Complicating Relationships in Media: Apple and the New York Times

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This is very interesting. You can’t have failed to notice that the iPad promotional material on the Apple web site features the New York Times very prominently. If you regularly read the NYT online, you can’t have failed to notice the very favourable coverage of Apple and its iPad.

Where does this leave the readers of the NYT in terms of how far they can trust the NYT news coverage of the USA’s fourth largest public company?

What value has Apple received from the Times’ massive and continuing coverage? Quite a bit, of course — though it’s only fair to note that most other major journalism organizations have given the iPad the kind of fawning attention that makes every other company executive on the planet insanely jealous.

Apple’s business and PR methods aren’t the issue here. No company plays the media better than Apple, period, and this is obviously good business for Jobs and his employees and shareholders.

What matters is the Times’ seeming indifference to the way this looks. Even though I don’t believe there was any quid pro quo, I do believe that someone who doesn’t know the players could reasonably ask if an arrangement did exist.

Read more:
Mediactive » Complicating Relationships in Media: Apple, NY Times Dealings Raise Questions.

David Mitchell on TV and film realism

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Here’s an enjoyable column by television’s David Mitchell, in response to the scientist who argued that film writers should restrict themselves to one contravention of the laws of physics per film.

What I like about Mitchell’s writing is that is is clearly his voice. There are some useful snippets here – such as an explanation as to why nobody ever eats anything when TV characters sit in restaurants.

So movies shouldn’t break the laws of physics? Don’t tell Captain Kirk.

John Pilger in the New Statesman on the Oscars™

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This is worth reading, because it’s emotive, powerful, and full of anger at the ways in which movie representations spread lies and propaganda – in this case, about American foreign policy and war.

via New Statesman – Why the Oscars are a con.

Non-American (or non-western) humanity is not deemed to have box-office appeal, dead or alive. They are the “other” who are allowed, at best, to be saved by “us”. In Avatar, James Cameron's vast and violent money-printer, 3-D noble savages known as the Na'vi need a good-guy American soldier, Sergeant Jake Sully, to save them. This confirms they are “good”. Natch.

My Oscar for the worst of this year’s nominees goes to Invictus, Clint Eastwood's unctuous insult to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Based on a hagiography of Mandela by a British journalist, John Carlin, the film might have been a product of apartheid propaganda. In promoting the racist, thuggish rugby culture as a panacea of the “rainbow nation”, Eastwood gives barely a hint that many black South Africans were deeply embarrassed and hurt by Mandela's embrace of the hated springbok symbol of their suffering. He airbrushes white violence – but not black violence, which is ever present as a threat. As for the Boer racists, they have hearts of gold, because they “didn't really know”. The subliminal theme is all too familiar: colonialism deserves forgiveness and accommodation, never justice.

For Vanity Fair, the future is all white

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Watched Desperate Housewives recently? The new season started on Ch 4 this week, and we’re back to the situation that existed in Season 1: no black people live on Wisteria Lane. In fact, the only black person I noticed in the two episodes I’ve watched so far is the handyman called to remove the trellis from the wall. In other words, although all the white residents on Wisteria Lane stick around for years, black people drift in and out again, because they are a rootless, nomadic race (sarcasm).

This racial myopia is quite common in US television, and also in the glossy magazine market, which are frequently criticised for failing to include people of colour on their covers. The latest in the firing line is the annual Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair, which features up-and-coming female actresses on the cover – none of whom are black.

Read more in the Guardian. Snip:

Vanity Fair has looked into its crystal ball and decided that, as far as up-and-coming, cover-worthy female actors for the next decade go, the future is entirely white. Even the clothes they wear are resolutely pale, in shades of honey, rose and blush – the kind of words fashion magazines use to describe caucasian complexions.

Bearing in mind it takes an army of people to put a Vanity Fair cover shoot together, this leaves us with two conclusions. Either no one noticed that their “stars of the next decade” cover effectively says there isn't a single up-and-coming black actor on the planet they considered ­worthy of ruining the aesthetic of their alabaster line-up, or they did notice but simply didn't care. I'm not sure which is worse.

Vanity Fair is published by Condé Nast, which is part of a privately-owned media conglomerate. Interestingly, the parent company, Advance, owns a variety of newspapers in the Deep South of the USA: in Alabama and Mississippi, for example, as well as in their home town of New York, up in the North East.

Looking at Condé Nast’s portfolio of magazines (which includes Vogue, W, GQ, Brides, Golf World, The New Yorker, and Wired), I bet it’s hard to find a cover with a black person on it. The latest edition of Golf World has Bob Hope (!) on the cover, though (to be fair) it does occasionally feature Tiger Woods.

None of this necessarily means that the people who run these magazines are racist, but it does mean that institutions like Vanity Fair and Condé Nast are affected by institutional racism: the structures of the organisation are set up in such a way that nobody thinks to speak up at the monthly cover meeting to point out that they’ve forgotten to include any black people. The people who work there are probably mostly white, they assume their readers are mostly white (a self-fulfilling prophecy), and it doesn’t occur to them to worry about the representation of people of colour. Unless (and this is always the caveat) they’re already famous, like Tiger Woods.

Most of us probably don’t know the names of the white actresses on the cover of Vanity Fair – that’s the point of the issue: to tell us about up-and-coming talent. But you can almost guarantee that if a magazine does feature a black person, it’ll be someone already famous, like Beyoncé, Leona, Halle – or, you know, the President.

Doctor, Doctor! Gingerism’s gone nuts

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I’m afraid the ridiculous row about Doctor Who’s regretful comment about still not being ginger as he reincarnated as Matt Smith is just one of the many signs that the internet seems to have destroyed our ability to appreciate or recognise nuanced meaning and / or irony.

after this week’s events, in which more than 100 complaints were made to the BBC over an off-the-cuff remark made in the Christmas Doctor Who special, it is clear that gingerism is on the verge of running out of control.

The remark, uttered by actor Matt Smith at the moment of his transmogrification into a Gallifrean Timelord ran as follows: “I’m still not ginger”. It is expressed in a tone of frustrated regret, in the manner of someone who all their life has dreamt of being a ballet dancer and still finds themselves doing PAs at Po Na Na. Somehow, the ginger fringe has interpreted this as a slur.

via Doctor, Doctor! Gingerism’s gone nuts | Paul MacInnes |
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Professional models barred from German magazine

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The 29-year-old blonde teacher was among a cast of more than six “normal women” selected by the mass circulation middle-market Brigitte to pose for its January fashion feature following an editorial pledge by the magazine to keep controversial size-zero models off its pages.

Andreas Lebert, editor of the 700,000-circulation magazine, announced the ban last October after receiving letters from hundreds of women readers who complained that they had no connection with the models shown in the magazine and that they no longer wanted to see “protruding bones”.

via Professional models barred from German magazine –
News, Fashion – The Independent
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Karl Lagerfeld says only fat birds object to size 0 models

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Classy.

“These are fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly,” said Lagerfeld in an interview with the magazine Focus. The designer, who lost a lot of weight himself when he went on a strict low-carbohydrate diet several years ago, added that the world of fashion was all to do “with dreams and illusions, and no one wants to see round women”.

via Karl Lagerfeld says only ‘fat mummies’ object to thin models |
Life and style |
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