Friday, January 29, 2010

Two Giants

RIP: J.D. Salinger & Howard Zinn

Two iconic figures in American culture died this week. Between them, writer J.D. Salinger and historian Howard Zinn influenced the lives and attitudes of generations.

Engagement: “From the start, my teaching was infused with my own history. I would try to be fair to other points of view, but I wanted more than ‘objectivity’; I wanted students to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it. This, of course, was a recipe for trouble.”
—Howard Zinn (1922-2010), historian, activist, educator, writer, from his book, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train (1994)
Related: • NY Daily News: Obit.
Howard Zinn site
• Obit.

Privacy: “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. It’s peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”
—J.D. Salinger (1919-2010), reclusive writer and author of The Catcher in the Rye (1951), in a rare 1974 interview when he tried to prevent the unauthorized publication of his uncollected stories.

Related: • NYTimes: Obit and retrospective.
• The Australian: Reflections.
• NPR: Milwaukee’s Jim Krawczyk travels to New Hampshire, meets Salinger

Editor’s Note: So passes my youth.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

American Idolizing

The New Social Glue: Celebrity

“[C]elebrity isn’t an anointment by the media of unworthy subjects, even though it may seem so. . . . It is actually a new art form that competes with--and often supersedes--more traditional entertainments like movies, books, plays and TV shows, and that performs, in its own roundabout way, many of the functions those old media performed in their heyday: among them, distracting us, sensitizing us to the human condition, and creating a fund of common experience around which we can form a national community. I would even argue that celebrity is the great new art form of the 21st century.”
—Neal Gabler, writer, “Celebrity: The Greatest Show on Earth:
In defense of our Brangelina-loving, Jon and Kate-hating,
Tiger-taunting, tawdry tabloid culture,”
Dec. 21, 2009

Editor’s Note: Get me the Octomom!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bearing Witness

You Are There

“It’s more fashionable to denigrate than praise the media these days. In the 24/7 howl of partisan pontification, and the scarcely less-constant death knell din surrounding the press, a basic truth gets lost: that to be a journalist is to bear witness.

“The rest is no more than ornamentation.

“To bear witness means being there—and that’s not free. No search engine gives you the smell of a crime, the tremor in the air, the eyes that smolder, or the cadence of a scream.

“No news aggregator tells of the ravaged city exhaling in the dusk, nor summons the defiant cries that rise into the night. No miracle of technology renders the lip-drying taste of fear. No algorithm captures the hush of dignity, nor evokes the adrenalin rush of courage coalescing, nor traces the fresh raw line of a welt.”

—Roger Cohen, columnist, The New York Times:
“A Journalist’s Actual Responsibility,” July 5, 2009 URL
(Thanks to alert WORDster Tom Romano)

Editor’s Note: If Haiti happens and no one is there, does it make a sound?

BLOCKED ON FACEBOOK! Hey! Yesterday I tried to post Pete Smithsuth’s good news story from The Utah Statesman about 8: The Mormon Proposition’s premiere @ Sundance, but I was blocked because some FB users apparently have complained that Pete’s story “contains some abusive content.” Whaa?!! The movie, documenting the LDS Church’s bankrolling of the Prop 8 campaign that banned same-sex marriage in California, is moving and powerful. But is a student news story about its premiere “abusive”?!?

The heck with FB's sensibilities. See Pete’s story, “Filmmakers challenge Mormon church at Sundance,” The Utah Statesman, here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Clouds of Snow-White Doves!

The Throne of Truth

“Journalism takes on all colors of the rainbow. It may be as fiery as the crimson morning that forewarns the storm; yellow as the saffron-hued sensation-mongering sheets that pander to minds diseased that hold the ‘story’ to be more important than the truth; dark as the pits of hell where truth and honor abideth not; or it may be as pure as sunlight that beats upon the Throne of Truth and lights the living flame of the Sword of Justice.”
—Henry P. Snyder (1856-1916), editor, Connellsville, Pa., Courier
(Thanks to alert WORDster Linda Steiner)

Editor’s Note: Cue the crescendo!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sundance TwentyTen

The Power of Film

“This film is just so powerful! Everyone should see it and think about it and do something about it. It could change the world.”
—Overheard at the world premiere of “8: The Mormon Proposition,”
about the LDS Church’s role in directing the 2008 passage
of California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage,
Sundance Film Festival, yesterday.

Editor’ Note: The power of positive thinking.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom addresses the audience after the world premiere of “8: The Mormon Proposition,” at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City Sunday. Directly behind Newsom is director and producer Reed Cowan, a 1997 journalism graduate of Utah State University, and other producers and creators of the film. Below, “pro”-protesters demonstrate outside the film’s premiere against the alleged link between the LDS Church and funding to pass the California Prop 8 initiative banning seme-sex marriage.

Salt Lake Tribune story on “8”
8 The Mormon Proposition
The New York Times story
SundanceTwentyTEN: This is the renewed rebellion


Friday, January 22, 2010

Those Were the Days

The Newsroom of Yesteryear

“There was so much passion. It was tangible, palpable and visible. The joke was always, ‘I tried to date civilians and it didn’t work.’ The civilians didn’t understand that when a story broke, you were going to leave the theater, you weren’t going to make it home to dinner. That translated into a lot of steaminess: We’re all in this together, and we only have each other. . . . Newsrooms always felt like an episode from the old ‘M*A*S*H’ television show, a group of passionate people doing difficult jobs under pretty impossible circumstances, and the only way they survived was doing it a little bit wacky.”
—Jacqui Banaszynski, a Pulitzer-winning reporter,
in Carl Sessions Stepp’s article, “A Eulogy for Old-School Newsrooms,”
American Journalism Review
, Winter 2009

Editor’s Note: My well-spent youth. Today’s newsroom: Alone, in your jammies, at the kitchen table? Man! I’m really old.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Writers Who Don't Suck

Valuing the Outsider

“I don’t have a strict allegiance to ‘journalism’ as much as I have one to the written word. Perhaps there’s no difference. But my point is that to the extent blogging makes it possible for more people who are ‘on fire’ to employ the written word, than it’s good for the written word. It’s true that it creates a situation in which anyone, for $15 a month, can say their piece. But I have more faith in the market of ideas than in a brain-trust of editors to separate the wheat from the chaff.

“Moreover, while there are an incredible number of bloggers out there with no institutional support who suck, there is a truly shocking number of writers, who have all the institutional support in the world, and not only suck, but bring nothing save cynicism, incuriousity, and cold poisoned hearts. And the institutions enable them. To the extent that blogging exposes these frauds, I am all in.”
—Ta-Nehisi Coates, blogger, The Atlantic, 11/2009

Editor’s Note: So if you have to suck, do it with passion.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


WORDmeister’s Note: I’m a crab, astrologically speaking, and came across this horoscope, which seems prescient today: “CANCER—Be very careful at work. Things are changing quickly. Watch out for hysterical bozos going the wrong way. Don’t be one.” Good advice.
In that vein . . .

Wide-Open Spaces

“Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who died March 19 [2008], had a wicked sense of humor. Talking about claims that UFOs regularly visit this planet, he said: ‘They tell us absolutely nothing about intelligence elsewhere in the universe, but they do prove how rare it is on Earth.’”
—Nury Vittachi, Asian journalist and author,
whose father published early Clarke writing
in his Sri Lankan newspaper, 2008.

See Nury’s obit of Clarke.
(Thanks to alert WORDster Dan Kubiske)

Editor’s Note: Calling Rosell, NM....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The ‘B Word’


“We who actually work in the newspaper business have a direct interest in keeping newspapers healthy. But we also can see that the communities we serve rely on newspapers, not only to keep everyone informed, and to check government and corporate abuse, but also to provide a cohesiveness that our society very much needs. ... Yet many of our citizens now take it for granted, and forget how precious it really is.”
—Dean Singleton, CEO, MediaNews Group,
owner of
The St. Paul Pioneer Press, The Denver Post,
The Salt Lake Tribune and 51 other newspapers,
in statement to employees declaring bankruptcy,

Jan. 15, 2010

(To the Wall Street Journal: “It was personally difficult for me,” Mr. Singleton said in an interview. “I’m a ranch kid from West Texas, and we don’t like the ‘B word.’”)

Westword (online news from ex-Denver newspeople)
Salt Lake Tribune: Banks will own newspapers
Wall Street Journal

Editor’s Note: Tell it to your former subscribers.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Celebrating MLK

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.’s Wisdom

Thinking is Hard Work
“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”
—Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

Speak Out
“Curtailment of free speech is rationalized on grounds that a more compelling American tradition forbids criticism of the government when the nation is at war...Nothing can be more destructive of our fundamental democratic traditions than the vicious effort to silence dissenters.”
—Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)
(Thanks to alert WORDster Barbara Reed)

The Final Word
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.... 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.”
—Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968),
Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, Dec. 10, 1964

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
—Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

Stand Up
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
—Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”
—Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

Willful Ignorance
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
—Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

“A day on, not a day off.” --The King Center

NPR: Bethel College in Newton, Kan., finds MLK speech that hasn’t been heard in 50 years.
The King Center
Seattle Times Tribute
Racism still lives. Two (old) columns by Ted Pease

Editor’s Note: I have a dream.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Write Tight!

Early Tweeter

“If there be any man cursed with the itch to compress a whole book into a page, a whole page into a phrase, and that phrase into a word, it is I.”
—Joseph Joubert (1754-1824), French philosopher and author
(Thanks to alert WORDster Javan Kienzle)

Editor’s Note: Ecrit brevement?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

News Ecosystem

Whose News?

“How . . . does the modern news ‘ecosystem’ of a large American city work? And if newspapers were to die—to the extent that we can infer from the current landscape—what would that imply for what citizens would know and not know about where they live?
“. . . The answers are a moving target; even trying to figure out how to answer them is a challenge. But a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, which takes a close look at the news ecosystem of one city, suggests that while the news landscape has rapidly expanded, most of what the public learns is still overwhelmingly driven by traditional media--particularly newspapers.”
“How News Happens,” Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2010

Editor’s Note: No news is good news?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No TV, Son!

Philo Puts His Phoot Down

“There’s nothing on it worthwhile, and we’re not going to watch it in this household, and I don’t want it in your intellectual diet.”
—Philo T. Farnsworth (1906-1971) inventor of television, to his son. Farnsworth conceived of what became the TV picture tube at age 14 while plowing a potato field in Rigby, Idaho, and had a working model of the “Image Dissector” at age 21. But Farnsworth was no fan of his creation. His son, Kent Farnsworth, recalls, “I suppose you could say that he felt he had created kind of a monster, a way for people to waste a lot of their lives.”

RELATED: The TIME 100—Most important people of the century, by Neil Postman (1999).

Editor’s Note: Can learn a lot plowing potatoes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


More Fair, Even More Balanced

“I am thrilled to be joining the great talent and management team at Fox News. It’s wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news.”
—Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate,
on her new gig as Fox commentator (1/11/10)

BBC: Palin Move to Fox discussed in U.S. Media
TIME: Will Palin Fire Back?
Borowitz: English Simulcast!
Palin Photos since Campaign

Editor’s Note: “It’s God’s plan.”—Palin’s response to being picked for McCain Veep

Monday, January 11, 2010

WORD(s) of the Year

WORDmeister’s NOTE: Call the TSA! Someone needs to do something about security at St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose. After a 6.5 earthquake struck near the care facility in far-northern California yesterday, the WORD snuck out disguised as canned goods that had tumbled from shelves across the region, as attendants—who had been debating the new pick for Word of the Year—ran in circles screaming, “Tweet!” and “Dracula Sneeze!” and “Onomatopoeia!” So we’re back again to trouble a deeply disturbed world. Happy new year, everyone!

New Year, New WORDs

“We’re living in a time of wildfire word creation, with no gatekeeper for slang and no way to settle on a term that will please everybody, says Jack Lynch, author of The Lexicographer's Dilemma. Purists have always lamented the erosion of ‘proper’ language, but it’s a lexicographer’s duty to describe the flux, not prescribe a paradigm.... ‘Language has been going to hell since forever,’ Lynch says. ‘Let’s not worry about English. It’s been doing fine for 1,500 years and it's going to outlive us all.’”
Story on the “Word of 2009” and the “Words of the Decade”
by Dan Zak, The Washington Post, Jan. 9, 2010

Editor’s Note
: “Anyone for ‘sexting’?”