Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What is "dialogue"?

Rome’s nationally syndicated radio program, The Jim Rome Show, a.k.a. The Jungle, airs on more than 200 radio stations each weekday and boasts more than two million listeners. But these are no ordinary listeners; they are a legion of fans known as the clones who live and breathe for Jim Rome’s “take” on the day’s larger issues of sport. It is his departure from conventional sports commentary that has resulted in Rome’s unique dialogue with his listeners.

About - The Jim Rome Show


I normally do not hear Rome's show, since it airs while I am at work, but on those occasions when I do hear it, I would not describe the clones' actions as "dialogue." Here's what happens:
  • Rome announces that he's received a phone call.
  • The clone gives an exaggerated speech - the more exaggerated the better - and hangs up.
  • Rome starts talking again.
Two monologues do not a dialogue make.

This is not just an issue in sports talk radio, or in talk radio in general. When you start thinking about so-called social media, sometimes you have to look to find examples that are truly social.

Now Loren Feldman would probably be the last person to tell you that "this is how you are supposed to use Google Plus," but Feldman shows you...well, he shows you how to use Google Plus. Check how Feldman begins this public thread:

Seriously, at what point do people realize Scoble is off a bit? This is a grown man talking about a suggested users list on a website. It's crossed stupid with me when it comes to these guys. It's just weird, all of them. Scoble, Arrington, Gillmor. Just a bunch of really weird guys concerned with this imaginary online world they all live in. No one cares about this stuff, and it certainly doesn't matter. Just bored strange guys.

Now you could picture Feldman saying something like this in one of his videos. I don't know if he has specifically done a video on Google+'s suggested users list, but he's certainly spent some time talking about the unreality of social media. Of course, in a video you can't talk back. On Google+, you can - unless the poster turns off comments. Feldman didn't. He received comments, including this one from Esteban Contreras.

Are you sure you're not on that imaginary list Loren? You never know. You never know.

Now what I'm about to say shouldn't be all that awe-inspiring; it should be expected. But for some reason, it doesn't happen. After Contreras posted this, Feldman replied.

Im not on any list. Certainly not those guys. They are all imbeciles. I've met them, I know.

And then Contreras responded, and then Feldman responded to him. Now THAT'S a dialogue.

Now I realize that this is a case in which the two people engaging in the dialogue are in agreement. But trust me, if you disagree with Feldman's thesis, he will respond.

While some disagree with me, I believe that on his television show, Bill O'Reilly engages in dialogue with those who disagree with him. I don't have a transcript of his conversation with Megyn Kelly, but Mediaite covered the substance of their discussion about the legal rights of Westboro Baptist Church.

Kelly took the unpopular side that legally, Westboro may have not done anything illegal. When O’Reilly disagreed and started pointing to the “pinhead” judges that overturned the initial ruling in favor of Mr. Snyder, Kelly practically spit back, “They don’t do the heart-strings thing at the appeal court level.”

AnonymousFinch (in a dialogue with shootfromthehip) offered his/her thoughts on O'Reilly:

I have never once seen Olbermann have a guest on who did not agree with him. I don't watch him every night, so maybe I've missed it, but never once. This is exactly the reason why Fox beats everybody and O'Reilly has been on top for so long. He always has credible, articulate people who disagree with him, and he always gives them the last word.

Note, however, that if you want to go toe-to-toe with Bill O'Reilly - or with Loren Feldman - you need to have your act together, and you need to be prepared to go decibel-to-decibel. I would not fare well in a debate with Bill O'Reilly. Megyn Kelly does. That's why she's on the show and I'm not. Yes, Kelly is "TV friendly," but O'Reilly's not going to risk his ratings by engaging in a debate with Heidi Pratt.

And, for the record, shootfromthehip subsequently said:

Finch: did I say Olbermann? NO.

I said MSNBC.

And you will find these kinds of informed yet entertaining debates between cons and dems ALL DAY LONG on MSNBC, especially on shows such as Hardball.

Take Elizabeth Edwards vs. Ann Coulter, for example.

And you'll also find dialogue on Comedy Central. Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly have been known to have dialogue with each other.

Now there are drawbacks to the "here's a liberal, here's a conservative, let's pretend that these are the only two views in the world and let them thrash it out" style of commentary. The world is too complex to pretend that there are only two points of view. But the two-person boxing matches that have garnered ratings since "Crossfire" premiered are far preferable to the one-person "I'm right and we won't listen to anyone else" style of commentary that often happens on cable news...and on various forms of talk radio...and on your business blogs.

Now I'm not saying that Apple's official blog should have to insert praise for the wonderful world of Google. But if you're claiming to be an independent publication, then you do a disservice to your readers if you neglect or stifle competing points of view.

Now this is the part where I contradict everything that I just said and turn off comments for this post....nah.
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