Tag Archives: news

The Darkest Decade


A museum when done right should teach, inspire and evoke an emotional response. There are some museums whose content and themes are so inherently powerful they must rely on the absence of stimuli to evoke a response. Often some section of the museum is devoid of audio or descriptive copy. There is a four-story glass sculpture of freedom, or a pile of suitcases or a melted police car. The power of these selected image(s) can be breathtaking and utterly unnerving.

The Newseum (in Washington D.C.) has not a single quiet space. It is like the topic itself, unrelenting, riveting and compelling. Headlines, newsprint, broadcasts, artifacts and photographs form a cacophony of meta and micro information. “Oh right, THAT event! And how was it covered?” No stone is left unturned in answering the question. (Did you know a journalist created the FBI 10 Most Wanted list? See that!) The Pulitzer Prize Photography gallery is an embarrassment of riches. There are 70 years worth of stunning imagery to be admired and absorbed. Factoring in that the prize was offered in two categories beginning in 1968, that’s a lot of photos. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and mentally mutter “Nice” “Well done” in a monotonous tone. But something unexpected happens by the time you reach the 1960s-1970s section. A theme, spanning over 10 years, begins to develop, and a lump in the throat and pit of the stomach forms.

We’ve seen (most of) these photos over the years individually. The image of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald (Robert H. Jackson) has become part of how we talk about Kennedy’s assassination. We’ve all seen, and perhaps turned our heads, from the image of a naked child running from napalm (Huyhn Cong Ut) and of the Saigon execution (Edward T. Adams). We may recall the university campus gun violence (Kent State and Cornell.) But it is the (1967) photo of James Meredith (the first African-American student to attend the segregated University of Mississippi,) shot on a Mississippi road displayed in proximity to a photo of Ted Landsmark being attacked with the United States flag a full ten years later that is horrifying. And that is the point of this startling decade of American history. There was simply so much, so very much violence. Even the uplifting photos are a reminder of violence and sorrow. The unadulterated joy on the faces of Col. Robert L. Stirm’s family upon his return is a reminder of the heartbreak of Viet Nam soldiers Missing In Action. The war, the assassinations, the racism, the plight of the migrant workers and the violence; it’s all there in obscene excess in those 10 years.


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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing


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Stopping The Madness


When real news occurs technology and 24-hour access is a blessing. By patching together information from responsible radio sources, social chatter, and television visuals, we are able to piece together a reliable narrative. Our data gathering is confirmed and/or tweaked by the next morning’s newspaper. But when there is no more news, when we know what there is to know, the coverage still continues. The cameras and the microphone-wielding reporters scramble to create news after the fact.

Mobs of coffee swilling, logo wearing news personnel pass the time texting and chatting, waiting for a passerby to descend upon. They are rewarded for their perseverance by the person who desires to be photographed/interviewed. We could spend hours working out why anyone would want to place flowers on the ground while a swarm of dozens of camera people hover over one’s head. Perhaps it’s a similar motivation to wanting to go on record with “I didn’t really know him, he seemed different.” It’s odd but it is human nature to want to be part of something bigger.

But do we gain anything from the vulgar intrusion into people’s lives and the manufacturing of ‘news?’ The real events are usually horrific enough. No one need look for more horror. Every ‘expert’ frantically grabbed for a soundbite can pontificate from the news desk. If there is still news to come out of local offices, a reporter can be there and file the report the information. On-site cameras are not needed to report medical examiner reports or investigative results. Beside the stomach-turning element to covering mourning and grief is the danger of anesthetizing the public. While we don’t want to live in a state of perpetual sorrow, we most certainly don’t want to find ourselves numb and/or nonchalant about such horrific events. What is almost unthinkable is how the non-stop coverage can actually lead to more tragedy.

We can’t begin to ever really know what goes on in someone else’s mind. But we can look for clues and make educated guesses and predictions. A person ill at ease in the world, unable to connect with other people can retreat into a very dark world. If someone feels that they will never be able to be an active participant in life can look for ways to make their mark in death. No, it is not a simple equation and it by no means suggests that all socially awkward people retreat into darkness. But people who feel part of the world and valued by others wouldn’t look for ways to enact revenge on their path to death.

While there is no way to overstate that the time is now to rid our nation of guns and take mental illness seriously, it is also time to stop the media circus. Right now there is some compromised person watching this coverage and thinking of a way to become even more famous. The fact that I’m saying it doesn’t make it true, the fact that you feel it too, does.

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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing


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This Just In

There is much to love about new media and greater access to information. The average person (with high speed internet access) can view primary source news in real time throughout the day. If a consumer chooses to, he/she can avail him or herself to messaging from politicians or experts who fly somewhat below the mainstream radar. This level of accessibility democratizes the flow of information for both the source and for the user.

There is a downside to the immediacy and the abundance of the information. Lack of (or flawed) fact checking has become a serious issue both in legitimate journalism and in the blogosphere. Some of these slips are no doubt due to the speed of the news cycle. A certain percentage of slips are a product of ignorance of the very concept of fact checking. (There are a significant number of people who actually consider wikipedia to be a primary source.) It’s also worth a mention that the editing profession ain’t what it once was. One need only pick up a book published (by self or house) in the past few years to witness the change.

Another unfortunate fallout from the glut of information is all the information! It is challenging to weed through so much noise to get to what matters. Rumors or sensational (baseless) accusations turn into news; because quite frankly legitimate news outlets cannot afford to ignore a story everyone is talking/tweeting about. Stories that were once the purview of the National Enquirer, People or any other tabloid, now find themselves in the evening news and newspapers of record. These distasteful ‘stories’ diminish the news source for some viewers/readers. Consumers who have made a point of avoiding the magazines in doctor’s offices and television monitors in airports now find their sensibilities offended in new and distressing ways.

There was a time when people would read the local newspaper for which they felt an affinity. There were New York City newspapers in the double-digits and with multiple daily editions! The network evening news choices were dry and authoritative (the monkey was only on in the morning.) Consumers received their news via a highly filtered process. Somewhere between processed news and raw news lies a happy medium. The consumer is now the editor and very few of us are equipped to do our own fact checking or redlining.


Posted by on November 14, 2012 in Media/Marketing


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