Tag Archives: journalism

The Culture War Is Not Really Taking Place

This is the second instalment of a three-part series of posts on the media:

  1. Media & the Selective Outrage Machine
  2. The Culture War Is Not Really Taking Place
  3. The Big Hit:: CBC v. The Canadian Cancer Society

My last post was the media’s role in creating a dramaturgical stage of manufactured outrage that’s affecting how people behave within institutional contexts. This post is about media manufacturing a reality by presenting stylized facts and selectively using the “culture war” to do it. While partisan punditry becomes increasingly popular, I would argue that what’s bound to evolve is a news positioning that’s market-driven in more ways than one. The free market is reified and deified, but in a way that’s meant to appeal to advertisers {subscribers and pageviews} and consumers {an economic orthodoxy based on neoliberal views or views positioned as such}. The market is both subject and object. A media culture war has already emerged along specific faultlines, with “code” used by the combatants to frame the rhetoric on both sides. And, it is a war. There’s no room for civil discourse on the battlefield, but perhaps more aptly, there’s no patience for it.

Given the recent News of the World scandal, journalists are getting scrutinized for their ethics, but aren’t the nefarious and illegal tactics allegedly used by NoW the logical progression in an era of extreme coverage that’s meant to evoke visceral reactions and tap into raw emotions? I would argue, in the vein of Jean Baudrillard’s The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, that the institution of journalism helps to construct a configuration of society, often based upon, for example, lurid details, scandal, fail, and the polarities of the culture war. Currently, the drawn battle lines tend to cleave along political party affiliations::

  • rural regions/suburbs v. cities
  • social & cultural programmes v. market fundamentalism
  • traditionalism v. progressivism
  • fiscal conservatism v. “tax and spend”
  • multiculturalism v. “anti-political correctness”
  • Pro-immigration v. xenophobia
  • Pro choice v. pro life
  • Marriage is between “Adam & Eve” v. “Adam & Steve”
  • Unions v. management

Canadians will be subject to another divide::

  • Québec v. ROC (rest of Canada)

You get the picture. The idea is to exploit wedge issues by fostering controversy. But, the culture war isn’t really taking place—we seeing is a media manufactured manifestation of it and what we know about the opposing position is a fiction created by media rhetoric that places the values of those who don’t share our views as on a different planet. A few select juicy quotes here or a controversial soundbite there serve as empirical truth of what’s going on. After all, how many people know that the post-Katrina violence in the Superdome & Convention Center were vastly overstated? I would hazard to guess that many who heard the initial stories of anarchy in the Big Easy in the wake of the storm still have the perception that the city decended into a Hobbesean state akin to the Lord of the Flies. Of course, how this is framed means that cultural logics can be cued without saying anything outright, which is part of the theatrics.

I would argue that this use of the culture war will evolve into a more complex mapping that transcends traditional party lines, in both the US and Canada. In this current era, journalism isn’t rewarded for reporting on the issues, but for shaping and manufacturing them in an often desperate attempt to garner subscriptions and pageviews. Something may start as “grassroots” or may “go viral”, but as soon as the media gets a hold of it, it morphs into a piece of an agenda. You can blame it on the 24/7 news cycle and the rise of infotainment that successfully monetized the “news”, but it doesn’t matter; the genie is out of the bottle. The culture war is perfect fodder to whip readers into a frenzy by presenting the extremes and those across the divide as a polar opposite, while constructing a reality that may not even exist. This works by tapping into our values and attitudes and framing stories to get maximum polarity. It’s an economic imperative for the business model.

The above list of culture war wedge issues isn’t a continuum in practice; it’s binary. The opposing view is characterized as a polar opposite, often with inflammatory rhetoric. This is exacerbated by the fact that the public is less interested in news on a purely factual basis, particularly in the realm of politics and the economics, given the attention economy {the scarce commodity is our time}. We often seek information that’s been pre-digested in a manner most palatable to us. The function of news media now is to present the extraordinary with an emphasis on the sensational. The “cultural products” of the news media are soundbites and sexy attention grabbing headlines, increasingly important as Internet headlines can persuade and “inform” without even being clicked on.

Up in Canada, while many media outlets will stoke the fires of the culture wars, merely invoking the term invites criticism. When pollster Frank Graves of EKOS used it last year to identify a strategy for the Liberals, all hell broke loose. After all, why would anyone want to bring the ugliness of US-style politics to Canada? Well, the truth of the matter is that the news media has much to gain from the culture war and the class war that’s nested within it, but don’t want to ever get caught promoting it. Graves’ great crime was putting a possible strategy out there that could  be used against the Conservatives that some construed as distasteful::

“I told them that they should invoke a culture war. Cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy. If the cranky old men in Alberta don’t like it, too bad. Go south and vote for Palin.”

The “controversy” of Graves’ statement was manufactured and used as evidence of his partisanship, but it’s hardly shocking. Graves wasn’t talking about anything new in terms of Canadian political marketing, he just dared to put it out there in such stark terms. He unmasked the great Oz and violated the social compact by showing how the persuasion sausage is made.

The US is more accustomed to journalists, pundits, and politicians invoking the culture war and I would argue that the heated rhetoric dividing the left and the right is a product of the media manufacturing realities so that groups become extreme caricatures. Underlying all of this right now is a general uneasiness of the future of the middle class and partisan rhetoric is shaping a class war by using the culture war.

Canada has a few journalists who are exemplars of what I see as the future of this trajectory. What might this future be? Look to journalistic statements in magazines like Maclean’s magazine {a Canadian weekly} and by journalists like its national editor, Andrew Coyne and his ilk, e.g.Margaret Wente, are couched in false dichotomies with the volume turned to 11. The emphasis is on commentary, as opposed to hard news, but there’s a sly twist. Journalists like Coyne and Wente position themselves as iconoclasts that defy partisan lines, but know how to sniff out controversy and milk it for all it’s worth. They would scoff at this idea they’re exploiting the culture war, which is also part of the shtick. In this era of social media and conversations, Coyne prefers to use all media at his disposal {Maclean’s, Twitter, CBC-’At Issue’ panelist on The National} like a megaphone aimed at the masses and that’s too bad. What’s lost is nuance and real dialogue. What this brand of journalism does is foster people shouting at each other, because, after all in a Charlie Sheen world, it’s about the winning—and the drama. The name of the game is staying relevant and Coyne and Wente are making a play with their centrist, iconoclastic approach. It would be brilliant if it weren’t so utterly sloppy in its execution, but I’ll be blogging more about this in a future entry. The result is that it’s hard to take either Coyne or Wente seriously.

My lament for what’s lost with this journalistic divisive theatre is somewhat half-hearted because what else should we expect when the fourth estate is tied to business models and financial imperatives? George Monbiot, in his “A Hippocratic Oath for Journalists”, makes some interesting observations in the wake of the NoW scandal::

“Journalism’s primary purpose is to hold power to account. This purpose has been perfectly inverted. Columnists and bloggers are employed as the enforcers of corporate power, denouncing people who criticise its interests, bullying the powerless. The press barons allowed governments occasionally to promote the interests of the poor, but never to hamper the interests of the rich.”

Monbiot’s words may sound a bit strong, but given that journalism is a business trying to keep its head above water these days, it makes perfect sense that the institution will use whatever means to ensure its own survival. I agree that journalism’s function these days is anything but holding power to account and would argue that most of the time it has functioned as chief architect in the fabrication of an elaborate cultural reality—a simulacrum embedded within media economics.

There is room for pushback. Big media are subject to the constraints of mass markets and by ultimately who pays the bills, i.e., the consumer and advertisers. Technology can enable a cost-effective end-run around the prefab strategies and canned approaches that are more about marketing than news. The target market being people wanting in-depth analysis, as opposed to dramaturgical showmanship. In essence, the long-tail of news. The Economist noted back in 2006 that hard-hitting journalism won’t die and there will be a market for it, but I would argue that in order to serve the journalistic function of holding power to account, alternative models will need to offer substance over infotainment. Ironically, it may well be the mainstream media and its reality distortion machine to produce the future that serves to create a consciousness that rejects it. What could possibly break the bonds of the news-consumption cycle? Prolonged economic doldrums that sow the seeds for a bona-fide class war, not an imagined one.

Twitterversion:: [blog] How the culture war “isn’t” really taking place & how angry “iconoclastic centrism” is journalism’s next big thing @Prof_K @ThickCulture

Media & the Selective Outrage Machine

This is the first of a three-part series of posts on the media:

  1. Media & the Selective Outrage Machine
  2. The Culture War Is Not Really Taking Place
  3. The Big Hit:: CBC v. The Canadian Cancer Society

While it’s not new that news journalism is a business in financial dire straits and the newspaper already has its death date set in 2043, the pressure to remain relevant has pushed it from infotainment into a neo-Hearstean monster. While William Randolph Hearst would engage in fabrication, known for his quote, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war”, news these days is about dramaturgy in the narrative in a cynical grab for viewers, subscribers, and pageviews.

Jon Stewart coined the term “selective outrage machine” to characterize Fox’s outrage at the Common-White House controversy. In order to be fair, the same tactics can be seen on MSNBC, as well as on the far right and left of the political spectrum. It’s how the game is played in the attention economy.

I think in our current culture of optics, the other side of the “fail” coin is the blatant attempt to manipulate the news media’s thirst for the dramatic. It’s a Goffman world, ruled by the tenets of The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life.

DSK & Roman Polanski

Watching the Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape allegation was particularly cringeworthy. I thought Cyrus Vance’s {Manhattan District Attorney} mouthing off to the press was setting the stage for disaster. While some were playing the angle, I was thinking of the Duke lacrosse players. Let’s face it, the story as it unfolded was red hot. A rich, powerful champagne socialist with a history of womanizing rapes an asylum-seeking Islamic immigrant  housekeeper at in his pricey suite at the Sofitel. It was one of those divisive stories where even being neutral was deemed as tacit complicity in violence against women. The media frenzy created an indefensible whipping boy in DSK, which, to me, seemed premature given that the facts surrounding the case left some ambiguity with respect to its supposed airtight nature. The case started to unravel, with allegations that the accuser lied and had inconsistent stories, along with supposed assertions by the NY Post that the victim was part of a prostitution ring.

Salon.com has annoyed me over the years by actively creating an adversarial mosh pit, where feminism is positioned in ways to extract maximum ire. I would argue that Kate Harding’s 2009 piece on Roman Polanski, reminding readers that the self-exiled director raped a child, served the single purpose of invoking the outrage machine against someone Harding deems as indefensible. Rather than explore the nuances of the case and the strange prosecutorial and judicial circumstances of 1977 that was the crux of the matter in 2009, readers were reminded what a monster Polanski is and implying that due process be damned. My post on Roman Polanski was a reaction to Harding’s piece, which I felt was troubling to say the least, in its knee-jerk simplicity that plays to generating controversy. Then again, 722 comments and 236 Facebook likes probably added up to mission accomplished.

Fast forward to this month. Salon posts an OpenSalon blog entry by Heather Michon in the same vein as Harding’s as a Editor’s pick. The focus is on the discrediting of the accuser because of her past lies, some of which are more material to the case than others. Michon is concerned that there’s a gulf between what transpired and whether the government thinks it has a case to make a conviction. This supposed “disconnect” is due process. So, how does this all play out? Salon selectively ignores the accuser’s conflicting stories that can sink the case, while focusing on the scrutiny of the accuser’s past. Meanwhile, others in the media pat the system on the back for “working”, by eventually coming to some “truth”. The reality is that this is all pure theatre and a theatre that’s entering into the logical calculus of those within the institutions that should be above using the media to generate hype for publicity and political gain. This isn’t new, but the ubiquity of media is and this should concern us. The alignment of interests of the media and the state is the logical extension of infotainment presaged by Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities and my sense is that the genie is out of the bottle with little that can be done to put it back.

Casey Anthony & Nancy Grace

The public outrage regarding the Casey Anthony acquittal was pretty predictable. The stage was set for this generation’s OJ trial, fuelled by another media frenzy. The most interesting article I read in the aftermath was Brian Dickerson’s column on how Anthony’s #1 detractor, Nancy Grace, made her acquittal possible.

Nancy Grace became part of a media hype machine, using her punditry soapbox to paint Casey Anthony as incarnate evil, complete with the derisive moniker, Tot Mom. Dickerson argues that the publicity given to Anthony vaulted her from indigent defendant obscurity to a criminal defence lawyer career maker. Grace used Anthony as a punching bag in her well-orchestrated drama of the indefensible defendant. Polanski raped a child and Anthony killed hers. Manufacturing the outrage provides for a clear and easy target to direct the hate in the name of justice. Through the outrage, everyone can participate in meting out justice for the victim, Caylee Anthony.

The problem again is that due process takes a back seat to the hype. Let’s face it, due process isn’t sexy. Particularly when it evokes examples of “technicalities”, allowing the “guilty” to go free.

In another media twist, the defense team used social media to fine tune their approach by analyzing public sentiments. While the efficacy of such maneuvering is still up in the air, crowdsourcing opinions of testimony in high profile cases is likely to be de rigueur.

The selective outrage machine has the potential to morph how we the public form opinions. Appealing to a sense of justice in a juicy narrative is where the media is at, while social media digests it and puts it back out there. This further influences others and serves as a feedback loop into social institutions, such as the courts. I don’t see news as getting better or journalists becoming more ethical about their craft because, frankly, the market could care less and I don’t see any way of legislating style or professionalism, in light of free speech.

“Sack Kay Burley” Meme :: What Happens When Journalists Try to Squelch Voice

Kay Burley of SkyNews-UK, from NowMagazine UK

Crossposted on rhizomicon

More kerfuffle from the UK that’s spreading like wildfire on social media. The current top UK trending topic is “sack Kay Burley”, stemming from viewers wanting the Sky News journalist fired after a hostile interview with a protester. Here’s a video of the interview {apologies for the sound quality, the volume does goes up}::

Burley’s tactics make her appear bullying and clearly not impartial. She also has very flawed logic, but the facts and being knowledgeable aren’t her strong suit as she mistook Joe Biden’s Ash Wednesday ashes on his forehead for a bruise. She later apologized. So, Kay appears to be opinionated, a loudmouth, and not too bright—I think she’s angling for a career in American cable infotainment.

Burley is being obtuse on purpose in order to make her point. The protests are about the “first-past-the-post” or winner-take-all method of tabulating seats in Parliament, which has resulted in the current hung Parliament. Kay doesn’t see any point in that as it a fait accompli and that the current party negotiations are democracy in action. She asserts that the people chose a hung Parliament, while the protesters are complaining that the hung Parliament is a product of a “broken” system.

Given social media, the news of this spread virally and the video footage of her exchange was put on YouTube {above}. Adding fuel to the fire, hecklers are interrupting her interviews with chants of “sack Kay Burley, watch the BBC” and this is now making the rounds on YouTube, as part of the “sack Kay Burley” meme.

Ah, a facepalm moment, UK-style.

Song:: Elvis Costello and the Attractions-’Lipstick Vogue’

Twitterversion:: “Sack Kay Burley” meme goes viral.@skynews journalist hostile towards protester, gets social media backlash.#ThickCulture @Prof_K

Oh Apple, Will You Save the Fourth Estate?

There’s much anticipation for Apple’s announcement today out in California about a new super secret insanely great killer hardware. Leaks by McGraw-Hill CEO have confirmed eBook capabilities and other sources revealed TV tuner, PVR, and videoconferencing features. This is sort of along the lines of my speculations:: “I’m thinking this new offering will be a hybrid that will be more like an iTouch that ideally offers users tools for the better management of and experiences with media—of all digitized forms,” but it’s still all speculation.

One implication that’s being focused on is how this new Apple tablet {some have dubbed it the “Jesus tablet”} could save the ailing print publishing industry, as newspapers and magazines struggle to remain relevant in the era of searchable digitized content. Will the Jesus tablet {or something like it} save publishing and what are the implications for the field of professional journalism, i.e., the fourth estate?  The business model of newspapers and magazines was simple. Create content that drives subscriptions that allows selling of adspace. The Internet allowed easy access to searchable digitized content and consumers just didn’t want to pay for it, from day one. Ad revenues at newspapers and magazines declined. Craigslist made matters worse with electronic classifieds further eroding revenues. McKinsey quantified the price destruction of the Internet and discusses paywalls as a avenue for some. While revenues dwindled, so did the staffs of newsrooms and magazine offices. Some night argue that citizen bloggers are filling the void and that “good enough” information is readily available free of charge.

Will a tablet that makes accessing multimedia content a snap, if indeed Apple delivers such a device, bring revenues that will enable journalists to get paid? I’m not so sure. The iPod is a triumph of usability. It creates a great user experience and a platform for MP3 sales and while it has spurred strong Internet sales growth, the revenues aren’t enough to offset declining sales of CDs. The iPhone creates a great user experience for telephony, texting, and the mobile web, creating a platform for apps, $3B US in apps as of this month. The steep subsidies in the US for the iPhone have hampered the sole carrier’s earnings, AT&T.

Apple is great at creating platforms, built around great user experience regarding digital content, that benefit them—for now. I think digital music and mobile communications are in a dynamic and turbulent trajectory and I see social media being a major decentreing force. Newspapers and magazines will need to rethink their business models and their relationship with content, pricing, and intellectual property enforcement.

Publishers need to look at new tools like the Apple tablet as a multimedia platform for their content that allow for contextual ads. Some industry analysts are on the same page::

“There’s a real opportunity for Apple to raise the bar here…
Not only by making digital publications accessible to the mainstream reader, but also seamlessly interweaving online features, apps and streaming audio/video content to enhance the general reading experience.” —Scott Steinberg, Digitrends.com Analyst

I feel that content is a “loss leader.” The music industry is coming to terms with this. Sales from the music are secondary to the brass rings of tours, merch, and licensing for TV shows and films. Over on Loudpaper, Mimi Zeiger made an interesting observation::

“What’s become more clear to me over the last year as more and more titles close, is that a publication can’t rely only on the stakes and rigging of print, nor is the move to a digital format as surefire fix. But maybe embracing publishing as pure folly—that is, as spectacle, as event—can offer a worthwhile model. Magazines like GOOD take an integrated approach, content is online as well as in print, and it hosts events based its featured subjects. It also has the good sense to team with other titles, like Readymade, to build cross branding and robust content.”

I couldn’t agree more. Once a path to cash can be mapped for publishers, then we can tend to our code blue patient, the profession of journalism.

Twitterversion:: Leaks about #Apple’s new gadget pt to multimedia tablet w/eBook & videoconf. Can print publishers leverage this platform @Prof_K

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro:: ethics and the fourth estate

Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson

When I heard that HuffPo was instituting standards for citizen journalists, my initial thoughts were that this is like having cinematic standards for porn or a paparazzi code of conduct.  Jeff Bercovici explains why he feels that the 2,500 or so citizen journalists should follow professional standards.  NYU Journalism prof. Jay Rosen has a different views, evident when he explained last year why he thinks that citizen journalists have a place, in light of the Mayhill Fowler dustup about her HuffPo article based on interview with Bill Clinton, where she did not reveal she was a member of the “press.”  Rosen makes a good point here::

“When we admit the validity of both we expand the social space of the press. That is a good thing. If it has pro and amateur wings maybe the press can fly again. If the pros and lots of citizens care about things like “access” maybe that will expand the accessible zone in politics. Dave Winer said it this weekend: Blow up the Beltway. My formulation is milder: expand the press!”
I understand that by professionalizing the act of journalism, it lends the institution of journalism an air of legitimacy.  There are supposedly formalized rules of engagement that engender trust {or something more like a grudging acceptance, perhaps} with subjects and readers alike.
I’m not buying it.  Jonathan Alter of Newsweek complained about Fowler, which was tantamount to whining about how his job is getting tougher with the advent of citizen journalists::
“This makes it very difficult for the rest of us to do our jobs…If you don’t have trust, you don’t get good stories. If someone comes along and uses deception to shatter that trust, she has hurt the very cause of a free flow of public information that [Fowler] claims she wants to assist. You identify yourself when you’re interviewing somebody…It’s just a form of cheating not to.”
Please.  Maybe the “trust” is really an instrumentalist manifestation of journalism beholden to capitalism.  Professional journalists need to feed a costly machine that generates revenues.  Good for them.  Although, I offer that when capitalism is tied to journalism, you often get infotainment.  Is the “trust” really a quid-pro-quo exchange of favours?  Journalists play by certain “rules” to get stories to feed a revenue-generating news machine.
Is Dateline NBC practising good journalistic integrity in its “To Catch a Predator” ruse::

Hey, alleged child molesters are an easy target, so it’s all for the best, right?  Never mind that professional journalism was found engaging in entrapment of a Assistant District Attorney who committed suicide over being targeted in the “sting” operation.

While I surmise that most professional journalists would decry these tactics and To Catch a Predator would not be viewed by many as professional journalism, it highlights how journalistic integrity within that institution is far from above reproach.

I’ve argued that satire masquerading as journalism can serve the journalistic function outside the institution of journalism.  It should be noted that Colbert and Stewart are still a part of infotainment, albeit with a different stance.  I’m all for a plurality of voices and stances in the media.  I’m more interested in the journalistic function of the fourth estate than preserving some abstract notion of the institution of journalism as a craft.  I’d rather see journalists push the envelope à la Hunter S. Thompson, rather than play it safe or curry favor with advertisers.  ¡Viva Gonzo!

Song:  The Jam, “News of the World” (1978) (#27UK Singles)

p/owning the front page:: the daily bruin, ads that look like content, & does it really matter?

Well, why would an award-winning student-run paper risk their reputation to sell ice cream?  On the other hand, is this even a big deal?  The editor of UC Berkeley’s Daily Cal up the road {down the street for me, this week} offered this::

“We were approached about the same ad, and we firmly decided against it. I really recognize the problems the Bruin are facing. We have them too, and considering we are one of the few papers that actually scaled back publication, we’re probably feeling the pain a lot worse.

We actually did end up running a similar ad, but inside (pp. 5-6) and more clearly labeled as Paid Advertising. Still not something I’m entirely comfortable with, but definitely something I can live with, considering we held on to the revenue. Would welcome your thoughts on it. Available at: http://www.dailycal.org/data/pdf/2249.pdf

The economics of print media make advertising necessary.  This post on Poynter shows that print isn’t dead in light of online media, which {to me} highlights relevance.  Readers will seek relevant content regardless of the medium, up to a point.  

Many on staff at The Daily Bruin weren’t on board with the decision to run this ad and as it turns out, the editor of The Daily Bruin announced that there would be no more ads of this sort.  Those who have seen The Corporation have seen examples of media exerting great influence over content (Jane Akre & Steve Wilson), so we have a situation where the fourth estate has revenue imperatives at the school paper level and above.

I think it’s a bad idea to mess with reputation or audience perceptions.  If you’re a tabloid or crappy paper {or crappy blog for that matter}, it probably doesn’t matter that much.  Audience expectations factor in that constrain what one does.  The ad execution wasn’t that creative and there was no great payoff, so in my opinion, it wasn’t worth the stretch for The Daily Bruin.  If I were Haagen-Dazs and its ad agency {I do believe it still is Goodby, Silverstein & Partners}, I’d wonder if this press is a plus or minus.  At best, I think it’s a wash.  The ad execution was meh & I never felt the “honeybees” campaign was “on code”.  Nevertheless, there are economic imperatives for print journalism.  It’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback the situation, but this situation isn’t going away any time soon.  Advertising content is becoming so pervasive, it’s in TV shows, movies, video games, etc.  Should a line be drawn at ads that look like news?

  • Should journalistic news content and advertising be strongly delineated?
  • Does it really matter to readers if it’s not?

Rolling (OTFLMAO) Cisco Fatty

rant

It’s job interviewing season, but don’t let this happen to you. But am I talking to interviewees or hiring companies? A Twitter user, theconnor {now set to private} offered up the following tweet:

“Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” 

Then, Tim Levad, a Cisco “channel partner advocate” chimed in:

“Who is the hiring manager[?] I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.” 

Ugggghhh. Cringe. Almost immediately, there was a frenzied deluge of critical posts and Internet sleuthing. A website was even created based on a new meme, Cisco Fatty, and Helen A. S. Popkin wrote a MSNBC article blathering on-and-on about theconnor’s faux pas and how this is a cautionary tale. Really? Maybe MSNBC and Popkin should try to tweet news stories under 140 characters & get to the point more. Speaking of which…

All of this stirred the pot, as theconnor, TimLevad, and Cisco were scrutinized by the denizens of Web 2.0. One commentor wondered why is Cisco hiring theconnor after announcing layoffs. While there may be a good reason, it nevertheless highlights the unpredictability of Web 2.0 and how perceptions can take on a life of their own, particularly after a story goes viral.
theconnor herself offered up a very even-handed mea culpa post-mortem of the situation.  

“Cisco never did anything to me. I have no complaints about the company and apologize for any damage this situation has done to their image in anyone’s mind. What started as one individual calling me out quickly escalated into a major schadenfreude event, which in turn has quickly escalated into a media bandwagon.” 

I saw this story evolve and I must admit I was irked by MSNBC’s snarky coverage of it. The story is all about tapping into readers’ insecurities about the current job market and warning employees about how they really need to be mindful of Web 2.0, so they’re not the subject of the next epic fail. It served to fan the flames of anger towards theconnor, as one of the “haves” who not only has a job, but one that makes bank. Popkin chastises theconnor:

“It’s like virtual Darwinism. The ‘Cisco Fattys’ of the world are damned by their own senselessness.” 

but what are the real implications here? Senselessness? Well, Popkin has committed to the web a bunch of senselesness of her own, but, oh, wait, she’s a journalist…who needs to do more frackkin’ journalism. Here’s 1,070 words by her on Twitter that totally misses the point and offers up no insights.

I’ll serve up some on this Cisco (not to be confused with Sisqo)/theconnor/MSNBC issue:
  • There is no such thing as privacy
  • Perceptions are volatile & are hard to control
  • Perceptions can be shaped by those with pageviews
  • Media and journalism are often about pageviews, not about good content, let alone good journalism
  • Web business processes like commenting/responding need to be articulated into policies
/rant

I’m sort of curious on your take on theconnor, Tim Levad, MSNBC, Cisco, etc.
I’ll leave you all with Colbert to give the final word on Twitter:
.