Thursday, August 07, 2008

Mystical secrets of the Radio Troglodyte

If you don't know where you've been, can you really tell where you're going?

Obviously, that's a question some fans of the NPR-canceled Bryant Park Project never have thought to ask as they continue to pile on the network's new editorial director of digital media, Dick Meyer.

To synopsize the objection to Meyer among the "new media" fans, it seems to be centered on his appreciation of some of the charms of traditional community. And, it would seem, his love of a properly made sandwich.

I won't belabor
what I've already covered . . . but it is kind of funny, once you think about it.

ANYWAY, a few of the folks at The BPP Diner seem to be all about "community," so long as it's a "restricted" community. The past is unwelcome. No "backward thinkers" or "old media farts" allowed.

That means you, Dick Meyer.

Vee haff veys of makink you tink forvart!

Also, it's all about the interaction, baby. (Just so long as it's not in any kind of a traditional, physical community with people you've known forever.) And it's all about the glorious mosaic that is diversity. (Just so long as there is enough uniformity of opinion.)

One anti-Meyer commenter -- and all but one (me) were anti-Meyer commenters --
went on about how unique the Bryant Park Project community is:

Yes, I can appreciate some traditions because they can give one comfort. (RC hangover)

Sure Mr. Meyer is a bright man but I will not buy his book to fund his narrow mindedness. Additionally my life is too busy to read a book that seems to based on what Mr. Meyer hates about the world as it is NOW, because I am living my life NOW.


BPP brought together a non physical community that enjoyed something that they can never have again. (Like Mr. Meyer's lunch place that is now boarded up.) Consider carefully if it was announced that Day to Day was being cancelled would there be the same outpouring? BPP was unique not just because of the talented people we heard over the media of our choice, but the interaction it encouraged and made available to any one that wanted to participate. Yes at NPR you can, "click on contact us at the top of the page...and be sure to tell us how to pronounce your name." But you might as well be sending a letter using a stamp, envelope and drop box. Which sounds an awful like what possibly could be described as Mr. Meyer's prefered way of communication.

BPP created a community by using many forms communication. BPP encouraged and seemed to delight in people communicating with each other. (Even when we sometimes agreed to disagree.)

[Unless you're Dick Meyer, who must be demonized and belittled -- R21]

What seems to be disquieting about Mr. Meyer is that if he yearning for how it USED to be how can he use his digital/media to ever reach what the BPP created in its short life? Does he want to? Will NPR ever move forward? Will it just dwindle away because eventually no one who has ever experienced a "BPP" will settle for something as mundane.

I THINK everyone on The BPP Diner would agree The Bryant Park Project's style and its melding of "old" and "new" media represented a leap forward for public broadcasting. (Until NPR canceled it and leaped backward.)

Has any of those "forward thinkers" considered that the BPP just might have been a rediscovery of broadcasting's past? Probably not -- realizing that would involve "backward thinking" if not outright worship of the past.

To my ears, as good as the BPP was, it was just a younger-skewing, less ambitious version of
NBC Radio's old Monitor program.

The Bryant Park Project revolved around a witty, genial studio host. Monitor revolved around a witty, genial studio host.

The Bryant Park Project featured the hourly network news, branded to that particular program. Monitor featured the hourly NBC Radio news, branded to that particular program.

The Bryant Park Project had regular features, as well as segments for feature stories, sports discussion, music and interviews. Monitor had regular features, as well as segments for feature stories, sports discussion, music and interviews.

The two programs had their differences as well.

The Bryant Park Project featured an extensive Internet presence, via its web site and social networking. In Monitor's day -- it ran from 1955 to 1975 -- there was no such thing as an Internet. Then, social networking was accomplished at the Elks Club, over coffee and doughnuts after church and across the backyard fence.

OVERALL, especially considering the technology of the day, Monitor was by far the more ambitious program. For one thing, it ran all weekend, not a couple of hours Monday through Friday mornings.

In its early years, Monitor -- which also was part disc-jockey show and featured live band remotes -- ran 40 straight hours each weekend, from 8 a.m. Saturday to midnight Sunday. For most of 1959, Monitor also aired for two hours Monday through Friday nights.

Then there were the comedy bits. From the history section of the
Monitor tribute website:

Classic comedians showed up every weekend, including Bob and Ray, Nichols and May, Jonathan Winters, Phyllis Diller, Ernie Kovacs, Bob Hope, Bob Newhart, Stiller and Meara, Selma Diamond, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen and, later, Pomerantz and Finkelman. In the early years, Bob and Ray stayed at Radio Central for many hours each weekend, ready to ad-lib skits if remotes weren't ready or technical problems blew up a scheduled segment. In 1957, they won a Peabody Award for their outrageously creative routines on "Monitor."
WHO'D HAVE THUNK IT. Monitor even had its own "Emergency Krulwich." Monitor truly was -- in the words of its creator, legendary NBC president and programmer Sylvester "Pat" Weaver -- a "kaleidoscopic phantasmagoria."

But you couldn't expect those who live in the Eternal Now to have known that. When you live in the Eternal Now, everything is new . . . and it's ever cleverer than anything a troglodyte like poor Dick Meyer might conceive.

But we troglodytes are in on a secret. Come close . . . listen carefully, and I will share the secret of the universe. It is this:

Everything old is new again.


Greg said...

Whew, easy to blow things out of proportion when you write on your own blog without the context of the original.

Hint: we aren't enough new page views to matter. Hey, I guess that's just what the NPR bigwigs think too. Ah, well.

The Mighty Favog said...


Being a happenin', now kind of fellow, you HAVE heard of these thingies called "hyperlinks," right? They're all over this blog post.

Otherwise, nice way not even to engage the argument made here -- the "newness" you revere online isn't so new at all, and looking backward just might provide some road maps for moving forward in an intelligent, humane manner.

But why do that when it's so much easier to sit around and be a smart-ass?

Greg said...

It's a rather strange set of circumstances, to me anyway, that I find myself in here. It seems you are asking me to engage in an argument of your own creation, not one I have started. I make one offhand remark to one specific circumstance, and you indict a whole community.

I will look at it more tomorrow, since I took time today to do other things, yes, including things that do not happen online (a live music show, for example, those must go back hundreds or thousands of years). At the moment, by way of analogy I find myself wondering if Burt Rutan, Paul Allen and Richard Branson ever think "Ah, this has all been done before, the Apollo program was 40 years ago and much more ambitious than our sub-orbital flights." My guess is they don't ever think like that.