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Bob Goldfarb on Media

Friday, February 20, 2004
    Indecency on the Air

    Janet Jackson gets all the headlines, but it's radio -- not television -- that's more often accused of crossing the line of indecency.  And it's radio that has scrambled to get its act together fast enough to forestall FCC intervention.

    Viacom's Mel Karmazin, who runs both CBS and the Infinity group of radio stations, testified before the House Telecommunications Committee on February 11, where he apologized for the notorious half-time show.  And well he might, since legislators and the FCC are trying to outdo each other in imposing bigger penalties for broadcast indecency.  Meanwhile, the industry's trade association, the National Association of Broadcasters, has announced an "industry-wide summit on responsible programming."

    It's much more typical for the FCC to take action against a radio station than a TV network.  This past Wednesday it fined Chicago's Q-101 (WKQX) $28,000 in connection with four separate indecency incidents in the first half of 2001.  The station is owned by the Emmis group.  Meanwhile, considering the current climate, Disney/ABC Radio has promulgated a "zero tolerance" policy.

    It was an Infinity show, "Opie and Anthony," that broadcast a live sex act from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York a couple of years ago.  So, predictably, Karmazin also announced a "zero-tolerance" policy to his radio managers, saying "Don't screw up.  If you don't comply you'll be fired for cause."

    A regulated industry naturally prefers self-regulation to government intervention, so we can expect more public gestures on the part of the major media companies to show that they won't stand for indecency.  Of course their listeners seem to like a certain amount of it: Howard Stern is one of Infinity's most successful personalities.  Portraying the listening audience as victims of the media giants glosses over that uncomfortable fact.

    posted by bob @ 4:08 pm | Permanent link
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
    A Tale of Two Ombudsmen

    This past Sunday the Public Editor of the Portland Oregonian, Michael Arrieta-Walden, wrote about the letters he had received from readers asking for more coverage of issues in this year's political campaign.  Here are a few excerpts:

    An informal survey of regular readers and comments from others who have been writing or calling about the presidential election urge the newspaper to focus on these steps:

    BRING MORE SKEPTICISM: The inundation of other sources of information, from cable news to talk radio, and the impending flood of advertising from candidates means readers want the newspaper to sort through the spin and deliver the truth....

    MORE ISSUES COVERAGE: The newspaper needs to provide in-depth stories on the candidates' stances on issues, particularly comparing what they're saying today with what they've said and how they've acted in the past. Too much campaign coverage, they say, focuses on the latest stump speech or poll....

    AVOID MEANINGLESS FLAPS: While pushing for more skepticism about the candidates and their claims, several readers also say the newspaper should take care to avoid seizing on issues that are misleading or irrelevant, simply because other media are focusing on them. They cited the distortion in 2000 of Al Gore's statement about starting the Internet and the lack of context for the Howard Dean "howl." "Try to do it right," writes Dale Coberly of Corvallis. "Gotchas about meaningless errors . . . are not useful or even fair."

    Readers nationwide are looking for better campaign coverage.

    Meanwhile, at the New York Times the same day, ombudsman Daniel Okrent used his space in the Week in Review to interview himself about how his job is going.  He didn't address any journalistic issues directly, but he does tell us how he's getting along with his colleagues, his bosses, and his readers.  And he objects when readers complain about The Times in the second person:

    Last bit of advice: don't call me "you," as in "Why did you [or "your people"] put such-and-such on the front page?" I'm not The Times; I'm an independent contractor. I don't attend editorial meetings, engage in personnel discussions or review anything before it gets into print - nor should I be able to. That's why newspapers have editors.

    The contrast is striking between the solipsism of one man's column and the public-service concerns of the other.

    posted by bob @ 8:22 am | Permanent link
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
    The Economist's Religion Problem

    The Economist is remarkable for the breadth and seriousness of its coverage, and for its irrepressible sense of humor as well.  All too often, though, its idea of fun is to gape at religious people and smirk at their nonsensical ways.

    The current issue, for instance, has a piece about mail in Israel that's addressed to God.  "Every year," reveals the writer, in a poor attempt at wit, "[the Israeli postal service] delivers hundreds of letters addressed to God, though they usually contain very little information about the recipient's exact whereabouts."  The contents?  "Most letters contain praise, requests or complaints."  The article's author doesn't acknowledge that there is a name for messages like that: prayer.

    The editors of The Economist are equally amused by all religions, it seems.  In the issue of January 24th, an item datelined Cairo reports,

    Saudi schoolchildren learn that a good way to show love of God is to treat infidels with contempt. They also learn that such “ideologies” as communism, Arab nationalism, secularism and capitalism are all forms of apostasy. Yet none of those things is quite as bad as pretending to be a proper Muslim, then sneaking off to perform rituals in tombs. Anyone who does so forfeits his right to life and property; his womenfolk may be captured and enslaved.

    That's not really so remarkable -- in most societies the severest sanctions are reserved for those who subvert its norms.  When the norms are religious, however, The Economist can't see the underlying parallel, only the superficially puzzling behavior.

    In the Economist for January 17th, the "Economics Focus" page reports on a couple of studies that show -- shockingly, to the writer -- that religious sectarians act in economically rational ways:

    Although ascetic behaviour is intended to reap rewards in the afterlife, Laurence Iannaccone, now of George Mason University, observed a decade ago that it can pay off handsomely in this world. By studying American Christian groups such as the Amish, who forgo modern technology, and the Mormons, who give years of their life as missionaries, he calculated that the costs of religious membership are, despite the sacrifices, lower than the benefits received.

    The Economist seems surprised that religious people aren't crazy after all.  Maybe it's The Economist that isn't behaving rationally.

    posted by bob @ 7:09 pm | Permanent link
Monday, February 16, 2004
    Questioning On the Times Front

    It's always telling to see how assumptions creep unconsciously into language.  In today's New York Times, Ben Brantley's dispatch from London gives a nuanced account of the way current debates over war can be felt in West End productions of both classic and new plays.  The headline, however, has reached a more partisan conclusion:  "All Questioning on the London Front: Theater Reflects War's Bleak Futility."

    There we have it: war is futile, according to the headline writer.  Imagine, for the sake of comparison, that there had been a spate of pro-war plays; would the headline have said "Theater Reflects Need for War"?  It's unlikely, because that would have jarred the sensibilities of someone along the way.

    Headline writing is an art with very strict limitations, and of course there is no room for subtleties like "Theater Reflects Feelings of Futility in War."  Maybe this headline was the best one possible under the circumstances.  Then again, maybe the headline betrays its author's belief that war is indeed futile.  Ideally that question should never come up.

    posted by bob @ 9:01 pm | Permanent link
    Reality Trumps Stereotype

    "Dog bites man" isn't news, goes the old saw; news is "man bites dog."  By that token it's news when a stereotypical narrative gives way to real life in a creative work.  Joan Acocella, in the February 26 issue of The New York Review of Books, wittily explains what she called the "bloody toe shoes" story line in movies:

    ...most ballet movies are assembled from a limited set of widely held assumptions about the profession. To wit: Ballet dancers are obsessed, and their lives are anguish. They are anorexic; their feet bleed; they don't have time to date. They have frightening "ballet mothers" who push them mercilessly and prevent them from eating dessert. After years of back-breaking work, they have only a slim chance of getting into a major troupe. If they do join such a company, they will find themselves surrounded by bitter homosexuals and imperious, poodle-toting prima ballerinas, who try to bar them from getting ahead.

    Occasionally, though, a prima ballerina may get injured, in which case our little ingenue may be thrown on at the last minute, have a succès fou, and become a prima herself, overnight. Should that happen, she can look forward to a short professional life—still dateless, dessertless—after which she is thrown on the trash pile, if her neurotic obsession with dance has not already brought her to more decisive harm, such as getting run over by a train, which is what happens to Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes. In any case, the crucial point is the contrast between the ethereal, chiffon-wafting beauty of ballet and the brutal realities that underlie it.

    Remarkably, Robert Altman discarded that formula in making his last film, "The Company."  (Interview with Altman from CenterStage Chicago here.)  Instead, Acocella reports, the film is about a year in the lives of the dancers of a ballet company and "has a high reality quotient."  Film and prime-time television rely more on received narrative than on reality, telling audiences what they want to hear, so Altman's departure is truly exceptional.  That shouldn't be news, but it is.

    posted by bob @ 7:38 am | Permanent link
Sunday, February 15, 2004
    Competition and Quality

    The Business page in yesterday's New York Times had a predictable sidebar on the proposed Disney/Comcast merger.  "Hollywood producers and consumer advocates are again sounding the alarm that media consolidation will narrow the outlets for independent producers and upstart cable channels," writes Sharon Waxman.

    Independent producers in Hollywood are like the vanishing family farm in American iconography: a symbol of self-reliance, wholesomeness, and the price we pay for progress.  If we look past the symbol, though, we're talking about the producers of the Terminator movies. 

    More important is the question of how real this particular threat is.  An advocate for small cable channels complains in the Times piece: "The 500 voices on cable just became Comcast-Disney."  Of course Comcast and Disney don't have a dozen channels, much less 500.  And distributors always need what they call "content."  A merger would have more serious consequences for Viacom and Time-Warner than for independents because those giants would face a more formidable competitor.

    Last week's issue of The Economist assesses media consolidation from a different standpoint.  Reflecting on the Janet Jackson incident at the Superbowl, the magazine notes that a still photo of the singer with breast bared was published in several British dailies, including the respectable Times and Telegraph.  Why?  Competition.  "America's papers, which tend to be local near-monopolies, can afford a loftier attitude," opines the anonymous writer.  In other words, opposing the Comcast-Disney merger in the name of "the free flow of information and ideas" could lead to more sensationalism and pornography.  Talk about unintended consequences.

    posted by bob @ 4:48 pm | Permanent link
Friday, February 13, 2004
    Squeezing Out the Middle

    There's been a trend for some time in the publishing industry towards blockbuster titles, leaving little room for mid-list books that are neither best-sellers nor specialty items.  The book editor Robert Weil, writing in last Sunday's Washington Post, gives an eloquent, personal view of what is being lost in the process.

    As Weil points out, the neglect of literary books by publishers has a venerable tradition; he quotes Nathaniel Hawthorne on the subject.  But it's not purely a publishing phenomenon.  The music industry, which resembles publishing in many ways, has been heading in the same direction for decades.

    Both are part of a larger change in the economy generally.  The financial temptation of publishing tawdry romances is not new, but the erosion of the middle in our culture *is* different from the society and economy of the past.  The instantaneous availabiity of information has made the marketplace much more efficient, which in turn has raised the bar for success, for individuals as well as companies.  Not only the publishing midlist, but also midsize companies and middle-class life, are feeling the squeeze.

    What George Orwell foresaw in geopolitics in "1984" -- a world dominated by three superpowers -- has instead happened in our economy.  Major industries in the U.S. are each dominated by about three major players jockeying for dominance.  That leaves no room for modest success.  Like Robert Weil, I think that the marketplace will somehow bring more masterpieces of writing (and music, and film, and so on) to the public in the future.  But the obstacles seem more formidable than ever before.

    posted by bob @ 7:20 am | Permanent link
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
    The Left Shall Rise Again

    Jason Zengerle's cover story in the current issue of The New Republic  suggests a few answers to the question, where are the liberals in talk radio?  He compares today's liberals to yesterday's conservatives -- disenfranchised and angry -- and sees the possibility that they may be an untapped audience for left-wing radio talk.  And Zengerle finds hope in the local success of anti-establishment talk hosts Randi Rhodes of West Palm Beach, Florida, and Joe "Black Eagle" Madison of WOL/Washington and XM satellite radio.

    The thing is, people have been trying for years to launch nationwide liberal talk shows.  A labor-movement network called i.e. America, based in Detroit, features left-wing hosts like Peter Werbe, Thom Hartmann, and Mike Malloy, but has failed to establish much of a foothold.  There's a group in San Francisco that is running a petition drive to get the i.e. America lineup on the air in San Francisco, but to no avail.

    Hopes for liberal talk were boosted by the announcement last month that Al Franken had been signed to do a daily 3-hour show for a syndicator called Progress Media, and -- in some ways more newsworthy -- the show will have a major-market outlet, WNTD/Chicago.  (Franken will be joined by a co-host, Katherine Lanpher, formerly of Minnesota Public Radio.)  Whether it will find an audience, though, obviously remains to be seen.

    Zengerle, in a brilliant insight, draws a connection between talk radio and what Richard Hofstadter called the "paranoid style."  From that perspective, "what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil," wrote Hofstadter.  And as Zengerle observes, that zeal fuels right-wing talk radio.  But is it compatible with the liberal worldview?  And are there millions of liberals who are really waiting for a radio voice to speak to them?  One might say that reports of the resurrection of liberal talk radio are greatly exaggerated.

    posted by bob @ 7:54 pm | Permanent link
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
    Covering the Arts

    Editor Ronnie Ramos explained to readers of the Shreveport Times on Sunday that the paper is eliminating arts reviews in order to expand coverage.  Sound like an oxymoron?  Ramos anticipated that reaction:

    The Times will no longer do reviews of plays, symphonies, ballets and art shows. The Times will expand and improve its arts coverage during the coming year. These last two sentences are not mutually exclusive. Not running reviews does not mean The Times is cutting back on its arts coverage. We want to improve it.

    He went on to explain,

    Reviews take up, at times, a huge portion of arts writer Lane Crockett's time. Crockett, who has covered the arts in Shreveport for 34 years, 10 of those years at the Shreveport Journal, has a wealth of knowledge and expertise about our arts community. We want to take advantage of that knowledge.

    Considering how much newspapers have changed in the last generation, it's legitimate to ask how arts coverage might be improved.  The key question, of course, is what will replace the reviews.  Most of arts journalism nowadays consists of puff pieces that scarcely resemble real reporting.  Adding more of them wouldn't improve arts coverage in Shreveport, but it seems that's what the Times favors.

    Today's paper, for instance, has a story by the aforementioned Lane Crockett about a Turner exhibition that opens Sunday at Fort Worth's Kimbell Art Museum.  The Living section also includes a brief announcement of a song recital consisting of Emily Dickinson settings, and an item headed "Symphony announces Valentine's concert."

    This amounts to substituting promotion for reporting.  If that's the paper's new direction, readers of the Shreveport Times would have reason to be unhappy about the loss of arts reviews.  I wonder, though, if they will be.  Ronnie Ramos knows his readers' tastes better than I do.  If they prove him right, it would be another sign that the public's interest in the arts has become even more tenuous than we'd thought.

    posted by bob @ 8:12 pm | Permanent link
Monday, February 9, 2004
    Media on Media

    In his column in last Thursday's Los Angeles Times, Al Martinez offers his belated assessment of the novel "The Fabulist" by the disgraced journalist Stephen Glass.  He didn't actually finish reading the novel, but is disgusted by the whole phenomenon:

    I don't usually read halfway through a book and then cast it aside. But in this case, I'm appalled by the notion that a guy like Glass can cash in on his disgrace by writing about it, thus reflecting our appetite for the bizarre and elevating him to the level of cult hero. He fooled his boss and humiliated a profession.

    It's a kind of meta-reality when one journalist writes about a novel that is a fictionalized account of another journalist's fall from grace.  Here it's also a jumping off point for a nebulous indictment of all that's wrong in the world.  Martinez laments:

    Truth doesn't matter too much anymore, the way good manners don't matter much anymore, the way morality doesn't matter much anymore, the way intelligence doesn't, I mean don't, matter much anymore.

    If things are so bad, that must surely have been apparent before Stephen Glass ever put words on a page?

    The March issue of The Atlantic (March articles are not yet posted on the Website) has another bit of meta-reality on a similar topic.  This time it's a magazine article about a movie based on a magazine article about the same journalist, and it's a much more serious and measured piece.  Where Martinez sees a recent decline in just about everything, epitomized by Glass, The Atlantic's Mark Bowden finds nothing new in the Glass affair.  "America has always had a soft spot for the clever, no-nonsense common man or woman making a buck by his or her wits, which is how reporters have most often been protrayed," he rightly observes.

    Bowden's view is that "Shattered Glass," the Hollywood version of the story, gives false comfort with its pat ending.  He prefers Sydney Pollack's film "Absence of Malice" (1981) because its presents the moral ambiguities of journalistic ambition and the collateral damage it can cause.  That's a welcome relief from the extreme judgments that either condemn the profession or defend it unquestioningly.  But Martinez is right about one thing: our fascination with Glass does reflect our own appetites.  The journalism we're given is, on some level, the journalism we want.  If it repels us, ultimately we can only blame ourselves.

    posted by bob @ 5:01 am | Permanent link
Sunday, February 8, 2004
    The Incredible Shrinking Market

    A reader in Des Moines responded to my post about the market for classical-music recordings:

    I've been saying this for years, but nobody listens. There is a very healthy classical record biz all over the place, on the Net, through the post, on dozens of tiny little labels around the world. Music is a step-child at Barnes & Noble, like greeting cards; nevertheless the chain sells a hell of a lot of music, at some locations up to 25% classical. Classical is just as big as it ever was, probably bigger, but it has shrunk as a proportion of the total music market. When I was a kid 50 years ago I was lucky if I had enough money to buy a single once a month; now a lot of 8-year-olds buy CDs every week. That is why what we used to call the "major labels" have abandoned me, their best customer, to lust after children, and the sooner they all hit the wall the better it will be for *all* the music.

    I wish that were true.  Classical sales, as measured in dollars, has held constant, but only because of price hikes and crossover titles.  If you don't count soundtracks and mood-music compilations, the sales of classical-music recordings are declining in terms of unit sales, not just as a share of the market.  The reason retail stores devote less space to classical music is that there's less demand for it, not because they've decided it's a "stepchild."  Business is business, after all.

    On the same topic, a colleague writes:

    One assertion I have about the home grown CD label (for orchestras) is that they should simply stop trying to market to a nationwide audience.  Simply change the perception of what makes a successful recording.  Who cares if everyone around the country hears it or not, sure that is a great thing but at least start to associate the status of your orchestra in the minds of the local community and work out from there.

    Redefining success is usually a symptom that something's wrong, isn't it?  It's like declaring you've won a battle just before you retreat.  Classical music used to be a real business where a lot of titles sold tens of thousands -- sometimes hundreds of thousands -- of copies through retail stores around the world.  If we decide we're content with selling a couple of thousand units in lobbies or on the Internet, we're admitting how limited our prospects really are.

    posted by bob @ 7:32 pm | Permanent link
Thursday, February 5, 2004
    Evil or Economics?

    In an earlier post I argued that consumer choice, rather than the moral shortcomings of music-industry executives, accounts for the sharp drop in the sale of classical-music recordings.  I have a similar reaction to a paragraph in this past Sunday's New York Times Book Review.  In a review of Debra J. Dickerson's "The End of Blackness," Gerald Early writes:

    How is it that whites can be so racist that whenever blacks appear on the covers of magazines the sales go down 40 to 60 percent, yet financially support and rabidly attend professional and college football and basketball, which are completely dominated by blacks?

    Maybe it's not racism at all.  Perhaps these white consumers enjoy basketball, no matter who's playing, but just aren't interested in reading a cover story about someone they view as unlike themselves.  Race explains a lot of things in America, but not everything.  When it comes to magazines and sporting events, I'll bet it's simple consumer preference, and not racism, that accounts for people's behavior.  Economics may not be as riveting a topic as is evil, but it provides a much more sensible explanation.

    posted by bob @ 12:07 am | Permanent link
Wednesday, February 4, 2004
    Lamenting the Limits on Media Regulation

    In yesterday's Washington Post, Frank Ahrens reports on the inconsistencies in the arguments for the regulation of cable television, and oddly, seems to prefer consistency to free speech.  Ahrens writes,

    Had the Super Bowl halftime show aired on MTV, however, the FCC would have been powerless to fine it. By federal law, the agency has no authority to crack down on profanity, vulgarity, nudity and sexual content on the hundreds of cable or satellite television channels now received in most homes.

    The blurring of this line between over-the-air television and pay television is troubling to a growing number of viewers, lawmakers and advocacy groups. Programs seen on MTV, Comedy Central and ESPN should be held to the same standards of decency as those seen on ABC, CBS, Fox or Univision, they say.

    In other words, it seems to make little sense that the FCC can fine the Simpsons but not the Sopranos.

    Little sense, that is, if you care about the outcome but not the law.  One might just as well say that it's illogical to regulate NPR but not The New Republic.  Broadcasting is an exception to the laws protecting free speech because it uses the public airwaves and requires a Federal license.  Every other means of expression, from newspapers to billboards to public demonstrations to cable TV, is protected from government censorship by hundreds of years of law and custom.  As Ahrens notes with remarkable understatement, "Lawmakers attempting to extend the FCC's indecency oversight to cable television likely would run into constitutional obstacles, according to specialists in First Amendment and FCC law."

    FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin wants to change that.  "I think there's an obligation and an opportunity to talk about how we should be trying to deal with this issue and for parents to be able to try to protect children from some of the content they might be concerned about," he says.

    And, from what Ahrens writes, that's reasonable.  In his words, "The FCC's indecency standards were enacted well before the rise of cable and did not anticipate its dominance. With each viewer who leaves network programming for cable, the FCC's enforcement ability shrinks. Soon, some fear, the government will only be able to police a small corner of the television playground for indecent behavior."  In other words, the real danger is that the government won't be able to control more of the media.

    It is strange to behold a Washington Post reporter implicitly making the case for greater government regulation of media content.  But Ahrens may be in tune with a popular sentiment that favors more government intervention in radio and TV -- the same sentiment that wants the FCC to police Clear Channel more closely.  It could be a symptom that the public is so alienated from the big media companies that it would prefer government oversight to unregulated programming that competes for the largest audience.  What that might mean for the future of democracy is a topic for another day.

    posted by bob @ 7:36 pm | Permanent link
    The Death of Classical Music, again

    Anthony Tommasini has a curiously defensive piece in today's New York Times, reacting to recent pronouncements of doom by the British critic Norman Lebrecht. Tommasini is an insightful music critic and a pleasure to read, but by his own description he is a Pollyanna when talks about the huge changes in the classical-music recording industry.

    Back in December, in his online column in La Scena Musicale, Lebrecht offered the "rock-solid prediction that the year 2004 will be the last for the classical record industry."  He cites the usual reasons: mergers, a virtual end to long-term recording contracts for major artists, the drastic reduction in the number of classical CDs being issued.

    Tommasini doesn't discuss mergers at all, even though the proposed combination of Sony and BMG is an unmistakeable signal of the industry's poor health.  In fact, he is none too clear about the business side of the record business: he is under the mistaken impression that Nonesuch sells new releases "at midrange prices."  He is more interested in artistic mistakes like the overselling of Roberto Alagna by EMI.

    The most peculiar thing is Tommasini's multiple examples of trying to make the proverbial silk purse out of a sow's ear.  The pianist Leif-Ove Andsnes can make only one recording a year?  Tommasini sees that as potentially a good thing, asking: "might not this restriction actually benefit Mr. Andsnes's development?"  Maybe, but that's certainly not the reason that EMI won't release more than one disc per year by this enormously talented artist.

    Tommasini hails the orchestras that have "boldly" launched their own in-house labels.  First of all, there's nothing new in that: the Louisville Orchestra did it in the 1950's, and numerous individual performers and chamber ensembles have done it for the past decade.  Secondly, the reasons are anything but bold.  Faced with no presence on CDs, and contractual obligations to their players in the form of electronic media guarantees, orchestras have made the best of a bad situation by starting their own labels, forgoing the marketing and distribution that are at the core of the record business.  However, making private CDs that can be ordered over the Internet is a far cry from a major-label contract that brings worldwide distribution in stores and catalogues as well as the Internet.  And custom-burned CDs, the medium through which the CRI label's catalogue remains available, are barely a ghost of a presence.

    The two critics agree on at least one point: blaming the woes of the industry on the "greed" (Tommasini) or "avarice" (Lebrecht) of executives.  Nowadays it is practically compulsory to blame the world's woes on the sins of greed, hypocrisy, and hate, so why should the decline of the classical-music industry have any other explanation?  The real reason is that there just aren't enough people any more who want to buy classical recordings to make the business viable.  Blaming technology or management is just a distraction from that unmistakeable fact.

    posted by bob @ 8:06 am | Permanent link


MEDIA RES archives

About Me
I'm a consultant in the arts and media, specializing in classical-music radio and recordings. My professional expertise ranges from marketing to management to artists and repertoire, but my enthusiasms embrace just about all the mass media, with a particular emphasis on the arts. More

About Media Res
Society and culture in the age of the Internet are more exposed than ever before, subject to examination and investigation instantaneously and ubiquitously. But we human beings still haven't outgrown our capacity to overlook the obvious, or to believe what we want to believe no matter what the evidence to the contrary, or to mistake our narrow prejudices for high ideals. This blog will look at the interrelationships between the media, culture, and society from different angles, maybe with a few surprises now and then. More

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Sites I like...

One of the greatest success stories on the Web must be Jim Romenesko's daily roundup of media industry news, under the aegis of the Poynter Institute.  Crisply written and totally in touch, it's indispensible. 

For news about radio I check the home page of the industry publication "Radio and Records." 

The weekly NPR show "On the Media" takes a consistently fresh look at the media, and the Website makes it easy to listen to segments of the show if you don't find it on your local public radio station.

Among the best media critics around is the Los Angeles Times' Tim Rutten, who writes its "Regarding Media" column twice a week.

And some of the most entertaining and penetrating coverage of the media comes from satirist Harry Shearer on his weekly radio program "Le Show," originating from the fertile ground of KCRW Radio in Santa Monica, California and broadcast nationally.  Current and past shows can be heard online through the Website.

To keep up on current books, performers, and issues in the arts, I listen when I can to Leonard Lopate from New York's WNYC.  The media are not the main focus, but the show is brilliant, always timely and well-researched, and with terrific guests.  As an interviewer, Lopate is in a class by himself: curious, witty, articulate, extraordinarly well-informed, a superb listener.  It's one of life's great mysteries that his show is not broadcast nationally, but at least it's streamed on the Web.



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