15 Seconds of Fame

Voice Card  -  Volume 31  -  John Card Number 3  -  Sat, Mar 5, 1994 8:11 PM

On Sunday, February 13 at 6:55 PM Betsy and I had our allotted 15 seconds of fame. The picture at left is taken from a quicktime movie Roger and I made from the videotape. Millions of TV viewers got a peek at our living room and computer setup, but only if they didn't blink.

CNN, it seemed, wanted to do a pre-Valentine's Day fluff piece about "love on the information highway." They called Wired magazine asking if they knew of any couples who had met online and Wired referred them to Betsy. Before we knew it we had a CNN camera crew trapsing through our kitchen.

They actually spent an hour with us and filled two tapes, but 99% of this material wound up on the cutting room floor. The final report clocked in at two minutes, with Betsy and I appearing for the first 16 seconds. A few other (not very flattering) images of the two of us typing away at our Macs popped up again towards the end of the two minutes. Those first 16 seconds went something like this:

Shot of J&B at Computers...

CNN Reporter: "Newlyweds Betsy Brazy and John Cartan have a marriage made in cyberspace, a place which exists only in a computer but where 21st century-style love is blooming."

Shot of J&B in living room...

John: "-actually late 20th century love story. This stuff is happening more and more."

Betsy: nods and laughs.

That was pretty much it. The rest of the two minutes included a soundbyte from Howard Reingold who recently wrote a book on online communities, a few snippets from a woman who runs the Echo BBS, and some random images from another netsurfer in New York named Gary. Betsy tracked him down on AOL and we exchanged a few e-mail messages: the camera crew spent two hours with him, so he got about 30 seconds.

It all went by so fast that I can't imagine anyone out there in TV land grokked more than: "here's a bunch of people doing something on a computer." I'm all in favor of concise, efficient information transfer but when stories are edited down this far they aren't stories anymore but become instead a kind of video muzak.

I knew it before but now, having caught a glimpse from the inside, I know it in my bones. Headline News is not news at all but a strange kind of dream we share without understanding what it is we're all dreaming.