August 08, 2005

Vlogging, podcatching, and other blognomena 

WILLblog and its founders are not cutting edge, I swear. As evidence, we're scrambling to catch up with the linguistics in yet another area of new technology, viz. the video blog. For the record, we're really unhappy with the term 'podcasting,' since it invokes the idea that you must use a specific commercial product when in truth any MP3 device will do the trick. So now comes this thing called 'vlogging' and we think we like it. Vlogging is not, of course, a new form of virtual forestry, but the simple extension of podcasting in the video realm. If you can publish an audio file with an RSS feed (podcasting) you can just as easily post a video file. Since most of this stuff came from the world of blogs like this one, we have (presto!) this wonderful new word 'vlogging.' Still confused? Don't worry, it'll pass, especially with the help of this nice old-fashioned radio story by NPR's Laura Sydell from Saturday's Weekend Edition. As for the word 'podcasting,' we really must remember to never let a former MTV video jockey define the terms for a democratic media revolution. Unless Apple is willing to cut us in on the profits...

August 02, 2005

Happy 50th Birthday WILL-TV 

When WILL-TV first signed on the air 50 years ago, it became the first educational TV broadcaster in central Illinois. If the local commercial media moguls had their way, it wouldn't have happened at all. The University of Illinois had to take the fight to the Illinois legislature to muster the political force to finally prevail. Some Americans remain conflicted about the notion of public broadcasting. You can see it reflected in the comments left by some on this blog. To me the most interesting objection is the one that says government funding of TV and radio programming leads to political control of TV and radio content. Another objection, raised by those who opposed WILL-TV going on the air 50 years ago, says public funding gives us an unfair advantage over commercial broadcasters. I love debating this stuff, and while I have my viewpoint I will always try to remain open to other views. To the first objection (government funding leads to political control) I'd say maybe but not inevitably, and I think we (WILL) have proven ourselves able to maintain control of our own editorial process, thank you very much. And can anyone argue with a straight face that there's no political control over the editorial process at Fox News? It may not come from the government, but instead reflects the politics of its owner and his billionaire frame of reference. Public funding may indeed give public broadcasting operations like WILL an advantage over commercial broadcasters. On the other hand, WGN last year cancelled its decades-long commitment to agricultural programming not because it wasn't profitable, but because it wasn't obscenely profitable. Several other radio stations in this market consistently gather up a large profit for their conglomerate owners, who simply add it to the piles of cash coming in from their hundreds of other broadcasting investments. WILL has more news reporters on staff than all these profitable local stations combined. They could fund a local news staff if they wanted to, but it would cut into their profit margins, and thus might impact their share prices...which is what their business really is. The reality is we're in a different business altogether, and that's education. We don't work as hard as we do (I can tell ya stories) to reap profits for absentee corporate giants, we do it as a public service to our communities. One could argue that publicly-funded schools are unfair competition to private schools, or that public libraries put commercial bookstores at a competitive disadvantage. If the sole measure of value is private profit, that might be true. But the founders of this thing we salute to spoke of other values, like the public good and the commonweal. We share this nation, this community, this planet. We have to figure out ways to make the best of that, and I like to think that's what public broadcasting is for. So here's a salute to WILL-TV's golden anniversary, with a nice Flash piece created by our friends at the University of Illinois Office of Public Affairs. I hope we're still debating 50 years from now.

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