Sunday, December 5, 2010

An Apology

I'd like to apologize. If at any time I have been rude, judgmental, or just plain snarky in this blog, and you took offense, please accept my apology. You, the reader, are not meant to be the target of my cynicism.

This blog has two main functions: to serve as an exercise in writing, and to entertain and inform readers of matters pertaining to mass media culture by way of someone who works within it - albeit on a relatively small scale. Yeah, I'm harsh when it comes to criticizing those in managerial positions in the media because I feel they've got it coming. Radio, television, and so many other branches of mass media and entertainment are essentially run by salespeople, and many of these people only look at their chosen profession as an advertising delivery system and forget about or pay little attention to the end user, the audience, who actually make it possible for their companies to make sales goals. I target these alleged professionals, not the lay person who is the intended general audience of this blog.

Why do I feel compelled to apologize? Well, let's just say that recently I've been on the receiving end of some Internet snark via certain on line forums related to one of my hobbies, vintage watch collecting. This is an arcane pursuit - sort of like Jay Leno collecting cars - and in reality I don't really need any one's approval of anything in my collection. But it can be helpful to commune with fellow collectors. Lately I've found that some posters on the forums don't really appreciate my contributions. So, I'm backing out of those forums... at least for a while. I can enjoy my hobby without a heaping plate full of snark. And in the cold light of reflection, it occurs to me that the pendulum swings both ways, and maybe this is karma kicking me in the pants.

Once upon a time, we lived in a mass media world that used "Input Only" technology. You turned on a receiver, and you took in the message. Any response you had to that message was limited by the technology being one-way in nature. You could laugh at a joke on "The Tonight Show," but you couldn't instantly tell Johnny you liked tonight's Carnac bit. That's one of the reasons TV shows used a studio audience: the performers needed instant feedback from somebody to tell them the show was going over well... or not.

And then we started trying out a two-way model for mass media - namely, talk radio. When I started in radio in the 1980's we were working in the prehistoric era of Anger. People called in to talk shows to complain, but in reality the goal was for the host to pick a fight. The host was the angry white guy, mad as hell and not taking any more. We used our primitive telephone technology to release the Anger... mostly back at the audience. The gatekeepers were doing the bitching, and in the case of Rush and Beck they still are, but they don't pick fights with the audience these days. The phone lines are screened. The agenda is locked in. We the audience can participate, but on a limited basis. Talk radio, for all its bluster, is still pretty much an "Input Only" medium: host talks, you listen. This is the world in which I am familiar.

Then along came the Internet. And with it came the Age of "Output." Everybody is an expert; everybody is an authority. I can blog, Twitter, FaceBook, text, and email almost anything I want out to you, while at the same time you can return the fire. And we don't have to listen to each other if we don't want to. In other words, I can "Output" all day, every day, and never bother to invoke the "Input" side of the equation. (Technically, this blog is not a push medium, but chances are if you're reading it, it's because I pushed a posting to you via FaceBook. I sent "Output" to tell you I've created even more "Output.")

The thing is, as any married guy will tell you, in real life the "Output Only" mode doesn't really work... at least not if you want to stay married. My wife has some "Output" of her own to share, and she'd appreciate it if I would shut up for a minute and listen to her. The same is true in the workplace. I know I've exercised my "Output" at work. We all do. But there's a point where I need to switch over to the "Input" mode if I'm going to get anything accomplished. You probably know a few people at work who have the "Output" part down pat, but really need to switch over to the "Input" mode more often before the boss does some "Outputting" of his own.

As for me being an expert, well, if you think I'm wrong about something, post a comment below. I'll switch over to "Input" and wait at least a day before I tell you you're wrong. That's a joke. I'm only kidding. See the smiley. :)

And Furthermore...

I got some suggestions via FaceBook for more "How To" postings... one of them from my boss. Look for those in the coming weeks, but probably after the holidays.

Got an email from Cathy who wants to know why, why can't the networks run classic animated Christmas specials such as Rudolph WITHOUT overlaying promos (snipes) during the show for upcoming programming that is not suitable for children? My answer: I don't know, Cathy. I just don't know. Maybe the Bumble oughta bounce some network execs off a cliff.