Category Archives: Media

This Was The Week That What?

How can we raise the level of civil discourse when we can’t even be civil? Or civilized? 

I was going to fill in the blanks of my long absence here by explaining that I had spent so much time watching, listening to and reading about last year’s presidential campaign that I ended up not writing about it. There was so much commentary and drama ad infinitum that I didn’t think another voice was needed in the conversation. However, after all the campaigns were over and I had fully digested the political spectacles on both sides, there was one word left that pretty much summed up those long months for me and what I thought of the level of public discourse:  disgusting.

On the Republican side there was the egregious name calling, lying and fear mongering of the lowest levels, and on the Democratic side there was also mudslinging and a well oiled pr campaign that was almost too slick, too seamless, and too flawless. No one’s that perfect. Creating that kind of celebrity status for a presidential candidate left me feeling very uncomfortable, and I’m not sure that I can explain why.  We already have too much emphasis on the cult of personality over substance, and I so wanted substance.

It was no wonder that then candidate Obama’s personal and political eloquence was such a breath of fresh air, rescuing us at moments from the hype und drang. Granted, one can argue that that’s what makes presidential politics so much fun, and I must admit, it’s the only sport that  I follow with glee.  But there was something in all of the primaries and the subsequent presidential campaigns that just left a bad taste in my mouth.  It got downright uglier than usual, in my estimation.  Having watched for years from the inside of the news when I worked at TIME, where I lived through two presidential campaigns, I perhaps have a different perspective than most casual viewers. Those of us on staff who were curious enough (that would be me) would question writers just off the campaign buses and planes to dish out the gossip on both sides of the political circus. Always yummy fodder. But it wouldn’t get reported or spoken about much outside of those hallowed and, for the most part, discreet halls.  I personally wouldn’t dream of repeating hearsay to anyone outside of the office. How unseemly.

But something has changed in our 24/7- live-out loud-in-public-on-the-Internet-with-no-boundaries-or-shame society.  It seems to this observer that we now live in a time when apparently nothing is sacred. Now things that might have been told to me in whispers seem to be shouted out loud to the media by the guilty parties themselves.  I just don’t know what to make of this. Honestly, I’m in culture shock at my own culture.

In the past few months we have been witness to:

-Governor Mark Sandford’s confession: Yes, I played hooky from my job, disappeared and lied to everyone I know, including my family, to be with a mistress whom I love more than my wife, but you should still want me to work for you because I am the chosen one…

-ditto Senator John Ensign: Yes, I’m an adulterer with a mistress whose family happens to work for me and to whom my parents gave thousands of dollars, but I’m still a good person and I confessed so it’s all better now…

–right wing radio and TV talk show hosts happlily spewing  their daily doses of vicious hatemongering, with no censure…

–right wingers carrying signs of the president of the United States as Hitler in a Nazi uniform and pugnaciously shouting down their elected officials in public forums.

But this week left me flummoxed. I couldn’t believe my ears or eyes. Say wha? —

–Congressman Joe Wilson: I can heckle the President of the United States during a serious address to the nation, while the world watches, and I will only apologize when forced  to and now you should give me money….

–Kanye West–I am a complete and utter boor in public in front of millions of people (which includes my fans) and I think this is OK because…

–Serena Williams–It’s normal to lose my temper and show off my potty mouth because millions of sports fans are not watching me on TV in one of the most important tennis matches of the year…

and even, heaven forbid, President Obama–Of course I can use foul language in public to a news anchor since my mic isn’t on and, after all, they never talk…

People, please, don’t apologize in public or share your private moments.

Here’s what I want:   Be ashamed.  Be very ashamed. 

Sometimes shame is a good thing. It’s a responsible feeling.  Shame says, “I know that I have done something very, very wrong, and I feel bad about that. I should amend my ways.” 

What happens when uncivil and uncivilized behavior goes unchecked? What kind of society do we want to have?  The word “civil” is derived from the Latin word “civilis”, which means “citizen”.   I’m for that. Let’s put civility back in the citizen. 

Civility seems not only to have left the building but also the continent. Can we raise the level of public discourse in this frothing fray?  I voted for intelligence and rationality.  At least in public, we can show a little class. Media training, anyone….?

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Ladies Who Launch Great Thoughts

Arianna and me If you’re wondering who is the woman standing next to Arianna Huffington in this photo, it’s none other than your fearless blogger JS.  Many thanks to Courtney Newman, who took this picture for JS Media Blog.  Yes, I’m short but please note that Ms. H. is wearing flats, because, as she candidly told the gathered crowd of 400 women, she can’t wear heels anymore.

I met the ever gracious Arianna Huffington this past Saturday at an event called “Ladies Who Launch Live”, which was held  in Carson City, Ca., at the headquarters of Dermologica, one of the sponsors of the all day conference. (For those non-SoCals, that’s a little south of LAX.)  Ladies Who Launch is an organization founded by Victoria Colligan and Beth Schoenfeldt, who quit their corporate day jobs and started a company that encourages and supports other women who also want to quit their day jobs and start their own companies. The organization and website offer workshops and services to women entrepreneurs, whom they claim launch differently than men.

Ms. Huffington was one of the keynote speakers, along with best-selling author Jackie Collins, and an assortment of other entrepreneurial women with businesses and books. In her workshops and new book Zero to Zillionaire: 8 Foolproof Steps to Financial Peace of Mind, financial advisor Chellie Campbell teaches how to reduce financial stress [move over Suze Orman] and affirms affirmations: “People love to give me money;” “I make lots of money doing the things I love”.  And my personal favorite: “My affirmations work, even if I don’t believe in them”.

On the lighter side was syndicated humor columnist Lisa Earle McLeod and author of Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear.  Even the founders of LWL now have a book coming out soon, called Ladies Who Launch: Embracing Entrepreneurship & Creativity As A Lifestyle, which they wrote with Amy Smart, coordinator of the LA chapter of LWL.

Ms. Huffington offered insights from her book Becoming Fearless: in love, work and life and shared how she has handled her personal and professional life and struggles and how she launched her own entrepreneurial effort–The Huffington Post.  She also announced–and we can’t wait for this–that she is about to launch a second blog called “23/6”, which will be a satirical look at politics and the news.  As she described it, the new site will be a 24/7 blog in the style of The Colbert Report, except “you know we’re busy so we can only do it 23/6”.   It’s even funnier when she says it in that signature Greek accent.

Jackie Collins, who couldn’t be more genuine or more unlike her scandalous characters, spoke to us in a deliciously still discernible British accent about being a teenager in Hollywood, her writing process, her two independent daughters and her wildly successful career.  Statistics hard to grasp are the fact that she has sold 400 million books in a career that has spanned almost four decades, while each of her 26 books are still in print.  For those who wanted, she signed her latest in paperback Lovers & Players and announced that #27, a new Lucky Santangelo novel called Drop Dead Beautiful, will be out in June. 

After a long day of listening, meeting, card swapping, and being inspired to launch with hundreds of other women, it was awfully nice of sponsor Naturalizer to give us each a pair of comfortable shoes.  A little Oprah moment there. 

So, what am I launching?  My freelance career, of course.  “I make LOTS of money doing the things I love”.

Best Campaign Website: Presidential Candidate Susie Flynn

Surfing the late night Tube last evening, I paused at Tavis Smiley, who was in the midst of an onscreen interview with one of my favorite Americans, the inimitable  and articulate Marian Wright Edelman,  head of the Children’s Defense Fund, or as I like to call her, “the smartest woman in Washington”.   Not only is the CDF behind the children’s health insurance initiative, I discovered they are running their own candidate for President.  Her name is Susie Flynn, a bright young woman who is running on the issue of universal health care for children.  However, her name will never make it to the ballot. Presidential candidate Susie Flynn is 10-years-old. 

This doesn’t stop me from giving her my vote–for the Best Campaign Website and, most importantly, Best Use of New Media in the 2008 presidential campaign, so far.  Candidates, take notes.

I don’t know who is responsible for the creation and execution of this brilliant idea, but you have to hand it to the CDF team for getting it all right.  At this point, it is clear that the 2008 campaign will be made on the Internet, and may the best web developers win.  Political TV commercials are so last century.

Here’s what they’re up to on the website:

HOME page:
As they say in their campaign slogan, there are 9 million uninsured children in this country, so they are trying to collect 9 million signatures on their petition. The platform is laid out simply on the Home page, where you  sign and click your name onto the petition.  The petition counter is right there, so you see that your name has been added and counted. The left hand column is a blog where you can leave a comment, and you also see Susie’s latest campaign videos, posted on YouTube.

Click on “GET INVOLVED” and you see a map with icon push pins of how many have signed the petition where.  On “Supporter Pics”  you get two options:  1) download the PDF of Susie’s campaign yard sign and 2) upload photos of you and your clan with your campaign yard sign to Susie’s–you guessed it–Flickr page.  “My Banners” gives you the html code to paste the campaign banners on your website or blog. “Tell A Friend” sends a message to your contacts with all the appropriate links.  And that’s just the beginning.

LINKS” is where the real fun begins.  Not only will you find, finally, the links to CDF’s fund and issue topics, you are also linked to Susie’s MySpace page, Facebook page, and Care2 page.

See below my favorite campaign video called “My attempt to get a Susie Flynn yard sign at the White House”.  Then directly after that watch part two in that series called, “Susie Flynn takes her campaign to the White House”.

The mystery remains, who is this charming gap-toothed girl. Talk about fresh faces in Washington. Finally, candidates might also be wise to take some cues from Hollywood:  cute kids will always upstage you.

Re: Greetings From Brazil

I was pleasantly surprised to get a comment from my post on The Brazilian Solution from Jose Murilo Junior of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture. [See Comment on Pirates of the Millennium Part II: The Brazilian Solution].  He is also spearheading one of the Ministry’s innovative cultural programs, which uses web technology to reach low-income youths called “Hotspots“.  According to the description on Murilo’s eco-rama blog: “A hotspot is established with a broadband connection, infrastructure made with recycled equipments and, most of all, technical workshops of open-source software, allowing anyone to digitalize their creativity.”

I’d love to see programs like this in the U.S.  Also, I like the implications for these youths to be able to connect with people outside of their immediate environment.  Instead of sister cities, we could have brother/sister Hotspots.

The Brazilian kids already have a blog, flickr page and a video on YouTube. Unfortunately, for us, they are all in Portuguese. But the body language is loud and clear. These kids have something to tell us. And lots of creativity. Check out their flickr photos. However you say it in your language, you go, Brazil!  Greetings from America!

Pirates of the Millennium Part II: The Brazilian Solution

As promised, here is the second part of the Pirates 2007 saga.  Our story continues as a new hero of digital downloading emerges in the guise of international musical artist Gilberto Gil and now, Brazil’s new Minister of Culture.

As I’ve been absorbing the myriad media stories about piracy and such, a mantra has been repeating itself in my head: “the real problem is that we have an antique model for copyrights law, and we need a totally new system to address all the new technology and forms of distribution in the digital age of the 21st century.  I say just scrap the system and start over”.  

Sails into our harbor, Mr. Gil who recently spoke at the SXSW Music conference in Austin, TX.  As reported by Larry Rohter in The New York Times [sorry it’s a Times Select story, for those of you who aren’t subscribers to this service], Gil and Brazil’s Creative Commons movement, have done just that:  devised a new system of ownership and copyrights protection that looks like a real working model for the digital dilemmas we are now facing.

More elegantly put by Mr. Gil as quoted in the article: “I think we are moving rapidly toward the obsolescence and eventual disappearance of a single traditional model and its replacement by others that are hybrids…My personal view is that digital culture brings with it a new idea of intellectual property, and that this new culture of sharing can and should inform government policies.”

As the copyrights controversy heats up, I am now noticing other commentaries expressing similar thoughts. 

Here’s the Brazilian solution:

As Minister of Culture, Gil is working with the Creative Commons  movement, which has come up with a new system of ownership.  Creative Commons was started in 2001 to address the issue of all rights reserved copyright ownership. The movement is comprised of disparate groups, from “scientists and artists to lawyers and consumers” who believe that the “all rights reserved” system “impeded creativity and the sharing of knowledge in the Internet age”.

The Creative Commons movement has devised a three-tiered structure that retains some rights, shares some and gives some away.

For example, in the new system called “Copyleft” a musical artist would own all the rights on some songs, share the rights with a publisher on others and then have another group of songs with “no rights reserved”.  Those songs would be free and clear, to download, remix, copy, whatever.  One for me, one for you, one for everyone else.  The Copyleft system is already operating in Brazil with a huge database of registered properties.

The other thing Copyleft does is give all the rights back to the artist or creator.  Using this model, artists don’t have to give away all of their rights to studios or record companies. They get to choose which rights they want to keep and which rights they want to share.

This model makes so much sense.  You can control the mix and also the distribution.  Put watermarks on the copyrighted properties and none on the free properties.  

Let’s stop litigating and start creating copyright systems that work. For everyone.

Since the word “left” in America is so loaded, I propose that we call our new system “No Rights Left Behind”.

See my next post for why I think the U.S. should have a Minister of Culture.

To watch a few minutes of Gilberto Gil talking about music at SXSW go here (scroll down almost to the bottom of the page).

Does Viacom Suck or Rock?

Sucks, evidently, according to the people’s Internet, Yahoo Search API search engine and an amusing new website called

As noted in my previous post on piracy, the Viacom v. YouTube controversy is doing a lot to damage the public image of both companies in the eyes of its customers and audience. When you take a boardroom fight to the streets, this is what you can expect. allows you to search any number of keywords to see how much they “suck” or “rock”.  The website gets its results from a formula worked out from the occurrence of negative and positive phrases regarding each keyword and reduces the results to a scale of 10-1, in which 10 Rocks and 1 Sucks.

According to info on the website, the phrases they measure by are: 
Negative:  “X sucks, X is lame, X is crap, I hate X”.
Positive:    “X rocks, X is sweet, X is awesome, I love X”.

Seems clear enough. So, I couldn’t resist applying this to the Viacom/YouTube controversy.  In my own personal campaign to prove that there really is such a thing as bad publicity, here are my search results for the following keywords:

My Search Term:

10 -1  rating 
Illegal Download 9.0 (Rocks)
Pirates 8.7  
Google 7.2  
YouTube 6.4  
Piracy 4.2  
MySpace 4.1  
Viacom 1.2  
GooTube 0.5 (Sucks)


Pirates of the Millennium I

Pirates of the Millennium I: IPR vs. CRM vs. DRM …vs. CPR (Oops, sorry, that’s about people. But we’ll get to them…eventually.)

Last year we loved “Pirates” — global blockbuster film franchise. Yay. This year we hate “pirates” — antichrist of the entertainment business. Boo.

We’re talking Intellectual Property Rights, baby. Yeah, sexy. Wink. Just want to hear Mike Meyers say that once. Oh, please, just once to make me laugh and lift me out of the mucky digital intellectual property drama that I’m currently watching.

It’s big, it’s global and it’s nasty. Everyone is hopping mad. It’s turning into a battle of the pirates vs. the good guys, but a battle in which it’s sometimes hard to know exactly who the good guys are. Was Jack Sparrow the bad guy or the good guy? Quickly–Yes or No. Didn’t we like him? We know that creepy Davy Jones is the real bad guy pirate, and those ghost thieves are, too. OK, got that part. Wait, don’t we feel sorry for them?

Here’s the cast of this year’s saga Pirates of the Millennium I:IPR vs.CRM vs. DRM:

The U.S. ship – a crew of sword brandishing TV, film and radio interests:  Entertainment conglomerate Viacom advances with a major strong arm lawsuit against YouTube (or as Mark Cuban loves to call them GooTube) for $1 billion in losses over copyright infringements. While in Radio, the RIAA [aka big label mouthpiece) finally and successfully explodes small and independent Internet radio stations out of the water by regulation and exorbitant royalty fees. Casualties: thousands of small, local independent internet stations and unsigned independent artists.

The European ship – a disparate but vocal band of music institutions:  The European Parliament, meeting in Brussels, voted on March 14 to regulate the online music market with “binding legislation” and gradual new regulation, trying to keep a straight course and avoid what they deemed an abrupt and unfair disruption of current regional CRMS [Collective Rights Management Societies] agreements. As reported in The Hollywood Reporter by Leo Cendrowicz of

The European members of parliament said that a “big bang” opening of online licensing would hurt the wider European music sector, as it would lead to market domination by just a handful of major rights holders.” (See THR article here.)

You mean like in the U.S.? … As I understand the issues, one of the EP’s concerns was about not squeezing out regional [read smaller] cultures and losing whole sections of European music.

Sounds good, right? Not so fast, Jack. As soon as the paper was signed, the English CRMs delivered another round of cannon fire [again from Leo Cendrowiz]:

Rights bodies immediately expressed concern at the Parliament vote. In a joint-statement issued at midday, U.K. trade association British Music Rights, the umbrella body which represents the interests of British music writers and publishers, suggested the adopted report was confused and contradictory…The European Parliament’s document, says BMR’s London-based CEO Emma Pike, represented a “hotchpotch of conflicting provisions that will neither help nor hinder market developments in online music licensing”.

See Jack in the ocean, frantically running away from angry cannibals.  Run, Jack, run!

Wait, who am I rooting for?

So if the IP rights are a complicated issue that the institutions and even the lawyers can’t agree on, it certainly doesn’t look like it’s an issue that will get resolved anytime soon. As if IP wasn’t always a difficult issue, sometimes more or less clear, it’s now sunk into the murky depths of an ever expanding, more complex ocean of digital technology that is changing as quickly as I can type this.  Because, like in the movie, justice will prevail. Right?

Wait, there are more real pirates. No, I mean it. I’m not making light of the situation. Even LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has gotten involved, appointing an anti-piracy task force. A Los Angeles economic study found that entertainment companies lost $5.2 billion in income and 106,000 jobs in 2005 from piracy. I believe that there is real DVD and other bootlegging. Even if the numbers aren’t totally accurate, there is a tangible loss going on. (See original story by Carl DiOrio in The Hollywood Reporter. )

But wait, there’s yet another ship, the swashbuckling maverick Mark Cubanwho subpoenas GooTube to talk to the user pirates [aren’t they the bad guys?] who are uploading the clearly stolen TV shows on the website. Egads! He just wants to know why, as he backs up the ensuing lawsuit with GooTube, crying out “You Go, Viacom!” (See here.)

OK, now I know who to root for: Sir Mark. He’s finally going to try to understand what’s going on with the users without killing anyone. He’s using his head. I like that. I am also starting to agree with his take on the Tuber [my personal nickname for YouTube]. The position of the Tuber ranges between merely specious –“we didn’t do anything wrong, our users did”– and egregiously irresponsible–“we don’t even know who they are”.  Is this simply negligence? If not, then villainous? Felon-is? What are they thinking? Entire TV episodes? No, no, this is not good practice.


Off-screen, a voice of truth rises above the din.  In his ReelPop blog, Steve Bryant reminds us that “In Viacom v. Google, ignorance is not bliss” and lays out the facts for us in plain English. You can see the info here, but one notable fact is that Viacom’s total revenues in 2006 were $11.5 billion. Viacom’s lawsuit is asking $1 billion of Tuber. Claiming, in essence, that it’s losing 10% of its income to YouTube.  Arrgh.

Welcome to Hollywood, where we sink pirate ships with lawsuits.

Is there a sequel somewhere, anywhere? Can we slay the many tentacled Davy Jones piracy issue and get on with our lives and our entertainments?

My questions are these: Why, at this late date, are content producers still not providing DRM protection for their properties? Why should protection and rights management be the domain of distributors? Besides filters, why can’t YouTube limit the size of uploaded files? Won’t the audience decide ultimately where they will go for content? 


Millions of audience/participants of this adventure swirling in a storm of controversy and bad publicity for all the major players. So now the customers are the bad guys?…Does anyone know CPR?….Please, help, we’re drowning…

See my sequel post Pirates of the Millennium II: The Brazilian Solution.

Meanwhile, read the Glossary below.

GLOSSARY : Pirates of the Millennium, Part I: IPR vs. CRM vs. DRM

IPR – Intellectual Property Rights. An issue that is hard for most people to understand.

CRM-Collective Rights Managers. Europe’s ASCAP/BMI type organizations who can’t agree on much.

DRM – Digital Rights Management. Built-in technology for internal protection of creative content, hardly used by producers.

DMCA – The Digital Millennium Act of 1998. International digital copyright laws that were written in 1996 and passed in 1998, which must be kind of out of date by now, don’t you think. Comments by expert lawyers most welcome.

Viacom– an entertainment conglomerate that wishes in its wildest dreams it was losing 10% of its income to YouTube.

YouTube(aka GooTube, aka Tuber) – a video sharing social networking site that was originally started so kids could have some fun and is now a place where big corporations can fight over how many billions they are going to get out of it.

Millennium– A hoped-for period of joy, serenity, prosperity, and justice (third meaning, source:;  also, something we are not going to see anytime too soon.