Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Today's Word—Thanks



“And so during these holiday seasons, we thank our blessings....”
—President George W. Bush, 2004

Stats on Thanksgiving

Here’s what astronauts are eating.....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Today's Word: Writers

The essential storyteller

“Achilles exists only through Homer. Take away the art of writing from this world and you will probably take away its glory.”

—F. RenĂ© de Chateaubriand
(1768-1848), French writer

Today in History

Monday, November 24, 2008

Today's Word—JFK and the Press

JFK and Television

John F. Kennedy was the first president to use the new medium of television to speak directly to the American people. No other president had conducted live televised press conferences without delay or editing. By the time of his death in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, JFK had held 64 news conferences, an average of one every 16 days.

“The fact of the matter is that . . . when President Kennedy started televised press conferences there were only three or four newspapers in the entire United States that carried a full transcript of a presidential press conference. Therefore, what people read was a distillation…We thought that they should have the opportunity to see it in full.”

—Pierre Salinger (1925-2004), JFK’s press secretary (See JFK Library.)

PS: Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Alert WORDster Jeff Unger wonders how many press conferences George W. Bush has held during his presidency. Me, too. Don’t have a definitive answer yet, but see below....

LATimes • September 18, 2008
Countdown to Crawford:
Tracking the final days of the Bush administration

It has been two months and three days since President Bush has held a full-scale press conference.

Since then, both major political parties have named their candidates to replace him, his administration has embarked on the sort of corporate bailouts that are anathema to Republican philosophy, stocks have spiraled downward, and hurricanes have lashed the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino notes that Bush has taken a couple of questions from reporters here and there since that July 15 news conference.

“I’m sure he misses you all greatly,” she said Wednesday, offering a sure signal that a press conference was not imminent. (More)

~ ~ ~ ~

The Christian Science Monitor reported in August 2003 that Bush43 had held 9 press conferences during his first term, compared to Clinton’s 33 and Bush41’s 61 over the same period:

“Like most American presidents, Bush has had a testy relationship with the fourth estate. For him, that’s played out in holding few full-corps press conferences (as distinct from quick Q and A’s after photo ops, or joint sessions with foreign leaders). At this point in his presidency, Bill Clinton had held 33 solo press conferences; the first President Bush, 61. Wednesday’s gathering was this president's ninth.” (More)

Anyone with more info, please post.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Today's Word—The ‘Precious Pest’

The Press, our ‘Precious Pest’

“We are, heart and soul, friends to the freedom of the press. It is however, the prostituted companion of liberty, and somehow or other, we know not how, its efficient auxiliary. It follows the substance like its shade; but while a man walks erect, he may observe that his shadow is almost always in the dirt. It corrupts, it deceives, it inflames. It strips virtue of her honors, and lends to faction its wildfire and its poisoned arms, and in the end is its own enemy and the usurper's ally, It would be easy to enlarge on its evils. They are in England, they are here, they are everywhere. It is a precious pest, and a necessary mischief, and there would be no liberty without it.”

—Fisher Ames (1758-1808), Federalist lawmaker, Massachusetts lawyer and writer, 1807

The Worst of 2008: From the Center for Media & Democracy: Vote in the fifth annual “Falsies Awards” on those most responsible for polluting the information environment.
Who stands out for shameless spinning in 2008? sneaky spooks, pandering pundits, big business bullies, and many more. Click here to cast your vote today!

Death in the Family?

. Out of Town News, Harvard Square landmark, may close • November 19, 2008 06:01 PM

Richard O'Connor, at the cash register, has been working at the iconic newsstand for 25 years. (Essdras Suarez/Globe Staff)

By Michael Levenson, Boston Globe Staff

Out of Town News, the newsstand that has offered a cornucopia of newspapers and magazines as a Harvard Square landmark for more than 50 years, could close.

The owners have informed Cambridge officials that they have no plans to renew their lease after it expires Jan. 31. City officials say they are hoping to find another newsstand to take its place, but acknowledge that the business climate is grim as more customers get their news online rather than in print.

"It could be that we're chasing moonbeams, and we'll have to look at our re-use options," said Robert W. Healey, the city manager.

The newsstand occupies the center of Harvard Square and is on the National Register of Historic Places. No matter what happens to the business, city officials say they will keep the building, which is used as much as a meeting place as a place to buy news.

(Thanks to alert WORDster Barry Kort)

Letter to the Editor



In years past, TODAY’S WORD was full of wit and wisdom and insight. It was like a rich stew or gumbo for the mind.

This (school) year, I find the quotes true but tepid, informative but not inspiring. In the past I used to pass on many of your gems; now I don’t.

Am I just imagining this? Have others commented? Is it me?

What was a tasty dish is becoming dishwater. Bring back the meat and potatoes. And the desert.


Editor replies: Hmmm. Well, as the chef, I’m responsible for selecting the ingredients of this gumbo. Maybe it’s been the election cycle? Worldwide (media) climate changes? Senility? I’ll see if I can’t find some new marketplaces. Thanks for the, er, feedback.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Today's Word—Historical Debate

What Is Journalism?

“The practice of journalism is two-fold. On the editorial side, it is an applied art; on the publishing side, an economic or business enterprise. Newspapermen, as a rule, seek to avoid dignifying themselves or the vocation with the term, ‘profession,’ but of this we are certain: the equipment of a well-qualified journalist consists of character, native ability, acquired technical skills and a liberal education. His tasks are never easy or simple. The manner in which he bears his public responsibilities, either as publisher or editor, is socially of great importance. If he lives up to the demands put upon him, we should be willing to admit him to professional standing, regardless of how lightly he refers to his job as a craft or even as a ‘game.’”

—Ralph D. Casey, chairman, Department of Journalism, University of Minnesota, 1940

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Today's Word—Vonnegut

Perilous Knowledge

“Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before.... He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way.”
—Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), author, from Cat’s Cradle (1963)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Today's Word—Slippery


“So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with.”

—John Locke (1632-1704), scholar, philosopher, physician

Monday, November 17, 2008

Today's Word—Media Mush

Talking Heads and Food Fights

“Arguably, contemporary [news] media has made [a] shift away from hard information toward free-for-all opinion and speculation. This shouldn’t cost a lot, and indeed modern media peddles an inexpensive product. Most cable television ‘news’ is just talking heads and food fights; they don't even change the heads very often—they hire regulars who appear week after week. Most newspaper reporting consists of rewritten press releases and faxes. Many reporters don’t go after stories, they wait for the stories to be fed [to] them by publicists and flacks.”

—Michael Crichton (1942-2008), best-selling author, who died Nov. 4, in Slate interview (Thanks to alert WORDster Anne W. Anderson)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Today's Word—Lighten Up, Already!

Fun Stuff

1. “The days of the digital watch are numbered.” —Tom Stoppard, playwright (Thanks to Tom Hodges)

2. Palin-dromes: “Wasilla’s all I saw.” “Harass Sarah!”

3. “If you don’t think too good, don’t think too much.” —Ted Williams (1918-2002), philosopher-athlete (Thanks to alert WORDster Karl Petruso)

4. “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”—Dorothy Parker (1893-1967), writer

5. “I don’t know anything that mars good literature so completely as too much truth.” —Mark Twain (1835-1910), writer

6. “The First Amendment was the iPod of 1791.” —Ken Paulson, editor, USA Today

7. “That’s not writing. That’s typing.” —Truman Capote (1924-1984), writer (about Jack Kerouac)

8. “The future of the book is the blurb.” —Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), sociologist

Roger Higgins photo 1959

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Today's Word—Murrow’s Lament

TV Guide

“Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time. Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. . . . [D]uring the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live.”

—Edward R. Murrow (1900-1965), legendary newsman, in speech to the Radio-Television News Directors Assn.,
Oct. 15, 1958

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Today's Word—“Getting” the News

Watch the News. It’s More Fun!

“I just feel sorry for people who only get their news from us because they’re missing half the joke. Yes, we do a joke on what the news is, but the other half is on how the news is reported. So, if they watch the nightly news or cable news program, they’ll enjoy our show more.”

Stephen Colbert, host, The Colbert Report, Comedy Central, 2007

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Today's Word—Veterans Day

Remembering the war correspondent . . .

“In their eyes as they pass is not hatred, not excitement, not despair, not the tonic of their victory—there is just the simple expression of being here as though they had been here doing this forever, and nothing else. . . .

“But to the fighting soldier that phase of the war is behind. It was left behind after his first battle. His blood is up. He is fighting for his life, and killing now for him is as much a profession as writing is for me. . . .

“All the rest of us—you and me and even the thousands of soldiers behind the lines in Africa—we want terribly yet only academically for the war to get over.”

—Dispatches from Ernie Pyle (1900-1945), World War II correspondent.

COMMAND POST, IE SHIMA, April 18, 1945 (AP) — Ernie Pyle, war correspondent beloved by his co-workers, GIs and generals alike, was killed by a Japanese machine-gun bullet through his left temple this morning ..."

This AP photo surfaced in February 2008. “It’s a striking and painful image, but Ernie Pyle wanted people to see and understand the sacrifices that soldiers had to make, so it’s fitting, in a way, that this photo of his own death ... drives home the reality and the finality of that sacrifice.”—James E. Tobin, professor, Miami University of Ohio. (Richard Strasser/AP Photo)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Today's Word—‘Fewer People Are Reading Newspapers’

Downward Spiral

“Fewer people, you and I, are reading newspapers. Then there is ‘online.’ The Internet offers great potential and many pitfalls. For one thing, who edits the news you read? What references do you have on the truth and accuracy of what you learn from the Net?

“In an era of heavily biased television news programs, there is little reason to believe that the Internet, perhaps more intractable than TV, will provide balanced coverage of people and issues, local or global. For us folks trying to figure out what’s going on, the best idea is probably to read widely from different sources. But do we know how to do that, and do we have time for it? I’m skeptical.

“I’m pessimistic about any kind of sunny future for typical newspapers in Maine and elsewhere. In Portland, Augusta, Bath, Rockland, Waterville, Bangor, Belfast—good newspapers have lost their edge. It’s a downward spiral. There is less to read in the paper, so we read less.”

—Steve Cartwright, columnist, Bangor (Maine) Daily News, 2008 (Thanks to alert Kiwi WORDster David Pease)

Friday, November 7, 2008

EXTRA! Election Day Front Pages

Obama Election Front Pages

Tuesday’s election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States was historic on a number of levels, and newspapers worldwide reflected that on their front pages. Here are a few collections of front pages from around the nation and the globe, from the reverent to the raucous. Great stuff.

Election ’08 Page 1 Collections
Amazon (Thanks, Tony Seton!)
The Poynter Institute for Media Studies collection
The Chicago Tribune collection
The collection

Today's Word—Newspaper Boom!

News Flash: Newspaper Circulation Skyrockets! . . . . for a day

From Boston to LA, there was a run on Election Day ’08 newspapers Wednesday as Americans bought up copies trumpeting Barack Obama’s victory as a piece of history. Copies of the New York Times reportedly sold on Ebay for $299.99 and $400, and the Washington Post printed 350,000 extra copies, selling them for $1.50—three times the usual cover price. Countering widespread continuing declines in circulation and revenues, newspapers nationwide printed tens of thousands of extra copies to keep up with demand, as customers seeking historical keepsakes lined up at newsstands and waited for trucks to deliver new press runs.

• Julia Wallace, editor, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I think what this really says, at a huge moment in history, is that people want something to keep and to remember. A newspaper has a very historic, commemorative feel to it. More than anything, it’s about having this to pass on to their children and grandchildren.”

• Steve Hills, president and general manager of Washington Post Media: “I think there is an authority and finality, a sort of last word that comes from the printed edition of the newspaper.”

• NYTimes Editorial Board: “That long, patient line of New Yorkers was a little flame of comfort to warm a newspaper person’s troubled heart. People like to say that print is a withering industry, that newspapers are shrinking ice floes in a warming sea of pixels. But for crying out loud, when something big happens, don’t you miss the paper?”

LINKS: LATimes, NYTimes

Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Today's Word—Virtual News?

Beam Me Up, Wolfie!

“[I]t wouldn’t have been television news without some bravura hype and aggressive flashiness. On CBS, Katie Couric (as calm and confident as she’s been at the anchor desk) hosted a sober presentation. Every other set looked like something you’d pick up at a Circuit City in Dubai. . . . But those gizmos—merely straightforward efforts to present data engagingly—were nothing compared with an embarrassing stunt that CNN first attempted in the 7 o’clock hour. Wolf Blitzer was in his New York command center standing 10 paces away from a 3-D rendering of a reporter: ‘Jessica Yellin via hologram in Chicago.’ The effects were such that she was ringed in an off-purple aura from head to toe (a distance, it seemed, of about 4 feet). This was distracting, perfectly superfluous, and in no way an advance on the good old two-dimensional Yellin to whom we are accustomed. This was just the latest example of CNN’s weakness for state-of-the-art technology that shows you little more than its state-of-the-artiness.”

—Troy Patterson, Slate television critic, Nov. 5, 2008. (Click here for full column.)

For more on Election Night TV gadgetry, see Wired online: For TV Networks, Election Is an Orgy of Gee-Whiz 3-D Tech.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Today's Word—A New Morning in America


“All odds—all odds—said I shouldn’t be standing here. But I am because of love and education and lots of hope. . . . Hope is not blind optimism. Hope is not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside of us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that there is something greater inside of us. . . . They say I need to be seasoned; they say I need to be stewed. They say, ‘We need to boil all the hope out of him—like us—and then he’ll be ready.’ . . . If you will work with me, like you’ve never worked before, then we will win. And we will win America. And then we will change the world.”

—Barack Obama, new president-elect, on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Jan. 5, 2008.

“These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to [Sen. Obama] tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face. I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.”

—Sen. John McCain, conceding the presidential election to Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Coverage Recap

Click here for a recap of the, er, high points of the 22-month presidential campaign.

Today's Word—Finish Line

Stop the Bus, I Wanna Get Off!

“[CNN political correspondent] Candy Crowley can’t think of a single thing she’ll miss about the campaign. She’s long ago sent in her Maryland absentee ballot, and November beckons with lush vistas of sleep and TiVO. . . . ‘After the previous campaign, it took me a good month to stop waking up in the middle of the night in a panic that I’ve missed something,’ Crowley says. ‘After a while, you just miss your house, you know? I miss my back yard. I miss going to the grocery store.’”

—Julia Joffe, writing about the effect of a two-year campaign
on journalists who’ve covered it, The New Republic, 2008

NEWS FLASH: First-in-the nation returns from Dixville Notch, NH, where all 21 of the village's registered voters cast ballots just after midnight Tuesday, show a groundswell for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who received 15 votes to 6 for Republican John McCain. It's the first time Dixville Notch has gone Democratic since 1968. Click here for CNN report.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Today's Word—Lessons from Studs

Remembering Studs Terkel

“Studs could be cute, and damnably perverse. But the Pultizer Prize-winning author, pioneering radio personality, battler against Joe McCarthy and McCarthyism, raconteur, rabble-rouser and grand old man of the American left, who died Friday at age 96, never pulled his punches when it came to politics. . . .

“‘Information, news, ideas—that’s the juice that gets a democracy going. When a few corporations control all the juice, they decide how the democracy works. Or how it won’t work. I don’t worry that much about people doing the right thing if they have the facts about what their government is up to. But if they don’t get the facts, the whole thing falls apart,’ said the man who had spent most of his life interviewing Americans regarding their work, their ideals, their politics and, in his last years, their optimism about the prospect of making a better world.”

—John Nichols, political columnist, blogger and author, remembering Studs Terkel (1912-2008), who died Friday (See Nichols’s remembrance at
(Chris Walker/AP photo)