Monday, October 31, 2005

Bias in the Media? Yes, No & Maybe

Next to religion, politics and the BCS standings, the best way to provoke a hyperventilated rant is to bring up the topic of bias in the media. Eric Deggans (St. Pete Times) did just that in an Oct. 30th piece headlined Media Bias In the Eye of the Beholder on his Media in the Mirror blog.

TBM shares what it feels are Deggans’ pivotal paragraphs:

“I think people are confusing the (Main Stream Media’s) focus on pursuing social justice, which is an important part of our journalism DNA, with rampant liberalism.

“We focus on social justice issues in our work, which means reporting on civil rights issues, worker's rights issues, government waste issues, government effectiveness issues, poverty, crime, police brutality and much more. John Roberts, CBS correspondent and weekend anchor, described it to me simply: standing up for the little guy.

“But to an anti-affirmative action, pro-business, anti-welfare, law and order conservative, that kind of reporting might feel an awful lot like liberal bias.”

That may be part of it, but TBM suspects there is more.

For one thing, other than news junkies, few people understand the complexity or subtlety of the pecking order and division of labor within a modern media outlet.

A simplistic example: Reporters don’t write headlines.

A reporter may do a fine job telling a story and then fall prey to a distracted, sloppy or lazy editor who slaps on a headline that does not accurately reflect the story, but it’s the reporter – not the nameless editor – who gets the grief.
See “Sober & Similar: Journalists a Political Monolith,” TBM, Oct. 2.

Another example: Reporters, columnists, editorial writers and editors are not all the same thing.

Some people at newspapers are paid to have an opinion; some are not: Eric Deggans is, as is Walt Belcher of The Tampa Tribune. Both are media critics. Both have a wide latitude as to what they can say. They are not, however, the “voice” of the paper. That task falls to the editorial department. When each paper endorses political candidates, each editorial board makes that assessment, independent of its respective newsroom. (They might agree; they might not.)

Do such assessments constitute a “bias” per se? No, they represent a viewpoint; though, human nature being what it is, a bias or two can certainly enter the mix.

Finally, individuals and groups within a free society can feel slighted, get upset, and generally be agitated, outraged or aggravated for any and all reasons.

The media can be a target. So can the government. As can political parties, celebrities, talk show hosts and even bloggers.

Free speech is for everybody – and, sometimes, it's a free-for-all.

Here's what the First Amendment says:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Note that the phrase “the press” falls about in the middle of the amendment, almost as an aside.

So, is there “Bias in the Media”? There is if you say there is. It’s your opinion. Now, about those BCS standings . . .

Al Lopez: 1908-2005

AP puts it this way: "Al Lopez, a Hall of Fame catcher and manager who led the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox to American League pennants in the 1950s, died Sunday at 97."

There is more – much, much more – to the story, but . . .

TBM submits that Bay area media will do a first-rate job re: the passing of this sports icon, whose roots run Earth-Mother deep into Tampa's sandy soil. Tune in, flip on and open up (pages) mañana to read the various obits and tributes. If a guava-stained tear could be drawn here, it would . . . Big Al will be missed. TBM is happy that he saw his White Sox win the Series before his departure.

Consider this quote, from The Man, himself:

"Do what you love to do and give it your very best. Whether it's business or baseball, or the theater, or any field. If you don't love what you're doing and you can't give it your best, get out of it. Life is too short. You'll be an old man before you know it."

And this:

"Go with the best you've got."

He did, and we are the better for it . . .

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I Read, Therefore I Am – Festive

Readers of the world unite . . . and visit St. Petersburg this weekend.

The 13th Annual St. Petersburg Times “Festival of Reading” takes place this Saturday, October 29, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, 140 Seventh Avenue South - Bayboro Harbor, Downtown St. Petersburg.

Authors include Bob Andelman, Raymond Arsenault, Carl Hiaasen, Sue Ellen Cooper, R.L. Stine, Candace Bushnell, Jeff Klinkenberg , Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jim Lehrer – and many, many, more. For a complete list of authors, click here.

Festival events include:
* Author talks & book signings
* Themed panels, featuring authors, book critics and journalists
* Children's “StoryLand” featuring story-telling, entertainment, arts & crafts
* Music, poetry and theater presented on open-air stages
* Marketplace with booksellers and exhibitors
* Food court

Note to Lightning Lovers: Bring a new children’s book and drop it off at the Publix Books 4 Kids Donation Tent and receive two ticket vouchers for the Lightning vs. Hurricanes game on Dec. 26 courtesy, of the St. Petersburg Times. All books benefit Community Pride Child Care, Inc. and the YWCA Family Village. Limit two ticket vouchers per person only while supplies last.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

BN9, Times Create 'Connections'

The St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9 are joining forces for a joint venture called Political Connections. The program will air Sundays at 11 a.m., starting Oct. 30. That’s one day before Halloween, which leads TBM to wonder: Will the program be a Trick or a Treat?

Gov. Jeb Bush may find out. Reason: He’s scheduled to be the first guest on this new public affairs gig. (Suspected question out of the gate: “Will you be running for Prez, Gov?”)

Hosting the inaugural PC (no pun) will be long-time Bay area news anchor Al Ruechel of Bay News 9 and Times political editor Adam C. Smith. (Sidebar: Smith had an excellent 1-A piece Sunday, Oct. 23, in which he shared what it's like to be a victim of identity theft. Definitely a “must read.”) In subsequent episodes, other Times team members will join the BN9 anchor to interview various newsmakers.

With industrial-strength heavyweights Ruechel and Smith, PC starts out with a good pedigree. TBM hopes it can deliver. The Bay area deserves programs of substance, especially when it comes to politics.

Btw, Tampa Bay has a tradition of mixing and matching media – something broadly called “convergence” in “the industry,” though the BN9-Times connection would seem to fall somewhat outside that more formal word-umbrella.

TBM is no expert in (or out of) the convergence field, and so shares, with little comment, some summaries from The Media Center, “a nonprofit think tank committed to building a better-informed society in a connected world.”

Bay area “Convergence Activities” noted by TMC:

Tribune, WFLA-TV (NBC), TBO
Tampa, FL
News, Advertising, Promotion
Partnership Description: One of most converged. Helped greatly by new, common facility and extremely committed leadership (locally and corporate). Strong cross-selling success. Still not satisfied with progress.

Herald-Tribune, Six News Now (SNN),
Sarasota, FL
News, Advertising, Promotion
Partnership Description: Could well be the "most converged," thanks to committed leadership, one manager over all media, common newsroom, paper's ownership of cable news operation.
Related Links:

St. Petersburg Times, WTSP-TV (CBS), St. Petersburg Times Online
St. Petersburg FL, Tampa/St. Petersburg FL
News, Advertising
Partnership Description: Cross promotion, occasional converged sharing.
SOURCE: The Media Center

Such cooperation amongst and within the media matrix can be, as Martha Stewart says, “a good thing” if it adds to larger public discussion geometrically – which is to say that a cross-pollination takes place that produces a true hybrid. For example, television was not merely radio with images, though some early transitional figures treated it so, such as the anchored “news-reader” John Cameron Swayze.

Conversely, witness the success of the dynamic and intense Edward R. Murrow who, when hiring correspondents, sought out print people who could really write, and whose emergence in the golden era of television can be attributed as much to his commitment to substance as to his strict, staccato delivery.

In summary, not everyone will be lasered to the screen when Smith and Ruechel launch Political Connections, but enough eyeballs of consequence will be. TBM wishes the duo well, and hopes they set a standard of substance and style high enough to warrant a buzz that will elevate the discussion on a variety of key issues from race relations to education to evacuation.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kids.

NOTE: Bay News 9 is only available on Bright House Networks.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Short Stack: Robyn, ‘Tennie,’ FUNd & Fillers

TBM doesn’t always agree with Robyn E. Blumner (St. Pete Times), but almost always enjoys her writing. Robyn's Oct. 16th Keep Web rude, real was dead-on. Suffice to say, her assessment is that the Wild Wild Web ought to stay that way, despite what she terms some posters' “intemperate, exaggerated and obscenity-laced diatribes that seem to flow directly from their overheated brains to their typing fingers without any civilizing filter.” She also diagnoses that, “When people are cloaked by pseudonymous screen names, nastiness runs amok…” But she punch-lines her column by noting that, “Few things have been as democratizing as giving everyone with a connection to the Internet the ability to publish thoughts to a world audience."
Amen, Sister!

Image-lovers, especially fans of what was once called “candid photography,” should plan a pilgrimage to the Tampa Gallery of Photographic Arts, 1628 W. Snow Circle in Tampa. The reason: One Shot Harris: The Photographs of Charles “Tennie” Harris. The Oct. 12-18 Weekly Planet (Page 27) has an excellent write-up on this exhibit, so TBM recommends that reading for an overall on both the photographer and his work. These WP sentences perhaps sum it up: “One Shot Harris showed the world real faces of black America – pictures startling in the normalcy of the everyday life they captured. He also documented the realities of prejudice, poverty and the struggles for desegregation and justice that characterized the time.” That "time," btw, was the 1940s-1960s in Pittsburgh, just up the road from where TBM grew up in Western PA. One Shot Harris runs through Jan. 8, 2006. Call 813-251-1800 for details.

The 13th Annual "An Evening with the Authors" will take place Nov.18 at the Clearwater Main Library, 100 Osceola Ave., Clearwater, from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Cost is $30 for a patron donation or $15 for an individual donation. Proceeds will benefit the Clearwater Library Foundation. Featured authors include (but are not limited to) Roger Bansemer, Bruce Hunt, Lee Irby and Dr. Ruth Peters. (TBM does not personally know any of these authors but is a sucker for doing anything to help libraries.) Call 727-799-3734 for mo info.

WMNF’s Fall FUNd Drive is on and runs through Oct. 28. Tune in to 88.5 FM and join in the FUNd. (Where else can you get an “ALL NATURAL, COMMERCIAL FREE t-shirt short sleeve” for 75 bucks?) MNF bills itself as “Community Radio,” and rightly so. TBM particularly likes the bluegrass and folk programming on Saturday morning. “Plinka-plinka. Strum, strum.”

“Record low unemployment goes even lower” reads the headline in the Tampa Bay Business Journal online. The lead graf states: “Unemployment rates in Florida and the Tampa Bay area continued to decline slightly through September.” The magic number: 3.5 percent. TBM mentions this as he ponders a rhetorical question: “Does anybody realize what an incredibly low number that is?” Sidebar: having lived in South Tampa and then moving (circa 1977-1989) TBM was not prepared for the Yuppi-dom he and Mrs. TBM encountered when they visited Old Hyde Park Village this past week. Fortunately, the TBM’ers were NOT carded, and the fifth generation Cracker (Wife) and former Ditch Digger (TBM) were allowed to quietly leave without incident – and, now, this parting thought: Somebody, somewhere must be makin’ a whole lotta pasta (i.e. moolah, cabbage, boodle, greenback, gravy, gold, lucre, wad, lettuce, wampum, skin, sugar, chips, mazuma, jack or the like) to have transformed Swann – from the Ugly Duck it once was.

Whatever happened to Hubert Mizell?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

‘Good Night, and Good Luck’: See It Now

If you like news, history and television, TBM can highly recommend George Clooney’s new movie “Good Night, and Good Luck,” a black and white semi-docu-drama that spotlights the 1950’s showdown between CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow and the Junior Senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy.

But the movie isn’t for everyone; witness the six or so people who walked out during the special screening Thursday night in South Tampa.

Perhaps they were expecting “Ocean’s 11.” (In the interest of full disclosure, Clooney directs the movie and plays the key role of CBS producer Fred Friendly, but David Strathairn, as Murrow, is without question the star here – think Oscar performance.)

Randy Myers 
of Contra Costa Times notes that "Good Night, and Good Luck" expects its audience to arrive at the movie theater “smart.” He is right. Though there are a few light moments, GN&GL by and large expects its audience to be engaged rather than entertained as it chronicles a sort of 20th Century Gunfight at the OK Corral – but with the weapons of choice being rhetoric rather than bullets.

Whoever said, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" wasn’t around during the McCarthy era when being called Red (or even “Pink”) could end a career.

Still, the movie isn’t perfect: It doesn’t make the case that Communism was the threat it was during that period, which is what made the anti-Communist frenzy possible. And it neglects to show that ol’ Tail-gunner Joe was a popular figure in many circles. (He was, for example, the Godfather to one of Bobby Kennedy’s children.)

However, for those who have a passion for history and substance, it’s a must see.

PS-1: TBM recommends reading Alexander Kendrick's “Prime-Time: The Life of Edward R. Murrow,” an excellent book that puts "Good Night, and Good Luck" into the larger perspective of the newsman’s rich and full life, particularly his years as a war correspondent.

PS-2: One almost walks away from the movie feeling that to be a good journalist in the 1950’s it was necessary to be a chain-smoker – talk about smoke-filled rooms . . .

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Free Tickets: ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

Mr. & Mrs. TBM have a handful of extra tickets to George Clooney’s new flick “Good Night, and Good Luck,” and we are offering them exclusively to fellow TampaBLAB bloggers.

This special screening takes place 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct 20, at SunriseCinemas, Old Hyde Park Village, 1609 West Swann Ave., in Tampa.

The New York Times says, “George Clooney's film about the CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow is a passionate, thoughtful essay on power, truth-telling and responsibility.”

The Hollywood Reporter calls it, "Gripping slice-of-life docudrama.”

GuideLive puts it this way, “Cigarette smoke, fear and the weight of principle hang in the air throughout Good Night, and Good Luck.”

TBM only goes to one movie a year; this year, “Good Night, and Good Luck” is that movie.

E-mail 2-nite (Wednesday, Oct. 19) for coordination details – or, if you’re a risk-taker, show up at the theater and look for an attractive woman standing with a guy wearing eye-glasses who looks like he has the head of Sonny Bono transplanted on the body of SNL’s Chris Farley. (We’ll be in front of the theater between 7 and 7:15 p.m.)

First come, first serve.

Still not sure? View the trailer, by clicking here

NOTE: If you are reading this after 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20, I will not be able to check my e-mail prior to the movie. As of RIGHT NOW, there are still tickets available.

Wilma on the Way

Over the next few days, newsrooms in the Bay area will shift to Hurricane mode as Wilma – for now, a Cat 5 storm – appears to be have the West Coast of Florida in its cross-hairs. TBM has asked before, theoretically, re: your hurricane coverage partner of choice. With Wilma on the way, the question is now for real. Who will you turn to?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

tbt* 3 – Feminism 0

TBM grew up as a baby journalist at a time when if you said “girl” at a staff meeting, you’d be chastised; if you opened a door for a woman, you’d hear something like, “Do think I’m crippled,” and mere mention of the word “Ms.” could provoke a discussion that would disrupt an entire j-class at USF.

So, it was with an odd combination of horror and humor that TBM scanned the Oct. 12-18 issue of *Tampa Bay Times (affectionately known as tbt*) and pondered how things have changed in three decades.

To wit:

Page 9

We Shouldn’t Care About Her Looks (But We Do)

This un-bylined Associated Press article about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Meirs contains the following nugget from Christina Kelly, editor of ELLEgirl:

“You can be smart, accomplished and successful, but if your appearance is deemed less than perfect, you’re basically worthless in the eyes of the public.”


Somebody want to toss that quote over to Pulitzer-Prize winner Lucy Ware Morgan (St. Pete Times) and watch her pop it out of the park?

But that’s not the most “shallow” tbt* tid-bit. No, that would be found on:

Page 29

Why treat beauty as something ugly?

“Glamor (do’s and don’ts)” columnist Carol Brundage writes:

“My life is all about beauty. I write about it, I think about it and, like most women, I work at it. Shallow? Some people may think so, and frankly, I take offense. After all, beauty is serious business.”

No comment . . . except to share the article’s punch-line:

“Beauty really is more than skin deep. That said, grab a martini and meet me in the closet, ladies. We’ve got some primping to do.”

But wait, there’s more . . .

Page 54

Gloria Steinem just keeled over

This Associated Press piece is an article written by a woman who works at a men’s magazine. She is searching for just the right “fresh words” to use in an article titled “And God Created Woman.”

The lead graf:

“Sultry eyes? Good. Southern sexpot? Really good. And what about mamacita?”

Our unnamed heroine (why she is not named, I do not know) is wrestling with “writing scintillatingly short and sweet bios for each goddess” – you know, the usual suspects: Angelina, Jennifer, Sophie, et al.

Ms. Un-Named admits she’s hung up on the word “hot” but wants to push the literary envelop. (That’s the one with all the words on it.)

She comes up with: “Sultry. Smoldering. Stunning. Exotic. Gorgeous. Bombshell. Temptress. Doe-eyed.”

And, later, “bee-stung” (?), then “naughty, arousing and ingénue, saucy and senorita.”

After-which, our word-weary writer begins synthesizing, rhetorically: “Smoldering temptress? Sultry senorita? Bee-stung bombshell?”

There’s more . . . but it is too painful to re-count, for, as our editorial adventurer admits, first, “I started to think like a man” and then “I began to view women as commodities.”

“Commodities”? Oh, the womanity!

Susan B. Anthony, we hardly knew ya.

But, what does TBM know, anyways. He’s a guy, and an old one at that, whose “appearance is deemed less than perfect,” and, therefore, “basically worthless in the eyes of the public.”

However, here’s a thought: Feminism isn’t dead; it’s just in the closet havin’ a martini – and possibly “primping.” In case it comes back before quittin’ time, here’s a link it might want to check out:

Feminist Majority Foundation

PS-1: Jay Cridlin can thank me later for not mentioning the “scintillatingly” semi-sexist Victoria’s Secret? She’s no dummy on Page 8. (Talk about viewing women as “commodities” – or should I say, “window-dressing.”)

PS-2: Tampa NOW meets at 6:15 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at the Perkins Restaurant and Bakery, located at 408 East Bearrs Avenue, Tampa. Maybe someone from tbt* should pay them a visit.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

WEDU Scores with an ‘Extraordinary’ Life

WEDU describes “Extraordinary Grace: The Reverend A. Leon Lowry” as “a tribute to one of the Tampa Bay Area’s leaders in equality, opportunity, and education.” It is that. But it something more: It is yet another example of what EDU can do when it puts its mind – and money – to the task at hand.
(See TBM’s “Putting the ‘Journal’ Back Into Journalism,” Sept. 25.)

There is not time or space here to recap Dr. Lowry’s “extraordinary” life; for that, TBM suggests you read the well-written obituary, published August 21, 2005, in the St. Petersburg Times.

Suffice to say, as the Associated Press did via MSNBC: “The Rev. A. Leon Lowry, a prominent local civil rights leader who once taught Martin Luther King Jr. and led the desegregation of public facilities in Tampa, has died at 92.”

He taught Dr. King; he helped changed Tampa.

What a life . . .


But this is not so much about Dr. Lowry, as it is about EDU.

That said, the Rev. Dr. Lowry was pastor of Beulah Baptist Institutional Church, headed the local chapter of NAACP, helped found Tampa's first biracial bank, became the first black member of the Hillsborough County School Board and served on the WEDU Board of Directors – all milestones that took place after he taught theology at Morehouse College, where his students included a young man named Martin Luther King Jr.

The Florida Sentinel Bulletin (rightly) notes “Lowry's life story is almost a history of race relations – not only in Tampa.”

Education officials in Hillsborough County at least – if not the Bay area as a whole – should consider taking “Extraordinary Grace: The Reverend A. Leon Lowry” into classrooms next February during Black History Month.

But, let’s go one better: Perhaps WEDU can re-broadcast the entire episode and coordinate a discussion of race relations in the community at large, marshaling the full force of its considerable talents. Provoking editorials. Planning round-table discussions. And even more . . . Messages from the pulpit. Marches. Meditations. Now that would be an example of Public Television at work.

Why wait until there is blood in the streets before community leaders (media, included) pipe up, and say, “Let’s talk”?

It would be a fitting tribute to Rev. Lowry, and his slain student, Dr. King, if influential community leaders (amongst them, those in the media) got together and brought visibility to an issue that is all too often forgotten – or (conveniently) ignored.

* * *

And, now, this additive, production quality of “Extraordinary Grace: The Reverend A. Leon Lowry” – already high in editing, photography and writing – was taken to the next level by the addition of voice-over artist Ezra Knight. You may not know Knight, but you’ve probably heard his voice, featured, as it has been, in so many places, including MTV, the Today Show, Food TV and the Tomb Raiders 2 trailer. Still not sure? Then click here for a sampler of Knight's work.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Short Stack: Pix, Shticks, Ferrets & Hiaasen

Over your breakfast plate of two eggs over easy, extra crispy bacon, one slice of lightly buttered, whole-wheat toast – all washed down with a mug of hot black coffee . . . these additives:

Picture-takers should take advantage of an online invitation from to “share views of life in the Bay area through your digital camera or cell phone.” The TBO Team does ask that, “you keep 'em clean.” As a wise man once observed, it is their “dime.”

Headline kudos to the nameless 1-A editor at the Trib who came up with this gem on today’s front page (below the fold) to alert readers that autumn is (finally) upon us:

"Fall’s Here – How Cool Is That?"

TBM reacts, appropriately: How cool is that?

The “Cledus T. Hometown Handshake Tour with Chad, Steve and Rita!” ends with a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on 6 a.m.-10 a.m. at two Dunkin' Donuts locations: Monday, Oct., 17, 13013 – 66th Street No., and Tuesday, Oct. 18, 4325 Hillsborough Plaza, Tampa. For sophisti-cats livin’ in South Tampa, Cledus is the “Weird Al Yankovic” of Country Music – and now a Big-Time Bay area radio personality. (TBM’s favorite CT tune: “I Love Nascar.”)

And speaking of weird, Al . . . if you did not hear the ferret segment on “The Schnitt Show” this week (3-6 p.m., 970 AM, WFLA) you may have missed one of the milestone mad moments in Bay area talk radio. Schnitt reacted to an AP story, the lead graf of which notes: “A student has filed an Americans With Disabilities Act complaint against a university because it won't let her keep her pet ferret at her dormitory.” Schnitt (a local lad who can run with the Big Boys when it comes to discussing national issues) knows a Loony Tune topic when he sees one, took his rant to the splinter-edge of absurdity, and never looked back. (Somebody, please, buy this guy a wombat.)

Talk about a flap, Bay area airwaves and newsprint were a-buzz and a-flap this week over W.’s tele-call with troops that was variously dubbed “staged,” “choreographed” and “rehearsed.” AP put it this way: “It was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops, but the questions President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were choreographed to match his goals for the war . . .”

That’s “choreographed” as in “Kabuki.”

Sgt. Ron Long was one of the soldiers who participated in the tele-call. He gives his take on the flap – and, it’s created quite a buzz of its own. Read it for yourself (see link to his blog below) and then decide. TBM’s take? Let’s see . . . should I believe the high-paid “spin doctors,” sittin’ in cozy, air-conditioned offices who have their own agendas, or the medic in Iraq who is puttin’ his life on the line? Hmmmmm . . . tough call – NOT.

. . . and, finally . . . the 13th Annual St. Petersburg Times “Festival of Reading” takes place Saturday, October 29, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, 140 Seventh Avenue South - Bayboro Harbor, Downtown St. Petersburg. This is a quality event, attended by TBM just once, and still fondly remembered. Industrial-strength authors include (but certainly not limited to): Carl Hiaasen, Sue Ellen Cooper, R.L. Stine, Candace Bushnell and Doris Kearns Goodwin. (There is a pricey, but probably worth it, “Preview Party” the night before.)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Media Shift: Survival of the Fittest

PR WEEK has an article headlined “10 media trends to watch” that is a must-read for every media type and hype in the Bay area – as well as anyone and everyone with even a passing interest in such things, but especially bloggers.

The sea change taking place in BIG media this past year – witness the passing of the dinosaur/anchorman: Brokaw, Rather, Jennings – is a benchmark in time to which historians will point, though the full impact (like the aftermath of a meteor hit) is yet to be determined.

Suffice to say, what emerges will be different – probably faster, better, cheaper. It has to be. One possibility is a synergy between the “real” media and the emerging media – that is: blogging, the as yet embryonic promise of the so-called “Citizen Journalist."
(See TBM’s " 'It's Your Times' . . . Use It, NOW!!!", Oct. 13)

Jon Friedman, Media Web columnist for Market Watch, put it this way:

“The internet is playing a very large and influential role in forming public tastes. The public likes what it gets on the internet: the convenience, the speed, hopefully the reliability of the news and commentary. And now you have blogs entering the picture in a forceful way, changing everything. Now anyone can be a publisher or journalist. As a result, these pretty stodgy magazines and newspapers that have relied for a century on the same formula have to hit themselves in the backside and get it together and adapt.”

And adapt, they must, for only the fittest will survive. Those who slumber will end up food, fodder – or both.

But, that’s just TBM’s opinion. That and a quarter will get you on the Suncoast Parkway – but not necessarily off. Read the article; decide for yourself . . .
LINK: 10 media trends to watch

Thursday, October 13, 2005

'It's Your Times' . . . Use It, NOW!!!

“From each according to her knowledge
To each according to his curiosity”

OK, it’s a start . . .

“Big Media” invites the “little people” to get involved. Not perfect, but, hey – who’s perfect?

First, the “rules” (a.k.a. “What Not To Say”):

“Please be sure your comment is appropriate before submitting it.

 "Inappropriate posts include content that:

* Is defamatory or libelous
* Is abusive, harassing, or threatening
* Is obscene, vulgar, or profane
* Is racially, ethnically or religiously offensive
* Is illegal or encourages criminal acts
* Is known to be inaccurate or contains a false attribution
* Infringes copyrights, trademarks, publicity or any other rights of others
* Impersonates anyone (actual or fictitious)
* Is off-topic or spam
* Solicits funds, goods or services”

Yeah, OK . . . we get it: “It’s not the dub dub dub.” It’s not FREEEEEEEEE speech. But, for a corporate entity, I’m impressed.


I keyboard – therefore, I am . . .

. . . and, then, the “SITE POLICY”:

“Welcome to It's Your Times, the community issue blog from the St. Petersburg Times. This is a free and open space for citizen journalism and community discussion, but there is a code of conduct.

“You will be the reporter and contributor on these pages. You will be able to introduce information and ideas that you may feel have not gotten the attention they deserve. Everyone's postings will have the same status and will rise or fall on the basis of their quality. Everyone's contributions will be saved. This will be like the perfect town hall meeting where anyone can speak at any time and everyone's input will be equally respected.

“Respect is an important aspect of this community blog. Ideas are what will prevail, not personalities and not attacks. If people post inappropriate material, it will be removed. If the poster feels the removal is incorrect, that person may appeal, but they will probably be required to rewrite their comments in a respectful manner. We will not edit any posts. We want a discussion, even an argument, but not insult.

“We will summarize comments on a regular basis so new visitors will not have to read every posting to learn what is new and interesting. All accepted comments will be available, but the summary will serve as a gateway to them. The summary also will be a place where we will ask questions or introduce ideas we've run across. We're part of the community, too.

“You will need to register with us in order to participate. Here's why

“We've invited pertinent elected officials and other prominent members of the community to join the fray. We hope they will use this opportunity to speak directly to the public in the precise context they intend.

“We think this will be an excellent place for the community to address ideas that can't fully fit into a newspaper but need thorough discussion just the same. This will be an interesting opportunity to take journalism to a new place. It's Your Times.”

. . . and, as they say, these are the “Times” that try men’s lives . . . but I’m OK with that. Coz’ at least they’re tryin’.

So, sign up blogsville. Don’t let this opportunity pass. A “Big-Time” Media Entity is invitin’ you to participate. DO NOT LET IT PASS.

To quote ALL the Adam Sadler movies:

“You Can DO It!”

And by doin’ it, you can make life better. More bearable. Livable. Likeable. Loveable. “Red and yellow, black and white.” Conservative AND Liberal. Even you moderate, middle of the roaders. Get involved. Use that First Amendment. Use it NOW! You do NOT have to be right. What you have to be is available. The best ability in America, right now, is avail-ability. Use your VOICE. And the world will be a better place. I promise. Or double your money back.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Because It's That Important . . .

The First Amendment

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Freedom of speech has no limits – except, maybe, yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. Ponder that, for a moment or two. And consider that this freedom is crucial for citizens in the Bay area. Use it, or lose it – now, and forever. Think of it as a (sort of) positronic haiku:

"Congress shall
make no law
respecting an establishment
of religion,
or prohibiting
the free exercise thereof;

or abridging
the freedom
of speech,

of the press;

the right of the people
to assemble,


to petition
the government
for a redress
of grievances."

We should use any, and all, the options, thereof . . .

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Short Stack: Turn On, Tune In, Drop In

"Tampa Bay's Media Talk" (no relation to TBM, except cosmically) bills itself as “a weekly entertainment and educational radio program dedicated to serving the needs of the Tampa Bay area's creative community.” The one-hour show airs “live” Thursdays 6 p.m. on WTAN 1340, 1350 and WZHR 1400.

For those with a high-speed Internet connection, the show can be viewed in real time at via “streaming video.” Show hosts are Janet Sherer and Michael Piotrowski. Call-in’s are welcome at 1-866-826-1340, toll-free.

PS-1: Sherer was interviewed last summer for an article by Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times. That article (headlined “Isolating Our Points of Viewing”) can be found at

PS-2: "Tampa Bay's Media Talk" typically has high-quality guests of local, regional and even national stature, though rumor has it that a blogger snuck in recently, after-which two cups of high-quality coffee and five bright, shiny peanut M&M’s were missing from a glass jar at the front desk. (What some people won’t do for a little caffeine and chocolate.)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Short Stack: For Those Who Think 'Young'

Have just a thin stick of info on what sounds to be a worthy event, with the topic: “Helping Young Artists Stay in Tampa Bay.”

Sponsored by the Weekly Planet, this “FREE” interactive “Twist on a Live Political Talk Show” is scheduled to take place Monday, Oct. 17, 7:30 p.m., at the Jobsite Theater, Shimberg Playhouse, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, 1010 N. W.C. MacInnes Place in Tampa. (Park at Poe Garage, Ashley Street, between Cass and Gasparilla.)

Guests include actor Jack Holloway, David Jenkins of the Jobsite Theater, Carrie Mackin of the Covivant Gallery, Margaret Murray of The Arts Center in St. Pete, and a TBM favorite, Paul Wilborn, Creative Industries Manager for the City of Tampa. Weekly Planet Editor David Warner will host.

Be there or be square. (That’s “m-c square” for science students.) For more information, call the Planet at 813-739-4854. (For those with particularly good karma: Sit quietly, meditate, breath, feel the vibes, exhale, then call.)

PS-1: This seems a good example of the kind of proactive involvement/investment media outlets should make in the communities in which they live – and from which they profit. Kudos.

PS-2: TBM plans to be there – if he can get a dog-sitter.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

When TV Stations Go Dub Dub Dud

Herbert McLuhan once said, “The medium is the message.” He didn’t add that the message is sometimes mediocre, but he might have.

McLuhan (better known as “Marshall”) died in Toronto, Dec. 31, 1980, long after the first four nodes on the ARPANET were set up in 1968, but well before dub dub dub unleashed the Niagara of packets and bytes on and through the Information Superhighway. It would be instructive to resurrect this media maven to entertain his Internet insight, but perhaps we can extrapolate from the elegant epigrams he left behind:

    “With telephone and TV it is not so much the message as the sender that is 

    “People don’t actually read newspapers. They step into them every morning like a hot bath.”

    “Today the business of business is becoming the constant invention of new business.”

    “All advertising advertises advertising.”

    “When a thing is current, it creates currency.”

    “Men on frontiers, whether of time or space, abandon their previous identities. Neighborhood gives identity. Frontiers snatch it away.”

And, perhaps most insightful . . .

    “Mud sometimes gives the illusion of depth.”

. . . which is to say: Any Bay area TV/Cable entity that doesn’t carefully cultivate an identity on the Internet is missing an opportunity to leverage a medium that could exponentially expand its reach – as well as its bottom line.

. . . but then, McLuhan was Canadian (aye?) so can we really believe all that heady stuff he spewed? (Remember, this was a fella who once said: “I may be wrong, but I’m never in doubt.”)

Oh, well, pass the cold case of Labatt Blue longnecks, click on the McKenzie brothers’ “Great White North” DVD, and let’s see what our video cousins do when they try to transfer their talents to the dub-dub-dub – scored, as it were, on a substantially subjective scale of One to Five “Dubs.”

Bay News 9
BN9 boasts a content-rich site, well-branded with its video companion. Navigation is straightforward, fonts consistent. Color, graphics and design enhance rather than distract from its mission. County-by-county news breakdown a plus. Overall, a solid, competent effort. Criticism? Just a tad elementary at times.
Four Dubs

Attractive, professional, clean. Background color changes as primary navigation buttons are clicked, which at first is startling, but does reinforce transition. Strong programming content, but lack of an attempt to create a sense of community is a missed opportunity, which should be a priority for a station that relies heavily on fund-raising.
Two Dubs

A good effort considering station must share online real estate with TBO.Com and The Tampa Tribune. Some visitors will no doubt like the resulting trinity; TBM feels it artificially limits FLA’s online options. Still, sufficient branding with the station to be a plus, that and mega-multiple content trails will keep most news junkies happy.
Three Dubs

Perhaps the strongest online effort for a television station in the Bay area. Clean, crisp, design. Content rich. Good mix. Lots of links, yet doesn’t seem cluttered. Excellent use of color and graphics. Only question: How do you know its WFTS from the home page? Oops.
Four and a half Dubs

Comes off strictly as a “promo” site — which is OK if all you want to do is tell people about what programs are on your station. TBM understands that 44 bills itself as “Tampa Bay’s #1 Entertainment Station,” but the lack of a human touch undermines 44’s ability to create “Chatter” and promote community.
One and a half Dubs

Overall good effort, though tweaks could kick it up a notch. Graphics a bit heavy-handed. Advertising navigation on right overpowers site, giving the impression of schizophrenic design. Bold headline links coupled with heavy reverse bars “shout” too much. Something should "whisper." Still, a content-rich, nicely branded site.
Three and a half Dubs

Weakest online effort of any station in the Bay area. Where to start? Best thing on the site is the Chick-fil-A ad. Who to blame? (Sinclair Broadcasting?) Hard to say. Should give it a “Dud” instead of a “Dub.” Can’t believe somebody at station doesn’t have time to dress this thing up a bit or a byte. No theme. No design. No personality.
Half a Dub

A wonderfully content-rich site that is hampered by a clunky navigational interface and a design approach that is so . . . so . . . frustratingly 1999! TVT, which has a rich history of branding (remember “Big 13”), missed Salty Sol's boat here. Note to Mr. 13: Sell a few more ads, hire a “Big”-time Web designer and set the standard for the Bay area – yeah, that’s the ticket.
Two and a half Dubs

Much as EDU, this is “Attractive, professional, clean,” as well as, “Strong programming content, but lack of an attempt to create a sense of community is a missed opportunity . . .” Not to sound like a broken record (a metaphor baby bloggers will miss) but creating community is on option online. A Web site is not a monologue but an invitation to a dialogue.
Two Dubs

IN SUMMARY, the Internet is like a shower: billions of bits and bytes blasting from everywhere and anywhere in real time and asynchronously. TV/Cable entities – already sending their senders into viewer’s homes – should be advertising their online business identities at every turn. In turn, those dub dub dubs should be deeply branded, content-rich and user-friendly – as well as current, always current. Plus, in addition to cross-advertising their Cable/TV counterparts, the dub dub dubs should be creating and cultivating a sense of community, a nurturing neighborhood on the new frontier.

Clear as mud? It was never in doubt.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Short Stack: Yada, Yada; Blah, Blah; BLAB!

TampaBLAB (, which bills itself as "your one-stop shop for blogs in the greater Tampa Bay area," was recently spotlighted on the St. Petersburg Times Online BLOGS page ( In the interest of full disclosure, TBM notes that it is listed at both virtual locations and visits both sites regularly. Why? Because sometimes ya just gotta know where to go to find out what's happenin' in blogsville . . .

PS-1: A recent e-mail from a colleague reminded TBM that it is "blogsville as opposed to printsville,” and that “it's more important to just get an idea out there." The response? Attempts to sprinkle in some smaller snacks amongst the longer editorial entrees, hence "Short Stack.”

PS-2: Special thanks to Michael & Janet for reasons that will not be elaborated upon at this time . . . except to say that the coffee and M&M's were hmmm, hmmm, good.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

'Voices' Part One: Otto & Troxler

Every newspaper has a “voice.” (If it doesn’t, it should buy, cultivate, create or steal one.) Often the “voice” emanates from the editorial section of the paper, but not always. The St. Petersburg Times and The Tampa Tribune have multiple voices, and a talented bunch they are.

But, editorially, they lack something --- hmmmmmmmm, warmth, maybe? Passion? Humanity? Perhaps it’s the curse of editorial departments that they speak from "on high" with a detached and antiseptic manner at best – and at worst?

Well, the Trib sometimes seems tentative, like it’s looking over its shoulder at “Mother” Media General in Virginia; and with the Times, you feel like . . . well, you feel like you’re being lectured to by “the smartest kid in class.” (“West Wing” fans, take note.)

So who, really, is a better “voice” choice, someone with real heart and soul who embodies the best each paper has to offer.

TBM’s response: Steve Otto and Howard Troxler.

Otto works for the Trib; Troxler, for the Times. Each is a columnist, respectively, for their newspaper’s “metro” section. Otto is a good ol’ boy, chili-eatin’ Cracker about town; Troxler is a cherubic intellectual, bow-tied imp o’ the world, whose recent full beard makes him look older than age 30 for the first time in his life.

Otto was a columnist for The Tampa Times (no relation to the St. Pete Times) – the “sister” afternoon paper to The Tampa Tribune. The two papers merged circa 1982, having shared a building and presses, though little else. The Trib’s features department (named Part IV, then Tampa Bay Today, and now called BayLife, which was the name of The Tampa Times features department, prior to it folding) absorbed Otto (no mean feat) before he was transferred to the metro section, where he is now.

Ironically, Troxler used to be a metro reporter for the Trib, before (eventually) crossing the Bay to write for the St. Pete Times. (Howard was probably the first reporter in the area to own a Macintosh, including carrying case, back when those computers were the size of a microwave . . . talk about “hip.”)

These two columnists are existentially essential examples of their craft and their papers.

TBM suggests you go to the library (or online) and scan the work of these two veteran scribes. You’ll note that Steve tends to ramble (blame his editors); that Howard sometimes thinks he’s as smart as he sounds (blame Howard), but, by and large, you’ll hear “voice” – something true readers savor, like fine wine.

Btw, Daniel Ruth (Trib) used to be the best writer in the area – before he went to Chicago, and returned “urbane.” Too bad. He was that good. (“What's wrong, Superman? Got your cape caught in a typewriter, did ya?”)

* * *

If you’re new to Tampa Bay, you missed two great sports icons; giants, really: Tom McEwen (Trib) and Hubert Mizell (Times). In TBM’s opinion, they were the true baritone “voices” of the Bay, great and respected, giving us a national presence before we deserved it – but let’s save that discussion for another day.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sober & Similar: Journalists a Political Monolith

Dumb headline, aye? What if you found out it was based on talking to just a handful of journalists. Even dumber, right? So, explain to TBM why an article written by a sitcom writer would get an above the fold, half-page display in “Florida’s Best Newspaper” with just about as much attribution – the author talking to a handful of people (two of whom couldn't speak English) including “two young women dressed in practically nothing” (St. Petersburg Times, Sunday, October 2, 2005, Perspective, Page 8P).

Here’s the actual headline and sub-head:

“Drunk but diverse"
“Beyond their shared love of beer, NASCAR crowds aren’t a political monolith.”

It’s a joke, right? Yeee hah! Would that it were true. TBM hopes the writer of the headline was sloppy, lazy, drunk or all three – meaning that he/she either didn’t read the story, didn’t understand it or was so drunk … well, you get the picture.

The story is a nice piece, actually. Well-written. Funny, with a great punch-line. (TBM won’t give it away.) It was your classic “fish out of water” scenario. You could almost hear it come up at a brain-storming sesssion: “Hey, Jack Burditt has never been to a stock car race, and he doesn’t drink beer. He’d be a great one to send to the Sony HD 500 at Fontana for a nice fluff piece about NASCAR Dads.”

Yeah, that’s probably how it happened – at the Los Angeles Times. And it would have worked, too – except that by the time the article got to the St. Petersburg Times, somebody didn’t get the joke, certainly not the headline writer:

“Drunk but diverse”

That could be said about most pro sports fans – football, basketball, baseball:

“Beyond their shared love of beer, NFL crowds aren’t a political monolith.”

“Beyond their shared love of beer, NBA crowds aren’t a political monolith.”

“Beyond their shared love of beer, MLB crowds aren’t a political monolith.”

Yep. True. True. True. Check. Check. Check.

So, what’s the point? Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out. I suppose the headline writer was using a subtle sense of humor so stealth that only really sophisticated Perspective readers got it. TBM apparently didn't . . .

Do you think NASCAR guys will get upset for being stereotyped? Nah. They’re drunk, remember? And besides, those rednecks prob-lee keent ev’n reed, henny-wayz.