Thursday, February 25, 2010


Raging Saints

“The band Raging Saints base their music on born-again Christian principles. They are not ‘unrepentant headbangers,’ as reported in the Night life column last Friday.”
—Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, March 10, 1987

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Courage and Intelligence

NOTE: The WORD is on the road this week. Weigh in.

Use ’Em

“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

Editor’s note: So... sham or mockery?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


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.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo

Monday, February 22, 2010

Echo Chamber

Lawmakers: Turn Off the TV!

“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!

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo

Friday, February 19, 2010


Overturning the Liberal Press

“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, 2010 URL

James O’Keefe/AP Photo
Editor’s Note: An after-school youth project?


Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo


Thursday, February 18, 2010

We’re All in This Together

“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, 2009 URL

Editor’s Note: How about neither?

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Object!

One Objective Fact

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.’”
—Andisheh Nouaree, blogger, Creative Loafing,
Altanta alternative weekly, Feb. 15, 2010

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.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo


Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The Jesus Tablet

“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 2010 URL

Editor’s Note: Who wants steroids and pixie dust on the couch?

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo


Friday, February 12, 2010


Piled High & Deep

“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.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-There photo

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pumping Up Mark Twain


“I turn on the news because it always gets me riled enough to suit the personality of Mark Twain. There are so many idiots out there, and I find the electronic media so destructive.”
—Actor Hal Holbrook says he prepares for his one-man Mark Twain show by watching TV, 2010. (Thanks to alert WORDster Ken Robertson, Tri-City Herald)

Editor’s Note: Small doses advised.

See Holbrook’s Twain here

Today’s wish-I-were-here photo


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fat, Lazy & Stoopid

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.”
—Anne Keene, blogger, “Shedding History,” Jan. 12, 2009
(Thanks to alert WORDster Phil Meyer)

Editor’s Note: Tweets. Betcha can’t eat just one!
Today’s wish-I-were-here photo: Hockomock Head Lighthouse, Swans Island, Maine


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Missing the Newsroom

Love Affair

“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.

Further Reading: NPR’s Scott Simon talks to Greene


Monday, February 8, 2010

Objectivity Is Killing Us

The Disease of American Journalism

“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.”
—Chris Hedges, columnist, Jan. 31, 2010 URL.
(Thanks to alert Muskovite WORDster Jim Brooke)
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Editor’s Note: So, what’s your opinion on that?

Friday, February 5, 2010


Historical Truth

“[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.”
Jill Lepore, Harvard history professor and New Yorker staff writer,
remembering Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States

Editor’s Note: With rare exceptions like Zinn, history (and “truth”) is framed by the powerful.

Today’s winter wonderland photo

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Boots on the Ground

Bearing Witness

“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?

Today’s winter wonderland* photo.
*as in, "I wonder why I live in this @%*^&@!! climate?”

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


“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.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Playtime @ the White House

Oooo! OOO! Pick Me!

“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.

Today’s effin’ freezin’ foto

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gimme Some Truth

In WHOM We Trust?

“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....

ANOTHER NOTE: Fox was tops in cable news in 2009, reported the LATimes.