Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, February 22, 2013 8:41 pm

Want to run a newspaper? Here’s how you do it right.

Finally, finally, finally, the owner of a newspaper has told the geeks, waterheads, nematodes, mouth-breathers and knuckle-dragging readers who masturbate to gun ads but can’t STAND the possibility that their local newspaper might publish a story about two happy people doing something that’s none of their damn business to take their whiny, misprioritized complaints and shove them north toward their tonsils.

God, I need a cigarette. And I haven’t smoked in almost 35 years.

Our story begins when Jessica Powell and Crystal Craven — yes, that’d be two people with ladyparts — got married in, believe it, Jones County, Missafreakingsippi, the left ventricle of Bat Country. The Laurel Leader-Call newspaper did a front page story, acknowledging the historic (albeit legally unrecognized) nature of the event, and then basically letting the protagonists speak for themselves and for each other — not an approach recommended for political coverage, but perfectly acceptable for a wedding story. (Bonus pathos: Craven has Stage 4 brain cancer.)

Well, Leader-Call readers freaked out. They called. They wrote. They virtually spat on the paper’s Facebook page.

So how did the paper’s owner, Jim Cegielski, respond?

Did he pretend there was no controversy? Or that if there was, it was OK to ignore it? Did he, God forbid, send an underling out to lie to people about his position or lack thereof instead of manning up and doing his job?

Oddly, no.

He stood up. He took responsibility. He told the people who were wrong that they were wrong. He told them to stop misbehaving toward his employees just because they’d read a story they didn’t like. And he told them that if they didn’t like all of the above, they could get bent. (If the link doesn’t go directly to Cegielski’s column, flip to page A5, where it’s at the top.)

And the horrible financial price the paper paid for this optimally competent exercise of its privileges and duties? Fifteen canceled subscriptions. Even in Laurel, Mississippi, that’s the equivalent of a few households going away for a long weekend.

So here’s a suggestion to people who want to run newspapers that both make money and bond with with their communities in ways that make long-term profitability even possible: Do your jobs. Be right. And when you are right, take no shit from those who are wrong, particularly when it’s aimed at your underlings. Even most of those who disagree with you will respect that; wanting your boss to have your back is a nonpartisan policy goal in and out of newspapers.

I’m sure Warren Buffett’s BH Media already has some decent ideas about how to dig the News & Record out of the hole it has dug for itself in the past five or so years (not all of which, I hasten to add, is local talent’s fault). But I’m betting that sending someone to Laurel to buy Jim Cegielski lunch and listen to him talk for an hour would not be a bad strategy at all.

(h/t: Gawker via Athenae)

 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 10:00 pm

Driftglass summarizes “Hubris” for you because I had to study

This is just a taste. And I am grateful to him for the service (which was live-tweeted, thus the weird diction/syntax in places; also, I did a quick search-and-replace on some of the more vapors-inducing participial adjectives):

  • Remember David Brooks’ column calling people who opposed Wolfowitz antisemitic? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember David Brooks’ columns mocking Liberals who opposed Iraq war as deluded Bush-deranged posers? No? That’s the firetrucking problem
  • Remember David Brooks calling people cynical assholes who objected to Dubya’s flightsuit tango? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when the collaborators at the NYT gave a firetrucking weekly column to Bloody Bill Kristol? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when David Brooks leveraged his Liberal bashing tripe into a column-for-life at the NYT? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember Steve Gilliard? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when the wingnutosphere went nuts trying to discredit every alarming report out of Iraq? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when palette-trucks of shrink- wrapped taxpayer cash just firetrucking vanished into Iraq? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when everything that is now settled history was America-hating surrender-monkey treason? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when a gay hooker Conservative “reporter” w/ a fake name sat 100 ft away from Dubya for 2 yrs? No? That’s the firetrucking problem
  • Remember when Halliburton made $$ selling American soldiers in Iraq toilet water? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when the GOP made “[Forget] Reality” into American national policy? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when Phil Donahue got fired for telling the truth and Conservatives got promoted for lying? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember how the Cheney clans got really, really rich sending kids off to die for their lies? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when 60 million Americans re-elected these deficit-creating war criminals? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember the incompetent children of GOP campaign contributors were put in charge of governing Iraq? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when Fox News told soldiers rolling into battle to look into the camera and say “Fox Rocks!” No? That’s the firetrucking problem.

You know, I stack this list up against the whining from Politico reporters that I mentioned below, and I think perhaps I should call Mike Allen or Jim Vandehei at Politico and tell them, “There are better ways you could be spending your time, and some pseudonymous blogger in flyover country has just handed you a double fistful of them for free, so pack a lunch and get busy.

That, also, is the polite version. Too. Here’s kind of what I really feel like saying.

God, I hate DC media

With the fiery passion of a thousand white-hot suns. Why? Many reasons, ranging from the fact that, with very few exceptions, they suck at their jobs to the fact that, although they’ve got the life of Riley as journalism goes, they whine about everything all the damn time.

Look, I spent 25 years in journalism. And, yes, when journalists get together, they talk about the job and tell stories about the job and whine and bitch about the job. But you know what the smart ones don’t do? Talk, tell stories, whine or bitch about the job in front of non-journalists. Why? First, the non-journalists don’t care. Second, it’s the ultimate first-world problem. Third, people like me get on your ass about it, and, being no masochist, I don’t want people like me on my ass.

My crazy-busy work and school schedules notwithstanding, I was thinking about going on a tear about this whiny Politico article about how tough it is to cover this president because he doesn’t go out of his way to make things easy for you. Cry me a freakin’ river. If I ran a DC news operation, I would staff the White House with a goddamn intern because the real news, the stuff real people actually care about, the stuff that requires real journalism, is almost never in the White House pressroom.

I’d send the real reporters — the ones who know how to get documents and which documents are worth getting, the ones who know how to download, analyze and interpret data, the ones who know how to persuade government employees to put their jobs on the line by talking about the venality, incompetence and even corruption of their superiors, in every Executive Branch office except the White House. And I would tell them two things:

1) Don’t come back with anything but journalism. No polls, no gossip, no speculation, and for God’s sweet sake, no “exclusive interviews.” Just facts, context, analysis, explained in a way that any ordinary person can understand and many ordinary people, for good or ill, will get excited about.

2) If you want to whine about your job, come in, shut my office door and have a seat. But you don’t get to use our newsprint/bytes/whatever to to do it. You whine to me. For as long as you want. And then you get up and leave the office and you don’t whine, you go commit some more goddamn journalism.

Steve at No More Mr. Nice Blog brings it home:

As anyone who pays the slightest attention to pop music (and, these days, books) has figured out, you can self-publish if you want, using this new thing called the Internet. And especially if you’re already famous, you can put your own stuff out on your own site and it can get a hell of a lot of attention, if perhaps not quite the same level of attention you get if the transmission is through a media giant.

So the White House doesn’t always need courtier journalists to release its soft stories — it can post them the way Radiohead posted the album In Rainbows and the public can grab the content directly.

This leaves the press the job of having to figure out what it can offer that’s different from self-published White House content. And that, I believe, would be, y’know, um, journalism. Ever heard of it? Dig around and come up with a story that’s not spoon-fed to you by official sources? That sort of thing?

Instead, we get this:

The frustrated Obama press corps neared rebellion this past holiday weekend when reporters and photographers were not even allowed onto the Floridian National GolfClub, where Obama was golfing. That breached the tradition of the pool “holding” in the clubhouse and often covering — and even questioning — the president on the first and last holes.

Guys? Seventy journalists were killed last year worldwide, and 232 are currently imprisoned. So cry me a river.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 6:49 pm

What’s at stake in the State of the Union

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 6:49 pm
Tags: , , ,

Outsourced to Charlie Pierce:

In any event, thanks to Ezra Klein’s invaluable House Of Wonks, we discover that all the howling about The Deficit has obscured the fact that, whatever real problems with the deficit are, they’re actually being slowly solved. This is a good thing to remember since it’s better than 6-5 that almost all the commentary after the president’s speech tonight is going to carry the theme that he didn’t do enough to address The Deficit. Here is something else to remember — given that chart, anyone who still argues for austerity in any form — and this means you, Dancin’ Dave [Gregory, of NBC -- Lex] — is doing so because they want government to hurt people, or they don’t give a damn whether it does or not. There’s no third alternative.

We don’t need deficit-fixin’. We need hirin’. Lots of it. Now.

Friday, February 1, 2013 5:01 am

All the shuttle astronauts are home now

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 5:01 am
Tags: , , ,

Ten years ago today, the astronauts aboard the space shuttle Columbia died when their vehicle broke up over Texas on re-entry, about 14 minutes before a scheduled landing in Florida.

Not to get all technical on you, but a piece of the booster rocket that lifted the shuttle into space broke off and damaged its wing. In the vacuum of space, that didn’t matter. But in the searing temperatures of atmospheric re-entry, the heat plus the damage destroyed the wing and with it the shuttle and the lives aboard.

The best tribute I read to those astronauts was written the next day, by a guy who sent it in an email to blogger Nancy Nall. I saw it on Nancy’s blog and posted it myself; when I went looking for it recently, it was gone, alone with some other of Nancy’s older entries. (A few of my older entries are missing, too, victims of a screwed up export from Blogspot to WordPress that even Archive.org couldn’t make right.) But I still had it on my blog.

The shuttle program is over, and as I write this, it is far from clear what shape U.S. manned space flight will take, if there even is any more in my lifetime. I hope that there is. Space captures the imagination of almost all of us, from Ptolemy to “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, but we don’t all of us get to go, and the guy who wrote this to Nancy on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2003, knew why:

I hope that tomorrow morning all over America schoolteachers are pointing out to their students how many Ph.D’s and master’s degrees were on board Columbia. Willie McCool had three of them. He graduated second in his class at Annapolis [the U.S. Naval Academy]. Whenever we lose one of these things we lose some amazing people. That’s because every time we launch one we send up into space amazing people.

Laurel Clark was the least accomplished of the crew: she was a mere MD.

I love it that Ramon took that drawing up with him. I love it that David Brown (another mere MD) was once in a circus. Just as I loved it that Judith Resnick was a classical musician.

Spock was a musician. Kirk was a history buff. Sulu read Dumas. Roddenberry knew who’d be going because that’s who’s always gone. Cook and Darwin and the captain of the Beagle and Merriwether Lewis.

“Come find me.”

More and more I think that’s God’s First Commandment.

And only the best and brightest obey it.

Previously.

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