UPDATE: Dave Neiwert at Orcinus has a personal perspective on the SoCal fires, a moving rebuttal to right-wing broadcaster Glenn Beck’s unfathomable comment about fire victims encompassing “a handful of people who hate America.” Beck apparently is carried on KTTH-AM 770 in Seattle, if you want to register a complaint. (Clarification: The Orcinus post, as noted in comments, is by-lined Sara.)
And yes, Clinton was in town. But I didn’t go (read not a fan) and so far haven’t found any report that gives me a real sense of what Her Hillariness was like, in the real. I’ll let you know when/if I do, but why didn’t anybody live blog the thing?
FOLO: Michael at Blatherwatch has a good report.
Meanwhile, earlier on the same page…
It’s Tuesday morning and sheesh, I would have hoped for a better news day for my HA debut. Didn’t any candidates go out drinking last night?
Instead, I’ve got what: A baby gorilla born at the Woodland Park Zoo (cute photo!). The P-I, acknowledging being scooped by Sound Politics, says Rossi will announce he’s running again for governor on Thursday (knock us over with a feather!). And the burning question of the day: Did David Copperfield cancel his Asian shows because of the rape charges or not?
Maybe they did you (although, since you’re here, I doubt it), but none of these stories interested me much. They could have, though. LIke most of what passes for “news” these days, these reports are primarily stenographic accounts with virtually no context. And in the age of the Internet, what makes real news is not the ability to accurately, or even inaccurately, quote an official source as he or she spins faster than a Maytag washer. What makes real news is the backstory, the truth-squadding, the angle that officialdom is trying to conceal.
A baby gorilla is a cool thing, especially in its natural habitat. In a zoo…well, that’s a bit more problematic. The first question to ask is, what’s the baby’s chance of survival? Not all zoo newborns make it, or last into adulthood, the most visible example locally being Hansa the elephant. There are separation issues, habitat issues, feeding and health issues, and then just the whole incarceration thing. We hear a lot about the births at a zoo, not so much about the deaths. (Woodland Park has lost at least a dozen animals in the past couple of years.)
Then too, there’s a growing movement, not just in the U.S., that questions whether large-animal zoos are really sustainable, especially in metropolitan environments. These are not just animal-rights folks. They’re greenies, they’re neighborhood activists, they’re global warming activists and they’re financial bottom-liners as well. Zoos are incredibly expensive. The Seattle City Council turned the Woodland Zoo over to a private non-profit mostly in hopes the Zoo Society could run the operation in the black, or at least break even. The Zoo Society has not helped its cause with costly boondoggles like the proposed mammoth parking garage, which will require millions in city funds. And the Zoo keeps bumping up entry and parking fees, which lowered attendance figures this year.
Not to go too global here, getting back to our point: Even a baby gorilla story can have some fascinating backstories. How much does a birth, and additional life at a zoo, cost? Will the gorilla spend her whole life at the Woodland Zoo (where are the previous 11 gorillas born at Woodland)? What do zoo skeptics say about in-zoo births? Any of these angles would give life to what otherwise is what a great reporter I once knew called a “real thumbsucker.”
As for Rossi announcing his already doomed gubernatorial campaign, I’m curious about the counterpoint here with John McKay and Alberto Gonzales. Maybe there isn’t one, but the timing could be more than coincidental. McKay was on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown tonight, in a follow-up to last week’s speech, saying he believes Inspector General Glenn Fine’s report on Gonzales is near, and could recommend prosecuting Gonzales, based at least in part on McKay’s being fired for “allowing” Gov. Christine Gregoire’s victory over Rossi in 2004 to stand.
As a somewhat informed reader, I wonder about the timing. I’d like not to have to rely on Sound Politics’ take, though. Even a line or two along the lines, “Rossi’s bid comes as a report on Gonzales, blah blah” in a mainstream story would help non-junkies like myself watch for and even understand a connection between the two. Otherwise I’ll have to turn to a (gasp) blogger like Goldy or somebody to explain it all.
Again, though, the word is “context.”
Then we have David Copperfield, who if he only had “sexually misconducted” a woman from Vegas would blessedly never have made the pages and Web sites of local media at all. I have to take huge exception to his lawyer’s line that David has never forced himself on anyone. Many times, innocently watching late-night TV talk shows, I have felt violated by Copperfield’s cheeseball tricks and hammed up showmanship.
If indeed it is at all meaningful whether Copperfield canceled his shows because of the charge, I would have hoped for a broader treatment, maybe checking with ticket outlets on how sales were going, asking sources in the “magic community” what they hear, etc. etc. Quoting predictable sources saying predictable things just doesn’t make it news.
In these cases I am always reminded of the tennis great, Boris Becker, the youngest Wimbledon male winner ever, who was charged by a Russian model with fathering her child. Becker denied it, saying he had not had vaginal sex with the girl. It turned out she had given him a blow job, kept it in her mouth, gone to the bathroom, spat into a syringe and…well, you can just imagine the rest. (At least, that was the rumored version. Becker has denied it.)
If media are going to “report” the Copperfield story, they really need to tell me whether any documentation exists, what it says, and so on down the line. In these cases we seldom learn the truth, it doesn’t matter anyway, and there’s almost no real point in attempting to learn it.
As for me, here’s what I found interesting on the overnight ticker:
Microsoft is capitulating on its European Union antitrust fight…or is it? The landscape has changed so dramatically over the past 9 years that you can argue Windows server code no longer has much competitive edge to it. And even if it did, Microsoft has to open it up to ever-greater degrees or face more usurpation from open-source solutions. The key declaration in the New York Times story: “Microsoft said it would not pursue a final appeal to the European Court of Justice, which could have drawn the case out another two to three years.” Any time Microsoft pitches on a chance to draw out an antitrust action, you know it’s become irrelevant to the company.
Web pioneer Dave Winer is organizing The New York Times‘ news feeds in what he terms “river” technology. I don’t claim to fully understand what’s going on here, and it may well be one of those things that lead to places we simply cannot foresee (including a dead end). But Dan Gillmor has it right when he lauds The Times for opening up its data stream to outside resources — in the cause of better journalism. I read virtually all my news online with an RSS reader, as admittedly few others do (for reasons I cannot understand, other than RSS still hasn’t clicked with most people). I remain convinced, though, that RSS will channel journalism in ever-enriching directions. We’re still, in Howard Rheingold’s immortal phrase, all beginners here.
We end where we began. “River” technology seems to be more about putting the news in a greater context, with related links and prioritization based on timeliness and demand. It could help address blogging’s big weakness, the perpetual scroll that relegates posts, no matter how significant or enduring, to obscurity merely as a factor of churn. When you’re up against information overload and the constantly refreshing feed, you need all the tools you can get to figure out what’s meaningful to you and what is not.