NEWSPAPERS, VANITY FAIR AND WHAT A CENSORED INTERNET LOOKS LIKE

Greetings,

We interrupt this blog’s commentary on the XX Winter Olympics Games for a discussion on media topics.

Really, easy reading for a Saturday morning, yes?

THE FUTURE OF NEWSPAPERS: Salon has a terrific article on the future of newspapers (or the potential lack thereof) and the lack of readership among my age group. It’s looking at the issue exclusively from an American point of view, but there’s a trend emerging within newspaper markets throughout the Western world. Broadsheets like the Globe or Star are being read less and less by young folks but free commuter dailies (a mix of soft news, celebrity gossip and entertainment-driven pieces) are surging in growth along with web audiences for newspapers.

This isn’t exactly news. Broadsheets have been declining in readership for sometime now. I read newspapers like I drink water; it pretty much has to happen as often as possible for me to feel complete during the day.

I can’t really put my finger on why this is happening. You’d think in a post 9/11 world people would be seeking out as much information sources as possible; documentary films like Why We Fight (which, after the Olympics is over, I’m really looking forward to seeing), TV shows like The Daily Show and the many millions of blogs would be demonstrating a tangible need to know what’s going on.

I don’t buy the argument that “there’s no time” to read a newspaper. Please, I know the news is, like, “so down” and not very happy to read sometimes. I know it’s not a great way to start the day with new images of Abu Ghraib (Warning: these pictures are pretty horrible) as opposed to the latest ongoing of Brad and Angelina.

I think this is symptomatic of a larger problem in the West nowadays; the gradual disengagement of individuals from the premise of a civil society, or rather a shared dialogue amongst individuals in the public sphere. Newspapers run on the assumption that ideas can and should be shared among many people. Thing is though, digital technology is helping facilitate “egocasting” into the public sphere.

What I mean by this is take your average day in consuming media. For me, it starts out with CBC Radio in the morning. I’ll read the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star. I come online at work, run my RSS Reader that delivers me feeds from the BBC, Google News and the CBC. I’ll flick on the TV and go to CBC Newsworld, Pulse24 or CNN during the day as a TV is nearby. I’ll also listen to podcasts that specifically cater to my interests, like On The Media or Inside the Net. The point is: I’m creating my own culture of media that, while shared with some folks, isn’t a collective cultural focus. Not everyone listens to podcasts, not everyone uses an RSS Reader. I’m “egocasting” through reading, listening and watching content that feeds my beliefs and assumptions about the world. The Globe had a great piece on this a few weeks back during the federal election. This being said, I’m trying this year to do more to engage media with diverse viewpoints, including The Western Standard and the National Review.

-Salon.com

VANITY FAIR: Ok, ok. I picked up Tom Ford’s Hollywood issue for Vanity Fair. I really like Vanity Fair. It’s got some really great journalism in it and some decent stuff. Of course, there’s controversy over Tom Ford’s treatment of the annual Hollywood issue.

Rachel McAdams pulled out of the original trio of actresses on the front cover when she found out it would feature nudity. While sure, I’m not upset seeing Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightly on the front, you really have to go inside the issue to get a better sense of the controversy and why Ford’s approach seems, well, I’ll say it: misogynist.

Every single shot in the issue that features women (including the shots of male actors) has women in positions of being purely sexual objects (including the genuinely creepy shot of Jason Schwartzman and a woman’s naked bod, sans head) or naked without a real sense of context. Nudity isn’t a bad thing, far from it, but comments I keep hearing from many women make a lot of sense: the double standards of nudity in Ford’s spread seem strangely out of place for 2006.

GOOGLE CHINA: I’m not particularly thrilled with Google’s decision to go along with China’s authoritarian local laws. I know, respect national sovereignty. And Google has every right to pursue its business in the ultra-lucrative Chinese market (Baidu.com has to have some competition), but here’s a site that will show you what a censored internet looks like. The good folks at Citizen Lab in Toronto have set up a site on OpenNet.Net that compares search results on Google.cn with Google.com. Interesting stuff.

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