December 4, 2006
Topic: Be Informed! Alternative MediaBack when I was a cable subscriber I felt compelled to have cable television to be in touch with news, and worldly events, but now there really isn't any television programming I consider to justify the price. So I gave it up, and with the Internet and alternative media sources, I've never felt more informed as to what's going on in the world. There is some content that I miss (the Daily Show most notably), so I wish there was a way I could have network programming as a subscription service.
A few days ago I was listening to an NPR report on alternative media, about how mainstream media felt threatened by alternative media's increasing popularity; and they should be, with alternative media individuals can choose the direction of their information instead of being spoon feed the useless irrelevant information on the traditional network news sources. A few alternative media outlets I'll discuss here include: NPR, Google News, Podcasting, and Blogging
NPR (National Public Radio), has long been a love in my life. I've always found the programming of NPR to be of higher quality to any television programming period. This might be because they are competing with for-profit advertising based media sources, so I feel they have a cleaner slate to work with and are more objective in their reporting, and since they are on the radio I feel they have to compete harder to get consumer attention. The result is a much higher quality and intriguing service.
Since NPR is non-profit and funds it's programming threw sponsorship and donations, I feel like it qualifies as an alternative media source. The benefits of NPR over other alternative programming is that, while they are structured in a corporate way, they are also more readily accessible (over air waves) than other alternative medias, and they have greater checks and balances as far as the quality of their content in the same way that for-profit media sources have except with respect to actually informing their listeners with much more relevant content. Shows like This American Life, Prairie Home Companion and Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me really succeed in being entertaining and informative and shows like All Things Considered, and Fresh Air are excellent daily digests of world news that I find far more relevant that the subject matter in typical Prime Time television news shows. If you have access to NPR, and chances are you do, then I highly suggest you turn off the television and spend more time listening to your local public radio.
There are two big advantages to Google news. For starters, your have diversity in the sources on any particular topic, so you can read about an event from multiple and conflicting points of view, which can be extremely helpful for separating out Fact from Opinion. The second advantage of Google News is that you can customize it to your particular interests. You can easily generate a Google account without having to use Google's gmail, but I can see no reason why you wouldn't also want to have a Gmail account. Once you do, you can arrange the location of a news topic in any particular location on your page, and you can add or delete the Standard sections of news compiled by Googles search engines, or add or delete Custom sections of news using Google's search engine for issues that you are concerned about. Take a look at this page, a blend of Standard Content and content that I find personally interesting. Link:
Podcasting is the new underground media, and while it may not be mainstream yet I can imagine a time in the near future when mainstream media will migrate to a podcasting format by utilizing computers with Internet access as a way to distribute traditional broadcasting (there are many popular television shows already available as downloadable Podcasts). But until that day it's going to remain mostly underground, and thus more directly influenced by people with a Geeky persuasion, which is why I'm listing a couple of my favorite “geeky” podcasting sources.
Apples I-Tunes is very cool because of it's simplicity. Once you register it's very easy to log in and purchase media, but there is also a lot of free content that can be accessed with I-Tunes. I like to use it because it automatically updates my Podcasts, which otherwise would be dificult to keep up with; in this way it functions like a network television provider except that I control the content. You can download the podcasts (often as an MP3 file) manually from many of the homepages for these podcasts, but using I-tunes makes it a lot easier to manage them.
TWiT and net@night are two great podcasts that are a product of the brain of Leo Leporte, a former personality of the TechTV television channel which I very much enjoyed before it's demise. If you're interested in technology related topics, then I strongly recommend you tune in to these shows. On this show, he has a team of industry experts connected by telephone and/or the Internet to discuss recent technology related news. It's often witty and amusing to listen to as well as very informative. You can get it here.
Net@night is an an Internet show with Leo and co-host Amber MacArthur that utilizes an Internet service called TalkShoe to allows you to listen and call in live on the internet, which is something that's unheard of in the podcast world as far as I know. Of course the actual podcast inself is produced after the fact. But the idea of a live Internet-exclusive broadcast is fairly revolutionary. This show might represent where the Internet is heading as far as alternative media. The net@night show is available here.
PressStart, is an alt.npr* podcast focused on video games. This show brings together video game enthusiasts to discuss video games, not just for their game content, but also on topics such as how they relate with society and that sort of thing. Each episode ends with the cast members revealing what they are currently playing. Check it out here.
*Alt.npr is an alternative, podcast based, collection of programming that covers specific topics. Another alt.npr podcast I enjoy is Youthcast, a podcast pertaining to the issues children face in school and life: their home is here.
GeekDrome - which is a Vodcast (video podcast) - If the idea of Podcasting seems to be somewhat Geeky, then this Podcast would be the Leaning Tower of Piza of Podcasts. It represents basically every geeky commodity (love of science fiction, comic books especially Spiderman, reviewing movie trailers, etc.) all rolled into one Vodcast: Once you've finished watching the self-programing geekyness of the opening credits you'll understand. This is really a great example of the power of alternative media. It's excellent content that is focused on a niche group, but because of innovative technology it's made possible for distribution. GeekDrome is part of the Revision3 (another spin off of TechTV) and is available here.
There are Blogs all over the Internet. Even the Terminator has it's own Blog, it's named very aptly, The Blogginator; but instead of describing the ways to prevent John Conner from defeating the machines, it's devoted to California politics. I'm ashamed to admit it was long after the advent of Blogging that I learned that the word 'blog' was short for 'web log.' I need to get on a soap box for a moment: I don't like Internet slang, mostly because it's an indication that technology is becoming more and more a mainstream experience, meaning it's now in the hands of adolescent children with little appreciation for their technological elders. But most of all I cant stand the the overuse of Internet acronyms that help instant messengers speed up their conversations; it's fine to use these in instant messaging conversations, but they don't belong in the real world, or on blogs, FWIW! Okay that's it, I'm done complaining.
The bottom line is: now that our society is growing increasingly technologically centered, and innovation has advanced the possibilities for communication, there is much greater opportunity for alternative media to thrive, which can only be a good thing since the more you know the better decisions you can make in the world.
Now please excuse me, I'm going to watch a Geekdrome episode about the upcomming movie “300.”