[Clickworthy] Washington’s earthquake farce

It was a dramatic day on the world stage.

A ragtag group of Libyan rebels had fought their way to the center of Tripoli and were on the verge of breaking a brutal dictator’s four-decade rule. They had broken through Muammar Gaddafi’s heavily fortified compound; nobody knew whether he was inside. As in Tunisia, as in Egypt, what had long seemed impossible was on the verge of becoming reality.

And then: the ground shook in the Washington area for about 15 seconds.

Goodbye, rebels. Hello, pandemonium.

Howard Kurtz wrote a quick piece for The Daily Beast this morning on the media’s seismic shift in coverage yesterday afternoon following a 5.8-magnitude earthquake south of Washington, D.C. (pun fully intended).

Indeed, I hopped on Twitter just as the reports of an earthquake were coming in. The cable channels, and even the broadcast stations quickly jumped on board. Suddenly, the uprising in Libya was gone.

Sure, it was unique – earthquakes don’t happen on the east coast. This was the strongest quake felt on the seaboard since 1944, so there is certainly the unusualness news value at work. And there appears to have been some damage to the National Cathedral in Washington – no doubt noteworthy. But for the most part, the effects looked more like this photo gallery compiled by the Sacramento Bee.

So, why did American media leave the far more important events in Tripoli for what amounted to a minor earthquake? Kurtz suggests a few different factors, most notably that the quake occurred in a media epicenter, was felt in many large cities, and that word of it spread so rapidly through social media and text messaging. He also points to the narrative the media had been handed by an act of God:

It was a perfect media story on a sunny Tuesday afternoon: lots of pictures, lots of person-on-the-street interviews, lots of clicks online—but without the messy and depressing reality of an actual disaster. No one, as far as I can tell, was seriously injured, but everyone was buzzing. As officials called press conferences, it looked, felt, and smelled like news—but only in a surreal sense.

Newsworthy? Sure. Worthy of non-stop crisis coverage and break-ins on broadcast networks? Not when international reporters are having some of their finest moments in decades covering a revolution that, lest we forget, is being aided by the United States and its NATO allies.

Another shining moment for Al Jazeera English, which continued its live stream of events in Libya even when we became preoccupied over here.

Finally, a Tweet I loved from New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter as the Twitterverse was exploding yesterday afternoon:

http://twitter.com/#!/brianstelter/status/106069423852498945

See something you think is Clickworthy? Email Dylan.

Why Is the Media Ignoring Ron Paul?

The media go to humorous extents seemingly to pretend that Ron Paul doesn’t exist, Daily Show host Jon Stewart observed on Monday night, following Paul’s second-place finish in the Ames, Iowa Straw Poll last weekend. The clip has been buzzworthy in circles of political junkies, media observers, and young citizenry looking for the next revolution. As a member of all three, it has appeared on my Facebook feed constantly for the past three days.

 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Thanks to the number crunchers at the PEW Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, we can put the claim to the test.

Continue reading “Why Is the Media Ignoring Ron Paul?”

Perceived Media Bias and Cable News Branding: The Effects of Diversification in the Marketplace of Information

This presentation was given Saturday at the AEJMC Annual Conference as part of a refereed paper research session on “Bias and Branding” sponsored by the Radio-Television Journalism Division. This is a rudimentary script to an oral presentation with visual aids, so it will leave a bit to be desired for the blog reader.

For the PowerPoint accompanying this presentation, email Dylan.

For more on the conference as a whole, view my main post on AEJMC ’11.

Claims of media bias are nothing new. And despite plentiful content analyses that show little to no evidence of some collective attempt to mislead the public, perceptions of bias not only remain, but have increased dramatically over the past decade, a time frame that correlates with the rise of Fox News and MSNBC – cable news networks to compete with CNN and create a competitive marketplace.

Researchers like Sutter or Anand, DiTella, and Galetovic have looked at news coverage economically, and cable news as just what it is – a for-profit industry. That means, like any differentiated product market, the news outlets must seek a place along a continuum of potential audiences. With radio stations, it would be genres of music; with news it could be the types of stories covered (intl/domestic; hard news/entertainment), but we often think of it in terms of political ideology.

The suggestion is that our oft-idealized paradise of objectivity doesn’t make good business sense, because wide-open market segments are left untapped while everyone battles for the middle. If every station in town is playing country music, why don’t you try reaching out to the hip-hop fans? (Ideology isn’t quite so drastic, but you get the idea.)

So instead, content analyses (or a casual channel surf during primetime) have suggested that the cable news environment looks something like this. Each network has differentiated, targeting its own particular audience. Which begs the question… How do these differentiation attempts influence the audience’s perceptions of bias in those networks?

Continue reading “Perceived Media Bias and Cable News Branding: The Effects of Diversification in the Marketplace of Information”

The biggest 7%-off sale in history: Why are sales tax holidays such a draw?

At 12:01 a.m., Mississippi’s sales tax holiday weekend officially began. It is one of the most restrictive in the country, covering only “Clothing and footwear items, meant to be worn next to the body and cost[ing] less than $100 per item,” according to the Department of Revenue press release. Touted as a back-to-school savings event, it doesn’t cover backpacks or school supplies of any kind. And if your child participates in athletics, sportswear doesn’t count either, despite it’s closeness to the body.

Still, your favorite shopping destination in the Magnolia State will likely be packed this weekend, as families look to save on blue jeans, t-shirts, socks and the like (unless they have a Nike swoosh on them, I suppose).

Why?

Continue reading “The biggest 7%-off sale in history: Why are sales tax holidays such a draw?”

Help Fight the Hunger Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Credit NBC Nightly News and Brian Williams. Amidst continued bickering and brinkmanship in Washington over the billions of dollars we frivolously spend each year, the most-watched evening newscast has managed to consistently devote time to the devastating famine in the Horn of Africa. A video archive, along with a list of organizations in need of donations, can be found on the Nightly website.

It’s a terribly human story. Heartbreaking. And it moves people to action. Except it’s summer – people aren’t as attuned to the news of the day, and donations have been slow to roll in.

I chose to give to two organizations. UNICEF is operating feeding centers and drilling wells on the Somali-Kenyan border. The World Food Programme is using aircraft to reach victims of the famine in isolated portions of Somalia, far from the camps set up by most international aid organizations.

This is no attempt to toot my own horn – it is an endorsement of the operations of these two aid organizations. Donate a few dollars to one if you can.