Monday, January 31, 2011


Speak With Conviction
Def Jam Poem by Taylor Mali

“In case you hadn’t realized, it has somehow become uncool to sound like you know what you’re talking about . . . or believe strongly in what you’re, like, saying. Invisible question marks and parenthetical ya-knows and you-know-what-I’m-sayings have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences, even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions?

“Declarative sentences, so-called because they used to, like, ya know, declare things to be true? OK? as opposed to other things that are totally, like, ya know, not? They’ve been infected by this tragically cool and totally hip interrogative tone? As if I’m saying, don’t think I’m a nerd just cuz I’ve, like, noticed this OK? I have nothing personal invested in my own opinions . . . I’m just like inviting you to join me on the bandwagon of my own uncertainty?

“What has happened to our conviction? Where are the limbs out on which we once walked? Have they been chopped down with the rest of the rain forest? Ya know? Or do we have like nuthin’ to say? Has society just become so filled with these conflicting feelings of neeeyeaauh, that we’ve just gotten to the point where we’re the most aggressively inarticulate generation to come along since, ya know, a long time ago?

“So I implore you, I entreat you, and I challenge you to speak with conviction, to say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it. Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to simply ‘Question Authority.’ You’ve got to speak with it, too.”

—Taylor Mali, poet, “Speak With Conviction,” Def Jam Season 2, 2007
Typographic adaptation by Ronnie Bruce

Editorial Comment: Neeeyeaauh. ya know?

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Moments Trapped in Amber

Trapped .
Picture This

“As a group, news photographers are not the gentlest of people. The work is hard and physically demanding, and the opportunities for pictures is fleeting. A picture exists in only a cat-wink of time and is lost forever to the photographer who is distracted for just that instant. Or is blocked by a pompous politician or by an aggressive colleague. Expletives can follow these incidents.

“Photographers who document newsworthy events are also a remarkable group of people. They stop history for a microsecond of time and hold it up for us to see and to remember and learn from. They do this work despite threat to life and limb, and they enjoy doing it. Most would do nothing else.”

“Words are the tools of someone who sees something and then describes it. Pictures ... describe something that actually happened.”

—Hal Buell, photographer and former chief of photographers for The Associated Press. From his book, MOMENTS The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographs—A Visual Chronicle of Our Time (2010)

Slideshow of 2008 Winner, Todd Heisler, The Rocky Mountain News, “Final Salute.”
Collection of Pulitzer Photo Winners, The Newseum.
• 2010 Pulitzer winner in Feature Photography, Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post.
The Pulitzer Prizes, by category.

Image: A wounded Japanese photographer, Kenji Nagai, lay before a Burmese soldier yesterday in Yangon, Myanmar, as troops attacked protesters. Mr. Nagai later died. 2008 Breaking News Photo Pulitzer Winner by Adrees Latif, Reuters, September 28, 2007

Editorial Comment: They’re worth more than 1,000 words, I’d say.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lessons from Pulitzer


“The heart of journalism is storytelling—we are storytellers and story-listeners, and that was the magic of [Pultizer’s newspaper] The World.

“[Today], the media are increasingly becoming a purveyor of [only] information, but information without knowledge and context is of little use to us. The cacophony going on—you turn on the average television station and you have a crawler about news, you have weather, you have stocks and you have someone talking in the middle, and there’s no narrative thread to link us.

“If you ask people to reflect on a disaster … when they read about the Haitian earthquake, they are not as moved as when they read about the one girl who is trapped for two days under the rubble. That intimate narrative story is what connects them. That’s why we read novels: those stories connect us with the experiences of others. The power of journalism to change the world is when we make those intimate connections.”

—James McGrath Morris, biographer and author, Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power (2010), discussing the impact of the giant newspaper baron on American journalism
at Utah State University, Jan. 25, 2010.

Photo: Morris lectures on Pulitzer at USU on Tuesday.

Editorial Comment: Tell me a good story.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Simplify, Simplify


“The hyperbolic Thoreau told us that he never received much worthy news through the mail, never found anything of interest in the papers. For the person striving to understand the right way to live, ‘all news, as it is called, is gossip.’ Nineteenth-century America had its own version of Twitter in the penny papers of the day, whose allegiance to fear and gossip-mongering was every bit as real as our own.

“But most of my students don’t read newspapers. They rarely watch the news. Their connections, such as they are, are not with the latest dust-up in Burma or tuition hikes in England. They are not particularly engaged in Obama’s fight with the Republicans. In fact, many don’t know we recently had an election.”

—William Major, English professor, University of Hartford,
who asked his students to give up their cellphones for five days and listen to their lives. For many, it was a scary, lonely and unhappy withdrawal. “Thoreau’s Cellphone Experiment,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 16, 2011
(Thanks to alert WORDster Mark Larson)

Editorial Comment: Attention deficit disor... wha?

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Democratic Data Dump

“Satirist Jon Stewart and activist Julian Assange are symbols of a world without journalism—a largely online marketing-based, consumer-driven world at odds with principles of democracy and freedom. Stewart is often considered a journalist because he holds people accountable when many metro media outlets no longer do so in their downsized newsrooms. The Daily Show does this often by following up on what newsmakers did or said in the past and then comparing that to current, contradictory actions and statements. Wikileaks purportedly holds people and governments accountable. It does so, however, by ‘WebThink.’ Whereas responsible journalists scrutinize motives of tipsters and fact-check authenticity of cables, WebThink just dumps it all on the Internet and lets computer chips fly where they may.”

—Michael Bugeja, director, Greenlee School of Journalism,
Iowa State University, “Stewart, Assange and Journalism Education,” Inside Higher Education, Jan. 18, 2011

Editorial Comment: Garbage In, Garbage Out?

NEWSnote: PULITZER: A Life in Politics, Print, and PowerBiographer James McGrath Morris discusses lessons from Pulitzer, Morris Media & Society Lecture, TODAY, Jan. 25, 9-10:15 a.m., ESLC 046, USU Campus.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Squeaky Wheel

Mad as Hell

“I think the same fantasy popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I have been told: this will be the last edition of your show. You go to the scene from the movie ‘Network,’ complete with the pajamas and the rain coat, and go off on a verbal journey of unutterable vision and you insist upon Peter Finch’s guttural resonance and you will the viewer to go to the window, open it, stick out his head and yell. You know the rest. In the mundane world of television goodbyes, reality is laughably uncooperative.”
—Keith Olbermann, out-of-work commentator,
ousted from his MSNBC “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” show,
days after Comcast took over NBC-Universal.

(See John Nichols, “MSNBC drops Keith Olbermann,” The Nation, Jan. 21, 2011)

Editorial Comment: The squeaky wheel gets the . . . ax?

NEWSnote: PULITZER: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power—Biographer James McGrath Morris discusses lessons from Pulitzer, Morris Media & Society Lecture, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 9-10:15 a.m., ESLC 046, USU Campus.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Corporate Media Consolidation

Bigger Brother

“A big disappointment today: The FCC and the Department of Justice have signed off on the Comcast/NBC merger, paving the way for a single enormous media conglomerate to obtain unprecedented control over the flow of information in our country. I’ll be candid with you: This is an awful development for those of us who care about media consolidation. It will restrict your freedom of choice and raise your cable and Internet bills. And it could pave the way for even more media mergers and even less room for independent voices in the media.”
—Al Franken, U.S. senator (D-MN), Jan. 18, 2011
Related Story.

Editorial Comment: Please pick one from Column A and one from Column B:
Column A Column B
Crap Crap

Old Al

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sundance 2011

Powerful Stories

“I believe that independent film can transcend borders. If the stories are on the humane side, what people are experiencing in their own lives, in their own countries, in their own villages, you’re going to find out there’s a common thread about victories and failures and losses and so forth. It becomes an international human-interest story.”
—Robert Redford, actor, director
and founder of the Sundance Film Festival,
which opens today in Park City, Utah.
See “Redford reveals his ‘real Sundance,’”
The Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 20, 2011

Photo: (Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Redford discusses the Sundance Institute and its relationship to the Sundance Festival with Tribune reporter, Sean Means, during an interview at his Zoom restaurant in Park City, Utah, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011

Editorial Comment: The snowflakes keep falling on his head....

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011


WORD: We missed National Winnie the Pooh Day, which was yesterday, Jan. 18.

Oh, Bear!

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words, but rather short, easy words like, ‘What about lunch?’”
—Winnie the Pooh, bear, first appeared in 1926.
Alan Alexander Milne, (1882-1956), English author
(Thanks to alert Poohster Caitlin Owen Hunter)

Editorial Comment: “I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me.”

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First Draft

History on the Hoof

“We often do not realize that history is perishable. It depends on evidence. There are countless stories where evidence is lost, corrupted or hidden, and hence, our attempts to re-assemble a picture of reality are doomed at best. If we lose all the evidence of the Battle of Hastings, what then can we say about it? Journalism may be the first draft of history, but sometimes it’s the only draft. It is often the journalist who collects evidence before it is lost.”
—Errol Morris, filmmaker (Standard Operating Procedure, The Thin Blue Line, The Fog of War…), author and New York Times blogger (The Opinionator), from a 2010 commencement address to the Berkeley School of Journalism

Editorial Comment: All the crap in the back of my Pinto when I was a cub reporter? Archeological strata.

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Lighthouse Dawn

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Have a Dream

Words from MLK

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) (Thanks to alert WORDster Collette Parker)

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)

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)

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.”
—Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

Editorial Comment: Dream on, kids.

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Wise Eyes

Friday, January 14, 2011

DREAM Denied

‘Shamnesty’ Travesty

“Many in the conservative media are trying to block the DREAM Act by driving a wedge between Hispanics and white Americans. That, at least, is how Glenn Beck is doing it. ‘If you are white, or you’re an American citizen, or a white American citizen, you are pretty much toast,’ Beck observed, as he joked with a caller who sarcastically suggested he would need to pretend to be an ‘illegal alien’ in order to qualify for in-state tuition for his MBA program. Rush Limbaugh theorized that the legislation was Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) way of ‘thanking Hispanics for stealing the election for him.’

“Elsewhere in the right-wing press, pundits are asking whether a bill aimed at assisting Hispanics will be a ‘nightmare for hard-working Americans,’ calling the bill ‘shamnesty,’ and raising the specter of criminality, calling it ‘reckless illegal alien amnesty’ and that ‘incentivizes illegality.’ Fox News contributor Mike Gallagher even compared the beneficiaries of the bill to bank robbers.”

–Simon Maloy, “The right-wing backlash against advancing minority rights,”
MediaMatters, Dec. 10, 2010
The bi-partisan DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors),
co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), which would have opened paths to citizenship for some undocumented minors, passed the House,
but died in the Senate on Dec. 18. Column.

Editorial Comment: Dream on, kids.

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Christmas Eve Morn

Thursday, January 13, 2011

One Voice at a Time

Free Speech

“I hope that I will be the last victim of China’s endless literary inquisitions and that from now on no one will be incriminated because of speech.

“Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth.

“In order to exercise the right to freedom of speech conferred by the Constitution, one should fulfill the social responsibility of a Chinese citizen. There is nothing criminal in anything I have done. [But] if charges are brought against me because of this, I have no complaints.”

—Liu Xiaobo, imprisoned Chinese political dissident and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, statement to the Chinese court that sentenced him to 11 years in prison on Christmas Day 2009. URL

Image: Nobel Prize Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland sits beside the empty chair reserved for Liu Xiabobo, who was not permitted to leave his cell in China to accept the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Liu Xia, the wife of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, holds a photo of her husband during an interview in Beijing, October 3, 2010. Reuters

Editorial Comment: Honor lonely courage.

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<-- Coastscape

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Alive & Kickin’

The Myth of the Dying Newspaper

• Roger Plothow, editor/publisher, The Post Register, Idaho Falls, Idaho:
“[T]he tens of thousands of people who produce community newspapers across the country have grown quite weary of hearing how readership is falling, the business is dying and the local newspaper is losing relevance. It simply isn’t so.

“Newspapers have been hit financially, like just about nearly every other business in the country, because of the recession. But the hit has come on the advertising side of the ledger, not in readership.” URL

Nancy Conway, editor, The Salt Lake Tribune:
“News is everywhere today — or at least that’s the way it seems — in print, via broadcast, on the Internet, and through our cell phones. No wonder some folks complain about being overwhelmed by information. It feels like just too much to sort through.

“That may be why most people still rely on traditional news sources for their information…. In case you were in doubt, many people still read newspapers. A 2010 study by the Pew Research Center for People and The Press suggests that about 50 percent of adults still use traditional local newspapers as a primary source of news. Online, about 67 percent of news consumers get their news on ‘legacy,’ or traditional, news provider sites such as The Salt Lake Tribune.” URL

Editorial Comment: Gotta be true—I saw it in the newspaper.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Blaming Free Speech

“Hold on, there, sheriff.

“Before the crime scene had even been fully analyzed, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was quick to blame free speech after the horrific attack Jan. 8 in Tucson, Ariz., that left a federal judge and several others dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords gravely wounded.

“‘Let me say one thing, because people tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol that we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that,’ Dupnik declared in a press conference. ‘That may be free speech, but it’s not without consequences.’

“And in an interview earlier that day on MSNBC via local NBC affiliate KPNX, Dupnik said, as quoted by ‘It’s time that this country take a little introspective look at the crap that comes out on radio and TV.’ . . .

“Nobody has proposed regulating speech yet as a result of this tragedy. But let’s tone down the overheated rhetoric about so-called overheated rhetoric. Free speech should not be under investigation or on trial here.

“In a profound irony, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ reading on the floor of the House of Representatives last week had a special resonance. It was the text of the First Amendment.”

—Brian Buchanan, managing editor/online
The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center,
Free speech not on trial in Giffords shooting,” Jan. 10, 2011

Editorial Comment: I dunno. Some free speech makes me puke. Maximum effects theory?

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Make ’em Laugh

BREAKING NEWS: Officials at St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose, a sanitarium in northern California with notoriously porous security (wiki-leaky), confirm this morning that the WORD has again escaped, this time disguised as a scabrous 2-foot octopus. Those with linguistic, political and journalistic sensibilities are warned to spend 2011 with their eyes and minds firmly closed. More details in the unlikely event that they are warranted.

Archimedes’ Lever

“[C]omedy on television, more than journalism on television, may be the most effective outlet for stirring debate and effecting change in public policy. ‘Comedy has the potential to have an important role in framing the way we think about civic life,’ [Syracuse University professor Robert] Thompson said. And [Jon] Stewart has thrust himself into the middle of that potential. . . . ‘I have to think about how many kids are watching Jon Stewart right now and dreaming of growing up and doing what Jon Stewart does. . . . Just like kids two generations ago watched Murrow or Cronkite and dreamed of doing that. Some of these ambitious appetites and callings that have brought people into journalism in the past may now manifest themselves in these other arenas, like comedy.”
—Bill Carter and Brian Stelter, reporters,
“News Analysis: In ‘Daily Show’ Role on 9/11 Bill, Echoes of Murrow,”
The New York Times,
December 26, 2010.
Stewart dedicated a program to discussion of health benefits
for 9/11 first-responders, and is credited with helping move lawmakers to pass that legislation.

Editorial Comment: Make ’em laugh to make ’em think.

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