Category: News Media

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Where Old News is the Only News

On Friday, a good friend asked me to look at a news story about Apple legal sending an unwelcome letter to an eight year-old girl. The letter basically told her to get lost. Apparently, the third grader had sent a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggesting a new feature for iPods: Lyrics viewing. She got her response, not from Steve but an Apple lawyer, about three months later. Turns out that Apple has a policy against taking unsolicited ideas, which the letter clearly stated.

The news story focused on the little girl’s hurt feelings and Apple’s slap-in-the-face response. Earth to Apple: Lawyers=bad PR. Always. But the response was lame for another reason: The feature already is available on iPods. It’s just not well publicized. 

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When Magazines Mattered

To promote the Macintosh 22 years ago, Apple purchased all—as in every—ad space in the Newsweek 1984 election issue. That was 39 pages.

The folks over at Graphical User Interface Gallery (aka Guidebook) have preserved every page from that Newsweek issue. It was a time when magazine advertising really mattered, unlike today when the Internet undermines magazine circulation. 

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Numbers

On the plane from Washington (DC) to Washington (State) today, I got to thinking about numbers, and the shenanigans businesses–and even journalists—get away with because of them.

Lady seated in front of me had a newspaper open with headline about some company paying $1 billion for something. What struck me was the $1, not the billion. People tend to associate with the familiar, and the numbers zero to nine are pretty familiar. The obvious association is everyday usage, which is $1 as $1, whether there is a million or billion that follows. The impact of the number’s real value is insignificant. 

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And Fish can Fly

Scientists force evolution? Maybe the folks over at LiveScience need to evolve their reporting. Adaptation isn’t evolution. Polypheniesm is typically environmentally caused; color change induced by environmental variations is to be expected.

Let’s look at ourselves, as example of where LiveScience falters. Homo Sapiens is considered to be one species, right? But there are different races, which, to my understanding aren’t considered subspecies. Racial variations would appear to have derived from environmental causes long ago. 

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The Times Does Proud

Blogging is a fun, and it’s a great way for creating community across many different types of boundaries. Some bloggers have influence, too, as evidenced by the Sony rootkit DRM or Thomas Hawk’s PriceRightPhoto debacle. But for all the talk about bloggers changing information dissemination and even some bloggers deserving press credentials, the real influence, the credibility remains with real journalists.

And New York Times has done some great investigative journalism of late. Two big stories from the last week—the kind of stuff that requires real reporting and deep editorial soul searching: “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers without Courts” and “Through His Webcam, a Boy Joins a Sordid Online World“. 

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It’s Miller Time No More

Earlier today, the New York Times officially dismissed reporter Judith Miller. In a to-the-point, bare-most-of-the-facts story, Times reporter Katharine Seelye writes of her colleague’s departure. While the Times and Miller “reached an agreement yesterday that ended her 28-year career,” it was a dismissal, as far as I’m concerned. The story carries tomorrow’s dateline.

I cheered for Miller when during summer she went to jail rather than give up a source. But since, oddities emerged about her involvement in the CIA leak case, her real reasons for going to jail, and her eventual testimony before a grand jury. 

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‘Good Night, And Good Luck’

I just returned from the AFI theatre in Silver Spring, Md., where I watched the film “Good Night, And Good Luck“. I can’t speak for George Clooney’s motivation for making the film, but the topic certainly is timely considering the U.S. government’s anti-terrorism stance.

As a writer and former journalist (former in current job only), the topic attracted my interest. I credit the director for creating a real sense of being there, even filming in black and white. Wikipedia and Museum of Broadcast Communications offer excellent bios on the film’s protagonist, Edward R. Murrow. 

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It’s Not a Fact

Just about every year, PC Magazine columnist John Dvorak writes about the death of Apple. He’s been wrong every year—actually about lots of things he writes about. Now he claims that there is media bias in favor of Apple, because, “today’s newspaper and magazine tech writers know little about computers and are all Mac users. It’s a fact”.

He continues, “I could list 50 [technology writers.] Readers should thus not be surprised by the overcoverage of Apple Computer. Every time Steve Jobs sneezes there is a collective chorus of ‘Gesundheit’ from tech writers pounding away on their Macs”. 

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There is No Excuse

Sometimes I wonder what print publication editors think, what’s accidental or intentional in publishing and what is the backstory beyond certain decisions. Excellent example is last week’s New York Times Magazine.

On page 78 starts an article about luxury hybrid vehicles. Part way through the story is a two-page ad for Lexus, the kind of ad no legitimate publication would allow. Tagline: “Welcome to the Luxury Hybrid”. An ad for a Lexus hybrid vehicle in a story about hybrid vehicles? For shame! Print publication tradition, particularly in the esteemed New York Times Magazine, would forbid the mixing of editorial and related ad copy. 

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Journalist’s Trust is Inviolate

This week, I saw the movie “Shattered Glass” on cable for the second time in a week. The film unravels the deceptions of Stephen Glass, the former New Republic writer who made up quotes and even whole stories. If I correctly recall, the magazine found problems with 27 of the 41 stories he wrote while working there.

The film got me to thinking a whole lot about ethics, the temptations journalists sometime encounter and dangerous deceptions. When a reporter for CNET News.com I worked out of a home office for four years, which meant only modest supervision. If I had ever wanted to fabricate anything, probably no one would have noticed. I never did, of course, or else you wouldn’t be reading this post.