Friend of Media Nation Rory O’Connor will appear on “Greater Boston” this evening to talk with Emily Rooney about the 30th-anniversary edition of his book “Nukespeak: The Selling of Nuclear Technology from the Manhattan Project to Fukushima.”
As you can tell from the title, the book has been revised and updated. Co-written by O’Connor, Stephen Hilgartner and Richard C. Bell, it’s being published as an e-book by Sierra Club Books. You can find out more here.
The program begins at 7 p.m. on WGBH-TV (Channel 2).
Well, that was one of the stranger political spectacles you’ll ever see. U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., was late to his own news conference, thus giving right-wing activist Andrew Breitbart a chance to jump up to the podium and beat his chest for a few minutes. Unlike Weiner’s chest (allegedly, I must say, since Weiner later told the media he hasn’t seen the new pictures), Breitbart’s was covered by a shirt.
Among other things, Breitbart claimed to have an “X-rated” Weiner photo that he would not post. Still, you have to wonder if that might change given Weiner’s refusal to resign. God help me, I can’t believe I’m taking Breitbart seriously given his past transgressions. So that’s another gift Weiner has bestowed upon us.
Rather than keep babbling, let me direct you to our discussion of Weinergate on “Beat the Press” last Friday. The host, Emily Rooney, has some special insight into Weiner, and it’s worth hearing again following today’s confirmation that yes, that really was his wiener.
Have we reached the final days for anonymous news-site commenters? Probably not — that’s more hope than reality. But there’s no doubt the tide is shifting away from the anonymous and pseudonymous insults, libel and hate speech that comprise the majority of comments at news sites.
This past Sunday, the Boston Globe Magazine posted a feature by Neil Swidey on the anonymous commenters who waste electrons on the Globe’s website, Boston.com. Except that Swidey didn’t quite succeed. The truly anonymous whackos with whom he hoped to connect refused to crawl out from under their rocks. Instead, he ended up with a highly entertaining profile of two men who didn’t mind revealing their identities and to a female Red Sox fan who all but identified herself. Swidey writes of his quest to interview the worst of the worst:
[H]ere are the people I didn’t hear back from: the screamers, troublemakers, and trolls (Internet slang for people behind inflammatory posts). Not a single one. The loudest, most aggressive voices grew mum when asked to explain themselves, to engage in an actual discussion. The trolls appear to prize their anonymity more than anyone else.
The story is accompanied by a video starring the two men. Also, last night Swidey talked about the story with “Greater Boston” host Emily Rooney on WGBH-TV (Channel 2). I couldn’t find a direct link, but you’ll find it easily enough if you click here or on the image above.
For much of the year, the news business has been growing increasingly uneasy over anonymous comments. Swidey himself discusses some of the problems — legal challenges that could force news organizations to help potential libel plaintiffs expose commenters they want to sue, and the bizarre situation at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which outed a judge who had apparently been commenting on her own cases under a pseudonym. (For what it’s worth, Media Nation started requiring real names earlier this year.)
As Rooney points out in her interview with Swidey, just yesterday the Buffalo News announced that it would soon banish anonymous comments. And American Journalism Review editor Rem Rieder has called for an end to anonymity, pointing out that the same newspapers that allow them customarily ban anonymous letters to the editor and do not allow unnamed sources to level personal attacks. Rieder writes:
Comments sections are often packed with profanity and vicious personal attacks. The opportunity to launch brutal assaults from the safety of a computer without attaching a name does wonders for the bravery levels of the angry.
One alternative, which I’ve mentioned before, is to use Facebook as a commenting system. Nearly everyone on Facebook uses his or her real name, usually accompanied by a photo. The Globe itself is among newspapers that posts links to some of its stories on Facebook, where you will find a far more civil conversation than what’s on Boston.com.
Anonymous commenting is an idea whose time has come and gone. Whatever hopes early Internet visionaries had that anonymity could be compatible with community have long since proven to be wrong. I hope Swidey’s story serves as an inadvertent spur to the Globe — and to other news organizations — to end this failed experiment.
If you have a chance to tune in, I’ll be on “The Emily Rooney Show” today sometime between noon and 1 p.m. on WGBH Radio (87.9 FM) to talk about mounting privacy concerns over Facebook, which I wrote about last week for the Guardian.
Good news for fans of quality local radio: WBUR (90.9 FM) is expanding its “Radio Boston” program from one day a week to five. Along with Emily Rooney‘s and Callie Crossley‘s new shows on WGBH (89.7 FM), that’s three hours a day of local programming on the city’s two largest public radio stations. Adam Gaffin has the news, and Adam Reilly has more.
WBUR’s other news and public-affairs programs, “On Point” and “Here and Now,” are excellent but lack a local focus, as they are both nationally syndicated. By going daily, “Radio Boston” plugs a hole at WBUR that was left in the 1990s, when Christopher Lydon‘s legendary program “The Connection” went national.
My disclaimer: I am a paid weekly panelist on “Beat the Press,” a WGBH-TV (Channel 2) program of which Rooney is the host and Crossley is a regular.
Best of luck to my “Beat the Press” colleagues Emily Rooney and Callie Crossley, whose hour-long programs debut today on WGBH Radio (89.7 FM) — Emily at noon and Callie at 1 p.m.
Rooney is competing with one of my favorite people in radio, Robin Young, whose “Here and Now” is broadcast on WBUR (90.9 FM) from noon to 1. Crossley is up against syndicated fare on ‘BUR except on Fridays, when “Radio Boston” airs.
So I’m hoping the public radio audience expands and everyone wins. Including the listeners.
This is pretty amusing. Boston Globe columnist Steve Bailey reports that WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) talk-show host Jay Severin is pouting because he didn’t get an invitation to the recent “Greater Boston” 10th-anniversary party at the new WGBH-TV (Channel 2) headquarters.
The upshot: “Greater Boston” host Emily Rooney has been disinvited from her regular Friday chit-chats with Severin. Hey, ‘TKK listeners’ loss is Rooney’s gain. The foul-mouthed Severin is the most self-referential of talk-show hosts, so I’m guessing he’ll spend most of the afternoon whining about this. We’ll see.
Disclosure: I’m a regular paid panelist on the “Greater Boston” Friday “Beat the Press” edition.