Thursday, January 31, 2008

Today's Word—Campaign '08

Boys Off the Bus:

“In recent years, the notion of the campaign bus has come under some reconsideration by critics of the press, who think it fosters a pack mentality. I think they may have a point. Reporters spend a lot of time forming cliques on campaign buses (it’s probably a natural reaction to the close habitat), and meanwhile the candidates have become more guarded and have stopped trying to get to know the reporters anyway.”
Matt Bai, blogging for the New York Times, 2008 ( (Thanks to alert WORDster Raelle Greer)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Today's Word—Public Service?

17 seconds/hr, 6.8 minutes/day:

“While the media environment is evolving rapidly, television continues to be the dominant medium used by the American public. TV advertising is therefore still a core component of most major public service campaigns, on topics such as childhood obesity, drunk driving, or cancer prevention…. [B]roadcast and cable stations in the study donated an average of 17 seconds an hour to PSAs—totaling one-half of one percent of all TV airtime.”
Kaiser Family Foundation study, “Shouting to Be Heard,” finds most of donated airtime is between midnight and 6 a.m., 2008 (

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Today's Word—Agenda-Setting

The Responsible Editor:

“The newspaper editor, especially in a one-paper town, remains the single most influential determinant of what most people in the community learn about the world. Therefore his own world view—its breadth or narrowness, its humanity or meanness, its curiosity or apathy—will be reflected in people who depend on his paper, and will affect their ability to manage their own lives sensibly and effectively.”
Charles W. Bailey, on stepping down as editor of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, 1983 (Thanks to alert WORDster Peter Watson)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Today's Word—Gordon B. Hinckley

Killer bees of the press:

“Our generation is afflicted with critics in the media who think they do a great and clever thing in mercilessly attacking men and women in public office and in other positions of leadership. They are prone to take a line or a paragraph out of context and pursue their prey like a swarm of killer bees. They lash out with invective and snide innuendo against those who have no effective way of fighting back or who, in the spirit of the teachings of the Master, prefer to turn their cheeks and go forward with their lives.”
Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008), president and prophet (1995-2008), Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1990. Hinckley knew his media targets: he directed the LDS Church’s Radio, Publicity and Mission Literature Committee for five decades before joining the church's upper leadership in 1961. He died yesterday at age 97.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Today's Word—On Newspaper Reading

Guilty Pleasures:

“A newspaper is like a bad woman. It takes your time, it steals your money, it robs you of your self-respect. And yet, you give up all these gladly in exchange for a few fleeting moments of pleasure.”
Derick Daniels, city editor of The Miami Herald, advising a young reporter, ca. 1959. (Thanks to alert WORDster Phil Meyer)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Speaking of Pollsters and Pundits...

By Mike Lane. See

More "Say No to Pollsters!"

Today's Word—Losers of the Fourth Estate

It's the News, Stupid!

“The big winners so far have been the voters, who can now see their states counted, not counted out. The big losers have been the members of the Fourth Estate. Too many of us forgot something central to our work: it’s called news because we don’t know how it’s going to turn out.”
Anna Quindlen, Newsweek columnist, on the press’s poor political prognostication, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Today's Word—Cartoonists

Take no prisoners:

“Cartoonists are the free safety of the editorial board. They don’t care whether it’s a run or a pass. They just want to hit someone hard.”
Lee Judge, Kansas City Star editorial cartoonist (, at national editorial writers convention, 2007 (Thanks to alert WORDster Dick Hughes)

For online op-ed cartoon archives, see

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Today's Word—Think Again

Thinking Is Hard Work:

“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”
Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), civil right leader

News Note: In re. yesterday's repurposing of my 1999 column on Martin Luther King Jr., the Utah State Legislature opened yesterday on MLK Day to protests from minority groups, including the NAACP; a legislative leader referred to the day as "Human Rights Day," which the holiday was named until Utah became the last state in the nation to rename it for the slain civil rights leader.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Column: MLK Day

Note: This column first ran in the Logan (Utah) Herald-Journal on Feb. 4, 1999. Lightly updated, I like to share it with my students every year. Here in Utah, the holiday was finally renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Day (which is wasn’t in 1999), but the state Legislature continues to begin its annual session on this day—which I still find disrespectful. In this 2008 campaign season when a black man is a serious contender for president, Dr. King’s dreams—some coming true, but many still distant—are especially worth revisiting. TP

Three decades years later, King’s dream won’t die

By Ted Pease
© 1999

Normally, I am an incurable optimist. But there are times when I despair for American society—is there any hope for us? Will we ever be able to learn from our past mistakes? This week, remembering the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is one of those times when I'm not so sure.

In spite of social conditions in the 1960s, Martin Luther King had a dream for American equality. He helped the rest of us dream it with him, and made us believe it.

That was more than four decades ago. Dr. King was young—in his 30s—black and incredibly powerful in his faith, his dream, his vision for an America that would correspond to the nation that the Constitution’s framers had also dreamed of.

The dream, said King, was that one day in America, people would be judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Most of the time I truly believe that we Americans have indeed grown that much, to the point where, as a society, race really doesn’t matter, and that our view of others is not—like beauty—just skin-deep.

But I am a white man. For people who aren’t white—more than one-third of all Americans—race matters almost more than any other single thing in their lives. So what do I know?

Here in Utah, about 12 percent of the population is “minority”—that is, not white. We are the 13th whitest state in the Union. I think people here really do try to live up to moral expectations of decency and acceptance in their dealings with others, but in Utah we can’t even celebrate the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and honor the ideals he espoused, worked for, died for. Instead, what is designated as Martin Luther King Day on the federal and national calendar is “Human Rights Day” in Utah, as if we dare not acknowledge the power and vision of a black man. (This changed in 2001. TP)

When I was a kid, my parents loaded me onto a bus and took me into Boston to “march with Martin Luther King.” I’m not sure how old I was, or how well I understood what we were doing with the masses of people moving slowly around the historic Boston Common, making new history in a city not known for its racial acceptance, and singing, over and over, “We Shall Overcome.”

But I have sharp and distinct images from that day that still move me, more than 40 years later. King was there that day, and I remember listening to him speak from the small gazebo on the Boston Common. It wasn’t the “I Have a Dream” speech for which he is most famous, of course—he made that mark on our nation’s history and our culture’s conscience during the famous “March on Washington” on Aug. 28, 1963. I don’t remember his words that day in Boston, but the dream was real in the sound of his voice. Like an unforgettable taste on my tongue, I can still feel his voice and his dream.

It’s not that I have any quarrel with Utah designating a day to honor the precepts of human rights. After all, Martin Luther King Jr., who would have been 79 now had he survived, certainly did stand for human rights for everyone. In fact, let’s declare every day “human rights day” in Utah. But why can’t we as a state honor King himself—if only once a year—and why, if we as a state believe in what King dreamed of, does the Utah Legislature pick that day to open its session and get on with business as usual? What message does that send? It’s disrespectful to King and people of all races who espouse his ideals.

Most of us “just don’t think about race that much,” as one of my students here at Utah State University said to me one day last fall. “Why does it matter?” she said, meaning that a person’s race shouldn’t matter.

Well, she’s right: it shouldn’t matter in the way she meant. Race shouldn’t be a barrier to opportunity, education, lifestyle, expectations, the way we live our day-to-day lives and raise our kids and interact with each other on the street or in schools or at work. But it does matter, and race still is a barrier to people who aren’t white, for whom race is “the single most defining aspect of all parts of my life,” as a black former colleague once told me.

In 2008, four decades after James Earl Ray murdered Martin Luther King, the dream is still alive, but still unfulfilled. Some think America is no less racist and divided now than it was in the 1960s, when a presidential commission said we were “two societies, one white, one black, separate and unequal.”

The reason that race matters today—and not just for people who aren’t white—goes beyond the precepts of basic human decency on which our faith and our beliefs as Americans are founded. It matters because we are still living in two (at least) separate and unequal and largely incommunicative societies where, as Martin Luther King pointed out a generation ago, words still seem to count more than deeds, and skin color is more important than character.

Today's Word—Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

Equality Revisited:

“Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”
Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), civil rights leader, Speech at Civil Rights March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Friday, January 18, 2008

Today's Word—"Reign of Witches"

Tiring of presidential campaigns? Be patient

“A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt.”
Thomas Jefferson, (1743-1826), 3rd U.S. president (1801-1809), 1798.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Today's Word—Where Ideas Come From


“Sometimes, standing in the wings, I feel [a] story brush against my face and think I'll remember it—maybe if I closed my eyes it would land on my shoulder like one of the Performing Gospel Birds. This book, while not nearly so fine, will have to suffice until it returns.”
Garrison Keillor, radio host and author, Lake Wobegon Days (Thanks to alert WORDster Katherine Waller)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Today's Word—Mobocracy

Democracy Defined?

“A government of the masses. Authority derived through mass meeting or any other form of ‘direct’ expression. Results in mobocracy. Attitude toward property is communistic—negating property rights. Attitude toward law is that the will of the majority shall regulate, whether is be based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice, and impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences. Results in demogogism, license, agitation, discontent, anarchy.”
U.S. War Department Training Manual No. 2000-25, November 1928 (since withdrawn).

(Thanks to alert WORDster Greg Fasolt)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Today's Word—Bloodthirsty Mosquitoes

Media Voyeurism:

“The paparazzi, a name created by Federico Fellini for a character in the film La Dolce Vita, are the bloodthirsty mosquitoes on the front lines of our gossip wars. But someone publishes the images they capture. The resulting buzz attracts not just the tabloids and cable news shows, but the gossipy sections that turn the mainstream into the meanstream media. As purveyors or consumers of such news, we are all complicit.”
Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar, The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, 2008 (

Monday, January 14, 2008

Today's Word—The Noble Press

A newspaper creed:

“An institution that should always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty.”
The New York World, 1883

Friday, January 11, 2008

Today's Word—Pundits

Talking Loud:

“The whole point about being a pundit is you don't have to be right, you just have to sound sure.”
Matt Taibbi, reporter and pundit, Rolling Stone, who also predicted an Obama win in the New Hampshire primary, on The Colbert Report, 1/10/08

The press and pollsters, as pundit Arianna Huffington says, have a lot of "'splainin'" to do about how NH voters inexplicably didn't do what the pundits said they wanted to do. See

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Today's Word—Respecting Freedom

Teaching Freedom:

“The public does not have strong support for student expression — an unfortunate reality given that students may not appreciate our constitutional democracy if they live in an environment that does not respect their rights to freedom of expression.”
David Hudson, First Amendment scholar, on “State of the First Amendment 2007” survey (

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Today's Word—Election-Year Advice

Baloney-Detection is Hard Work:

“Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion and bamboozle requires intelligence, vigilance, dedication and courage. But if we don't practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us--and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who comes along.”
Carl Sagan, scientist and author, “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection,” 1995 (from The Demon-Haunted World)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Today's Word—"And So Forth..."

The people’s forum:

"As liberty of the press is so essential to the improvement of the mind, we shall consider our paper, a free paper, with, however, proper and usual restrictions.… But the columns of this newspaper shall always be open to free and temperate discussions on the matters of politics, religion, and so forth."
Elias Boudinot, editor, The Cherokee Phoenix, in its first issue, Feb. 21, 1828 (Thanks to alert WORDster Becky Tallent)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Today's Word—FCC Debacle

Monday, Jan. 7, 2008!

This marks the return of the WORD to trouble an already troubled new year. Floods in Fernley, rioting Kikuyu, blizzards, fungus and whatnot—and let's not even start with presidential politics!

I hope you had happy, restful and peaceful holidays. The WORD, tiring of sloth at St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose, broke out three days after Christmas and, disguised as a pundit, invented TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM—The BLOG! Feedback and suggestions—printable and otherwise—always welcome.

Meanwhile, here we go again, dear friends....

Lump o’ coal:

“We generously ask big media to sit on Santa’s knee, tell us what it wants for Christmas, and then push through whatever of these wishes are politically and practically feasible. No test to see if anyone's been naughty or nice. Just another big, shiny present for the favored few who already hold an FCC license--and a lump of coal for the rest of us. Happy holidays!”

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, on end-of-year rule changes permitting more media ownership consolidation, Dec. 18, 2007. (Thanks to alert WORDster Alexandra Halsey) see