When I visited my first real film festival as a professional writer, the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2008, I saw Oscar Nominee Richard Jenkins a few feet away from me and couldn’t have cared less. I was looking for someone else and when I finally spotted him, I was so star-struck that I didn’t dare to talk to him. Good thing I ran into him a second time – and this time I managed to chat with him for a bit. The man was Jason Solomons, a film journalist for „The Guardian“ and he had been in my ear for over a year, every week.

Jason was the host of the Guardian’s podcast „Film Weekly“, the first podcast I listened to regularly, and one of the best film podcasts around, as far as I am concerned. In an internet world, where the geeks – and the loud films they like – have increasingly taken over power, „Film Weekly“, Solomons and later co-host Xan Brooks gave off a cushy scent of old film journalism gentry and art house sensitivity. I first discovered the show in an episode on Danny Boyle’s Sunshine (via the now defunct blog „Cinematical“) and was immediately hooked.

I almost never agreed with Jason’s and Xan’s assessment of more mainstream films, especially animation, and I found the way Jason conducted some of his interviews to be rather unnerving (witness, for example, how he almost drives David Cronenberg mad, by insisting on discovering what’s „cronenbergian“ about him). On the other hand, here were journalists who had the power of a publication like the „Guardian“ behind them, who could be autonomous and irreverent without too much press junket fanboy-ism.

They led me to art house gems I would hardly have discovered without them, featured big stars as well as small indie newcomers and had English accents that were easy on the ear. At about 30 minutes, the show was exactly the right length, and not as long-drawn and chatty as some of the other efforts on the net (like Filmspotting and the /filmcast).

It’s really too bad, that Solomons and Brooks hosted their last show a week and a half ago. Their company gave no real reason for the cancellation except „limited resources & belts being tightened, as well as the desire to push the Guardian’s multimedia in new directions“. A video show will follow later this year. While video might generate more clicks in this day and age, it’s also hard to enjoy it while you’re going for your weekend run and takes a lot more active commitment to watch regularly. I, for one, will probably stop consuming the „Guardian“’s film coverage now. I hope I will have the opportunity to run into Jason or Xan at a film festival again to tell them how much I miss their show.

Image: Katharina Matzkeit

When I planned this series of reflections upon my personal media diet, I decided that I would write one episode about „everything that’s online, but that’s not blogs or social networks“. Today, when I sketched out in my head, what exactly I would write about, I noticed that when you take away blogs and social networks, there isn’t really that much more that I do online. So maybe this episode will be a short one, but let’s leave it like that as a case in point.

Netvibes

The hub around which all my media activity on the web revolves, is a nifty feed reader called Netvibes which I call my „Everywhere Office“. It allows you to subscribe to feeds of all kinds and sort them neatly in tabs and widgets. I have tabs for „News“, „Film“, „Media“, „Music“, „Culture“ and „Entertainment“. The number of unread articles on top of each tab gives me an overall feeling of how much has happened. Most of the feeds I follow are blogs (more on that in the next episode), but there is some other stuff as well and I guess that is everything that qualifies for this episode.

News Sites

I had just published the first episode of „Navel Gazing“ when I noticed that others think about the same things. And I promptly stumbled upon a sentence by Daniel Erk that perfectly reflects my opinion:

Die deutschen Nachrichtenseiten im Netz finde ich alle recht austauschbar. Es erscheint mir vor allem eine Designfrage, ob man nun auf Spiegel Online, Zeit Online oder FAZ.net die neuesten Meldungen von dpa und Reuters liest.

I find German news sites on nthe web quite interchangeable. It seems to be formerly a design question, whether you read your news wire stories on Spiegel Online, Zeit Online or FAZ.net.

I have personally opted for tagesschau.de for my news needs, which is the website of Germany’s first public service television channel. I find their blue design quite soothing, they seem relatively unbiased and because they are integrated with a network of radio and tv stations, they always offer multimedia content. When I have a general feeling of uninformedness, I like to watch their News in 100 seconds to bring me up to date on the latest headlines in a very short time period.

My college years spent in mass media studies („Publizistik“) have generally convinced me of the belief that much of what we call „news“ is completely irrelevant for me. So I like to keep informed about the trends of what is „viral“ in the world right now, for which, I noticed, it suffices to check a news site every few days. Otherwise, I have adapted the strategy of that apocryphal high school intern and let the news come to me, which works surprisingly well (more on that soon). And whenever there is a topic that concerns me or that I feel I should be able to have an informed opinion about (most current example: ACTA), I generally start on a news site for some background and then take to the blogs and columnists to get a wider variety of opinions.

For my film news, I follow /film. While they are, by outer form and also by the tone of their coverage, a blog, most of what they do is reporting news and then adding some personal comment or question with not much journalistic research involved. I simply ignore the personal comments and read the news, which they mostly present in an aggregator-like fashion, by linking to the site that broke the story. Hey, look, a segway to the next section.

Aggregators

I follow the opinion of some bloggers in thinking that aggregating will be an ever more important important part of online journalism in the future. It’s the new form of the very gatekeeping that journalists have always used. I like the fact that there is both algorithms and people that „read“ the web for me so I don’t have to. And with the power of the link, that still doesn’t mean that I am dependent on second-hand-news. I can just read it where it originates.

Apart from „/film“ mentioned above, I follow the amazing German Blog- and Twitter-Aggregator Rivva, which automatically gives me the topics that Germany’s web opinion leaders are thinking about. For topics that are on the mind of the Chattering Classes in the US, I have found the „Links for the Day“ feature of „Slant“ Magazines „The House Next Door“ very helpful.

Podcasts

I am a big fan of podcasts ever since I discovered that I like it when people talk to me while I run or exercise. So with about four to five hours of physical activity each week, I get through a wide range of podcasts. I always listen to the „Guardian’s“ Film Weekly (which might or might not be scrapped soon) and Music Weekly for interviews and opinions on current trends in those areas. In addition, I pick and mix single episodes that seem interesting from the following podcasts: The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith (for in-depth interviews with film professionals), the /filmcast (for discussions about trends in American cinema), Zündfunk Generator (for current trends in German society), Was mit Medien (for media news) and Media Talk (for media news in Britain). A good friend also regularly tries to turn me on to This American Life and I think she may have almost succeeded.

Entertainment

Almost an afterthought: Netvibes also provides me with my very own Funny Pages independently of Facebook Memes. I follow the webcomics XKCD, Multiplex, Girls With Slingshots, Nichtlustig and Partially Clips – and I still follow what’s going on at Lamebook (a good way, by the way, of keeping an eye on general trends of current American [teenage] humour).

Navel Gazing is a multi-part blog series about my personal media consumption habits, meant as a case study and a moment of self-reflection on account of Real Virtuality’s third birthday.
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