A commentary about sports, media, and interpersonal relationships encountered throughout everyday life.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jackass Much? Media Ethics Come into Question

I'm sure we're all up to speed on President Obama's "off-the-record" comments about Kanye West's antics at the MTV Video Music Awards. For those who have no clue what I'm talking about, here's a link that will get you up to speed.

Today, CNN released the video aid to the President's comment...

After the words left President Obama's mouth you could see his eyebrows shoot off his face. He could tell he may have made a boo-boo and frantically tried to eye everyone in the room as he begged that it be off the record and that the President be given "some slack."

The reason for Obama's frantic nature was not unwarranted... before a minute could pass, the following message hit more than a handful of "newsfeeds" on Twitter.com:

First of all, thanks Terry Moran! I hope you ethical obligations as a journalist flying out the window were worth the thousands of "followers" you picked up over the last few days! Though ABC's Moran attempted to remove the "tweet," he failed miserably.

I originally read Moran's tweet on Tuesday afternoon via the Drudge Report, which didn't surprise me. Matt Drudge never met a salacious story he didn't like... especially with a Democratic President involved. BUT, I didn't think much of it. I thought it was awesome that Obama watched the MTV Movie Awards and, like everyone else, was shocked by the Kanye outburst.

Later that evening, as I drove in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Sunrise Highway, 1010 WINS' (1010 AM, New York) evening anchor broke the story as "something we shouldn't know... but we do... so we're telling you." I nearly veered off the road when I heard this. Was this "off-the-record" comment really making drive time news casts? More so, what are the ethical implications of breeching an "off-the-record" comment?

Obviously, Terry Moran was in the wrong here. The video clearly shows President Obama frantically attempt to quell the cantor throughout the room before it even began. Moran, however, completed his witty tweet...


Is it okay that CNN, and the other major players in the network news realm took this breech and ran with it? The video above was obviously just scrap that was meant to be cut for the evening news... not something that would hit national news coverage by this evening!

I've personally experienced comments like this while covering MLB, NBA, and NHL games. Sure, sometimes athletes say funny things between "on-the-record" comments. But, does that mean I try to make a name for myself by telling the Internet what David Ortiz really thinks about Manny Ramirez? No. I don't have a relationship with Ortiz, but I still respect his privacy in an "off-the-record" basis. It's just something I thought was journalism 101...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

AOL... Too Little, Too Late

This afternoon, I read through an New York Times article by Miguel Helft (linked here) about America Online's (AOL) attempt to 'fix' itself. The company is bringing in former Yahoo! Executive, Brad Garlinghouse, to straight-shoot the higher-ups and tell them what exactly is wrong with the former Internet juggernaut.

In his article, Helft describes Garlinghouse's new role with America Online:
"In his new role, Mr. Garlinghouse will lead the effort to expand the reach of AOL’s popular e-mail and instant-messaging services. He will also head the company’s Silicon Valley operations, which AOL plans to expand, and lead the West Coast arm of AOL Ventures, a unit in charge of investing in start-ups and spinning off businesses."
This description brought me back to my high school years, when everyone and their brother (literally) was on AOL's Instant Messenger (AIM). Yahoo! attempted to replicate this (Yahoo! Messenger) in the early new millennium, but failed to capture the momentum and, virtual, monopoly that AIM possessed. Essentially, AOL had something that everyone wanted in its AIM product.

When I went to college, AIM was replaced by face-to-face interaction. Afterall, the people with whom I "messaged" lived within a 3 minute walk of my bedroom... and I much preferred to talk to people in person while soaking in the sun than reading their text in my dim, cold dorm room. But this is not more than an isolated case. For me, AIM died when I went to college.

Once college ended and I came back home to Long Island, I considered myself a "messaging" free agent. There were a variety of tools at my disposal. AIM was still waiting for me... but I felt I had outgrown this "adolescent" utility. I looked ahead to the possibilities of Google's "gchat" and Facebook's Instant Messenger. It appears I am not alone, though. Helft continues as he mentions commentary of AOL Chairperson, Tim Armstrong:
"In an interview on Monday, Mr. Armstrong said that communications products, which include e-mail and instant-messaging services, remained one of AOL’s most important assets, keeping customers engaged and helping drive traffic to other AOL properties. But in that area too, AOL faces challenges. Its e-mail service was recently overtaken by Google’s Gmail, which became the No. 3 e-mail service in the United States, behind Yahoo Mail and Hotmail, owned by Microsoft."
I believe that Gmail did what AOL was afraid to do: they took off the training wheels. For years I've been trying to convince my mother to get rid of AOL because it was everything that's wrong with the Internet: it charged you for something that should be free and it over-simplified the Internet.

Not only does Gmail offer (free) e-mail service, but the iGoogle interface allows you to make
your homepage whatever you want. It's RSS Feed friendly and does whatever YOU want it to do. Want a video of goldfish eating to greet you everytime you sign on? Done. Want to see that kid singing "Chocolate Rain" when you turn on your browser? Done. Do you want your e-mail server to identify "work mail" and "family mail" before you even open it? Done.

Most of all... do you want all these options for free?

This is what AOL needs to grasp. Actually, this is what they needed to grasp, because they've begun a downward spiral. There will be some people who continue to use AIM and AOL, but this article's note that Google's Gmail has displaced AOL on the e-mail popularity list notes the beginning of the end of AIM's stranglehold on Instant Messaging utilities.

To conclude, it will be interesting to see what Mr. Garlinghouse brings forth to retrieve AOL from it's current rut. To be certain, it will have to be a somewhat novel idea because Google has essentially taken what AOL birthed... and made it better.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Brazilian Movie Update: "The Motorcycle Diaries"

Gael García Bernal stars in Walter Salles' 2004 Diarios de Motocicleta ("Motorcycle Diaries"), the biopic of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara's memoir's during the summer of his 23rd year (1952). During this trip, Guevara motorcycled across South America with his friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna) who's main goal through this journey is to see as much of Latin America as he was able to before his 30th birthday.

For backstory, Guevara is a semester away from graduating medical school. He and Granado both know that the future is looming and this may be their last chance to do something "selfish" or "out-there." This is noted almost immediately, when Guevara's father takes the youth aside and tells him that he's jealous and regrets not doing anything like this during his life.

The film is almost a tale of two movies. The first half deals with two men enjoying themselves on the open road. They are the focus of the film. Guevara's love interests, Granado's wacky antics all come to the forefront as we see a great deal of character development at the on-set of the film. However, once the duo journey's to Chile, where they encounter a poor mining couple, the film becomes more about social injustice and poverty throughout Latin America.

The rest of the film is truly moving. Guevara's demeanor makes a 180-degree turn, as the focus changes from our main characters to the side characters they meet throughout their journeys. The mining couple was the spark, but the full change comes when they reach Peru. While there, Guevara and Grenado work at a leper community. During their three weeks (as told during a speech by the director of the community), Guevara repeatedly breaks the community's 'rules' about interacting with the lepers. During one of the most moving scenes of the film, Guevara's words and actions result in a soccer game between the medical staff and the lepers... though, initially, they were not allowed to touch each other without wearing full body protection.

The film ends with Guevara and Grenado going their separate ways. Grenado has been offered a residency program where he can finally "settle down" by getting a "job and a girlfriend," as Guevara states. Guevara tells him, before departing back to Buenas Ares, that he's not the same person and something has changed inside him. Obviously, the movie need-not go into detail, as history tells us what exactly has changed inside Guevara as he becomes one of the most influential people in world history during the remain years of his life and beyond.

Overall, my lack of initial research left me in the dark for the beginning part of the film. I didn't realize that Motorcycle Diaries was a biopic about Che Guevara until much later in the film when words like "communist," "social injustice," and "revolution" were being discussed by Guevara. Whether or not you realize the premise of the film, it was really good. I highly recommend it to anyone who's interested in biopics or quality foreign films, period.