Some days the media can’t but help but eat its own tail. Today we have some journalistic commentary considering why there is so much coverage of campaign gaffes.
Michael Calderone and Sam Stein reporting for The Huffington Post on the “media obsession” with campaign gaffes, argue that incessant coverage has encouraged candidates to conduct boring and scripted campaigns. Maybe tomorrow we’ll have commentary on why there is so much navel gazing into the political gaffe reporting.
Personally, as a political news junkie, I slurp down these gaffes and revel when the rival of my favored candidate blunders. And who doesn’t enjoy a good send up on Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show? The candidates and their campaign mangers of course.
Steve Schmidt, formerly John McCain’s chief campaign strategist, explains how the media’s taste for political gaffes affects campaigns:
“The accessibility that John McCain was famous for over the course of an eight-year period went from being a huge asset in 2000 to enormous liability in 2008,” Schmidt recalled. “The conclusion everyone came to was that it was absolutely impossible to deliver a message to the American people when you handed a microphone over to the audience – with 1 out of 3 questioners who were crazy – or, two, being surrounded by a bunch of very young reporters on the campaign plane who … were interested in asking a question to elicit the most embarrassing answer.”
Calderone and Stein suggest that campaign reporters are motivated to cover gaffes because they reveal the inner truth of a candidate, but it turns out that if these gaffes are inner truths, not many people are moved by them.
[T]he relevant question is whether ads (or speeches or commentary) that exploit gaffes are more persuasive than the material Republicans would otherwise have used. How much will it matter if a Romney ad quotes the “doing fine” statement or, say, criticizes the stimulus or healthcare reform instead?
[T]he biggest reason that gaffes are perpetually hyped by the media in the absence of evidence that they matter to voters–is that, despite all the cutbacks in journalism, too many reporters are chasing too few stories at this point in the presidential campaign.
I don’t think he’s quite right though. It’s not just a supply-side problem. It’s a demand-side problem too. The problem arises since most voters aren’t news junkies like me – and political news is produced for people like me and not all voters. Sure, everyone likes a horserace, but some of us like to live at the proverbial track. James Hamilton has argued that the news media operations try to capture marginal viewers, listeners, and readers. For much of the duration of the campaign, the marginal viewer might very well be someone like me. CNN is trying to keep me from flipping to MLB Network.
News organizations aren’t aiming at people who merely want to figure out who to vote for in November. They couldn’t pay their bills that way. Given the polarization of U.S. politics today, figuring out who to vote for doesn’t take all that long. Regular voters just don’t need to follow that much of the news to sort things out before they’re handed a ballot.
Not me. I’ll watch. I’ll watch a supercut of gaffes. I’ll watch video of a blunder and then the bloviating pundits arguing about what it all means for the better part of an hour afterwards. But most people aren’t like me. They don’t follow the RSS feeds of multiple newspapers. They don’t follow pundits on Twitter. They don’t wake up to cable news, they’re off watching the olympics or maybe having fun clicking cows on Facebook.
Both journalism and democracy are safe. Journalists aren’t wasting their time covering gaffes, they’re serving their best customers – customers like me. And gaffe coverage isn’t breaking our democracy because most voters aren’t affected by it. Maybe you think it would be great if the press covered the minutiae of campaign platforms, but I’d wager that even fewer people would tune in for policy proposals than horserace campaign coverage. Ezra Klein is just one man – a television host he might make, but an entire TV audience he does not.
Meanwhile, I’ll be on Twitter – guilt-free – enjoying the flow of campaign snark between my fellow political news junkies.
But now it’s time to turn our fruit fly attention spans to OS X 10.9. The big cats are gone some have said. Others (like Siracusa) just hope they will be. Yet, Apple has committed to an annual release schedule of OS X and names of some kind will be needed.
Perhaps you think the ocelot is too small or too cartoonish to stand in line after the regal Lions. Perhaps.
But perhaps you haven’t considered that their exists a ready-made theme song from Phish – waiting to accompany the release:
Where have you gone?
Morning is over
and noon slouches on.
There are lyrics that imply an improved Siri:
Where are you now?
You never listen to me anyhow.
And the song includes lyrics which evoke social media:
Don’t be the only one left on the block
Come hide in the herd
and float with the flock.
Not to mention social gaming:
Where have you gone?
(Won’t you come out to play?).
Apple has used U2 as well as countless chanteuses for their ad campaigns. I think it’s time for a band with a meaningful tie to technology and the Internet. It’s time for Apple to wrap itself in some good old fashioned hippy-nerd rock.
John Quiggin at Crooked Timber argues that “tribalism generally trumps ideological consistency,” using the case of free marketeers and environmentalists – who have both adopted policy positions that are at odds with their presumed larger goals.
I’m one of those jerks who takes photos of food and spends time cooking nice meals. However, I just want to eat really good food. Then I want it to be healthy. Then I will worry about if it is nice to the environment or artisanal or what not. If local means fresher and tastier, I am all for it. And I’ve had great experiences purchasing produce at farmers' markets in Wisconsin and with a CSA-like home delivery service (Braise in Milwaukee). But, rote localism just seems absurd in most of the United States. Often, I can’t help myself from asking certain aggressive activists if they only consume local political science.
Podcasts seem like one of those small (dare I say disruptive?) ideas clearly aimed at the gut of the big media distribution companies, but their influence so far has been pretty slight.
But today the podcast might be approaching its big moment – Apple has released a podcast app for iOS. The app is slick, but it seems to be missing features that podcast fans rely on (such as playlists) and the UI is a bit janky (at least on an iPhone 4) so it probably won’t devastate any great iOS apps. But it’s more attention for a medium that has yet to take off. The podcasts tab wasn’t hurting anyone in the Music app so breaking it out must be Apple attempting to generate a little more attention to audio and video programs distributed as podcasts (and maybe preparing for a ramped up Apple TV).
Podcasts have a techy, and now somewhat dated sounding name, but they are just a delivery mechanism for any serialized audio or video content offered for free. Newsstand doesn’t seem like it has set the world on fire which should temper expectations, but hopefully this move will encourage a few more people to listen to and watch some of the littleaffectionatelycraftedgemsthatdottheInternet.
I almost think it’s too bad Apple didn’t try and rename podcasts into something more friendly and straightforward like “episodes.”
By the way, if you’re looking for a new podcast and you dig political philosophy riddled with pop culture and current events check out The Hero Report hosted by my good friend Ari Kohen of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Matt Langdon of the Hero Construction Company. I highly recommend Episode 12 in which they interview infamous psychologist Phil Zimbardo.
I learned early, however, that individuals facing [collective action problems and tragedies of the commons] do not always need an external authority to extract them from their tragedy. When they have arenas in which they can engage with one another, can learn to trust one another, can draw on sources of reliable data, can ensure monitoring of their decisions, can create new instrumentalities, and can adapt over time, they are frequently, though by no means always, able to extract themselves from these challenging dilemmas.
John Gruber links to an EFF blog post which calls iOS a crystal prison. He does a nice job cracking open their argument so I don’t have to, go read him. I just want to offer up that for people using iOS or OS X or Android or Windows or whatever, the surest way to avoid being caged is to be dillgent. Take some care to be sure that the data you care about most, the data you create, be it writings or images or code isn’t locked in a proprietary format.
And probably like many if not nearly all others, my iOS devices are in fact filled with text files, PDFs, jpgs, mp3s, vCards, iCalendars, and the like. In particular, text files based on Gruber’s own Markdown format seem to be flourishing on iOS, OS X, and the Web. Markdown even powers this blog. iOS users sync their various data at least as well with Google and Microsoft services and Dropbox as they do with Apple’s iCloud. RSS and Twitter clients must certainly deliver more news to more users than Apple-supported Newsstand apps.
If there’s anything trapping Apple users, it isn’t the “iOS X” ecosystem per se, it’s the fact that you can’t go and buy yourself a suitable replacement ecosystem because no one is selling one. Real choices mean alternative coherent computing ecosystems and not the EFF’s “bill or rights.” I don’t need arbitrary applications, root access, a different OS on my iPhone, or independent hardware/software warranties. None of those things will make my life better today. What I need is access and control over my own data. Leaving the “crystal prison” simply means exporting my data and moving on. If I can’t move on today it’s not because my data is trapped, it’s because we’re stuck – no one else is even offering a compelling four screen solution. Opening up iOS to hacking isn’t a very likely way to help ordinary users. What with this being the year of Linux on the desktop and all, or is that 2013?
I’d much rather see the EFF go after the true abusers of monopoly power in the mobile computing market: the cellular service providers who uniformly sell SMS well-above marginal cost and only offer monthly plans which reflect high costs implied by subsidy pricing and never discount them for unsubsidized or post-subsideized devices.
I don’t think the Web is dead. And I am not sure it is going to die. But if it’s going to die, it might die at the hands of the URL scheme. Which is sort of interesting, because URL schemes are the way we link apps together, but in the future they might become the way we unlink from the Web.
I was marveling at the latest update to Drafts, the iPhone quick text entry app. Even more apps have been added to the list Drafts can send snippets of text. Some day soon (if it hasn’t happened already), publishers are going to realize that they can shoot readers from one of their silos to another and skip the web browser, even an in-app embedded web browser. From Time Magazine zoom right into Sports Illustrated without an extra click. Without passing Go.
Recently, Tim Bray wrote about browsers versus apps and suggested in part, “If you want to be featured in a phone’s electronic storefront, and then be purchased effortlessly with a couple of taps, and have the charge end up on the monthly phone bill, you need an app.”
The ease at collecting payment doesn’t seem like a small draw for the DRM and spongey paywall set. Not for the 47% off the cover price people. Reset your cookies? Screw you. In-app viewing only. Download our app and we’ll turn on the article counter from in there. And good luck with your “readlists” – the response from publishers might not be good design, it might be apps.
I still want small apps like Drafts to join together with other apps in more and more Unix-y ways, but the next time you hear a call for richer relationships between apps in iOS (or any platform), it might be worth wondering if those are the connections that will end-up binding tighter than the World Wide Web.
Mr. Troniano said part of the problem is that voters who want to see alternatives are generally not political activists, which means they aren’t used to working through what can be a convoluted political system. He said there’s also a psychological barrier: Voters want to support someone they think can actually win — which generally means turning to the options available from the two major parties.
It isn’t a psychological barrier. It’s a strategic calculation. And it’s one that voters (and perhaps more importantly talented and ambitious politicians) are going to make again and again.
Seth Masket collected some Americans Elect epitaphs. Brendan Nyhan has an ongoing project to keep tabs on third party hype. Me? I’ve been working on a boxer/briefs/boxer-brief joke about third parties for a while, but I think like Americans Elect, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. Maybe if I worked in an “underpants gnomes” reference?
Apparently, Amazon releases a list of “the Most Well-Read Cities in America.”
However, the ranking only combines physical and Kindle sales of books, magazines, and newspapers purchased from Amazon. I don’t doubt that Amazon sales are correlated with overall reading levels. But I suspect that by measuring reading in this way, Amazon conflates reading and wealth. It’s a bit disingenuous to suggest that reading doesn’t happen outside of Amazon’s basin. The Top Cities in American Where Amazon Sells the Most Stuff List doesn’t really have a nice ring to it. Overall, a nice bit of PR bait and I certainly bit the hook.