lifeandcode

In Praise of Fluff

lifeandcode:

I seem to spend a lot of time at journalism conferences defending cat pictures. 

I believe that those kinds of stories — often derided as “fluff” — are precisely what creates the community around the tough stories, the hard stories.  

I really admire journalists like AC Thompson. I’ll never be like him, and in truth, I don’t aspire to be — because I know what I’m good at, the native thing I came with. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring the fluff.  

And? Secretly?

I believe in fluff.  

I used to believe in something else.  For most of my life I had a very intense and entirely private religious faith.  I believed that if I strived, and if I suffered, it was okay even if nobody ever noticed or cared, even if I failed, because someone Up There was taking note and approved of my efforts. 

Why I stopped believing that is a long story, but once I didn’t, something changed.  

Happiness, delight, and pleasure — not in a far off future, but right now, today — became much more important to me.  I went from being a Stoic to being an Epicurean.

And I thought, If heaven on earth is the only heaven we’re going to get, then we’d better get busy making it. 

This has occasionally led to activities like me covering the Town Council with puppets.

And to get back to journalism — many folks are trying to figure out how to build an online community around a news organization, on their site and on services like Facebook and Twitter.  Two important facts: a community is not when people come to your site to talk to you — it is when they come to your site to talk to *each other.*  Two: that means they use news items as ways to evoke emotional states in each other — ire, interest, and yes, happiness.   If people were presented with a feed of news items from NPR and asked to share items that they felt would make one of their friends happy, what would they share?  With whom? The answers to that question would be very enlightening to someone trying to form a community around a news organization, not just for the fluff, but the hard stuff, too.  

Projects that make people happy are more interesting to me now.  A coding project that creates something that allows people to make each other happy is very, very interesting to me.  

My core audience — my perfect target user — is someone with a crappy mobile phone who has been waiting for a long time at a bus stop in the most bitter February cold. I want that person to be able to open their phone and always — ALWAYS — find something happy.  

Because sometimes you just want something happy, you know? 

We can use the Internet for so many things.  I want to use the internet to let people make each other happy.

justinreadsthenews
I find it puzzling that NPR objects to my exercising my rights as an American citizen — the right to free speech, the right to peaceable assembly — on my own time in my own life. I’m not an NPR employee. I’m a freelancer. NPR doesn’t pay me. I’m also not a news reporter. I don’t cover politics. I’ve never brought a whiff of my political activities into the work I’ve done for NPR World of Opera. What is NPR afraid I’ll do — insert a seditious comment into a synopsis of Madame Butterfly?

NPR freelancer Lisa Simeone • Discussing her firing as the freelance host of two NPR music shows, Soundprint and World of Opera, for playing spokesperson for Occupy DC. We can to some degree see her point, but … this is NPR we’re talking about here. They’ve had to fight off two pretty significant controversies in the past twelve months, and they’ve approached them with some hardcore seriousness. So, yes, while the Occupy movement has nothing to do with opera, she’s also working with what’s perhaps the organization that needs to walk on eggshells the most regarding ethics scandals. Say what you will Lisa — you do have some valid points — but you should’ve been aware of how NPR would’ve handled this based on what happened with Juan Williams. (via shortformblog)

This is actually why I haven’t been posting on here as much lately. As I’ve recently been told, taking part in any kind of political activity hurts your reputation as a journalist. For instance, blogging about my political beliefs seriously puts my job prospects in jeopardy when I graduate - which is why I’ve stopped posting here. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do with this blog instead (though it’ll probably just shift to less political commentary and more news).

While it does suck that journalists aren’t allowed to do things like this - whether it’s support the Occupy movement or contribute to a political campaign - it is a necessary evil. I see the need to not show your political affiliations as a working journalist. It’s just more professional. And sure it sucks, but that’s what it’s about - being unbiased. When it comes down to it, it’s more for the safety of the newspapers/news organizations I suppose, but it’s still a good practice.

npr

Hurling around a word like “treason,” the Chicago Sun-Times has observed, “is the definition of dirty politics.”

If that be the case, this particular political season is dirtier than a West Texas hog wallow.

The word is being bandied about by lots of people. Perhaps most famously: Republican presidential aspirant Rick Perry said in Iowa in August that the fact that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is “printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous — treasonous, in my opinion.”

In response, Nouriel Roubini of New York University — according to Politico — shot back: “Perry’s remarks on Bernanke are criminal.”

spytap

Mr. Glass goes to Washington … to defend NPR’s honor

spytap:

shortformblog:

  • frustration Following conservative activist (or hatchet man, if you prefer) James O’Keefe’s video embarrassing an NPR fundraiser, radio host Ira Glass was upset that NPR seemed to cede to claims of a liberal bias, which he thinks is nonsense.
  • pushback Glass took to Washington DC, giving a speech at George Washington University. He said that he’d asked Brooke Gladstone, one of the hosts of “On The Media” to dig up any statistics on these accusations against NPR. source

» Numbers and thoughts on bias: Glass cited a study on NPR by FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) which found their guests, from a partisan standpoint, were 60% Republican and 40% Democratic. He also defended NPR’s hosts, saying that Michele Norris asking a CEO if we can afford to eliminate taxes for certain companies isn’t bias, because she’d ask the same question of someone in favor of spending increases. But as the first example infers a pro-tax bent, a conservative might decry it as bias when it really isn’t. It’s an interesting take from an interesting man, and we urge you to give the full article a look.

Read ShortFormBlogFollow

NPR’s only bias is of putting fact over opinion - a position that non-listeners tend to find either dreadfully boring or morally unacceptable.

salon

Come on now: Let’s take a breath and put this NPR fracas into perspective.

Just as public radio struggles against yet another assault from its long-time nemesis — the right-wing machine that would thrill if our sole sources of information were Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and ads paid for by the Koch Brothers — it walks into a trap perpetrated by one of the sleaziest operatives ever to climb out of a sewer.

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, “In defense of NPR” (via salon)
moderation
moderation:

Save NPR and PBS (Again) 
—
With Republicans back in charge of the House of Representatives, funding for NPR and PBS is in grave danger. Again.
The Republicans just released their budget proposal, and it zeroes out  funding for both NPR and PBS—the worst proposal in more than a decade.
We need to tell Republicans that cutting off funding was unacceptable last time they were in charge, and it’s unacceptable now.
A compiled petition with your individual comment will be presented to your Senators and Representative.
(via moveon.org)

moderation:

Save NPR and PBS (Again)

With Republicans back in charge of the House of Representatives, funding for NPR and PBS is in grave danger. Again.

The Republicans just released their budget proposal, and it zeroes out funding for both NPR and PBS—the worst proposal in more than a decade.

We need to tell Republicans that cutting off funding was unacceptable last time they were in charge, and it’s unacceptable now.

A compiled petition with your individual comment will be presented to your Senators and Representative.

(via moveon.org)