Category Archives: Fox News

The world will end in 2012. Or not.

We were debating healthcare reform with our brother-in-law over an early turkey dinner tonight when we realized … two intelligent people with the same set of data can come to two vastly different conclusions, just as the well-educated policy wonks on Fox News and MSNBC could all be Mensa members and still yell at each other. Humans aren’t really clear judges of the world after all, since some other combined forces of genetics, training, environment, education, culture or homophily warp our conclusions. We all have access to the same mental inputs, yet Republicans and Democrats, or Americans and the Taliban, tend to fall into polarizing we’re-right-and-you’re-not camps. Every culture that has ever gone to war with another has firmly believed they were backed by God.

We can’t all be right. It’s confusing. So we leave you with two looks at the end of the world in 2012.

Fox News, USA Today, NYT opening airport stores


Here’s a clever idea. Major media companies such as Fox News and The New York Times are opening retail stores in airports to extend their media brand while promoting their core news service. USA Today will open its first retail store in the Detroit airport terminal tomorrow.

It seems a stroke of brilliance — harried airport travelers long to grab something to read before boarding a flight, and the brand extension could draw in new print subscribers. The concept has been around for a while; CNBC opened its first store in 2002 and now has 75.

With newsprint circulations off a cliff and some analysts predicting that half of America’s 1,439 daily newspapers will disappear by the end of the next decade, every little bit helps.

Hurricane Ike and the joy of dread


We came across a debate on Twitter recently where Amanda Chapel, the faux persona charged with poking fun at social media thought leaders, referred to Søren Kierkegaard‘s existential theories that people hide the meaninglessness of life by drowning themselves in diversions. (In case you miss the Amanda Chapel arguments, she’s a mask, she’s brilliant, she’s caustic, and she thinks the social media craze is overblown — which is right, of course.) So we read up on Existentialism and came to the concept of dread.

Dread. You know, that itching feeling that something bad is about to happen. Existentialists use the common experience of hiking to the edge of a cliff, seeing the abyss and getting a wave of confusion as you ponder your own ability to throw yourself off. This nasty little buzz is the human mind recognizing that nothing is really in control in your life, disaster could happen, and you might even bring it upon yourself.

Newscasters love dread; the weather forecasts are filled with it. In the days before Hurricane Ike slammed Texas, CNN, Fox News and the other broadcast outlets were salivating at the thought that cities could be decimated, Galvestan drowned, ships sunk at sea. “CERTAIN DEATH!” cried the headline at CNN.com.

We’re going to start searching for examples of advertisers who play this same game. It is a powerful emotion, at least as riveting as sex or death or chocolate, and when the wave of dread surges, we want to watch it come, hoping in some secret part of our souls that the worst will happen. If we see it, at least we’ll be in control.

Barry Obama: Welcome back, biased journalism

One of the most exciting media trends of the past few years has been the return of the hack. You know, biased journalists: Fox News slamming liberals; Newsweek misleading readers that Barack’s real name is Barry; Harper’s magazine calling John McCain a hypocrite on its cover (just out in print, web link not available). You can almost feel the testosterone heat surging among editors who, emboldened by blog blather and retreating readers, say, hey, we have opinions too!

This is big change because not so long ago journalists were pure of heart. Saints. For a brief period of time, say 1935-2000, Western reporters took oaths in an altruistic calling — a Switzerland amid a commercial world at war, casting news from the mountaintops about truth and justice, and keeping their hands clean. Heaven forbid opinion crept in, or worse, someone tried to buy it. Money? Gifts? Lunch? Please, we don’t touch that. Talk to the clerks in ad sales.

The height of such altruism was Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose feverish reporting of Watergate in the 1970s ticked off Nixon loyalists but was more about truth than liberalism. Read All the President’s Men and you get the vibe of two guys simply trying to solve a puzzle, because the truth was out there. If the break-in had been orchestrated by Martin Luther King Jr. or the Pope, you sense Woodward and Bernstein would have dug all the harder to get that scoop.

Ah, but that’s all over. One million blogs filled with internet flames have caught the attention of the reading public, and newspapers and cable networks are tripping over themselves to share a little venom, too. Which is simply a return to reporting’s roots.

Journalism began as a sordid business, back in Renaissance Europe with handwritten newsletters slamming political foes or reporting ghastly deeds. The legend of Count Dracula started with hacks documenting the grisly acts of Vlad Tsepes Drakul, perhaps with embellishments to protect German interests. Jonathan Swift of Gulliver’s Travels fame wrote a little piece skewering the prejudices of the English, coyly suggesting all those pesky Irish troubles could be solved if the Brits just ate Irish babies.

Passion makes for good copy. So the hell with church and state. If we all wanted pure news, we’d still be reading newspapers — and odds are, we don’t. We want sex, violence, and a point of view that amplifies our own. Admit it and embrace it: The gloves are off journalism, baby, so may the best slander win.

Bloggers with mussed hair, live on candid camera


Had the pleasure to be interviewed tonight by Hartford Fox 61 TV’s Rick Hancock, who is a nice guy and really looks nothing like Buster Keaton, above. And half-way through the interview Rick asked a good question: “Where do you think the internet is going?”

Humina humina. We said something about democratizing media and empowering small organizations to compete with big ones, or something like that. And immediately realized we got it wrong. The internet is going nowhere really but catching up with what human beings have always done — holding social interactions to quickly share information. Ursula K. Le Guin preaches this in the February issue of Harper’s, taking on the alleged decline in reading by noting that a small fraction of humanity has always been literate, and literacy meant sharing the latest news and fiction. Crowds swarmed ships from England to find out what happened to favored characters in novels. Reading was not just a solitary activity, but a way to share common knowledge at social gatherings. A mark of stature. Sort of like your blog ranking. (P.S. if 70 million people have launched blogs, perhaps there is hope for reading and writing yet.)

So now we have bloggers and videographers posting news or film on web sites and YouTube. So we’re still reading, typing, watching, and talking. Nothing new here, folks. The internet has given us an alternative window on how to communicate, and sure, it’s extended our reach. Mid-sized ad agencies in Connecticut can now achieve national stature. But until technology teaches us to be telepathic, we’re still stuck with same old communications.

If anything, the convergence of technology into words and video and sound where anyone can broadcast to anyone is making realism all the more, well, real. Here’s to the production values of small souls who don’t comb their hair, but who have big ideas that scale to the masses. Today the little guy is holding the camera called the internet, and he looks a little funny. But he’s real. Just like Buster Keaton.

Critic launches Fox News Porn


Talk about a media slam. Fox News critic Robert Greenwald, disgusted with the raunchy clips shown on Fox News as “news,” has created a mock porn site filled with images broadcast on the Fox News TV network. Broadcasting & Cable reports that none of the images are actually explicit, but they all ran with newsy voice-overs from the likes of Bill O’Reilly. Greenwald also posted a mock porn video, all edited footage from the cable news network, on YouTube.

What’s fascinating about this … seriously … is that when you see the clips all together, you get a hilarious view of how news media is using skin to try to build an audience, even on a conservative news channel. Luckily, advertisers never do anything like that.