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The Future of Journalism: BWE 09 Recap

October 23, 2009 2 comments

Oh how I wish I had been at Blog World Expo this year. For one thing, I would’ve like to have seen Guy Kawasaki drool over Jenny “The Bloggess” Lawson up close and personal at the closing keynote. With Chad Vader on the same stage, no less. For another (and perhaps more professionally appropriate), I wish I had been a spectator at the fascinating “Future of Journalism” panel hosted by Brian Solis and featuring CNN anchor Don Lemon; NYU journalism professor and PressThink blog author Jay Rosen; conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt; and Current TV COO Joanna Drake Earl.

 There was a lot to this discussion (including some hostile questions from a blogger who – heaven forgive me – looked like he hadn’t seen a shower or the outside of his mother’s basement in a while), but what was most valuable to me were these three distinctions:

Professional vs Amateur
Vertical vs Horizontal 
Broadcast vs Share 

I’ll explain.

The Numbers Please: According to Solis, there are 400MM tweets published in any given month. There are over 2 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook each week. Twitter has more monthly uniques than cnn.com and nytimes.com (by the way, if those stats are inaccurate please blame Solis. I was merely watching innocently at home via web video. In my PJs.) That’s a LOT of information swirling around the interwebz. The question is, how reliable is it as news?

 A Hybrid Approach: News may unfold on Twitter, but you don’t get the full depth of a story the way you would if a professional news organization were behind it.  A hybrid model seems to be what’s emerging, or at least that’s what Current TV’s Earl suggests. You still need an editorial point of view and journalistic rigor (fact-checking, anyone?) to bring shape and structure to the mind-boggling amount of content being generated all around us. She describes this as “pro-am” journalism.

“The Wired Ecosystem”:  NYU’s Rosen describes the blogosphere as a continuum between amateur (“citizen”) producers and professional (“traditional) media.  Solis gives the example of NBC’s Ann Curry looking for information on North Korean missile test, getting nothing from her traditional sources but finding leads on Twitter. CNN’s Lemon asserts that even breaking news found through social networks requires double- and triple-confirmation before it can (or should) be reported. The point is, it’s one big ecosystem and the best content is generated when traditional and “new” collaborate.

From “Network” to Networked: My favorite distinction of the panel comes from Rosen. He cites the iconic scene in the film Network when deranged anchorman Howard Beale incites his viewers to fling open their windows and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” That image – millions of atomized viewers uniting in behavior not because they are connected to one another, rather, to a central mass media outlet – defines traditional media. The viewer-media connection is vertical and one-way. Now, thanks to technology, we are connected not only to mass media but to one another – so we still consume information vertically but can instantly share it horizontally.

I marvel at people who continue to dismiss social networking as a time-suck, or microblogging as self-indulgent narcissism. Well, maybe my dad can get away with it – but then again, he’s a retired lawyer and not a practicing communications professional. Those of us who fall into the latter group will do well to embrace the lessons of this panel and be aware of the boundaries collapsing all around us: between professional and amateur journalism, vertical and horizontal communication, and – crucially – broadcasting messages vs sharing stories.

 

 

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My Call with Uma Thurman

October 14, 2009 6 comments

Motherhood2I’ve mentioned before that I’m part of a group of NYC-area mom bloggers working with the team promoting Motherhood, a movie coming out in a week or so made by a mom, starring a mom, about a mom. No money exchanging hands (that’s for you, FTC), just access to the cast and director for interviews and some nice link love on the movie Facebook page.

So I’m waiting for the call to start this morning, making chit chat with the dozen or so bloggers on the line and enjoying the not-yet muted sounds of their home lives in the background. I hear cooing babies, barking dogs, toddlers clamoring for “Sesame Street.” My background noises, meanwhile, are those of the work-at-office mom: tooth-rattling jackhammers and sirens shrieking their way down Lexington Avenue.

Uma joins the call. Mute button on. Suddenly I’m having a moment. I AM ON THE PHONE WITH BEATRIX THE BRIDE. Holy Tarantino. The warrior mother, the assassin goddess, the woman who dispatches legions and murmurs, “Those of you lucky enough to still have your lives — take them with you. But leave the limbs you’ve lost. They belong to me now.”

*Swoon*

Ooops, I’m first up! I get to read my question myself. In my mind I’m saying, “Beatrix the Bride I love you and want to braid your hair and can I try on your yellow jumpsuit” but here’s what I actually say: “Uma! Hi!” She answers my question and the dozen that follow but Blessed Virgin Mary, this call is a hot mess. It’s all dropped connections, background noise, overlapping conversation…in other words, the absolute personification of motherhood itself. I don’t think a single one of us is sweating this fact because we’re used to chaos. It is our currency, whether we work for a paycheck or not. Moms all do a variation of the same juggling act, after all. Which sometimes sucks and sometimes is beautiful and joyful.

So here are some of my favorite bits from the interview:

Uma was asked where she feels the movie’s authenticity comes from. She said she loves that Eliza’s character is not there to cast the viewer’s attention on someone else – a man or a child. She is the heart of the movie, depicted honestly – with flaws and anger issues, but very much in love with her family.

She’s surprised when other mothers dismiss the topic of motherhood in film (as in “Why watch a movie about my own boring life?”) Uma wonders why we discredit ourselves so much that we’d think raising another human being isn’t worthy of pop culture attention.

My question was about a scene described by director Katherine Dieckmann as her favorite in the film. Eliza and her husband are sitting in a car. Emotional words are exchanged. I asked Uma to describe it and here’s what she said: 

Eliza is digging into the source of her unhappiness, the fact that she’s lost herself in the minutiae of domestic life. She’s worn down by the tiny, grinding repetitive acts that make up her day. She no longer recognizes herself.

I want to see this movie for that scene alone. I predict I’ll hear myself in Eliza’s words, see myself in her frustration. I wonder what will happen for her and if she’ll find peace with the choices she’s made. I wonder too about the women in my life who don’t have creative or professional outlets, who lose a bit of themselves every day. The moms who – like Eliza – pour all their talent and energy into their families at the expense of their own aspirations. They’re the ones who deserve happy endings.

Motherhood is in theaters October 23rd.

Image via.

Check out Eliza’s blog here.

Riding through Hell: 2009 World Business Forum Recap

October 11, 2009 1 comment
Blogging live at the WBF. See the back of my head in the front row?

Blogging live at the WBF. See the back of my head in the front row?

It’s Day 1 of the World Business Forum. I’m tucked comfortably into my puffy velvet seat on Radio City Music Hall’s third mezzanine. Despite some wi-fi challenges (what conference is complete without them?) it’s been smooth sailing for the 50 or so of us who are here as part of the official Blogger Hub. Two levels below, the orchestra seats are steadily filling to the accompaniment of the Lite FM-ish smooth jazz flowing through the sound system (you were expecting Lady GaGa?)  Despite the stated “business casual” dress code, it’s a sea of gray suits down there. I’m in standard issue PR girl black head-to-toe, with gold flats and crystal drop earrings. (This is my business casual.)

Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton takes the stage to open the conference, and something he says sets the tone for all the speakers who follow:  “When you ride through hell, you don’t stop.”  It’s an old cowboy saying, but pretty apt right now. No denying things have been pretty hellish for the past 12 months. It’s a common refrain with nearly every speaker – unemployment up, GDP down. American small business dying on the vine. We may technically be out of the recession, but the hard work of recovery has just begun. And there’s the question of sustainability and whether economic recovery will happen at the expense of a planet which, as speaker Jeffrey Sachs reminds us, “is bursting at the seams.”  

How appropriate that climate-related disaster metaphors are a recurring conference theme: it’s Katrina, a cyclone, a tsunami. Cataclysmic. The eye of the hurricane is past but the challenges left in the aftermath are monumental. Hellish indeed. But as Hinton says, this is no time to stop riding. It’s simple in business: Grow. Do. Wherever the market goes next, we must focus on growing. Innovation brings good fortune. It’s always time for ideas. 

There is no shortage of ideas coming from the Radio City Music Hall stage. My head and laptop are swimming with them. I look down at my notes in between speakers and am amazed I can keep up at all (Thank you 10th grade typing teacher. Name: forgotten. Impact on my professional life: priceless.) Themes emerge from speaker to speaker and begin to coalesce on my monitor; here are the two that resonate most powerfully for me:

Truth: Saatchi and Saatchi’s Kevin Roberts tells us the truth is ugly. Don’t be afraid to face it. Bill Conaty, former HR chief of GE, describes “truth and candor” as pillars of a performance culture. Management guru Bill George cautions against denial, says leaders willing to face organizational and personal realities free up their companies to move forward. Or make tough but crucial decisions like, as Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld suggests, killing your company’s sacred cows in times of crisis.

Creativity:  Needless to say, there is much to absorb from the event’s most high profile speakers George Lucas and Bill Clinton. In both cases it takes me a minute to get my star-struck fingers typing, once I do I find my notes coming back consistently to creativity. The Lucas Q&A with film critic Ben Mankiewicz is billed as “The Future of Cinema” but feels more to me like a blast from the past. In a good way, considering how forward-looking Lucas’ past actually was. It’s easy to get so caught up in his role of father of the “Star Wars” mythos that I forget the boldness of Lucas’ business innovations. Small action figure movie tie-ins didn’t exist before Lucas pioneered the model with Kenner and forever altered the movie merchandising landscape.  And when he couldn’t find a production shop able to make the visual effects needed for “Star Wars,” he created Industrial Light and Magic.  I have no idea what enables a human being to have the courage and means to look into a void and simply invent what’s needed. Where others would see a yawning chasm, Lucas saw opportunity.

As for Clinton, creativity as well as collaboration are recurring themes in his speech. He cites interdependence – not globalism – as the word he believes best describes the century we live in.  According to Clinton, it is not just about the movement of money around the world, but the flow of diverse people and ideas. And in his view, there is no such thing as a personal rainstorm. The problems of the 21st century – terrorism, poverty, famine, diseases – will be solved only by cross-border creativity and collaboration. And while there is hope embedded in that message – of people and organizations putting aside individual agendas for a common good – there is a grave warning, too:  “We have to find a world where we can all win, otherwise, none of us will.”

Go here for more blog coverage of the World Business Forum.  

(image via)

On the Agenda: World Business Forum ’09

October 4, 2009 1 comment

 

The scene at Radio City Music Hall last year

The scene at Radio City Music Hall last year

I am over the moon that I get to attend the World Business Forum as a featured blogger alongside an extremely serious group of digital big kids. Liz Strauss is among this crew; I’m trying to figure out a way to sling Liz over my shoulder like a backpack so she can murmur smart things in my ear as I go about my day. This isn’t practical since a) Liz is about six feet tall and b) humans don’t make great backpacks. So I’ll have to settle for tweeting alongside her on October 6th and 7th — meet me over at the forum twitter hashtag (#wbf09) if you want to find out what George Lucas, T. Boone Pickens and Bill Clinton are up to these days.

(Image via.)

E-Mail from the Russian

October 1, 2009 12 comments

Being married to a Russian is like riding in the front seat of a communication rollercoaster. Woman is from Venus, Man is from Chelyabinsk. After 12 years in this country, my husband’s English is still somewhat fractured. This is alternately a source of considerable charm and tremendous frustration. Some of our most explosive arguments have stemmed from the misunderstanding of a simple idiom. (Apparently “Fish or cut bait” is offensive to some people, I really had no idea.)

I’ve been married to the Russian for ten years but I wonder sometimes if I really know the man behind the fumbling malaprops. If words are how we define ourselves, what’s it like when the words at your disposal are broken? My husband’s entire demeanor changes when he speaks Russian with his friends — he is louder and more expansive. He is the alpha male in his circle, the center of the action, the go-to guy when someone needs help or support.  He is fully empowered in his native tongue; in English, he is cautious.

I know this man loves language and literature. He recited Pushkin from memory when we first met and scolded me for not knowing a particular O. Henry story. I love language, too. I would die just a little bit every day if I couldn’t express myself as freely in a second language as I do in English. But the Russian is resilient. He perseveres, pushing through his discomfort in conversations with harried elementary school teachers and fast-talking north Jersey repairmen. He maintains composure navigating the rings of customer service hell with heavily-accented telecomm representatives. He even keeps pace when I come home from work ranting in hyper-speed PR-speak about some imagined client indignity. 

Last night I learned my guys had made an IKEA run without remembering to bring me home some gingersnaps. This is a forgivable sin and I was over it in seconds. Today the Russian sent me this email. I’ve tidied up the spelling, but only a little.

Yesterday suddenly I started to feel guilty for the fact I didn’t buy anything for you at Ikea (ginger cookies and etc.) and shared my feeling with our 6 year old who was having a dinner in the kitchen and showing his back to me. Unpredictably “mal’chisch” jumped off his stool and walked to me, took my hand, kissed it and he looked at me with the most beautiful face in the world with obvious “Smirnov” sigh in his eyes  and very calmly with kinda lower tembro said: “You’re forgiven Daddy.” (I saw, it is not the baby face anymore.)  “Don’t worry, you will do it next time.” So forgive me too, I’ll fix my mistake next time…

I believe you have a gift for language or you don’t. Vocabulary can be taught, eloquence can’t. The Russian is eloquent. I’m thinking if I listen a bit more carefully, I’ll hear it ringing clear through the tangle of his English. 

P.S. Mal’chisch is a sweet name for little boys inspired by a fairy tale character from Soviet days. Or so I’m told.

Categories: Family, Russians Tags: ,