Friday, February 29, 2008

Today's Word—Sesquipadelian

A Few (Short) Words from William F. Buckley Jr.:

“I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.”

“Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”

“I get satisfaction of three kinds. One is creating something, one is being paid for it and one is the feeling that I haven't just been sitting on my ass all afternoon.”

“The best defense against usurpatory government is an assertive citizenry.”

—William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008), conservative icon, author, talk-show host, magazine editor and wordman, died at his desk in Stamford, Conn., yesterday. (See New York Times obit)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Today's Word—Titillation, Tots & Terriers, oh my!

The 3 T’s of TV News:

“Fear sells local television news, followed by anything to do with sex, children or animals. ‘Titillation, Tots and Terriers’ is how TV news insiders sometimes portray their craft. But the most telling one-liner is, ‘If it’s news, it’s news to us!’ That’s the most accidentally accurate description of local television journalism.”
Drew Shinnick, columnist and tech writer, 2007

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Today's Word—Puppy Dogs?

A Newspaper Owner’s Vision:

Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell addresses the staff of the Orlando Sentinel:

“My attitude on journalism is very simple. I want to make enough money so I can afford you. It's really that simple. You need to in effect help me by being a journalist that focuses on what our readers want and therefore generates more revenue. We understand unequivocally that the heart and soul of this business is the editorial side of the business. That's our content. But if we don't have the revenue, it doesn't really matter.

Q: But what the readers want is puppy dogs. We also need to inform the community...

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry...You're giving me the classic what I would call journalistic arrogance of deciding that puppies don't count. I don't know anything about puppies. What I'm interested in is, how can we generate additional interest in our product and additional revenue so we can make our product better and better. And hopefully we get to the point where our revenue is so significant that we can do puppies and Iraq. OK? F**k you.” 2008

(See video

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Today's Word—Goodbye Editors

O’ Brave New Electronic World!

“We don’t hire editors anymore, we hire content strategists.”
—Jack Griffin, president, Meredith Publishing, in keynote presentation at the 2008 FOLIO: Publishing Summit (2/21/08).
(Thanks to alert—and discouraged—WORDster Lisa Hannam)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Today's Word—Torture

Where are your priorities?

“It is inexcusable for scientists to torture animals; let them make their experiments on journalists and politicians.”
—Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), Norwegian playwright and author (Thanks to alert WORDster Tom Hodges)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Today's Word—And That's the Way It Was...

Write the Truth and Raise Hell:

“Now I’m not a 22-year-old HTML kid and have little interest in writing about Britney’s panties. So no newspapers are calling. I’m a writer living in Seattle. Aside from the risk of living under a bridge, I’m free to write the truth and raise hell. That was once the calling of the best newspapers. Now a few of us will try to carry it on as guerrilla journalists and rogue columnists.”
—Jon Talton, veteran journalist who has left the business, for obvious reasons, 2008 (Thanks to alert WORDster Lois Berkowitz)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Today's Word—Just Ask

More on Questioning:

“I ask questions. The stupidity of people comes from trying to have an answer for everything. Wisdom comes from having a question for everything.”
Milan Kundera, Czech writer and poet

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Today's Word—Journalistic Hygiene

Advice to journalists:

“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.”
—George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), playwright and social commentator (Thanks to alert WORDster Anne Gallagher)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Today's Word—Just Words?

©John Cole, Scranton, Pa., Times, 2008

But whose words are they?

“Don’t tell me that words don’t matter. ‘I have a dream.’ Just words. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Just words. ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ Just words. Just speeches. It’s true that speeches don’t solve all problems, but what is also true is that if we can’t inspire the country to believe again, then it doesn’t matter how many plans and policies we have.”
—Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate, criticized by the Clinton campaign for being all-talk-no-substance, is now under fire for “borrowing” these words from a 2005 speech by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, 2/17/08 (See Obama speech. And see Clinton's criticism.)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Today's Word—Presidents Remembered

Freedom and Liberty Recalled:

“What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling seacoasts, the guns of our war steamers, or the strength of our gallant and disciplined army. These are not our reliance against a resumption of tyranny in our fair land. All of them may be turned against our liberties, without making us stronger or weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty, which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, every where. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.”
—Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th U.S. president, from his Sept. 11, 1858, speech at Edwardsville

Friday, February 15, 2008

Today's Word—Critical Thinking

More on Asking:

“There is never a moment when your critical thinking should be suspended, never a moment when it's enough to say, as a justification for printing something, that this is what the cops told me or the school officials told me, or the ‘sources’ at City Hall told me. There is no moratorium in journalism for checking it out yourself.”
William F. Woo, newspaper editor, educator and author, in Letters from the Editor: Lessons on Journalism and Life, Philip Meyer, ed., 2007

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Today's Word—More Mencken

Mencken loved his work:

“No other entertainment gave him greater pleasure than reporting from the [national political] conventions; nor did anyone appreciate his efforts more than Mencken himself. One reporter, peering through Mencken’s window late at night after one rally, recalled watching him at work alone in his hotel room, pounding out copy on a typewriter propped on a desk. He would type a few sentences, read them, slap his thigh, toss his head back, and roar with laughter. Then he would type some more lines, guffaw, and so on until the end of the article.”
—Marion E. Rodgers, ed., The Impossible H.L. Mencken: A Collection of His Best Newspaper Stories (1991) (Thanks to alert WORDster Karl M. Petruso)

NOTE: Memorial Service today for ABC newsman John McWethy, who died in a skiing accident last week: Memorial Service beginning at 11 a.m., Thursday, February 14th, 2008, at the new Newseum, 555 Pennslvania Avenue NW, at 6th Street. A reception will follow, and information will be available about contributing to The John F. McWethy Fellowship in Reporting at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Today's Word—On Democracy

WORDman’s note: When the end of this quotation circulated so widely during the last presidential election, it was taken out of context. As the alert reader can see, Mencken’s critique was not of the elected, but of those who elect. A timely reminder that we the people deserve what we get. (Gender specificity original.)—TP

Democracy Works:

“[W]hen a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental—men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost. All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre—the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents more and more closely the inner soul of the people. [emphasis added] We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), journalist, author and political observer, writing in the Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

Followup on Friday's WORD and news of John McWethy's death in a skiing accident last week: Memorial Service beginning at 11 a.m., Thursday, February 14th, 2008, at the new Newseum, 555 Pennslvania Avenue NW, at 6th Street. A reception will follow, and information will be available about contributing to The John F. McWethy Fellowship in Reporting at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Today's Word—Women and the Press

Women and the Press:

“The worst mistake any woman can make is to get crosswise with the newspapers.”
—Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), suffragette, on the need for newspaper support of the women’s movement (quoted in Failure Is Impossible by Lynn Sherr) (Thanks to alert WORDster Dan Kubiske)

By Mike Lester, The Rome News-Tribune 01/10/2008

Monday, February 11, 2008

Today's Word—Puzzlement

More on Political Pundits:

“That is what kills political writing, this absurd pretence you are delivering a great utterance. You never do. You are just a puzzled man making notes about what you think.”
—Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), journalist, writer and political commentator, 1915 (Thanks to alert WORDster Brian Bowling)

Followup on Friday's WORD and news of John McWethy's death in a skiing accident last week: Memorial Service beginning at 11 a.m., Thursday, February 14th, 2008, at the new Newseum, 555 Pennslvania Avenue NW, at 6th Street. A reception will follow, and information will be available about contributing to The John F. McWethy Fellowship in Reporting at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Today's Word—Why?

Why Ask “Why?”

“The word ‘why’ is, in my view, the most powerful word in the English language. It is the driving force of my profession, and it’s also the driving force and at the heart of your professors, creative sciences, honest politicians and of good parents. Don’t stop asking the word ‘why’ just because you’re leaving DePauw. All institutions, all endeavors, all relationships are improved by a good scrubbing using the word ‘why.’ In democracy it is the question we must all constantly be asking our government and our leaders. It is not unpatriotic to question the government; it is unpatriotic not to.”
John McWethy (1947-2008), veteran print and ABC News journalist, who died this week in a Colorado skiing accident; from his 2003 DePauw University commencement speech (Thanks to alert WORDster Hillary Groutage)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Today's Word—Public Interest

The Greater Good:

“You do need to be careful of people’s privacy. However, there are times when legitimate public interest trumps that privacy—not salacious interest, just something for the good of others. When it comes down to it, you are not working for a paper, you are working for a democracy.”
Diana B. Henriques, journalist, The New York Times, at the Foster Conference of Distinguished Writers, Penn State, 2007 (Thanks to alert WORDster Susan Crowell)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Today's Word—More on Campaign '08

Down and Dirty:

“You should never have your best trousers on when you go out to fight for freedom and truth.”
Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), Norwegian playwright and author, “An Enemy of the People” (1882)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Today's Word—Making Language

Wordish Dalliances

“English is the product of a Saxon warrior trying to make a date with an Angle barmaid, and as such is no more legitimate than any of the other products of that conversation.”
—H. Beam Piper (1904-1964), science fiction author (Thanks to alert WORDster Ann Berry)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Today's Word—Journalists' (Mis)spent Life

The Life of Kings:

“As I look back over a misspent life, I find myself more and more convinced that I had more fun doing news reporting than in any other enterprise. It is really the life of kings.”
H. L. Mencken (1880-1956), journalist and curmudgeon, The Baltimore Sun, 1953 (Thanks to alert WORDster Tom Ferrell)

Jimmy Margulies, New Jersey Record, 2006 (

Friday, February 1, 2008

Today's Word—Keep It Fresh!

Mike Lester, Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune, 1/29/08 (see

Don’t Let News Get in the Way of a Good Story:

“I absolutely believe that the media is not ideologically driven but conflict-driven. If we have a bias it's not that people are socially liberal or fiscally conservative or vice versa, it is that we are engaged in the storytelling business. And if you tell the same story again and again and again, it's kind of boring.”
Jon Meacham, editor, Newsweek, on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart (1/21/08) (Thanks to alert WORDster Ross Martin)