Category Archives: Rosenblum

Travel Channel Academy – DC

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Tune in Tonight!

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I am going to be a guest again on Curtis Sliwa’s show on ABC talk radio tonight at 11:20 pm.

Take that, Jeff Jarvis!  You may be invited to speak at Davos, but I am on Curtis!

Back To DC

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Up from Atlanta…

We left Nevis with plenty of time.

You have to take a boat from Nevis to St. Kitts, which is where the airport is.  The country is made up of two islands, Nevis and St. Kitts.  As I say, we left Nevis with plenty of time, and even though the boat to St. Kitts was a half hour late in leaving, we still had plenty of time.

Then, shortly after we left port, the boat turned around. We were going back to Nevis. It was Sunday, and a church group, all dressed in their Sunday best had missed the boat. So we were going back.

Now time started to get tight, but in the Caribbean, no one gets too upset.

“It’s the Islands, mon”.

Fair enough.

We drove as fast as we could to the airport, and were there an hour before departure.

Actually, not an hour, but rather 58 minutes.

“The flight is closed”, said the guy behind the American Airlines desk.

“You’re kidding”, I said, tapping my watch.  We’ve got an hour to go.

“No mon”, he said, “58 minute. You are two minutes late. The gate is closed”.

“Tell them they have to come back tomorrow” said some woman behind the desk, in a lovely lilting Caribbean accent.

“Tomorrow mon” said the guy at the desk.

I stared in disbelief. Suddenly, St. Kitts and Nevis had become Switzerland.

“It’s not possible”, I said. “It’s only two minutes!”

“Two minutes is two minutes mon” said my new friend.

The prospect of spending another day on St. Kitts was not all that terrible, except we had to be in DC at 9am the following morning. We were starting a VJ course for 40 Travel Channel employees. They, like everyone in the company, are passing through the bootcamp.  And many of them were coming in from Travel Channel offices in Atlanta.

So we booked on the only other flight out of St Kitts, to NY, and then grabbed the last flight from NY to DC.

Made it.

And today, we start an intensive in-house bootcamp for yet another tranche of Travel Channel staff.

We’ll keep you posted.

The Hamas Show

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Is the caller there?

The juxtaposition of two seemingly very disparate articles in the newspaper this morning provide a window into where the whole TV news business is headed.

First, there is a massive controversy building in the UK today over The BBC’s refusal to air a charity appeal to help the stricken people of Gaza.

The Corporation’s Director General was on BBC radio this morning (which we can get via the web), to defend his rather isolate position.  ITV and Channel4 are both carrying the appeal progrm, which is being produced jointly by 13 British charities.  The BBC feels that carrying the show will taint their ability to cover news in the region objectively.

It’s a difficult position for the BBC’s DG Mark Thompson to take, but an understandable one.  The charity appeal will doubtless contain endless heart rending scenes of children maimed for life by the Israeli incursion.  The Guardian itself carries such a heart-rending article on pages 8-9 titles ‘Among Gaza’s Craters Lie Those Who Need That Aid”.

Objective? Well, that’s certainlyl arguable.

Shocking, riveting and revolting, absolutely.  Gaza is a terrible place, particularly now.

The curious juxtaposition is an article in The New York Times today, explaining that Obama is going to circumvent conventional news outlets and TV networks to use video to go directly to the people.  Instead of the traditional weekly radio broadcast, used by US Presidents since Roosevelt, Obama is going to blog and upload his videos to Youtube, as well as whitehouse.gov.

His first vlog apparently was seen by more than 1 million people, which I will venture to guess is a far greater number than those who have heard Bush on his weekly radio broadcasts.

There are also now close to 250,000 people following Obama on Twitter!

What does Obama on Twitter and Youtube have to do with Gaza?

OK

The reason that The BBC, (and now SKY also, apparently, as of a few minutes ago) will not carry the Gaza Charity Appeal is that the images are just too disturbing. They will be a PR disaster for the Israelis, no matter how much the broadcast is couched in ‘charity’ clothing; no matter how valid that couching.

Obama has decided that he can now bypass the traditional media and use video and the web to go directly to the people.

Which he can.

And if Obama can bypass the traditional media, then so too can Hamas.

Or anyone else.

If the images from Gaza are so powerful that The BBC is afraid to show them, then good.

All the more reason that Hamas can and should bypass conventional media.

They have a powerful story to deliver, but they don’t need The BBC or Sky or CNN or anyone else to get it out to the world.

This is a sea-change in the relationship between subjects of stories and the old media.

For more than 20 years, to use Gaza as an example, the living conditions in Gaza have been just apalling. Terrible. Criminal.

Yet there has been virtually  no media coverage what day to day life is like in Gaza.

And having this terrible life inflicted on the inhabitants of Gaza makes them angry.  Very angry. So they strap explosives onto themselves and walk into Israeli cafes, or they lob rockets into Israel.

They don’t do this because they want to destroy Israelis cafes, nor do they do this because they believe that their rockets will bring Israel to its knees.

They don’t.

And they won’t.

But they do know that enough suicide bombers or lobbed rockets will bring in the crew from CNN or The BBC to do a news story.

They are ‘making’ the news.

But now, if they are smart, (and I have no indication that they are), Hamas can bypass the rockets and the suicide bombers and CNN and use video as a tool to make their case to the world. Directly.

Just like President Obama.

Gandhi didn’t organzie nonviolent resistance in India to protest the salt tax per se. He did it because he knew that the British police would beat the unarmed Indian protestors, and that the public knowledge of that unarmed beating would, in the end, shame the British into leaving.

Hamas, if they are smart (and again, I don’t think they are), could use video to shame the Israelis publicly.  But they won’t, even though Israel, like Britain, is a nation that is uniquely vulnerable to public shame.

Mao used to say that power flowed from the end of a rifle.

Today it flows from the end of a video camera.

If you know how to use it.

Good Enough

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Mrs. Rosenblum addresses the class at CUNY.

Sunday was a crummy day in New York, so we stayed home.

I spent most of the day trying to work on my book, but its hard to maintain focus and my mind drifted.  As the aphorism goes, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”.

Having hit the 100 mark and maxed out at 108 on Freecell, I drifted over the Medialine.

My wife always tells me to stop wasting my time on places like Medialine.  “It’s pointless”.  She is probably right.

Against her good advice, I found myself drawn into an online discussion about the TV business which soon hinged on the definition of ‘good enough’.  As in, I think that the product produced by the small cameras is good enough for local news.

I won’t repeat the long and twisting line of discussion. You can read that for yourself if you are so inclined.

Today we are starting a course we are teaching at CUNY, the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.  It comes at a propitious time with respect to the discussion of what is ‘good enough’.

A few years ago, when I was teaching at NYU, one of my students came to me, extremely upset that she had received on an A- on an exam.

She could not understand why. Why didn’t I give her an A. She had answered the essay question perfectly. She had, in fact, fed back to me all the readings and all the notes from the class lecture. It was fine.  I

How come I didn’t get an A? she asked.

This was a student under enormous pressure from home to get all As all the time.

I explained that while her essay wise fine, it was good enough, it also didn’t show any flashes of creative brilliance. It was workmanlike and fine. Good, but not brilliant.  Adequate.

This, she like the folks at Medialine, found enormously upsetting.

We live in a world where, as Garrison Keilor says of Lake Woebegone, all the children are above average.

Most people are not.  Most products are not.  They are adequate for what they are supposed to do, and we can’t ask for more. In fact, we expect good enough.

When I fly Virgin to London, I am content that the plane is on time, the plane is clean and the meals are good and the entertainment system works.  Good enough. I don’t expect the plane to arrive in 3 hours instead of 6.  I am more than content to have it perform as it is supposed to.  If only Time/Warner were so good enough!

In any event, after much heated debate with the student at NYU (much like the contributors at Medialine.com), I said to her:

OK. If you think that this is the very best thing you will ever write… if you really believe that you are incapable of ever doing anything that will ever surpass this, and you are willing to put that in writing for me  that ‘this is the best work I will ever do’, then I will give you an A”

She paused and stared at me: “OK she said. You win.”

Today our students from CUNY are going out on the streets of New York to shoot their first pieces.

I should be so lucky that all of them come back with something that is good enough.

In Gaza

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Gaza bound…

Normally, I don’t write about politics or current events, but today I am going to make an exception.

For Gaza.

A long time ago, when I was 21, I went to Israel. Following the ususal American Jew goes to Israel itinerary,  I did the rounds of Tel Aviv, the kibbutz work, Jerusalem and Masada. In those days, the Israelis still held Sinai, so like many others, I washed up on the beach in Dahab, halfway down the Sinai, on the Red Sea.

Dahab was a hippie crashpad, like Goa in India. Sun, sand, drugs and sex. It was lots of fun. I stayed for a month.

Then, one evening, I got into a debate with a guy from the Peace Corps who was on R&R from Malawi.  We had one of those heated college dorm discussions about Palestinians.  Having grown up on Long Island where everyone I met was Jewish, I gave the standard holocaust laden response ‘Israel must live!’

He stared at me and then he said, “your problem is you never met a Palestinian in your life. You should go to Gaza”.  (This was 1977).

So I went.

It was not easy to get to Gaza, even in 1977. The woman at the Israeli Tourist Board in Tel Aviv wanted to send me to a kibbutz instead.  I told her I wanted to go to Gaza. She said it just was not possible.

So I went to the Israeli city of Ashkelon and outside a cement factory found a group of Palestinian workers who commuted from Gaza to Israel daily. They offered me a ride into Gaza, so I went.

Deposited on the streets of Gaza City, I must have appeared lost and out of place, so someone took me to the home of Alia Shawwa, the Grande Dame of Gaza.  She asked me what I was doing there, and I explained that I wanted to see what life was like in Gaza.  I spent three days as a guest in her home and then she placed me with a family in Gaza Beach Camp, one of the refugee camps in the strip.  I stayed there for a month, living with a family.

Years later, when I quit my job at CBS News and took off with a small video camera to make my own stuff, I went back to Gaza to see Alia Shawwa.  Conditions had gotten far worse. It was 1988, and the height of the Second Intifada. Again, she placed me with a family, and I spent a month in Jabalya Refugee Camp, living with a family again.  This story I shot and sold to MacNeil/Lehrer.

The conditions in Gaza even then, even in 1977, were brutal.

Whole families crowded into one or two tiny rooms.  Open sewers everywhere.  Garbage in the streets. Children playing in trash heaps.  With 80% unemployment, you can imagine the poverty.  In those days, the Israelis still held Gaza, and there were a number of ‘settlements’ on the strip.  A tiny handful of Israelis held 25% of the best land. I went to see them.  They had built resorts no one came to on the beach. Swimming pools, tennis courts, restaurants that sat empty.  All surrounded by razor wire and the Israeli army on patrol.  It was beyond surreal. It was revolting.

It was not easy to get to the Israeli settlements from Gaza City. No Palestinian taxi driver wanted to take me, no matter how much I paid.

Finally, I cajoled one driver to make the trip.  When we arrived at the ‘settlement’, armed guards swooped down on us.  I flashed my American passport and my Jewish name got me a big welcome.  They opened the gates.  When I glanced back, the settlement guards were beating the crap out of my driver.

“What are you doing?” I said. “He’s my driver”.

“You don’t understand”, they explained to me, and led me inside.

Now the Israelis have invaded Gaza in response to Hamas’ firing missiles into Israel.

Nothing has changed. Things have only gotten worse.

There are now 1.2 million Palestinians crowded into this tiny cesspool that is called Gaza. They live hopeless lives.  They live in conditions that are appalling.  Were I born in Gaza, were my children growing up in Gaza, with no hope at all, I too would support Hamas, or worse.  Why not? So would you. So would anyone.

The Palestinians are not going away.

And the Israelis are not going away.

There is a wonderful poem by WH Auden called September, 1939

While it was not written about the Israeli/Palestinian crisis, it captures it so well:

Now I and the public know

what all schoolchildren learn.

Those to whom evil is done

do evil in return.


The Power of Viral

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Guardian Angel

It was an eye-opening education in the viral power of the ‘new media’

Yesterday, after a fairly long hiatus, I picked up on my blog.

I had been turning over a lot of ideas in my week of downtime, and spent a fair amout of time reading.

One book I have been captured by is Children of the Light, by Everett S. Allen, a fairly complete history of the New England whaling town of New Bedford, Mass  The ‘light’ in this case is the light from whale oil lit lamps.

But yesterday, I posted about the execution of Charles I of England, and the subsequent restoration of the Monarchy as short dozen years later.  It was the search for stability, something I think we all are starting to feel in the collapse of the newspaper industry.

Not more than two hours after I posted, I recieved a call from Frank Morano, who produces Curtis Sliwa on WABC talk radio.  Could I come on Sliwa’s show and talk about the idea, “King of News”.

Well sure.  Why not?

Coming on Sliwa’s show was simple. I didn’t have to go to a studio. All I had to do to participate was talk on my phone from home.

It was simple.

Then, shortly after I got off the phone with Sliwa’s show, the phone rang. It was a producer for a radio talk show in Boston. Could I do a show this afternoon?  Why not?

When television came along it crushed radio. But radio responded. And it responded by becoming the first interactive medium. Radio call-in shows.  They were fast and cheap and highly interactive. Something TV could not do without enormous cost. I mean, look how fast they can turn these ‘shows’ around, and look how easy it is to make them work technically.

All I have to do is answer the phone at home.

It makes me wonder if you could not do the same thing for TV talk shows. I mean, webcams are pretty good and so is online video transmission.  (I video skype all the time).  Instead of flying people to the studio, couldn’t you do TV call in shows, like talk radio (which has some pretty astonishing ratings and pretty astonishing low cost of production) with webcams?

Oprah? Are you reading this?

OK.

Maury?