Friday, August 29, 2008

Today's Word—Truth Is Hard

Low Expectations:

“A writer hopes to surprise his readers now and then. If we agree about everything, then one of us is redundant. Of course, rigorous truthfulness is good, but that gets harder and harder to achieve. So I settle for being amusing.”
Garrison Keillor, writer and radio host, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Today's Word—Appalling Silence

What about well-meaning clamor?

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
—Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), civil rights leader

NOTE: Today is the anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Today's Word—The Right to Rant

On protests at political conventions:

“The citizens of Denver and St. Paul, and Americans everywhere, should hope officials in those cities already have considered both the constitutional and monetary costs of silencing voices that have a right to be heard. . . . Well-expressed or wacky. Irritating or illuminating. Respectful or raucous. There’s nothing in the 45 words of the First Amendment that sets out any such qualifications or limits on protests. Time and again in our history, from women’s suffrage to civil rights to tax protests, to name just some, voices first raised in the streets—to the disgust or disappointment of some—have led to significant, positive changes in law and American life.”
Gene Policinski, executive director, First Amendment Center, 2008.

John ColeThe Scranton Times-Tribune (8/21/08)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Today's Word—Citizen Skepticism

On Critical Thinking:

“The media . . . shape perceptions and conceal issues. Look at the 2000 presidential campaign, for example, where the media were so heavily biased against Al Gore. That’s what brought Bush to within a Supreme Court decision of the White House. So if you look at, certainly these last seven years, the role of the media in not telling you reasons why you should be skeptical . . . [is] enormously important.”
—Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and author, The Conscience of a Liberal, 2007

Monday, August 25, 2008

WORD Escapes St. Mumbles, Launches 13th Season

News Flash!
WORD escapes St. Mumbles; pithy verbiage
again afflicts an unsuspecting planet

LOGAN, Utah--The first panicky whispers came shortly after 2 a.m. as the dreamless sleep of the blissfully ignorant was rent by murky soundbites of quotable insight.

The news spread swiftly from the epicenter in the redwoods of the Northern California coast, where officials at the St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose confirmed early this morning that TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM had once again escaped from its padded maximum conjugation cell.

A breathless Renee Montagne confirmed the worst on National Public Radio from LA shortly after 5 a.m. (PDT): “It’s baaaa-aaack,” she announced, interrupting a breaking news feature on batiking. “The WORD is free and running rampant again. God bless us, every one.”

As the tremor rippled across the globe, a North African sheepherder muttered, “Tu es maître des paroles que tu n'as pas prononcées; tu es esclave de celles qui ne te sont pas échapées.” (“You are master of words you have never spoken; you are slave to those that have escaped you [your lips].”), acccording to alert WORDsters Karl Petruso and Blake Carpenter, who for some reason were lurking in Algerian grazing grounds.

No one was immediately certain what the heck that means.

In Denver, as the Democratic National Coronation, er, "Convention" was set to open, disenfranchsed delegates from Michigan and Florida caucused and promptly announced that they plan to place the WORD in nomination. For what, they were uncertain.

Sporting an “Impeach Cheney” hat, delegate Flora Mae Gerund said, “The heck with Obama. Remember what the real JFK said: ‘Even though we never like it, and even though we wish they didn’t write it, and even though we disapprove, there isn’t any doubt at all that we could not do the job at all in a free society without a very, very active press.’ Or, in this case, the WORD!”

Pundit Stephen Colbert, known for his own reticence and abuse of the English language, cackled from Comedy Central, “It’s the 13th coming of the New Truthiness!”

As the mingled joy and horror spread, news that the WORD had once again shimmied down the drainpipe at St. Mumbles to launch its 13th horrific season of punditry and verbiage prompted the most violent response in the journalism department at Utah State University, which spawned the global online affliction in 1995.

(If you are one of my students--and if you are, everyone pities you--your assignment is to define both “punditry” and “verbiage,” and use each in a sentence that makes their meaning clear. Note: Wikipedia is NOT an accepted source!)

Back-story: The WORD was concocted (“conceived” is, I think, altogether too grand) as a way to get my journalism students to pay attention to their email. Strange as it may sound, email was then a new and unpleasant disturbance of the general peace, and many students did not then spend 16 hours a day online. As a professor hoping to get and keep their attention while also instructing them, my object was that the WORD would give them something to think about before class, and which might go on their quizzes.

I think it’s fair to say that this strategy was a dismal failure. Most of my students continue to ignore their daily WORDs and gaily accept point reductions on their quizzes for not knowing the day's wordish wisdom from philosophers ranging from Soren Kierkegaard to Brian Williams to Lisa Simpson.

But the WORD has become rather frighteningly popular with non-students, grown-ups, mostly, who actually ask to be afflicted or who send email addresses of unsuspecting friends/colleagues/parents/bosses, so that they might be victimized as well.

When the WORD was trundled by those nice white-jacketed men into St. Mumbles Sanitarium last spring, approximately 1,600 (mostly volunteer) victims subscribed to the direct email WORD list. More got the WORD by checking the website, and many more unsuspecting victims were forwarded the daily spam.

As usual, we launch this season with the ever-useful wisdom of the genial former colonial guv’ner of Virginia, whose high regard for both education and the press still rings with an increasingly popular fervor today. Enjoy!


“I thank God we have no free schools or printing, and I hope that we shall not have these for a hundred years. For learning has brought disobediences and heresy and sects into the world; and printing has divulged them and libels against the government. God keep us from both.”
Sir William Berkeley
Governor, Virginia Colony, 1671

And that's the WORD.

* * * * *
TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM is a free “service” sent to the 1,600 or so misguided volunteer subscribers around the planet. If you have recovered from whatever led you to subscribe and don't want it anymore, send "unsubscribe." Or if you want to afflict someone else, send me the email address and watch the fun begin. (Disclaimer: While I just quote 'em, I don't necessarily endorse 'em. All, in theory, contain at least a kernel of insight.)

Ted Pease, Professor of Interesting Stuff
Utah State University, Logan, Utah
To receive Today's Word on Journalism, send "subscribe" to
See the WORD online at the Hard News Café:
“Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little." —Tom Stoppard