What I’ve Been Up To Lately.

It’s been a busy week at the office, which means it’s been a slow week here on the site. So I wanted to pass along links to a few things I’ve been doing lately.

This week, we launched a weekly NBA column. This was the first edition.

Also this week: my ‘Top 10 Costumes We Do NOT Want to See on Halloween.”

I’ve been working on a first for KENS 5: a comprehensive guide to the upcoming election.

And two original slideshows. One was my backstage tour of a local haunted house. The other, a companion piece to a story about a woman trapped on the ‘Mexican side’ of the border fence.

How Gnarls Barkley Predicted Today’s Journalism Crisis.

Back in 2006, two guys with fake names took over pop radio. One was named Cee-Lo Green; the other was named Danger Mouse. They toured in a band whose name combined California skater slang with a Hall of Fame NBA power forward. They went on stage wearing costumes from hit 80s movies. They were, somewhat strangely, a really big deal.

Now, this blog doesn’t usually stray to such subjects as the band Gnarls Barkley, but today, I’ll have to make an exception. I am writing this now because I believe I am on the cusp a profound discovery:

I believe Gnarls Barkley’s second album, “The Odd Couple,” is actually a concept album that explains the crisis facing journalism today. (1)

Does that make me crazy?

Specifically, I think the first four songs on “The Odd Couple” are worth analyzing. The first explains today’s media crisis. The second details the emotions of a reporter who’s facing the crisis and sees only layoffs. The third is the story of a brash young reporter who’s accepting the challenges of this brave new journalistic world. (2) The fourth offers a curt reminder to all journalists and consumers of news: the end of the printed age is near.

I’ll go through it song by song.

Track 1: ‘Charity Case’

This song opens “The Odd Couple,” and it does so with these ominous words repeated in hushed tones: “Give it away now. Give it away now” It’s essentially the media’s web strategy in lyric form.

The song keeps going in that vein. “I’m not doin’ so good,” Cee-Loo sings, as backup singers add, “I’m not yet with it/I’m still not well.” The New York Times’ Bill Keller echoed those remarks when announcing budget cuts at the paper on Monday.

The whole thing reads like a letter from a newspaper to its clients. “I’m bleeding, too/Are you needing me like I’m needing you,” Cee-Loo croons. And with ad sales and revenues dipping, it’s tough to disagree with the song’s assessment. Could we interest you in some micropayments?

Track 2: Who’s Gonna Save My Soul

This song echoes the sentiments of every reporter who’s been laid off or fears layoffs. Here’s the opening verse:

Oh, how could this be?
All this time, I’ve lived vicariously
Who’s gonna save my soul now?
Who’s gonna save my soul now?
How will my story ever be told now?
How will my story be told now?

How will it be told? Is anybody going to pay me to do this anymore? Those are the questions all of us are asking now that media outlets are laying off reporters and devoting fewer and fewer resources to news gathering. Preach it, Cee-Lo.

Track 3: Going On

This is the song that cued me into the hidden concept album behind “The Odd Couple.” (3) See, I’m trying to use these new mediums to tell better stories, even as the industry reacts at a glacial pace. But then Cee-Lo goes and sings something like:

The touch and feeling of free
Is untangible technically
Something you’ve got to believe in.

And there it is. Free isn’t a business model. This old model of journalism has been made irrelevant by today’s technology. And if you’re going to try it, you’ve got to believe in these new models.

Somehow, Cee-Lo just summed up journalism in 2009, all while wearing playing tambourine.

But it gets better:

Connect the cause and effect
One foot in front of the next
This is the start of a journey.
And my mind is already gone
And though there are other unknowns
Somehow, this doesn’t concern me.

Okay, so it might be too long to fit on an inspirational poster, but any journalist who’s out there trying to tell stories — even with little idea of where funding is going to come from — knows what Cee-Lo is talking about. “Going On” has one other thing spot on: this isn’t the end of journalism. It’s just the start of a new era in storytelling.

Then comes the kicker:

And you can stand right there if you want
But I’m going on.
And I’m prepared to go it alone.

Sounds about right for the multi-platform evangelists out there. And Cee-Lo even throws in a sarcastic line for those who cling to the old models of journalism: “I’m sure they’ll have a place for you, too.”

Track 4: Run (I’m a Natural Disaster)

Consider this word of warning to those who don’t believe the old ways of journalism are dying:

Yeah, I’m on the run
See where I’m coming from
When you see me coming, run
Before you see what I’m running from.
No time for question asking
Time is passing by.

Certainly, we’ve got no time to stop the presses. Report the news, then break the news: that’s our new distribution model. Plus, I like anyone who’ll be refreshing his/her web browser and TweetDeck in the morning instead of waiting for the paper to show up on the front step.

And just in case you didn’t get the message the first time:

Either you run right now
Or you best get ready to die

The Internet is here. Your revenues are drying up. Get on, or get out.

Next week on danoshinsky.com: what CBS News’ Andy Rooney and Ben Harper’s new backing band, Relentless7, can teach us about the process of editorial commentary.

  1. I am kidding, obviously. This album could also be misapplied and used to explain the 2009 St. Louis Rams football season or the Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. But historically speaking, my blog’s audience hasn’t been especially receptive to either of those subjects.
  2. Here’s to hoping those words do not appear on my autobiography’s jacket cover. This assumes, of course, that books — and book jackets — will actually be printed in the future.
  3. Also worth noting: I thought up this ‘concept album’ idea while running at the gym. The previous idea I had at the gym involved Gallagher, Lou Dobbs and Twitter. I do not know why my thoughts at the gym have become so quasi-delusional.

A Brief Word of Advice For Those About to Start Their First Job.

I’ve been gainfully employed for nearly four months, and I’m finally starting to understand a few truths about life inside a conglomerate. When you’re the new guy at a big company, the flowchart of power feels a little like one of those multi-piece Russian matryoshka dolls: you’d like to think you’re important, but if you were to peel away the layers, you’d find that you’re actually one of the tiny dolls hidden deep inside.

In my time at the office, I’ve learned a few things about the corporate life that seem pretty universal. So here are three pieces of advice for anyone about to start their first job in a new town:

1. Ask for a comfortable chair: Sure, it seems like an odd thing to do. And yes, it’s also a line out of “Jerry Maguire.” But if you’re starting life as a cubicle jockey, chances are you’ll be sitting more than you ever have in your life. Your chair might be the most important piece of furniture in your life.

2. Find a good mechanic: At some point, your car is going to break down. For me, the headlights on my car just stopped working a few weeks ago. And you do not want to go to a dealer to get the problem fixed. So if you’re moving to a new town, take a few minutes and find someone who won’t rip you off when your car breaks down. I’d recommend using the ‘Mechanic Files’ over at NPR’s “Car Talk” page. As an added benefit, this might just keep you sane when things go completely wrong.

3. When in doubt, ask: I’d worked at big companies before, but I’d never actually had to navigate a massive corporate bureaucracy before this job. So I’m learning that such places aren’t very good at keeping track of personnel. There’s a sign above the copier at work that speaks to this. “You may be essential,” it reads, “but that doesn’t mean you’re important.” It’s up to you to ask and to make sure that you don’t get lost in the bureaucracy.

A Thought About Lifestreaming

The chart above is from Steve Rubel’s blog, and I think it’s a monumentally important step in terms of defining the scope of all this new media. (1)

I’ll let Mr. Rubel explain what the chart means in terms of his blog:

How would you feel about a structure like this where I theme the content based on the day of the week? Monday we tackle models and/or mindmaps, Tuesday we talk trends, etc. I want to post more often and more creatively than just writing.

This gets to a thought that I’ve been working through for some months now. My blog has become much more targeted: I write about journalism, with a few anecdotes from my life thrown in. But my Twitter feed is all over the place. It’s essentially a link dump; I see an interesting article, and I post it to Twitter. The thing is, the links have no common theme, except for the fact that I find them interesting. So basically, I’ve got a Del.icio.us page that’s targeted to friends.

I know I’m not the only one with such a problem. Take the Twitter feed for the San Antonio daily newspaper, The Express-News. Follow @mysa on a day-to-day basis, and you’ll find that their tweets are very strange. One minute, they’re tweeting the daily pollen count. The next, they’ve got photos from a crime scene. And minutes later, they’ll have the lotto numbers, or the score of a high school football game, or maybe a column about tacos. Point is: I’ve followed them for months, and I have no idea why they tweet the way they do.

That’s a problem. If I follow you on Twitter or subscribe to an RSS feed of your blog, or even if I read/watch/listen to your media outlet’s news on a regular basis, I want to know the answer to two questions:

  1. What do you write/talk about?
  2. Why do you write/talk about it?

I like Rubel’s idea of defining days of the week, especially for new media that tends to span a variety of topics. It could be an interesting way to keep readers engaged.

As for my Twitter feed, I’d like it to be a bit more focused. The only question is: when I see a link or a topic that’s outside my scope, what should I do with it then?

  1. Which would include technology like: Tweeting, Facebooking, Flickring, texting, livestreaming, liveblogging, livechatting or any other verb that didn’t exist at the start of this millenium.

Dedication. Multitasking. Longhorns Football.

I’d like to take just a minute to discuss a word that, too often, gets misused and misapplied in the English language.

I’m talking, of course, about the word ‘dedication.’

It’s a word that gets associated with athletes and scholars and really anyone for whom hard work is a core value. But I’d like to suggest that dedication may simply involve any act in which the soul and the body unite for common purpose.

Naturally, I’d like to bring an anonymous University of Texas Longhorns fan forward as proof.

On Saturday, I was up in Austin for Day 2 of the Austin City Limits music festival. Between sets by the Levon Helm Band and Dave Matthews Band on the main stage, I found my way over to the stage where Austin-based band The Scabs were playing.

The Scabs are a pleasantly and refreshingly weird act. They’re fronted by singer Bob Schneider, who’s something of a legend in Austin. Nearly ever band he’s played in has become a local favorite, and The Scabs are no exception.

On Saturday, Schneider and Co. put on a show too obscene to be called quirky and too absurd to be underestimated. Their 45-minute set featured material that’s entirely unprintable in this forum. (On the set list: a tune inviting comparisons between oral sex and French explorer Jacques Cousteau, and a faux-death metal parody about shopping at H.E.B.) But the band kept the crowd rocking and laughing all at once, and that’s no easy feat.

But while Austin music fans were loving the joyfully bizarre set, I noticed one fan who was enjoying the music more than most. He kept bobbing his head and pumping his right fist in the air, even between songs. I didn’t understand why.

I assumed that — this being a massive music festival — some combination of alcohol and drugs were at work. (They were.) But then I got closer and found out what was really causing this man’s spontaneous celebrations. YouTubing the clip below is believing:

That, in the name of all things Merriam and Webster, is dedication. Skipping Austin City Limits was out of the question. Missing Miami’s 21-20 victory over Oklahoma wasn’t going to happen, either– and DVRing the game simply wouldn’t cut it. This fan had decided that it all had to be experienced live.

What this Longhorn fan found, I believe, is a remarkable testament to the pursuit of hedonism. He fused two outstanding passions — in this case: great music and college football rivalries — and found a way to multitask the many causes to which he dedicates his time.

As a lover of live music and a hater of opposing college sports teams, I must say: I was inspired. The bar has been set high for us all.