Monday, March 2, 2009

The Gibbons Podcast Lie Makes The R-J

On Feb. 6, I made this prediction:

Mark my words, though: The Review-Journal and others will write tomorrow that the governor is podcasting. I'm trying so hard to educate this town, but some folks read what I say and do the opposite out of spite.

Well, it actually took four weeks, but in today's R-J, political scribe Molly Ball (and my friend, or so I hope after this...) did exactly that. The headline: "Gibbons embraces podcasts." She's not the first, the Las Vegas Sun's Charlotte Hsu also took the bait and called these things podcasts weeks ago, but Ball's sin is particularly egregious because (a) I know she reads this blog and (b) her piece was 1,500 words specifically about the use of the technology, which means her entire story was based on a fabrication and/or a misunderstanding.

Gov. Gibbons does not podcast. And it's offensive that the Nevada media helped perpetuate this lie. The governor is recording video speeches and posting them on the Internet. That's all. His staff didn't at first offer it in a format that made it viewable on an iPod, but they at least fixed that.

Yet that still doesn't make these podcasts. In order to be a podcast, users must be able to subscribe to it. Don't take my word for it. Here's the Wikipedia definition, which states: "Though the same content may also be made available by direct download or streaming, a podcast is distinguished from most other digital media formats by its ability to be syndicated, subscribed to, and downloaded automatically when new content is added."

OK, so you're dubious of Wikipedia's accuracy, even though a thousand geeks would fix it in an instant if someone wanted to post something inaccurate about a topic like this. Well, fine, but PodcastAlley.Com uses the Wiki entry as its ultimate reference on the topic. And it's also basically the same way podcasting is defined in the book "Tricks of the Podcasting Masters" by Rob Walch, who co-hosts the now-podfaded interview program Podcast411. And the Review-Journal's brilliant tech guru Al Gibes trusts Podcast411 because he sent his reader(s) there nearly three years ago to get more info about the medium.

Everyone who is actually involved in this technology agrees on the definition. And neither the governor of Nevada nor a political writer for the Las Vegas newspaper are qualified to redefine it.

Why does it matter? Well, newspapers are supposed to care about accuracy, or so I thought. The paper's editors wouldn't allow someone to refer to a psychiatrist as a psychologist because that would be inaccurate and because there is a substantive difference between the two. Same here.

And in this case, the governor is misusing an important technological term for political image, to make himself seem au courant and populist. This isn't cutting edge; politicians have been making videos and putting them on their websites for many years. Most even go the extra step of posting them on YouTube, but not Gov. Gibbons!

So the story here is not that the governor is breaking into a new medium, it's that the governor is lying to the public about what sort of media he's using, either out of ignorance or on purpose. This is not a small matter of semantics; it would be like the R-J pretending it was a TV station and...oh, wait. Oops. Bad example.

What's more, though, Ball's piece, despite its length, was incomplete in addition to being inaccurate. Even if this were a podcast -- which it's not! -- Gov. Gibbons wouldn't be the first in Nevada anyway, but you'd never know that from this story. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has had two podcast feed in iTunes, one from when he was still Minority Leader way back before the 2006 election and a more recent one that offers four video podcasts -- real podcasts that users could subscribe to -- last year. So he's been in the game since before Gibbons was even elected.

Newly elected U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., has a podcast feed that dates back to 2007, but it appears that she never really put any actual shows into it. (Those three files there appear to be test files and cannot be played or downloaded anymore.) In fact, that's all that comes up when you search "Jim Gibbons" in iTunes, probably because Titus was then running for governor against Gibbons.

It appears that Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., at least has a podcast feed, although you get errors whenever you try to read more or subscribe to it.

And Ball totally misses the chance, while she's in the neighborhood of new media, to note that Ensign is now a prolific Tweeter.

Also Tweeting: Harry Reid and U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev. Not Tweeting? Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Neither Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman nor U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev. have podcasts or feeds or Tweet -- too bad because God would they be entertaining -- but both have appeared on my podcast at least twice.

Oh! Oh! Oh! And guess who else doesn't have a podcast? Why, the Las Vegas Review-Journal! (They do Tweet, though, to their credit.) But it's only a matter of time before they start calling RJTV a podcast! Hooray! In the meantime, not surprisingly, Ball had nobody in their online division to backstop this story and forewarn her she was buying a line of bull from the governor. (I did so on Feb. 6, but I guess she didn't care.)

Look what RJTV did today:

The saddest part is, it's so easy and free to create a feed to put these files into it. It would take all of about 10 minutes. And the result would, more likely than not, be a lot more viewers who aren't going to think to go to the state site to get Gibbons' latest but would listen or watch if it came to them directly. I know I would.

Technology is your friend, sir. Try it.


ChrisR said...

I think this indicates your Governor is using marketing droids, as I've seen several companies 'launch' new products with 'podcasts', which are no more than downloadable audio/visual files.

The same companies have 'blogged' their new products as well (but provided nothing really more than a series of press releases).

Is all marketing, but marketing that makes the brand look naive or foolish or lying.

Which is your point, I guess!

Kurt in Henderson said...

Steve, Steve, Steve. Why? Why do you bother? They don't get it. And they don't care. Isn't Molly a guest host on your pet show? So she knew. She knew the difference and she didn't care. And she's probably laughing off your article here as much ado about nothing. Oh big deal, so the governor used the wrong word, they're saying over at the R-J. So what? These aren't people who worry about using the right words. They're just making fun of you for being so picky. What difference does it make if the governor is taking advantage of the public's ignorance for political gain? What, you thought the NEWSPAPER was supposed to call him on stuff like that? HAHAHAHA. What city do you think you live in? They don't do that in Vegas. Sorry.

GregoryZephyr said...

Speaking of former home town newspaper in Minneapolis has launched their own daily video newscast. It's longer than RJTV at over 7 minutes. But, its a bit more, what would I say?, folksy. It's in the newsroom and you can see a nice computer cart with junk on it and shelves piled with office stuff in the backround. The broadcaster is far more lively than Nate. The production itself, though, is smoother. I liked the scene where they point out a map of Minnesota which is being held up by some random guy in the background. And the anchor appears to be reading from the laptop in front of him rather than a Teleprompter. It reminds me of how broadcast news must have been in the 50's. Still, I think its an interesting effort that doesn't appear to be trying to match the slickness of TV news which is probably a good thing. Its at I'm guessing the StarTrib and RJ folks attended the same "How to turn newspaper into a video" seminar at some convention.

Anonymous said...

Kurt's right: The R-J doesn't care. But since Molly HATES to be corrected almost as much as she LOVES to correct others, I predict she will somehow respond with an argument about why you're wrong (you're not, by the way) and claim she hasn't made a mistake. If she hasn't done that already. I will bet you right now that this will NEVER be corrected in the R-J.


I may be biased here because I know, like and admire Molly, but while I'm disappointed in this particular piece I don't believe it is a reflection on her overall body of work. No, I don't expect the R-J to correct this, but I just would like people to know the correct terminology. We're journalists; it's our business.