Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for January 17th, 2007

Segregation, self-respect, and a YouTube video

Posted by metaphorical on 17 January 2007

“I believed in the 1950s that a significant percentage of Americans were looking for a way out of the morass of segregation. It was wishful thinking.” — Kenneth Clark, 1984

When James Brown died, it felt important to me, but also not important. It’s taken me a month to account for both reactions.

First, important: Bob Davis, of the Soul Patrol, in his coverage of the viewing of James Brown’s body at the Apollo Theatre, called Brown the Godfather of soul, echoing Al Sharpton’s moving tribute. The line to get into the Apollo, which is on 125th Street, went down as far as 104th Street, he reported. Listening to Davis, I remembered junior high school. “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” was released in August 1968. Returning to school that September, the song filled the cafeteria and the hallways.

There was an ugly racial divide in my school, and black kids would not just sing it proudly, but defiantly, hostilely, even threateningly. The song gave voice to feelings—both good and bad —that had lain just beneath the surface. Music filled the middle space between civil rights marches and riots. (Just as Dylan, long hair, and LSD would be, for me, more than an anti-war rally but less than raiding a draft board.)

James Brown did that. Sure, Aretha’s “Respect” did that as well (and was sung in the hallways too), Stevie Wonder, and more, but never with the same punch in the stomach of James Brown. Nothing as loudly. Nothing as proudly.

Next, unimportant: I knew there was an opposite side of the story, but couldn’t put my finger on it until viewing the video “A Girl Like Me” today. This video hasn’t exactly been been hidden under a rock. It showed at the Tribeca Film Festival here in New York back in April. It was featured on NPR in October, and has been written about in newspapers around the nation.

The 7-minute film starts out discussing race, beauty, dark skin, and the self-image of young black women, in their own words, until about half-way. Then it recreates the famous experiment that Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted in the 1930s, about the time James Brown would have entered elementary school, asking black children to choose between a white doll and a black one.

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Will private equity save the newspaper industry?

Posted by metaphorical on 17 January 2007

“Media companies in transition should be private. When you’re privately backed, you have the flexibility to be nimble.”  — Scott N. Flanders, president of Freedom Communications, the parent of the Orange County Register.

We may know soon the fate of the LA Times and its parent, the Tribune Co. Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that:

Tomorrow is the deadline Tribune has set for bids on its $7.3 billion newspaper and television empire. But enthusiasm for Tribune has been tepid, rousing little interest from publicly traded newspaper companies but plenty from private money.  

That unsettles some, who fear that private equity’s focus on short-term gain will lead to more cuts and quality reductions in an already shaky industry. But Freedom president Scott N. Flanders said private-equity ownership of newspapers is actually the best idea for this turbulent era.

“Media companies in transition should be private,” Flanders said. “When you’re privately backed, you have the flexibility to be nimble.”

Though they are not growing, many newspapers continue to make healthy profits, making them appealing targets for equity firms: small groups of moneyed investors who typically hold their new companies for a few years, urge them to cut costs and create value, and then sell their interest and move on.

Some have called private money the industry’s salvation: no more quarterly earnings reports, no more forecasts to meet, no more stock-price-crazed Wall Street sharpies.  

But private money is no panacea.

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