#TIDALforALL

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Coinciding perfectly with our free streaming debate is Jay Z’s relaunch of Tidal, a music streaming service that is rumored to pay its artists double what Spotify and other rivals pay. The service will officially relaunch later today, but currently subscriptions can be purchased for $10 or $20 and no free option is available.

The real appeal of this service is the artists recruited to join.  Beyonce, Madonna, Kanye West and even the elusive Taylor Swift are rumored to have joined this service, potentially even removing their work from Spotify in protest. Other rumors suggest that most artists will supply Tidal with their new releases, before giving them to Spotify and other streaming services. Jay-Z is hoping this exclusivity will bring in subscribers.

The concept of Tidal is a good one, but is it one worth paying for? We’ll see. With only 35,000 subscribers compared to the millions that Spotify boasts, Tidal is not even a competitor yet, but this could easily change over the next few days and weeks. Either way, it seems like an sign of where the music industry is headed. Artists are clearly fed up with their agreements from free streaming services and looking for alternatives. Tidal just may be the best new option.

For those that want to stay updated before the big launch this afternoon, #TIDALforALL is trending and those artists in support of the new service have turned their Twitter pictures blue. This campaign seemed to come out of the blue (no pun intended) overnight, and I’m sure the free streaming community will have plenty to say about it over the next few days.

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My Favorite Form of Mass Media

Recently, I’ve discovered my new favorite form of mass media: the documentary. These entertaining, yet educational films often present two sides to an issue that I’m not very familiar with, not only informing me, but allowing me to create an opinion. Last week I watched The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (I highly recommend this), a film focusing on Internet and political activist Aaron Swartz and his court case against the U.S. government, as well as Helvetica, a documentary about the ubiquity of the font. Two totally different topics that, until watching the films, I knew nothing about.

Documentaries seem to be one of the few areas of mass media that have not yet been taken over by monetary interests. I’ve read several interviews with Laura Poitras who recently won an Oscar for Citizen Four, the documentary about Edward Snowden. She described the passion that most documentary filmmakers must have for their work because the return on investment is quite small. The lack of money in documentary filmmaking not only stems from the cost of production but the copy-making ability and piracy on the Internet. Poitras also worries that her job might become obsolete as smartphones allow everyday citizens to document their experiences.

While a bit nervous about the future of documentaries, Poitras finds the visual medium an important one. In an interview with The Atlantic, she uses the example of torture. Simply reading about the number of people tortured is not nearly as effective as providing visuals or footage. Visuals play an important role in creating an emotional response and changing perception.

I agree with her thoughts about the importance of documentary film. I hope that the industry can find a happy medium between becoming consumed with monetary gain and simply being able to financially survive. Organizations like HBO do a good job incentivizing the creation of documentaries which is crucial to getting creators to keep creating.

To anyone looking for something worthwhile to do with a free hour, I suggest a documentary.

“Fake News” Makes Real Change

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Jon Stewart has always described what he and his team do as “fake news” because of its satirical and mocking tone. That being said, I consistently turn to Stewart for news updates and have grown to trust him over the last several years. Even though his news is “fake”, his influence is not. It appears that a recent segment of The Daily Show had some impact on the Department of Veteran Affairs. During the segment, Stewart calls out the department for a rule that makes it difficult for veterans in rural areas to get access to government-provided healthcare. The day after this segment aired, the department changed the rule, in effect doubling the number of veterans that can get healthcare access.

There is speculation that Congress was advocating for a rule change as well, but there is a possibility that Stewart’s segment raised more awareness than Congress would have. To me, Veteran Affairs is a problem that I am certainly aware of, but it never stays at the top of my mind like plenty of issues. The rule brought up by Stewart is about the details of measuring the distance to a veteran affairs facility. While important, it is not the type of news you are likely to frequently hear about on its own.

Stewart’s influence is in identifying ridiculous aspects of law, media or government and highlighting them for his viewers. To me, he is one of the best examples of media as a watchdog, even though he’s not just criticizing the government, he’s often criticizing other media organizations. While it may make me cynical about the state of the world, the way he and his team present the news makes me more likely to do research and get involved in an issue because he points out such absurdity. I think that’s a great influence for any news media, “fake” or real, to have. Maybe Stewart will run for president, making his ability to influence much easier. Jokes aside, I’m certainly sad to see him go, and hopefully someone with the same ability will take his place.

 

Citizen Journalism

I recently read an interview with Andrew Burton, a relatively well known photojournalist who has taken pictures of many international revolutions and social movements. He was discussing citizen journalism, the concept of citizens participating in the creation and dissemination of news. Thanks to the Internet, anyone with a decent camera (or an iPhone) can take and upload newsworthy photos. The same is true of other news content be it written, video or something else. This makes Burton and others journalists worry that their jobs, and potentially even the entire professional journalism industry, will become obsolete.

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Personally, I find the blurring line between readers and reporters to be a little scary. As everyday citizens begin creating and circulating content themselves, they have the opportunity to define what is newsworthy. This means news could become super localized or focused on just a few topics, depending on who is creating the news content. If this happens, what important events or opinions will we miss out on? In my network, news would likely ignore things like international relations or economics, instead focusing primarily on entertainment. This could be potentially detrimental to many, especially those who are not in journalism schools and actively seeking out diverse news.

This is not an outright defense of news publications because they all have problems (political bias, etc.), but I prefer a future in which journalism is in the hands of professional journalists. Additionally,  I do appreciate citizen commentary because it creates a diversity of opinions; however I think some kind of professional vetting process must be in place to decide what topics and opinions gets published.

As the Internet only grows in ubiquity, I think that citizens are going to continue creating news content. I think this is fine, as long as it does not make professional journalism obsolete. This could be biased because I’m a journalist, but I think its important to feed the professional journalism industry with enough money and public support so it can stay alive.

Old Media Makes a Comeback

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While most billboards I see these days are either blank, upside down or throwing a bible verse in my face, a recent billboard campaign in London is using outdoor media to its advantage. The #LookatMe campaign raises the issue of domestic violence, showing a woman whose face is bruised. The bruising goes away as more and more people look at the billboard, using facial recognition technology to measure viewers. The campaign is an effective metaphor by Women’s Aid for domestic violence, articulating the idea that just as increasing views of the billboard can reduce bruising, increasing advocates for reducing domestic violence can help fight the widespread problem.

In terms of mass media, I’m interested to see if in the near future traditional media like billboards are transformed with the use of technology in such a way that they become popular again. Dove launched an interactive billboard campaign last year, allowing passerby’s to text in votes on beauty issues and subsequently updating the billboard with responses. Traditional media, often called old media, is usually discussed as falling behind the new media opportunities created by the Internet. Perhaps this assumption underestimates the ability of traditional media to adapt. In the same way we discuss platforms like Facebook and SnapChat adapting to the ever-changing media environment, maybe old media is doing the same. By integrating interactive and digital tools, old media like this billboard have the potential to attract as much attention as new media.

 

Media and the Justice System

The Jinx is an HBO documentary following the life of Robert Durst, the potential killer of three people. It was compared several times to Serial, a podcast following Adnan Syed, the accused killer of his high school ex-girlfriend, as well as his arrest and trial. Before the final episode of The Jinx aired, Durst was arrested in New Orleans. His case was reopened because of several things he said in documentary interviews. Following the finale of Serial, Syed was finally granted an appeal that could potentially get him a new trial.

Both Durst and Syed agreed to have their cases investigated and discussed on some form of public media, and those decisions affected both lives in a significant way. Although the review of Syed’s case led to a potentially more positive outcome than it did for Durst, it is obvious that the portrayal of both cases in the media played a significant role in the justice system taking action. Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 6.06.59 PM

In the case of Syed, I cannot imagine that he is the only person sitting in prison because of a trial based on fairly minimal evidence. The podcast’s reopening of his case and reexamination of the evidence must have had significant impact on the appeal process, as he had tried several times to get an appeal and was only successful after the podcast aired.

For the justice system to consider reopening or investigating a case further, does it need to be featured in some type of media that gains mass appeal? That question might underestimate the justice system in America, but given its resources and the fact that it must investigate current crimes, it seems possible that those convicted years ago with minimal evidence may not have a chance to redeem themselves. The same applies to a person like Robert Durst potentially getting away with murder because police might not have the resources to fully investigate the case. Regardless, I think that the public’s fascination with both of these cases means that we are bound to see more media surrounding true crime in the next few years. I suppose that is a good thing because those involved will be subject to justice a second time.

Don’t Do it for the Vine

Coming back from spring break means everyone is uploading their trip pictures to social media. On my way back to Chapel Hill, I thought about what experiences or moments people miss out on in order to get the perfect social media worthy post.  A little research proved that others have thought enough about this to conduct various studies.

Large percentages of people have overlooked everyday moments, missed out on vacation experiences and even risked their lives just to get a picture that will attract plenty of likes. On spring break, I was even criticized for posting an Instagram late at night because the number of views, and subsequently likes, would be reduced. This social media addiction has consequences on real life experiences.

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We are the generation that coined the term FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) yet we consistently obsess over our devices, choosing to miss out on real life experiences. The rationale behind this must be that staying constantly connected, either by posting or looking at posts, will keep us from missing out on what goes on in the lives of people in our networks. But at what point did the goings-on in other people’s lives or their approval of our experiences become more important than real conversations and moments?

In a digital world that is potentially going to be entirely taken over by screens in the next few decades, finding solutions to this problem may be pointless. We’ve all taken quizzes that prove we’re not “addicted” to the Internet, but I’m willing to guess that most of us spent plenty of time on spring break capturing the perfect Instagram, Vine, etc.

In most cases of addiction, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. I think that recognizing the extent to which you are attached to your device or social media accounts is crucial to make change. Learning to disconnect is important and in my opinion, must become a habit for anyone with a fear of missing out in the real world.