TagMedia

Daily News, a New York based tabloid has been making waves on Twitter thanks to their sensational cover pages bashing the conservatives. Usually, such bashing is done by the conservative outlets so this comes as a morale booster for the liberals who’re always hesitant to be blunt. But these are different times we live in.

Liberal Media

The most brilliant strategy employed by conservatives in recent times can be encapsulated in two words – liberal media. These two words when uttered by themselves are enough to rile up the base and explain away all inconsistencies or even factual errors. The idea is rooted in the mentality that conservatives are victims that are not given their due or their interests not represented by a media that is inherently liberal [1].

So what makes them liberal? Well, it turns out that, most people involved in the media trade are or at least used to be liberal or vote liberal so ergo, the media is liberal. This line of thought assumes that a person’s political behavior or beliefs naturally influences that person’s professional work even if it is proven time and time again that it is not the case. Professionals are called that because they are trained to separate their personal beliefs from the work they do. No doctor is going to refuse treatment to a conservative patient because he is liberal, no liberal fireman will delay putting out the fires in homes where conservatives live, and nor will a liberal hair stylist refuse to cut the hair of a person who wears a McCain/Palin button. So why do conservatives fear that the media people who might vote liberal lean liberal in their profession?

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Footnotes:
  1. I’m using the terms liberals and conservatives here to represent the average politician of either beliefs. Things may have been much better in the recent past or may be better in the near future but as things stand, this is closer to the truth, in my opinion. []

“Should we report the truth or print any crap we hear?”

Another example: on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches “apologizing for America,” a phrase to which Paul Krugman objected in a December 23 column arguing that politics has advanced to the “post-truth” stage.

As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie. My question for readers is: should news reporters do the same?

If so, then perhaps the next time Mr. Romney says the president has a habit of apologizing for his country, the reporter should insert a paragraph saying, more or less:

“The president has never used the word ‘apologize’ in a speech about U.S. policy or history. Any assertion that he has apologized for U.S. actions rests on a misleading interpretation of the president’s words.”

[Source: The Public Editor – NYTimes.com]

Can you believe that The New York Times’ Public Editor asked this WTF question to the readers? Shouldn’t the newspaper of NY Times’ repute should already be doing its fact-checking and if found false at least not report the events verbatim. Given the vitriolic nature of this campaign season, perhaps this is needed more than ever. Romney is entitled to his opinion and the Times is also free to call it what it really is, a lie. How difficult is that?

I’m just not confident that under the fear of being accused of liberal bias (like every other week), NY Times will do anything different. They’ll simply print Romney’s lies just like they printed the lies perpetuated by the Bush Administration about weapons of mass destruction and in turn end up lending it an air of credibility. The losers in this debate is NY Times and especially, its readers who expect a modicum of truth if not the entire story in their reporting.

Twitter Is Not a Very Social Network

According to a recent study, 68% of all Twitter users aren’t followed by a single person they are following. As the researchers rightly note, this makes Twitter more like a broadcast medium than a social network.

[Source: ReadWriteWeb] Not surprising at all considering how easily and quickly the mainstream media and celebrities have adopted Twitter as opposed to blogging. You can have a Twitter account, not following anyone and yet have millions hanging on to your every tweet.

Currently, there is much banter at least among certain cliques on Twitter but like comments on blogs, these will eventually fade away as people will go back to broadcasting and reading. Interacting and conversing takes too much time and effort and like days of chatting with 5 or more people at the same time are over, so will replying on Twitter.

In the end, you will end up quoting tweets in your tweets just like the blockquote above. Right now, it is done by short URLs and eventually, Twitter will figure out a way to do it better.

Fixing CNN

According to a recent report, CNN lost over 40 percent of its viewers compared to 2009 and has spurred debate of how to revamp the first 24 hours cables news network. Sandwiched between the hard right Fox News and soft liberal MSNBC, CNN has straddled the confused middle swinging right and left erratically. Suggestions in a Politico article by Michael Calderone titled, How to Fix CNN highlights suggestions from media people. The usual go-the-Fox-MSNBC way and become more confrontational and create drama suggestions abound. Bringing back Crossfire that Jon Stewart so famously eviscerated is not going to help CNN. The one suggestion that I found myself nodding along to is by Jay Rosen, the professor from NYU Journalism School:

At 7 p.m., he would rename John King’s show “Politics is Broken,” and focus on “bringing outsiders to Beltway culture and Big Media into the conversation dominated by…. Beltway culture and Big Media.”

Rosen would program “Thunder on the Right” at 8 p.m., a show where a well-informed liberal “mostly covers the conservative movement and Republican coalition and where the majority of the guests (but not all) are right leaning.”

The following hour would be “Left Brained,” a show offering the opposite mix of hosts and guests. And at 10 p.m. would be “Fact Check,” an accountability show with major crowdsourcing elements” that would cut through “the week’s most outrageous lies, gimme-a-break distortions and significant misstatements with no requirement whatsoever to make it come out equal between the two parties on any given day, week, month or season.”

Fox and MSNBC are clearly more about politics than news reporting. MSNBC even calls itself a Place for Politics. So their interest is primarily in conflict and political machinations instead of the world of governing that most consider boring. According to the two networks, governing is something that politicians squeeze in while they are not contesting elections. It is about the process and not the means hence the bad rap that such news channel receive.

Personally, I think the best hope for CNN is not to be partisan but instead be non-partisan and take on an intermediary fact-check role that independent voters and citizens can tune into for hard facts and news reporting instead of rhetoric that Fox and MSNBC passes off as news. And of course, get rid of that boring staid Wolf Blitzer and let Larry King retire in peace.

Consuming Content on the iPad

When the iPad first came out, there was much consternation on the lack of Flash and other traditional web features that dominate current computers. But I always believed that Apple’s decision to exclude these features was in fact a plus; breaking away and designing for the future rather than holding on to the past. People missed floppy drives the first time they were excluded but no one remembers them anymore.

Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, I believe that true potential of the iPad will be unleashed by what we have not yet seen. Just like the iPhone revolutionized the smartphone industry, I believe the iPad will change the way we consume media. Yes, the iPad will and is primarily a media consuming device. I have been primarily interested in books and magazines. The possibilities of embedding rich media within content are endless. Think of your favorite magazines and then imagine how better your experience would be if some content was interactive [1].

The media companies have already started designing their publications for the iPad. For e.g., Penguin Books:

The part about holding your iPad up to the sky to map constellations is something that no paper book can do. Another of my favorite magazine, Wired is also almost ready with its app and it looks even better than it’s paper version.

I hope other publications recognize the potential of this new medium and get started. The publishing industry thankfully has learned from the music industry’s debacle and looks willing to adapt and adopt new technologies.

P.S. The irony that the two videos above are in Flash is not lost on me :) But as both YouTube and Wired show, you can keep everyone happy by having two versions of their content. May the best technology win.

Update: Coincidentally, hours after I published this meandering post, I found Craig Mod’s beautifully illustrated and excellently-written article on how the iPad is challenging the very notion of books and yet retaining what we like most about them.

The iPad changes the experience formula. It brings the excellent text readability of the iPhone/Kindle to a larger canvas. It combines the intimacy and comfort of reading on those devices with a canvas both large enough and versatile enough to allow for well considered layouts.

Footnotes:
  1. A National Geographic app for the iPad will provide the same stunning photos and also include video []

What does it take to be called a terrorist?

A crazy person tired of living his life blames the government and more particularly the IRS for his woes, sets his own house on fire, rents/steals a plane, and rams it into an IRS building in Austin, Texas. The ever-hyperventilating media that calls any criminal act terrorism had a staid headline – Plane Hits I.R.S. Building in Texas (via Sepia Mutiny). It is almost as if describing a lost plane flying around lazily just happened to bump into a building. Surprisingly the strongest reaction was from Fox News which only went to the extent of calling him a “cowardly criminal”. Was this your wet dream? A guy imitating a previous terrorist attack to protest his woes against the establishment would be a perfect media story to go apeshit over but we have already moved on to covering the apology of a man who cheated on his wife. Yawn!

Correct me if I am wrong but environmental nutcases who blow up empty SUVs and burn vacation homes are labeled eco-terrorists [1] but a government-hating individual who pre-plans a dramatic attack that resembles a previous attack on this country is a plain old criminal or a crazy person? If you read his suicide note, it is amply clear that this was an individual hell bent on destroying all systems and hated capitalism as much as he did the government.

What gets my goat is people who sigh and say they understand the man’s frustration and although what he did was wrong, it was the system that failed him. W.T.F. Weren’t similar concerns [2] expressed by ordinary folks in the Middle East when 9/11 happened? It was wrong then and it is wrong now. Violence is never the answer to any grievance you have. As I said on Twitter in response to someone who expressed sadness, dancing naked on the street is a crazy act but ramming a plane in a federal building is pure unadulterated terrorism. We called it terrorism when a plane was crashed into the Pentagon to protest the country’s defense policies. So why can’t we call it terrorism when some one does the same with tax policies? If you hate the government, don’t want to pay taxes, and love guns, you are in luck because such a country exists. It is called Somalia. I’m told piracy is a fun vocation in those parts. You might consider moving there.

It may be cool to pick on the I.R.S. for being bloodsuckers but death and taxes are inevitable and even if the tax collecting department was called Charlie’s Chocolate Factory and the tax rate was low enough to only fund wars, it would still be hated [3]. But grumbling about paying your taxes is one thing and ramming a plane into a federal building is another [4]. The United States had a similar attack against the government when Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City and I don’t think he is still considered a terrorist. No matter how dire your situation is or financial state is, the only right you have is to take your own life.

So that’s why I have to ask, what does it take to be called a terrorist? Just calling him insane is an insult to insane people. Let us call him for what he really is – a murderous cowardly cold-blooded terrorist.

Footnotes:
  1. The so-called ‘eco-terrorism has yet to claim a life []
  2. “Now the United States knows that its actions have consequences” or the milder “At least now they know what terrorism is” []
  3. We would fight a whole lot less wars if that were to happen, trust me []
  4. I hope saying it over and over will convey how dastardly the act was []

Apple announces its Tablet – iPad

ipad_hero_20100127.jpg

Update: My first impressions review of the iPad.

Apple finally laid all rumors to rest and announced their long-pending tablet computer, iPad. Although, I am not terribly excited with the name (jokes pertaining to a certain feminine hygiene product have been trending on Twitter), the product in itself is pretty slick [image source]. I watched Job’s announcement on Engadget’s live-blog as he and other Apple executives along with third-party app developers demonstrated iPad’s abilities. Just like everyone thought, it is an exploded version of the iPhone with touch-screen capability and support for applications from the App Store. Almost all native Mac apps like Calendar, Contacts, Email, iPhoto, Music (and iTunes), iMovie (including HD), and even iWork are featured prominently for the new device making it not just a fun tablet but also something that you can use to write documents and work on your spreadsheets. The interface looks like a mashup of the Mac OS X and the iPhone OS. The iPad is equipped with an on-screen touch keyboard that iPhones will find familiar. The demo video shows that with practice, you can type with both hands instead of one-finger typing like on the iPhone and looked extremely responsive with little lag time.

apple_ipad_3g.jpg

[image source] One of the newest features on the iPad was the iBooks application that not only makes reading books online easier but also hooks up the iTunes with book sales that you can instantly buy and read on the device. So far, five publishers – Hachette, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Peguin, and Simon & Schuster – have jumped aboard and are offering books and textbooks. The prices are not yet clear but this move has definitely put Amazon’s dedicated e-reader in a bind and threatens to wipe it out by offering more features and a better interface.

The screen is a glossy 9.7inch 1024×768 IPS LCD display with full multi-touch capability that now we have come to expect from Apple and other smartphones. It comes WiFi and bluetooth enabled, has speakers, microphone, and what Apple claims a 10 hour battery (with video playing) capable of a full month of standby time. Sadly, no webcam. All this is contained in a case half an inch thick and weighs around 1.5 pounds (heavy for extended reading?). the iPad syncs via USB with your other Apple devices so I assume you can migrate your music and movies in iTunes libraries and images in iPhoto. Other hardware options include a keyboard dock that you buy separately if you think typing on the screen is not your cuppa tea. Or you could hook up your wireless keyboard via bluetooth. The camera connection kit also sold separately will enable you to hook your camera directly to the iPad.

Now the best part that instantly converted naysayers on Twitter to “I want one” was its price point. Before the tablet was launched, everyone rumored that it will be around $1000 dollars without contract for 3G connectivity. Given Apple’s tendency to price its products higher than the competition lent credence to these rumors. But Jobs surprised everyone by announcing that the iPad will start at $499 and will come in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB with higher prices for more memory. apart from WiFi capability, the iPad will be equipped with a carrier-unlocked 3G modem and AT&T will be the first official provider of data service with a $14.99 250 MB and a $29.99 unlimited monthly plan…with no contract (and no dropped calls). The full range of options is as follows:

Screen shot 2010-01-27 at 2.24.44 PM.png

These features and prices almost instantly make the iPad viable to many consumers (Apple stock price jumped 4% only after the price was announced) and also poses a serious threat to Amazon’s Kindle. Sadly, multi-tasking doesn’t seem to be enabled in this release so you can’t really work while listening to Pandora.

So would I buy one? Personally, we have been waiting out on buying an e-reader and my wife’s 4-year-old Lenovo laptop is nearing its end. Although for someone with a Macbook or even a new netbook, the iPad may seem overkill but for us, it is perfect and I know we would be buying it as soon as it comes out. Or we may wait for couple of weeks more for the fanboy lines to peter out. The earliest you can get it is in 60 days and if you want a 3G-enabled one, then 90 days. The role of the iPad in our household will serve as the second computer and as an e-reader; at least that was our expectations even before the iPad was released today. I’m sure we will know more about usability and features as the first products are bought and reviewed.

The full official video is below:

Help! I’m an elite blogger in a dark room

[T]he next time I see attacks on journalists from pseudonymous bloggers who complain that the journos are only trying to get TRPs (i.e. reach a mass audience), I will wonder: just who do you guys represent? Are you speaking on behalf of viewers and readers? Or are you just another anonymous elite that feels emboldened to pass judgement on the rest of the world from the darkness of your rooms?

[Source: Medium Term]. This diatribe against blogger and Twitter by Indian media personality Vir Sanghvi has been making the rounds of well, blogs and Twitter. The premise of the column or rather, blog post is so weak that bloggers whom Sanghvi holds in low esteem have instantly and effectively fisked it. Sometimes, I think India journalists are waking up to the benefits of link bait and have taken a leaf from the Politico playbook (in tempting Drudge). The beauty of blogging as Sanghvi may or may not understand, is that if other ‘elite’ bloggers like Amit Varma, Rohit, and Lekhni have already refuted not just the underlying arguments in the column blog post but also every major line that supports those arguments, then all I have to do is to link to them. Nevertheless, I’ll rant on. By the way, you are right, my blogging room is indeed dark and I’m waiting for my Google Adsense check to buy new CFLs. Pseudonymous as I am, most of my readers are well aware of my identity, or rather they like to think so.

As Lekhni points out, if TRPs are in fact the ultimate objective of journalism and mainstream media, I’m awaiting extensive coverage of ND Tiwari’s sex-capades [YouTube link]. In fact, a Bigg Boss season with Vir Sanghvi, Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt, Arnab Goswami, etc. would be a sure shot winner at the idiot box office. Mr. Sanghvi, get on it please and mention my pseudonym in the opening (not rolling) credits for the idea. Heck, we’ll even start a fire and film the crowds outside and the rescue helicopters. I’m told they make for great TRPs even though it may be ethically wrong and detrimental to the people trapped inside. And for the love of FSM, why is ‘elite’ such a favorite insult? I have been called elite by elite TED-attending bloggers and I always thank them for bestowing a honor that no Indibloggie ever did. Remind me to send the Team of Ordinary Navy Seals when you get kidnapped by the Taliban. If you mean arrogant and out of touch, please say so and hit yourself on the head once for making an ironical (or would it be tragic?) statement.

Now as a attention-seeking lazy blogger, I hope this blog spot gets noticed by your non-elite self and linked by your peers. We all can enjoy higher TRPs then or as we call them on the interwebs, hits. Light up my Mint (and Google Analytics) because we bloggers are like this only too.

Friedman Peace Prize

From Alfred Nobel’s will for eligibility of the Nobel Peace Prize – “for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of
standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses
” [source]. That’s it. Thomas “World is Flat” Friedman wants to give it to the U.S. armed forces. Talk about not getting the point. But of course, Friedman is free to donate few million of his estate and institute the Friedman Peace Prize and give it to anyone he damn pleases. Given the theses of his magnum opus, I thought he would’ve recommended some multinational corporation and even that would’ve made more sense.

Palin makes Financial Times swoon

Think The Nobel Committee is the only one making dubious choices? The Financial Times is writing above-the-fold stories based on…Sarah Palin’s Facebook notes. And the note doesn’t even make sense or is related to their story. Oh yeah, it is a liberal media indeed.

Politically Charged Apps in the Apple Store

Apple rejects an app that advocates for a single-payer health care system and allows people to connect and contact their Congressmen. Reason – “politically charged”. All fine. Apple’s monopoly and their sole right to decide what is allowable and what isn’t on their private store. But we at least expect consistency [via]. If “politically charged” is a suitable reason, then definitely, Unlikely Pear, an app that provides “conservative talking points” should be rejected too, right? Update: The app is now available in the App store. Except now it has far more publicity than before.

Inanities of the American Media

Important climate change negotiations at the G8 summit and the American media can only focus on inanities. Case in point, this conservative blogger’s dissection of a glance (note that she stands by her absurd post even after being proved wrong). And its rebuttal (YouTube). No pun intended. Such profound discourse…tsk tsk. Perhaps the media deserves Palin.

Not Affective Enough

“According to Heath, the governor was unable to be affective while she was constantly having to defend herself against ethics complaints and the media” [source]. I’m sure the author meant ‘effective’ or did Palin also follow in Sanford’s footsteps? These governors, I tell you, they aren’t affective enough; just ask their mistresses.

Why Health Advice on ‘Oprah’ Could Make You Sick

You may worship Oprah and consider her the Second Coming but this takedown in Newsweek on her proclivity to promote false science is compelling. No one should be above doubt and just because Oprah says so, it always ain’t so.

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