April 29, 2004

Would you pay for WILL content on the web? 

I wouldn't. By saying that I know I am drawing a line in the sand. So if I change my mind down the road, please call me on it. I will have changed. And that's what some people, even in public broadcasting, say I should do. But I won't. Here's why: We broadcast news, public affairs interviews, and cultural productions that allow you to learn, grow, and participate meaningfully in a healthy democratic society. On the web it's the same mission. And in fact the web is more powerful than broadcasting in that you can timeshift and search it any way you need to. It's the ultimate media device, or at least it could be. We should try to help it realize that potential. If we put up gates and make you pay, we've taken a public thoroughfare and blocked it with tollbooths. You can be a citizen if you can pay the toll. Next thing you know we have a culture of information haves and have-nots, of the privileged and the disadvantaged, a system which perpetuates itself by reinforcing the factors that drive advantage and failure. Oops, too late, we already have that. So I think we have to make a concerted effort, maybe even a herculean one, to break down the barriers to participation and success. It's called education, and it's what public broadcasting should be doing on the web. We should make it universal, and that means no toll booths. So here's a brief rant with few details about why I'm writing it now. More later.

April 22, 2004

Chiefs and Chefs 

Pro Chief Illiniwek rally at Swanlund Admin Building As promised, Exhibit B, in which pro-Chief Illiniwek activists rally at the Swanlund Administration Building to demonstrate overwhelming support... OK, finals are just around the corner, and after all it was raining. The WILLblog newscam got a little soggy, but I resisted the call of those cheeseburgers lest I be co-opted to this or any other cause. This gentleman wasn't carrying any kind of sign, for or against anything, but he appeared to be enjoying his burger. Maybe there's a lesson there? Meanwhile, Students For Chief Illiniwek set up this spot to feed the masses and "honor the campus administrators" according to a spokesperson. Students for Chief Illiniwek at Swanlund Admin Building They were not happy about a couple of Native Americans stopping by with protest signs, but kept busy looking for university executives to feed. I would like to point out one very overlooked little web production, the statements of every single speaker at the April 14th, 2000 Chief Dialogue Intake Session, held at Foellinger Auditorium. It's unlikely most of the current membership of Students for Chief Illiniwek was even around then, so we provide this archive lest we have to repeat the whole thing every four years. I'm not sure we'll learn anything from it we don't already know, but on with the dialogue. In any event, those cheeseburgers sure smelled good.

April 21, 2004

The Chief Illiniwek Dance Continues 

The political two-step, that is. Exhibit A, this photo shows anti-Chief protesters blockading the University of Illinois Swanlund Admin Building last week. They held out for two days before our outgoing Chancellor Nancy Cantor (outgoing in two senses of the word) negotiated a way out of this particular impasse. Meanwhile, U of I Board of Trustees Chair Lawrence Eppley says he wants a review of campus security policies in the wake of this latest unauthorized student occupation. It's happened before, but this time it involves the Chief, and Board sensitivities are running high to say the least. Chairman Eppley has recently said he doesn't want to vote on retiring or keeping Chief Illiniwek, but instead wants more dialogue. We can hardly disagree with more dialogue under any circumstances, but we should also point out the University has already spent somewhere between $600,000 and $1 million (depends who's counting) on the Chief dialogue, and that's just for the lawyers. And by the way, you can dialogue with the dialogue on our Chief Illiniwek web feature, which has archives and links to just about everything that money paid for. Exhibit B will be presented tomorrow, when pro-Chief activists occupy the same space. Except they say they'll feed the administrators hamburgers instead of locking them out of their own building. The WILLblog newscam will document that occasion as well

April 20, 2004

Senate Politic$ in the Media 

Big campaign spending may or may not elect candidates, but it sure helps local television stations. Consider this picture: the three major network affiliates in Champaign took in more than $1 million from just the candidates in the U.S. Senate primary. (Thanks to Phil Bloomer of the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette for pointing this out.) TV stations in Chicago got almost $9 million from the candidates in the month leading up to the Illinois Primary. Nice work if you can get it. No wonder the National Association of Broadcasters is the leading voice in Washington against campaign finance reform. These and other lovely stats on political spending in Illinois can be enjoyed at the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform site. Did Blair Hull really spend almost $30 million in the Senate Primary race? And lost? Looks like the Democratic Primary winner, Barack Obama, spent only about an eighth of that. Maybe there's hope for democracy yet. As a public broadcasting station WILL can't exactly bill candidates for air time. In fact we give it away by the truckload. Then we go on the air and ask you to support us with your dollars. And you're not even running for office! Well maybe that's not a good business plan. On the other hand, we don't think access to the voters should go to the highest bidder.

April 16, 2004

The Ninth Letter: literature lives 

"Ninth Letter is a publication that rejects the notion that literature is an isolated mode of expression," says the manifesto of the new publication at the University of Illinois. Sounds great to us at WILLblog. We love expression, and reject isolation on principle. You couldn't do much better with an inaugural issue than getting contributions by Yann Martel, Dave Eggers, Robert Olen Butler, Carol Frost, Marjorie Sandor... now I gotta subscribe to this thing. So it's thumbs up from WILLblog for Ninth Letter, along with a quick pointer to the audio archive of today's Afternoon Magazine interview with three of its editors.

April 15, 2004

Google Ubiquity 

Seems like everyone in the media is doing stories about Google. Wired did a nice set of pieces, including a look at how various designers would redo the Google front page. I especially liked Edward Tufte's Google makeover: he'd leave it alone. NPR has been running a series about Google this week, and put together a pretty deep feature on the NPR web site. Nice photo gallery on Google Culture. I want to work there! Do they pay too?

April 14, 2004

PBS/NPR Coverage of the April 13th Press Conference by the Pres 

President Bush gave a press conference last night focused largely on the dangerous situation in Iraq, and on his response to the 9-11 Commission. It was, shall we say, very interesting...and that's all the analysis I'll add for now. In case you missed it, streaming archives are available on both the NPR News site, and the PBS Online NewsHour site. No takers yet on my "guess the missing word in the August 6th PDB" post from yesterday. Was the question too subtle, or perhaps too obvious to bother answering? I hope you'll let me know.

April 13, 2004

The missing word in the August 6th PDB 

Finger-pointing in Washington? What a surprise. The 9-11 Commission has functioned amazingly well, non-partisanshipwise. But now the usual sources of spin are heating up the rhetoric over missed clues and misplaced priorities leading up to the tragedy of 9-11. Should someone now be blamed and pilloried? Senator Pat Roberts makes a good point that the blame should go to the highjackers who committed the atrocity. It's probably true that no-one in the U.S. government could have prevented it, and that hindsight is always 20-20. So the debate on the August 6th, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing has focused on the merits of blaming someone vs. the hindsight truism. That's all pretty much to be expected. You might want to read the August 6th PDB (in PDF format from the NPR site). Interestingly, no-one has mentioned that a certain word doesn't appear anywhere in the document. I'll buy you a latte if you correctly identify that word.

April 12, 2004

Tornado Safety with Ed Kieser 

Tornados are best admired from afar, or better yet on the big screen. Ed Kieser has been doing this thing called Tornado Safety with Ed Kieser since 1991. The videos he presents are pretty impressive, along with scientific facts about tornadic conditions, and the stories of human drama they inspire. There's comedy, tragedy, the works. Ed is a rock star meteorologist: he puts on a good show. So it's sad this may be the last year of his famous tornado safety seminar. If you're in Champaign-Urbana tomorrow night at 7 pm, you can catch it at the Beckman Institute.

April 09, 2004

NPR : The Sept. 11 Hearings 

I was going to post recordings of the 9-11 Commission hearings on our site, but just noticed NPR already has them (duh). We did put up a link to yesterday's testimony by Condaleeza Rice, since it was captured by our automation system. For the rest, see the NPR 911 Hearings page.

April 07, 2004

Public Commentary on WILL 

In these days of hype about the promise of interactive media, it continues to strike me that most of us remain passive recipients. The Big Broadcasting model has us sitting on our couches, vacantly consuming the output of the latest video device we can afford from the big box store. (Me, I still like my cheap radio, so call me a McLuhddite if you want.) I do believe in the power of the web and other interactive media, just not the version handed down from the high echelons of corporate integration. I think if you want the audience to contribute to the content, you can't so tightly control the message. And as my pal Marshall says, "the medium is the message..." The medium in this example is a commentary by Randall Cotten of the Champaign-Urbana group AWARE (the Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort) on the issue of weapons of mass destruction and the justification for the Iraq invasion. You can listen to it in RealAudio here. My only point here is someone bothered to write a commentary, approached WILL to see about getting it aired, and followed through to make it happen. Hey, it's called interactive media, although it used to be called community radio, but never mind that. Let's have more of it please.

April 05, 2004

Hmmm, what's Condi Rice got to say about all this? 

Make sure your radio tubes are warmed up this Thursday morning. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice will testify before the 9-11 Commission, and the questions could get interesting. Thus ends the political dance wherein it was OK for Dr. Rice to speak on TV talk shows, but couldn't answer to an official investigation. The question I have is, are we paying attention? If you're a political junkie like me, you were thrilled to have gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Watergate hearings, Iran-Contra, and the Clinton Impeachment...and we make up about 2 percent of the U.S. population who knows where C-SPAN is on the cable channel lineup...and who even knows the name Bob Edwards. In these days of ubiquitous 24-hour news coverage, does the news matter? Tune in Thursday...

NPR chat session fends listener angst 

The reassignment of Morning Edition host Bob Edwards continues to draw the ire of NPR listeners, so Jay Kernis, NPR's senior vice president for programming, and Jeffrey Dvorkin, NPR ombudsman, put themselves on the line in a live chat session this morning. Here's an excerpt: "bill beckett: I work at one of the many, many stations that were not consulted and in fact were given no warning that this was coming. We were blindsided by this decision and left to face angry listeners with nothing more than some poorly drafted and ill-advised "Talking Point" or "Spin" as I call it. What is your response...?" You can read NPR's response to this and other questions in the aforementioned chat transcript. Meanwhile, here's a note from Jay Pearce, ever the wise WILL Interim Radio Manager even while fielding complaints from irate Bob Edwards fans, to the WILL staff on the subject: "NPR had a online chat with the guy with whom the buck stops regarding the Bob Edwards reassignment today...it may or may not shed any new light on the situation. Here's a link to a transcript: http://www.npr.org/about/morningeditionchanges/transcript.html "We have received a number of emails, phone calls and letters concerning Bob's reassignment. All against it. Several saying they will not give us any more money because of it. I'm not sure it is our place, as a station, to be for or against reassigning Bob. But I do believe we can agree NPR could have and should have handled it better. Personally, I don't believe NPR was considerate enough of listeners' feelings. Thus, I have bent over backwards to listen and respond to those who have contacted WILL. I have made it clear that we care about what they think of this whole thing. I have forwarded their comments to NPR. "On the money front...my advice to them has been to follow their best instinct - but so they had full information before doing that...I told them that their contributions help fund everything we do here at WILL, not just Morning Edition...not just NPR programs. And that withholding contributions will only hurt our ability to provide the service we do...because, NPR gets its money from us, and we'll still be paying NPR. So, if we get less money from listeners, we'll have to make further cuts to our service to come up with the money to pay NPR. Cutting out Morning Edition and/or other NPR programs because of NPR's behavior in this instance would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. "That's where things stand right now." Jay H. Pearce Program Director WILL-AM Interim Station Manager WILL-AM/FM I'll just add that I believe we're part of the baby, not the bathwater...but I'm not saying which part.

April 01, 2004

Bob Edwards Redux 

Bob EdwardsOops, we didn't mean to fire Bob Edwards! Actually we didn't but that's what many people seem to think. NPR has been pummeled with letters, phone calls, and emails ever since it announced Bob Edwards was being replaced as host of Morning Edition. WILL has received more mail on this that when we (oops!) cancelled Car Talk. And like always when somebody in public radio makes an unpopular move, some listeners are threatening to cut their support. So for the record, can we establish that WILL did not fire Bob Edwards? I don't like to see him leave Morning Edition either, as you might have read in my earlier post. Still, I'm not going to quit this project and I hope you won't either. And even after the way NPR handled this, neither is Bob Edwards.

Alistair Cooke: Another legend in broadcast journalism passes on 

Alistair CookeThe legendary British broadcaster died early Tuesday, March 30, just weeks after retiring at age 95. Cooke was perhaps best-known for his weekly "Letter from America" on the BBC, which has aired Monday afternoons at 2:40 here WILL-AM. Mr. Cooke brought deep personal insight to reporting, a neater trick than is commonly appreciated. His reporting on America helped interpret our politics and culture to the rest of the work...and helped Americans see better how they are viewed by a critical but friendly outsider. "In America," he said, "the race is on between its decadence and its vitality, and it has lots of both." The BBC has given WILL permission to make available the RealAudio archive of BBC's Special Remembrance of Alistair Cooke. As I listened to his Letter From America commentaries over the past couple of years, I often thought I detected a note of sadness in his voice for what the opportunities we have missed, and the follies we presume to be wisdom. The passing of Alistair Cooke should remind us of the relevance of a personal point of view, and bearing witness to our time on this rapidly changing planet. He made a positive difference, and that's as good a legacy as any.

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