The death of a 92-year-old journalist–whose curmudgeonly commentary was part of the longest-running prime time TV news magazine–prompted wide-ranging tributes on blogs last week.
For the week of November 7-11, the No. 1 story on blogs was the November 4 death of venerable commentator Andy Rooney, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Rooney’s popular essays capped CBS’s 60 Minutes broadcasts for more than 30 years. He was a writer even before the age of television as a correspondent for The Stars and Stripes during World War II, and he had worked at CBS for more than 60 years. His first on-air essay debuted July 2, 1978 after he had served as a producer and narrator for a series of broadcasts on CBS. And by his final send-off on October 2, 2011, Americans knew him as the bushy-browed and somewhat cantankerous observer of American life.
Despite Rooney’s status as an old-school newsman, bloggers revered him for bringing a distinct new mode of communication to the news.
“Rooney was a staple in our weekly ‘Let’s spend 2 minutes complaining about something pretty mundane’ routines, and when he retired 6 weeks ago, we knew we’d miss him terribly,” wrote Michelle Collins at the pop culture blog Best Week Ever, “Today, we’re sad to say goodbye forever. His stopwatch ticks no more.”
“I want to live and die like Andy Rooney,” wrote Maurilio Amorim, “After watching Mr. Rooney’s life from my seat in front of the TV since I was a child, I have come to the realization that when it came to work, he got it right.”
“As grumpy as he was, though, I think he did so with the best of intention,” wrote cpu at The Mad Computer Scientist’s Mind, “He always seemed to be able to cut through the sentimental crap and get right to the point on things. This is what I admired about him and, in many ways, I think how he inspired me.”
“The world has lost a special man in Andy Rooney,” wrote Gillian at Baby Talk without the Babble, “With deep respect, his homespun philosophies will be greatly missed. ‘Yes, Andy, I wish you could write forever, too!'”
Since PEJ began the New Media Index in January 2009, one trend has been the tendency of bloggers to devote considerably more attention than the mainstream press to the deaths of notable celebrities. Actors ranging from Leslie Neilsen to Elizabeth Taylor and musical icons such as Les Paul registered among the top five stories on blogs the week of their deaths.
TransCanada Keystone Pipeline
The blogging community showed much less harmony over the No. 3 story: The State Department’s decision to study an alternative route for the TransCanada Keystone pipeline that would avoid environmentally sensitive regions of Nebraska.
This story, while popular online, filled less than 1% of the newshole in the mainstream media for the week of November 7-13.
“And, as improbable as it might have seemed only a few months ago, Nebraska stands poised to become the symbol of how unions and environmentalists and ranchers and young people from the Occupy Movement may be uniting to forge a kind of new progressivism,” wrote Ted Genoways at OneEarth.
Conservatives criticized President Obama, arguing that the delay in routing the pipeline essentially meant stopping a project that would have provided jobs and cheaper energy.
“Obama has killed a desperately needed pipeline. We lose 25,000 jobs and CHEAPER energy costs,” wrote Pamela Geller on Atlas Shrugs, “Obama needs to be called out… Where are the Republican warriors on the right? Aren’t they more afraid of what Obama and the uber left are doing to destroy this country than they are of the ankle-biting press? Considering the dire straits this nation is in, this is criminal.”
Tech News on Blogs
The fourth-biggest story in the blogosphere last week was news about Google, both its updated search algorithm and changes to the Google Reader RSS feed.
Bloggers generally supported the changes in the search algorithm meant to improve the “freshness” of search results. The new algorithm impacts about 35% of searches.
“Apparently, freshness is getting even more rewarded, having an impact on one out of three searches,” wrote Barry Schwartz on Search Engine Land, “That’s huge–though it’s unclear what it was before. For all we know, 35% of searches were already being impacted by freshness ranking.”
The response to Google Reader changes was much more negative. In a blog post entitled “Reader Redesign: Terrible Decision, or Worst Decision,” Brian Shih, a former Google employee, wrote that he thought the redesign was terrible. Several bloggers agreed.
“Aesthetic uniformity across products makes perfect sense,” wrote E.D. Kain at Forbes, “Unfortunately, the new Google Reader look is ugly. Really ugly… It’s not pleasant to read on at all, which sort of defeats the purpose of an RSS service… There’s almost no way Google could have blundered more disastrously here.” (Emphasis author’s.)
The other top stories on blogs related to mobile phones. The No. 2 topic involved a not-yet-released Sony Ericsson phone while the fifth-biggest story was the omnipresent iPhone.
“It looks like the mobile phone has been well worth the long wait after watching its marvelous sleek and stylish design,” wrote MSN India.
And the new iPhone’s Siri personal assistant also had people talking. The iPhone 4S has a proximity sensor so the phone is able to determine how far away the user’s face is and whether or not to activate the Siri system, according to iFixIt. Bloggers were a little wary of this feature.
“Apple’s Siri virtual assistant is a bit of a creeper,” wrote Devindra Hardawar at Mobile Beat.
The Week on Twitter
Occupy Wall Street
For the second time in three weeks, the Occupy Wall Street protests were the top story on Twitter–even in a week when coverage in the mainstream media diminished notably.