Thursday, September 30, 2010

Content is ...?

Premature Obits

“First: Google and other internet companies have no business telling anybody how to do content business, given that the majority have no real experience in it.
“Second: Newspapers (and all print media companies) have just as much opportunity and chance for success online, if not more, as anybody.
“Third: Print is not ‘dead’ because platforms never truly die (hello, radio?)—and anybody who says otherwise is inexperienced or they’d know better. If anything, the future opens more opportunity, not less, for those in the print media business.”
—Patricia Handschiegel, Internet entrepreneur and adviser,
speaking to the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association, 9-16-20

(Thanks to alert WORDster Roger Plothow)

Editor’s Note: “Content is king.” Or crap.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Salmon Sky

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Copy Editor? What Copy Editor?

The Death of English

“The language’s demise took few by surprise. Signs of its failing health had been evident for some time on the pages of America’s daily newspapers, the flexible yet linguistically authoritative forums through which the day-to-day state of the language has traditionally been measured. Beset by the need to cut costs, and influenced by decreased public attention to grammar, punctuation and syntax in an era of unedited blogs and abbreviated instant communication, newspaper publishers have been cutting back on the use of copy editing, sometimes eliminating it entirely.

“In the past year alone, as the language lay imperiled, the ironically clueless misspelling ‘pronounciation’ has been seen in the Boston Globe, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Deseret Morning News, Washington Jewish Week and the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times, where it appeared in a correction that apologized for a previous mispronunciation.

“On Aug. 6, the very first word of an article in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal was ‘Alot,’ which the newspaper employed to estimate the number of Winston-Salemites who would be vacationing that month.

“The Lewiston (Maine) Sun-Journal has written of ‘spading and neutering.’ The Miami Herald reported on someone who ‘eeks out a living’ .... The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star described professional football as a ‘doggy dog world.’ The Vallejo (Calif.) Times-Herald and the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune were the two most recent papers, out of dozens, to report on the treatment of ‘prostrate cancer.’”

—Gene Weingarten, columnist and nit-picker,
The Washington Post, Sept. 19, 2010 URL

Editor’s Note: Eek. I’m prostate on the floor

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Foggy Doggies

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

TV Amok?

Rampant Television

“People like me are using the Net to bypass the customary providers of television programming, along with the ads they show and the fees they collect. . . . Television is escaping the TV set and the cable box. We no longer watch the tube. We watch, to borrow ex-Senator Ted Stevens’s memorable conceit, a series of tubes.”

—Nick Carr, journalist and author (most recently, The Shallows, 2010)
From The Price of Free, The New York Times Magazine, Nov. 15, 2009

Editor’s Note: Beam me up, Scotty!

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Sandsit

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Paging John Wayne!

The End of Men?

“To survive in a hostile world, guys need to embrace girly jobs and dirty diapers. . . . What’s the matter with men? For years, the media have delivered the direst of prognoses. Men are ‘in decline.’ Guys are getting ‘stiffed.’ The ‘war on boys’ has begun. And so on. This summer, The Atlantic’s Hanna Rosin went so far as to declare that ‘The End of Men’ is upon us.”
—Andrew Romano and Tony Dokoupil, Newsweek, Sept. 27, 2010 URL

Manhood USA: A Timeline of Male Ideals
The End of Men: The Atlantic

Editor’s Note: Somebody get me John Wayne!

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Camel Rock

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

‘No Regard for the Truth’

Rediscovering Jimmy

Former President Jimmy Carter, the peanut farmer from Plains, Ga., is on a tour to promote his new memoir. Thirty years after his presidency, Carter says he has been “superior” to other ex-presidents because of his activities through the Carter Center, and has advice for the current occupant of the Oval Office on a number of issues, including dealing with the press.

NBC: “How do you think it came to be that such high numbers of people believe that this American-born Christian president is either foreign-born or a Muslim or both?”

Carter: “I think the number one factor is Fox News. It’s totally distorting everything possible concerning the facts. And I think their constant hammering away at these false premises about our incumbent President has a major impact on the consciousness of America. A lot of well-meaning people, including many of those in the Tea Party movement, believe what is said in this constant hammering away by Glenn Beck and by others who have no regards for the truth.” (Sept. 20, 2010)

URLs: MSNBC and Brent Baker

Editor’s Note: The Fourth Estate wanes.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Pooltime

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Princely Advice

Ding Dong, the ’Net Is Dead! Long Live the Prince

“The Internet’s completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it. The Internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you.”
—Prince, formerly (or currently?) the artist
(Thanks to alert WORDster Eric Budd)

Editor’s Note: A regal decree?

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo:Wellsville Breaks

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Read On

Guilty Pleasures

“My guilty pleasure has started to be shutting off the Web and reading a book. My other not-so-guilty addiction is books on tape (or on iPod), I listen to a lot of novels I wouldn’t otherwise find time to read.”
—Laura Kipnis, author and communication professor, Northwestern University, 2010 URL

Editor’s Note: That speaks volumes.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Sagebrush

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Friday, September 17, 2010


Let Me Off Here

“I am...increasingly weary of having to deal with a press which has become increasingly focused on trivia, driven at least in part by the financial collapse of the news industry and the need, with the 24-hour news cycle, to fill the airwaves with hot air. I say that regretfully because I regard what is happening to the news profession as nothing short of a national catastrophe, which I know pains many quality journalists as much as it pains me. Both our professions have been coarsened in recent years and the nation is the loser for it.”

—U.S. Rep. David Obey, Democratic congressman from Wisconsin since 1969,
announcing that he would not run for reelection in 2010
(Thanks to alert WORDster Brad Knickerbocker)
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Editor’s Note: We feel your pain.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Godlight

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Thursday, September 16, 2010


Deseret Flackery

“There’s nothing ‘innovative’ about merging the staffs of the [Deseret] News and KSL (See “Lead & Innovate,” Sept. 2). It’s merely the creation of a giant platypus, as photojournalist Dirk Halstead called such fused reporting more than a decade ago. . . . And Deseret Connect? Nothing more than glorified, opinionated blogging. What’s the result of the combined newsrooms? I see the News morphing into a slanted Mormon version of The Catholic Register … just pure, unadulterated flack. Hard-hitting, objective journalism is dead at the Deseret News, and I mourn its passing. So, I’m jumping ship for The Salt Lake Tribune, where some semblance of credible journalism is still practiced.”
—Nelson Wadsworth, retired photojournalist and journalism professor,
and ex-
Deseret News subscriber, letter to the editor,
The Salt Lake Tribune, Sept. 15, 2010.
(Cartoon: Mike Keefe, The Denver Post, 2009)

Editor’s Note: Media Divergence?

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Amber Waves of Grain

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Some Good News About News?

“There are many more ways to get the news these days, and as a consequence Americans are spending more time with the news than over much of the past decade. Digital platforms are playing a larger role in news consumption, and they seem to be more than making up for modest declines in the audience for traditional platforms. As a result, the average time Americans spend with the news on a given day is as high as it was in the mid-1990s, when audiences for traditional news sources were much larger.”
—Pew Research Center, Americans Spending More Time Following the News: Ideological News Sources—Who Watches and Why,” Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Sept. 12, 2010 (Survey conducted June 8-28, 2010)

Editor’s Note: That IS news.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo:
Summer 2010 Bouquet

Of Interest: Accident Victim Says, “Thank a Photojournalist”

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010


An Absurd Proposal. Film @ 11

“Sensationalism is rampant in our consolidated news system, where scandal, celebrity gossip and violence (or the threat of looming violence) lead the headlines. Ever wonder why this is all we see and read and hear? It isn’t simply that scandal and violence are all that’s happening in our communities; in fact, it’s the only news that companies want to cover. . . . It’s no secret that the news—especially local news—often leaves something to be desired. We rarely see coverage of stories that truly matter to our communities, or in-depth reporting that gets to the bottom of an issue, instead of just skimming the surface. . . . I think it’s high time we develop our own vision for what we want our news outlets to cover. After all, the news is supposed to be a public good, keeping us informed and engaged.”
—Libby Reinish, writer, “No More Bleeding Ledes, Please,”, September 10, 2010

Editor’s Note: This is a scandal!

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Patience

Of Interest: Accident Victim Says, “Thank a Photojournalist”

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Monday, September 13, 2010

15 Minutes of F(l)ame

Goodbye Rev. Qur’anburn

“Instead of using their talents to make the important seem interesting, news media often are making what’s merely interesting seem important by playing it on page one and at the top of newscast.”
—John McManus, journalist and author, Detecting Bull: How to Identify Bias and Junk in Print, Broadcast and on the Wild Web (2009)
(Thanks to alert WORDster Brenda Cooper)

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune (9/12/10)

Editor’s Note: What a weinie roast.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Textures

Of Interest: Lead Pro-Prop 8 Attorney Flops @ BYU Law School

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Reporting Disaster

Covering 911

Note: The world changed at breakfast time nine years ago tomorrow, when terrorist hijackers destroyed the World Trade Centers and, in many ways, America’s sense of itself. As during disasters and city council meetings everywhere, every day, reporters did their work. Here’s one of them, Stacy Forster’s recollections on two months later. Full story.

“On Sept. 11, a new work assignment for my job as a reporter for the online Journal brought me to work earlier than usual. At about 8:45 a.m., midway through my breakfast cup of yogurt, I heard a low, deep rumble combined with the crunch of metal. The windows shook, even more than they do when a fierce wind whips between the buildings.

“From my desk on the northeast corner of the World Financial Center, I had a good view of the Twin Towers. I leaned over to see what had happened and saw that flames had engulfed several floors high in the North Tower. I was soon joined by my co-workers, who had rushed to my window. One by one, they all said the same thing: ‘Oh, my God, the World Trade Center is on fire.’

“I was sent outside to gather color for whatever stories might follow. I grabbed my reporter’s notebook, cellphone and purse and left the office. ‘Be careful,’ one of my co-workers warned as I dashed out. I thought he was being overprotective and laughed—sort of—at his concern. . . .

“As I made my way across a parking lot, I tried to piece it all together, but it wasn’t adding up. Was it a fire? A bomb? Glass, luggage, a seatbelt, mangled pieces of metal. I was momentarily confused by what I thought was restaurant trash -- was there a dumpster nearby that had exploded, too? Then, I saw a severed arm and realized I was looking at pieces of human flesh. . . .

“People were gathered in front of the Amish Market across from the Trade Center, and I started asking them, ‘What happened? Did anyone see? I’m a reporter and I’m trying to figure out what happened.’ No one responded. They simply looked skyward at the burning building. It wasn’t until I was about a half block south that I found someone who could actually speak. A man told me he was walking toward the pedestrian bridge when he heard what sounded like a sonic boom, and then metal crashed down around him. All he could say was, ‘I was lucky.’ . . .

“Still expecting to file quotes to my editors, I kept talking to eyewitnesses. What had they seen? What did the plane look like? Was it a commercial airplane? . . . My cell phone wasn’t working, because everyone on the street was trying to call someone. I found a pay phone and got in line to call the office. After telling one of my editors that I was all right, I started dictating quotes. I’m not sure if he ever used them in a story, but I could hear the keys clicking away on the other end of the line. He told me the newsroom was being evacuated and our staff would regroup at a point along the Hudson River.

“I walked slowly, asking questions of people huddled in the streets. But I couldn’t find two people who could provide the same description of the second plane. . . .

“After I found my colleagues, we started walking to the apartment of one co-worker who lived nearby, where we hoped to use a phone to keep adding to the story. But again, my stomach sank and my heart skipped when I heard what sounded like thunder behind me. We tried to figure out what we were hearing. Maybe another plane, maybe a bomb, I thought. At the same time, I ran.”
—Stacy Forster, reporter,, Nov. 13, 2001 URL

Editor’s Note: The next time you see a journalist, tell her, “Thank you.”

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Foghat

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

On Inquiring Minds, Critical Thinking & Sheep

The Decline of the Inquiring Mind
By Ted Pease
(The Utah Statesman, Sept. 8, 2010 URL)

It used to be that, “Inquiring minds want to know.” The National Inquirer built America’s most successful supermarket tabloid on that premise.

So what is it these days, when there’s more information available at a mouseclick or the end of a tweet than any sane inquiring mind can possible absorb? Why are we getting dumber—or at least less well informed—than we used to be?

Consider these factoids:
• 81%—American households with Internet.
• 3,518—Hours/year U.S. adults and teens spend consuming mass media.
• 18—Hours/week online of average American.
• 7.5—Hours/day online for kids 8-18.
• 55-65—Age of fastest growing Facebook demographic.
• 33%—Women 18-34 who say they check Facebook before brushing their teeth in the morning.

By most measures, we are the most connected people ever. So why aren’t we the best informed society ever? Clearly, we are not:
• 27%—Americans who believe Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. (41% of registered Republicans).
• 18%—Those who think Obama is a Muslim (34% of Republicans).
• 47%—Americans who rate Fox News “most trusted.”
• 33%—Americans under 30 who get news primarily from late-night talk shows.
• 25%—Americans 18-24 who don’t read/watch/listen to any news daily.

In the age of instant information, why are we becoming such ill-informed sheep?

Part of the answer might relate to that last factoid: Declining news habits, new technologies and the economic downturn since 2008 have killed off more than 100 daily U.S. newspapers over the past 18 months, and those that survive are hanging on by a thread.

Even The New York Times (“All the News That’s Fit to Print”) is flirting with bankruptcy, and “America’s Newspaper,” USA Today, just cut about 130 newsroom positions. Last week, Utah’s oldest daily newspaper, The Deseret News, fired almost half its newsroom staff (five Aggies lost their jobs) and will partner with KSL-TV to provide more with less.

But that’s not why Americans are less well informed than they used to be.

The failing health of the news business—newspapers, news magazines, TV news—may be a canary in the social mineshaft that indicates a loss of oxygen to our collective brains, but it’s not the cause of citizen ignorance. In the past decade, understanding of public policy has declined, and disengagement in informed debate on important societal issues has increased, until fewer and fewer people have any idea why they believe the sometimes whacko things they do.

The problem is a combination of intellectual laziness, a lack of curiosity, disengagement in our communities, plus technological, economic and political factors that have converged to make us more ignorant of the world around us—generally and specifically—despite more access to information than ever. What we’re lacking is the ability to discern the difference between rumor and information, between informed opinion and bug-eyed rant, between news and entertainment.

“Journalists, and those who critique them, like to believe that facts conquer all. If the press reports quickly, fully and responsibly, myths will be dispelled, scales will fall from eyes, and society will be guided along the path of reason,” writes Time columnist James Poneiwozik.

But Americans seem less able to differentiate between truth and fiction than they once were. Today, instead of making us better informed and more capable of informed self-governance, the constant barrage from smart phones and instant Tweets and Facebook friends and viral videos baffles and confuses us, making us either apathetic or angry enough to march on Washington.

But angry about what? That the president is a foreign-born Muslim? (False) That social justice is code for socialism or fascism? (Glenn Beck) That illegal immigrants are being beheaded in Arizona? (False) That immigrants come to American not for freedom and opportunity, but to have “anchor babies” and cheat us out of social services? (Puleeze!)

Where does this stuff come from? It’s the echo chamber of blogs and tweets and twits, pundits and ranters on TV and online who concoct and repeat myths, lies and damned lies, either just for fun or out of ideological malice—lies that are absorbed wholesale by people too befuddled by all the noise to apply critical thinking and skepticism. For them, addicted and abducted by what passes for “fair and balanced” information these days, believing the pundits (with whom they tend to agree in the first place) is just easier than thinking for themselves.

“Rumors and conspiracy theories are oddly comforting” Poneiwozik says. “They simplify a complex world—one that experts constantly get wrong.”

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need these lessons as much as your classmates who don’t generally pay much attention to the news, who don’t know much about public affairs and policy debates, and who don’t really care anyway.

College professors worry about these things. We’re in the business of helping to grow and feed inquiring minds, not with the breathless sensationalism of supermarket pulp (“I Had Bigfoot’s Baby!”), but with the capacity to question, reflect and think for ourselves.

Students who don’t learn how to question authority become adults who follow sheeplike where others tell them to go, and have no need of information that could lead to independent thought. Those students need remedial Critical Thinking 101. America needs fewer sheep, and more inquiring minds that want to know.


On Celebrity News

“Like all other nations, we worship money and the possessors of it. . . . We like to read about rich people in the papers; the papers know it, and they do their best to keep this appetite liberally fed. . . ‘Rich Woman Fell Down Cellar—Not Hurt.’ The falling down the cellar is of no interest to us when the woman is not rich, but no rich woman can fall down cellar and we not yearn to know all about it and wish it was us.”
—Mark Twain (1835-1910), writer, in Autobiography, 1907

Editor’s Note: NEWS FLASH! Tragic Lindsay Lohan hangnail. Film @ 11!!

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Beachdreams

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reading List

In Defense of Libraries

NOTE: In Logan, Utah, and other cash-strapped communities, discussions focus on whether tax rolls can afford to keep libraries. In Buffalo, NY, the Buffalo News wonders if the community can afford NOT to fund its public library.
“Without libraries, accessible and active libraries, people are tragically less likely to keep their minds growing and their civic awareness up to speed. And those are factors in everything from a community’s poverty and crime rates to its ability to attract businesses and professionals (and retirees).”
—George Pyle, editorial page editor, The Buffalo News, Aug. 31, 2010 URL

Editor’s Note: A society’s intellectual vitality may be measured by its reading list.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Cache Valley Doldrums

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Survival Tactics

Survival & Citizenship

“If, and only if, journalists themselves become active, aggressive and vocal participants in the debate and the decisions about the future of journalism and, with public support, can successfully navigate the transition into cyberspace with their stated values intact, will journalism or democracy survive the 21st Century.”
—Bill Kovach, founder, Committee of Concerned Journalists,
author (w/ Tom Rosensteil,
The Elements of Journalism, 2001),
former newspaper newspaper editor and Neimann Fellows director

Editor’s Note: Beats going quiet into that good night...journalism and public alike.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Surf's Up

Friday, September 3, 2010

Yippie Wisdom

Steal This Idea

“The idea that media is there to educate us, or to inform us, is ridiculous because that's about tenth or eleventh on their list.”
—Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989), social activist, “revolutionary,” “child of the Woodstock nation,” founder of the Yippies (Youth International Party) and author (Steal This Book)

Editor’s Note: Media ARE, dammit! And depending on how you define “media,” social education may not be on the radar screen at all.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Trinidad Harbor

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Today's WORD: Eviscerate

More on Deseret News ‘Innovations’

Deseret News
set to lead

and innovate

—Page One headline, Deseret News, Sept. 1, 2010

“Ken Doctor, a media consultant and author of Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get, said The [Deseret] News’ reorganization was a sign that the paper was following the lead of other media companies that are not just tinkering with their business models but eviscerating them. ‘The news business is now blowing itself up, claiming radical reinvention, acknowledging that experimentation around the edges won’t get the job done.’

“Still, with such deep staff cuts and a combined print-broadcast newsroom, some local media experts in Utah said they wondered whether the paper’s coverage, considered among the best in Utah, would inevitably suffer.

“‘Whether a new converged news product will continue to provide the kind of aggressive news gathering that any city needs to maintain its vitality and keep its public servants honest remains to be seen,’ said Edward Pease, a professor at Utah State University’s journalism department.

—Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times, Sept. 1, 2010 URL

Meanwhile, Salt Lake Tribune columnist Peg McEntee notes that LDS Church spokesmen are appearing as “reporters” in the new and “innovative” Deseret News, a day after laying off 85 newsroom staff. URL

DNews Aggie Body Count: Word from the decimated Deseret News newsroom from USU alum Mark Reece is that amoung the 85 lay-offs announced this week, five Aggies lost their jobs; five others (including Mark) survive...for now: “Hi, Ted: Thanks for the support through this. From a quick count, Aggies took hits but some survived. Those who still have jobs are Aaron Morton, sports; Jeff Allred from photo; Joe Dougherty, city desk; Molly Farmer, city desk. Those that didn’t: Jared Eborn, sports; August Miller, photo; Jeff Vice, features; Aaron Falk, city desk; Kim Murphy, wire/copy desk.”

Editor’s Note: What’s black and write and dead all over?

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Halibuthead

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lead, Innovate, Cut, Grow?

Deseret News Cuts Newsroom in Half;
to Merge with KSL-TV & Radio

“Changes in the industry have forced some newspapers to fade or even close. At the Deseret News, we choose to lead and innovate. . . .Today we have announced the reduction in our print work force by 57 full-time and 28 part-time employees, which reflects just over 43 percent of our work force.”
—Clark Gilbert, CEO and president, The Deseret News,
Aug. 31, 2010 (DNews story)

“To put your minds at ease, we don't anticipate any layoffs. As a matter of fact, we might hire.”
—Nancy Conway, editor, Salt Lake Tribune

“We will watch carefully for any voids created by the loss of staffing at the Deseret News, and do what is necessary to provide the state of Utah with comprehensive news and editorial coverage.”
—William Dean Singleton, CEO,
MediaNews Group, Tribune’s owner

“There is no sugar-coating the bad news. Like a lot of other newspapers in America, this one has to cut costs, and that means cutting people; real people with bills to pay and families to feed; people I've grown to love and respect through many years.... We are coordinating with KSL to create the largest newsroom in the Intermountain West. While other papers are forced to sacrifice in-depth stories just to stay on top of news, this paper will have the resources to do both. Your school board and city council won't be ignored, and neither will those hidden stories that need more time to develop.”
—Jay Evensen, (former?) editorial page editor, Deseret News (Blog)

Editor’s Note: “I heard the news today, oh boy...”

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Arcata Farmers Market . . . .