Friday, May 29, 2009

The New York Times proves it no longer gets it

This week, the New York Times appointed its first-ever social media editor, a woman named Jennifer Preston. She is a longtime New York Times journalist, and she's also a book author and adjunct professor at Columbia University. Her journalism skills are not in question, nor is her journalism experience or knowledge of the traditional aspects of the field.

It's her social media skills that are in question. 

She didn't have a Twitter account until she became social media editor. As near as anyone can tell (here, here and here), she doesn't have a Facebook or a MySpace page. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but those three Web sites are essentially the epicenter of the social media universe. If you don't use them, have never used them, and therefore likely have little or no working knowledge of how they are used, how on God's green earth can you possibly effectively serve as a social media editor? If the New York Times wanted to really effectively use social media in its reporting, if it really wants journalism to meld with social media, then shouldn't it have hired someone with at least a modicum of understanding of what it does? Shouldn't her first tweet have been something more profound than "How should @NYTimes be using twitter"? I mean, come on, a decent social media editor should have answered that question during the freaking job interview!

The internal memo sent to staff announcing her hiring confirms that question wasn't asked. In fact, the memo pretty much implies that her job is just figuring out what the hell social media are -- and that she'll spend most of her time talking to staffers who already use it. WTF? Shouldn't one of them have been named social media editor?

The rumor circulating around the newsroom at the Times is that she wasn't hired to help the staff better use Twitter. It was to monitor their use of it and put the brakes on it. Times deputy managing editor Jonathan Landman is quoted in the May 26 New York Observer pretty much saying such: "Mr. Landman said that Ms. Preston was tapped to help ensure 'some consistency about what we consider good uses of [social media] and bad uses of it.'”

In addition, Executive Editor Bill Keller went on a newsroom tirade earlier this year when details of meetings involving restructuring at the Times were spread via Twitter. His statements at the time indicated he didn't want staffers using the service.

People constantly ask me why I think newspapers are important. Why they should survive. Why we should fight for them. I tell them it's because they are the last wall protecting this country from government run amuck. Broadcast television no longer practices journalism; it's just a bunch of screaming idiots shouting their opinions at the American public. Blogs written by "citizen journalists" again are little more than individual spouting their personal opinin. They lack the investigative prowess and discernment, as well as professional objectivity, provided by trained journalists. Newspapers are all that's left of true, meaningful, investigative journalism. But if those papers can't accept, embrace and effectively use new media technologies and distribution methods to gather, parse and disseminate their work, then that work becomes useless because no one will see it. The Times, quite frankly, no longer gets it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New video about me

I have a G.O.D. complex, I have just learned. That's Grammar Obsessive Disorder. The video here explains it all.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Grammar woes

I spent the past two days mingling with incoming fall freshmen. This group of students are supposed to be our best and brightest. All have earned scholarships. I expect a highly literate, articulate bunch of students.

Hardly.

What is being taught in our schools today that these kids can't use proper grammar. At all. It was very depressing.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

When bad grammar happens in the forest...

And no one is there to correct it, does it happen?

I ask this question because today I had to have some automotive work done on my car. The two mechanics were very good at auto repair -- they showed me everything that was wrong, and offered me multiple options for every repair to save money -- but they had to be the two most grammatically illiterate men I've ever met. I cringed every time they spoke, and nearly bit off my tongue to keep from correcting them, for fear my auto repair costs would skyrocket with each increase in price.

I don't know what was more painful for me personally, keeping quiet, or the $489 repair bill.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Star Trek will live longer, prosper further, with this reinvention

I had a chance to see the new Star Trek movie at a preview event this weekend. It is unbelievably good. Speaking as a die-hard Trekker, who went into the screening expecting to be disappointed and angry when I left the theater, I was not. I was completely impressed with almost every aspect of the movie. Only two things happen in this film that are so far removed from Trek universe canon I had a difficult time accepting them, but even then, they still fit. I won't spoil them for you, but I will post a thread about them once the movie has been out about a week or two to get feedback on them.

The weakest part of the film is, as usual, the villain. Nothing can compare to Khan. Chris Pine does a great job as a new, young Kirk, and he doesn't in any way make it a parody of Shatner. Zachary Quinto is a fantastic Spock. Eric Bana did what he could, I think, with the Nero character. However, the development of that character was incredibly weak, which I blame in part on the intent of the script, which was more to reintroduce the seven primary Star Trek characters and not Nero. The movie far exceeds my expectations in its handling of the Star Trek original seven. I was disappointed not to see a nurse Christine Chapel in the film; however, we got to be blessed one last time with Majel Barrett Roddenberry's voice as the ship's computer.

Leonard Nimoy's Spock, is, as usual, what you would expect. He plays a more mature, more comfortable-as-who-he-is Spock. My biggest gripe is the absolutely illogical way in which he first appears in the film. I have a better chance of winning back-to-back Powerballs without even buying a ticket than the chance encounter filmgoers will witness that brings him into the movie.

Karl Urban's McCoy is probably the closest we see of all the original seven to being extremely true to the original actor's portrayal, but I don't consider it a parody. It's a true interpretation of McCoy. His introduction is hilarious. I just loved how he summarized every single personal detail we learned about his life in the series in one sentence.

Zoe Saldana gives us an Uhura we've never seen before, but one that has always been hinted at beneath the surface. And, she's a sexy Uhura, and looks so much better half-naked than an old Nichelle Nichols did in Star Trek V.

Jon Cho does a great job with Sulu. He has a lot more screen time than Sulu has had outside of Star Trek VI, and he runs with it. Cho has a lot of action scenes, and some good dialogue.

Anton Yelchin steals a few scenes as Chekov, but mostly he's no more than a glorified extra in the film. I wish he had more to do, but like in the original series and throughout the movies, he's more comic relief than anything else.

Which brings me to Scotty. Of all the original series characters, I think he's my most beloved just for what James Doohan did with the role. He clearly had fun with it, and he always had at least one scene that made me laugh. Yet, at the same time, you could tell just how serious he was about the role as well. Simon Pegg, I thought, was a huge gamble to be cast in the role. All I think of when I hear his name is Shawn of the Dead, and let's face it, that movie nor his role in it lead one to believe he would make a good Scotty. When we were already more than halfway through the movie with still no Scotty sightings, I was thinking that maybe he was so bad in the movie the producers had cut all of his scenes. Then, he shows up. Pegg NAILS Scotty. He was dynamic, funny and intelligent. When the movie ended, my biggest regret was Scotty was introduced so late in the film!

A lot of other characters familiar to the Trek universe are introduced throughout the film, and most are fleeting introductions with no new information. With one exception. Bruce Greenwood is a good Capt. Christopher Pike, and die-hard Trekkers will notice the nod to the original Capt. Pike at the end of the movie. In fact, die-hard Trekkers will enjoy this movie on a completely different level than those who are just casual fans or completely new to the Star Trek universe. Tons of Easter Eggs are hidden throughout the movie for die-hard fans, and I'm not going to spoil any of them because that would ruin the fun of spotting them. However, I will say you need to stay and read the credits, because a few are hidden in there as well. For example, Cyrano Jones is credited as the singer of some songs in the movie. If you are a Trekker, you know what that means, if not, you miss the joke, but you aren't cheated of anything, either.

For the first time ever, we see Kirk's mother, but only as she's giving birth. We meet his father as well. Sarek and Amanda appear, and I have to say neither lives up to my expectations of those characters as they were developed by Mark Lenard and Jane Wyatt. Then again, neither has very much screen time, either, so I can live with it.

A number of people make cameo appearances in the film, the most notable of which is the actor who plays the head of Star Fleet Academy. Many people already know who it is, but again, if you don't know, the surprise is fun, so I won't say. Most of the cameos are uncredited, nonspeaking roles, so you have to keep your eye open for them.

Some scenes that haven't already been spoiled by the plethora of trailers on the Web and TV do surprise or enthrall as well or better than those teased. I have to say one of my favorites was the look inside a Vulcan educational institution. The classrooms are the coolest thing they've developed for such a minor scene in a movie. Another good scene is the often-mentioned but never-seen Kobayashi Maru test, which you finally get to see unfold.

And, a couple of the teasers are misleading. You will genuinely be surprised when the entire scene unfolds on the big screen versus what you are led to believe will happen in the trailer.

Whether you are a Star Trek fan or just a fan of good action movies, you'll be delighted when you see this movie. I'm going to watch it again this weekend, only this time, in IMax.

And, I still can't wait.