Tom Brokaw’s electronic brain machine

18Aug07

In yesterday’s New York Times, the editorial page ran a series of brief commentaries about rethinking presidential debates in the new media era. A number of commentators engaged in digital media offered interesting suggestions: some serious (Zephyr Teachout’s round-robin of one-on-one debates was my favorite), some semi-serious (Kevin Kelly’s candidate webcams is a bit far-fetched, but the idea of omnipresent campaign coverage as daily texture rather than gotcha moments seems right-headed), some funny but insightful about what new media do (Matt Bai’s idea of running a candidate IMs during a debate to have backchannel comments).

And then there’s Tom Brokaw, who is the only author who does not work in new media field. And it shows.

Seemingly trying to respond as a joke, which itself suggests a contempt for this new-fangled computer thing, Brokaw thinks that “candidates should be required to answer questions only on their cellphone, BlackBerry or other personal digital assistant, so we can size up their personal text message codes, ring tones and thumb-typing skills.” And then the “calls would have to be routed through Mumbai so the candidates could offer their positions on Islamic rage and inquire about their car insurance rates simultaneously.” And they should be drunk too.

I’m trying to think of anything insightful to say about Brokaw’s braindump, but I’m still a bit stunned that the Times even printed it, as it reads like transcript from a failed contestant on Last Comic Standing. Not only does Brokaw’s humor fail, he doesn’t even seem to understand what new media communication is about, aside from trying to get cellphone reception on airplanes. And the Times seems fine printing this alongside insightful and productive opinions. What’s next, Larry King’s notes column from USA Today?

It brings to mind a book about golf from the 1950s by Ben Hogan that I once stumbled upon – Hogan, in musing about how many times he’s hit a golf ball, suggests that maybe one of those “modern electronic brain machines” could figure it out. Maybe some electronic brain machine could inform the Times not to let old media dinosaurs pontificate about new media.



2 Responses to “Tom Brokaw’s electronic brain machine”

  1. 1 Jonathan Gray

    … and then people (some from non-Middlebury liberal arts colleges in Vermont) wonder why there’s a serious disconnect between many youth and both television and print news. Hmmm…go figure

  2. Another odd twist is that celebrity op-ed contributors to the Times rarely write their own material. Presuming that these are Brokaw’s own lame jokes, why didn’t he just hire someone to write or at least vet it?


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