Friday, December 11, 2009

Some Last WORDs for 2009

Unwrap These Slowly

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” —Kurt Vonnegut, writer

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.” —Douglas Adams, journalist

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” —The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, Dec. 10, 1964

“The power in the freedom of the press is a flaming sword! That it may be a faithful servant of all the people ... use it justly ... hold it high ... guard it well.” —Opening lines to the radio series Big Town, 1937-1952

“Kroger’s had a sign on one of its checkout centers saying: ‘This register is closed to serve you better.’” —Javan Kienzle, writer

“I am dead to adverbs; they cannot excite me.” —Mark Twain, writer

“It was a book to kill time for those who like it better dead.”—Dame Rose Macaulay, author

“You never monkey with the truth.” —Ben Bradlee, editor

“I’ll never forget the day I read a book. It was contagious, 70 pages. There were pictures here and there ...” —Jimmy Durante, singer
“Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad.” —Aldous Huxley, writer

“Go forth! Unlearn the lies we taught you.” —Jacob Neusner, educator

“I love going out in the dark, finding the paper and reading it over breakfast.” —Matthew Flitton, journalist

“There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the information by which to detect lies.”—Walter Lippmann, newsman

“Don’t take life serious, Son… it ain’t nohow permanent.” —Albert Alligator, philosopher-king

Editor’s Note: “God Bless Us, Every One!” —Tiny Tim

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Memo to NBC News

.
Brian Williams: Call Jon Stewart

“Jon Stewart has created a system of check and balances. On occasion, when we’ve been on the cusp of doing something completely inane on NBC Nightly News, I will gently suggest to my colleagues that we simply courier the tape over to Jon’s office, to spare The Daily Show interns the time and trouble.”
—Brian Williams,
managing editor and anchor of NBC Nightly News,
frighteningly, the top-rated U.S. network TV evening news show (ave. 9.6 million viewers last week.
Where DO more Americans get their news than from any other source?
)

Editor’s Note: NBC: Call Stewart more often. Please.

FYI: Nielsen Ratings, TV News for Week of Nov. 30: “NBC’s ‘Nightly News’ was the top evening news program last week followed by ABC’s ‘World News’ and CBS’ ‘Evening News.’” Click here. And . . . . Stewart Tops Dobbs for Prez: “Twice as many Americans have a favorable opinion of Stewart as have an unfavorable view, 34-17. For Dobbs, the gap is narrow, 27-23.” Click here.

Utah State JCOM News: JCOM alum Reed Cowan’s documentary, “8: The Mormon Proposition,” selected for Sundance 2010. Click here.


§ § §

Friday, December 4, 2009

Last Class Day

.
Pre-Exam Wisdom

“A word to the wise ain’t necessary. It’s the stupid ones who need the advice.”
—Bill Cosby, Doctor of Education

and

“If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?”
—Will Rogers (1876-1935), Philosopher

Editor’s Note: Exams start Monday. Time to buckle down...

§ § §

Utah State JCOM News: JCOM alum Reed Cowan’s documentary, “8: The Mormon Proposition,” selected for Sundance 2010. URL

§ § §

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Wisdom of Dogs Barking

.
YouBoobTube

“This sense that having a face means you have the right to put it up in public and having an opinion makes it worth hearing is very perplexing to me. About three minutes of anything on YouTube should kill any interest you have in seeing more. So why doesn't it? Is idiocy in endless loops somehow more interesting or informative? I’ve learned more from dogs barking than anything I’ve seen on YouTube. All in all, this isn't democracy. It’s just widening the number of people who feel the same stupid way you do, which leaves the impression that everyone feels that way. It validates narrowmindedness, if not bigotry.”
—Mark L. Damen, classics professor, on the YouTube phenomenon, 2008

(See Michael Wesch’s excellent “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube” at the Library of Congress, 2008: URL)

Editor’s Note: How about dogs barking on YouTube?

§ § §

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More on Simplicity


.
Say What You Mean, No More, No Less

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”
—William Strunk and E.B. White,
wordsters, in The Elements of Style
(Thanks to alert WORDster Steve Marston)

Editor’s Note: K.I.S.S.

§ § §

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Eureka!

.
Hey! Here’s a Wild Idea!

“They’re in a state of transition, and they don’t know what their role is. So they’ve been all over the lot. For a while . . . everything had to be reported from a consumer point of view. Then they went to entertainment, the O.J. syndrome. They’ve tried consumers, hype, entertainment. One of these days, the network people—who are smart people—will sit around a table like this, and one of them will say, ‘How about if we go back to covering serious news?’ They’ll say, ‘Eureka!’ . . . Commercial television can’t get any worse, for God’s sake.”
—Jim Lehrer, host, “NewsHour” on PBS, 2000 URL

Editor’s Note: That’s just crazy enough to work.

• • •

Monday, November 30, 2009

Keep It Simple

.
Advice from Uncle Joe

“Put it to them briefly, so they will read it; clearly, so they will appreciate it; picturesquely, so they will remember it; and, above all, accurately, so they will be guided by its light.”
—Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911), newspaper publisher
(Thanks to alert WORDster David Bresnahan)
(Illustration by William A. Rogers, Harper’s Dec. 28, 1901)

Editor’s Note: Sounds easy enough.

• • •

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On Turkeys

.
Turkey Day 2009

On this official start of our annual year-end festival of overindulgence, the WORD offers perspectives on turkeys. As anyone in business, academe or who reads Dilbert knows, that’s an impossibly wide opening. Which I (uncharacteristically) decline to open very wide.

Here in northern Utah, gangs of wild turkeys pillage the neighborhood and tag our yards with, er, “turkey tags.” Turkeys are, apparently, just as dumb as the apocryphal story of turkeys drowning by looking up, open-beaked, at passing thunderstorms would indicate.

Yesterday, Sadie (the ADD brown Lab) sped off after a gang of turkeys, who ran like 3-foot velociraptors, all in single-file. The poor guys at the end of the pecking order wouldn’t pull out to pass even when Sadie caught up to them. Hello!? You’re birds! Eventually they remembered that and flew into trees, but several forgot to hold on and fell off their limbs.

Our neighbor up the hill, Allyson, complained the other day about the turkeys cleaning out her bird feeders. I suggested the time-honored turkey repellent: A few cans of cranberry sauce (whole berry works better than the jelly).

Turkey on, all!

Ted Turkey

A Few WORDs on Turkeys

“I hate turkeys. If you stand in the meat section at the grocery store long enough, you start to get mad at turkeys. There's turkey ham, turkey bologna, turkey pastrami. Some one needs to tell the turkey, ‘Man, just be yourself.’”—Mitch Hedberg

“The best way to thaw a frozen turkey? Blow in its ear.”—Johnny Carson

“No more turkey, but I’d like another helping of that bread he ate.’—Anonymous

“Don’t assume you’re always going to be understood. I wrote in a column that one should put a cup of liquid in the cavity of a turkey when roasting it. Someone wrote me that ‘the turkey tasted great, but the plastic cup melted.’”—Hints from Heloise

“Most turkeys taste better the day after; my mother’s tasted better the day before.”—Rita Rudner

“A two-pound turkey and a fifty-pound cranberry—that’s Thanksgiving dinner at Three Mile Island.”—Johnny Carson

“I love Thanksgiving turkey... It’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.”—Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Dear Lord, I’ve been asked, nay commanded, to thank Thee for the Christmas turkey before us... a turkey which was no doubt a lively, intelligent bird... a social being... capable of actual affection... nuzzling its young with almost human-like compassion. Anyway, it’s dead and we’re gonna eat it.”—Berke Breathed, Bloom County

Editor’s Note: You want a stomach pump with that?

CALLING ALL UTAH STATE U. JCOM ALUMS: Happy Thanksgiving! Where are you? We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu. And check the Hard News Cafe for USU and Cache Valley news.

• • •

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Free Expression & the “Soft War”

.
Iran Clamps Down

[From The New York Times]: “In early September, [Iran’s] Brig. Gen. Muhammad Bagher-Zolghadr, the former deputy chief of the Revolutionary Guards, outlined the ‘soft war’ concept in a speech: ‘In a hard war, the line between you and the enemy is clear, but in a soft war there is nothing so solid. The enemy is everywhere.’ General Zolghadr said that a soft war was fought in large part through the media, and that the West was ‘better equipped’ to fight it than Iran.

“Soon after his speech, the authorities unrolled a series of measures seemingly aimed at redressing that imbalance. This month, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the head of the Basij militia, announced a new era of ‘super media power’ cooperation between the media and the Revolutionary Guards, according to the state-owned official press.

“The Revolutionary Guards plan to start a news agency called Atlas in the spring, modeled on services like the BBC and The Associated Press, according to semiofficial Iranian news sites.

“The Revolutionary Guards already largely control the Fars news agency, which reflects views of Iran’s hard-line camp. Two weeks ago Iran formed a 12-person unit to monitor the Internet for ‘insults and the spreading of lies,’ a phrase used to describe opposition activities, the semiofficial media reported.

“‘The enemy no longer invests in the military to advance their goals,’ said the official, Ali Daraei. ‘Their primary investment is in the media war through satellite channels.’”
—Robert F. Worth, New York Times,
reporting from Damascus, Syria. 11/24/09 URL

Editor’s Note: Winning hearts and minds.

CALLING ALL UTAH STATE U. JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu. And check the Hard News Cafe for USU and Cache Valley news.

• • •

Monday, November 23, 2009

Newsroom Tension—Not the Good Kind

.
Potential Ruin

“Newsrooms used to be places filled with interesting eccentrics driven by unreasonable passions—a situation thought of as ‘creative tension’ and often encouraged by management in eras when profits were high and arrogance was seen not as a flaw but a perquisite of being smart and right. Sadly, over the years newsrooms have come to resemble insurance offices peopled by the blanched and the pinched and the beetle-browed; lately, with layoffs thought to be on the horizon, everyone also behaves extra nicely to please the boss. In the face of potential ruin, journalists have been forced to reach accommodations with themselves: New strictures, new styles, new protocols, new limitations on what is possible are now meekly swallowed. In the frantic scramble for new ‘revenue streams,’ ethical boundaries are more likely to be pushed than is the proverbial envelope. Some of all this has leached out into the product. We all feel it. You do, too.”
—Gene Weingarten, Washington Post blogger, columnist, author
and 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winner (11/3/09). URL.

Editor’s Note: We feel your pain. Really.
Photo by alert WORDster and JCOM alum Ashley Stolworthy

CALLING ALL UTAH STATE U. JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.

• • •

Friday, November 20, 2009

More on the “Decline of News”

.
Mutual Interests


“Without journalists, how would the public learn what we do? Universities cost more and more, and people understand them less and less. . . . Journalists tell the public about our research and show why it matters. They are the agents of our democracy’s confidence that ordinary people with good information can make rational choices that will benefit themselves and the rest of humankind. Journalists serve the public with their daily reports about our studies of flu vaccines and voting patterns and hominid fossils. But they also serve us. Every news story mentioning a professor's research is a small strut supporting our mission.”
—Harry R. Lewis, author and professor of computer science, Harvard.
Part of The Chronicle of Higher Education’s roundtable discussion
of “Academe and the Decline of News,” Nov. 15, 2009 (recommended!)

Editor’s Note: News we can use.

Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller 11/20/09 URL

WORD CARTOONIST:
Announcing the launch of Nate Pratt, the WORD’s new occasional editorial cartoonist. Click here.

CALLING ALL UTAH STATE U. JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.


• • •

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Journalism Education Fights Back

.
The Next Generation

“As partisan outlets proliferate, students raised on faux news will enter our classrooms cocooned in their own biases and conditioned to mistake ridicule for engaged contention. By creating an appetite for critical engagement, universities will challenge those insular tendencies. Drawing on their experience in our classrooms, labs, and libraries, and mining the rich resources of the Web, our students will become citizen-journalists. In that role they will sort fact from fabulation and unmask abuses of power and the public trust.”
—Kathleen Hall Jamieson, media scholar and director,
Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania,
Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 15, 2009

Illustration by Dave Plunkett for The Chronicle Review
Editor’s Note: So journalism’s NOT dead?

FROM THE OH, SH*$@#!! DEPARTMENT: Oh, dear. Yesterday, Columbia Journalism Review posted a piece fact-checking La Palin’s roguish new “book.” A few minutes later, this: “Dear reader, In the promo for the piece about, uh, fact checking: Sarah Palin was not a vice president, as you know. She ran for the office. Apologies.” —Columbia Journalism Review

WORD CARTOONIST: Announcing the launch of Nate Pratt, the WORD’s new occasional editorial cartoonist. See URL.

CALLING ALL UTAH STATE U. JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.


• • •

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Too Much Noise . . .

.
. . . Not Enough Listening

“The people formerly known as the audience [are] too busy making content to consume much of it.... The medium is not the message; the messages are the media.”
—David Carr, media critic, New York Times, March 18, 2009
(Thanks to alert WORDster Alexandra Halsey)

Editor’s Note: Sound, fury, signifying...what?

WORD CARTOONIST: Announcing the launch of Nate Pratt, the WORD's new occasional editorial cartoonist. See URL.


CALLING ALL UTAH STATE U. JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.

• • •

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wanted: Real Journalism

.
Vanishing Species

“I think a certain commitment to the public good vanished in the race for circulation. I think that is accentuated when you get newspapers taken over, as you have across America, by people who either borrow extensively to buy the paper, or never had any interest in what real journalism is about in the first place.

“The kind of investigative journalism, which I think is the absolute essence, is in danger and, in fact, in many places has vanished. We have to have this searchlight to know what the hell is going on. So when newspapers or TV neglect reporting, so you get chunks of opinion without any factual basis whatsoever, we’re all going to suffer for it.”

—Harold Evans, former editor of The Sunday Times of London,
in an interview on NPR Nov. 5, 2009. (Thanks to alert WORDster Thomas E. Winski)

Editor’s Note: Somebody ought to look into this.

And then there’s this . . . When everyone just aggregates and recycles everyone else (like the WORD?), does actual news stop happening? (Thanks to aleert WORDster Marc Davidson)


WORD CARTOONIST: Announcing the launch of Nate Pratt, the WORD’s new occasional editorial cartoonist. See his first offering here.

CALLING ALL UTAH STATE U. JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We’re updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.

• • •

Monday, November 16, 2009

Devolution of Elocution

.
W8! Whaa U Say?

“I think what I do is better than inflicting such assaults on the English language as ‘ROFL’ (Rolling On Floor Laughing) or ‘BBFN’ (Bye Bye For Now) or ‘DMFYLOCIAIM’ (Delete Me From Your List Of Contacts, I’m An Illiterate Moron). Still, language is in a constant state of evolution. Perhaps text speak will seem perfectly normal in 50 years’ time. Perhaps there’ll be a 21st-century edition of Shakespeare’s collected works featuring ‘2B/not 2B,’ and the Oxford English Dictionary will define ‘2thless’ and ‘1derment.’

“Perhaps misery memoirs will be written not in prose, but as a series of increasingly downcast emoticons. But let’s look on the bright side. If everyone in the world keeps texting, we’ll all become as mentally stunted as each other, and so nobody will even notice that there’s been a narrowing of the human attention span. Or, as it will surely become known, a10shn spn.”
—Michael Deacon, columnist, The Daily Telegraph, 2009
(Thanks to alert WORDster Javan Kienzle) URL

Editor’s Note: But ideal for Twitter’s in-depth 140-character analysis.

WORD CARTOONIST: Announcing the launch of Nate Pratt, the WORD’s new occasional editorial cartoonist. See Newspaper Wars.”

CALLING ALL UTAH STATE U. JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.


• • •

Friday, November 13, 2009

Introducing WORD cartoonist Nate Pratt

.
Newspaper Wars?

The WORD is pleased to introduce its own occasional editorial cartoonist, Nate Pratt, a Utah State University art major. So, we’re wondering, what do we really get from the press these days, “news you can use,” or news that abuses?

©Nate Pratt, The Word 2009

.

Passion

.
Bloggers or Beat Reporters
What Makes Journalism Tick

“Incredible journalism is like incredible baby-making—it starts with passion. The guy combing through the city budgets because it’s his job isn’t the same as the guy combing through them because it keeps him up at night, because he thinks about it when he shouldn’t be. Institutions support that passion—but they don’t create it. When my old Howard buddy was killed by the cops, it was all I could think about, and it was all I wanted to write about. And I did it almost for free, because it helped me sleep at night. I was burning to get it down. I deeply suspect that the bloggers you love, and the reporters you love, are similarly on fire inside.”
—Ta-Nehisi Coates, blogger, The Atlantic, 2009 URL

Editor’s Note: Burn, baby, burn.

CALLING ALL UTAH STATE U. JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.


• • •

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Good Old Days

.
The Bush Administration Press Model

Let’s face it: This administration has utter contempt for the press and the public. They lie inveterately. (Consider the EPA lies, the Iraq lies, the Niger lies, the Houston school lies, the ‘death tax’ lies, the tax refund lies.) They deny and censor. (Global warming.) Their idea of truth is faith-based. They live in a bunker. It would be astounding if [Bush Attorney General John] Ashcroft opened himself to serious questioning. Which administration official does that?”
Todd Gitlin, journalism professor and author, 2003

Editor’s Note: Of the People, For the People...

CALLING ALL UTAH STATE U. JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.

• • •  

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Newspaper Career

.
WORDsters: My regular computer is at the doctor, and I’m unable to send the usual email spam to everyone today. If you came here in search of today’s “wisdom,” I pity you. But the regular dose should be back in a day or two. TP

Transitions
“I think a certain commitment to the public good has vanished in the race for circulation. I think that is accentuated when you get newspapers taken over, as you have across America, by people who either borrow extensively to buy the paper, or never had any interest in
 what real journalism is about in the first place.

“The kind of investigative journalism, which I think is the absolute essence, is in danger and, in fact, in many places has vanished. We have to have this searchlight to know what the hell is going on. So when newspapers or TV neglect reporting, so you get chunks of opinion without any factual basis whatsoever, we're all going to suffer for it.” 

—Harold Evans, former editor of The Sunday Times of London, 
and author of new autobiography, My Paper Chase
in an interview on NPR Nov. 5, 2009. URL 
(Thanks to alert WORDster Thomas E. Winski)
Editor’s Note: Feeling in the dark?
CALLING ALL UTAH STATE U. JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.

• • •  

Monday, November 9, 2009

Books

.
Freedom to Roam

“With a library you are free, not confined by temporary political climates. It is the most democratic of institutions because no one—but no one at all—can tell you what to read and when and how.”
—Doris Lessing, writer and winner, 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature
(Thanks to alert WORDster Brenda Cooper)

Editor's Note: I'll be in the stacks. See you Thursday.

CALLING ALL USU JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.

• • •

Friday, November 6, 2009

Whither Journalism?

.
Point-Counterpoint

Cookie Dough:
“I’m an old media guy and I love newspapers, but they were brought down by a long period of gluttonous profits when they were run as monopolies by large, phlegmatic, semi-literate men who endowed schools of journalism that labored mightily to stamp out any style or originality and to create a cadre of reliable transcribers. That was their role, crushing writers and rolling them into cookie dough. Nobody who compares newspaper writing to the swashbuckling world of blogging can have any doubt where the future lies. Bloggers are writers who’ve been liberated from editors, and some of them take you back to the thrilling days of frontier journalism, before the colleges squashed the profession.”
—Garrison Keillor, radio yarn-teller,
wordguy and author, 2009 URL

Invasive Surgery:
“I would trust citizen journalism as much as I would trust citizen surgery.”
—Morley Safer, “60 Minutes” newsman, 2009
(Thanks to alert WORDster Terrie Claflin Martin)


Editor’s Note: Thrilling elective surgery?


CALLING ALL UTAH STATE JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.

• • •

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Making Sausage in Public

.
The Public Jury

“In public affairs ... the jury is everybody who creates public sentiment—chattering gossips, unscrupulous liars, congenital liars, feeble-minded people, prostitute minds, corrupting agents. To this jury any testimony is submitted, is submitted in any form, by any anonymous person, with no test of reliability, no test of credibility, and no test of perjury.”
—Walter Lippmann, (1889-1974), newsman and author,
in Liberty and the News (1920)
(Thanks to alert WORDster Philip Meyer)

Editor’s Note: The Walmart of ideas.

CALLING ALL USU JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.

• • •

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fisticuffs

.
Namby-Pamby Modern Newsrooms

“Back when I got into journalism, the idea that a fistfight in a newsroom would turn into a news story was unthinkable. The guys in the sports department at the New York Daily News, they had so many, you wouldn’t even look up.”
—Henry Allen, 68, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor, now on leave for his last three weeks before retirement from the Washington Post Style section after punching reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia during a newsroom fracas, 11/3/09. URL

Responding on his blog, Chatological Humor:
“The first thing I want to say is, hooray. Hooray that there is still enough passion left somewhere in a newsroom in America for violence to break out between colorful characters in disagreement over the quality of a story.”
—Gene Weingarten, Washington Post blogger, columnist,
author and Pulitzer Prize-winner (2008) URL


Editor’s Note: Hard-hitting journalism.

CALLING ALL USU JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We’re updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.


• • •

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Newsroom Innumeracy

.
Mathphobia

“Go through some of the archives of any newspaper or TV station—even some of the most prestigious—and you can find astounding examples of bad math, inept comparisons, statistical tomfoolery.”
—James Ledbetter, journalist, editor & author,
in 1997 “College Issue,” Rolling Stone

Editor’s Note: That just doesn't add up.


CALLING ALL USU JCOM ALUMS: Where are you?
We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.

• • •

Monday, November 2, 2009

What’s in a Word?

.
The Uphill Battle of Ms.

“America lacks a language dictator like the Académie Française . . . The closest thing here might be the copydesk of the New York Times. . . . As a handy form of address, Ms. found a foothold in the 1952 guidelines of the National Office Management Association; they suggested using it to avoid any confusion over a woman’s marital state. Twenty years later, when Ms. was born, the editors explained, ‘Ms. is being adopted as a standard form of address by women who want to be recognized as individuals, rather than by their relationship with a man.’ . . .

“Such developments left the New York Times—which that year ran a story headlined, IN SMALL TOWN U.S.A., WOMEN’S LIBERATION IS EITHER A JOKE OR A BORE—in the awkward position of identifying Gloria Steinhem as ‘Miss Steinhem, editor of Ms. magazine.’ At that point, even the late language guru William Safire called for surrender. The Times refused on the grounds that the title had not passed into common usage. ‘We reconsider it from time to time,’ the editors mused, ‘but to our ears it still sounds too contrived for news writing.’ Only in 1986 did the Times relent; the editors at Ms. sent flowers.”

—Nancy Gibbs, TIME columnist in the magazine’s “The State of the American Woman” issue, Oct. 26, 2009 URL

Editor’s Note: Excuse me? The Times, “too contrived”?
.

Friday, October 30, 2009

History

.
Historians: Journalists Who Miss Deadline

“News is history in its first and best form, its vivid and fascinating form . . . History is the pale and tranquil reflection of it.”
—Mark Twain (1835-1910), author and sometime journalist/historian

Editor’s Note: Honey, get me rewrite!
.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Newsroom wisdom

.
Overheard in the Newsroom #2064:

At a student journalism conference: “Pull quotes are like condoms. You only need one.”

.

Journalistic Essence

.
What Makes Journalists Tick

“Let me just say that I’m always suspicious when I see articles about the motivations of journalists. I think they often reflect a misunderstanding of what journalism is all about. Journalists are supposed to be assholes. The system does not work, in fact, if society’s journalists are all nice, kind, friendly, rational people.

“You want a good percentage of them to be inconsolably crazy. You want them to be jealous of everything and everyone and to have heaps of personal hangups and flaws. That way they will always be motivated to punch holes in things.”

—Matt Taibbi, journalist and blogger, Rolling Stone, 2009 URL
(Thanks to alert WORDster Malcolm McMichael)

Editor’s Note: Sing along: “Still crazy, still cra-azee! Still crazy after all these years.”

CALLING ALL USU JCOM ALUMS: Where are you? We’re updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.

• • •
.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dead Fish & Other Love Notes

.
On the Obama-Fox News Fracas

“Rahm Emanuel once sent a dead fish to a live pollster. Now he’s put a horse’s head in Roger Ailes’s bed. Not very subtle. And not very smart. Ailes doesn’t scare easily.”
—Charles Krauthammer, columnist, The Washington Post (10/23/09) URL
(NOTE: Krauthammer also works for Fox News...)

Editor’s Note: Did he wrap the dead fish in a newspaper?


CALLING ALL USU JCOM ALUMS:
Where are you? We're updating our alumni list. Please send your current position, title, contact info (including email), graduation year and any news to ted.pease@usu.edu.


• • •


Overheard in the Newsroom #2039:
Copy editor: “One of these days, we’re all going to snap. They won’t say we’re going postal. They’ll say we’re going journalist.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Intellectual Prostitutes

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The Good Old Days of the Press

“There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print.

“I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.

“The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance.

“Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”

—John Swinton (1829-1901), New York journalist and editor,
on being asked to toast independence of the press, 1880
(Thanks to alert WORDster Arnold Ismach)

Editor’s Note: Callin’ ‘em low and outside.
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Monday, October 26, 2009

The Idiot Culture

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Taking Journalism’s Temperature: 1999

“In what Carl Bernstein has called the ‘triumph of the idiot culture,’ the ideals of truth, justice, and emancipation have become almost meaningless, mere verbiage that professional journalism organizations quaintly place in their codes of ethics. ‘For the first time in our history, the weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming our cultural norm, even our ideal,’ says Bernstein. ... Of course, one reason newspapers have turned to gross simplicity and the sensational is to attract younger people who don’t read, and so print journalism has tried to be more like TV, becoming more simple to attract readers who still won’t read the paper.”
—Peter Sacks, author, journalist and essayist, in Generation X Goes to College, 1999.

Editor’s Note: Which explains the balloon boy.
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Friday, October 23, 2009

Swine Flu?

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Mike Keefe
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Bet on Newspapers?

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More Vice Needed!

“In these times when big-city papers and magazines are disappearing and shrinking—The New York Times is cutting 100 more newsroom jobs and Condé Nast is closing four magazines—we need life rafts. Publications once buoyed by splashy ads evoking drinking and sex are now conjuring ways to use drinking and sex to subsidize the news. The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal have wine clubs. Condé Nast has started an online dating Web site for a fee of $30 a month called TrulyMadlyDating.com . . . . Self-described print press ‘fanatic’ Mortimer Zuckerman, who owns The Daily News and U.S. News & World Report, proposed that the federal government could save newspapers by allowing sports betting on newspaper Web sites. . . . ‘Newspapers are so critical for public dialogue and holding public officials responsible,’ he told me. ‘And who’s going to be able to afford original reporting in the next five years? Very, very few.’”
—Maureen Dowd, New York Times columnist, (10/21/09, URL)
(Thanks to alert WORDster John N. Ward)

Editor’s Note: What’s the spread?
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Zeitgeist

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Society’s Health

“I think we should all care about the future health and quality of this particular business. It is, like it or not, the disposable addition to our education that either lands on the doorstep, or pops up on the computer screen, every day. But journalism is more than just a business and more than just a continuing education course. It is something that both reflects the spirit of the times, the zeitgeist, and can shape it. Good journalism can make public discourse more honest and less oversimplified, more dominated by logical thinking and less dominated by rhetoric.”
—David Brown, physician and medical writer,
The Washington Post,
2008
(Thanks to alert WORDster Hank Nuwer)

Editor’s Note: Take a newspaper and call me in the morning.
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Know News When I See It

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Obama v. Fox

Point: “Let’s not pretend they’re a news network. Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.”
—Anita Dunn, White House Communications Director URL

Counterpoint: “Surprisingly, the White House continues to declare war on a news organization instead of focusing on the critical issues that Americans are concerned about like jobs, health care and two wars.”
—Michael Clemente, Fox News senior vice president URL

Editor’s Note: “Jane, you ignorant slut!”
(For those who've forgotten Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin spoofing 60 Minutes’ James J. Kilpatrick and Shanna Alexander, see this classic from SNL.) 
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sick Puppies

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Uncivil Political Discourse

“I don’t like it. I think the cables have a lot to do with it. I’ll take you back to when I was president—we got tons of criticism, but didn’t seem day-in and day-out quite as personal as some of these talk show people. And it’s not just the right. There are plenty of people on the left. If you want me to name a couple of names, I’ll be glad to do that for you: Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow—I mean here are a couple of sick puppies. And the way they treat my son and treat anybody that’s opposed to their point of view is just horrible.”
—George H.W. Bush, 41st U.S. President, on CBS radio (10/16/09)


Editor’s Note: woof?


Monday, October 19, 2009

Airheads

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Matson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2009
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Brave New Panacea

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Jammie Journalism?

“Many journalism schools, to please industry, started creating courses that were merely about presentation, and they forgot about content. Too often, when the technology is overemphasized in the curriculum, it gives the impression that you can do journalism sitting down in your pajamas. You can’t do that.”
—Michael J. Bugeja, director of the
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
Iowa State University, 2009 URL

Editor’s Note: Form over substance?


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Friday, October 16, 2009

Fox News to the Principal’s Office!

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Food-Fight TV


“It goes against the personal style of me and (former co-host) Robert MacNeil—talk about ducks out of water. We would be like baseball players trying to play football. MacNeil always said, ‘If you want to make heat on television, that’s easy. If you want to make light, that’s hard. Let’s do the hard part.’

“I can throw some meat out and have people yelling at each other in five minutes. But if you want to make light, that's harder. Heat is great TV, but it isn’t great journalism.

“Compared to the food-fight TV, we seem like an oasis in a screaming desert.”

—Jim Lehrer, host, “NewsHour” on PBS, 2000 URL

Editor’s Note: Put the mashed potatoes down, Beck!








The Detroit riot, 1967.
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Legends & The Man

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Journalists—Legends in Their Own Minds

“The skills of finding out what is not known and rendering it in comprehensible ways has practical value in other parts of the economy, but the thrill of this thing of ours is not a moveable feast. The difference between a reporting job and other jobs is the difference between working for The Man and being The Man, a legend, at least, in your own mind.”
—David Carr, media columnist, The New York Times (9/13/09) URL
(Thanks to alert WORDster Alexandra Halsey)

Editor’s Note: Other legends: Bigfoot, Nessie & Area 54....
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bazaar

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Wonders & Follies

“The morning paper renews the newness of life each day without fail: a glorious bazaar, a circus of wonder & follies, a forum, a sideshow, a school, a stage.”
—Leo Rosten (1908-1997), author, comedian and scriptwriter
(Thanks to alert WORDsters Julia Truilo and Marc Davidson)

Editor’s Note: Gloriously bizarre, too.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Writing Habit

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Home Alone

“If you think of home as a place where you feel comfortable, where you can kick off your shoes and be yourself, then writing is my home. No matter where I am, if I have my laptop or my journal, I’m home. When I pick up the pen, I experience the most profound feeling of intimacy and acceptance and familiarity I know.”
—Sheryl St. Germain, poet and creative writing professor, 2009
(Thanks to alert WORDster Steve Marston)

Editor’s Note: Sometimes hard to hold and your hand gets tired, but I write with a dog, too.
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