I'm An MTV Scab!

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Well, not really.  But this post will certainly be a test of my independence from big media.

If you haven't heard the news yet, I am one of the 51 citizen journalists selected for MTV's newly unveiled Street Team '08.  I'm going to be a one man media outlet (written, audio, and visual media) for Massachusetts youth.   MTV's press release, in one form or another, has found its way to the Associated Press, the Guardian, and Fox, and other outlets.

Already some have suggested that this could "become an instance of unfruitful hype".  Michael Connery, youth organizing guru and blogger extraordinare, has his doubts, too, but is ultimately supportive of the experiment:

These content distribution deals will give the 51 vloggers and their stories a great deal of exposure, as will, presumably, the fact that their work will be not only embeddable, but local and specific (read: valuable to state-level bloggers and youth orgs). But in the end, MTV isn't ceding all control. They are still the gatekeeper to the 88 million domestic viewers of their 4 cable channels, and what type of content gets moved up to that next level is a big question mark. Will it be safe, non-controversial, platitudinous content? Or will it be diverse, controversial, and thought-provoking? The vloggers supposedly come from a wide array of ideological viewpoints. Can MTV distribute such wildly contrasting world-views on their cable channels in a way that is inspiring and exciting? Or will content pulled up to the network be least-common-denominator material designed to play it safe and protect the ratings? Will the final results be more Hunter S. Thompson or David Broder?

On this I'm willing to give MTV the benefit of the doubt. Their work with MySpace on the candidate forums has been impeccable, and as I'm personally acquainted with three of the vloggers (OR, NE, MA), I'm hopeful for the best. I expect their reports to be hard-hitting, and at this point have no reason to doubt that the other 48 candidates will be any different. Only time will tell.
I'm personally extremely excited about this opportunity.  A friend of mine contacted me about this long ago, but it was Nez's decision to apply that really inspired me to put the extra time and effort into my application.  If there's any question as to who is more deserving of a Street Team '08 slot, just compare Nez's final video submission with mine.

The only thing I really got going for me is this idea of putting out humorous "pop-punk reports".  MTV really liked that.  I was told they were singing my ridiculous self-made punk songs as they thumbed through the applications.  Making up songs is something I've always done.  I never really learned a musical instrument well enough, but if I have nothing else to do and I don't have headphones in my ears, I'll often just start making up songs, usually of punk variety since it's what I listen to the most.   I don't know exactly how this whole idea will play into my reporting, or how often, but it'll be nice to throw that creative part of me out there once in a while.

More importantly, though, this is about putting power in the hands of youth and giving them a voice.  I know of so many inspiring young people that are wasting away their lives by putting off change until tomorrow.  A common perception that I often butted heads against at Harvard was the idea that you had to build power before you could make significant change.  In other words, a lot of young people postpone using the best years of their lives for change to become prominent academics, lawyers, doctors, politicians, or business leaders.  Before long, the reality of a family, bills to pay, and favors owed stifles any chance that they have at real change.  Some of them will bankroll the revolution, but the world is short on revolutionaries.
 
This tone might be too extreme for some, but the type of revolution I'm talking about certainly isn't extreme.  I'm talking about the revolution that each new generation brings.  A generational revolution is not about dogmatic choices like the choices between being radical or reactionary, Republican or Democrat, a meat-eater or a vegetarian.   A generational revolution is simply about each young person striving to be themselves.  If every young person is able to follow their hearts and develop to their fullest potential, I can't imagine that utopia is too far off.

Some are duped into losing their ideals and their youthful selves by institutions like Harvard.  Others are forced to give them up by injustices like poverty, racism, sexism, and nativism.  I reserve my wrath for the duped.  I reserve my hope for the young people that not only see the mistakes of those that came before us, but actively work against them, from the moment they have the ability to do so.  

Now, because blogging gives us the freedom to stray from linear reasoning, I'll explain the title of this post. 

Just weeks before MTV was set to announce that I was part of the '08 Street Team, freelancers, most of them in their 20s, rose up in arms against MTV

Waving signs that read “Shame on Viacom,” the workers, most of them in their 20s, demanded that MTV Networks reverse a plan to reduce health and dental benefits for freelancers beginning Jan. 1.
- Brian Stelter - New York Times
Some of the same young people that I'm supposed to represent are unhappy with the way MTV has been treating them.  Meanwhile, I'm trouncing in, essentially as a freelance journalist, to be an example of how MTV empowers youth.

This dilemma has certainly resulted in a few sleepless night for me.  As a member of the Street Team, I certainly don't fit under the category of a permalancer, but freelance work is so vague and mutable I can't help but feel a little bit like a scab, at least figuratively.  After much thought, I've come to the conclusion that I don't really know what to do about this.

Therefore, I just thought I'd put it out there as a conundrum in my mind, and leave it to the freedom of the blogosphere to decide if there's anything that I should do about it.  I'm just grateful for friends that will help guide me as I "pick at the locks with rust-stained hands".

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This was originally posted on my MTV Think profile for the Street Team.All bloggers have their issues.  Each and every one of us has a special something that we add to the digital universe.  It results in a diversity that... Read More

19 Comments

RickB said:

Ah, hmmm, didn't know about that, well I found this

http://mtvfreelancers.blogspot.com/

maybe talk to them, perhaps make a piece about that (false) angle that a lot of corporations exploit- that young people are all vital and healthy and don't really need healthcare-. And in it do mention the MTV situation.
But- is that a quick way of ending your gig and if it is... is that for the best as they were obviously not very honest or open. OR- Does that waste the good you could have done on other issues.
Yep, dilemma meet horns.
Maybe enough people on this MTV thing feel similar things and if you act together, who knows.

nezua said:

SCAB!!!

jeje. well, yes. i'm definitely feeling the ambivalence on a few levels, too. i'm excited and i see a lot of opportunity in a few areas, but just reading the contract worried the hell out of me. "WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO KEEP FOREVER AND EVER ALL THINGS YOU SAY, CREATE, OR HIDE FROM US WHILE EATING ANYTHING "M-SHAPED" OR WHILE WITHIN A MILLION MILES OF MTV STUDIOS, THIS RIGHT APPLIES EVERYWHERE IN THE UNIVERSE AT ONCE AND IS RETROACTIVE TO YOUR GRANDFATHER'S BIRTH, AND ALL YOU GET EVEN IF WE USE YOUR MUSIC AS A PERMANENT MTV JINGLE IS THE AGREED UPON PITTANCE." ugh. contracts. i still have a bad taste in my mouth from the book deal i did last.

thanks for having so much modesty and thus highlighting what an egomaniac i am. way to show gratitude, punk.

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

You've gotten at the heart of the dillema, RickB. I'm thinking of doing my first report on the MTV permalancers, and covering blogs like the one you've pointed to. Or maybe I'll get the New York Street Team rep to do the same. We'll see what happens.

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

Hahaha! Not an egomaniac at all, Nez, just a SCAB, lol. Just playing. I hear you on the whole contract thing, and having your stuff be owned. I feel like a lot of this stuff is going to bite me in the butt later in life. For instance all my op-eds at the Harvard Crimson are owned by The Crimson. Thank goodness for blogs friend they equalize a lot of these ownership barriers. I wonder if they'll even let us post our videos on youtube. Probably not.

Mike Connery said:

Fwiw, when I first spoke to the MTV folks about this in October, they told me that while they retained all copyrights to the work, they wouldn't do anything to hinder your spreading it around.

Who knows what that's worth at the end of the day. After all, using YouTube might dilute their efforts to build-up ThinkMTV (which I'm still not sold on).

Umm, I tried to go to that MTV freelancers blog and it says that the blog is in violation of Google's Terms of Service and no longer public.

WTF?

fash said:

Congrats to both of you! I remember almost applying for that a couple months ago and then missing the deadline. Too bad, because I would have totally kicked your asses...

If they don't let you post your videos on youtube, I'm sure you could discretely wink and nod until someone else does, and then blame it on the pirating MTV generation.

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

That's strange, Mike. I get the whole violated terms of service thing here in Guatemala but then it directs me straight towards the sight. Something fishy is certainly going on, because as far as I can tell the site is completely innocent.

nezua said:

wow. i went to it the other day, too. now the blog is in "violation of google's terms of service" and locked up/authors-read-only. can't see why. well, gosh darnit. i guess we'll have to read it at a site that has less stringent TOS. this one!

google really chaps my ass. they own way too much. they have their hands in what: youtube, blogger, google, pagerank, i mean actually what DONT they own? and how is it all going on? dont we have anti-trust laws and such made just for this kind of thing?

once google = "do no evil." soon google will = "establishment" like "ritz" = "round buttery cracker" and "coke" = "cola." it will be synonymous with "snoopy, controlling, landhoarding authoritarian."

Watch out yo! Here's comes the Googleman!

catch ya lata amigos.

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

Google turned into the establishment as soon as they took the money to censor internet users in China. Soon we'll all be tapped into the google system and it won't be long until they're are political ramifications to that. Maybe we're already seeing it.

jose said:

Good luck with all of this nonetheless. I can't say what the others in the comment box haven't. I know it isn't the most enviable position for you, but then again, it's something you wanted. Work with it.

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

Thank Jose. I think it is an enviable position, this post was just important for me to put up to assure people I was still looking out for them. Always appreciate the support.

shelbinator said:

Well, I'm pretty sure section 7.(c). of our contract puts the kibash on any such news piece -- in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it was intended to dissuade something even as simple as this very blog post (I was wondering if I myself was crossing a line when blogging about my own concerns). Bummer, huh?

Regarding Mike's answer to your YouTube speculation, it's true MTV won't discourage our promotion of our own pieces -- so long as it's in the MTV branded flash player, I believe. Since I already contribute the occasional YouTube piece to Huffington Post, I asked them if I could continue to do so by cross-posting my MTV stories and they said probably, so long as I can just embed the MTV-hosted version over at HP.


kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

Even worse shelbinator!

By even revealing what our contract might imply you might be violating our contract! It'll be interesting to see how much control they try to assert over us, but hopefully together we can figure out how to deal with a lot of these concerns.

Doolittle said:

Yes, there are anti-trust laws, but there isn't enough money in it for anyone to try and break it up. And with anyone and everyone's attention elsewhere (i.e. the elections, Iraq) no one's going to notice. Lot to say in a little time. Kyle, write a piece on the MTV issue, and if they don't like it, or won't release it, send it to me or someone else to post on the net. We're a nation of pirating bastards! Thanks for pointing out that it was Google that got the China censoring contract, I was trying to remember who took it a few days ago. Do your best (as if you've ever done less)and keep the spirit up.

nezua said:

as related to our discussion, It's only fair to add this, from a trustworthy source:

I was among those who walked out during the week of protests here at Viacom. The great news is that our little protests got such buzz in the press that Viaocm actually listened and is now rethinking and restructuring, and all the permalancers will still have health care after they put in the requisite number of hours.

Thought you'd want to know that our voices were actually heard over here.

yave begnet said:

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" ...
Yeah, lawyers kind of suck. But then rule of law as a societal norm is actually a fairly precious commodity. Lawyers go wrong when they work for the power instead of the people, which unfortunately is most of the time.

A common perception that I often butted heads against at Harvard was the idea that you had to build power before you could make significant change. In other words, a lot of young people postpone using the best years of their lives for change to become prominent academics, lawyers, doctors, politicians, or business leaders. Before long, the reality of a family, bills to pay, and favors owed stifles any chance that they have at real change. Some of them will bankroll the revolution, but the world is short on revolutionaries.

Wow, that is so dead on. At law school, I remember talking with a classmate who challenged my assertion that working through the State Dept. was a good way to help influence U.S. foreign policy. She was right, I was wrong. I also remember talking to a classmate who challenged my assertion, which I was just echoing from a third source anyway, that it was a good idea to get some experience and training under your belt at a law firm before moving into the nonprofit world. In general, I think he was right and I was wrong, even though that was the trajectory I ended up taking. Now both those classmates work at white shoe law firms in New York! It is unbelievably easy to justify whatever you are doing when you are being paid $150K+ at the age of 25 to do it.

Also, let me extend a belated congratulations to Kyle and Nez. Somehow I think you will go ahead and say what you want to say regardless of the institutional views of your new sponsor--the question is, will they publish it? As far as the creativity-stifling IP laws, one of the main problems with the current legal structure is the self-censorship it promotes. You start to think, "Can I link to that, can I reference that, can I talk about that without getting a cease and desist letter?" Well, not to mince words, but fuck that.

I'm looking forward to the year ahead, and wish you MTV vloggers good luck!

nezua said:

thansk bro! here's to changing the world, one vlog at a time!

RickB said:

Happy New Year Kyle!

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