MSNBC – Antenna Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What Are You Missing? April 14-April 27 Sun, 28 Apr 2013 17:00:20 +0000 elysium-posterA few news stories you may have missed these last two weeks…

1) Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium will become the first Sony film mixed both for Dolby Atmos and for Barco’s rival Auro 11.1 format. Meanwhile, the British theater chain Vue said it is currently “testing” Atmos in its select Xtreme auditoriums, while Barco signed a 15-picture deal with DreamWorks Animation. The two companies are hoping that their products will coexist in theaters so as to avoid an all-out format war.

2) DreamWorks also announced a potentially controversial coproduction with its Shanghai based Oriental DreamWorks and the state-owned China Film Group to adapt the popular Tibet Code adventure novels for the big screen. Jeffrey Katzenberg, however, denies any political motivation behind the project. The Indiana Jones-esque films will begin production after King Fu Panda 3.

3) Quentin Tarrantino’s Django Unchained will get another chance at the Chinese box office after officials pulled the film from theaters within minutes of its initial release on April 11th. The film will re-open on May 12 with several sexual and violent images likely removed.

4) In streaming news, announced it will soon release a set-top box to compete with Roku and AppleTV. Netflix is adding the option for a single account to stream up to four videos at once.  The current limit is two simultaneous streams. Netflix also unveiled nine new posters for their upcoming season of Arrested Development.

5) NBC renews five of its dramas for next season, including Revolution and Grimm. Meanwhile once-popular shows like The Office and Fox’s American Idol hit all-time ratings lows this past week.

6) In cable news, CNN is in talks to add Stephanie Cutter and Newt Gingrich to its reboot of the network’s once-popular Crossfire debate show. CNN also topped Fox and MSNBC in the 25-54 demo during the Watertown manhunt on Friday.  However, Fox bested all of cable programming in total viewership during the week of the Boston bombing, edging out USA 2.87M to 2.62M.  CNN placed third with 1.99M and MSNBC placed 19th with only 923k.

7) Reddit general Manager Erik Martin admitted he deeply regrets how some of the Boston marathon discussions on his site “fueled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties.” Some media outlets have been critical of the way the website was handling the ongoing investigation, though others were more defensive of Reddit’s involvement.

8) In twitter news, the AP’s twitter feed was hacked with claims of two explosions at the White House, causing the Dow to see momentary drop of about 130 points. The Onion‘s twitter feed responded in form, and has had more than 1,000 re-tweets since its posting. None of this seemed to deter Former President Clinton from officially joining the social media site, nor from making the announcement on The Colbert Report.

9) Disney’s slated film adaptation of Stephen Sonheim’s Into the Woods is inching toward including Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp as leads. The company’s theme parks in Florida and California will also stay open for 24 hours on Friday, May 24th in order to offer visitors an all-nighter to celebrate the beginning of summer.

10) iTunes celebrates its 10-year anniversary, and though some journalists called the online music store an “instant revolution,” analysts suggest it is now losing significant market share to streaming services like Spotify.


Occupy TV? Thu, 13 Oct 2011 01:53:04 +0000 The first time I heard or saw anything about Occupy Wall Street was on Twitter.  This is not shocking, but it certainly is telling.  While one of TV’s selling points is its capacity to transmit events as they unfold, this tremendous technological privilege is not bestowed on all events equally.  Cable news fixated on the fate of Amanda Knox in an Italian court last week, but it averts its eyes from unjust executions of Mexican nationals in the Texas penal system.  This is not a new story, but it’s one that rears its head practically every day and never gets easier to process.

The “Occupy” movement that has taken hold in cities and towns across the United States was first ignored, then mistreated by some, revered by others, and, strangely, mocked by still others.  There has been some thoughtful reporting of the movement in corporate media, and I do not want to lump all coverage together. But when I think about how anti-war protesters were marginalized by cable news in 2003 and how the Tea Party protests were glamorized in 2009, I’m quite intrigued by the TV journey this movement has taken.  Three moments in the recent coverage stand out to me:

Fox News vs. Jesse LaGreca: In this interview (which actually did not air), a Fox News reporter listens to LaGreca’s eloquent defense of Occupy Wall Street, which includes a spirited critique of the news coverage.  The Fox News reporter then challenges La Greca and says, “…you wouldn’t be able to get your message out there without us.”  Sadly, LaGreca did not correct his interviewer.  How did Occupy Wall Street launch and organize, if not via social media?  TV news was late to the party but still wants to take credit for throwing it.

MSNBC takes to the streets: We all know that MSNBC has executed a few brand shifts over the years and has emerged from a confused adolescence into a focused adulthood.  The brand it has settled on is “to-the-left-of-CNN,” and some of its personalities reflect this more than others.  During the eight hours I’m in my office each weekday, I keep the TV on MSNBC, partly because I have no remote control for that TV.  So, when I see Dylan Ratigan participating in a secular call-and-response with NYC protesters, I scrunch my face a bit and wonder whether this cheerleading is productive.  I’m no believer in journalistic objectivity, but I’m also suspicious of news folks who insert themselves into the story.  With Glenn Beck it was demagoguery, but with Ratigan it feels like shameless self-promotion.  Which, in light of MSNBC’s recent promotional spots, fits in quite well with the network.

The Daily Show throws rotten fruit at the stage: First, I wish people would stop looking to Jon Stewart to be the voice of the young(ish) Left.  He isn’t truly happy with a rally unless he’s staging it on the National Mall and taking a firm stand against taking a firm stand.  And, at times, TDS goes out of its way to sever its ties with liberal causes.  Case in point: Samantha Bee framing a Occupy Wall St. segment in terms of potty breaks and bad hygiene.  Yes, we get it.  You can be as grouchy toward these protesters as you can be toward the Tea Partiers.  But without Bee’s charm, this is a Fox News story.

Aside from these moments, we see a lot of the same old material: violence-driven stories that point out the NYPD’s excessive force or dismissive stories that paint the protesters as a nuisance.  As I write, @Occupy_Boston is tweeting for reinforcements as Boston PD is threatening to remove the protesters from their campsite.  Impending police action was the main thrust of the local Boston news coverage of today’s largely student-led march.  These stories are all to be expected.  And while at one level I question the usefulness of much of this coverage, I know full well that I searched the sky fruitlessly for a news helicopter covering the Occupy Boston march I attended on October 8.  There was no news helicopter.  There was no aerial shot to capture the crowd of marchers descending on Newbury Street and befuddled Brooks Brothers shoppers.  There were many tweets and cell phone videos that could only fit a handful of protesters into the screen.  Even though television news often misses the figurative big picture, it’s the only outlet with the means to give us the symbolic value of the literal big picture.


Spaces of Speculation: How We Learned Osama Bin Laden Was Dead Mon, 02 May 2011 05:24:52 +0000 At around 10pm on the east coast on Sunday May 1st, 2011, news broke online that President Barack Obama would address the nation at 10:30pm. This news surprised the American public, but it also surprised the press: they had been told earlier in the day that there would be no more appearances by the President, which meant that most of the press corps were rushing back to the White House to report on…something.

That uncertainty became a fascinating exercise in media speculation, taking place within both traditional and social media outlets. While speculation is prevalent and even natural within social media, traditional media did everything within their power to avoid such speculation; this contrast played out in the television coverage of what was eventually revealed to be the death of Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by American forces in Pakistan.

On Twitter, speculation began immediately: as soon as the pending speech was announced, my Twitter stream – and I presume most Twitter streams – exploded with predictions on what the news might involve (which included both real speculation and discussion of aliens and zombies). Social networks like Twitter are built for this kind of uncertainty, able to offer a sense of community for an announcement that fostered both interest and concern during its early moments given its sudden nature.

By comparison, while networks like CNN and MSNBC went to live coverage of the events as soon as possible, their coverage actively resisted – or at least tried to resist – any form of speculation. I was tuned into MSNBC, and watched a fascinating dance with actual news reporting. The anchors consistently emphasized that they were not speculating, even as they participated in what to my mind was speculation (such as presuming it dealt with something overseas). On CNN, meanwhile, Wolf Blitzer said that he had his own educated opinion on what the announcement was about, but he refused to reveal it to the audience (resulting in much frustration among those livetweeting the CNN broadcast).

Of course, as MSNBC was “not speculating,” Twitter was alight with actual reporting: while the actual timeline is nearly impossible to pin down, reports that Osama Bin Laden had been killed and his body recovered began to break on Twitter around 10:30pm. Two early tweets came from two different sources: the earliest I’ve found was from Keith Urbahn, the chief of staff for Fmr. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who reported this news based on word from “a reputable person,” while the first media-related tweet came from CBS News Capitol Hill producer Jill Jackson based on word from a House Intelligence committee aide. These (and others) began to spread among other reporters and other news outlets, but only on Twitter.

On television, at least on MSNBC, the challenge of reporting in the digital age was on display for all to see. Mike Viqueira was live on the air trying to avoid saying anything concrete when he appeared to be handed a note, a note we presumed would include the news that we had learned ten minutes before on Twitter. However, while Viqueira initially suggested that he saw no reason not to announce this piece of news, others seemed to disagree: he was stopped in his tracks, silenced briefly while producers tried to decide how to proceed. About fifteen seconds later, they settled on revealing that the announcement would involve “a grave and serious CIA operation” – Viquiera then asked his off-screen producer if he could say it was overseas, as if the audience at home could not hear this question and learn this piece of information.

Viquiera was eventually replaced by David Gregory, who was authorized to reveal that the news involved Osama Bin Laden, but those early moments reflect the level of caution still prevalent within the media regarding Twitter and other forms of social media. I would normally applaud their caution, but there was something very strange about seeing my Twitter feed flooding with what seemed like fairly legitimate sources while MSNBC and CNN acted as if they still had no idea what was going on. And with the camera turned on Viquiera as he received that note, we saw a journalist weighing the nature of the source and the ethics of reporting it live on our television screens while other reporters were sharing this same information widely.

This evening was obviously more important than this brief moment of uncertainty: the real meaning was in President Obama’s speech, and the spontaneous gathering outside of the White House and at Ground Zero to celebrate this news, and the media discourse which emerged after confirmation was received. I am hopeful that other contributors will be offering analysis of these elements in the days ahead here at Antenna and elsewhere.

However, in this speculation we are able to see both the growing presence of social media and the traditional media’s tentative engagement with the form, as well as one of the first events of this magnitude that has taken place squarely within the Twitter era. While we will all likely remember where we were when we heard this historical news, for many the question of who we learned it from is somewhat less clear: while I learned about September 11th from a high school classmate as we walked to class after our lunch break, I learned about Osama Bin Laden’s death from an endless number of mostly anonymous individuals broadcasting news that was probably ten times removed from its original source.

It is likely much too early to properly historicize what impact Twitter might have had on how we experienced this piece of news, but it feels like an important and potentially ephemeral element of this historical moment.


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