Category Archives: media

Pointless

Damn, I knew it felt warmer than 6 degrees outside, and now I know why:

Capture

Thanks, Times Union!

Sure, we’re all obsessed with how cold it is outside — but does showing the temperature like that really add anything to the conversation? It’s probably OK for the newspaper to round that down to 6 degrees. That’s the way the National Weather Service does it.

What I like about weather is that it’s one of the few things we all have in common. It’s something that total strangers can bond over, discuss, commiserate about — it crosses all social and physical boundaries. It’s the glue that binds us.

So, what I’d like to know is this: what do they talk about in San Diego?

Nationwide (and death) is On Your Side

After the Nationwide commercial aired in the Super Bowl, my wife was incredulous. Not at the spot, but at my reaction. “Why would you laugh at that?!”

Why? Well, maybe it because I didn’t expect the dark turn their Make Safe Happen commercial took, from sweet and magical at one moment to dead kid in the next.

So I suppose it was a nervous laugh, but not entirely. I was also laughing at how woefully stupid it was to bludgeon us with that message during America’s national football holiday. The shot of the TV tipped over was an appropriate image; most viewers probably felt that they’d been hit with a falling flat screen.

But I admire their moxie. It takes guts to do something that reckless in front of so many people.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a powerful ad — but maybe it aired in the wrong program. Consider the commercials for the New York State Smokers’ Quitline, you know, the ones that show horrible tumors and cancer victims. No question that they get your attention, but there are plenty of places you wouldn’t show them.

I think Nationwide succeeded in being noticed, but was it in a good way?

Snowed

The TV meteorologists I used to work with were not always comfortable with the ads we would run.

There was always a bit of squirming when they’d look at the scripts which promised them to have the most accurate and reliable forecast. No, technically we didn’t promise infallibility, but it was strongly suggested that they would be right.

So, you ask, why don’t meteorologists just tell us that the forecast is subject to a degree of unpredictability? Well, they do a little — but their bosses discourage that sort of talk from those standing in front of the green wall — and far more people see the weather promos that promise accuracy than ever actually see the weather.

Maybe more honest marketing is the answer?

Curious about what the weather might be? Turn to Joe meteorologist!

He’s been bringing you the weather longer than anyone, so he knows how many different things can go wrong with the forecast.

Count on Joe to tell you if it might snow… when it could possibly start.. and how much you may get — unless a butterfly flaps its wings in Bermuda, and then we’ll be pummeled. Or have a dusting. Nobody knows!

Hmmm. Maybe not.

Dr. Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service, spoke about the forecast for this week’s winter storm, and said, “We recognize the need to work harder and smarter to produce better forecasts and to better communicate forecast uncertainty and manage expectations.”

I’m not sure how to get better forecasts, but the second part? That’s something they can start on right away.

Antisocial Media

Much is made of the noxious atmosphere in blog and newspaper comment sections. “See,” say critics, “this is what you get with anonymous comments.” That may be true, but people who sign their name aren’t any better.

Take Facebook, for example.

News outlets have gotten in the habit of posting stories to their Facebook site, and the posts often get hundreds of comments — many of them amazingly insulting and abusive. Here’s a sample from a story a local TV station posted about a couple accused in an animal abuse case:

comments

Let’s be clear: abusing animals is abhorrent to me, but the people in question haven’t been convicted of anything, just arrested. We’re not just throwing the accused into the stocks, but lining up the villagers to hurl tomatoes at them.

Can’t they moderate this stuff? Of course — but I’m told it would be impossible due to the huge number of comments. Filters can be set to screen bad language and individual complaints can be fielded, but a full-time commitment to Facebook comments isn’t something a local TV station can afford.

You could argue that comment abusers are violating Facebook’s terms of service and that page owners are not responsible. That might be technically correct — but if your name is at the top of the page, it’s not that simple.

Waiting for Dick

An actual conversation while watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve:

“God, this is awful. When do they drag Dick Clark on?”

“Dick Clark is dead!”

“Well that will really be something if they bring him out, then.”

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.