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Observing The Web

Observing The Web
By Mitch Traphagen mitch@observernews.net
Jan 18, 2007 - 6:49:00 PM

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News junkies everywhere are probably jonesing in a big way.  There is a lot to report on these days but not much to report.

There's a new congress, a new speaker of the house, a new strategy for Iraq, a new governor and so on but once you get past the introductions, there really isn't much to talk about yet.  A few weeks ago three guys in a pickup got stopped at the port of Miami. It was nothing more than a brief misunderstanding but it made headlines on all of the big news websites.  It is likely that reporters and editors are as bored and desperate as the news junkies who read their stuff.

But, as that goes, there is some pretty cool stuff out there.  Each week in Observing The Web, we'll give you a little bit of the good, bad and ugly.  Well, actually, we'll try to avoid the bad and ugly parts.

Kodak is virtually an American institution that seemingly got left in the dust as digital replaced film in photography.  Today Canon and Nikon hold sway with professionals - and a million different companies make a wide array of cards that have long since replaced the venerable Kodak film.  But unlike many companies in their position, Kodak seems to recognize what has happened and has a few choice and hilarious words about what they intend to do about it.  Reportedly, the video was meant for internal company use only but has since made its way to youtube.com for the world to enjoy.  Sit back and watch as the sappy memories turn to insanity in this creative commercial that really, in my humble opinion, be aired during the Super Bowl.

Speaking of getting left in the dust, many people are already writing the obituaries for the newspaper industry.  The news of newspaper death, however, has been greatly exaggerated.  OK, sure, it's a tough world out there and mentioning a competitor is probably not a smart or common thing to do - but this is good stuff and well worth reading.  In the Sunday edition of the St. Petersburg Times was a story from a reporter who spent two days locked up in a Pinellas County jail.  It is extremely well written - and it is frightening and eye opening.  

No doubt few people will give much thought to really horrible jail conditions - inmates don't deserve luxuries, right?  But then again, notice the quote from the Pinellas County Sheriff saying that 70 percent of the people there haven't yet been convicted of anything.  Also consider that horrible conditions exact a price on both the guards and other personnel in the jails as well as society at some point when the inmate is ultimately set free.

The story is one that proves newspapers are still very much alive.  This was not sound bite made for TV news - the reporter, Jacob Fries, spent two days locked up in an overcrowded cell.  While there, he was stared down by an inmate (a murderer) on whom he had previously reported - according to his cellmates, the guy "probably didn't much care for the coverage."

It is an amazing story - one, because he did it and two, because of what he has to say about it.

I spent a few hours in a Hillsborough County jail a few years ago.  I was just on a tour but I can still remember the sound of the heavy metal doors closing behind me when I entered the cellblock.  I knew that I wasn't going to stay but the sound  - the sound of the heavy steel door closing and locking - well, it's terrifying and memorable.  The smell is something that cannot be described.  The image of six guys in a cell with a toilet stuck out in the middle for all to see is sobering.

I was highly impressed with the members of the HCSO jail division - they were doing outstanding work in the most difficult of environments.  But I can't imagine doing two days there.  I tip my hat to that reporter and suggest you give it a read.

So what, you may ask, does all of this have to do with the demise (or lack thereof) of newspapers?  Well, it was a newspaper that did this excellent story and although the web presentation of it is pretty cool, there is nothing like seeing four or five column photographs in print.  In truth, television or the Web just can't compete with that — nor can it convey the feeling the story places into the dark reaches of your mind.  

I guess should the day arrive that public restrooms go WIFI and we start seeing crumpled laptop computers haphazardly tossed into the corners of bathroom stalls, then we'll know that print is doomed.  I sure don't see that happening yet, though.

Speaking of doomed - it seems a bunch of scientist think that we are all just a bit closer to that status these days.  The Doomsday clock is now at seven minutes to midnight according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.  The clock has been as close as two minutes to midnight in 1953 when both the U.S. and Soviet Union tested thermonuclear devices within months of each other.  It was as far away as 17 minutes to midnight in 1991 when the two countries signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

We'll provide the link on our Website but, unfortunately, as of press time, I don't know where it will lead.  The atomic scientists are currently showing a page that states a new site will be up on Jan. 17 along with a major announcement.  Hmmm....I wonder what they know?  Hopefully, it won't be a major announcement that predicts an imminent large "BANG."  Actually, advance word says they will reportedly announce they are moving the clock two minutes closer to doomsday - or five minutes to midnight.  It seems the fact that Iran and North Korea keep making noises about having their own big bangs and the fact that the U.S. and Russia currently have around 2,000 missiles in launch ready status is making them just a wee bit nervous.

Since I'm not big on ending this column on doomsday, I'll take us back to where we started with the venerable American company, Kodak.  In another video, this commercial will move you and warm your heart.  With just one view of this clip, doomsday will seem very far away indeed.




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