On the road

I have meetings in New York the first part of the week, including lunch with the inimitable Jeff Jarvis on Tuesday. Does he really talk as fast in person as he does on TV? Stay tuned.

Light blogging this week. Please visit those on my blogroll for info and entertainment.

Copping a holiday feel

The advertising (read: manufacture of consent) industry has raised self-centeredness to an art form, and nowhere is it more obvious than at Christmas time. Let’s review for a minute. Christians celebrate the holiday, because it signifies the moment when God gave his son to humankind. Most of the customs, lore, symbols, and rituals associated with “Christmas” actually are linked to Winter Solstice celebrations of ancient Pagan cultures. At the heart of these celebrations was the custom of family and friends feasting together and exchanging (giving) presents.

Nowadays, we have a hybrid, and whether it’s Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanza, the term “season of giving” is apropos to this time of the year. And what is it about giving that makes us feel good? Is there an immediate payoff, or does it come over time as we grow into beings more content with giving than receiving. Good question.

A Toys-R-Us commercial caught my attention last night, because it had a peculiar slogan:

The only thing better than seeing joy on a child’s face is knowing you put it there.
I find this repugnant, because it turns holiday giving into copping a feel. Giving, the slogan suggests, isn’t about a selfless act; it’s about the prideful notion that you — in all your magnificent splendor — are the reason for the season. You — sublime in your benevolence and clever in your thoughtfulness — bestow your grace on others, because it makes you feel good about you.

This isn’t just sad; it’s pathetic.

Spam humor

I’ve grown to accept spam as a necessary part of doing business on the Web. Once you understand that the Internet is a global marketplace, it’s a little easier to find amusement within the bombardment. In that spirit, here’s part of a spam message I received yesterday. It comes from a tent manufacturer in China.

To Whom It May Concern,

We have learned from the Internet that you are interested in tents. (Huh?) We have been in the tent manufacturing business for many years and are currently in the process of expanding and our customer base. (…and?) We are quite excited about contacting you and the potential for establishing friendly business relations with you as well as sharing the mutual benefits. (Me too. I’m always quite excited to share mutual benefits.)

We specialize in high quality, high performance tents offered to our cutomers at competitive prices. (Don’t you just love the marketing terms? I mean, we’re talking tents, not Corvettes.) We are able to supply a wide variety of tents manufactured to the specifications and requirements of the customer. We would be interested in receiving more information from you so we could submit a suitable offer to you. (So I can negotiate offers from China, huh?)

Feel free to view our website: www.qycamping.com

If you do not wish to receive any more information, please let us know and we will take you off our mailing list. We are awaiting your favorable response. (You’ll be waiting a VERY long time.)

Sincerely,

Richard Zheng
Marketing Director
Qyield (Xiamen) Camping Products Co., Ltd 4/F., No. 20, Huaguang Rd. Huli, Xiamen, China.
Tel: +86 592 5658478

See? Spam doesn’t HAVE to be annoying. Sometimes it’s entertaining as hell. (Or I’m spending too much time in front of this screen.)

More than just Dan Rather is retiring

Dan Rather’s accelerated retirement ought to send a chill down the spine of everyone in the television news industry — from the people who shoot and tell the stories, to the producers and support staff who put programs together on-the-fly, to the anchors who act as a conduit for the news department’s work, and especially to management. There needs to be an awakening to the reality that this is no game we play. Real lives involving real people are at stake day-in-and-day-out, and we really do answer to someone beyond our own conscience. Those people are following what we do closely, and they’re armed with their own communications infrastructure.

Dan Rather — a man with a brilliant career — one of the top television journalists of modern times — has learned the lesson and is doing the right thing by stepping down in the wake of the pre-election fiasco with the forged documents.

With Tom Brokaw’s departure and now Mr. Rather’s “retirement,” we are witnessing the end of broadcast network news as we know it. These two guys were among the final links in the chain that held everything together for the networks, who are confronted with extreme competitive pressure from cable networks — people who do the job 24/7. The nightly network news has three legs in the tar pit, and it ain’t coming back out.

The biggest lesson for those of us left behind is that journalism is rapidly evolving into something much bigger and more potent that it ever was in the Walter Lippmann “professional” model. Citizen journalism — today in the form of bloggers but tomorrow in many other forms — has put the power of the free press back in the people’s hands, where it all began centuries ago. There are going to be lawsuits galore in the years ahead, I predict, as we sort all of this out, because lawyers will get their hands into the movement sooner or later. And the status quo — including the rest of the Dan Rathers of the world — won’t go down without a fight. The First Amendment will be tested as never before, but in the end, it will win.

It’s a scary time for people in television news, because the blue smoke and mirrors has been revealed for what it is. People figured it out long before Sharon Reed took her clothes off in Cleveland.

Who knew?

A hunter in Wisconsin kills six people, because they shot at him first.

Ron Artest goes berzerk in the stands in Detroit, because a fan “shot” at him first.

Without an internal governor, Liberty is impossible.

License they mean when they cry Liberty!” — Milton

CNN’s brilliant (and revealing) move

By naming Jonathan Klein, who used to be the No. 2 executive at CBS News, as president of the company’s domestic network, CNN is announcing to the world that the future of news is multimedia. Klein’s most recent post was with a little Internet business he founded called the FeedRoom, a company that identified itself as the largest broadband news network, using the emerging high-speed online technology to provide streaming video and other services. His Internet expertise includes more than just technology, for he also brings outside-the-box insight into what is and isn’t news.

But more than that, I think this is the kind of experience that broadcast or cable news organizations need, because the world is a very, very different place today than it was just 5 years ago.

Kudos to CNN.