Posts Tagged ‘ News ’

Pithyism #25,000-Gallons-a-Day

2010.06.10
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BP = ‘BYE, PLANET.

(PS: Check http://www.ifitwasmyhome.com/ for a localizable perspective.)

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Bad, Bad News

2010.06.09
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YES, THAT WAS MY EMAIL which KQED’s Michael Krasny read during his second hour this morning, which program concerned the effect of bad news on man-in-the-street audients. The show is worth a listen — archive available at http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R201006091000. (I riffed on the concomitant effect of bad news on the reporters who witness it.)

Many listeners discussed the heartbreak of our instant-everywhere media and the dangers of being desensitized by a flood of horrible real images about which one can do nothing or too damn little. Some said they’ve switched off radios and TV sets and canceled newspapers; some severely curtail their media intake to the non-visual or (more often) The Daily Show. One woman addressed the desensitization issue thus: When she sees the faces and names of American soldiers killed most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan (A”H, PBUT and rest in peace), she “goes into a little prayer for them” — she tries to connect her inner spark-of-what-some-call-God to theirs, to their lives and those surrounding them, and to the hole left by what was formerly their presence.

She says that helps. I believe her.

One of the most difficult aspects of living a “religious” or “spiritual” life is reconciling the universal amazingness of God with the frustrative pettiness of some humans. (“Monotheism isn’t for wimps,” as my old buddy Sputnik sometimes said.) It’s the sort of thing which worried Job, at least until God said, “That’s just the way it is.” It worries me too; these days I’m finding it difficult to keep from turning my eyes away from the horror. (Granted, I’m sort of dealing with a lot right now.) But this morning I discovered that not only am I not the only one who feels that way — I’m not alone in thinking that’s unacceptable. I don’t want to be ignorant of what’s going on in the world; I don’t want to be paralyzed by the knowledge either.

Maybe the answer, an answer, or anyway what my tool-using Mr. Fixit primate brain will substitute, isn’t to switch off but to find something you can do something about. Wherever you live, someone needs help — find them and offer it! (In Sonoma Valley, you can do that through FISH, or friendsinsonomahelping.org; if you don’t have something similar near you, start one. )

Even if we can’t directly affect what enrages us, we can channel that rage to productive ends. It may be hard work — but isn’t anything better than paralysis?

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So Much For Earth

2010.05.24
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What happens when the opposable thumb outweighs the brain? Fun fun fun! Unless, of course, you live here.

Fig. 1

WORST-CASE SCENARIO: THE BP SPILL will kill everything in the Gulf of Mexico. This will be the tipping point for all of Earth’s oceans to die. In 50 years we’ll be wishing for one more breath, if we even live that long.

So much for immortality, rice pudding and Beethoven, not to mention the Cubs’ pennant chances. (Apparently we’ll all die before hell freezes over[1].) And all because we weren’t smart enough to count our blessings before turning them into curses. It’s not like we didn’t see it coming … but it’s hard to really see through a primate program that says Someone Bigger Will Fix This and It’ll All Be Okay, Somehow.

Well, right now, for this, there isn’t anyone or anything bigger than what the hands of man can build. Right now we’re at the mercy of our own inventiveness.

To whomever-from-Elsewhere may find this note: My apologies on behalf of (at least the wiser members of) my species and the others we silenced. We really thought we’d hold it all together long enough to find you, or for you to find us, or at least to become smart enough to solve all of our problems, or at least the pressing ones, or even decide what they were, so you see our difficulty, but that’s all moot now. Enjoy the fruits of what we were and could have been.

And please, despite my own anger, don’t judge us all too harshly. We were only self-domesticated apes after all, choosing expediency over longevity. Let this be a lesson to yours and other species: Always look for the catch — and if you don’t see one, look harder.

PS: And if this sounds defeatist and crabby and depressing to you, why are you just sitting there? Go ahead. Make me a liar.

Please.

__________________________________
– [1] To Bill, Stanley, Jay and my other Chicagoan friends– my condolences.
Graphic courtesy of http://www.warninglabelgenerator.com/.

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Jon Stewart Slams Glenn Beck Idol

2010.05.21
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THE DEMISE OF THE HEADLINE-WRITER’S art (according to a recent article fed through both Slashdot and The Daily Beast) dictates an appeal to search engine optimization (SEO) instead of readers — something that snags on Google instead of anticipatory imagination. Thus, the perfect SEO headline for anything would be the above, as it’s (quoting from memory since I can’t find the original article, alas) “guaranteed to bring in thousands of page hits.” (I added “Idol” just to tweak the numbers, in my own special pundit Beltway Comedy Central Lady Gaga Obama porn Mafia Wars Stephen Colbert Go USA way.)

So there we go. I’ll post an update in 24 hours (hmm… better make it 36) and see how many Fabulous Prizes and Destination Sunsets we’ve won. (So to speak. Heh heh heh.)

UPDATE: JSSGBI+10 minutes: THIS is CREEPY. As in OMG!!! creepy. I no sooner post this when, touched by curiosity, I Google “Jon Stewart Slams Glenn Beck.” And:

The mind-blowing evidence of Google's unholy grasp on the world's electronic tentacles.

Fig. 1.

NUMBER FIVE??? IN N*I*N*E M*I*N*U*T*E*S?!?!?!?!? That’s actually pretty cool…

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Journalism As Art Imitating Life

2009.06.23
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CAN WRITERS REPORT? THAT QUESTION nets a “yes” according to Daniel Elstrin in the June 19 Forward, reporting on the day Haaretz (think Israeli NYT) swapped its staff for 31 leading authors and poets:

“Among those articles were gems like the stock market summary, by author Avri Herling. It went like this: ‘Everything’s okay. Everything’s like usual. Yesterday trading ended. Everything’s okay. The economists went to their homes, the laundry is drying on the lines, dinners are waiting in place… Dow Jones traded steadily and closed with 8,761 points, Nasdaq added 0.9% to a level of 1,860 points…. The guy from the shakshuka [an Israeli egg-and-tomato dish] shop raised his prices again….’ […]

“News junkies might call this a postmodern farce, but considering that the stock market won’t be soaring anytime soon, and that ‘hot’ is really the only weather forecast there is during Israeli summers, who’s to say these articles aren’t factual?”

This is also the sort of newspaper dreamed of by most, if not all, of my reporterly colleagues, at least at some time or other (usually on deadline day of a slow week). But that’s true in another, non-ironic way: Elstrin also cites a couple of features whose subtle depth make a nice model for would-be human chroniclers.

Peruse:
Daniel Elstrin’s article
Ha’aretz Archives; select “10 jun” from the “Previous Edition” menu at lower left.

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Poetry of News

2008.06.01
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There is a certain poetry to newswriting that’s not readily apparent to its readers — and perhaps not even to its writers.

This derives in large part, I think, from the absurdity inherent in exchanging six to eight hours a day for six to eight hundred words a story which will be forgotten by next week.

It’s the game of Reality Creation, newsriting is. My job is to tell you what happened in a place you didn’t see. Though I labor to get it right (literally, with sweat and grunting and everything), my account is necessarily incomplete and should be taken with a grain of salt. (As should everyone else’s, of course: including yours.)

This is to me, a Most Sacred Game. There is adrenaline and drudgery and laughter, an unspoken trust, the agonies of ignorance and the illusion of omniscience. The greatest challenge is in sifting through my immediate experience to share the highlights. So much gets left on the cutting room floor:

  • The moment of communicating to a bystander/potential interviewee that you know that they know It’s That Situation — and that since it’s obvious let’s see what happens.
  • Standing in front of a crime-scene house. A shotgun murder occurred in the back of the house, and all I could see of the crime scene were the eyes and faces of the four deputies in the backyard.
  • The wave of relieved wonder (and cooing) that rolls through a group of humans who’ve waited two tense hours to see the mountain lion finally sedated — and healthy.
  • The satisfaction of flashing a press pass and continuing on unimpeded.
  • The vocal nuances peculiar to those first learning what one does for a living.
  • Two other nuances: those who suddenly find themselves “on the record” and those who, gratefully, do not.
  • Yet another: those whose unwilling investment in the bank of public notice has paid unwelcome returns.
  • The unrelenting and inescapable terror of Getting It Wrong — or worse, not being aware enough to Get It Right In The First Place.

There is no other buzz quite like it. I heartily recommend it to everyone — and most especially, its detractors.

“As I look back over a misspent life, I find myself more and more convinced that I had more fun doing news reporting than in any other enterprise. It is really the life of kings.”
?H. L. Mencken, The Baltimore Sun, 1953

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First Week In

2008.04.16
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Three things:

– My beats: fire, cops, breaking news, and meetings as needed.
– I work with some freakishly smart, amazingly creative people; two of whom I have now dueled with a lightsaber.
– The Game hasn’t changed much — get it fast, get it right, and get it (or a different part of it) first. Many of the players have also changed, but the ones who haven’t seem as happy to seem me as I am to see them.

Last week also found me chasing a fire, investigating a vehicle crash (no injuries, thank Gd), touring a local farm, and chatting with a now-retiring fire chief friend. It’s great to “be” a small-town newspaperman.

Again.

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And so, to work.

2008.04.08
By

It was four-and-a-half months since I was laid off from the sasonal office-manager position at a local nursery, and longer still since I worked in my official profession, when I picked up the phone to call Sonoma Valley’s newest newspaper. The conversation went something like this:

“Hi, I’ve been out of work for five years but I think I can help. Do you need any reporters?”

“Sure!”

Well, not exactly like that. But pretty close. Anyway, I started yesterday at the Sonoma Valley Sun, and will be covering fires, cops/courts, and breaking news. (In addition to whatever else is needful, like features and (I hope!) columns.) Also, I’ve reclaimed the byline “Neal Ross” (which I adopted for radio back in 1995 since nobody can seem to spell or pronounce “Attinson,” and kept for newspapering since that’s how all my contacts knew me. They still do).

There’s a saying that the One rewards men only for the merit of their wives. I don’t generally hold with Deuteronomic reward/punishment theology, but seeing the relief on Ann‘s face makes me agree with at least a small part of it … Blessed is the One who makes our wives happy.

As for me, I feel as though I’m walking in a dream. But I’d better wake up before the deadline. ;-)

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Focus: Israel

2006.10.18
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As the situation in Israel continues to develop, many are turning to the “local papers” for better coverage than that offered by CNN or (grf) the BBC. The following offer in-depth reportage and up-to-the-minute English-language breaking news:
Haaretz (left-leaning)
Arutz Sheva (right-leaning)
Jerusalem Post (centrist)
Yediot Ahronot (centristy)

Other sites of note:
Debka – Military/intelligence analysis, often scooping the American press by a week or more.
Middle East Media Research Institute – Translations from the Arab press
Honest Reporting – Countering media bias
Israeli blogs
Interactive map of bloggers from Israel, Lebanon and the Territories.

And:
Put A Note in the Western Wall

Be well, all of us.

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Rumpled Colleagues In Truth

2001.03.25
By

from a pre-Blogger blog

Attending a dinner for the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California chapter, as a co-recipient of their annual James Madison Freedom of Information Award, I’m in the presence of real journalistic heroes: men and women quietly doing their jobs in order that their fellow-citizens can be better informed about their world. Some of those people, like the person who enabled us (by which I mean, my former employer and myself) to write the stories which lead our reception of the award, are bigger heroes: someone who risked a job (and security) in order to do the right thing — by blowing a badly-needed whistle.

As this is an online scrapbook, here’s my half of the acceptance speech (after my ex-boss introduced me by telling everyone that I had quit the news biz to attend rabbinical school):

“They say this job will drive you either to drink, or religion. I seem to have chosen the latter…
“When I was a kid, I was crazy about Don Quixote: knight-errant, defender of justice and the innocent, tilter at windmills which he thought were fierce giants.
“As a result, I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I never thought I’d do it while working as a reporter.
“But when we first broke our story, after years of anonymous — but unproven — allegations that all was not well at SDC, my wife sent a bouquet of flowers to my desk, with a note: ‘You knew they were giants all along.’
“In a different way, this award says the same thing. The quest continues. Thank you.”

The evening is inspiring. It’s enlightening. It makes me really, really miss the news business. But it doesn’t make me miss it enough.

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