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.

  • Archives

  • August 2021
    S M T W T F S
    1234567
    891011121314
    15161718192021
    22232425262728
    293031  
  • Categories

  • Subscribe

Posts Tagged ‘reality television’

‘Dead’ beats: Vampire-like bill collectors collect from concientious kin

Posted by James McPherson on March 4, 2009

Worried about the economy because of the falling stock market?  Afraid you won’t get anything from the stimulus bill? (If so, maybe should should move to a red state.) Concerned that you might lose your job and not be able to pay your bills? Just wait ’til you get your dead grandmother’s cell phone bill.

As the New York Times reports today, by taking advantage of technology and the fact that most people don’t know they are not responsible for the bills left behind by deceased relatives, credit agencies are going wherever they might be able to get someone–perhaps by using deceit or by playing on survivors’ guilt–to pay off unpaid balances. The Times notes: “Scott Weltman of Weltman, Weinberg & Reis, a Cleveland law firm that performs deceased collections, says that if family members ask, ‘we definitely tell them’ they have no legal obligation to pay. ‘But is it disclosed upfront–“Mr. Smith, you definitely don’t owe the money”? It’s not that blunt.'”

Not surprisingly, collecting from poor widows is stressful for the people who happen to be scummy or desperate enough to take the job. It’s even more stressful for the grieving poor, of course, and there will be more folks on both ends of those calls in months to come.

On the plus side, if someone has to sell the big screen TV to pay off someone else’s debts, at least their own children may be less likely to grow up stupid from watching reality television (and in case you’re lucky enough not to know what I’m talking about, and for whatever perverse reason happen to care, the clip below will fill you in):

Posted in Legal issues, Media literacy, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Killing youth

Posted by James McPherson on January 2, 2009

When does a kid stop being a kid? When he agrees to become a suicide bomber? When she kills her parents or grandparents? When he joins the military or she starts to drive?

Maybe when he has sex with his high school or junior high teacher, or she “marries” a much-older man? When he graduates from high school or she has her first baby–or agrees to sell the baby photos to the highest bidder?

Or maybe when he or she decides never to watch another “reality show” such as “The Bachelor” or any of its seemingly hundreds of even sleazier video offspring? Have the people who were so up in arms about Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction ever seen “Double Shot of Love”?

I find it interesting that the more horrible the crime against youngsters, the more we want to protect them, but the more horrible the crime they commit (an indication of less maturity, not more), the more likely we are to want to see them charged as adults.

We also may have a double standard when it comes to gender (though Slate’s William Saleton has offered evidence to the contrary). Girls, who mature faster than boys, may be more likely to be treated as victims–as they should be–when they engage in sexual relationships with older men. For teenage boys seduced by older women, however, some laugh off the act as a “rite of passage” or the harmless fulfillment of fantasy (though perhaps unfortunate if she happens to turn out to be a Nazi war criminal).

Like other parents and teachers, I worry that our children are growing up too fast. Some people blame the media, though even Focus on the Family admits that with home schooling your children and keeping them away from television, “Still, there’s no way to protect them completely from the perversion of the world.”

Perversion aside (and my definition of the term often differs from that of Focus on the Family) maybe we ought to teach our kids–and ourselves–more about the world as it is: not a dark and scary place where everyone who steps outside is likely to be raped or murdered (the picture portrayed by much of local television news and entertainment), one where everyone ought to be having sex with everyone else (the apparent view of much of the rest entertainment television), or a Disneyfied version in which love always conquers all.

Let kids be kids, when we can. Let the rest of us be kids from time to time, too. But let’s grow up about it, shall we?

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Media literacy, Politics, Religion, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

MTV: Moronic TeleVision

Posted by James McPherson on December 22, 2008

MTV, which became almost unwatchable at about the same time Jerry Springer somehow became cool, is undergoing another major programming shift, according to Variety. According to the article, because of a ratings slide, the once-revolutionary network “is embarking on a major programming overhaul, with 16 new unscripted series over the next 4½ months.”

MTV first aired Aug. 1, 1981, meaning it now finds itself older than the audience it wants to attract. In fact, there are few things more sad than somone pushing 30 who is trying to hang with people who just hit the legal drinking age.

Occasionally the network does try to act its age, as with some of its political activities. But now MTV execs, who recently have brought us such classics as “Paris Hilton’s My New BFF,” “A Double Shot at Love” and  “My Super Sweet 16“–three shows that seem to be designed to prompt America-haters  to fly planes into buildings and which the CIA might consider as a suitable alternative to waterboarding–have decided that there’s a shortage of reality television shows on cable?

In memory of what once was, below is the first video that appeared on MTV –The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.” And in memory of music videos in general, largely replaced on televison by YouTube, below that video is The Wrong Trousers version of the same song (a version that has received about 1.4 million fewer hits than the Buggles’ video).

Posted in History, Media literacy, Music, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »