Yay, Internet!

Sure, maybe the Internet has made us all more informed voters in a Democracy. Or maybe it’s become one giant braying echo chamber that amplifies exactly what you want to hear, from both the candidates you support and the candidates you don’t.

But this year, many candidates have developed a phobia of the Internet, and their reactions have made the democratic process less open and informed. They shy away from debates (we’re all waiting, Andrew Cuomo) and national television interviews because a single, tiny mistake could be disseminated and amplified by the Internet for weeks. They eschew town halls and public events because “trackers” from their opponents’ campaigns record every public utterance in the hopes of capturing another Macaca moment.

—”YouTube Has Scared Candidates Into Hiding,” Daily Intel, nymag.com

This is bad news for politicians on both sides of the aisle. Politico notes (via nymag.com) that “With a month left until the midterm elections, there is something noticeably absent from some key statewide races: the candidates.” Politico goes on to say that Republican Senate candidates Ken Buck, Rand Paul, and Christine O’Donnell have avoided public events recently, with candidates acting “out of fear of a gotcha moment that will come back to haunt them.” Upstate here, the Times Union noted that incumbent Assemblyman Tim Gordon (an Independent who caucuses with Democrats) has been hounded by a video tracker from his opponent’s camp.

And of course, with the antics of Carl Paladino, who would want to appear on video these days?

Despite some protestations against the devil mainstream media, who needs the media if you can send a staffer out with a video camera and upload whatever gaffe you find and post it on your YouTube channel?

In a few years (maybe even by the end of this election year), we’ll only hear from candidates via Twitter/Facebook, perhaps on sanctioned media stations (Fox News for the right, though even that may not be sanctioned enough for some righties; see Bill O’Reilly vs. Carl Paladino), and at candidate “town hall” events with pre-screened audience members.

Either that, or nobody is going to give a shit about what these candidate says (I mean, even less than they give a shit now).

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Brokaw’s Boomers

While it took curling and hockey to get me to watch CNBC tonight, I noticed a promotion for a post-Olympics report Tom Brokaw will be doing on the Baby Boomers entitled (duh) “Boomers” (or, if you prefer, “Boomer$!,” as CNBC has it). Wondering if one of the Boomer contributions Brokaw will investigate is a paralyzed political system and fractured economy, with ostensible (and ostentatious) hand-wringing about the debt they’re going to leave their grandchildren while pushing to cut anything designed to help their own children — today’s under-45 workforce, who of course, must be in great shape and therefore not need help — while not touching a dime from pensions, Medicare, etc. (though, in fairness, today’s economic meltdown appears to be as much Boomer eating Boomer as it is anything else, but I digress), and, oh yeah, twisting the future of the educational system for the newest generation, to boot.

(Aside 1: I know it’s CNBC, so other than the Olympics, its programs probably need to seem to be at least slightly related to finance, but is it a bit much to call the show “Boomer$”?)

From their Web site:

In a landmark two-hour documentary, Tom Brokaw tells the story of history’s wealthiest and most influential generation. From hula hoops to civil rights, in war and politics, Brokaw chronicles the extraordinary impact 78 million baby boomers have had on American society over the past six decades, and explores the challenges they face as they begin to approach the age of retirement.

The press release has more, and makes it seem like must-see-TV for this geek:

For years, by their sheer heft in numbers, baby boomers altered the economy, and now, it has altered them.  After experiencing historic wealth, many boomers now find themselves likely to outlive their money.  Brokaw captures the stunned disbelief of a downsized generation that never saw it coming and that now confronts rising unemployment and dashed dreams of retirement.  He also examines the boomers’ unique and unyielding quest to preserve their youth, leading one writer to describe these children of Woodstock as, “Generation Ageless.”

Sorry, I’m cranky today, but Brokaw ends the promo I saw on TV with “I’ve been curious about how they see their lives and what is left for them to do.” I’m quite tempted to say the answer to the first question is “heroic” and the answer to the second question is “get out of the way,” but I’m trying to watch Canada-Norway and keep my grouchiness in check and tongue firmly in cheek.

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Observation at Random

Has Nixon’s Silent Majority become today’s Vocal Minority? Or put another way, how much longer before Rupert Murdoch, astute businessman that he is, realize he is broadcasting to a niche market?


Richard Nixon’s Revenge

It’s surely a gross oversimplification, but does anyone else see the aging shouters and angry protesters at the health care town hall forums this month as the logical extension and growth of the Baby Boom generation?

In the late Sixties and early Seventies, these were the protesters fighting against the Vietnam War (and their younger siblings in awe of them), dismissed as hippies while chanting down LBJ and especially Richard Nixon, sacred protector of the so-called Silent Majority.

Four decades later, the tables have turned. The Boomers are still shouting at a President, but it’s in a Bizarro world. Fuck giving peace a chance (and health care for everyone). Now, don’t touch what’s mine, and fuck you if you can’t afford what I’ve got. And, oh yeah, now I’m a member of the not-so-Silent Majority, becoming what I’ve beheld.

The Ghost of Richard Nixon surely must be smirking somewhere, seeing how the kids that burned him in effigy on college campuses grew up, got old, lost some hair but are still shouting at a President as if they simply needed something to shout about, dammit.

And, true, while it’s probable that many of these aging Boomers were unlikely the left-leaning marchers of 1969 (though some of them may possibly have been, changing their stripes as they got older), it’s almost like their right-wing generational cohorts have been waiting 40 years for their own chance to shout. It’s as if noisily protesting — correct or dead-wrong — is in their generational genes.

Whiskey Fire and Latchkey Man, reliable as ever, have great posts on the age politics at work in the health care debate.


I hate the ESPN ‘Ball Track’

Memo to ESPN: Thanks for ruining the annual Home Run Derby with your annoying, distracting, execrable and stupid Ball Track graphic.

For those of you who care about such things (all two of you), ESPN introduced a fiery line that follows the path of batted balls during the annual homer tournament. Remember the glowing tail that Fox used to follow the course of the puck during hockey coverage about a decade or more ago, presumably because they thought fans were too dimwitted and slow (or so their message seemed)? ESPN has brought the technology back to crap on its fans tonight.

Hey Bristol Braintrust — Josh Hamilton blasting 28 home runs is exciting, thrilling and made great television. Your Ball Track? Not so much. In fact, quite the opposite. The Home Run Derby is simplistic, perfect television at its best. It’s not complicated, it’s strictly for the fans, and it showcases exactly one aspect of an extremely complex, thinking-person’s sport. So what? It’s July. It’s hot. It’s fun.

The Ball Track? It celebrates the triumph of ESPN.

I’m turning your broadcast off, now. Thanks. Alienation was just what I was looking for to begin my week.

Is this what British and Spanish fans have to look forward to next year when the Bristol Galactus takes over part of the Premier League and La Liga coverage? Oooo. A line that follows the course of a ball, because we think our viewers are too stupid to follow it. Nice. Thanks for condescending.

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Degrees of journalism

Jack Shafer is one of those reliably irritable writers who gets it right more times than not (his crusade against Bill Moyers was one of those times that are not, but other than that, I can’t think of any others right now). He’s the prototypical cranky journo, and the world is better for it.

Right now, I tend to think Shafer is absolutely right about the future of journalism, and the fact that the downturn of today could portend a rise tomorrow. To wit:

Let me say it another way: The barriers of entry into the journalism business have been battered down, making it easier than ever to enter the profession. That will read as small consolation to the journalists who have had their publications shot out from under them—the Rocky Mountain News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Ann Arbor News (come July 23), and magazines too numerous to tally. But please notice that I’m not saying there has never been a more lucrative or prestigious time to become a journalist. The cash and status associated with the profession are fairly recent. Until the early 1970s or thereabouts, the average journalist made an average salary (if that), and his societal standing was modest.

If the downside of the battered-down barriers to entry is less pay and lower status, the potential upside is that a flood of new entrants into the field could portend a journalistic renaissance.

This hardly aids journos of my generation and the Millennials. Our bosses, most of them Baby Boomers, sold us a bill of goods that said we needed more and more college degrees to be “real” journalists, even though many of them didn’t have Master’s degrees when they entered the field. This isn’t exactly what Shafer is saying in his recent Slate column, but it got me thinking.

To me, this touches on something Laurie at Punk Rock HR wrote about recently regarding MBAs in the work world in general, and what Jimmy Breslin has long said about the reporting world in particular — why the hell do you need a Master’s to be a journalist, or for that matter, a degree from a Journalism school when you should be learning about history, literature and the like in school (with a healthy re-up of grammar lessons, but I’m hardly one to call the kettle black on that one), and learning the how-to’s of journalism as a cub reporter under the tutelage of a seasoned veteran? It’s real-life experience that matters, and that makes good writing.

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Whither the box score?

As a kid, I can remember devouring box scores, with their encapsulated summaries of baseball games. Box scores became fancier in the early Nineties, with the rise of fantasy leagues spurring on extra columns for batters’ walks, Ks and up-to-date batting averages and ERAs. But they remained a staple of my newspaper reading, as much as the columnists and the crime reports.

Now, as newspapers continue to die, box scores seem to me to be dying too; at the very least, their importance to fans seems diminished.

That’s not to say that sports stats are less popular; quite the opposite. But the collection of stats inside a box score doesn’t seem to have the same pull it once did. Even on the Web, it’s easier to check a player’s most recent individual page or click on a quick game summary on MLB.com or check out a live update on any of the various sites. And that doesn’t include the overflow of stats included on the scrolling tickers on the bottom of ESPN and the MLB Network, or on the recap screen that follows each game’s highlights on Sportscenter, Baseball Tonight, and every other highlight show. It’s just not the same as an old box score.

Ironically, fantasy leagues, which fueled the boom in expanded box scores almost two decades ago, have helped contribute to their diminished stature, as much as the (largely self-inflicted) death of newspapers. Why check 15 individual box scores for 15 games when you can check CBS.com and see the stats for solely your fantasy team’s guys collected and summarized on a live scoring page?

(Disclosure: every morning since the mid-Nineties until about a year ago, I used to sit with the sports pages open, yellow highlighter in hand, and highlight the summary lines in the various box scores of the players on my Rotisserie baseball team. But I digress.)

I’ve come around to reading articles, columnists, etc. almost exclusively on the Web. I prefer reading on-screen so much that even if I buy the local papers, I still wind up reading that days’ news on their Web sites — the print version sits mostly untouched, at least until Mrs. Icepick picks it up. But despite that, I haven’t come around to reading box scores on the Web, where they do, in fact survive. I wonder if I’m alone in this, or if it is merely the way my reading habits have developed.

Will the box score form, developed by British-born journalist Henry Chadwick in (or around) the 1880s¹, survive?

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