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Found this while cleaning out my desk at home. Hmmmm ... 

Reminds me of the first managing editor I ever worked for, at the Prosser Record-Bulletin when I was in high school. When she interviewed me for the job (I started out cleaning floors) she said:
"If you're looking for fame or fortune, you're in the wrong place."
Wiser words hath never been spoken. But, it was a fun ride nonetheless.


Those electrified sheep in Wales

My brother sent me the link to this video. It purports to be about a bunch of artist types and shepherds who herd LED-draped sheep into patterns of exploding fireworks, the old Pong video game and even the Mona Lisa. Pretty funny and creative. Made me laugh and I sent it along to friends.

It was only at the end that I realized this was really a very clever Samsung ad. I wonder how many people watching it understood that? I'm guessing younger viewers got it right away while older viewers might have not realized it was an ad.

Viral videos like this are a great way for advertisers to sneak their message in under the critical radar of viewers. It's like product-placement on steroids. But it's a new level of disingenuousness that even TV ads (which are subject to laws governing their veracity) haven't approached.

I'm trying to decide what I think about it. On the one hand, it made me laugh and I loved it. On the other, I'm appalled at how blurry the line between advertising and the real world is getting. And that I almost fell for it.

I think.

While the sheep really were being herded, there was some computer trickery involved, said Matt Smith, co-founder of the ad agency that made the ad:
"The sheep herding bit is straight up – no trickery but there is a fair amount of computer trickery and post production work. We thought the Mona Lisa was the big wink to people – once they saw that we thought they would realise it was not all real."
Or, maybe not. It reminds me a bit of the New Yorker cartoon where a dog is sitting at a computer and telling another canine: "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." Or a phony bunch of shepherds.



When they take it from our cold, dead hands

I was intrigued this week to see a young reader’s question to Richard L. Berke, the New York Times assistant managing editor for news. It was a variation on that ancient generational challenge: When will you old people get out of the way and let us younger folks run things? Berke’s response has generated a bit of controversy in the blogosphere.

The question from Josh of New Orleans related to the train-wreck that is the news business these days:
“Newspapering as we knew it — its economic sustainability and moral righteousness — died sometime in the last decade. Yet the people who sank the ship, namely those of the baby-boomer, Woodward-and-Bernstein era, are still at the helm, and giving up their lofty newsroom positions only with cold, dead hands. …

“My question is, both cheekily and seriously, when will your generation quit and let my generation try all these ideas we have about how the news should be presented?”
Berke’s response went something like this: It’s always been hard to land a news job, especially now. But, think of all the opportunities you have to innovate and try new forms of reporting:
“Maybe I'm refusing to face reality, but I believe that if you're enterprising and talented enough, there are more opportunities than ever in the world of journalism.”
That caused a harsh reaction on Jim Romenesko’s web site from some younger journalists. They complained that they have bills to pay (sometimes big bills), can’t afford the time to innovate, and that it was wrong to leave the people who ran the news biz up on the rocks at the tiller of the industry.

Good points, all.

I think I’d side with Berke, but for slightly different reasons. If you really want to fix what’s wrong with this business (and who doesn’t?), the last place you want to be is at a property owned by a big media company. Big companies are, by nature and with rare exception, conservative places. The people who are hired to run them aren’t hired to be daring or make cutting-edge moves. They are hired to be careful, preserve what has been built over many years, add to it some, and then pass it along to the next batch of managers.

That’s one reason why they missed what was coming with the web. They had a good and profitable thing going with print and it didn’t seem necessary, or prudent, to start tinkering with another delivery model that might endanger those profits. The big money was always in print and it always would be, wouldn’t it?

If you’re looking to innovate and find the new models, the best thing is to do it at smaller companies that are more nimble and willing to experiment and, possibly, fail. Jason Preston expressed it to me best many months ago: The big media companies need to act like startups, investing in people and ideas like a startup would: with an eye toward the future. And I’m not sure that they can or will.

I was struck while attending The Pitch, Jason’s media discussion event the other night, that there were few representatives of established media companies in attendance. And those who were there weren't the people making the big decisions. The topic was what business models might work for journalism for the next five years. Lots of good ideas were batted around and they were free for the taking. But, as far as I know, no one from a mainstream Seattle media company was there.

The people who were there were mostly academics and entrepreneurs (and a few folks from Microsoft). Those entrepreneurs are the fertile ground where these new ideas will be found and nourished. If the big media companies were smart, they’d spread a little money around to these folks and see what grows. Call it digital fertilizer. But, maybe that’s too far outside their comfort zone also.


Lots of new blogs, post-P-I

Several of my friends from the P-I are starting their own blogs now that the paper has closed. I'm starting a list on this blog so others can find them. Check the list of links at right. You'll find:
  • Cecelia Goodnow's blog on children's books, Cover to Cover Kids.
  • Rebekah Denn's food blog, Eat All About It.
  • Leslie Kelly Whining and Dining
  • Gene Stout's music blog
And there will be more to come as people get online. James Wallace, the P-I's superb aerospace reporter, is promising a blog. John Levesque, who held more jobs at the P-I than just about anyone (business editor to sports columnist) has a blog and I'll get the link to that as well [Note: Turns out John isn't blogging].

Check these folks out. They are the best at what they do and worth a look.

UPDATE: Rebekah Denn has a much more comprehensive list on her blog, Eat All About It.


P-I farewell video

This is the video I did for the end of the P-I print publication.

Morning after at the P-I

Empty desk
Went in to work this morning to do my exit interview. The final paper was published last night and the P-I is now a web-only news site.

There were a surprising number of people in the newsroom. Some were working on the web site, others were cleaning out their desks, which is one of the things I did. Computers are being removed from most of the desks.

Before I came in, I e-mailed KPLU and requested a song: Tony Bennett and Bill Evans' haunting version of "Some Other Time." The song is from "On the Town." The lyrics are by the incomparable Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the music is by Leonard Bernstein:

Some Other Time

Where has the time all gone to
Haven’t done half the things we want to
Oh well
We’ll catch up some other time

This day was just a token
Too many words are still unspoken
Oh well
We’ll catch up some other time

Just when the fun is starting
Comes the time for parting
But let’s be glad
For what we’ve had
And what’s to come

There’s so much more embracing
Still to be done but time is racing
Oh well
We’ll catch up some other time


Empty desks at the P-I

Empty desks at the P-I

Sad to see how many desks are already sitting empty in the offices of the Seattle P-I, where I work. We expect to learn the final publication date any day now. Could be as soon as next week that the print product will cease to exist. Wish I wasn't taking these in our shop but that's the way things are going in the news biz.

The words of a song from World War II come to mind: "We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day."

The next couple of weeks are going to be hard.