Is Journalism Descending into a World of Tweets?

Here’s a great op-ed from the Dec. 11, 2014 WSJ. It may be paywalled, but you should find it and read it.

The writer is Edward Kosner, who is the former editor of a couple of little publications that you may not have heard of: namely Newsweek, New York and Esquire. Kosner takes to task this new wave of pseudo-journos who have left fact-checking in the backroom and traded it for sensationalism (Rolling Stone’s rape victim story), omission because fact-checking might bring legal challenges (Mark Whittaker’s biography of Bill Cosby) and utter contempt for an established culture (Chris Hughes’s remaking of The New Republic).

Is it better to get it wrong but have a sensational viral build? That seems to be the central thesis of how things are heading in journalism today. In a fast-paced, TMZ-obsessed, facts-aren’t-as-important-as-they-used-to-be, feed the beast, apologize later, 24/7/365 news cycle of a world, is there room for civility and discourse and thoughtful analysis and researched, fact-checked, credible investigative pieces?

What would Edwin Newman say? Or Cronkite? Or Dan Schorr? I think Edward R. Murrow is off somewhere in the ether having a cigarette and a good, sad cry over the state of things today.

Kosner’s piece put me in mind of the latest installment of the HBO series The Newsroom, which focused on the takeover the fictional cable network by an unscrupulous non-journalist who saw nothing wrong with bending the facts if rating ticked upward and twinned that story with a ripped-from-the-headlines tale of campus rape and how hard it is for victims to get justice in a system that is weighted heavily against them.

There’s nothing in me that says that Twitter — or a blog — cannot deliver legitimate news, that newspapers that deliver the news on newsprint are better than those that delivery the news in pixels or that print newsweeklies are somehow superior to online magazines. To me, that’s not even the argument. What’s really at stake is the credibility of journalists. Do we say, “Hell, no!” and continue to check our facts and fight to publish high-quality reporting? Or do we roll over and let the 1% at the top of the corporate food chain’s mania for profits win?

HLN Announces the End of Journalism

Meme: Dave Franco and Zac Efron’s Homoerotic Handshake, HLN Announces the End of Journalism, “Pushing Daisies, The Musical”? –

HLN announced that they were abandoning their programming to become a social media focused network. And some of their shows will make you weep for journalism. I Can Haz NewsToons will serve up animated satire of current events, One.Click.Away will scour online classified for big buys, while Keywords is a game about searching and tagging trivia from the online world. Can somebody check and see if Ted Turner’s head exploded?

So, do you want to know what stupid looks like? Here it is. This is obviously some 50-year-old’s idea of how to attract 20-something social media users to engage with TV. Speaking as a 50-year-old (almost) IT’S THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER IN THE HISTORY OF IDEAS THAT’S NOT STARTING A WAR!!

Why? Why are corporations so stupid? Do you really want to engage young people? Turn your damn cable channel back into a NEWS CHANNEL and then — here’s a shocker — broadcast the news!

How To Prove You’re Not A Racist

How To Prove You’re Not A Racist : Code Switch : NPR

“I work with the wrongly accused,” he [Dan Hill, president of the D.C. communications firm Ervin/Hill Strategy] says, as well as “people who know they made a mistake and want to fix it, and others that see a mistake on the horizon that might become public and want to make sure they handle it the right way.”

But Hill says most clients who first come for his aid fall into one big category: the drowning victim, panicked and flailing for help. Often his first advice to them is to breathe, literally.

“We’ve all experienced the anxiety of making a mistake,” he says. “Few of us have felt having that mistake broadcast to hundreds of millions of people and how that makes you feel.”

Deen seemed to be drowning in her own tears by the end of her appearance on NBC’s Today show, her first public interview after controversy erupted over her using the N-word.

Hill says there’s no silver bullet to fix Deen’s situation.

“I think I’m one of the best in my field. I can’t help her get out of this in a week,” he says. “This is the kind of thing that will maybe take years — decades — for her to overcome.”

The timing for recovery from a race-related controversy is especially tricky, Hill says, because “it has to do with your character, your values, and your belief systems.”

Yes, but.

Paula Deen’s situation is a “yes, but” because it’s all taken completely out of context. You must read the deposition that all of this is coming from — the whole thing. Google it.

There’s no question that she did not handle this well. At all. But it’s low-hanging fruit for the 24/7/365 media machine, so why not? Why not talk about Paula Deen and butter and grits and saying the N-word instead of talking about substantive news? You know, like climate change or Syria or DOMA or how many Congressional representatives Monsanto has on its payroll.

Here’s my initial take on it, y’all.

And here’s the HILARIOUS Bill Burr on Conan. A great take on the whole business.

Venerable Format of ‘NewsHour’ Struggles With New Era of Media

For many of its 38 years, the sober studio-interview format of the “PBS NewsHour” has served the program well, drawing viewers and corporate underwriters alike. But with a deep financing crisis forcing layoffs and other cutbacks this week, some public television employees believe that format — and a general unwillingness to embrace the digital realities facing journalism — may be jeopardizing the program’s future.

via Venerable Format of ‘NewsHour’ Struggles With New Era of Media –

Interesting piece by Elizabeth Jensen in the Times. The genius of the “NewsHour” has always been to place long-format, thought-provoking pieces in the public square. Does the “digital reality” of today mean we have to dumb everything down?

I think there’s a definite niche for the program and that it should be preserved. I do, however, agree with the assessment that it needs permanent anchor or anchor team. Building your brand using your key personalities is important. After all, how many of us would still default to calling the program “MacNeil/Lehrer” even though there’s no longer a MacNeil or a Lehrer on it?

Internet — The New Television

Cheeks @GoCheeksGo2/23/13, 4:16 PM Tomorrow is today; the Internet is television. RT @onthemedia Nielsen counting people who watch TV via Internet

This is me blogging a tweet that was retweeted with a link. (Also, that was a sentence that would have indecipherable just a few years ago!)

The link is to the Times‘ Media Decoder blog and it’s about Nielsen — the ratings Nielsens — adding internet usage into their ratings. Interesting.

The tweet is from one of the creators and stars of the Web series “Husbands,” which is the cute gay sitcom that television has not yet produced. I’ve written about them before; it’s one of my favorites.

But the takeaway here is that the world is shifting. There are seismic shifts occurring in how we communicate at every level. We have to continue to advance, to research, to experiment and to be strategic enough thinkers to realize which new methods are just flashes in the pan and which old methods still work.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Ever-Brilliant Seth Godin

An original and helpful voice on this landscape of digital connection for which there are no maps. Seth Godin is a singular thought leader and innovator in what he describes as our post-industrial, post-geography “connection economy.” Rather than merely tolerate change, he says, we are all called now to rise to it. We are invited and stretched in whatever we do to be artists — to create in ways that matter to other people.

via Seth Godin on the Art of Noticing, and Then Creating | On Being.

lead_sethgodin-altThe greatest, most empowering hour I’ve spent listening to the “radio” in a good long time. I can’t tell you how passionately I believe in Godin and how eloquently he shares his message.

When he defines “marketing,” I just wanted to stand up and cheer. It’s so simple, it’s so powerful, it’s so RIGHT!

Pretty much on a daily basis, when I tell people just about the same things that he’s speaking of, I get looked at like I’m from another planet. I am gratified today to have spent this time in the company of someone who well and truly gets in.

If marketing, if cultural shifts, if development of new things holds any interest to you, take a few minutes and listen to this.

(“Radio” is in quotation marks above because I actually listened to this via podcast after the program was broadcast. Just so ya know!)

How to Say Thank You — A Saga and A Case Study in Doing It Right

Okay, kiddos, I brought this up at work last week and a few people seemed to understand some of the words, so I thought I would repeat it in more augmented form here. So, here’s a few tips from the land of Savvy-Ass Marketing 101, inspired by watching the Kickstarter campaign of the web series EastSiders unfold.

This needs a set-up, though. Once upon a time, back before the flood, back before the earth began to cool, back around the time Mr. Edison invented the Mazda lamp, I worked in non-profit professional theatres. Most of my job was to develop marketing and promotional schemes for plays and events. Getting people to buy tickets. I was exceptionally good at it.

There are two revenue streams in this type of business: (1) earned — the things people purchase and (2) contributed — the money people give you.

One night, working late, I thought about contributed income — and I usually didn’t because development work bored me to bits — and it occurred to me that we were doing a poor job of marketing our fund-raising. (The people that I pitched this idea to decided to humor me and let me do whatever I had already decided that I was going to do, having already discovered that I am the type of person that it’s best to humor or it’s just death by a thousand cuts until you give in.)

Most people build thank you programs on the public television “donor appreciation” model. You know, “For a $25 contribution you get this Downton Abbey tongue depressor, but for a $250 contribution we’ll send you a wooden spoon autographed by Mrs. Patmore.” And I did it, too, but where I went a bit rogue was designing the actual thanking. What?

Yes. I actually told people how to write the words “thank you.”

Here’s the deal: people adore something personal. Back in the days of print, I had note cards printed so we could hand write a note. You would then hand address the envelope and put a real stamp on it — never, ever run it through the meter or label it — because you (yes, you) cannot resist a hand addressed and hand stamped envelope, especially when you know there’s a card inside.*

THEN, I took it a step further and conned a few of my company members to write these notes for me. Except, I didn’t want them doing the “big gets;” I asked them to write the notes for the smaller gifts, e.g.:

“Dear Mrs. Jones,
Thank you so much for your gift of $25. Your gift is so important to us as it allows us to continue producing terrific shows like our recent production of Uncle Vanya that I was so proud to be a part of. We really do appreciate — and need — every gift, so your generosity truly does make our shows possible. Again, thanks.
Steve Actor

P.S. I hope to see you next month when I’ll be appearing as Danny Zuko in Grease!”

Theatre fans LOVE to get stuff from actors. It worked because of that and it worked because it was genuine. Every time we had a chance to thank someone personally, we did. And while I’ve thought up a blue million thank you gifts in my time, nothing has ever worked better than a personal thank you note.

Besides, the warm fuzzy you get from the thank you note may engage you to be receptive to increasing your gift AND it makes it more likely that you’ll be more receptive to purchasing another ticket (or widget/fruit basket/dog obedience class) the next time I have one for sale.

Flash forward to social media infused today. What’s the equivalent of the hand addressed thank you note? Well, how about this:


Here’s what happened. I like this series. I think it’s smart — and smart is rare on the web these days. They began a Kickstarter campaign and one of the things they asked — because, remember, you don’t get anything unless you ask — was that if you’ve contributed then to share it on your Facebook or Twitter. Okay. Fine.

This is called word-of-mouth and historically it’s the most important way ticket sales are influenced. It’s also a personal appeal and that’s the most effective influencer there is.

I wrote a short blog post and then sent it out on Twitter. HOW HARD WAS THAT?  Next time I looked at my phone, I had that note. So, what now? Well, now I’m invested. I am an invested investor. They have given me a reason to care that they succeed.

Every day this week, there’s been a video posted on YouTube about their progress. AND a thank you to the fans and contributors in each one. This has been a super successful campaign. They met their initial goal in four days. Then, this tweet arrived:


Then, this video was posted later in the day:

Why? Why do this? Why make this thank you video? Why send out updates? Why tweet out screen shots of your Kickstarter page? Why make a series of thank you videos? Why? Because, cats and babies, that’s how you get to do it again.

Be grateful. Be genuine. Be appreciative. Be bloody, bold and resolute. Be gracious. Be humble.

How many people are going to fund your next great idea — no matter how well-crafted it is — if you’re a dick?

See, there’s nothing fun — nothing useful — nothing creative — about sitting home alone, brooding that the world doesn’t understand the genius that you know you are. In the immortal words of cold pop-loving Internet meme Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

On the other hand, “Could you help me with an idea? I’d really appreciate it,” goes one helluva lot farther.

So, the first barrier is breached: the “we need this much money to just barely do it” barrier. Now, the harder work comes: the “we need to raise money to pay actors, to pay crew, to feed people on set, to rent better lights, to have more edit time, to make it a viable enterprise” phase. And it’s harder because people are more likely to give money for bricks and mortar than flesh and blood. Sadly, that’s really true across the board in almost any fund-raising enterprise.

I’m looking forward to see what the EastSiders team does next — because they’ve done the marketing of their fund-raising flawlessly so far — and they’ve stayed bang on top of all the social stuff which, I can’t stress this enough, is so incredibly critical to this type of enterprise but so easy to let slip.

I want to see how far above that initial goal they get because, you know, a labor of love is great, but you can’t pay the electric bill with it.

Previous Post

N.B. — I just checked, as of 1/22/13 they have raised a bit more than $21K which is more than their revised goal. There’s still two weeks left. I do enjoy seeing a plan come together!

*Truth in advertising: not my original idea, I just tweaked it and played with it. Like “Fresh Eggs and Flying Lessons,” I stole it, but I always credited it as such!

Dan Harmon’s XOXO Keynote on the Death of TV [Video]

Watch Dan Harmon’s surprisingly inspirational keynote speech on the death of television.

from io9.

Terrific stuff. It’s a bit of a long video, but you should definitely take the time. LOTS of truth here. Money has ruined more artistic endeavors than you can imagine.

Some of the comments are idiotic, as is typical.

NBC News Plans To Launch Ads ‘That blur the line between editorial and brand content’ Update: Or Not?

MediaPost: NBC News Plans To Launch Ads ‘That blur the line between editorial and brand content’ Update: Or Not? – TVNewser.

They’re doing it, they’re not doing it. Whatev. They’ve been doing it since the dawn of commercially-sponsored broadcasting. Back in the 30s and 40s, announcer Harlow Wilcox would walk into the story on “Fibber McGee and Molly” and start talking to the characters about the wonders of Johnson’s Wax. In the 50s, John Cameron Swayze was the host of NBC’s Camel News Caravan — Camel, as in the cigarette.

This ain’t new.

But, NBC says this report is inaccurate:

We’re creating ad experiences that are relevant to consumers and advertisers based on context, but there is no blurring of lines when it comes to our editorial content– that is complete separate and standalone from advertising and branding, as it always has been and always will be.

Well, whatever. Just be intelligent and watch out. People are always going to try and sell you something in a place that you least suspect.

Husbands vs. Partners

Husbands, the web series, is pioneering new message delivery methods.

Lots of space being taken up in newspapers, magazines and on the Innerwebs about the new “gaycoms” on network television this season — especially “The New Normal” on NBC and “Partners” on CBS.

I’ve blogged about this a couple of times in my “Things That Interest Me” section (HERE) and (HERE).

I’m bringing this over into the Marketing area now because I want you to think about how the innovative web series “Husbands” differs tremendously from the network sitcom “Partners.”

I find that there is a savviness and a fluidity to the writing on “Husbands” that I don’t see on “Partners.” And I think that’s because it exists on the web and does not suffer from the restrictions from producers, from the network, from the advertisers, and, quite frankly, from the money. Oh yeah, money restricts you. In my experience, a lot of great art is created on a shoestring while a lot of mediocre art is foisted on us by those wearing Manolo Blahniks.

“Partners” on CBS, developed by Kohan and Mutchnick, the team that also created “Will & Grace.”

“Partners,” I find is muddy; “Husbands” is crisp. A lot — okay, most — web series suffer from pretty bad acting and storytelling that will get you a C+ in most college level Creative Writing classes, but “Husbands” sets itself apart by using excellent talent and having excellent writers. The first season of 11 very short episodes functions, in aggregate, as a 22 minute pilot episode, but I’m glad they decided not to go to television because it’s better without the restrictions.

Here’s why I wanted to put this story here: how effective are you telling your story in the medium that you are telling it? When you find the right medium, you’ll be better able to find the right message. (My, what a very meta riff on McLuhan.)

For the record: and