Sun., Sept 18: Reality Bites Back at Brooklyn Book Festival


As a born-and-bred Brooklynite — and a lit geek, ‘natch — I’m thrilled to be bringing Reality Bites Back to the fifth annual Brooklyn Book Festival, along with brilliant writers including Laura Flanders, Jeremy Scahill, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and several Pulitzer Prize winners.

WHERE: Brooklyn Historical Society Main Hall (128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, NY)

WHEN: 5pm, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011

WHAT: Media Representations and Reality: The debate continues over whether the media reflects reality or has a hand in shaping it. Like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the act of presenting the news can

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very often alter it. No one knows this better than Brooke Gladstone of “On the Media,” whose new book The Influencing Machine with Josh Neufeld examines the role of the media in American society. Patrice Evans, (Negropedia), examines media representations of African-Americans, and Jennifer Pozner (Reality Bites Back) looks at the completely unreal world of reality television. Moderated by Juan Gonzalez (News for All the People).


VIDEO: Jennifer L. Pozner on CBC News “Connect with Mark Kelley”: 25th anniversary of “The Real World”


Yesterday, I wrote that I’d be appearing on CBC News’s Connect with Mark Kelley to discuss the state of reality television on the 25th anniversary of MTV’s iconic The Real World. Today, I’m happy to share the interview with you. My discussion is part of the following six-minute video package, starting at 2:14:


DVR ALERT: Tonight (3/9), 8:45pm EST: I discuss the 25th Anniversary of “The Real World” with CBC News “Connect with Mark Kelley”


Quick hit: Tonight, to mark the premiere of the 25th season of The Real World, I’ll be on the CBC News show Connect with Mark Kelley to discuss how reality TV has morphed from one iconic (yet fringe) MTV show about strangers living together in 1992, to the landscape-altering genre it became once it traveled to network television in 2000.

Connect with Mark Kelley airs live from 8 – 9pm EST; I’m told that my segment will air at 8:45pm. Tune in live, or watch it online at http://www.cbc.ca/connect/

(And for those of you who care about such things… why, yes, that will be a big box of tissues right outside the camera’s frame! I’m battling a nasty cold right now. Just consider me your puffy-eyed, red-nosed media analyst, at your service!)

I hope to be able to address some of the following, from the introduction to Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV (all footnotes available in the book; bracketed descriptions and names provided here for context):


Viewers Guide to MTV’s Abortion Special: Send young women your love, but give Dr. Drew the side-eye


As Entertainment Weekly reported last week, MTV will air No Easy Decision, a one-time special about teens who have had abortions, tonight at 11:30pm EST, an unfortunate ratings graveyard timeslot. (Exhale, a support organization for women who have had abortions, has organized an excellent companion campaign, “16 & Loved,” where you can send your love and support to the brave young women profiled in the special, and through which young women can support one another. More on that below. Also at the bottom of this post: a viewers guide to help you watch the MTV special with a critical eye.)

Billed as a follow-up to the Viacom channel’s popular 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom, the special will allow three young women who have had abortions discuss the reasons why they chose to end their pregnancies, and share their feelings about the experience. This is a long-overdue and needed addition to the reality TV discussion about teen pregnancies, nearly a third of which end in abortion — a fact that has been 100% absent on MTV until now.


Reviewers say: Reality Bites Back makes a great gift!


Are you a last-minute Christmas gift-giver? Do you owe belated Chanukah and Solstice presents? Well, take it from Feministing, Isak, Hello Ladies and Women’s Voices for Change: Reality Bites Back makes the perfect gift!

I wrote the book to spark a national conversation about the meaning and impact of reality TV on our culture, and in doing so I hoped to make media literacy not only enlightening, but fun. So, I’m really excited to see Reality Bites Back popping up on holiday gift guides by respected media outlets and blogs who seem to find the book engaging and enjoyable. I’m also gratified and flattered to see the book recommended by readers on Twitter as “The Must-Have Book This Season” and discussed as good holiday reading options on Facebook by professors who say, “I’ve read it, I’ve taught it, Jenn has been in LA to discuss it — I’m all about it. If you haven’t yet, go get it!”

At Feministing, the book tops Courtney Martin’s “Not Oprah’s Book Club: Holiday Edition” gift guide:


Jezebel on me, TLC, and Tea Party intimidation: “Sarah Palin’s Alaska Is Afraid Of Its Own Viewers”


Yesterday, a Jezebel headline about my weekend brouhaha with Sarah Palin’s Alaska summed up what I promised TLC I wouldn’t discuss on record: “Sarah Palin’s Alaska is scared of their own viewers.”


Jezebel’s Anna North’s post brings into stark relief how certain segments on the right are using fear and intimidation to create a chilling effect over media content. As North summarizes, I was booked to discuss Sarah Palin’s Alaska on the official TLC podcast after Sunday night’s latest episode of the show. Then, I was abruptly uninvited from podcast because, as its host and social media strategist said, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska is not a political show” and my presence would have made the conversation — about a series-long unpaid political advertisement for the former GOP vice presidential nominee and potential future POTUS candidate — “inadvertently political.” (Yep, I know. I deconstructed that fun little bit of irony yesterday, as did Media Matters.) But, as North writes, that official explanation wasn’t the whole story. In fact, “organizers were worried about what Palin supporters might do if they got too riled up.”

Jezebel asks if my segment’s cancelation was “because the organizers of the show can’t handle anybody even mildly badmouthing Palin? Well, not exactly.”:


More from me–and Media Matters–on my disinvitation from Sarah Palin’s Alaska podcast


Media Matters for America has weighed in on TLC’s decision to invite — and then uninvite — me to participate in a podcast about the reality show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska. (My previous two blog posts have discussed what I originally agreed to talk about on the podcast, followed by my response to my segment being scrapped.)

Media Matters’ post is headlined, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska cancels non-political guest’s podcast appearance, fearing politics (Yeah, right).” MM’s Jamison Foster writes:


If you’ve been paying attention to Sarah Palin’s Alaska, you probably know that the folks behind the show are obsessed with pretending that the show doesn’t have anything to do with politics. That obsession took an amusing turn this weekend as media critic Jennifer Pozner, author of a new book about so-called “reality television,” was invited to participate in a SPA podcast — then abruptly un-invited.

Foster quotes from podcast host Brian Reich’s explanation for the segment’s cancellation, and his statement that “Sarah Palin’s Alaska is not a political show.” (Reich’s comments are printed in full at the bottom of yesterday’s Reality Bites Back blog post.) Foster concludes:


My TLC podcast canceled–apparently, I make Sarah Palin “political.”


Earlier today, I announced that I was invited to be a guest on TLC’s podcast about Sarah Palin’s Alaska, the new reality show starring and executive produced by the former Governor, GOP VP nominee, and potential future POTUS candidate. I wrote to give you all a sneak peek into what I planned to talk about on the show, which — as I blogged — was exactly what I had discussed with the podcast’s rep prior to being booked for the segment.

Turns out, dear reader, that your sneak peek is to be your only peek: my segment has been canceled specifically because of that blog post.

I was first told that my “tone” in my blog post made the podcast and show’s powers-that-be uncomfortable.  I reminded the booker that I hadn’t said anything in the blog post (other than my thoughts about the show’s sop to the NRA, which I hadn’t been asked about and had forgotten to mention) that I hadn’t previously, honestly and clearly stated before she booked me. I explained that I reserve my snark especially for you, my lovely readers, but that I am always professional and appropriate when I offer media commentary in broadcast forums — as the dozens of TV, radio and podcast interviews listed on the media page attest.


Reality Bites Back at…Sarah Palin’s Alaska, TONIGHT, 10:20pm EST


UPDATE: This segment has been canceled–specifically because of this blog post. I may still participate in the TLC podcast and/or blogs in some other capacity, and will discuss in a blog post to come.

Am I being Punked? Perhaps. But at 10:20 EST, I’ll be a guest on TLC’s TalkBack Live podcast to follow tonight’s new episode of Sarah Palin’s Alaska, the new reality show starring — and executive produced by — the 2008 Republican Vice Presidential nominee, former half-term Gov. of Alaska, and Fox News contributor. In the episode, the Palin family and the Gosselin family (Kate Gosselin and her “plus eight” kids, stars of another flagship TLC series) will go camping together in Alaska.

I’m not sure TLC understands who they’re getting as a guest. I didn’t try to hide it: “You know I’m a media critic, and not a cheerleader for reality TV, right?” “Yeah. That’s ok,” the booker said. “You know I just wrote a book called Reality Bites Back, right?” “Yes. That’s not a problem.” Well, ok then…


DC TONIGHT: Final stop on the Reality Bites Back book tour


Tonight in Washington, D.C., I’m holding my last official reading on the Reality Bites Back book tour. It is listed in the Washington Post’sGoing Out Guide Blog,” and their “Going Out Guide.” There’s also a brief interview with the Express.

Tonight, the final official book reading will be held at Busboys & Poets on 14th & V in Washington, DC from 6:30-8pm. RSVP on Facebook (though walk-ins are fine, too). If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll come out for a lively discussion about gender, race and class in entertainment media — and support a fantastic local independent DC bookstore and cafe.

This month has been incredible. Journalists from Newsweek, Macleans, Ms. magazine, AOL TV Squad, the St. Petersburg Times, the Denver Post, B*tch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, The American Prospect, and many more have written about the book. That was never a given for a feminist, anti-racist analysis of corporate media which includes extensive critique of product placement, advertising, and media consolidation — not to mention a conclusion featuring strategies for making

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change from more than a dozen media activists.