There Is No Cat

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Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Blog humbug!

Jenny Levine at The Shifted Librarian quotes some newsletter I never heard of calling for foreign correspondents in war zones to set up blogs so we can find the story behind the story, the idea being that they post something every day to give us the real poop that they wouldn't dare actually broadcast on TV. What nonsense. Here's a typical daily entry for a typical foreign correspondent in a war zone:

Crawled out of bed at half past noon today. Shouldn't have stayed at the bar so late last night playing Quarters with the guy from Reuters. He always beats me. Ouch, my head hurts. After a cold shower, I wrung out my underwear in the sink, got dressed, and stumbled down to the Foreign Minister's office for the daily dump. Then back to the bar at the Hilton to kibitz with the pack about what it all meant. Boot scooped me with an interview with the PM's maid. Bastard! Got a call from New York on my satellite phone; they're wondering about the charges for "entertainment" last week. Damnit, I told them that the only way I was going to get that story was to show these guys the first women they'd seen out of a burqa in ten years....

Edifying, ain't it?

A much better idea would be to have reporters write the stories behind the stories for their newspapers, radio stations, or TV stations when there's actually a story behind the story. The BBC World Service has been doing this for years with what I consider to be the best broadcast program in any media, From Our Own Correspondent. The Guardian (UK) has a similar feature with their World Dispatch. Except instead of the incoherent mumblings of a journalist who rarely ventures from the same hotel every other foreign correspondent is staying at, you get well-considered, finely honed pieces of good writing by reporters at the top of their game and who only write pieces of this nature when they're warranted.

The stories are online. Gee, maybe if we called their home pages blogs, people would jump to read them....

(Incidentally, if you want to read about what life is really like for foreign correspondents, you could do a whole lot worse than Mort Rosenblum's classic, Coups and Earthquakes. It's a staple in journalism schools everywhere.)

Posted at 12:43 AM

Comments

Note: I’m tired of clearing the spam from my comments, so comments are no longer accepted.

I think you hit upon something there. News reporting and popular entertainment would be better if it was only produced when someone thought they had a good idea. So many television shows are half a dozen good episodes and twenty weeks of filler.

Posted by Mike at 9:59 AM, June 19, 2002 [Link]

Only problem with that is that then we'd only have two networks broadcasting about three hours a week, and most of that would be live sports. :-)

Typically, the British already do that, with many series' having limited runs. Absolutely Fabulous, the wonderfully wacky Britcom, managed to produce only 19 episodes over three seasons plus one special. (Of course, some people I know would argue that that's about 20 episodes too many of that show, but you get the idea.)

Posted by ralph at 11:13 PM, June 19, 2002 [Link]

because i know you're the type of person who would want to be mercilessly corrected in public, i thought i'd mention that in your (scathing) foreign correspondent daily entry, you used the word "kibbutz" (israeli commune) when you probably wanted the word "kibitz" (to offer opinions). a subtle but important difference.

don't worry, you're still my favorite blogger.

Posted by shirley at 11:29 PM, June 19, 2002 [Link]

Oy vey!

Thanks for the correction; it's fixed now. :-)

Posted by ralph at 9:59 AM, June 20, 2002 [Link]

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What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

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