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When It Rains, It Pours

Well, I can't say New York City exactly put its best face forward for me - it's been alternately drizzly, rainy, windy, or just plain miserable here at least as far as the weather was concerned. With the talks on Tuesday and the Boston/Providence and Philadelphia trips on Wednesday and Friday, Thursday was my only 'off' day here, but it wasn't exactly great for sightseeing. In fact, around mid-day it rained so hard that I had to buy a pair of jeans because my other trousers were soaking wet... (Well, the other reason was that on the flight to the U.S. my old jeans developed what here they'd probably call a 'wardrobe malfunction', putting me in danger of mooning people each time I bent over.)

Things cleared up a little towards the evening, though, and I was able to go for a long walk past some of the major landmarks - the United Nations buildings, the New York Stock Exchange, Battery Park with a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. I also went to the World Trade Center site, and while perhaps enough has been written about Ground Zero already, I have to say that it was a surprisingly touching experience for me. Yes, there is a functioning subway station under the site again now, but even amidst the hustle and bustle of New York City, amongst all of the sheer noise and constant hum that this city generates, Ground Zero remains a very solemn place. I had the impression that even New York cabbies honked their horns a little less around here. Also unexpected for me was how comparatively small the site seemed - perhaps many of the surrounding areas have been rebuilt in the last four years already, but I would have expected this area to be a much larger scar on the face of the city still. At the same time, as I was walking through the streets around it, I couldn't help but wonder how far out the debris would have scattered on the day, and how much of this area would have been covered in the clouds of white dust which spread as the towers collapsed. Finally, for a site which so deeply affected the psyche of this nation, there were fewer U.S. flags here than almost anywhere else I've visited on this trip - elsewhere, the Stars and Stripes are almost ubiquitous.

On a happier note, in the afternoon I also paid brief visits to Danny Schechter, the Vice President of the global media watchdog organisation MediaChannel, as well as to my editor at Peter Lang Publishing, Damon Zucca. While battling some persistent hacker attacks on the MC site at the moment, Danny took some time out to discuss perspectives on alternative news coverage with me, and invited me to publish excerpts from my book Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production as a series on the site - which I might just do. There may also be an opportunity to send a QUT student to work as an intern with the MediaChannel group. With Damon I talked about early responses to Gatewatching, which have been very positive (even if it's still very early in the process) - the book appears to have sold well at AoIR 2005 -, as well as my work with Jo Jacobs on our Uses of Blogs collection (the full manuscript for which we will deliver to the publisher in about one month's time). I also canvassed possibilities for two further book projects (one another edited collection, one a monograph), and both were very well received - more on this as we go through the formal project proposal process. So, I will leave New York with a sense of plenty more work to be done. And speaking of work: I'm now on the way to Philadelphia for the last of my guest lectures on produsers and produsage, at Temple University. After that, I have an early flight out of Newark on Saturday morning, and all going well should be back in Brisbane by Monday morning.