The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, January 26, 2004

The radio blog-fest - comments

Before dozing off, I caught the first half an hour or so of the Minnesota Public Radio [1] show on The Blogging of the President.

Firstly, it struck me how essentially low-octane radio is; a serial medium, like magnetic tape, with the corresponding need to go through the whole thing to get all the goodness. Which is fine if you're doing something else (driving, cooking), only have half a mind to give to the programme, and therefore need the content to come out slow, and repeated, so you don't miss anything.

Whereas with net content in text form, it often takes barely a second to get enough information to decide whether to read or zap. Judging a book by its cover - by looking at the title page, flipping through - is such an essential quality control tool for print product, that, to a large extent, is mimicked with net text.

Second, of radio styles, the one used for the MPR show is usually one of the lowest-octane of all: the barely structured chat with guests plus phone-in. Occasionally, by some good chance, you'll strike gold. But not last night.

The title was - I hadn't picked it - a play on Theodore White's The Making of a President.

And the first guest was some guy who'd written JFK and Nixon bios, who was there to compare and contrast political communication then and now. It sort of got started but pretty much trickled away into the sand.

Which is a pity, because I think there's a genuine history to be done on the subject in which I, for one, would be seriously interested. The problem is, a genuine history takes time to put together. And a lot of moolah. And radio is done the way of the MPR show because it doesn't take much moolah.

(These built programmes are under threat at the BBC, too. Anything which avoids time in the editing suite is at a premium.)

Third, Joshua Micah Marshall, of Talking Points Memo fame, replying to complaints about the quality control of blogs, said something to the effect that his blog was edited: he edited it himself! Of course, there may have been a Rummy smirk there - but I got the feeling he was being serious.

A lawyer who represents himself, they say, has a fool for a client. And self-editing is just as precarious an activity - speaking from considerable experience! The fact that the general standard of editing in the Big Media is, on the whole, so bad gives the amateur a modicum of comfort.

But let's not pretend that good editing doesn't add vastly to the quality of any text.

  1. Way back around 1990, the BBC ran one or two link-ups with foreign radio stations; MPR was one - some special programmes, but a fair amount of eavesdropping on shows intended for the local audience. The first time I'd heard American radio, other than playing in the background in TV shows, or coming and going on short wave. Very weird the differential intimacy (compared with TV and movies) of FM radio with American voices.

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