What's That Growling Noise?
The WORD wonders. That growling noise could be his stomach. Maybe it’s the backhoe digging up the front yard. Or, more likely, the gears in his brain need grease. A lot of grease.
After another tough year, Today's WORD on Journalism woke up Saturday and called it quits for the 27th season. He sent a text for a padded van to pick him up, and headed off to St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose and Emotionally Drained. There, he will retire to his hammock and try to grease his brain back into a functioning state in time for the launch of Season 28 in September.
Loyal fans (can any have hung on since the First WORD in 1995?) will remember that the WORD began as a way to teach college students how to use email. Can you even fathom that? The Internet was a shiny new(ish) thing back then, when Sen. Al Gore was accused of padding his resumé with the claim that he invented it (actually, he never said that).
In the mid-1990s, most of us, including journalism students at Utah State, were new to the Internet and email. So to get them to use it, I started sending them pithy WORDS every weekday — Thomas Jefferson or Oliver Wendell Holmes, Molly Ivins or Socrates — which might show up on quizzes. Now, of course, college kids and kindergarteners have nanochips in their fingertips, and email is so your grandfather’s technology.
The WORD may be an anachronism in 2022, but a few old pharts still like getting it in the morning in-box, or visit the blog. About 1,400 names are on the subscriber list, though I suspect that few of those students — my gawd! now nearing their 50s — remain.
However doddering, the WORD totters on in the belief that commentary on journalism, free expression, our larger media culture and the world as a whole is still a worthy enterprise. So after a summer’s treatment at St. Mumbles for malaise, ennui, hangnails and world-weary disgust, the WORD eventually will reemerge for Season 28.
In the meantime, we leave you with some of the 180+/- nuggets of the past year. Summer well. Avoid COVID (no, Virginia, it’s NOT over). Be kind to yourselves and others. Hug a dog whenever possible. And take full advantage of whatever hammock suits you — lord know you’ve earned it. Peace.
Some WORDish Nuggets from the 2021-2022 Season
“Truth is always exciting. Speak it, then. Life is dull without it.” —Pearl S. Buck (aka Sai Zhenzhu) (1892-1973), missionary, author and winner of both Pulitzer (1932) and Nobel (1938) Prizes.
“News organizations have to stop using the phrase: ’We go beyond the headlines.’ That’s your job, dummy. You don’t see American Airlines saying, ‘We land our jets on the runway!”—Bill Maher, commentator, comedian and TV host, and author of “New Rules: Polite Musings From a Timid Observer,” 2005.
“We are the scrapbooks of our community, we are the keeper of milestones. . . . Even something as simple as publishing the school district’s honor roll plays a part in why the community looks to their local paper.” —Carol Wyatt, editor of two local papers in Florida, the Holmes County Times-Advertiser and the Washington County News, part of a trend of Gannett selling off some of its smaller papers to local owners, “Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter,” CNN, Sept. 8, 2021.
“They call Alden a vulture hedge fund, and I think that’s honestly a misnomer. A vulture doesn’t hold a wounded animal’s head underwater.” —Charlie Johnson, former Chicago Tribune Metro reporter, in McKay Coppins, “A Secretive Hedge Fund Is Gutting Newsrooms: Inside Alden Global Capital,” The Atlantic, Oct. 14, 2021.
“Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitri A. Muratov of Russia were recognized for ‘their courageous fight for freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.’ . . . ‘They are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.’” —“Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to 2 Journalists, Highlighting Fight for Press Freedom,” The New York Times, Oct. 8, 2021.
“I fear the disappearance of journalists and the demise of journalism, and dread the day there are no more newspapers to read with morning coffee.”—Joanne Fornes, newspaper reader, Senior News, October 2021.“Books give you the faulty idea that you can safely travel in realms of gold or voyage leagues underwater without getting wet; they make it impossible to be certain that your new classmate is not a rat under a series of raincoats; they send you pingponging into the past where you could do considerable harm if allowed to wander; they dispatch you into futures that don’t exist and trick you into thinking they could. Some of them are terrifying. Some of them are stomach-churning. All of them are treacherous, especially if you are reading them when walking. Don’t read them when walking.” —Alexandra Petri, columnist, “Opinion: Take all books off the shelves. They’re just too dangerous,” The Washington Post, Nov. 27, 2021.
“The answers to all of life’s questions are on the internet and this is why I don’t get out and walk. Things I might’ve had to walk to the library to find out are in my computer on my desk. So here I am.” —Garrison Keillor, sedentary recovering English major, “Last night I went to sleep by my girl,” Garrison Keillor and Friends, Sept. 29, 2021.
“Having spent more than 40 years reporting, writing and editing the news, I am surprised to conclude that overconsumption of news, at least in the forms I’ve been gorging on it since 2016, is neither good for my emotional well-being nor essential to the health of the republic.” —John Huey, former Time Inc. editor in chief, “Opinion: All the news I intend to quit,” Washington Post, Jan. 3, 2022.
“So it goes.” —Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007).
FREE! TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM This free “service” is sent to rafts of subscribers worldwide more or less every weekday morning during WORD season. If you have recovered from whatever illness led you to subscribe and don’t want it anymore, send “unsubscribe” to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you want to afflict someone else, send me the email address and watch the fun begin. (Disclaimer: Don’t shoot the messenger. I just quote ’em, I don’t necessarily endorse ’em.)
Edward C. Pease, Ph.D.
Professor & Department Head Emeritus
Department of Journalism & Communication
Utah State University
Today's WORD on Journalism