Archive for July, 2008|Monthly archive page

It’s official: I’m a curmudgeon!

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2008 at 12:33 am

It was only a matter of time. I’m probably the only member of Generation Next (Generation Y, cusp of Generation X, whatever) who loves sitting at a kitchen table with a cup of coffee or a pastry and the daily paper, who reads novels and creative nonfiction for fun, and who keeps online chatting to the minimum amount where she can pretend that she’s actually networking and not wasting the precious hours of her life away.

What convinced me of a bleak future, shaking a cane at people and mumbling about how “That’s not how we do things around here, I don’t like these new-fangled changes” under my breath?

It was an article in the St. Pete Times by my friend, Arleen Spenceley.

What makes it worse is I have a blog post similar in style (conversational, extolling the virtues of my intended subject, etc.) in Sticks of Fire about a local chocolate shop. (If you love chocolate and live in Tampa, you should definitely check it out, even though it may pack a death blow to your wallet.)

What originally put me off about Arleen’s article was that it was too friendly towards the reader. Arleen’s general writing tone since college has been “Hey there, good friend! Sit down, enjoy a cup of tea, and let me tell you about this awesome singer/ organic food/ boot camp exercise class!” Arleen doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, which stands out in her writing. (With my multitude of mean bones, I’m not sure how we get along so well.)

My thoughts while reading her boot camp article were that it would be better off as a blog. From the first couple of paragraphs, I’d written the article off because I’d seen it in print instead of online.

I glared at my alarm clock through tired eyes.

4:45 a.m.

Worst set of numbers a half-asleep Arleen had ever seen. But I asked for it weeks earlier, when I signed up for boot camp. I slapped the alarm, slipped into some athletic garb and dragged a bag of dumbbells across the floor.

I hate boot camp.

Then, I realized how many minutes I read the paper every day versus how many minutes I read blogs with conversational tones like Arleen’s. Or, like my favorite sections of my own blog posts.

I’m not too proud to mention my chocolate addiction. Out of all the addictions to have, chocolate’s one of the most tame. I’ve been known to hide Mounds bars in my office at work and buy a Hershey’s bar on the way home. But, these are mass produced chocolates diluted with wax and milk. The chocolate offered at Choxotica is pure chocolate art.

Oh yeah, there have also been all of the times I’ve screamed at other writers to stop making every story a “Who cares, this is boring, I can’t get past the first paragraph of this generic drivel” story.

So, while I continue to plunk away at my unjournalism design/ marketing job and scrabble for every freelancing gig that comes my way, I should probably relax and enjoy the writing of the next wave of journalists who actually get it; I’m beginning to think I’m already falling behind.


Why the press should pay attention to Dr. Horrible

In Awesomeness on July 19, 2008 at 9:13 pm

There’s one day left. One day left to watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog for free. At midnight, July 20, the streaming miniseries will be gone.

So, why should the media care about a fictional singing supervillian doing his laundry and writing blogs? Because, this experiment in broadcast proves how popular some innovations can be.

Consider this: I can watch these free episodes as many times as I want, as long as the site doesn’t crash or my internet doesn’t lag. However, there are also iTune downloads available for a couple dollars each. Being a huge Whedon fan, I had a couple of choices. I could watch the show for free until Sunday then buy the DVD when it comes out. I could, of course, watch the show for free and then never see it again. Or, I could buy the downloads from iTunes and have them to watch whenever I like and keep them after the free viewing period.

Instead, I chose a fourth option. I watched the episodes for free, downloaded them for $2 each, and I plan on buying the DVD when it comes out.

Why? I love Joss Whedon. I love that he gave me choices in how I consume his content. I love that he gets this age. Instead of hemming and hawing about how he might lose money, about how he needed to get a range of opinions and advice before he started, about how the quality of his product would go down if he created something for the web, he did it and was successful. And, yet, all of the papers and studios mired in the old way of doing things are going to continue to spin around in circles until they all fall down.

Whedon even makes it painless to find graphics and other resources for people like us to post content in our own blogs about Dr. Horrible’s blog. Of all the director’s I’ve ever been a fan of, Whedon has always been the most fan friendly, using the internet and anything else available to get fans involved in his shows. (I still have prizes I won for participating in the Browncoats when his movie Serenity came out. Years later, and there’s a still an online community rallying around the film and keeping each other updated on news and events.) Why can’t we do this with our own brands?

After reading the post about the musical episodes on Changing Way, I decided to add my own two cents.

The internet’s Wild West Show and how it pertains to journalism

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2008 at 4:30 pm

Welcome to the July Carnival of Journalism, hosted by Doug Fisher of Common Sense Journalism.

Doug posed a question about the future of media law and how it pertains to journalism. My response here focuses on copyright and Fair Use, and how I think laws will relax when it comes to posting other people’s work on the internet. While I deal specifically with photos and writing, I think the same is true of audio and video content.

When the first newspapers appeared in the U.S., it wasn’t uncommon for editors and publishers to take famous poems, essays, and articles and even articles from competitors and dump them on their publications’ pages. As journalists, we like to bring up the rich, ethical tradition of journalism and talk about the internet and popular culture in less than glowing terms, but the truth is media ethics has always been a malleable, changing entity. And, the internet is bringing back a Wild West, outlaw mentality that, at best brings an innovative bent to a struggling industry and at worst hearkens back to days of blatant plagiarism and yellow journalism. At the same time, it’s making us accountable for our actions to a degree never seen before.

In a way, it’s best to see the internet as a foreign country where people from every other country come to work and play. I think this is how it will soon be seen in legal terms. The internet will be a tax free and free speech zone where ideas and content are exchanged. Because the online world has permeated every nation on earth, it is impossible, say, for the U.S. to make the rules for what someone in India is doing on the internet just as it’s impossible for the Chinese government to decide what kind of commerce a British citizen can take part in.

The internet should remain a place where everyone, from celebrities to the kid down the street, has the freedom to publish and sell their ideas. I think the biggest changes, when it comes to the law, will be in copyright and Fair Use. The days when publications (now think blogs and websites) take the words of other people and dump them on their own pages are back, and we should accept this.

I’m not saying we should let our words be published under another writer’s name; thanks to the web it’s almost impossible for someone to get away with this. However, we have to start making allowances for people who take our content and post it with our names and URLs attached. If we do our jobs and write interesting articles and editorials, those two digital compromises will equal more page views and readers for us, even if the audience turns back to the site that took our content at the end of the day.

The digital world can bring people of similar mindsets together in a way never seen before. It’s time to stop guarding our content with a shotgun in hand, waiting for someone to run off with our words. It’s a double-edged sword for both parties; if you write a blog you know how easy it is to grab a chunk of text and a few photos, and how easy it is for the originators of those words and pictures to hunt you down if they don’t want you using their media.

It’s time to relax and ride out the webstorm. There are only two questions you need to ask yourself if you find your work on another webspace: “Do readers know I made this, and can they find me?” If the answer to both is yes, then sit back and wait for increased views. If not, then start using our current legal system to your advantage.