First, cable company Charter Communications made a run at buying Time Warner Cable. That ended up being a prelude to cable and media giant Comcast swooping in to buy Time Warner Cable in a $45 billion deal. The combined firm would serve 30 million pay TV subscribers (Comcast would divest 3 million subscribers it would gain). But would customers win or lose if the deal is approved by the Feds?
And while millions are tuning in to this year’s Winter Olympics to watch world-class athletes compete, there is another draw to watch Sochi: schadenfreude. Horror stories from the Russian city — from the culling of stray dogs to hotel rooms still under construction when reporters checked in — have flooded the Internet since the Olympics began. The Twitter feed @SochiProblems, which has been highlighting journalists’ tweets complaining about Sochi, has 100k more followers than the official @Sochi2014 Twitter account. Many of the tweets highlighting dysfunctional toilets and concerning signage are darkly humorous, but is the viral nature of Sochi-hate overshadowing the Games themselves?
This week on the Mediatwits, we’re joined by special guests Zach Seward at Quartz and Samir Mezrahi at BuzzFeed to talk about the cable mega-merger and social media coverage of the Olympics. We also have regulars Andrew Lih of American University and social media guru Sarah Evans, with PBS MediaShift’s Mark Glaser hosting.
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Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is a longtime freelance writer and editor, who has contributed to magazines such as Entertainment Weekly, Wired and Conde Nast Traveler, and websites such as CNET and the Yale Global Forum. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Renee and son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.
Andrew Lih is a new media journalist and associate professor of journalism at the American University School of Communication. He is the author of “The Wikipedia Revolution” (Hyperion 2009, Aurum UK 2009) and is a noted expert on online collaboration and journalism. He is a veteran of AT&T Bell Laboratories and in 1994 created the first online city guide for New York City (www.ny.com). Follow him on Twitter @fuzheado.
Sarah Evans (@PRsarahevans) is a social and digital strategist, correspondent and publisher with her company Sevans Strategy. She works with companies like Cox Communications, as a digital correspondent, runs popular digital lifestyle publication FAVES + CO. (http://sarahsfav.es), and shares a weekly email digital literacy resource for parents and teachers, #1StepAhead.
Samir Mezrahi has been with BuzzFeed since 2012 and is one of the site’s Senior Editors. He runs BuzzFeed’s main Twitter account (@BuzzFeed) which has over 750,000 followers, as well as the site’s Facebook’s page, which has 1.7 million likes. Additionally, he oversees social media for each of the site’s verticals. Mezrahi attended the University of Oklahoma and lives on Long Island.
Zach Seward is senior editor of Quartz, where he guides the editorial strategy, leads a team of visual journalists, and writes about technology and media. Previously, he worked at the Wall Street Journal, first a reporter covering education and health, then as the editor of outreach and social media. Before that, he was associate editor of Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, reporting on the news industry.
This isn’t the first time that the media has looked past the arenas to report on problems in the countries hosting the Olympics. In 2008, plenty of articles highlighted human rights concerns (and pollution) in China in the run-up to the Summer Games. The news stories about Beijing’s crackdown on dissent closely parallel this year’s many articles about LGBT rights in Russia. One difference — Beijing’s problems didn’t become a meme. As the mocking tweets and articles pile up, some commentators are wondering if the #SochiProblems flurry has gone too far to politicize the games. Are journalists spending too much time in Sochi’s sole gay club trying to join the bandwagon of condemning Russia? How is the social media schadenfreude affecting the way viewers watch the games and perceive Russia? Plus, NBC is not letting people see live feeds online unless they subscribe to cable, and still time-delays prime-time coverage. Has that bothered people as much as during the London Games in 2012? And athletes are banned from posting any video or audio on social media.
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Claire Groden is the podcast intern for PBS Mediashift and a senior at Dartmouth College. You can follow Claire on Twitter @ClaireGroden.