NO-READING ZONE. Four years ago - I think it was at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, but it might have been at the DNC in Los Angeles - my then-Phoenix colleague Seth Gitell and I were walking through the media center. A little while earlier we'd been writing pieces for BostonPhoenix.com. Now we were checking out the media circus before doing whatever it was we were going to do with the rest of the day.
But rather than having a few casual conversations with other journalists, we saw that everyone was chained to his or her keyboard, pounding away. I stopped by the Washington Post's space so I could say hello to media reporter Howard Kurtz, whom I know slightly. We politely exchanged a few pleasantries before he returned to his seat and started typing again. He was writing twice a day for the Post's website plus once for the paper. He looked like a haunted, exhausted man.
"Everybody's writing," Seth said, shaking his head. "Nobody's reading."
Seth is now the spokesman for Mayor Tom Menino, but I'm still here, writing more than ever. For those of us in the print media, especially, technology has drastically changed the way we do our jobs. When I covered my first convention, the Republican gathering in San Diego in 1996, I had one story to write for the Phoenix, one short piece I'd contracted to do for Salon, and that was it. I could actually relax and take it all in. At the conventions of 2000, I was up to one Web piece a day in addition to my piece for the print edition. Now I'm updating Media Log several times a day. Many journalists I know are doing the same.
Everybody's writing. Nobody's reading.
My heart sinks when I grab the Boston Globe and the New York Times from my doorstep in the morning. Most of what I see is for pure political and media junkies like me, and I could easily spend hours poring over it. But I can't. Who can? We've all got to get back to work.
So much output, so little input. There's a price to be paid for all this, and that is that there's less time to think, less time to read, less time to talk with smart people without try to wheedle a quote out of them that you can use within the next hour. There is no news taking place in Boston. It ought to be a chance to listen and learn, and to get ready for the campaign ahead.
But that's not the way it works anymore. Instead, we've got thousands of journalists producing non-news from a convention whose work, such as it is, was preordained on Super Tuesday, way back last March.
RIVERS WHACKS JACKSON (AGAIN). The Boston Herald today blows out the front on the Reverend Jesse Jackson's criticism of Boston. Reporter Maggie Mulvihill quotes the Reverend Eugene Rivers as saying of Jackson, "Jesse's talking trash and blowing smoke. This is Jesse's showboat."
As Mulvihill notes, Rivers is "one of the city's most respected leaders on racial issues." However, he is also a long-standing Jackson critic. In fact, three and a half years ago, there were even rumors that Rivers had something to do with exposing an extramarital affair Jackson had had - rumors that Rivers denied.
Here is what I wrote about Rivers (and Jackson) in February 2001.
DEPT. OF SELF-PROMOTION. PR Week interviews me about Media Log in its July 26 edition. Also, Timothy Noah of Slate took odds on how long Bill Clinton would speak on Monday night. As you'll see, I was too pessimistic, but what the hell - there was no prize.
DEPT. OF NON-SELF-PROMOTION. Speaking of everybody's writing, if you visit Media Log directly without going to BostonPhoenix.com first, well, take a look. Phoenix staffers have been posting like crazed weasels since Monday.