February 11th, 2006

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This Means You Are Automatically Cooler Than Me

It's the 11th of February here where I sit, which means that in 4 days, I will be 27 years old.

And what do I have to show for it?

A high school education, several failed attempts at creating a writing career, and . . . oh, yeah, a bankruptcy.

Happy Birthday to me.

Well, I've wanted to be a writer now for nearly 20 years, and what have I got to show for it?

Nothing. A rule of thumb I've never been able to hew to very successfully is the old line "A writer writes," with the addendum: "Preferably, every day." Well, I've written every day, almost, but usually minor silly things on Usenet.

I'm sick of not having anything to show for it, so I figure, an online journal won't hurt, and might even help.

Some guidelines:

___*This is not Blog. This is a journal.

___*I don't think I'll be putting up fictions and stories and the like. More likely, it's a semi-review site. (By semi-review, I don't mean that I'll be writing, long-in depth critical analyses of things. I'm going to talk about what I like and what I don't like and if you don't like what I like, go write on your own journal, and if you like what I don't like, go write on your own journal).

___*I'm not here to be flamed. I am making a spectacle of myself, of course. This is the Online World of Onlineliness. I've got my balls hanging out, here. But stupid "fuck you fucking fuckmouse fuck fuck" without a goddamned point is so not welcome here it's not even funny, people.

___*If you've got a problem with cursing, you shouldn't be online in the first place, and in the second place, you shouldn't be online reading the dribbles on a lunatic mind.

___*I have a very odd sense of humor. Yes, yes, everyone online has an odd sense of humor. But, what's that, cochise? I said "very." Yes. Very. As in, I may be making a joke right the fuck now!!! and most people won't be getting it. I don't care. I got it, and I'm only here to entertain myself, thank you. If you want me to entertain you, you'll need to pay me.

___*I probably won't be posting every day. I acknowledge this from the first. I procrastinate. Above all else, I procrastinate. If this offends you, I'll deal with you some other time (see? Jokes). I know that this goes against the previously stated reason of the journal in the first place. I am aware of many of my own failings, perhaps even all of them. Perhaps I am even aware of failings I don't even have yet. That's just the kind of guy I am. You know, human.

That's all for now. Be back tomorrow for more musings.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque
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There Is Something I'm Leaving Out, Of Course, But It's Rather Obvious

One of my major pet peeves is the current state of journalism, especially in America.

When I was briefly considering a "College Degree," as the old folks say, I was briefly considering that it be in the form of Journalism and Journalism Studies. (I wanted to be a writer, still do, and thought that this was a good way of going about it).

I'm sort of glad I never went that way, now, though. For one thing, the state of the "mainstream media" is simply abysmal. You don't get "news" or "information" from so-called "news sources." You get what it is that you should be thinking.

Or, for the more paranoid of you out there, what it is you should be thinking, as told to you by a handsome face but filtered by the old, rich white guy in charge of the news channel's news programming. This old white guy is often, in fact, given the title "Director of News Programming," or some such thing.

That always vaguely disturbs me, that he's a programmer. What is he programming? The news itself? Or is he programming us. We, who listen to, read, or are otherwise inducted into the harrowed halls of "Informed Citizenry."

A news media is important to a free democracy, because it is only by knowing what it is that we are voting for that we can know whether we shall vote yea or nay on whatever the hell it is we're supposed to be voting on. That's a whole different rant there, though, starting with "newspapers endorse politicians and political stances" and ending with "if the public isn't informed, why are we voting, anyway?" But, as I said, that's a whole different rant.

I'm here to talk about "headlines," "leads," and "the meat" of the story.

A headline is supposed to be an eye- and/or ear-catching phrase, usually limited to three words or less, but sometimes is longer, and can be--in today's online media world--a few sentences; in-line a "hyper link" and the rest of the story can be elsewhere. But the thing is, the headline and the story must be related. The headline can be factually inaccurate, as indeed can be the story (cf: Dewey beats Truman), but it's gotta follow from the same contextualized paradigm and that's just a bunch of big words used to make me seem like I know what I'm talking about, but means: If the story is about how the color yellow is eating downtown Boston, the headline cannot proudly proclaim "Yellow Passes Boston By!" Sure, that could easily comfort blind and deaf Bostonians that the color yellow, hey, it ain't hungry for the Boston cream in American Pie. But it misleads the public, the audience, and this guy behind the curtain.

The lead of a story, in journalistic parlance, should not be "buried." This means that the point of the story should be in the first sentence if possible, and if not, no more than three sentences in. The main reason for this, in case you do not know, is so that the editor can fit the important bits into the allotted space. However, it is not standard practice when people are "telling stories." Imagine a detective story where the killer is identified in the first 5 seconds. Now, a show like Columbo could get away with it because, generally, Columbo was an excellently written television program, and I kind of would like it if someone ripped Columbo off in the manner that Sherlock Holmes has been ripped off with the too-uneven-now television program featuring Adrian Monk. But, again: rant for another time. News "stories" aren't like fictional stories, or shouldn't be. The main information should be presented immediately, so that nobodies time is wasted. But we live now with a new medium, the On Line Thing, which allows for headlines of sentences in length. Surely, now, the lead can be buried, and in burying it, we can bring it to new life.

(By the way, I am sometimes a poet, as the previous sentence should have clued in to you. What with it being poetical. Now is the time to run, children.)

The meat of the story, then, can be disconnected from such archaicity as "the lead." Previously, in the papers, the lead and the meat were one and the same, or so interwoven that it made little difference elsewise. But now, we can place a contextual filter as the lead-in: For those with X Thinkpiece Worldview, the following story may come as a shock/surprise/joy. Such categorizing of the news is unprecedented, merely because of space. Naturally, space is still a premium online, with entobytes replacing the previously dear inchworms of newspapers and magazine periodicals. However, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't really think about the implications and effectiveness of this new medium. But the standard news sources are stuck in the past. They still report news as they would on the papers, and if they have an online presence, it is merely the paper, with hypertextiles.

And that's just the beginning. For all of the old news media's professed self-examination (often running stories about The Future Of News, or The Future Of Presenting News, or News Now On The Net and such), it doesn't really analyze itself, or at least effectively. It makes the claims that The News Is Dead, but then proclaims of itself Long Live The News. It proclaims that news agencies are being sidelined by "alternative news sources." By which they mean "Blogs, online journals, talk radio, and anything that Is Not Us." Such a view is precisely why News Is Dead, if so. There is no such thing as "alternative news," people. News is news. Just because Truman beat Dewey doesn't mean that facts cannot be reported in a compelling and informative way by people who don't have little letters behind their name. In fact, that's how newspapers started. You want to self-examine the news, News People, start with where it came from in the first blasted place in the first place. The history of news is often rather amusing, and much beyond the scope of my myopic vision. Starting with regular folks telling each other what they themselves found interesting or amusing, it quickly grew to become entrenched, shaped, by whoever was in charge that day. Only the chieftain could tell people what was what. Only the shaman could tell you that it was not rightly to think otherwhere of what the shaman and/or chieftain said or did. If they wanted something kept secret, it stayed secret. Until, lo, there comes a day when a regular person starts to tell people things again.

It really is that simple. The "common man" tells other "common men" what's going down at the old railroad tonight, until someone decided that there should be a focal point, where all this "news" can be gathered and easily disseminated . . . until the gathering place gets too full of itself, and the common man takes up the burden again. We're seeing it now, but the News People are only babbling on about it from the context of political blogs. This is because, I believe, they have fallen victim of the "Nuh-huh!" fallacy.

We all know what this is, of course. Come on, do I really have to explain?

Okay, here it is. The "Nuh-huh!" fallacy. Party A is dancing. Party B, whom--and this is important--has the biggest hate on for Party A, and in fact, the feeling is mutual says "Party A is dancing!" and so Party A immediately says "Nuh-huh!" Simply by denying it, they think to muddy the issue and such a strong denial is sure to make people think "Well, maybe they aren't dancing, now that I think on it." This, despite the clear evidence that Party A was in fact dancing. They don't want to be thought of as dancing, for whatever reasons. Usually stupid ones.

How does this apply to the News People? Have you been living under a rock? The News People are under fire for being "Leftist." They reply by going "Nuh-huh!" They occasionally "post proof" that they aren't biased towards leftism, but they only do this when under attack, and often, to my eyes, it's a little weak. It makes people with brains that work start to wonder. Perhaps they aren't biased, that, too, is beyond the scope of this little journal, and I don't want to get into political argumentations. It is, however, a fact that they are being accused, and that when they are so accused, they deny. It's just automatic. "You're biased."--"Nuh-huh!"--"Your nose is running."--"Nuh-huh!"--". . . You're the most geniusest guys around!"--"Nuh-huh!" It approaches pathos. Or pathological.

However, back to my point: The news only notices "alternative media" that is "right wing" because they're terrified, for some reason, of being seen as being biased, and thus ignore the other online news sources. Some of these are entertainment related. Some of them are information related. Many of the more high-profile ones are political, yes, but that's because the freaks on both sides have ahold of the megaphone at the moment, and aren't letting go. But by ignoring the non (or more or less less) politically aligned of the "alternative media" the News Giants are failing to fully recognize just how ineffectual they really are. Because the online news is now often where people go to get their news. And by focusing on just the political spectrum, the Newsios are aggravating those who don't really give that much of a damn about politics, which causes them to head to those that don't talk left- or right-wing. This has the side effect of causing people in a democracy to be less informed than ever at what might needs be most informativeness . . . or whatever. But we've got science news thingers and sports news thingers and music news thingers. All sorts of non-politics thingers.

But the news, as far as I can see never (and by never I mean approaching never) reports on them. Perhaps they feel the call of the afterlife, and are afraid to acknowledge their own successors. In which case, they'll never see the revolution coming.

Because it's already here.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque
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