James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Fortune magazine’

Past-cool Facebook turns 5, but offers little financial guidance to media

Posted by James McPherson on February 4, 2009

Another reminder of how fast time flies: The social networking site Facebook celebrates its fifth birthday today. Started by a Harvard student Mark Zuckerman (soon making him the youngest billionaire on the planet, CNN reports) and once primarily the domain of other college students, now it seems almost everyone who wants to connect with others or sell something is on Facebook.

“I’m on Facebook,” or “We’re on Facebook,” several media leaders told the students in my recent Jan Term class visit to New York and Washington, D.C. As a further indication that social networking is way past cool, even I joined a couple of months ago. I remember to check in about once a week, and rarely update my status (using primarily as a way to direct people here), but CNN reports that according to Facebook, some 15 million users update statuses every day, adding more than 850 million photos per month. The average user has 120 “friends,” many of whom they’ll be soon able to follow even more closely and creepily.

The story credits social networking with making Zuckerman rich and helping make Barack Obama the president of the United States. Yet even Facebook does not demonstrate a workable “business model”–a term my students also heard repeatedly, as virtually all of the mainstream media struggle to make an acceptable profit in the Internet world. Adam Lashinsky of Fortune magazine reportedly told CNN that Facebook “is selling advertising, it is bringing in revenue but it’s not wildly profitable even if it is profitable at all.”

And that’s the problem all of today’s media face–the need for money from advertising, or something to replace that income stream, via a medium via which people are accustomed to getting content for free. If Facebook, now on the downside of cool, can’t do that, the prospects aren’t promising for mainstream news media sites.

Of course, more people may be looking to the Web for news after their TV service disappears with a shift to digital (a shift likely to be postponed later today), but in fact people continue to value news. Getting people to a news site isn’t a significant problem. Getting those people to pay for anything is the problem.

Same-day update: Congress approved the digital television extension today.

Next day update: Time disses a new Facebook trend.

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Media literacy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Culture warriors were dreaming of a really white Christmas; others get coal in their stockings

Posted by James McPherson on December 12, 2008

Writing for the Daily Beast, Max Blumental traces the idea of a “war on Christmas“–the bitter annual holiday tradition of right-wing moralists such as the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger, Utah Sen. Chris Buttars, several Fox News commentators, and Focus on the Family, which maintains a list of major retailers who prominently acknowledge” Christmas and those that have “apparently abandoned” the word–to former Fortune magazine editor, anti-immigrant, and perhaps anti-Semite Peter Brimelow.

Blumethal writes: “In his 1995 book, Alien Nation, Brimelow argued that the influx of ‘weird aliens with dubious habits’ from developing nations was eroding America’s white Christian ‘ethnic core,’ and in turn, sullying its cultural underpinnings. The War on Christmas was, in his view, a particularly pernicious iteration of the multicultural ‘struggle to abolish America.'”

For Bill O’Reilly this is the hap-happiest time of the year because he knows he’ll get to wade into a can’t-lose culture battle. He has repeatedly made the war on Christmas a central theme of his “talking points,” most recently on Dec. 3 and Dec. 5. Of course, the night after that last show, he referred to O.J. Simpson conviction as “karma,” not exactly a Christian term. One front of the war over (not “on,” in my view) Christmas (not the war that killed three people on “Black Friday”) is in my own state of Washingon, where atheists have been allowed to put up a sign near the capitol Christmas tree. Now someone wants to put up a “Festivus pole,” an invention of “Seinfeld.”

On an even weirder front, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Technology has put the holiday to its own use. As Rachel Maddow and others reported earlier this week, the group has put together a series of videos in which animated lumps of coal sing “carols”–changing the words to fit the coal message. Unfortunately, the ACCCT has removed the video from its site, but you can see a photo here:

cleancoal2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the Center for Media and Democracy’s Sheldon Rampton points out: “Some of the lyrics sung by the ‘Clean coal carolers’ might actually offend people who take Christmas seriously as a religious holiday. ‘Clean Coal Night,’ for example, uses the melody of ‘Silent Night’ but replaces the words, ‘Christ the savior is born’ with ‘Plenty of coal for years to come.”‘Similarly, the chorus praising Jesus in ‘Come All Ye Faithful’ is transformed from ‘Oh come let us adore him’ to ‘And we can count on clean coal.'” Citing O’Reilly’s annual rants about people using the phrase “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” Rampton writes, “Let’s see if O’Reilly even mentions the coal industry’s latest sacrilege.”

Clean coal actually is appropriate for the Christmas holiday, of course, because it has at least three things in common with another “weird alien with dubious habits [smoking a pipe, overeating, talking to animals, etc.]”: Santa Claus. Both Santa and clean coal make you feel warm and fuzzy, both end up in your chimney, and, most importantly, NEITHER IS REAL. Despite Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s kowtowing to the Pennsylvania and West Virginia coal industries, there is no such thing as “clean coal.”

Brimelow probably would be appalled by the Clean Coal Carolers. For one thing, all the singers are black. Of course, most of the 26,500 children under the age of 5 who will die on Christmas day also are black (and most of the rest are brown-skinned or Asian), as are the 26,500 who will die on Christmas Eve, and the equal numbers who will die every day from now through the forseeable future. Most of those children will die of things we could prevent today, if we had the will–things such as disease, starvation, bad water and war.

Put another way, a child under the age of 5 dies about every three seconds, about the same time it takes to say “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. And until we dramatically improve that statistic, speaking as a Christian, I don’t really care what you call your damn tree.

Dec. 15 update: The state of Washington has put a moratorium on future displays.

Posted in Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »