Is Nat’l Lampoons Punking the Media?

As I chuckle over today’s headlines, I can’t help but think that someone must be syncing this bizarro made-for-the-Onion events for a movie they are making that ridicules the decrepit state of media and its “breaking news” ethos.

1) ‘Mystery smell settles over Manhattan‘ — It stinks in Manhattan, like rotten eggs, and nobody can figure out why? Meanwhile, no need to hire Leslie Nielsen to drop the punchlines as our own civil servants were on the scene: “Mayor Michael Bloomberg said there was no indication the air was unsafe. ‘It may just be an unpleasant smell,’ he said.” Watch WCBS report on “that smell.”

2) ‘Bird deaths shut down downtown Austin‘ – 63 pigeons were found dead in downtown Austin leading to a shutdown of 10 blocks. Nobody has a clue as to how this occurred. For the movie crews (assuming they were on it), “Workers in yellow hazardous-materials suits tested for contaminants in a cordoned-off section near the state Capitol.”

3) ‘Miami package was harmless‘ — “The Port of Miami was hit by its second terrorism scare in two days Monday when a package that was to be loaded onto a cruise ship tested positive for plastic explosives. Authorities later determined it was just a box of sprinkler parts.” — Watch Miami breaking news cov’g.

4) Court drops charges against Saddam — The fact that the Kurds won’t be trying to put a dead man in prison is top news??? Am I missing something?

dead birds in Austin
Made-for-TV dead bird scene in Austin?

2006 Year in Review Podcasts and Lists

I’ve listened to so many over the past week I don’t even know what to do with myself! Perhaps I should aggregate stuff throughout the year on my del.icio.us and tag appropriately but I’m not in the business of providing lists and certainly don’t believe in “best ofs.” I will, however, list below some of the year-end roundups that best examine how recent events and developments provide a window into the future and the trends that are making today’s “best” only as good as what may come tomorrow. Here are a few I appreciated more than others (I know I’m leaving a ton out):

Podcasts

This Week in Tech: TWiT Year in Review: Leo Laporte, John C. Dvorak, Wil Harris, Andy Ihnatko, and Michael Arrington look back at the stories that made 2006, and what’s ahead for 2007. Listen to the podcast.

Sound Opinions: Best of 2006: listen.

PBS Newshour: New Media Develops Rapidly: Nicholas Lehmann, Adam Clayton Powell III, and Mary Hodder discuss. Listen to the podcast.

Slate.com: The Five Best Political Moments of 2006.

Video: YouTube – Keith Olbermann’s “Special Comments.” His first of ’07, “on Sacrifice,” was especially moving.

Columns:

Slate: The 10 Most Outrageous Civil Liberties Violations of 2006, by Dahlia Lithwick.

CNET: Social Networking Year in Review

Read/Write Web: 2006 Web Tech Trends

Lists
Fimoculous: Best of Best of 2006 Lists

Large-Hearted Boy: Guide to 2006 Year End Music Lists.

Hussein-o-vision: Citizen Video Undermines State Rhetoric

saddam hussein is hangedIn a backhanded testament to the usefulness of citizen journalism as a voice of dissent, the Iraqi government announced the arrest of (up to three?) two guards and an official who supervised the hanging in connection with the unauthorized videorecording of Saddam Hussein’s execution. The video, apparently made by cellphone, was posted to the Internet on Saturday.

While it appears that a low level guard stands to be charged (name[s] of the arrested have yet to be released), Will Bunch and others find reason to believe the guilty party to be none other than Iraq Nat’l Security advisor Mowaffak Al-Rubaie, the virtual equivalent of the White House’s Stephen Hadley. Oh, the irony of an investigation of a sensitive and untimely leak — this time, not Bush needing to point his finger away from Hadley, but al-Maliki needing to find a scapegoat for his rebel with or without a cause.

While al-Rubaie was installed mostly at the discretion of the U.S. — al-Maliki’s insistence on interrogating and bringing justice to whomever posted the video is yet another example of his unwillingness to cooperate with U.S. interests and to foster his own independence from being the partner that the Bush Administration has so fervently tried to create. It’s now crystal clear that Maliki has little interest in appeasing the U.S. — after all, he has his own life and family to protect while posing as a crucial figure in a civil war and, as the BBC reports, he just wants his nightmare term as PM to end.

Josh Marshall is tracking all developments on this story at Talking Points Memo.

CJR: Give it Up Already, TribCo

An unsigned editorial in the Columbia Journalism Review declares that the Tribune has to pull out of the newspaper business entirely — in addition to relinquishing ownership of the LA Times ASAP.

Meanwhile, I got a voicemail today from an LAT subscriptions-bot saying that my Fri-Sun subscription (which costs $1.25/wk — offer is here) will now include Thursdays at no additional cost. Any chance I can donate these free papers to ensure the job security of my favorite columnists that have not yet been laid off?

The CJR article is here. Kevin Roderick summarizes and points to additional links at LAObserved here. A thoughtful post at labrainterrain on the depressing state o’ the Times. Also, Mack at LAVoice.

la times flickr photo by debaird
photo from debaird’s flickr.

How Does the New York Times Moderate User Comments?

The Times’ site has amassed over 2,000 comments regarding the execution of Saddam Hussein in the last 36 hours. The sentiment of the majority appears to denounce the practice of execution and the rapid manner in which Hussein met his fate following a “farcical” trial. Reactions ranged from: “bin Laden is next,” to “this is a sad, sad day.”

There are a TON of comments. Most are devoid of hyperlinks (although a couple odd ones from the shady-right partisan informationclearinghouse Web site snuck into a couple) and despite an abundance of typos and poor spelling, I didn’t notice any “bad words” at first glance.

However, my interest is piqued by comment #2032:

P.M. Alessandrini:

I submitted, today at 11:20 am, a comment criticizing the fact that links to videos concerning the execution of Saddam Hussein in yesterday and today’s web edition of the New York Times are coupled with advertisements, in video and image form, for the new film about Idi Amin, “The Last King of Scotland”. Criticism of coverage and its presentation is absolutely pertinent to this issue, and should not be suppressed. Let us not forget that support among the US public of the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was due largely to a campaign of misinformation by the Bush administration, made possible – with only too few exceptions – by cooperation from the US media. Nonetheless, after seeing my comment listed as number 1953 below the heading, “Your comment is awaiting moderation”, it has not appeared on the page of comments one hour later, despite the fact that numerous comments submitted afterwards have been posted. I therefore invite your readers to see my comments about the coverage of the New York Times in the coming days on the website of the Atlantic Free Press, to which I am a contributor, if this criticism continues to be censored from the NYT comments page.
posted on December 31st, 2006 at 12:29 pm

The commenters originally moderated comment 1953 has not since appeared. Minutes later, another commenter adds, “It seems that the NYT has decided to take side rather than just delivering news and let Americans speak their mind.”

Shortly after that, theh posting of comments appears to have been halted. As I write this (5:57pm EST) the last posted comment is from 12:40pm EST, despite a standing invitation on the NYT Home page for fresh comments.

I’m very interesting in learning about the Times’ policies regarding readers’ comments and who/what disqualifies particular content from being posted. Anyone? Calame, are you reading?

A happy, healthy new year, readers!