Singing the Bite Me Song

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March 29, 2004

Webmonkey bites the dust

I know I'm slow on the uptake these days, but Webmonkey got me through all kinds of basic web stuff when I needed to bone up on something quick. And yeah, I liked their attitude. I still got piles of Webmonkey pages printed out and cluttering up dog-hair-filled corners of my office.


Wired News: Webmonkey, RIP: 1996 – 2004

Webmonkey, the site that turned humble Web developers into attention-grabbing authors, said last week it is closing down following a round of layoffs in the U.S. division of its parent company, Terra Lycos (also the parent company of Wired News). Judging by blog posts and e-mails, the site's fans aren't surprised. Still, they're sad to see the end of an era.


Enter Webmonkey: A series of how-to articles and techie opinion columns written not by professional writers, but by the lowly geeks building Wired's websites. Most important, the site's editors ditched the dry, lecturelike tone of other tech publications in favor of a flip, funny approach -- the language Web workers use to talk to one another. Editorial founder June Cohen described Webmonkey's voice as "the smart, sassy friend you wish you had."

Instead of documenting software protocols for trained engineers, Webmonkey offered informal advice for self-taught webmasters. One programmer took up stunt journalism, offering to write anything -- a chat server, a search engine -- in four lines of code. Another posted an audio file containing an ear-shredding howl, to convey the pain he suffered at the hands of misbehaving Table tags.

Eager writers toiled for free, producing their columns and articles outside regular work hours -- at least in theory. To complete the image, writers were given Photoshop-tweaked close-ups and sarcastic bios ("Luke Knowland isn't as mean as he looks"), in contrast to the anonymous bylines and clean-cut head shots on other tech sites.

March 29, 2004 at 10:28 PM in Cyberculture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Frank Rich in International Herald Tribune: : Faux journalism is the White House's new ally

Frank Rich: Faux journalism is the White House's new ally

Also New York Times, obviously, since it is by Frank Rich.

Frank Rich NYT
Saturday, March 27, 2004

NEW YORK Real journalism may be reeling, but faux journalism rocks. As an entertainment category in the cultural marketplace, it may soon rival reality TV and porn. American television is increasingly awash in fake anchors delivering fake news, some of them far more trenchant than real anchors delivering real news. Even CNBC, a financial news network, is chasing after the success of the faux-anchor Jon Stewart; its new nightly fake newscast, presided over by a formerly funny "Saturday Night Live" fake anchor, Dennis Miller, is being promoted with far more zeal than was ever lavished on CNBC's real "News With Brian Williams."


Elsewhere on the dial you'll learn that a fake news show (Stewart's "The Daily Show") has been in a booking war with a real news show ("Hardball") over who would first be able to interview the real (I think) Desmond Tutu. At such absurd moments, real journalism and its evil twin merge into a mind-bending mutant that would defy a polygraph's ability to sort out the lies from the truth.


There is no point in bothering with actual news people anyway, when you can make up your own story and make it stick. No fake news story has become more embedded in our culture than the administration's account of its actions on Sept. 11. As The Wall Street Journal reported on its front page this week - just as the former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke was going public with his parallel account - many of this story's most familiar details are utter fiction. Bush's repeated claim that one of his "first acts" of that morning was to put the military on alert is false. So are the president's claims that he watched the first airplane hit the World Trade Center on television that morning. (No such video yet existed.) Nor was Air Force One under threat as Bush flew around the country, delaying his return to Washington.

Yet the fake narrative of Sept. 11 has been scrupulously maintained by the White House for more than two years. Although the administration has tried at every juncture to stonewall the Sept. 11 investigative commission, its personnel, including the president, had all the time in the world for the producer of a TV movie, Showtime's "DC 9/11: Time of Crisis" The result was a scenario that further rewrote the history of that day, stirring steroids into false tales of presidential derring-do. To shore up the Karl Rove version of Sept. 11 once Richard Clarke went public with his alternative tale on last Sunday's "60 Minutes," the White House placed Condoleezza Rice on all five morning news shows the next day. The administration is confident that it can reinstate its bogus scenario - particularly given that Rice, unlike Clarke, is refusing to take the risk of reciting it under oath to the Sept. 11 commission.

After Sept. 11, similar fake-news techniques helped speed us into "Operation Iraqi Freedom." The runup to the war was falsified by a barrage of those "modern public information tools," including 16 words of Tom Clancy-style fiction in the State of the Union address. John Burns of The New York Times, speaking by phone from Iraq to a postmortem on war coverage sponsored by the University of California at Berkeley's journalism school this month, said of the real press back then: "We failed the American public by being insufficiently critical about elements of the administration's plan to go to war."

There's a lot more good stuff in this article, so go read the original!


March 29, 2004 at 10:06 PM in Media & Journalism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack