A Media Availability, or: I’ve Called You Here Today To Tell You To Get Off Of My Lawn

Election year journalism is good for my vocabulary, I guess, in an It Builds Character sort of way. The latest new-to-me find came via a writeup of early Dem Convention news:

In a media availability with reporters following the breakfast, Clinton reiterated her opposition to McCain’s ads.

Emphasis mine. Sputtering, visceral dislike for that count-noun phrase also mine.

“A media availability”? The notion, based on a quick scan of the first couple pages of Google’s ~28,000 hits for the phrase, seems to be more or less the same as what I’d call a press conference. Folks mostly “hold” them, though I see a couple examples of someone “participating in” one as well. Also: host, conduct, offer.

The odd thing to me from an armchair-linguistics standpoint is this use of “availability” as a count-noun. I’m accustomed to availability as a more abstract noun—I have some availability next week; the Senator has no availability (or more specifically no media availability) tomorrow; it’s a question not of willingness but of availability; and so on. But an availability? A discrete, self-contained unit of availability? Weird! (Weirder, too, is the implication that one’s schedule might then include two or three or seven availabilities, though I haven’t come across any examples of that usage so far.)

Googling for the logical root form, “an availability”, turns up only ~300,000 hits, which suggests to me that “a media availability” is a significant continuent of this count-noun use of availability. Further, the first hits for “an availability” seem to be using the world ‘availability’ itself as a modifier in a larger noun phrase, e.g. “an availability zone”, “an availability technique”, “an availability management service”, “an availability analysis”, and so on. Looking through those results, I don’t see so far in fact any noun-form use of availability like the one I’m talking about here.

Where did this come from? Is it long-established PR jargon that I’m just now noticing? Long-extant jargon that is only more recently coming into popular currency? Something coined outright in the last few years? Paging through the search results, I see at a glance datelines from 2008, 2007, 2006 — but that’s hardly a reliable survey, for a number of reasons.

A handful of things I’ve found, rooting around in Google:

Here’s a working definition of the term, from a May, 2008 pdf title “Firewood media recommendations”:

A less frequently used method is called a media availability. It is in some ways simply a planned opportunity to meet with the news media to check out your issue, in this case, firewood. Conduct a media availability only if there is no other appropriate means to get the message out separately to the media. For example, conducting a live demonstration (jumping a canyon on a motorcycle) might be a good time for a media availability. You would not want to do the same demonstration 5-10 times for individual reporters.

Also noted: the use of the (less jarring, to me) “a media availability session” in a 2008 blog post. Somewhat less formal circumstances than a news writeup, though, so that may not be a great citation.

Wikipedia, in it’s writeup on Press Conference, says this:

A government may wish to open their proceedings for the media to witness events, such as the passing of a piece of legislation from the government in parliament to the senate, via a media availability.

Under “See related”, it links to the article on Pseudo-event. Heh.

New recording: True Love Will Find You in the End

I spent yesterday afternoon recording, and this morning mixing, a cover of a wonderful Daniel Johnston song called True Love Will Find You in the End.

Follow that link to listen to it over at Metafilter Music.

I learned the song from playing it with the Harvey Girls; it’s a bit different to be singing both the main and the harmony vocals on it, but I think it works reasonably well. I haven’t been recording nearly enough music for a while now, so I’m hoping this is a dam-breaker and I’ll get back in the habit.

Hiram and Melissa covered another Johnston tune, Walkin’ the Cow, on an all-covers album they released a while back called Our History is Your Kitsch. You can listen to the whole record at that link; there’s a bunch of great stuff on it.

Live Apostrophree or Die

Cute bit of satire from Typical Programmer (via blasdelf at Metafilter).

What does Apostrophree do? It autocorrects language errors. Like, say…

Misplaced apostrophes?
Usually I don’t get through three articles in my RSS feed before I encounter it’s when the author meant its, or FAQ’s, which is almost as common on the web as FAQs, and more common than the correct FAQ, since the Q stands for “questions” and is therefore already a plural.

One good invention deserves another:

Any plans for spending your venture capital?
Part of the deal we have with Bolus is the acquisition of a Russian company that is working on what they call a “clue gate.” The idea is to identify and filter out postings from newbies, particularly on technical forums, so employees are not tempted to insult someone who can’t install Python, for example, or to spend an hour explaining why a real programmer has to know C and not just Java.

Now I just need to drum up a few million to leverage a LAN/proxy implementation of my counterstrategy.

Recursive snark

On things which tell you more about the speaker than the subject:

It’s an old trope, but I’ve just spotted it for the nth time over in a comment at Language Log, looking like this:

“Nonplussed” has joined the population of words that tell you more about the speaker than about the topic spoken of.

There’s a specific argument to be made here about what, exactly, that commenter thinks is said about a person who uses “nonplussed” in either of the two common contemporary senses. The extremely short version is: not much, actually, and so implying that it’s a telling slip is itself, well, a telling comment. Which brings me to the larger point:

As often as not, snarking that “[statement x] says more about the speaker than it does about the subject” says more about the snarker than it does about the snarkee.

Saying so puts me in tricky territory almost by definition, of course, but I’m willing to take one for the team in this case.