Ceci N'est Pas Une Blog

Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense

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From the Dept. of Hi-I'm-Still-Not-Dead-Yet:
I have been reading, with interest, the commentary, snark and otherwise (mostly snark) re Amanda Palmer and her request for local musicians to play with her Grand Theft Orchestra sans remuneration. Some of the snark has been commentary containing some pretty gleeful shots at Neil Gaiman's success (the kind of shots that, had she read them, Old Unkillable would have pointed out to me as being what was really bothering the writer of the article).

But in the course of my reading, I've come across Steve Allbini's statement–his first one, in which he uses the word "idiot" for Amanda Palmer and his follow-up, in which he clarifies why no one should ask musicians to play onstage gratis.

It's the beginning of his follow-up statement that caught my eye:

"Well, since the new journalism is just re-posting what other people have lifted from message boards and twitter, there are probably going to be a hundred or so stories on the web with headlines like “Steve Albini calls Amanda Palmer an Idiot,” so I’d better make my position on that clear."

Bingo. This is a perfect description of the downside of 24-hour news. Regular visitors to this page will remember my comments re the Guardian's picking up someone's blog post about the Arthur C. Clarke Award and reporting it as news. I have no desire to resurrect that particular discussion of the blog post itself–it's water under the bridge, it was non-news and now it's old non-news. But I still don't think it was good journalism to report a blog post–ANY blog post–as news. It was what any J-school prof would call 'lazy journalism'.

it was later pointed out to me, by people who actually know something about these things, that this is what happens when you have to provide lots of content quickly.

It's not just journalism. Amazon rankings are updated hourly. *Hourly.* The book that was number one at breakfast might fall to number one hundred and one by lunchtime and be back in the top ten at Happy Hour. Amazon isn't the only one who does this.

This is disregarding the big picture in favour of tracking minutia. This is failing to see the forest for the trees.

This is nuts.

This is stupid. This is *bad.* This isn't keeping up with current events, this is 24-hour *surveillance*.

I don't know about you but I don't want to be under 24-hour surveillance. Or vice-versa.

My not-so-modest proposal: kill 24-hour news. Breaking news–natural or manmade disasters, that's different, report those as they happen. But other than that, no more 24-hour content. The hourly fluctuations of book rankings, song and album rankings are matters for internal accounting. Bestseller lists used to appear once a week at most and society has not been improved by the hourly updates. On the contrary–I know writers who are getting ulcers over the false promise of bestsellerdom followed by the false threat of obscurity. If you sell five books on Monday, none on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, one on Friday, and none on Saturday and Sunday, the reality is not that you were #10 on Monday then fell to #700,000; the reality is, you sold six books that week.

24-hour journalism is full of non-news. The 24-hour demand for content is part of why we are cursed with so-called 'reality-TV', why people can make a living simply because their name is Kardashian, and why you can't always depend on the news because there isn't enough lead time to verify stories properly.

And it's probably why a lot of people don't know that Amanda Palmer has said she will now be paying the local musicians who play with her and the Grand Theft Orchestra–because the original story is so much juicier than the current reality.

The next time you make a mistake, take a moment to imagine what it would be like to be declared A Villain by the entire internet before you can correct it; what it would be like to have one misstep over-ride all the good things you did.

And be careful about your mistakes. You never know when some editor is having a slow news day.

(Note: This appears as a post on my Facebook page. Big deal.)

"Girls discouraged from taking physics".

And the sun sets every day.

Another one is the stock market. A commonly-cited value of a stock market is price revelation: the publicly-traded shares tell us what businesses are worth. But there is no need for this to happen at millisecond intervals. No price needs to be revised more often than once a trading day. People panic about hourly moving stocks, and machines take advantage of millisecond trades that do nothing useful.