Monday, December 18, 2006

Neil Steinberg: So-Called "Austin Mayor" Overrated

And you are too!

Many people have taken issue with Time magazines' decision to name "You", the controller of the Information Age, the Person of the Year. Most have criticized it as a cheezy cop out.

But in your Chicago Sun-Times, Neil Steinberg says it was a bad choice because "You" just ain't very good at content creation and you should leave it to pros like Steinberg:
It is a curious choice, particularly if we ask ourselves: OK, if we're content providers, what content have we provided?

Well, I've got this column here, but that isn't really the epoch- shattering change they have in mind, since I get paid. Rather, it is the blog you may run, sharing the secret murmurings of your heart, or the area of you have homesteaded out, with your favorite songs and photos of your pals -- the inside of your high school locker door, basically, writ in cyberspace.

Somehow, taken together, it just doesn't seem the most significant personage of 2006. Yes, the video-sharing site YouTube was purchased in October by Google for $1.65 billion. And what content have we, the people of the year, provided for that? Teenage girls lip-syncing to popular songs in their bedrooms. Lots of pets and babies and snippets from TV shows.

Actually, a whole lot of snippets from TV shows. And excerpts from professional sports. The truth is that most of the new amateur content that people are watching on YouTube is the same old commercial content in a new box -- Nike ads are also very big. Even "Lonelygirl" -- who seemed to be a creepy teen confessing her skewed life to the camera -- turned out to be a ploy by professional moviemakers.

Yes, occasionally some truly amateur clip will grip the public for a moment -- a fat boy dancing, a very good guitarist. But there aren't many of those, and the ones that do pop up never come back with a decent second act.

You can only take so much amateur hour. It gets old. I just logged on to YouTube now, and the first three featured videos are "Handfarting the Star Spangled Banner," "Spit Art" and "Pickup to Electronic Snare Drum." And if that doesn't send you racing to the Web site, I can't say I blame you.

You can see how Time made its mistake. On its Web site's "Person of the Year" straw poll, the short list was George W. Bush, Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Nancy Pelosi, Condoleezza Rice, Al Gore, Hugo Chavez and "The YouTube Guys."

Well, Bush already got it twice this decade. Kim, Chavez, Rice or Gore didn't exactly dominate the year. The editors no doubt cringed away from Ahmadinejad and Pelosi. Which left "The YouTube Guys," which probably seemed unwise, picking a duo that few could even name.

Hence "You."

It'll create good PR -- the point of the annual stunt -- and introduce the New Year's Eve Season of Introspection. But don't buy all this new virtual democracy stuff. Maybe we'll all be logging en masse on to YouTube next year to watch kittens play with balls of yarn. But I doubt it. At least I hope not.
Perhaps Mr. Steinberg is right.

Maybe the democratization of the media has no place in a society like ours and we should just leave the role of commentary to seasoned professionals like Neil.


Rich Miller said...

Check this Friday's Sun-Times.

Jerry said...
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