The Economics of a Sitcom!

The implosion of Charlie Sheen and his career this week has gotten the tabloid treatment in most of the Media. The New York Times however took a more financial approach to the story. Bill Carter’s article “Sheen Tantrum Likely to Cost in the Millions” discusses the economical fallout of the suspension of production on Two and a Half Men–the numbers are mind numbing and clearly shows the big business of a television series.

With the loss of prime advertising revenue and syndication of the lost episodes, CBS and Warner Brothers may lose upward of a quarter of a billion dollars! Now that’s a meltdown!

The Art of the Spin.

This week, in a lecture I was doing for a public relations course, ‘truthfulness’ was raised by a student as something one wants when producing P.R. material. When I answered that the ‘truth’ in public relations is much like the ‘truth’ is to defense attorneys, unnessesary, I could see the students disbelief. This was a perfect opening to discuss the ‘spin.’ What is the ‘spin’? William Safire in a New York Times article, The Spinner Spun gives us an understanding of this tool of politicians and PR. firms alike.

Newsweek this week has a great example of the art of spin. Disclose No Evil by Daniel McGinn takes various corporations who experienced a less than stellar year, and shows how a spin can over come obstacles. It is an amusing,  but also eye opening view into corporate ‘happy speak’!

If only Paul Revere had Social Networking….

The political upheaval being experienced across North Africa and the Middle East has already found its iconic symbol. It is not an individual or a particular group–it is in fact Facebook, Twitter and You Tube. The youth of Tunisia and Egypt discovered that the tools they have used for social communication, can in fact be  a powerful weapon.

I highly recommend the 60 Minutes segment on “Wael Ghonium and Egypt’s New Age Revolution,” this young Google executive explains the importance of social networking in awakening the youth of Egypt to political advocacy and protest. The interview also shows the vulnerabilities  governments face in controlling their citizens due to the openness of social networking.

I also recommend a video on You Tube by a Tunisian Rapper called El General. His Rap, “Rais LeBled” has become the anthem of the various protests across the region. The 21 year old had his music banned in Tunisia yet though the internet was able to get his protest music  circulated globally. Now, his call against corruption has been used by the various ‘Jasmine Revolutions’ in the Region and he has become the Bob Dylan of his generation.

theGrio: An African-American voice on the web.

MSNBC has created an exciting website for the African -American community called the Grio. The Grio, which  translates to  “a storyteller in western Africa who maintains the oral tradition and history of a village or family,” gives an African -American voice and perspective to the Internet. Recent articles covered topics as diverse as  Black Actors and Drag, the enhanced ebook version of Roots, and racial issues in Alabama. Pages dedicated to Politics,  Opinions,  Entertainment, Health,  Money, Travel,  Black History and News supply a unique Afro-American centric approach.

For those who would wonder if a site specifically focused on one ethnic or racial group is necessary, I say one word: bias. I use this word,  minus any negative connotation, and suggest one scan the  MSNBC’s main page, and then the Grio’s page. The differences are considerable.

I commend MSNBC’s outreach to the African-American community, and look forward to other media outlets reaching diverse populations online.

Keith Olbermann’s ‘Network’ moment

Keith Olbermann
Peter Finch's Mad as Hell moment!

This evening Keith Olbermann and MSNBC parted ways leaving viewers and the Media clucking their tongues and wondering what exactly happened here.  Since his suspension in November on ethical issues, there has been no love lost between network management and Olbermann. Still, the departure tonight was certainly speedy and without an explanation.  I have included a link to the goodbye, it is an interesting summation of a controversial cable host’s eight year tenure–sadly he did not channel Howard Beale at the end.

The first must read of 2011: Alone Together!

Last summer as we drove up to Maine for a family vacation, I watched my 14 year old nephew and his best friend spend hours texting. When I asked who they were each texting, they looked at me as if I was crazy and stated each other.  Why when they are two feet away from each other were they not just talking I asked? They shrugged and continue typing.

The relationship between man and the computer has been a popular topic for years, however Sherry Turkle of MIT has reexamined the issue and focuses not on the man-machine relationship, but man-man relationship as influenced by technology. Alone Together: Why we expect more from Technology and Less from each other, is an outstanding piece of research that Sociologists, Psychologists and Information Specialists all will find useful. Her conclusions and theories concerning the evolving of human interaction will leave the reader contemplating the ramifications of our new social order and questioning one’s own relationships in the world of social networking.

I highly recommend Alone Together to anyone interested in phenomenon social networking and its relationship with its users.

When did fact checking become irrelevant?

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords being sworn in earlier this week

Greetings from a cybercafe in sunny Puerto Vallarta.  I have been following the attempted assasination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords with facination and alarm. From the first bulletins that were sent out, false unvarified information was all over the web and media– the villians were not bloggers or social networkers, they were the major media outlets.

NPR was one of the first to break the story of the shootings. Sadly they annouced  that the congresswoman was dead. Check this link for NPR`s News Editor Dick Meyer explaination.  Not only were some of the news agencies announcing the congresswomen`s death but also the death of a pastor at the Mountain Avenue  Church of Christ. Now, that individual has been identified as Dorwin Stoddard, a part time maintenace man for the church not the pastor. I can not imagine what the people of Tuscon experienced as the news organizations tried to scoop their colleagues.

My question is have journalists forgotten the basic rules of reporting?  And what ever happened to notifing the next of kin before publicly annoucing someone`s death? When did restrain in reporting undocumented facts leave the profession of Journalism?

Was John Lennon a precursor to reality television?

The Media has given a considerable amount of coverage to the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination this past week. Most of the articles were nostalgia pieces that focused either on Lennon’s music or his death. Andrew Romano, in an essay published in the December 13,2010  Newsweek, has chosen to focus on the issue of ‘fame’.

“Lennon’s Other Legacy” is an insightful and enjoyable read, with a focus not on the musician Lennon, but the successful media puppeteer. With the Media’s focus on reality television, and the effect it has had on Pop Culture, it is interesting to look back at the antics of Lennon/Ono and ponder their influence on those who covered them.

An Agatha Christie mystery for the Internet Age.

The website Wikileaks has certainly earned the wrath of some major international governments and corporations: the US,  Chinese, Saudis,and even Bank of America to name a few. So it is not surprising that on December 1, 2010 we  find the  site ‘unavailable’.  According to, a DDoS attack has crippled the site, but a possible rescuer maybe  Amazon. Wikileaks is now hosted by Amazon after massive DDoS attacks questions who has the ability to inflict such a massive attack, and how long Amazon wants to be in the thick of controversies.

The issue of censorship needs to be addressed if  in fact a government blocked the site, and takes the issue to a whole different level. Can a government censor not only sites in their own country, but also globally? Since Wikileaks was hosted in Sweden, will the World tolerate other nations shutting down the site? These questions should be debated once the mystery is solved– Who shut down Wikileaks?

The Evil Empire once again prepares for World Domination!

In my lectures concerning Internet search strategies  I often refer to Google as an ‘evil empire’. There are those who may feel this statement is a bit harsh, while others might feel I am being to kind. Like many in Academia, my love/hate relationship with Google is very complicated. Although I am constantly in awe of their innovations, I deep down question their aggressive growth. In today’s Wall Street Journal Google’s latest entry into world domination is revealed– Google Editions.

According to Google set to launch E-book Venture , the company has decided a totally different approach to e-books. The ‘ open read anywhere’ approach is a total restructuring of the e-book business model — it makes available for download (and purchase) e-titles without limiting the user to a particular reading device. It is a bold approach, one of those’ think outside the box’ ideas that has made Google the success it is. The fact that users will not need to invest in a reader is a major plus. However, one must question the contracts with publishers and bookstores the company is entering into and ask ourselves how big can Google get before it needs to be tamed.

It seems that the European Union has begun questioning Google’s dominance according to an article on EU Opens  Google Antitrust Probe. Like Microsoft before it, Google has rattled the European Union with some of their business approaches. This case should make for some interesting drama in the coming months.

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