Howard Owens is a digital media pioneer. He started publishing local news online in 1995 when very few local news outlets had web sites. The header image on the site depicts the film camera he used early in his career and the press pass from his year on the staff of the Carlsbad Journal. For more on Howard's professional background, read his LinkedIn profile.
HowardOwens.com is the personal web site of Howard Owens and covers his range of interests -- political localism and libertarianism, music and personal interests, as well as his professional interests.
Howard is currently publisher of The Batavian and lives in Batavia, N.Y.
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Daily Archives: December 5, 2006
I bought my first New York Dolls LP (Too Much, Too Soon — there are only two) in 1978 for half a buck in a thrift store. I knew nothing about the Dolls, but I was just into punk, and I saw this album cover of a group of guys looking completely outrageous — it had to be some punk band I’d never heard of — why not buy it?Too Much Too Soon quickly became, and remains, one of my all-time favorite LPs. And it didn’t take me long to figure out that the Dolls influenced pretty much everything I was listening to. Not only did the Dolls influence punk and new wave, they influenced every brand of hard rock and heavy metal, and especially the hair bands, that came after. Yet, chances are, you never heard of them. The average rock fan has never heard of the New York Dolls.
Tonight I finished watching a DVD called New York Doll. It is an unusually good documentary about a rock and roll band. More than the history of a band, it is the history of a person — Arthur “Killer” Kane, the Dolls’ bass player. Unlike the other members of the Dolls (David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter), Johnny Thunders and Sylvain Sylvain, Kane had no musical career after the Dolls broke up. He drifted into alcoholism and obscurity, embittered by the success of his former band mates and all the posers who got rich borrowing from the Dolls’ style. The Dolls didn’t make a dime off their music, and you can’t trademark style.
Kane eventually wound up in Los Angeles taking bit parts in movies and barely getting by. His wife makes a comment in the film about marrying a rock star but never getting to enjoy any of the trappings. Eventually, Kane hits bottom, beating up his wife and jumping out of a third floor window. While recovering from his injuries, he requests a copy of the Book of Mormon, and two missionaries arrive at his front door. Kane converts and takes a job in the family research library and the Los Angeles temple.
As a now devout man, Arthur has one and only one pray he wants God to answer — he wants the New York Dolls to get back together. Kane, as becomes clear from watching the bonus material, had two religions in life — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the New York Dolls. His apartment was a shrine to the Dolls. He never stopped believing, and then one day, the call comes. The Dolls are going to reunite for one show in London.
This gentle, kind, humble and sweet man makes an oddly perfect vehicle for recounting the history and reunion of one of rock’s most important and outrageously bacchanalian bands. The story arc is compelling from beginning to end (spoiler alert), as sad as the ending is. A mere twenty-two days after that reunion in London, after Kane has returned to his white shirt and blue tie and his job with the old ladies in the library, he is diagnosed with leukemia. Two hours later, he is dead.
Central to the film is Kane’s faith, but rather than be a distraction, it is one of the films strengths. In these cynical days, it is so easy to make fun of a religion like Mormonisms, but New York Doll never goes there. Instead, Kane’s faith is allowed to speak for itself. There is nothing about this film that will make you feel like a couple of missionaries are camping out on your door jam, yet you’ll get a good sense of what Mormonism meant to Kane. You can draw your own conclusions about it.
Interestingly, Johansen takes Kane’s beliefs in stride, with a wry humor and endearing acceptance (these two men hadn’t spoken in 30 years). Johansen contributes a couple of acoustic hymns to the sound track and at the end of the reunion concert refers to Kane as one of God’s miracles. It all makes for a very human story.
Obviously, I’m recommending you buy or rent the move, even if you’re not a Dolls fan. Continue reading
I’ve never been one to say, “Bloggers are going to take over the world.” In fact, I don’t know too many if any bloggers who seriously believe that blogging, or any kind of user-generated content, will replace traditional journalism. If traditional journalism dies, I tend to believe that it will be because we haven’t figured out the digital revenue model, not because blogging buried us. It takes a lot of work, dedication and financial resources to do quality journalism. Those are prerequisites some bloggers and other types of citizen journalists possess, but rarely, and certainly not yet in numbers sufficient enough to replace newspaper journalism.
But then I read about sites like the New Haven Independent and I think, here is a publishing model that is truly disruptive (and therefore a real threat to newspapers). Editor’s Web Log has a lengthy post about the online-only publication.
Although he is an old media reporter, Bass finds that journalism on the Web is â€œdefinitelyâ€? more efficient than print journalism. For starters, the Independent doesnâ€™t have an office. â€œOur reporters are out reporting all the time instead of talking in the newsroom,â€? explained Bass. If he meets with his staff to discuss stories, they do so in a local coffee shop. Secondly, Bass doesnâ€™t have to wait until stories go to press; as soon as an article is ready, it is posted on the Independentâ€™s site.
In what is perhaps the most efficient characteristic of Internet reporting, Bass and his staff have their stories proofread and fact-checked by readers. The Independent has even started a contest through which the reader who catches the most typos wins Independent paraphernalia.
If I were the publisher in New Haven, I’d be very, very nervous.
It’sÂ worth noting, though, that Bass is a professional journalist.Â He may represent the kind of hybrid pro/citizen journalist who is the biggest threat to traditional publishing and broadcasting. Continue reading
Here are more reasons for newspapers to be diving heavily into video — the channel as we know it is going to disappear, or at least become essentially irrelevant.
From the Washington Posle:
So far, Brightcove customers have built online video programming networks dedicated to topics as varied as pet care and Miami night life. The channels are available only on computers, but Berrey hopes to soon offer viewers a way to watch on their TV sets.
One way Brightcove is trying to get on TV screens is to work with products connected to TV sets, such as the TiVo digital video recorder. Together, Brightcove and TiVo are creating a video portal that allows TiVo subscribers to upload homemade video clips and create unique channels — a lineup of shows from various sources on TiVo’s Now Playing list — that friends and family members can watch through their own TiVo boxes.
“It’s the democratization of video content,” Berrey said. “People are going to get away from Channel 9 or Channel 10.”
Brightcover isn’t the only company out there working to figure out how to get IP-delivered video onto the big box in the living room. The day is coming when you’ll build your own channels and master all of your own programming choices, it will consist in large measure of content created independently of any of today’s traditional producers.