More staged media with the Governor Schwarzenegger

I know I’m late, but the long weekend swallowed up most of my political anger/impatience/responsiblity.

So, last Friday’s San Francisco Chronicle has this story of a completely, 100% staged media event featuring the Governor of California, who happens to be Arnold Schwarzenegger.

A work crew dug a pothole out of a San Jose street, and Arnold showed up later to fill it.

I am not making this up.

Apparently, there were no actual convenient REAL potholes to fill? Are you kidding me?

Anyway – Schwarzenegger’s press-riggers appear to have given the event the importance of, say, Bush’s Thanksgiving Trip to Iraq.Bush Turkey Iraq Action Figure

From the Chronicle:

“Media advisories for the morning San Jose event were not issued until two hours before it started, and — in an unusual move — reporters were not provided with a location, but told to assemble in a parking lot where directions were distributed.”

Apparently, all the stealth is an effort to avoid protesters. Heh.

For more on Gov. Arnold’s penchant for staging the news, check out this entry in SJSU Prof. Dennis Dunleavy’s blog.

Noticed via BoingBoing.

Writing old and new

Another new link on the sidebar: Other Writing, as in non-blogging.

For now, there’s a few assignments from the semester of grad school I just finished, including my first unpublished journalism and a few book critiques.

I also included one of my favorite things from my undergraduate years – an essay about the night I saw Dizzy Gillespie play. If you want a window into my 17-year old mind, that’s the one to read. (I’m 28 now, for those of you keeping score.)

Masthead Story

I’ve added a link under the About heading on the sidebar which will tell the story of the picture at the top of this page. I’ll update the story as I change the image. Enjoy.

A word on the new look

For the record: the WordPress theme at work here is Benevolence, by Theron Parlin.

I’ve changed the header graphic to a photo of my own, and soon I’ll add a link under the “About” heading that will tell the story of the header photo. I’ll try to keep the story updated as I cycle through different pictures from my travels and travails.

Other than that, most of the tweaking I’ve done has been inconsequential stuff in the sidebar, although I reserve the right to totally screw around with the way this site looks – but thanks to Theron for the cool theme.

For more WordPress themes, check out this page.

Welcome to my new site

If you’ve made it this far, thanks!

If you prefer to read things like this in a news aggregator of some sort, click here to do what you want with my feed. If you’re so inclined, scroll down and check out the subscription options in the bottom left corner of this page, where you can easily add this blog to Bloglines or My Yahoo.

So I moved my blog off of Blogsome, which is a free hosting service for WordPress blogs.

Why? A few reasons:

  • Their server had little unreliable periods where it would vanish for a day or two at a time, really putting a damper on the whole immediacy thing.
  • I wanted a little room to stretch my legs. I’ve got more control over what this blog looks like, and Ican update and change it quicker and easier. I’ll add a few more pages to this Web site soon, so that I don’t have to start another blog to post things I write for school, or a resume, or photographs.
  • This URL is way cooler.

Cool things about Blogsome:

  • It’s free.
  • They cheerily sent me everything I needed to move my blog to another server, with the notable exception of a working knowledge of how to mess with a mySQL database properly…more on this in a moment.
  • WordPress is cooler than Blogger, and easier for first-timers to get the hang of, with less messing around in the code.

Boring Technical Stuff That I Know Very Little About…

About that “How To Move Your Blog From Blogsome To Your Own Server” instruction book… well there isn’t one, really, but let me see if I can reconstruct a few crucial bits of the process:

  • First things first: contact someone at Blogsome and let them know you’re moving your blog and you’d like the relevant files. Go to the Blogsome Forums, register if you haven’t, and send a Private Message to rogerg or jamesf. They will most likely email you your mySQL database dumped into some sort of compressed file — James was rather nice about sending me this in a couple different forms. I ended up using mostly the individual .db files he sent (i.e. wp_ryansholin_posts.db).
  • These files – you need to make all the references to your Blogsome database (the “ryansholin” part) disappear. Make all of those look like “wp_posts” instead. Also look for any instances of your old URL and change it to your new one. I didn’t fully complete that process – there’s probably some posts that are linking to my old blog, but so be it.
  • Okay, so the wp_posts file you’ve got now may or may not be woefully devoid of actual content – pay attention here, this is where the instinct kicks in – find some other big database dump the guys sent you and find the part with the posts. Copy/paste that sucker in where it makes sense.
  • Here’s the fun part: this is how it worked with my files, whatever versions of WordPress I was switching between, or however things run on different servers – whatever – the point is, you gotta do the following thing: in all those pretty little files (i.e. wp_posts and wp_comments, etc.) there’s a line of code that says:
    “) ENGINE=MyISAM DEFAULT CHARSET=latin1;” REPLACE that bit with this: “) TYPE=MyISAM AUTO_INCREMENT=2 ;”

Your mileage may vary. For the rest of the *oh* so fun figuring out how to use your mySQL database thingie, check out the WordPress Codex bits on backing up/restoring your files – it will make sense at some point in the day when everything suddenly slides into place and you jump up yelling the expletive of your choice and the cat runs for cover. Or not. Good Luck.

Open Letter to J-School Class of 2005

Don’t worry, it’s not from me.

This essay by Greg Lindsay has been popping around the media blogosphere a little bit, and I think it’s time I throw down my reaction to it.

Of course, I’m not a graduate of J-School, I’m a graduate student in J-School, but what I am is a graduate of film school, and let me tell you, Mr. Lindsay – I’ve heard your schtick before.

Lindsay writes:

You thought you were buying a set of skills, credentials, and quality time with the placement office. And you did. But your professors also sold you a mindset, a worldview, an ideology—one in which newspapers are God’s work, bloggers are pagans, and your career trajectory is a long, steep, but ultimately meritocratic climb to a heavenly desk at The New York Times or 60 Minutes. Accepting any of this as gospel truth will almost certainly cause permanent damage to your budding careers.

Bitter much? Have something against Journalism Profs? It’s craft school, of course, and they are teaching the craft of journalism, the last time I checked, not How To Save The World 101. If you were anything close to aware of the issues J-Schools are actually dealing with right now, you’d notice that Profs and students are both blogging, that they’re writing articles about blogs and talking about them at conferences; J-Schoolers are aware that the world changes, Greg. The only ideology I see getting taught is “Get It Right.”


To have made it this far, you’ve had to inhale the usual bromides like “the reporter’s job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”—a noble sentiment that overlooks the fact that anyone who can spend $30,000 on j-school should be considered ‘comfortable.’

Ah, the always-noble attack on the people who can afford an education – wait a minute – I am enrolled in a state school, and have worked my ass off to get scholarships, grants, and loans which take care of most of what it costs. Can it be that the anti-elitist Lindsay only considers Columbia and Northwestern as real J-Schools?

Later, he goes to to stress how the connections a few gentlemen made at Harvard trumped the knowledge any journalism school would have given them. Hey Greg, what does Harvard cost?

On the positive side, Greg does point to Bourdieu’s On Television, although he hijacks Bourdieu into a discussion about office politics. Ladies and gentlemen, when was the last time ANY school taught you DIRECTLY about how to move up the social ladder of a business? Welcome to the real world, Mr. Lindsay, where we figure that one out for ourselves. No Professor I’ve taken a class with at any level (yes, even in Film School) wastes their time with the lesson on “How To Get What You Want Out Of Other People.” You learn that just by working with each other on newspapers, films, presentations, or through the class discussion. That experience comes independently of any lesson plan.

The most important thing Lindsay encourages J-School grads to do? Read Romenesko. I’ll second that.

For more reaction to Lindsay’s letter, check out the letters to the editor at Mediabistro.

Also: Alternet, Mark on Media, Maverick Writer, Gawker

Cue Disclaimer.

Free Kodak

kodak brownie Larry Lessig‘s book Free Culture has been sitting on my bedside shelf for a few months now – I don’t read right before bed much, and if I do, it’s usually from one of the talismans I keep in the same pile: Siddhartha, The Little Prince, Borges

But a few nights ago I spotted a passage early in the Lessig book that sounded like a familiar argument. Lessig writes of the social impact that the first easy-for-everyone snapshot cameras had:

“…the Kodak camera and film were technologies of expression. The pencil or paintbrush was also a technology of expression, of course. But it took years of training before they could be deployed by amateurs in any useful or effective way. With the Kodak, expression was possible much sooner and more simply. The barrier to expression was lowered. Snobs would sneer at its “quality”; professionals would discount it as irrelevant. But watch a child study how best to frame a picture and you get a sense of the experience of creativity that the Kodak enabled. Democratic tools gave ordinary people a way to express themselves more easily than any tools could have before. [my emphasis]

What’s the next “democratic tool” that will put the means of communication in the hands of those who previously faced more barriers to self-expression?

Why is it that only marketers know how to get a message across?

Every time I find someone who really gets story structure, or how to sell a story to the public, it’s a Marketing type.

Seth Godin gets it.

In his Placebo Affect post, (yes, that’s Affect with an A – it’s the cause and not the effect, eh?) Seth tells his fellow Marketers/PR pros:

“We don’t like to admit that we tell stories, that we’re in the placebo business. Instead, we tell ourselves about features and benefits as a way to rationalize our desire to to help our customers by allowing them to lie to themselves.”

Of course, that’s not the sort of thing we do in Journalism.


How does Journalism (with a capital J) clothe information in expert analysis or quotes from witnesses to try and get a story across? Is the authority of a certain brand of newspaper real, or just a placebo fed to the reader by a historical context and a familiar font?

At what point does the attempt to create an authoritative and credible voice cross over into spectacle?

Should Journalists be the Marketers of Truth?