Posts Tagged ‘ News ’

Something With Which All Pundits Seem To Agree, Post- “Arizona Tragedy”

2011.01.10
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“WE ALL NEED LESS VITRIOL from those other guys.”

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Sorting Debbie

2011.01.10
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IN THE WAKE OF SINGER and prolific synagogue-music innovator Debbie Friedman, I find myself mourning her death but ambivalent about her legacy.

The mourning: If you worship at most “progressive” (i.e., non-Orthodox) North American synagogues, you’re familiar with her work (particularly the Mishebeirach, a prayer for healing which was recently (some say “at last”) canonized in the new Reform prayerbook). But if you ever saw Ms. Friedman in concert, you really saw her. The woman fairly glowed. Not literally, but in the eyes of the mind: huge radiating love-and-wonder vibes not really all that different from a Grateful Dead show, and from which people depart laughing, woohooing, and singing to themselves for days afterward. She was a great and phenomenal talent who brought a lot of joy to this end of the universe and, as is so often the case, the world seems a bit darker for her absence.

The ambivalence: While introducing folk music to the service makes the service, or rather the joy inherent, more accessible, it can also turn the service into a sing-along. And, even as a happily compulsive singer-along, that’s not why I attend services. At one time or another it has been my pleasure to attend Grateful Dead concerts, coven circles, Mass, church, a Buddhist shrine and various other experiential constructs. I found each of them beautiful and, in a sense, useful. But none of them move me in the way of a book-and-dream-fragrant silence, woven through with wordless murmurings and solemn chanting of the ancient heart-known Hebrew. It is, to me, authentic, which is to say familiar and challenging in a way that singing along not quite is.

“One man’s meat” is a proverb in many tongues and times. But when someone like a Debbie Friedman passes out of the world, it makes many other things feel small. Thank you, Ms. Friedman, for making Earth a bit bigger for a while.

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Word Of The Year, 2011

2010.12.31
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MMaXImize!

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Fezzini for Foreign Policist

2010.12.18
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“HA HA! YOU FOOL! YOU fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia!‘ But only slightly less well-known is this: “Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line”! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha–”
– Fezzini, The Princess Bride. Granted, he was trying to start a war at the time…

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5 Thoughts: Veni, Vidi, Wiki

2010.12.14
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1. NO REPORTER (OR FORMER REPORTER) can resist two-centsing the Wikileaks Affair. Yet my opinions are still raw and untempered; this movie isn’t over yet, and any real proclamations of herohood or villainy are thus still naively premature. This unfolding fact is some comfort to those of us on the fence: who dislike Mr. Assange’s person and motives, applaud Wikileaks qua Wiklileaks, think some doors work better when closed, are appalled by their government’s heavy-handed attempts to quash fair journalistic game, roll their eyes at the kneejerkisms of “both” “right” and “left,” and feel the “hacktivist”(1) response is both counterproductive and self-seeking.

2. It’s hard to deny that Mr. Assange comes off as a petulant, smash-everything egotist even in his own writings — a reflexive anti-authoritarian who got lucky with a similar and better-connected discontent. That is not a valid criticism against the leaks themselves or what’s revealed in them, and I wonder about the commentators who think it is. Read more »

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Reporters And Other Artists, Remember:

2010.12.01
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“IN THE ABSENCE OF NUANCE, it just becomes noise.” –Ann, commenting on a newspaper article which lacked some rather essential facts

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Biblical Note: No Idiots Need Apply

2010.09.27
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IT HAS COME TO THE attention of Metaphorager.Net that certain hatebrained wink-and-gigglers are selectively quoting vv. 8-9 of Psalm 109 to express their disdain for the President With The Suspicious Middle Name (simply paraphrased, they’re calling for his death). While I’m not one to upset the otherwise noble Lower North American art of president-disdaining, I really hate to see some of my favorite books hijacked by idiots. So it appeals to the Cosmic Jokester in me to discover that Psalm 109′s second and third verses say this (in the Artscroll translation):

2. For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful have opened against me, they have spoken to me the language of falsehood,
3. And with words of hatred they have encircled me, and attacked me without cause.

(“God?” Please. Save us from those who think they know You. The rest of us are tiring of the irony.)

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He’s Not With Us

2010.09.08
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THERE ARE MANY REASONS TO be annoyed, flabbergasted, enraged, amused, resigned or cynically justified by the actions of the idiot in Gainesville who wants to burn the Quran. Here is mine:

(First, though: I use the term “idiot” strictly as a measure of accuracy, not of my own admitted scorn and disbelief. Funk & Wagnall tell me “idiot” is derived from the Greek word “idios,” which means “one’s own.” Use in a technical philosophical sentence, a la Philip K. Dick: “Two worlds there are: the idios kosmos, or private world; and the koinos kosmos, or shared world.”)

One who believes that his actions affect no one else is living in his own little world. One who further believes that he is exempt from those actions’ consequences is living even littler. Most people grow out of that world around the time they quit wearing diapers. I don’t know what his excuse his — nor do I care, except as cautionary tale — but I am grateful that he provides a polar opposite to something most of the rest of us aspire to be. For providing a spectacular “bad example” — one that’s truly exemplary for its inbred viciousness, fear, and willful stupidity — I thank you.

Now please. Go away.

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An Analysis Of, And Physiological Metaphor Regarding, Lower North America’s Current Two-Party Political Landscape, You Should Pardon My Language

2010.08.18
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REPUBLICANS HAVE NO HEART; DEMOCRATS, no balls.

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Writing News: The Interview

2010.08.12
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HAVING LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY “DONE this in my sleep(1)” on occasion as ahem an award-winning reporter for the Sonoma Index-Tribune and Sonoma Sun (and freelancer for the Novato Advance, Petaluma Argus-Courier and The Bohemian) and being somewhat-to-greatly rankled by what passes for “news” these days outside of local outlets and the Daily Show, methinks it urgent to spread some of the skills needed to excel in The Game. Let’s start with the Interview.

The goal of the Interview is to extract information from someone who has it: whether they’re an eyewitness, a neighbor, a mayor, a relative, a senator or just a bunch of old guys reminiscing about Frank Sinatra in the backroom of an old Sonoma bar at 9:30 a.m. on a weekday. You will want to have the following:

- Tape recorder (smaller the better, and with a counter)
- Pad and pen(cil)
- Relevant and brief questions (what, when, where, how, maybe why, and — most importantly — “Anything else you want our readers/listeners to know? Anything I should have asked you, or that you’d wished I’d asked you?” This often yields the best quote of all.)

(Make sure that either tape or pad includes “the scene.” Include lots of color and context, body language, etc., but don’t go overboard at the expense of the nut-o’-story(2); include at least three relevant details. Some disdain tape recorders, but if you’re like me you’ll want people to tell you things in their own words — and you’ll want to quote them accurately. The counter’s for noting what point in the Interview contains The Quote.)

Two types of Interview there are: Field and Telephone.

Field Interviews are, by their nature, unpredictable; this is where your tape recorder is paramount. Identify yourself to the interviewee and give them a graceful way out: “I’m Clark Kent with the Daily Planet; mind if I ask you a few questions?” Keep as open and friendly a face as possible(3). If they consent, begin recording with something like, “This is Clark Kent of the Daily Planet on today’s date, and we’re speaking with …” Let the interviewee speak (and if necessary spell) name and title into the recorder; it both indicates consent and is a good way to break the ice.

If your interviewee is an emergency responder at the scene of something horrible, look for the guys in the white helmets (fire) or in a vehicle on the radio (police or also fire). Remember that while California Penal Code section 409.5d gives you legal access anywhere (your state or country may vary), you are a low priority to those trying to bring things under control. Keep your questions brief and to the point (that’s also a good general rule) and stay well out of the way (I usually back against a tree or something).

Interviewing witnesses and families can be dicey: some folks want to be in the newspaper and some don’t. Don’t push it; some may have a beef with the paper, or reporters in general, or be drunk, or indefinably weird in a way which makes you wish you’d studied finance. Be professional, as though you’re doing something serious (you are). Sometimes that can be contagious.

Interviewing someone who’s been traumatized by tragedy is invasive and, occasionally, necessary. Use extreme care. There is no other advice I can give you.

Other types of Field Interviews (e.g., press conferences, meeting interviewees at their office) are similar enough to the Telephone Interview as to make a good segue.

Telephone Interviews are easier in one way than Field Interviews, if you’re typing the conversation directly into your word-processor (typewriters, not so much). You’re limited in that you can’t see your interviewee’s eyes or body lingo, but if they’re not answering the phone you get to tell the secretary or voicemail “If I don’t hear from you by 2 p.m., I’ll have to write “Could not be reached by presstime.” (You’d be surprised how often this actually works, especially for those whose newsworthiness depends on public image.)

* * *

As nothing else comes to mind at present, I hope this helps those either curious about The Game or eager to play. As Edward R. Murrow said, “Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices – just recognize them.”(4)

———-

(1) Much to either the amazement or confirmed suspicions of my former editors, if they’re reading this.
(2) Picked this up from a former editor-in-chief, who referred to the summing-up paragraph of any story as the “nut graf.” Being a hick, I don’t know if that’s a universal term.
(3) On the other thumb, I used to work with a guy (also award-winning) whose favorite tools were gruffness and insouciance. Whatever works. It’s my nature to befriend people, so I go with that; also, I’ll come right out and say “Explain this to me so that I can see it the way you do.” It seems to me that a successful reporter should pretend to be the dumbest guy in the room — and pay close attention to the people trying to explain things.
(4) He also said “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful,” which is even more important. Your byline is your reputation — cherish it!

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5 Thoughts: Fiction- v. News-Writing

2010.07.05
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1. YOU STOP WRITING A NEWS piece when you run out of facts. But when do you stop writing fiction? When you run out of story, I suppose.

2. In news, the most important information goes up top. In fiction, it’s in the reader’s head — at least with genre pieces. There has to be some connection between the reader’s mind and the writer’s expression in terms of shared assumptions or expectations. A science fiction author knows his readers are unfazed by three-headed alien bankers, so doesn’t need to waste valuable real estate on justifying same beyond adhering to strict internal consistency. Someone writing for a general audience needs to adjust their bankers, but touch not the consistency!

3. Both news and fiction require a suspension of disbelief on the part of the writer. The newswriter must disbelieve her own narrowness of perspective; the fictioneer, the narrowness of his publisher’s pocketbook. And both must believe that they offer an important, if not indispensable, message.

4. The task/mechanics of newswriting can be visualized as assembling a Tinkertoy set: all the pieces are there, and it’s the writer’s task to assemble them in as compact and easily recognizable a form as possible. Fictioneering feels more like holding one end of a handful of ropes which fade into the misty distance; the idea being to draw in the slack and tighten the lines until the sails fill of themselves.

5. Dialog. In fiction, it advances the plot or builds character or atmosphere. In news … well, it can also advance plots and build (or tear down) character and atmosphere. Perhaps news and fiction are less dissimilar than they appear (no FOX or MSM jokes, please); the difference may be whether we corroborate with our senses or our emotions.

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The Face That Launched A Thousand Orbits

2010.06.12
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PUT YOUR FACE AND/OR NAME on the Space Shuttle while you still can[1] at NASA Face in Space, then download and print the evidence. (This is a metaphor for something or other; p’raps best not think too hard on’t.)

[1] Said shuttle program being shut down soon. Accept reasonable substitutes.

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