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Newsweek vs Oprah & Enabler Chopra

by Yau-Man Chan, Aug 02 2009

With a newly elected reality-based President in the White House, I was optimistic that our descend into an  age of “endarkenment” would be slowed down and halted. This optimistic outlook was further reinforced by last June 8 issue of Newsweek magazine.  The cover story took the very popular daytime TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey to task for promoting New Age stuff and “alternative” medicine for the masses uncritically.
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Fostering Communication Outside the Conference Box

by Kirsten Sanford, Jul 17 2009

I didn’t go to TAM this year. In fact, I’ve never been. Not that I didn’t want to attend, but I’ve recently made it a rule to only attend conferences where I have been invited to speak. Makes it much easier on my pocketbook, and I don’t end up regretting my decisions to not attend any of the bazillion conferences I could attend each year. But, why do I bring this up… the conference?

Conferences are a brilliant way to bring people together in order to foster communication. Certainly, if you are attending a conference, you are most likely interested in the topics to be covered. But, there is always the session that you didn’t expect to be interesting that turns out to be thought-provoking. Not to mention the mixers where you most certainly bump into people of all types, and have conversations you could never expect. The environment (or, it might be the alcohol) pushes people out of their shells, making them more social than normal, more interested than normal, and allowing maximum information transfer to take place.

How can the conference vibe be transferred elsewhere? How can we get people out of their mental caves and interested in communication… or, even learning, dare I say it?

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Hogging the Conspiracies

by Kirsten Sanford, May 01 2009

It is amazing. With each new media snowstorm comes a new conspiracy theory.

From the Huffington Post:

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Media Troubled By Long-term Thinking

by Kirsten Sanford, Mar 27 2009

Eric Alterman from The Daily Beast has an interesting analysis of President Obama’s recent press conference. His take on the coverage of the event was that the press are troubled by Obama’s long-term thinking, which doesn’t mesh well with their short-term news cycles.

CNN wants emotions, theatrics, the stamping of feet, mano-a-mano anger, and outrage contests. This is a presidency defined by cable news food-fights and Maureen Dowd-style armchair psychoanalysis. Obama wants to “know what he’s talking about,” pick the best policy to achieve it, and explain it as calmly as he can to his country.

I’m curious to see how the contest turns out. Will Obama give in to the pressures of the press to deliver a sound-bite or some kind of emotional outburst that will keep the pundits busy for weeks? Or, will he continue on his tack of cool-headed, clear explanations that deal more with long-term planning than instant gratification? Continue reading…

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Creating A Science Sensation

by Kirsten Sanford, Mar 13 2009

Why is it that crackpots get so much air time? Is it because they yell louder than anyone else?

While that is probably true (non-crackpots see the world logically, and don’t understand how it could be any other way. Hence, no yelling.), the factor driving the publicity engine is controversy. The media loves controversy because it is usually fueled by emotion, and emotion gets peoples’ attention. Continue reading…

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Science and the Media

by Kirsten Sanford, Mar 06 2009

I spend a large portion of my time these days considering how to best explain scientific concepts or discoveries to the public. Granted, the audience is a crucial part of the equation. You don’t create something for children the same way that you do for aged academics.

But, as I look at the way that science reaches the majority of the public, and how the public responds to it, I (and I’m not alone here) find that there is something wrong. People just aren’t getting excited about science.

And, they should be getting excited! There is so much amazing work being done that will change our lives to the point that our grandchildren will laugh when we tell them about our ipods, computers, planes, and trains.

So, why aren’t people interested? Where is the information falling by the wayside? How can the trend be changed?

I’d love to hear what you think.

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Science and Skepticism on TV

by Steven Novella, Nov 10 2008

Commercial television is a business, and that business is entertainment. Shows that capture and retain viewers prosper, regardless of any other aspect of their quality. Those that fail to, die, regardless of their value to society.

That is a simple, if inconvenient, truth.

Therefore, while I feel very positively about the crew that Brian and Ryan have assembled, and I believe we can create top-notch skeptical content – none of that matters if we cannot compete to keep viewers glued to their TV screens (or convince no-nonsense executives that we can).

Science and skepticism have been fairing a bit better on commercial television of late, giving me some hope that the timing might be right. Everyone thinks immediately of Mythbusters and Bullshit – both highly successful shows built around a format of debunking. Recently, though, there has been a growing lineup of science-based entertainment programming. Some of it good, some of it not so much.

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