. NOTE: The WORD is on the road this week. Weigh in.
“An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery.” —Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911), newspaper publisher
. NOTE:The WORDman is on the road, and so you’ll have to make up your own words for the rest of the week. But these will get you started.
Some WORDS from Samuel Clemens
• On writing: “Plain clarity is better than ornate obscurity.” (1900 letter to his editor)
• On editing: “You really must get your mind out and have it repaired.” (same year, same editor....)
• On authorities: “Ecclesiastical and military courts—made up of cowards, hypocrites and time-servers—can be bred at the rate of a million a year and have material left over; but it takes five centuries to breed a Joan of Arc and a Zola.” (1835)
• To an editor he respected: “Slash it, with entire freedom; the more you slash, the better I like it.” (to William Dean Howells, 1881)
• On originality: “The thought is nothing—it has occurred to everybody; so has every thought that is worth fame. The expression of it is the thing to applaud....” (margin notes, Modern English Literature: Its Blemishes and Defects, 1857)
• and... “What a good thing Adam had—when he said a good thing he knew nobody had said it before.”
• Finally.... “When I am king, they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books, for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved.” (The Prince and the Pauper, 1881)
Editor’s Note:I had my mind out for repair sometime in the 1990s, but the tech guy reinstalled it backasswards.
“Reporting from Washington—In a morning pep talk to Senate Democrats, President Obama urged his allies to buck up despite electoral setbacks, bear down in the final push to overhaul healthcare—and, whatever they do, quit relying on blogs and cable television for news.
“Those online and TV sources create a Washington ‘echo chamber’ that’s overly fixated on political analysis, he said, when a better perspective on the world comes from talking to average Americans on a regular basis.”
—Christi Parsons and Janet Hook, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 3, 2010 URL
Editor’s Note:Instant polls give this a thumbs up!
“While we may never find out just who plotted the break-in by James O’Keefe and his comrades of Senator Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) district office or why, we may be certain it was no accident or ‘misunderstanding.’ It was the culmination of a long-term investment strategy by conservatives to rewrite the rules of professional journalism. Organizations like The Leadership Institute, the Collegiate Network, and the National Journalism Center—an arm of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative youth organization—have been funneling millions of dollars into college newspapers and training programs designed to overturn what they believe to be a liberal bias on the part of the mainstream media. In doing so, they are also working to subvert the media’s professional standards.”
—Eric Alterman,columnist, professor and author, Feb. 4, 2010URL
“Your ultimate success as an industry is essential to the success of our democracy. It’s what makes this thing work. Thomas Jefferson once said that if he had the choice between a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, he would not hesitate to choose the latter.
“Clearly, Thomas Jefferson never had cable news to contend with, but his central point remains: A government without newspapers, a government without a tough and vibrant media of all sorts, is not an option for the United States of America.”
—President Barack Obama, at White House Correspondents Assn. dinner, May 9, 2009URL
“Atlanta Progressive News has parted ways with long-serving senior staff writer Jonathan Springston. Apparently, Springston’s affinity for fact-based reporting clashed with [APN’s] vision. . . . In an e-mail statement, editor Matthew Cardinale says Springston was asked to leave APN last week ‘because he held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News.’”
In a statement, APN editor Cardinale writes, “We believe there is no such thing as objective news. Typically, mainstream media presents itself as objective but is actually skewed towards promoting the corporate agenda of the ultra-wealthy.”
(Thanks to alert WORDster Sara Hostetler)
Editor’s Note: I’ll never forget the day I saw a fact.
“The tablet represents an opportunity to renew the romance between printed material and consumer. Think of sitting in your living room, in your bed or on a plane with a publication you really adore nestled into your lap. Since print was first conceived, people have had an intimate relationship with the text, touching, flipping and paging back and forth.
“The tablet, properly executed, will be an iPhone on steroids. . . . So, is the Apple tablet a figment of so much Web-borne pixie dust or is it the second coming of the iPhone, a so-called Jesus tablet that can do anything, including saving some embattled print providers from doom?”
—David Carr,media critic, The New York Times, January 2010URL
Editor’s Note:Who wants steroids and pixie dust on the couch?
“The living language is like a cow-path: it is the creation of the cows themselves, who, having created it, follow it or depart from it according to their whims or their needs. From daily use, the path undergoes change. A cow is under no obligation to stay.”
—E.B. White (1899-1985), writer and wordsmith (Thanks to alert WORDster Ann Berry)
Editor’s Note:And the path evolves as cows make their deposits along the way.....
E.B. White is one of my literary heroes. When he died in 1985, I wrote this column marking his passing for the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News.
. Empty Calories “We are the world’s fattest nation because we consume the largest amount of empty calories. We may also be the world’s stupidest nation, because we consume the largest amount of empty information. We need to forget about our online clout and grow up. Be silent. Think, analyze, question. It’s painful, isn’t it? It’s humbling. It’s humiliating. It’s unpleasant to realize that yo’re not so clever, after all—that actually, you’ve been taken for a ride.”
“I thought about that room, as it had been at the moment I had walked into it with my story in my hand. All that sound, all that excitement, the motion, the raised voices, the clatter, the sense of something being put together on the fly.
I had never seen anything like it.
I was in love.
I had to be there.”
—Bob Greene, columnist and author, recalling his first visit to a newspaper newsroom at 17, in his memoir Late Edition: A Love Story, 2009 (Thanks to alert WORDster Janet Keefer)
Editor’s Note:Just like blogging in yer jammies with the dog farting in her sleep nearby.
“Reporters who witness the worst of human suffering and return to newsrooms angry see their compassion washed out or severely muted by the layers of editors who stand between the reporter and the reader. The creed of objectivity and balance, formulated at the beginning of the 19th century by newspaper owners to generate greater profits from advertisers, disarms and cripples the press.
“And the creed of objectivity becomes a convenient and profitable vehicle to avoid confronting unpleasant truths or angering a power structure on which news organizations depend for access and profits. This creed transforms reporters into neutral observers or voyeurs. It banishes empathy, passion and a quest for justice. Reporters are permitted to watch but not to feel or to speak in their own voices. They function as ‘professionals’ and see themselves as dispassionate and disinterested social scientists. This vaunted lack of bias, enforced by bloodless hierarchies of bureaucrats, is the disease of American journalism.”
“[Howard] Zinn wanted to write a people’s history because he believed that a national history serves only to justify the existence of the nation, which means, mainly, that it lies, and if it ever tells the truth, it tells it too fast, racing past atrocity to dwell on glory. Zinn’s history did the reverse.”
“I am a reporter, plain and simple. I happen to think it is incredibly important to be a witness on the ground. You can blog the hell out of a story, and opine forever, but all of this is based on information from the field. It is becoming increasingly pricey to be in the field for security reasons, and it is increasingly dangerous for reporters to cover stories of our day. I worry that we will not be there. I worry that ‘trash’ news, as I frankly care to call it, will dominate the major outlets.”
—Anne Garrels,National Public Radio foreign war correspondent, 2010.
Editor’s Note:Wait. Didn’t Edward R. Murrow just phone it in from the Blitz?
“Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative.” —Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), “Cold Turkey,” In These Times, May 10, 2004
Editor’s Note:And thanks to Scott Brown, now I have to switch my politics or dump my pickup truck. Jeesh.
GOP PICKUP—Scott Brown’s pick-up truck was surrounded by the media in Wrentham, Mass. “I love this old truck. It’s brought me closer to the people of this state,’’ Brown said in an advertisement. (David L. Ryan/Boston Globe Staff) Today’s effin’ freezin’ foto. .
“We are, collectively, much like eight-year-olds chasing a soccer ball. Instead of finding ways of creating fresh, original, high-impact journalism, we’re way too eager to chase the same story everyone else is chasing, which is too often the easy story and too often the simplistic story—and too often the story that misses what’s going on.”
—Peter Baker, New York Times White House correspondent, says the Obama Administration complaints about superficial press coverage aren’t all wrong, in Ken Auletta, “Non-Stop News,” The New Yorker, Jan. 25, 2009
(Thanks to alert WORDster Lillian Pease)
Editor’s Note: We can’t define news, but we know it when we see it. We think.
“A new poll finds Fox News as the only network that more people say they trust than distrust. “Here are the trust/don’t trust spreads: Fox 49 to 37, CNN 39 to 41, NBC 35 to 44, CBS 32 to 46, and ABC 31 to 46. “Analysis: ‘These numbers suggest quite a shift in what Americans want from their news. A generation ago, Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in the country because of his neutrality. Now people trust Fox the most precisely because of its lack of neutrality. It says a lot about where journalism is headed.’”
—Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire, blogging on a survey by consulting firm Public Policy Poll. (Thanks to alert WORDster Kevin Doyle)
Editor’s Note:At least Glenn Beck tells us what we think. It’s loads easier....
TODAY’S WORD ON JOURNALISM—Daily smart (mostly) and provocative squibs on the press, First Amendment, mass media, writing, society and (sometimes) fishing. About the WORD. To get the WORD (free!) by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.