Thursday, April 30, 2009

Old Folks

Hope in a Geriatric America

“For people who still love print, who like to hold it, feel it, rustle it, tear stuff out, do their I. F. Stone thing, it’s important to remember that people are living longer. That’s the most hopeful thing you can say about print journalism, that old people are living longer.”
—Phil Bronstein, editor-at-large, The San Francisco Chronicle, 2009
(Quoted in Maureen Dowd column.)
(Thanks to aging but alert WORDster Andy Merton)

Editorial Comment: Clip those support-hose coupons.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fox News Flu?

Swine Flu & Racism:

“Responsible members of the Republican Party need to speak out IMMEDIATELY against the conservative commentators in their own ranks using swine flu as an excuse to spew out racist hatred. Radio, TV and newspaper personalities have jumped on the illness as a platform to attack ‘illegal aliens’ for being responsible for carrying the disease across the Mexican border and infecting innocent Americans.”
—Bonnie Fuller, Huffington Post blogger (Click here.)

Editorial Comment: We got a vaccine for that?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

News Judgment

Missing News:

“Everyone was crowded in, trying to build up their courage because they knew that the next day they would face down state troopers while trying to register to vote. I listened and watched, thinking to myself that no one will see this scene. It won’t be reported in the newspaper, and it won’t be on television. It made me think about how many similar scenes were ignored because a president, or some other person deemed important, wasn’t there.”
—Howard Zinn, historian and activist, recalling a 1963 African American
church service before a civil right march, 2009

Editorial Comment: Voice for the voiceless...


Monday, April 27, 2009

New Business Model

Prurient Interest

“If you’re serious about wanting to compete on the Internet, why don't newspapers have a huge porn section?”
—Stephen Colbert, host, “The Colbert Report,”
advice to John Sturm of the National Newspaper Assn., March 31, 2009
Click here to view 5-minute segment.

Editorial Comment: How about an X-rated crossword?

Newswatch: Updates on imprisoned U.S. journalists Roxana Saberi in Iran (click here for the Tehran Times), and , and Current TV’s Euna Lee and Laura Ling in North Korea.


Friday, April 24, 2009


Advice for Furloughed Newspaper People

“Now that you have your mind off your regular work, you can read the papers and watch the news like a normal person, not like a news person. If the project is painting the bathroom, you have to cover the fixtures with newspapers, patch the cracks, prime the walls and apply two finish coats. To get this done in a day or two means getting up early, working steadily and being physically tired at night. Notice how little time you have to skim the headlines, much less read the jump on sprawling newspaper stories? Now that you have a fresh perspective on the press, you can begin to understand how your audience feels.”
--Alan Mutter, blogger (“Reflections of a Newsosaur”),
former newspaperman, Silicon Valley CEO
and sometime journalism instructor. 2009

Editorial Comment: Newspapers catch drips.

Newswatch: Updates on imprisoned U.S. journalists Roxana Saberi in Iran (homepage), and Current TV’s Euna Lee and Laura Ling in North Korea.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Noxious Vapors

A Press PS for Earth Day

“Newspapers ... serve as chimnies to carry off noxious vapors and smoke.”
—President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), enviro-statesman, 1802

Editorial Comment: Global warming explained.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Newspapers—Low Gas Emissions


“Not that print journalism actually emits much in the way of greenhouse gases. We have an itty-bitty carbon footprint. We’re earth-friendly. The current press run of an average big city daily newspaper can be made from one tree. Compare that to the global warming hot air produced by talk radio, cable TV, and Andrew Sullivan.”
—P.J. O’Rourke, columnist, The Weekly Standard, December 2008
(Thanks to alert WORDster Dan Kubiske)

Editorial Comment: Buy a paper. Hug your mother....

Of Interest: Aging dinosaurs bloviate on the future of “The American Newspaper,” on KUED-TV’s “Utah Now.”


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Help Me, Heathcliff!


“A book provides what it always has: a haven. I remember the first year after my second child was born, what I can remember of it at all, as a year of disarray, of overturned glasses of milk, of toys on the floor, of hours from sunrise to sunset that were horribly busy but filled with what, at the end of the day, seemed like absolutely nothing at all. What saved my sanity was books. . . . The romantic ramblings of Heathcliff make a piquant counterpoint to dirty diapers, that’s for sure. As it was for me when I was young and surrounded by siblings, as it is for me today when I am surrounded by children, reading continues to provide an escape from a crowded house into an imaginary room of one’s own.”
—Anna Quindlen, columnist and author of How Reading Changed My Life (1998)

Editorial Comment: Beats a Tweet.

2009 Pulitzers Announced: Click here for list of winners.

Of Interest: Aging dinosaurs bloviate on the future of “The American Newspaper” on KUED-TV’s Utah Now.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Watchdogs or Yap Dogs?

Yapping Heads

“If newspapers become mostly infotainment websites—if the number of well-trained investigative journalists dwindles still further—and if we’re soon left with nothing but the yapping heads who dominate cable ‘news’ and talk radio, how will we recognize, or hope to forestall, impending national and global crises? How will we know if government officials have made terrible mistakes, as even the best will sometimes do? How will we know if government officials have told us terrible lies, as the worst have sometimes done? A decimated, demoralized and under-resourced press corps hardly questioned the Bush administration's flimsy case for war in Iraq—and the price for that failure will be paid for generations.”
—Rosa Brooks, now former columnist, Los Angeles Times, 2009

Editorial Comment: Can’t somebody shut that watchdog up?

Of Interest: Aging dinosaurs bloviate on the future of “The American Newspaper,” on KUED-TV’s “Utah Now.”

News Update: American journalists held in Korea, Iran. Euna Lee and Laura Ling, two journalists for Al Gore's TV network, have been held as spies for eight weeks in North Korea. Meanwhile, Roxana Saberi remains jailed and charged as a spy in Teheran, despite calls for her release from President Obama.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Discussion of "The American Newspaper" on KUED

Whither newspapers?

. . . and with them, whither the American conversation? Glenn Warchol, blogger for The Salt Lake Tribune, Joel Campbell of the BYU Department of Communications, and Ted Pease of the WORD and USU's Journalism & Communication Department put their heads together with Doug Fabrizio, host of Utah Now on KUED public TV in Salt Lake City. (4/17/09).

In discussing the future of the dying technology, three old, white, male dinosaurs weigh in. Also appearing, Tribune editor Nancy Conway, and Deseret News editor Joe Cannon.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Some Pig!

Bashing Charlotte’s Ghostwriter

The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students’ grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it. . . .

“It’s sad. Several generations of college students learned their grammar from the uninformed bossiness of Strunk and White, and the result is a nation of educated people who know they feel vaguely anxious and insecure whenever they write ‘however’ or ‘than me’ or ‘was’ or ‘which,’ but can’t tell you why. The land of the free [is?] in the grip of The Elements of Style.”
—Geoffrey K. Pullum, head of linguistics and English language at the University of Edinburgh and co-author (with Rodney Huddleston)
of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Cambridge University Press, 2002).
Full sanctimonious heresy here.

Editorial Comment: Piffle! Click here for pre-rebuttal.

NewsWatch: NYTimes Editorial on Roxana Saberi.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Big Dig?

What Happened to ‘Too Important to Fail’?

“I was definitely shocked to hear about the Globe. I fundamentally misunderstood what was going on. has 5.6 million readers a month, and yet this hugely successful news gathering operation is going out of business. . . . Part of the erosion of newspapers is about new media, but part of it is newspapers’ own fault. I think the public has felt let down by The New York Times and others for not asking the tough questions, whether about the Iraq war or the subprime issue. The job of the fourth estate is to stand outside the vested interests and say, ‘Wait a minute, this isn't viable.’”
—Ben Affleck, Boston-bred actor whose new movie, State of Play with Russell Crowe, is about an aggressive news reporter. Click here.

Editorial Comment: Digging themselves a deep hole: Newspapers’ “Big Dig”?

Teawatch: Jon Stewart reports on Fox’s “coverage” of “grassroots” tax protests.

Page One Watch from the Poynter Institute.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Put Your Tax Dollars to Work

Earmarks for My Taxes

“It’s time for a government bailout of journalism. If we’re willing to use taxpayer money to build roads, pay teachers and maintain a military; if we’re willing to bail out banks and insurance companies and failing automakers, we should be willing to part with some public funds to keep journalism alive, too.”
—Rosa Brooks, now former columnist, Los Angeles Times, 2009. Click here for column.

Editorial Comment: Paperboy tips tax-deductible

Freelance American journalist Roxanna Saberi remains in custody in Teheran's Evin Prison, now ch
arged with espionage. BBC video clip (4/14/09).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Equal Opportunity Skewering

Fairness Doctrine Revisited

“We never waver in our political stance: We are pro-smart and anti-dumb. If you can find us a side of the political aisle with no stupid people on it, we promise not to jab that side.”
—Todd Hanson, story editor, The Onion, 2008

Editorial Comment: EOEditor-approved.

Newswatch: Freelance American journalist Roxanna Saberi remains in custody in Teheran's Evin Prison, now charged with espionage. See Committee to Protect Journalists.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Hunkering Down

Ethics Enduring

“As the national media—and the citizenry—hunker down in economic survival mode, individual journalists and news organizations remain willing to take risks to uphold the integrity of the news.”
—Tim Gleason, dean, UOregon School of Journalism and Communication,
announcing the 2009 Payne Awards for Ethics in Journalism

Editorial Comment: Press Ethics—a staple in the social survival kit.

This Week on “Uncle Jay Explains the News”: Socialism

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why Teach Journalism?

Fears of a Journalism Professor

Q. “I feel like I’m teaching [my students] something that will be as useful as Sanskrit when they graduate. . . . [E]very morning I read stories about how huge, venerable newspapers will likely be shuttered by the end of the year, and it absolutely freaks me out. . . . I feel horribly guilty, wondering what will become of them.”

A. “It is not your job to guarantee them stable employment. I’m not even sure that stable employment is good for young journalists. Journalists exercise power. Ideally, they exercise that power on behalf of the powerless. If they know nothing about what it is like to be powerless themselves, they may come to exercise their considerable power on behalf of the already powerful. . . . So I do not think it is such a terrible thing that your journalism students are entering an uncertain world. It’s the kind of world that is ripe for enterprising journalists. It is the kind of world that needs to be reported on and explained.”

—Cary Tennis, advice columnist, Click here.

Editorial Comment: What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

News of the Intergalactic Age

To Boldly Go. . .

“I always thought it was odd to hear flat out declarations that there can be no life on other planets in the absence of water. How egocentric! So you’re saying that life can only exist if it’s precisely like us?


“That’s the feeling I’m getting right now in the woe-is-us, hand-wringing sob-fest about whether life and our democracy can survive the death of some newspapers.

“With all due respect to some great newspapers where I’ve worked, I don’t give a damn about the paper they’re printed on. What I care about is journalism.”

—Charlotte-Anne Lucas, former newspaperwoman and current online journalist, 2009.
Click here for blog.

Editorial Comment: To joyfully split infinitives in any medium.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Free Expression Matters


“It is within the power of writers and artists to do much more: to defeat the lie!”
—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008), Nobel Prize-winning writer
(Thanks to alert WORDster Steve Marston)

Editorial Comm
ent: Or, of course, to perpetuate it....

Below, Solzhenitsyn in the Gulag, 1953; and in happier times....

Another N
ews Flash: The American Society of Newspaper Editors decides to eliminate “Newspaper” from the organization’s name. Click here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

EXTRA! (writ small)

The Dawn of the In-Depth Tweet?

“[On] the day the last newspaper is published—a day that seems to be rushing at us like a brick wall in an old Warner Bros. cartoon—I will not be surprised if the nation’s various crooks, crumbs and corruptors fail to shed a tear. But the unkindest cut of all, the ‘Et tu, Brute?’ dagger in the back, is the fact that, according to a new survey from the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, most other Americans won’t, either. Pew found 63 percent of respondents saying that if their local paper went down, they would miss it very little or not at all. It is the insult that compounds the injury, by which I mean the growing sense that we are working on the last major story of our lives, and it is an obituary. Ours.”
—Leonard Pitts Jr., Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist,
The Miami Herald (3/19/09) Click here.
Editorial Comment: The 140-character obit?

News from the Copy desk:
BYU recalls 18,500 copies of Daily Universe to correct “apostle” misspelled “apostate.” Picky, picky. Click here for story.

Monday, April 6, 2009

News from the Pond (circa 1854)

What’s News?

“To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.”
—Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), writer and philosopher, in Walden (1954).
(Thanks to alert WORDster Matthew Flitton)

Editorial Comment: News women?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saturday Flash: Boston Globe Going Down?


And Another One Bites,
and Another One Bites
and Another One bites the DUST??!?

Boston Globe on the chopping block?


Friday, April 3, 2009

Reporting Good News Is Hard

Self-Loathing or ‘Objectivity’?

Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies “says the news media, in general, don’t do a good enough job of telling the world its good news,” reports National Public Radio ombudsperson Alicia C. Shepard.

“We do a HORRIBLE job covering our successes. Horrible. And there are consequences: 1.) The public thinks all we do is screw up. 2.) Folks under-appreciate the role of good journalism. 3.) No one even recognizes good journalism when they see it. 4.) And we tend to underestimate our own ability to change the world.”

—Kelly McBride, ethics specialist, The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, discussing how NPR and other news media do and don’t report their successes, yesterday.
(Thanks to alert WORDster Colleen Almeida of the Tulsa World)

Editorial Comment: But good news isn’t news, right?


Thursday, April 2, 2009

On Editors

Quality Control

“What we are losing is editing. When I grew up, nothing could be communicated to the outside world without editing, getting your facts right, your spelling, etc. . . . That’s the worst part of it—the discipline that should go with the ability to communicate is gone.”
—Daniel Schorr, senior correspondent, National Public Radio, 2009

Editorial Comment: Oh, that.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

An April Fool's Day Editorial Judgment

A Newspaper Recipe

“Here is the recipe for making a ‘great daily’; let them who have stomachs for such work apply themselves: a scandal-in-high-life, first-page, double-leaded, screamer head; two or three columns of rocking chair speculation on matters political, Washington datelines; a few bogus or garbled interviews with prominent politicians; a suicide; a scandal-in-low-life; a thrilling account of an impossible accident in Timbuctoo; report that a million Chinese have been drowned by an overflow of the Hwang-Ho; full and circumstantial report of a sensational divorce trial—not intended for Sunday-school reading; two-column account of a prize fight; a hanging, with all the ghastly details ‘worked up’; two columns of esoteric baseball lingo in which the doughty deeds of ‘Fatty,’ ‘Shorty,’ ‘Squatty,’ ‘Bow-Legged Bill’ and ‘Short-Stop Sam’ are painted in wonderful chiar-oscuro; account of the elopement of a society belle with a negro coachman; heavy editorial on the ‘Power of the Press’; more editorial inanity and offensive self-glorification; a pimping ‘personal’ column’ two columns of murdered men and English language; more toothsome scandal; market reports to mislead the country merchant; budget of foreign news—manufactured in New York; interesting case of ministerial crim. con.; advertisements of quack doctors, lost manhood restorers, syphilitic nostrums, preventative pills, and other things calculated to set the cheek of modesty aflame; local miscellany; police court reports and taffy in solid slugs. Jam to a mux and serve hot. Price, 5 cents. Now is the time to subscribe.”

—William Cowper Brann (1855-1898), the “American Carlyle,” editor of The Iconoclast, briefly the country’s most controversial magazine, with a national circulation
of a quarter-million. An enraged reader shot and, er, “edited” Brann
on the streets of Waco, Texas, on April Fool’s Day, 1898.

Editorial Note: I suppose just a letter to the editor was out of the question?