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Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011) Review

8 12 2011

Copyright 2011 Participant Media

★ ★ ★ ★

Having worked in the newspaper industry for just under one year in 2008, I am fully aware of the hardships the industry is going through.  The paper where I worked, which was a small tri-weekly 6,000 circulation local paper, had once printed its own papers on site, had a devoted staff and large work area.  During my tenure, the paper was hit with another round of lay-offs, the printing on site was long gone and outsourced to a sister company and we were moved from the town we covered to the sister company’s offices in a larger close-by market.  In the end, our paper was reduced to an editor, sports editor, myself (as News Assistant and later Features Editor) and one full-time devoted reporter.  

This film studies essentially the same problems my little rural North Carolina paper was going through, but at one of the most prominent newspapers in the country, The New York Times.  The Times has long be heralded as one of, if not the, most important newspapers in the world.  Many times, stories that first appear in The Times will appear in other papers two to three days later.  Their reporters have long been the gold standard in the industry and have garnered a slew of Pulitzer Prizes.  In this film, which covers from about 2008-2010, we see the effects of the digital world on this behemoth of a paper.  Lay-offs, uncertainty, astronomical financial loss, all of these are analyzed and touched on by, not only Times reporters, but also people from the digital media industry.  With a focus on The Times’ new media unit, we see the stresses of everyday life in the print industry and how they are trying to cope with what is happening to their industry.  The most important point throughout, however, is that we need good, solid reporting of the news, no matter how it is digested.

When I saw recently that CNN laid off a large number of dedicated photojournalists in favor of free, individual uploaded content on iReport, I almost got sick to my stomach.  A Lamen with a camera phone in their backyard is not reporting.  In these days and times when our country is in dark peril, we need reporters who are going to go out and report our news content with the highest of integrity.  Though it may seem easy to some, good reporting is a skill like any other that takes education, practice and years of trial and error.  To reduce this profession to any 12-year-0ld with a video camera is a disgrace and not the kind of society I want to live in.

I have had two positions since my time at the newspaper and, even though they are more in line with what my degree and core interests are, I think I enjoyed the day to day work of the paper more than either of the other two.  Yet, making a living in the newspaper industry is extremely difficult.  These are trained professionals making less than $30,000 a year much of the time.  I hope a bridge between quality content and the digital spectrum can be reached soon, not only for the sake of my friends in journalism, but for the sake of the content we will receive as the end user.  I realize I have gotten up on a pedestal about this topic, but it is one that is close to the heart.  In regards to the film itself, it is a well done and engaging documentary that I think anyone interested in the state of our newspaper industry should watch.

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Remembering Steve Jobs and Preserving His Legacy

6 10 2011

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

I know this will likely be one of thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of blog posts regarding the passing of Apple co-founder and figurehead Steve Jobs yesterday.  Jobs passed away at the age of 56 after a long battle with cancer.  Unlike many other posts, however, I’m not going to recount a biographical essay of Jobs’s life or historically chronicle his time with Apple.  What I want to look at is what he gave us and the legacy that will continue even after his passing at such a young age.

When I think of Jobs, the word that most comes to mind is: visionary.  This was a man, whose sometimes ego-maniacal persona in regards to business, pushed products that were from the deepest points of his imagination.  Unlike many other companies whose primary creative decisions come from a web of corporate “suits”, Apple’s vision was dreamt largely from one mind and then implemented by the many departments of the corporation.  During his tenure at Apple, the company continuously released products that were 2-3 years ahead of their time, paving the way for the next generation of media consumption.   Since 2000, Apple has strategically eliminated nearly every form of popular tangible media.  With iTunes and the iPod, mp3’s have taken over the compact disc market; with the iPhone, the first integrated touch sensitive smart phone with heavy application reliance revolutionized the cell phone market; and with the iPad, tablet hardware has come to a forefront, replacing the laptop computer in many homes and just now is becoming a favored educational tool for schools around the globe.

For the first 20 years of home computing, advances were minimal in design and functionality of the systems.  However, in just over 10 short years since Apple’s introduction of the iPod and all-in-one iMac computers, Apple has effectively changed how we interact and experience many forms of media on a day to day basis, from movies, to watching television, to music, and beyond.  Being a hands-on entrepreneur, Jobs’ position in Apple has been crucial to its success in the world market.  Under his leadership, the company grew from a secondary contender in desktop computing to the largest technology company in the world.  Knowing of the severity of his illness, I’m sure Jobs has laid out a very concrete game plan for the future of Apple; one that will, hopefully, keep his vision and spirit alive, much like that of the pioneering legacy of Walt Disney.

It will certainly be a lonelier place in the technological world without Jobs’s vivacious enthusiasm and keynote addresses.  Yet, what he was able to show us could be done when you have a dream and a vision, will hopefully be preserved by not only Apple, but serve as a precedent for young minds and inventors to come.





The Fenix is Rising!!!

3 10 2011

No, I didn’t misspell the title, it stands for the new production company I am affiliated with that is starting active promotion today, Down Fenix Media.  The principals of Down Fenix Media, outside of myself, are Patrick T. Griffin, Bryan R. Higgins and Jon Fredette.

We were the backbone of the UNC-Greensboro Office of Online Learning Multimedia Team from July,2010, when Patrick came on board, until July,2011, when Jon and I left.  Finding a great deal of satisfaction in working together, as well as realizing the product potential, we decided to work on several projects outside the confines of UNC-Greensboro.  Following an award-winning short film entitled “Eat Me!”, which I have provided a link to on a previous post here on the blog, and several projects we collaborated on for various clients, we came up with the idea of starting our own company.  Talks began early in 2011 and the ball/idea has continuously been rolling, but it is just today that with great pride I announce the official beginnings of Down Fenix Media.  Our business cards are in tote, our Web site is live and our readiness to produce amazing content for a diverse client base is insatiable.

So, without further ado, I give you Down Fenix Media:

WWW.DOWNFENIXMEDIA.COM

 

 

 

 





The Netflix Split: or how I should stop worrying and love Qwikster

19 09 2011

Copyright Netflix

I’m sure many of you received the email from Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO of Netflix, this morning.  If you did not, essentially, what was put across is a fairly sincere apology for the little notice given in regards to the price hike that cost the company 1 million subscribers over the past few months and the announcement that streaming and DVD services will now be completely split.  Streaming will continue with the Netflix name, whereas DVD services will go by the name Qwikster.  Furthermore, the the two entities will have separate Web sites and NOT be integrated in their directory content lists.

When the substantial price hike and billing split between Netflix services occurred a few months ago, I didn’t get too upset.  I merely reduced my DVD intake from three DVDs to two, which I could have stood to do earlier since I have some DVDs that sit on the counter for months at a time.  Another reason you can’t get too mad at Netflix for this price hike is that it really isn’t their fault.  They are trying to provide the best content to the general public and, to do so, they have to work with the studios and distribution legs of the television companies that produce the content.  For those of you who don’t know, distribution companies do not like services like Netflix; services that provide content the way a consumer enjoys, cheaply and easily.  Why, you ask?  Because services like Hulu, Netflix, On Demand, etc. cut into their DVD sales which is a huge profit maker for film and television production companies.  So, to remedy their “loss”, they push the licensing fees up regularly to companies like Netflix, making it almost impossible for them to provide all the content consumers want at a low price.  The same problems hit cable companies as well and that’s a large part of the reason our cable bills go up and up and up.  So, if you really want someone to bitch to concerning the price hike, call one of five major media entities that control 98% of your content, those being: Viacom, Disney, NBC/Universal, NewsCorps and Time Warner.

Now, for the second part of Reed Hastings’s letter.  The separation of streaming and DVD seems a little silly to me.  Isn’t Netflix supposed to be a company that provides Media Content in general?  Why they have to specify this and separate divisions of the company is beyond me.  It’s like buying a a DVD and the cover art/case being sold separately; it just makes no sense!  But, if you can get past the illogical point of contention in this decision and just accept it, then you get to the real problem.  That being, why are they not going to integrate the sites?  In the new format, Netflix.com and Qwikster.com will be COMPLETELY separate.  So, if you want to look up if they have a certain movie, you will have to first check their streaming site and then check their DVD site for the title.  Why kill the ease of use for a consumer?  As consumers, we care about two things: cost and ease of usability.  I can understand and accept the cost issue being out of Netflix’s hands, but to give us one more step to go through when we want to watch or find content to watch is preposterous.

Reed Hastings was brave enough to open the blog posting that mirrored his email to comments, and I admire him for that.  I just hope he will listen to these comments.  I love Netflix and its service and I hope they will be around for a long time to come, but in short, the only companies that survive the test of time are those that listen, communicate and deliver to their customers’ desires and concerns.  We are making ourselves heard Netflix, please listen to us!








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