Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Just some stuff

Another Blood-Sucking politician...

Randy sends this bit of news regarding a sword wielding vampire running for president. Really, when you have that going on, the jokes just write themselves, Leaguers. I invite you to compare and contrast to your favorite candidate.

Steanso actually covered Sharkey when he ran for Governor of Minnesota.

Total Awesomeness abounds...

Now, for $20 per hand, you can stab people like Wolverine! Or, for $16, like Spidey! Or Batman! (you know... for kids!)

There are so many totally awesome weapons at the Swords of Might Ye Olde Onnelynne Sword Shoppe that if I think about it too long, I forget to breath.

It's great to know exactly what I can get Jamie for Christmas so early on in the year.

Also, maybe a little something for your toddler?

We'll Always Have Paris... whether we like it or not...

So I guess Paris is getting out of jail soon and there's talk of her agent or whatever trying to make good on Paris Hilton's few days in lock-up by seeking bids on her "story". Which is odd because (1) I mean, didn't she just sit in a room with people she didn't know for a few days? and (2) is there even a remote chance that we'll get anything resembling the actual story?

I could care less. But what struck me was how once Hilton's face was gone from news sites, from cable TV, etc... as we were forced to live in a world without Paris Hilton for just a few days... I didn't even notice she was gone. Did you?

Really, until I heard a story on NPR's Marketplace last week (prefaced with a disclaimer of "We feel we have to cover this because the networks are covering this, and we're embarrassed)" I had managed to get through a few weeks without thinking about Hilton at all. Not once.

This isn't too bash Hilton, but rather a passing thought on how, like it or not, because I use websites with basic levels of news service, I inadvertently follow every minute of this person's life. Not exactly the Truman Show, as God knows what's actually going on half the time when she isn't paying people huge salaries to ensure she remains in the spotlight...

But without Paris, services like Yahoo News actually seemed to contain news regarding topics like Gitmo, Bloomberg's resignation from the GOP, and stuff that resembles, well... news, all without links to Paris-related news. It was weird.

Well, CNN of all @#$%ing outlets seems to have ponied up for the first interview with the heiress, which should be a real meeting of the minds as Larry tries to figure out who this young lady is sitting across the desk from him while simultaneously putting the last nail in teh coffin for both his reputation and that of CNN, which officially just became InTouch Weekly on TV.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what to think of the commentators with the "We feel we have to cover this because the networks are covering this, and we're embarrassed)" vibe. The Daily Show did a clip of various CNN and other network reporters who adopted this vibe. On the one hand, there's no question that these big networks are covering this story. On the other, if you get your paycheck from them, and you know they are prone to this type of thing, can you really wring your hands in an attempt to feel superior to the network that signs your paychecks?

It's odd. I think the whole thing is stupid, too, but I don't have to pretend anything, because I am not forced to cover it for any network.

I'm just not sure some of these folks can feel icky for reporting it when that is what they DO.

NPR, for its part, has to feel morally superior about EVERYTHING, so I don't think it's just Hilton. ;)

The League said...

Too true, jmd. My favorite NPR show is probably Marketplace, and as I mentioned, it was where they sheepishly announced they would be discussing Paris Hilton. Part of why I like Marketplace is that they fess up to covering some silly stuff, and pride themselves on putting a BS business story around it to get it on the air (ie: We're doing it for ratings, and we're trying really hard to put a business wrapper around it to fit it into context here).

I saw the Daily Show clip you mentioned, and it was great. I honestly do believe that the anchors/bunnies get sick of talking about Hilton, but obviously the producers are not sick of the ratings. You're absolutely right that it was impossible to believe that all of the "Yeah, yeah... Paris..." comments were unscripted.

Still, it seems like Larry King was relevant once, was he not...?

Also saw Paris went free this morning. Shall we start the clock for how long before she winds up in the pokey again?

Anonymous said...

Who knows? Maybe this was her reality check. I am not sure I care.

I generally listen to "This American Life" and "PHC" and sometimes the news when it is on. I think Terry Gross is obnoxious but she has some good guests, so I listen. "All Things Considered" doesn't do anything for me, and it is occasionally irksome.

I do wonder sometimes why NPR still needs a government subsidy. Seems like their demographic is exactly who advertisers want to target, and I know of no shortage of listeners. I think NPR just doesn't want to feel unclean in the commercial world and that's the justification for it, rather than a true need.

Sleestak said...

Larry lost what credibility he had the first time he had Sylvia Browne on the show.

The League said...

I don't follow NPR's finances too closely. Public radio gets a few bucks from me every year as I figure that if it were a subscriber service, I'd subscribe. And grants, etc... I honestly have no idea how much comes from federal dollars.

I sort of imagine a lot of the NPR hosts (especially Terry Gross) live in an odd, hermetically sealed world of cardigan sweaters and broadcast booths. But nobody competes with Austin's own John Ailey for radio hosts who seem to live in la-la land.

Re: the news coverage on All Things Considered, The World, Marketplace, etc... In a world where Katie Couric is given stewardship over the evening news and Headline News gives up its time to Nancy Grace and What's-His-Name Beck... I'll take NPR's coverage any day.

Where the networks have fallen down on the job reporting on Iraq, Sudan, elections in France, the exchange of power in Britain... NPR actually spends time covering those stories. On CNN we get three days of non-stop coverage of the Anna Nicole Baby-Daddy Hearings.

I am aware of a potential for liberal bias in NPR's reporting, but I'm also aware of conservative bias at Fox and other outlets (your mileage may vary depending upon your own political makeup).

Nathan may be able to talk more directly to the finances of public radio, but the profit driven model for news, such as we see on CNN, etc... has had, what I consider as a consumer, to be a horrendous dumbing down of the news. Again, I direct you to Nancy Grace and Headline News Showbiz Prime Live or whatever they call it.

The League said...

And, Sleestak, how can you say that Sylvia Browne is NOT a major news story. Shame on you. That woman can maybe see the future and possibly your past lives and stuff... or see ghosts... I dunno, but she's a totally weird old lady who seems to hold contempt for a world she's been fleecing for a long time, and you have to love her for that.

Anonymous said...

RE: NPR funding.

Most people grossly overestimate the amount of funding NPR and their member stations get from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Between one and two percent of NPR's annual budget comes from grants from the CPB, National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts.

I can't speak for KUT, but here in San Antonio, a CPB grant makes up about 9 percent of our overall budget. Over half the budget is made up by individual membership. The rest comes from business membership, underwriting, other grants, and events.

Would we like to be completely free of the CPB? Of course. We don't want to have to rely on the whims of congress when it comes to how much public radio will get from the CPB.

That's why we've been stressing in our most recent membership drives the need for new members to build the overall member base for Texas Public Radio.

Probably way more than you need to know, and I could go on!

The League said...

So what you're saying is that if we DON'T donate, we're contributing to the decline of western civilization... Am I reading that clearly?

I'm never sure what public radio affiliates estimate the cost to be per listener. That would be a fascinating statistic.

J.S. said...

Paris Hilton is silly, but I think people are drawn to her more as a symbol than because they actually care about her life, personally. She's a symbol of the wealthiest portion of American society in its most extravagant, decadant, bloated, hedonistic form, and the American people are fascinated with her for the same reasons that the French were fascinated with Marie Antoinette in the moments preceding the French Revolution.

Anonymous said...

League: Of course, and what are pledge drives for but to remind you of that? ha ha.

Steanso: Does that mean Paris is on her way to the guillotine?

The League said...

I don't know if we'd ever start to behead our rich in the US. Too many people dream of one day being the rich jerk who can buy their way out of jail.

Anonymous said...

I believe that NPR and such are prohibited from airing ads by virtue of the federal regs. My only issue is that if so many people of varying political persuasions listen to NPR, and those are generally educated, upwardly mobile citizens with discretionary income, why do they need any public funding (or the burdensome regs that come with those strings)? I agree with Nathan that it is overestimated how much these entities receive and that they are paltry compared to larger wastes of money. But it seems to be that the only argument for public radio is that you are attempting to preserve culture that would not exist otherwise. Besides being paternalistic, I think that just simply isn't true, because I think advertisers would support a lot of these shows to reach listeners like you or me. I think this is true of public TV, as well. Now, I bet some people would think it is tacky that these shows would suddenly have advertisements, but I'm not sure that alone is a justification for keeping public funding and regs.

Oh, and League, I defend no other news outlets when I criticize NPR. I think it sometimes doesn't occur to Terry Gross that there are other viewpoints out there and she is surprised sometimes when facts don't comport with her vision of the world. As for NPR news, it's really only in the international coverage that I sometimes cry out for them to interview a source that is clearly relevant and necessary for a balanced story.

Anonymous said...

Yes, NPR and its member stations cannot run advertisements due to federal regulations, but would we want to?

Increasing the amount of time we interrupt a program (for a local station break) would kill one of the things that people value about public radio, that is its ability to take its time in delivering the news/interview you want to hear.

The League said...

Well, all those announcements of "A generous gift of the JMD foundation" aren't exactly not ads. They're just well placed.

Ad time pretty much kills my interest in much of radio.

JMD: I understand you weren't supporting other news outlets. I was pointing out that ALL news outlets have some bias. And, yes, as I mentioned I really do think Terry Gross and some others live in a little planet of their own making, and don't always do a particularly good job of covering when something ruffles their feathers.

As per international reporting, I think if you listen on a routine basis to shows like "The World", the sorts of folks they get in for an interview represent a fairly broad spectrum of view points. Of course, I'm not sure what opinions you're looking for, but I'm often impressed with the interviews they manage to get. Certainly far more in-depth than what one sees on the TV networks.

Given the massive amounts of coverage all of the various NPR shows handle (which I became pretty familiar with during my various commutes) I'm not sure I can point to one of their news programs that doesn't cover its basis and perform due diligence in finding a voice to respond to the focus of much of their reporting, both national and international. Obviously I can't judge whether you find the responding voice relevant or not, but there's always much more opportunity on shows from All Things Considered to The World in which multiple parties are given an opportunity to speak, and usually in more than sound bites.

Anonymous said...

Increasing the amount of time we interrupt a program (for a local station break) would kill one of the things that people value about public radio, that is its ability to take its time in delivering the news/interview you want to hear.

I certainly understand where you are coming from on this. I fast forward through ads on my DVR and hate radio advertisements. I'm just not certain that the fact that ads are irksome are enough of a reason to justify government subsidies and regulation of public radio, either. You don't seem to be arguing that the programs on public radio could not survive in the marketplace. Rather, you suggest that some of the tenets of the marketplace would be annoying to the people who listen to public radio. I don't disagree, but I don't think that is enough to justify the regulatory scheme and the allocation of tax dollars.

That also begs the question: If NPR listeners hate ads, don't classic rock radio listeners hate them to? What is it about NPR that is so special that would exempt it from the dictates of the marketplace as opposed to other deals? (I know there are some answers to that question. But are those reasons compelling enough to do as we have done and fund one brand of radio that some people like but others do not to the exclusion of others?

I would listen to Ira Glass if there were ads. I would listen to Terry Gross if there were ads. I might even listen to Robert Siegel, too, and the Wait Wait Don't Tell Me Guys.

Anonymous said...

League, there have been more than a few occasions where NPR has covered Palestinian-related issues in a very sympathetic fashion and not quoted anyone with a contrary viewpoint. I couldn't cite you a show or a date of broadcast, so take my point with a grain of salt, but there have been a couple of moments where I was genuinely curious about the other side and was not able to hear it.

I'm now off to check my NPR podcasts.

Anonymous said...

If you want radio without ads, try Sirious or XM. You won't ever go back to over-the-air.

Carla said...

Great comments. Wow.

One small one... people are watching what happens to Paris or Anna Nicole or whatever else celebrity news that's out there because no one want to think about what's happening in the middle east. Too real, depressing and tragic. Paris is an escape.

The League said...

JMD, I believe I understand the sorts of examples you mean. Seriously. This example solidified your thought for me. Thanks.

I would also point out, in the great scheme of things and public radio's model, that public radio is not for profit. I have no idea if that sways anybody's opinions as per ad time, etc... But it certainly does affect my mindset.

I am test driving XM as it came with my new car. Unfortunately, I have not had adequate time to really check out much in the way of news yet.

I understand that some folks follow Paris, etc.. to escape. Unfortunately, the sort of entertainment reporting once reserved for E! and The Insider is now par for the course for CNN. Plainly put, in no way does Paris Hilton's doings affect anyone but Paris Hilton and her entourage.

Whether news is dismal or not (and the nature of journalism is to uncover the bad stuff for public scrutiny) I expect more out of my news outlets. Every minute spent focusing upon Hilton is time not spent on national and international stories of impact, if not of interest.

Anonymous said...

I would also point out, in the great scheme of things and public radio's model, that public radio is not for profit.

Arguably, this is true, but NPR does pay Terry Gross and Ira Glass and Garrison K. I think that the earlier point about the listeners just not wanting to hear ads and the radio stations just not wanting the tacky appearance of ads is accurate. Like I said, I don't think that's enough to justify the special treatment and the insulation from the market.

I mean, Garrison K. sells books and makes movies. Ira Glass speaks across the country and sold a television version of his show to Showtime. I think they could handle the whims and caprices of the market.

eople are watching what happens to Paris or Anna Nicole or whatever else celebrity news that's out there because no one want to think about what's happening in the middle east.

There is an element of truth in this, of course, but there was plenty of dumb, dumb news before the Iraq War and 9/11 as well.

The League said...

If the gov't funding went away (and, according to Nathan, that funding is a manageable portion of public radio's annual budget) it seems as if the model could endure. As I skated around above, NPR DOES have commercials in the shape of "sponsors". It's not that there aren't ads, its that they don't have echo effects and cut in every ten minutes.

I've been a part of the purchase of "sponsorship" on public radio in PHX. Believe me, you pay a premium to get your service announced, and it is handled much as if you were advertisaing anywhere else. The difference being that you do not produce your ad, you merely write copy for the silky-voiced announcer to put to tape.

I think it's a tribute to NPR that they do exist on such a large percentage of viewer donations. It certainly speaks to the value of the programming. I'm having a very hard time reconciling dropping the $12 a month or whatever for XM and that would give me dozens of channels.

Anonymous said...

I think ultimately NPR will have to go to a satellite radio type service. It would liberate them from a number of regulations and as you say they could survive, especially if people were paying subscriptions to a larger company rather than occasional donations. If NPR were available on satellite radio, that would probably be the thing to prompt me to get it. (This model seems to work pretty damn well for HBO, which doesn't receive much criticism for not being daring or artistic enough, save for the freaking Sopranos ending.).

I remember a bit about the sponsor issues when I hosted a show on KVRX. It seems to me that it is a distinction without a meaningful difference if the program is "brought you by" a local entity or national foundation. As was suggested above, it just seems less tacky to a certain group of people more prone to listening to public radio, and that alone isn't enough to convince me it should be tax-supported in any way.

But, as was also said, it receives so little compared to other pork projects, it seems safe for the time being. I would be in favor of collecting all of the projects that individually don't receive that much from the government but collectively receive a sizable amount and getting rid of all of them.

The League said...

I would be happy if the gov't restored money to NSF grants.

I think I understand what you mean by "tacky" when hearing ads. But what I think makes the big difference is that there isn't as much of a sense that NPR is beholden to advertisers, nor will they reduce programming in order for shareholders to receive larger dividends when they add two more 30 second ads to every 30 minute block. That's sort of the beauty of the non-profit, sponsored-by model. Heck, you see it on TV when someone like Ford decides to sponsor a commercial free viewing of "Schindler's List".

With new technology, the old models of why public radio existed in the first place aren't quite as relevant, but the model that grew up around the programming can continue to be attractive. I certainly agree that a subscription model (as an individual service or as part of a package) certainly seems doable.

Anonymous said...

XM has, in my opinion, a very nice selection of Public Radio offerings, plus Bob Edwards.


For $12, I don't know if it's worth it for "XMPR", alone, but if you listen to a good deal of music, it's well worth the price.

Anonymous said...

Satellite programming does carry several NPR, PRI and APM shows, and that's fine. It raises the overal visibility of public radio.

But studies have found that pub radio listeners do value their hometown stations. That they would support local news programming but ONLY if that programming meets NPR standards of production and reporting. That's something we and other pub radio stations are striving to meet.

Incidentally, I left another earlier comment about underwriting, but it never posted. Weird.

The League said...

Well, I think one man's "good deal of music" is another man's "I'm driving to work." But here's how it breaks down for me:

I have an iPod, which is broken. But during that glorious time when my iPod worked, I listened to my iPod in my car about 70% of the time. And when I didn't listen to that, I listened to NPR.

So... I'm not sure that I can see the value in a $144 a year commitment to XM when its going to set me back $250 to get a new iPod with music that I KNOW I want to listen to versus seeking up and down the dial.

And I really can't listen to music at work, so the option of having internet XM is of minimal interest. At home, I have my iTunes and iTunes radio options.

This isn't to bag on XM, because it's still a good idea. Just, from a dollars and sense standpoint, I'm still struggling with the value. Besides, I HAVE shows I already listen to on NPR. I'm not sure following Bob Edwards to XM is a compelling enough option for me to jump ship. Even if I was irritated when Bob was unceremoniously dumped in favor of Michelle Norris.

The League said...

To show that I must be Nathan's demographic, when I say NPR, I really mean "Public Radio". I was a fan of the programming in AZ as well as much of the local programming and news in Austin as well. Shows like Eklektikos have been a part of my listening habits since I was 20.

Anonymous said...

I think all of you make pretty good points, but again, private stations are free to adopt a non-profit model. I just don't think any of those reasons are compelling enough (or singularly applicable to existing public radio and no other enteprises) to justify the use of tax dollars.

Is there a reason why NPR could not offer the same content with ads? I am not sure that I would agree with the notion that the only true and good journalism is that which is state-funded or otherwise immune from the marketplace.

I will have to investigate satellite radio now . . . . I just wish there was some type of Tivo for it.

Anonymous said...

That's the thing.... offering public radio with ads may inherently mean offering different content.

Advertising time eats away at programming time. More ads means less program, which changes what public radio is.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure I sent you a suggestion on how to fix your iPod months and months ago.

And speaking of Paris, here's a nice little video

The League said...

I think I tried your suggestion and it didn't work out...

It won't even turn on anymore.

Anonymous said...

You should sue RHPT for effing up your iPod.

The League said...

consider yourself hired

Anonymous said...

Mail it to me and let me take a gander at it.

The League said...

How would that possibly help my lawsuit?

Anonymous said...

By the way, I think this post has now hit the record number of "comments" for The LoM.

Anonymous said...

No, I think we hit 50 comments once.

Anonymous said...

Holy cow, I don't remember that one!

Anonymous said...

Maybe it doesn't count because that is when the League was doing general only comments for a month long period at the top of the page.