 13 new shows during the next year and the rest will be repeats of Keillor programs.

Then another public radio item caught my eye: WHYY in Philadelphia has dropped Car Talk from its schedule. The long-time public radio staple has been in “best of” mode since 2012, and co-host Tom Magliozzi died two years ago. I still listen and laugh and I’m sure it still makes money, but you can’t go on like that forever.

When you take away Car Talk and Prairie Home Companion, the list of big public radio shows is pretty short. When’s the last time they had a new show as popular as This American Life or Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me?

Maybe public radio doesn’t need a next big thing, but popular shows have great power to bring a lot of new listeners to the table. At a time when NPR and its affiliates are losing audience, they’re going to need something.

Somebody’s Been In Prison Too Long

A lot of us were fascinated by the escape from Dannemora, so the 150 page report on last year’s prison break is like a wonderful gift from Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott.

The report is crammed with minute details about the incident, and much of it is served up by none other than escapee David Sweat. Matt took his side of the tale to the grave.

It’s also contains some funny things, like the instructions Sweat gave Joyce Mitchell about meeting them after they emerged on the other side of the wall:

“I told her you can leave the car running, shut your headlights and stuff off, and you’ll get out of the car, act like you’re talking on the phone, because everybody knows you’re not allowed to drive and talk on the phone…”

Yes, everybody knows you’re not allowed to drive and talk on the phone.

Anyway, I give the report two thumbs up!

Lot’s of people say that the Dannemora escape would make a good movie, and perhaps it would, but I think it needs someone to root for. Maybe we could write in a third escapee, someone forced to go along against his will, a character convicted of something less contemptible than the murderous Matt and Sweat. How about an  art thief? Then he could turn the tables on the evil pair —  and in the end get the girl. We’d glam her up a bit, of course. Hey, it’s Hollywood.