Singing the Bite Me Song


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April 23, 2005

Why Dave Weinberger is still my hero

It has suddenly become fashionable for cable news to cover the "blog beat," but in a typical shoehorn move, blog voices must be forced into the pre-existing TV news template: every issue has exactly two and no more barely distinguishable sides with about a teaspoonful intellectual depth or complexity. Plug in X and Y, let them bristle at each other for about two minutes (any longer and the story count drops, and whoops! there goes that 18-35 demographic), and then move on.

I get a good laugh at one method of covering blogs... sticking a couple of "blog babes" in front of two computers to talk about the text, highlight unreadable text, and just generally gesture at the screen.

Since when is waving your hands in front of an illegible screen a good use of the video medium? Is that an acceptable method to translate the ethos of cyberspace and geek chic to the couch potato sonambulists? At least when news programs answer or report on email responses on the air, they make a screen graphic of the quoted email, instead of displaying little gray lines of highlighted hieroglyphs.

I shouldn't be surprised. After all, this is a medium that turned every tech story into a PR-driven "nifty gadget of the week to fill the segment hole."

Dave tells the story best. Here are my favorite bits.

Link: Joho the Blog: The spit fight that ended my career at MSNBC.

The spit fight that ended my career at MSNBC

[...]

They want reports on what moderate left and right wing bloggers — "Nothing out of the mainstream," the producer told me yesterday — say about a "major" topic. What the hell does that have to do with blogging? And when two of the producers yesterday independently suggested that I report on the blogosphere's reaction to a Vietnam veteran spitting on Jane Fonda, I blurted out — because the flu had lowered my normal Walls of Timidity — that this wasn't a job I'm comfortable with.

What makes the blogosphere interesting to me is not that there are moderate left and right voices talking about mainstream topics. Mainstream major stories are about issues such as freakish celebrity pedophiles, a spit match over a fight from 30 years ago that the press is hoping to revive, and whatever unfortunate child has been reported missing and presumed (better for the story) murdered. I'm in the blogosphere to escape from this degradation of values.

In the ninety seconds MSNBC gives over to blogging, they want to pair A-Listers into a he-said/she-said report on a Major Topic. Yippee for the A-Team! You do two of those and the last of the three segments should be something "fun," i.e., humorous and trivial because the news no longer knows how to operate without a closing joke. It's downright pathological.

[...]

The odd thing is that the two I did for them (1 2) didn't follow the pattern they want, but they were happy with them nonetheless, so I probably could have kept on if I hadn't raised the issue. But I just couldn't face implicitly confirming the idea that the blogosphere consists of big voices arguing with one another — spit fights! — instead of 10 million real voices engaged in every variety of human conversation and delight.

So, fuck it. I quit.

April 23, 2005 at 12:16 AM in Favorite Links, Interactivity, Media & Journalism, Television, Weblogs | Permalink

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