Archives for category: journalism

So, about the crisis of confidence in the Albuquerque police department. A roundup to settle my thoughts.

1.
I am wondering if the peace officer who has charged David Correia with assault at the sit in at the mayor’s office is Chris Romero, the officer seen manhandling Correia in this video, and possibly the same Chris Romero dismissed from, but present at, an absolutely Soviet case of police harassment detailed by Joline Gutierrez Krueger. There appear to be at least two Chris Romero police officers in Albuquerque.
Video and screen caps of Correia’s take down by Chris Romero at the mayor’s office:

http://lajicarita.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/in-defense-of-

Krueger’s 2008 column on the unbelievable excessive force incident at which a Chris Romero was present:

http://www.abqjournal.com/upfront/26115988688upfront09-26-08.htm

2.
I am interested in the proposals by a retired policeman, Joe Byers, for the reform of the police department. It takes courage and love to come forward, and I’m glad he did. I want protesters to work on putting together a group of Joe Byers and his colleagues, as many as possible, to work together for plausible and real reform.

http://eyeonalbuquerque.blogspot.com/2014/06/degradation-of-apd-continues.html

3.
As beady-eyed as I feel about David Correia, he makes the perfect points in Mayor Berry’s oddly stoned, bubble boy response to the APD crisis — hiring dubious interlocutors, setting up toothless police complaint commissions. The idea that a photo op kind of charrette is reparation, rather than a.) PR control, b.) nut-cutting co-optation, c.) surveillance of citizens by notably violent and paranoid cops and d.) a veritably Dickensian Office of Circumlocution, is firmly planted in Berry’s mind as a form of proactive governance.* It’s not. Correia’s “press release” (um, no, it’s a polemic, although a good one; fighting spin with “press releases” strikes me as vying for the spotlight) on the topic of Berry’s spurious police complaint commissions is here. (If this is a movement and not a personal crusade, the good points about the police complaint commissions should have issued from protest HQ, not by the professor personally.)

http://www.apdprotest.org/2014/05/30/apdprotest-press-release-may-30-2014/

4.
The APD audio in the shooting of Ralph Chavez is here, along with a transcript.
http://krqe.com/2014/05/22/audio-released-in-apd-shooting-of-stabbing-suspect/

The video of Officer Pablo Padilla arresting for drunk driving, and smashing the testicle of a law student, is here.
http://progressnownm.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/video-misdemeanor-arrest-costs-abq-student-testicle-after-groin-strike-by-officer/

It seems to me both officers are performing for the camera. The audio of the Chavez shooting has the cop repeatedly saying I do not want to shoot you as he prepares and signals his intent to do so. Officer Padilla appears to discover a joint invisible to the camera, but pointedly described by Padilla — Is this a joint here?.

I think this is obvious to anyone who listens to or watches the (disturbing) tapes.

_____________

*I have to add, given, for example, Dinah Vargas and others’ detailed accounts of harassment by the APD as activists against excessive force, that community participation in police complaint boards is going to be minimal. The account in the Krueger column of the torture of a citizen by four police thugs at night is reason number one why no citizen with a real complaint against the police would ever show up and say anything to a police complaint board. Considering the fates of civil rights lawyer Mary Han, and Jerome Hall, shot dead six days after he won a police brutality suit against the APD, no sane person would show their face at one of the proposed police complaint commissions. You’d have to be crazy.

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Five straight skinny reasons why *The Wire* is revolutionary, and TV’s best-ever show.

1.) Real People
As with British and Australian films and TV (as well as Euro, Persian, Chinese and world film and TV, which I don’t watch a lot of), the cast looks like real people. Many of them are. It’s not that many of them are black, which they are, it is that the white people and the black people all look like real people, not Meg Ryan’s post-surgery lips. As Liz Taylor used to say, “There are no real tits in Hollywood any more.”

There are in *The Wire*, and it is thrilling to see. No orthodontia. No nose jobs. No videogenic lipstick of a coral shade only seen in nature on blow up dolls. The diversity of peoples’ teeth, noses, skin textures, hands is beautiful to see. Sonia Sohn’s epithelial folds are almost as titanic a thing of beauty to regard as James Gandolfini’s eyes. The sets are natural colors too. Trees, water, blood, ruins.

2.) No Heroes
There is no star system. There are no heroes. The Hollywood/derriere garde/Aristotelian heroic system in which the story is the story of one handsome young guy does not exist in *The Wire*. They kill a protagonist off every season. The one you really love. McNulty, who is less the protagonist than the linking device, is far less attractive a hero than his creators believe (there is a lot of macho shit going on in the writing, a point to which I shall return.) And there is a reason the macho shits have the confidence to do that. And it’s not just in the ensemble player system.

3.) Real Life Mimesis
It is mimesis. Simon and Burns created the stories out of real life, with which, as a reporter and a homicide detective-turned-middle-school teacher, respectively, they were fairly familiar.

You know, of course, that Hollywood scriptwriters are all old Poonies. That is, they wrote for the Harvard Lampoon before they all got jobs writing for the Simpsons.

Cambridge to Hollywood. Not a circuit famous for the intrusion of anything but ideas, some of them wholesome, but quickly forgotten. Hollywood writers don’t know anything. They make stuff up. It’s called diegesis, as I’m sure you recall, which means basically narrative.

Simons is instinctually clear on the difference between making shit up and being a good writer. He also puts his finger on what keeps old reporters from ever really being able to let go of – let’s just call it, The Game. It’s why people who are paying attention to real life, and writing mimesis, will come up with a killa new protagonist – D’Angelo, Stringer, Frank Sobotka, Michael and the lost boys – every season, because they’re all out there. In the city. The major reason Simon’s new effort Treme is a flop is because he doesn’t know that city, and is falling back on tropes and stereotypes. And diegesis, like a Hollywood guy.

“God is not a second-rate novelist,” Simon says. “God knows what he’s doing, and if you just take what actually happened and marry it to where you want to go, it’s better than if you thought of it yourself.”
http://sepinwall.blogspot.com/2006/08/wire-money-for-something.html

4.) The Back Channel Economy Is Ruthlessly Capitalist
The sharpest political lesson is not we’re all together in The Game. Many people I respect argue this, eliding the point that ruthless capitalism is an I.Q. test for the underclass, apropos a season four episode in which a hopper repeats state senator Clay Davis’ line about taking the money of people who are giving it, and the disgraced police major Bunny Colvin says goodbye to his superiors in the same terms Stringer Bell faces down his executioners. The egalitarianism of The Game, in which the good guys and the bad guys share values is a good point and an interesting one. The political smarm of the idea that sexist black thugs are capitalists just like Nice People is more easily felt when one recalls that Spielberg dedicated “Schindler’s List”, in which the capitalist saves Jews, to his dead capitalist mentor, Steve Ross.

To me the sharpest political point is not, perhaps, that the back channel economy, The Game, systeme D, is as resistant to the reform efforts of people like Stringer Bell and D’Angelo Barksdale as mainstream politics and economics. It is that the back channel economy is just as ruthless a capitalist system to all who do not conform to the macho shit norm as the mainstream economy. In other words, all the macho shits are playing on a level field and the rest of us can suck eggs.
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/10/28/black_market_global_economy

5.) Cynicism As a Full Employment Mandate for Reporters
I disagree with Simon’s politics, which seem to be that The City is failing because its institutions, including the back channel economy, are incapable of reform, due to the self interest of people like the master politician, the spider seemingly at the center of the web, the police commissioner Ervin Burrell.  The image of a truly powerful black man in Burrell and his performance has gone under-appreciated. I appreciate it. And I disagree with Simon’s apparent politic that no politics can or will save the city, and that only individual action, like Cutty’s, can make a difference in anyone’s life. I reiterate here that Cutty is a character invented by George Pelecanos, not Simon and Burns, to relieve the cataclysm of entropy Simon so enjoys depicting.

The cynicism is pretty much one of self –interest. A broken city is a reporter’s full employment mandate, and a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have to think some more about the fallacies of cynicism; one of them is bullying. RIP, Hitchens.
http://amphibian7.blogspot.com/2007/09/fallacy-of-cynicism.html

Just finished the Himmelman bio of Ben Bradlee, which is haunting and insightful.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Benjamin_C._Bradlee.jpg
Outstanding preliminary impressions — what one reviewer calls his “reactive genius” is the very heart of the matter. The photographer Diane Arbus once noted that freaks, whom she photographed, like aristocrats had met their challenge in life and Bradlee’s aristocracy strikes me as the cool core everyone speaks of. No one around him has it — Himmelman is told to listen to the tape of the dinner party with JFK and picks up on Kennedy’s sticking it to Bradlee on account of the one thing Bradlee had that Kennedy did not. Bradlee’s aristocracy is of the essence — it explains his Elizabeth-and-Essex relationship with Kay, the slightly puritannical/Navy foulmouth aplomb with which he flicked away the beta wolves circling him in their knockoff Turnbull and Asser shirts (I remember once seeing Jane Amsterdam in one, which just about made me puke), Woodward’s bromance (and the rise and fall of Woodward’s career), and Downie’s non-participation (or exclusion, as the “son of an Ohio milkman”) in the Ben circle jerk.

His aristocracy also explains the extraordinary unsent memo on money and position he wrote to Sally.

The subtheme of the whole book is really good reporters eyeballing each other and Bradlee’s memo to Sally on the coarseness of her social climbing in their marriage is — contrasted with the Tolstoyan opening of the Himmelman book in which Sally calls him to the house to outline the book she wants him to write for Ben — the answer to every single question you ever had about any of that. Bradlee is somehow the helpless, sad and stoic spectator of other peoples’ machinations to rise in society — including Sally. What Himmelman did not find in the dusty boxes of Bradlee’s papers was the importunities of his furious children, who apparently telephone him for money while disrespecting everything else about him. Himmelman simply eavesdropped on Bradlee’s end of phone conversations, one of which ended with an inhuman noise made by the iron man who brought Nixon down.

That Bradlee turned to writing — his memos and letters, which Himmelman alone has mined, are Bradlee’s real contribution to the humanities — every time the shit hit the fan, lets one know that not only was he the editor for all time, a curious lizard-like creature who really did lose it after Watergate (Sally? some people think it was you who did that), truly courageous in his personal and professional transparency (Himmelman’s account of the Deep Throat throwdown with Woodward is a Eugene O’Neill play), lets one know what a writer really is. It is what, at the end, you are left alone with. That Bradlee disobeyed Sally’s ukase to write a deeply immoral, shallow hagiography and let Himmelman go for it is Bradlee’s crowning achievement, and a book for the ages.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/books/review/yours-in-truth-about-ben-bradlee-by-jeff-himmelman.html?pagewanted=all

In honor of the death of New Orleans’ venerable newspaper, The Times Picayune, I am republishing the essay I wrote for the city after Katrina, on Sept. 9, 2005.

The passenger pigeon, the last of whom died in 1914, by Audubon.

I know a little more about the shady side of New Orleans than someone who has never been there should.

Someone I know grew up near there in a little Southern town run by her grandfather. She and her mother lived in his house, her father having been run off by the tyrannies Big Daddy inflicted on his daughter and grand-daughter. After years of hearing about what a hero Bog Daddy [legit typo] was, my friend showed me a photograph of him and I gasped.

The evil light gleamed from his eyes, made them look bright and moist, young and completely malicious, in the face of a too-vigorous middle-aged man. He had held her mother by her ankle over the toilet when she was a child, telling her revealed child underpants that he would flush her all the way to China.

Sexually stunted, she left her husband, whom she disdained as not being of her own class, and fled home to Papa. Papa held my friend over the toilet by her ankle, and told her revealed child underpants that he would flush her all the way to China.

And that, and the stories my friend tells about all her chic boarding school friends in New Orleans, is New Orleans, about Mardi Gras and blighted women’s lives and drunkenness far beyond any I’d ever heard before. I had never heard the phrase she used as repartee: “knee-walkin’, snot-slingin’ drunk.” Hahahahahaha.

That story never broke my heart, though, because I am the survivor of a most unusual Southern family my ownself – one of my names is for the Lesbian aunt who shot herself in grandpa’s library — and it wasn’t about the city of my dreams. My heart is broken now though, and I’ve been at pains to understand why.

My dream of New Orleans is partly based on a family water color, now gone with the wind, I suppose, that some artistic lady ancestor had painted on heavy, ribbed midnight blue artistic lady paper. It was of a swamp, with a mangrove tree, Spanish moss, waters, an egret. There were stained Audubon prints at home of all kinds of swamp and marsh birds. To me, home means blue herons and egrets and long-legged, long-beaked stalkers on the wall.

Great blue heron, by Audubon

Then there’s “Blue Bayou,” the old Roy Orbison song, which I like for itself but whose aesthetic I always wanted, one day, to create a house to live in.

A piazza. A dark old wide-planked floor. Shells. Mosquito nets. Cisterns, tree frogs. It is my first memory, lying in my mother’s arms, looking out the window as she rocks in her rocking chair in Puerto Rico. The stars are twinkling, the tree frogs are singing. My first thought on this planet is that the singing of the coquis is the music the twinkling of the stars makes. New Orleans is my latitude, the only one I’ve ever felt at home in; the sight of a palm frond and the scent of wood smoke, fresh-roasted coffee beans, and red earth makes me know I have, once again, despite everything, come home. Havana and New Orleans are the capitals of my latitude, and Havana — Arab, and run down, like Granada, or Alexandria — is the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to.

Baseball in Old Havana.
By Claudia Daut for Reuters/Corbis.

I’ve always been deeply touched by the idea of the swamp that underlay Washington, D. C., where I live. The Capitol is built over Tiber Creek. There are about three acres of the original swamp left; the geese and herons, with their six-foot white wingspreads, pick their way among the plastic gallon milk jugs which wind up the Anacostia River to their graves in the smooth, black mudflats. Standing on the observation platform behind the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens – founded as a water-lily farm years ago by an African-American, in a now-forgotten neighborhood – the swamp is lovely, dark and deep. It looks like what was here before any of the rest of this mess arrived. You can catch a glimpse through the old scrub trees of some kind of gigantic satellite disk or tracking device which marks the fact the swamp is surrounded by a federal city built on what was once a swamp.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, the last remnant of D.C.’s primordial swamp.

I knew too much ever really to want to go to Mardi Gras; my strange Southern family belongs to similarly exclusive and arcane – and much older – genealogical societies, so snotty they’d never think of marching in a parade. Indeed, the debutante party for which the Saint Snotty Society exists is so old-fashioned, in a kind of nearly Muslim way, that the orchestra hired for the ball is hidden behind a screen of green leaves. Can’t have the hired help ogling owah wimmin. They still call eggplant guinea squash, and what they call musicians like Peter Duchin you don’t want to know.

So to belong to the krewes and get snot-slangin’ drunk with horrible old Big Daddy at Galatoire’s was not the draw. It was, I think, the Frenchness and the Africanness. Black people named Jean-Baptist; the Creole, Cajun Napoleonic Code mix, mixed with prosperity and culture. There’s always been money in New Orleans, and even the poor people could enjoy some of the benefits.

It was the cosmopolitan aspect without the New York neurosis or the LA narcissism. It was the South. As with my deeply racist, deeply civilized Saint Snotty Society cousins, everybody, black and white, gets into a boat at least a dozen times a year and fishes and shoots. You eat what you catch and clean it too, and then return to the hierarchies of workaday life. People aren’t afraid of the natural world, including sex of all kinds, and death at the hands of the most appalling fates.

The attitude in New Orleans was real. The sweetness. The music. The food.

And now it gives me a little comfort to think of the empty city, Saint Louis cathedral, and all the old Frenchmen who paddled up and down the Mississippi and gave French names to tiny heartland American towns, unbelievably tough French trappers and hustlers in Indian clothes, St Louis sitting there now under blue skies, baking in the sun, with nobody to see it. Marie LeVeau’s own marriage certificate was kept at Saint Louis’, and I think of the completely empty city and hope halfway that Big Daddy and the Mardi Gras girls gone wild never come back again, that George Bush and his goons abandon their idea of Epcot New Orleans and let the marsh come back, slowly up from the Gulf, so the reeds and the grasses and the trees can spread and grow up and out through the windows of St Louis, where the clock has stopped, and the birds can come back, the herons, and the tree frogs, and the Spanish moss, and the passenger pigeons, too, as Audubon, a French Creole his own self, saw them at the turn of the 18th century. The blue sky over New Orleans dark with passenger pigeons. My dream come true. On blue bayou.

So, the Duchess of Cambridge’s naked breasts have been photographed and published in an increasing number of tabloids. And Buckingham Palace has responded in unusually vituperative terms, despite the fact that Prince Charles himself was photographed nude years ago — as his other son, and his inlaws make a specialty of it, and the Duchess’ siblings make a specialty of being photographed in louche costumes — James in a French maid’s outfit, Pippa in a toilet paper dress.

One royal source invoked the ghost of Princess Diana, who, as you will recall, lived and died by the sword of the paparazzi:

This is disappointing, saddening and turns the clock back 15 years. We have always maintained the position that the Duke and Duchess deserve their privacy, not least when they are on holiday in their own swimming pool.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/kate-middleton/9542541/Topless-photographs-of-Kate-Middleton-to-be-published-by-French-magazine.html

The official statement from St. James Palace was even more explicit:

“The incident is reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, and all the more upsetting to The Duke and Duchess for being so,” the statement continues. “Their Royal Highnesses had every expectation of privacy in the remote house. It is unthinkable that anyone should take such photographs, let alone publish them.”
http://www.people.com/people/package/article/0,,20395222_20630081,00.html

It’s my sense that Prince William’s life has been formed and deformed by the paparazzi and that if the British monarchy folds, it will be because William cannot stand the invasion of privacy.

His parents’ marriage seems to have foundered on the fact that Diana could and did sabotage every public appearance Charles made by crossing or uncrossing her legs. Crowds behind the ropes on either side of the walkway the couple strode would groan when Charles came to shake their hands and Diana went the other way. Diana most unwisely told her story of the marriage secretly to Andrew Morton, and then to Martin Bashir. I believe the Martin Bashir interview persuaded the government of Britain that Diana was a loose cannon, like the Duke of Windsor, who needed to be divorced, shamed by the removal of her HRH rank, and sent far away to govern the Bahamas because she was a threat to national security. Within days after the interview, the Queen for the first time was urging Charles and Diana to divorce, something they had not contemplated in the years previous.

In the hours leading up to her death in a car chased by paparazzi, Diana had chosen Dodi Fayed’s drunken driver and security system (possibly believing that any royal security officers were spies) — choosing the very rich, very foolish boyfriend Fayed, possibly, as one biographer speculates, to make a previous Muslim lover jealous. She was complicit in her own death, to be sure. Still, that as a 19 year old she was thrown to the paparazzi without protection at all seems to have been the lesson Prince William learned from day one. Indeed, there are photographs of the young family taken when baby William was learning to walk allegedly so that the crowds and sounds of photographers wouldn’t frighten him, a photo opp suggested by Diana.

William, in his 21st birthday interview, named the invasion of privacy as the most onerous aspect of his fate. He said he spent the years after Diana’s death keeping his head down so no paparazzi would benefit from photographing him. His official birthday photographs were of William slopping the pigs at his father’s country house.

“I was never shy,” he said. “But, it’s very funny. I was called shy because I put my head down so much when I was in public.

“It was never because I was shy. It was a really naive thing that I hadn’t picked up on.

“I know it’s silly and that everyone will laugh at it. But I thought that, when I was in public, if I kept my head down, then I wouldn’t be photographed so much.

“Therefore, I thought, people wouldn’t know what I looked like so I could go about doing my own thing which, of course, frankly was never going to work.

“It was so that people wouldn’t recognise me and I could still go out with friends and things like that.

“So they just saw the top of my head. But usually I was photographed with my eyes looking up through a big blond fringe. It was very silly.

“I wouldn’t say I prefer to be unnoticed because that’s never going to happen.

“But I’m someone who doesn’t particularly like being the centre of attention.”
http://www.princeofwales.gov.uk/newsandgallery/news/prince_william_is_interviewed_for_his_21st_birthday_part_2_501917688.html

I don’t think stealing images of the Duchess’ breast is new or shocking. I think it comes from the war trophy instinct by which the Khmer Rouge string dried fetuses from the eaves of their headquarters, the Chinese threaten to eat their enemy’s liver, the genitalia of Sarah Baartman, the so-called Hottentot Venus are displayed in a formaldehyde jar,  Napoleon’s amputated penis peregrinates the world and Otzi’s is rumored to do so, but actually does not. Long lens photographs are the 21st century version of the formaldehyde jar. The  atavistic French editor who published the topless photographs of the Duchess touches on this war trophy aspect of the photographs when she captioned them, Incredible pictures of the future Queen of England as you’ve never seen her before… and as you will never see her again!

An early 19th century caricature of Sarah Baartman.

I thought Laurence Pieau, who is an employee of the conglomerate owned by the pedophiliac Italian prime minister Berlusconi, an especially loathsome specimen of the long-term French anti-feminist tradition, the same kind of  pimp Frenchwomen like former Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld  or the scholar Mona Ouzouf are famous for being:

The real issue in this story is the bond between Princess Diana and her son, who famously — as she told the reporters — would slide tissues under the bathroom door as the most-photographed woman in the world sobbed.  The thing is William has no choice.

But the Duchess, like Diana, was a volunteer.

There’s a controversy over reporters sharing drafts of their stories with the subjects of the stories. It’s quite serious, having to do with the pressure of the 24 hour news cycle and the inability of newspapers to edit that properly, as well as the ADD of new media reporters. Ceding editing to PR people is — sue me if I’m wrong — probably not journalism’s best idea.
But as usual, the hotttttttest dirt is in the comments to the stories. This, friends, is the Paddy Chayevsky “I’m mad as hell and I ain’t taking it anymore” “Network” script of the 21st century. Imaginary sources! This takes Deep Throat to a Whole Nother Realm. This is from the comments to the story linked to. Oh! I am….slavering. …http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/post-reporter-criticized-for—-checking-his-facts/2012/07/25/gJQA9Yot8W_blog.html#comments

Washington Post higher education reporter Daniel de Vise.

Janis Sartucci makes the comment elsewhere, and says she is associated with a local public school parents’ association.
jzsartucci   7/25/2012 1:51 PM MDT
In 2009, Mr de Vise wrote, and The Washington Post printed, an article based on a fictitious person as if the person were real. Mr. de Vise stated that he never spoke to the person on the phone and never met the person, but completely relied on e-mails to write the story. The person was attacking a very active parent group in Montgomery County. The parent group was able to show that the e-mails were coming from a school system IP address. However, Mr de Vise did not state that fact in the article and quoted the fictitious person as if she were real. The e-mails were coming from someone within the public school system or with access to a public school system computer. Yet, the article did not have a response from the public school system to this fact. If, the writer of these e-mails was the school systems public relations department or an administrator, that means that the school system was able to trick the Washington Post into writing an article by using a fictitious parent to attack other parents. Score 1 for the public school system! But, what does this say about The Washington Post and their fact checking?
The following is the only good argument I’ve seen for sharing drafts, and I’d love to hear more from Tom Ricks on how to use the technique to extract quotes from the unindicted co-conspirator Rumsfeld’s spokesmodels at the Pentagon:
And others stand by it, including Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews and former Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks, now a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He writes the following thumbs-up via e-mail:

[W]hen I was at the Post, I used to e-mail drafts to sources all the time. I never felt like I was subjecting myself to pressure. Rather, I used it to pressure sources, especially recalcitrant or hostile ones — which pretty much described the people around [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld. I would say something like, “Here is where I am going. Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

I saw nothing wrong with the practice. It showed sources that I was serious about getting it right — and also would go to press whether or not they cooperated. It often resulted in getting more facts and more accuracy. I think the practice should be encouraged.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/brauchli-signals-brake-on-previews-of-story-drafts/2012/07/26/gJQAmjOOBX_blog.html

1. One of my craft blog ladies lives in an isolated and remote place in Scotland and is a big religious person. She hasn’t been to church in more than a year because the last one she tried was “too legalistic”, and chased away her now adult children from the practice of Christianity. So she literally has gone without much company for 18 months. She writes about keeping house, and she knits, masterfully, the kinds of things a four-year-old girl would like, in the same kinds of colors. Each post has a greeting card-like illustration and her header shows her laundry blowing in the wind. I am mesmerized. Finally she went to a “non-denominational” ladies’ Bible study which she seems to find congenial. A lot of the British craft bloggers — if not all of them — are very much into the baking and knitting and tea pinny porn mode. But there is a lot of struggle in people’s lives, and sometimes that breaks through the iron grip of the stiff upper lip. I do wish she’d write more about living in Bumfuck, Scotland, than the Lord, however.

2. My absolutely excruciating four-day peregrinations to reinstall wi fi at the Rancho Atomico led me to a big fancy mall in the striving white people neighborhood, across the six-lane highway from the mall where the Apple store is. CenturyLink has their “store” in a kiosk next to a carrousel run by one of several young women at the mall in skintight jeans and 8-inch heel, porn star platform shoes.

I said to the big ‘n’ tall, buzz cut 30ish Chicano man who ran the kiosk that I’d once spent three days in a mall gathering signatures for a petition, and I’d go home at night, get into bed, close my eyes, and the Muzak would play on. He made Real Eye Contact and said, Oh man. Sometimes I just go out and sit in my car. For the silence.

3. The manager of my local greasy (actually a locavore place with dynamite food) is going to Hawaii for the first time for her vacation. She’s more excited than I’ve seen her in two years. I finally figured out why she’s so hard-working and reserved. She’s German. Not from around these parts. We talked about Dogtown and Z Boys and how Hilo-born Larry Bertlemann’s signature move, touching the wave, created the classic ’70s down-low skateboarding style. (Watch the flick; it’s basically about how gangs help fatherless boys. There are references to Peter Pan; they were completely self-aware. Naturally, my favorite, Jay Adams, the youngest and most-talented, grew up to be a meth head.)

4. I can get anybody to talk about anything. The granny ass mein works as well, if not better than, the 20th century fox one did. The checkout chick at the supermarket said, Thanks for being human. I said, No, you !

5. Thinking about 21st century journalism and the real 300-word story, which is not a television news-lite story, I realized if I started carrying my teeny video cam and recording these convos, with their permission, that would be it. I just don’t feel like being such a paparazzo right now.

6. But it’s what I love to read on the internet. I read a list of about 10 craft bloggers every day, people mastering life. It’s what I’d love to watch, too.

There’s great confusion about what the role of the press in a democracy is. The majority of Americans in a recent poll think the role of the press is as a consumer watchdog. Pew regularly surveys people for their views of the press, and their results are always heartening.

Another scholar stipulates that the news in any country is shaped by four social imperatives: the role of the news in a democracy; the corporate structure of news production; the entertainment imperative of news; and the political behavior of news entities in the United States.
http://faculty.uml.edu/sgallagher/culturalcon.htm

For the sake of clarity, I would like to define the news as the founding fathers saw it — an instrument of knowing so important to the democracy that journalism is the only industry mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

Jefferson defined the news very simply. He said, “The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

This is the prize on which, as stories get shorter and shorter, and newspapers disappear, we need to keep our eyes. I’ve previously referred to this as the League of Women Voters value-neutral policy paper model of journalism.

As I am concerned here to define 21st century journalism, without proscribing it, I’d like to stick as close to the original, rather juridical definition of it, as the instrument of an informed electorate bent, pretty much, on revolution, with the truth and nothing else as their legal defense.

One of the many things that people don’t understand about newspaper journalism is how legal standards of evidence — will this stand up in court? — are deployed during the editing of every story that is published.  (Television news is different.) And, given the law’s long history of being argued and re-invented, I think its “interactive” standards of evidence are as close to justice as human beings are going to get. So we have journalism as the peoples’ instrument of knowing, and its bona fide practice based on legal standards of evidence.

Today I’m going to start to examine and review the ideas of two internet entrepeneurs about what the news is. LOL Cats founder Ben Huh has a “re-imagined” news startup, Circa, scheduled for launch this summer.
http://blog.cir.ca/

Huh is promising to re-invent news for the internet. Schell Games CEO Jesse Schell has interesting ideas about the “gamification” of the news and its interactivity (the whole subject of “citizen journalism” – unpaid content provision, Wiki researchers, the HuffPo’s uncompensated bloggers, and curated comment falls under the “gamification” rubric) .

I am taking their thoughts as typical — however unfair that may be — of the definitions that millennial entrepeneurs with agency have for news in the 21st century. It can’t represent the confusion millenials have about what news is, or their significantly good ideas about it. Hopefully the analysis of  Huh’s and Schell’s ideas will serve as the caveat emptor on their ideas, the warning that the majority of Americans thinks the news should be.

Young people think Jon Stewart is the news, that the mashup, hip-hop soundbite, satirical pastiche of events served up by Stewart – the latest in a series of television comedians, from Carson’s monologue through Saturday Night Live’s weekend news update – is what the news is.

They’re not wrong.

But they’re not right either, and I would argue that if making fun of the news alienates voters, which I suspect it does, a correction needs to be made. Comedians need to start registering ten young people to vote for every political joke they tell on national television. Hopefully having a government that represents the comedians’ constituency would put the comedians out of business.

http://pewresearch.org/pubs/829/the-daily-show-journalism-satire-or-just-laughs

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/17/arts/television/17kaku.html?pagewanted=all

But to bite the news, as the comedians would have it, requires a certain kind of news story. I was recently asked to write a 300-word story a week for the electronic newsletter of a public access television station.  I told the millennial editor in charge I had no access to 300-word stories. She was convinced a 300-word story was the précis of a 1500-word one, or a 13,000 word one (I chose that figure in honor of Norman Lewis, whose 1969 multi-thousand word story, “Genocide in Brazil”, was the longest ever published by the London Sunday Times. It resulted in the founding of Survival International and was later published as The Missionaries: God Against the Indians. You see where this is headed.)

Norman Lewis, journalist, author of The Missionaries: God Against the Indians, and a long-form news story, “Genocide in Brazil”, which helped found Survival International.

The young editor was entirely uninterested in,  and non-comprehending of,  the conceptual parameters of the 300-word story.

It is the crux of 21st century journalism.

News is not the promotion of your music video,  your comedy routine, or any other kind of advocacy. Still, Jon Stewart, Seth Myers, Johnny Carson, every comedian whose daily bread was political commentary is biting the 300-word story – and never the 15,000-word Pulitzer Prize winning series on violence in the Philadelphia public schools.

Among other things, the 300-word story needs to be about someone we all recognize. There is no space to describe and introduce anybody.  For the same reason, this well-known person needs to be in an instantly recognizable setting,  making a gesture – a soundbite isn’t as good – within the context of his celebrity and environment that is also instantly recognizable.  From this instantly comprehensible vignette, the comedians start their riff. Or apply, if you will, their meta political critique.

The perfect 300-word story — a recognizable person making a recognizable gesture —  is the crux of journalism for the 21st century.  (P. S. If Britney can make it through 2007, you can make it through today.)

The 300-word story requires access to celebrities doing stuff.  The medium — 300 words — ensures that celebrity news will probably be the cockroach, or the PVC shopping bag with a biological half-life of 500,000 years, that survives us all.

The only people who can produce 300-word stories are beat reporters – one reason I’m mesmerized by the TMZ paparazzi and their dubious, but incredibly hotttt, SUV enterprise journalism. I don’t blame Britney for falling for Adnan Ghalib. The great chronicler of Britney’s meltdown, Vanessa Grigoriadis in Rolling Stone, didn’t either:  Ghalib winds up begging Grigoriades to be gentle with the mentally unstable superstar.

The 300-word story is the medium for the 21st century. Our problem is that it is the message too, and that long-form print journalism which ends genocide, or, like the  Philadelphia Inquirer series which recently won the Pulitzer Prize for uncovering violence in the public schools, will disappear. Hip-hop soundbite news, the Afro pomo homo pastiche, is the only one which can compete for our internet attention. Our problem is how to package the 50,000 word story in three hundred, or 140 Tweet characters, for such information consumers as Joe Weisenthal, the finance blogger. A recent, 2,887-word profile of Weisenthal suggests him as my prototypical 21st century news consumer . He wakes up at 3:50 a.m. in his apartment just north of the Financial District in New York City and Tweets  What did I miss?
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/magazine/joe-weisenthal-vs-the-24-hour-news-cycle.html?pagewanted=all

To summarize the points of reference in the discussion of 21st century journalism, and to make a critical point: how to write the 300-word story, especially for television news, is no big secret. In 1965 they were telling us that the secret of writing a three-minute news story for television was to say what the story was you were about to tell, to say, now I’m telling you the story, and then to say, this is the story I just told you.

This is the story I just told you:

  1. As space for journalism decreases,  confusion about all its roles must be stripped away, and it is up to journalists to make this clear to their consumers.
  2. The role of journalism as government  and institution watchdog, meeting juridical standards of evidence, is the only prize we can afford to keep our eyes on. (Questions of monetization of internet news and truth police fall under this rubric.)
  3. LOL cats founder Ben Huh and Schell Games CEO Jesse Schell will be our models of millennial internet entrepeneurs defining news for the 21st century. They have the power, the motive, the opportunity. Do they have any clue? (The queer theory observation that the founders of TMZ and Gawker both are gay men fearlessly proselytizing gender equality and outing allegedly gay celebs, along with the gossip, the snark, the aggregated news, the curated comments,  falls under this rubric.)
  4. Joe Weisenthal, the 24/7 news vacuum, is our model consumer. (That the rush of megalo information, not just the surfing, is the medium of the 21st century news, and that Internet finance itself as well as finance journalism has created and valorized it, and will skew click-counting journalism values toward capitalism and the white boys, falls under this rubric.)

Joe Weisenthal, finance blogger, our typical 21st century journalism consumer. By Marvin Orellana for The New York Times.

Tomorrow:  Analysis of Ben Huh and Jesse Schell concepts of journalism

http://www.niemanlab.org/2012/05/cheezburgers-ben-huh-says-news-organizations-should-think-like-teenagers-if-they-want-to-survive/
http://www.niemanlab.org/2012/05/super-mario-cub-reporter-jesse-schell-on-what-the-game-industry-could-teach-the-news-industry/

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. — A. J. Liebling

Press critic A. J. Liebling

I was once talking to a publisher of very fancy books and he was complaining how his edition of Gary Snyder’s latest, I think it was, had sold only 12,000 copies.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since.

Virginia Woolf, to whom I keep referring because she is the one thing I know almost everything about, having realized, when I set out to be a reporter, 43 years ago, that it would be a state of being one mile wide and one inch deep, and if I wanted any self-respect at all, I needed to know everything about one thing, and it was she, was her own publisher.

Famously, she said it gave her the freedom to write some of 20th century modernity’s earliest works. This includes experimental novels like The Waves, which goes up blow-for-blow against Ulysses. In fact the Hogarth Press which she founded with her husband, for which she was both typesetter and  reader, turned down the opportunity to publish Ulysses in 1919.

Much has been made of what Virginia, who may be the finest literary critic of the 20th century, did not like and what she stole from Ulysses.

But as a matter of fact her husband, Leonard, who did the heavy lifting as publisher, writes that they decided to print it if they could find a printer willing to risk it. He showed Ulysses to two printers, and they “said no respectable printer would have anything to do with it, for the publisher and the printer of it would certainly be prosecuted.” [Beginning Again, 247]

Virginia’s ownership of her own means of production, her sales, her “platform” as the daughter of England’s foremost literary journalist, who herself made a living writing book reviews, have always been a part of my thinking about book sales and newspaper circulation. Her masterpiece, well-reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement, had two print runs, the first of 7,000 and the second, in the same year, of 5,000.[The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 4, 48, Note 3.]

The Waves will be read as long as people have eyes. Gary Snyder won’t be. To sell 12,000 copies of a truly arcane novel, in 1931, or late 20th century beatnik poetry, in 1996, is an fn miracle of literacy and good fortune.

To think that there are 12,000 people who can read arcana, and have the money to buy the book — last I checked fancy editions of Snyder are selling for $41 — is unprecedented in history. Snyder’s publisher was certainly thinking about the Dan Brown ball park, or maybe Tupac’s, and I made him pay for lunch because a.) he made fun of the waitress’ pronunciation and b.) he was so clearly delusional.

The paradigm is this: nobody goes into the quality writing business to make money. If you want to be Dan Brown, be Dan Brown. If you’re a poet, or a journalist, or the 20th century’s best writer of fiction, repeat after me. You’re not in this for the money, and you’re not going to make any, and 12,000 in sales is a miracle in the history of mankind.

If you’re a newspaper publisher, you’re not in it for the money. If you’re a rich Silicon Valley start up entrepeneur, and like nouveaux riches throughout the history of money, you find yourself mesmerized by the prospect of being a “newspaper” “publisher”, for lack of a better term, because of the supposed political entree, clout and social cachet that entails — oh! what fun we’ll have eating with Gwen Ifill and Ram Emmanuel in our kewel Watergate offices overlooking the Potomac! — you need to do four things.

Prepare to lose all your money, to have a separate income stream, to reinvent online journalism so as to monetize itself, or if you’re to produce real online journalism, suffer the circulation/advertising/monetizing consequences. Or else.

Finance is not my bailiwick. I don’t need to know the multiplication tables to see which way the wind and the invention of fiduciary instruments like sending college kids credit cards or bundling mortgages, blows. Craigslist has gutted newspaper revenues.  Newspaper advertising sales people are the slowest on the digital uptake.  Next?

Harvard’s Nieman people and the Columbia Journalism Review and the Project for Excellence in Journalism are among the serious players on the case. PEJ to be most trusted because they actually talk to working journalists about revenues and circulation.

Here we have Nieman, who are fanboyz, interviewing Ben Huh, the progenitor of I Can Haz Cheezburger. Huh, like every plutocrat since the beginning of time, is being sucked into the glamourous world, as he sees it, of “newspaper” “publication”. He is going to take his Cheez revenues and reinvent the news.

Ben Huh reinvents the news with his I Can Haz Cheezburger pelf.

http://www.niemanlab.org/2012/05/cheezburgers-ben-huh-says-news-organizations-should-think-like-teenagers-if-they-want-to-survive/

Let me say, first of all, I dote on I Can Haz Cheezburger.  Because I am and always have been, despite certain bluestocking tastes, a Downtown Girl, and what I think of as the Digital Watercooler Journalism — we all hang around cyberspace looking at LOL cats and reading aggregated Gawker riffs about John Travolta’s private parts as we trudge through our digi day — is a true benison of socially redeeming importance to all us cyberdrones.

As for Ben Huh’s ideas about journalism, keep your knees together and your hands on your wallet.

Next up:

huh

monetize with conferences or salons or kaplan
http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/the_washington_post_cos_self-d.php

PEJ — it’s reconforming truth: kickstart journalism, pro publica

http://archives.newyorker.com/?i=2010-01-25#folio=038 http://www.cjr.org/the_news_frontier/

In the 1970s, Sander Vanocur told me something I’ve been thinking about ever since. The political satire in Johnny Carson’s monologue, he said, defined the heartland issues.

So it came as no surprise to me that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are a primary source of news for the young. The people whose knickers get in a twist around that haven’t been paying attention, first of all, to many things about journalism, beginning with the fact that the New Journalism (invented at Esquire magazine in the 1960s), now half a century old, imparted new information about what was then the counterculture in a new way. Talese’ story on Frank Sinatra is considered the first wave of all the dreary j-school classes of what I now think they call creative non-fiction?
http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ1003-OCT_SINATRA_rev_

Host Jon Stewart in the studio of The Daily Sh...

Host Jon Stewart in the studio of The Daily Show in 2004 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t go to j school, was the advice the old reporter gave me when I set out for college. Study philosophy, history, phys ed, pottery. You can learn journalism in six weeks. So can its consumers, and so they do.

People whose knickers get into a twist about Stewart and Colbert being peoples’ primary source of news may or may not be professors of journalism, stuffed shirts, or white boys with a vested interest in the circle-jerk method of covering politics, of which Politico is the successful internet avatar. I think we know who the wedgie ones are:

Venise Wagner, associate chair of the journalism department at San Francisco State University, argues with her students over whether “The Daily Show” is real journalism. They think it is; she tells them it isn’t, explaining that journalism involves not just conveying information but also following a set of standards that includes verification, accuracy and balance.

But she says “The Daily Show” does manage to make information relevant in a way that traditional news organizations often do not, and freedom from “balance” shapes its success. “‘The Daily Show’ doesn’t have to worry about balance. They don’t have to worry about accuracy, even. They can just sort of get at the essence of something, so it gives them much more latitude to play around with the information, to make it more engaging,” Wagner says.
http://www.ajr.org/article.asp?id=4329

I have no stats on this, but my nose for news tells me the boys-on-the-bus coverage is alienating to voters, and assists the unscrupulous right in its 40 year mission to keep voter turnout low, so they can win, by defining single issues like abortion or same-sex marriage as political matters, which they’re not. I submit to you not that women know better, but that what real political coverage is, is what the League of Women Voters does. The League of Women Voters writes non-partisan policy papers delineating issues without prejudice. I am not familiar enough with their work to say whether or not they add a one-sentence value neutral assessment of what place this issue takes in bona fide conservative (not party) philosophy, and in bona fide liberal philosophy. I suspect they avoid this. I think respectful attention to non-partisan political philosophy is central to the democracy, to political issues, and to what people want to know about the news.

The parsing of the political news for its real meaning is what Stewart and Colbert do. This is what political coverage of 21st century news should be doing, League of Women Voters issues analysis in a cellphone screen-sized format. Naturally Stewart and Colbert parse stories with LULZ value, and this is the bias of their news coverage. I learned from the hordes of people of every color watching Jerry Springer that yeah, people like freaks, geeks, and catfights. But they are absolute junkies for adjudication. The developmental psychiatrist Kohlberg based an entire sexist male template on little boys’ penchant for adjudication — you could say it was arguing over whether or not the ball was inside or outside.

Adjudication is a spectator sport.

Concentration camp survivors say the observation of injustice, of all the things one can suffer in extremity, is extremity’s most corrosive experiece. Primo Levi writes, in The Reawakening, of what has been called metaphysical guilt:

…the shame a just man experiences…at another man’s crime; the feeling of guilt that such a crime should exist, that it should have been introduced irrevocably into the world of things that exist, and that his will for good should have proved too weak or null, and should not have prevailed in defense.

Having our noses rubbed in the shameless injustice of politics as practiced for the cameras and for Politico, for the jockeying social aspirations and tin soldier power plays of editors from Wauchula, causes the metaphysical guilt which keeps us from voting.

In any case, adjudication seems nearly instinctual, and the feral, thug-life version of it still forms the way newspapers, online and elsewhere, still cover politics. The competition between politicians is of no interest to us. We like competitive sports — I am noting the importance of soccer players and fandom in the Islamist Algerian wars and in the Egyptian spring uprising — we like freaks and geeks, but covering politics like sports keeps us away from the polls and empowers the heartlessly cynical new right puppetmeisters of the racist hegemony of the last 40 years. One old hippie I know says he doesn’t even think they’re racist. They just use it as a tactic. I respect a racist more.

The New Journalism method of covering these political issues would be to find somebody whose story illustrates the problem, and do a profile of that person. So what you’d have is not a horserace story about the cross-talk between loathsome selfish ideologues shutting down the government on the specious Grover Norquist no-taxes pledge, but, rather, a talk with Grover. A discussion about the tactics one guy uses every day to be powerful enough to single-handedly close down the U.S. government. Grover is the beat, all the rest of those people are ants on his melon.

Grover Norquist at a political conference in O...

Grover Norquist at a political conference in Orlando, Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You say Grover doesn’t talk to the media? I refer you to the Talese Sinatra story, a masterpiece of how to write a story about somebody who won’t talk to you. The political journalism lesson of Watergate that everyone seems to have forgotten is that the White House news does not exist at the White House.

Newspapers get all caught up in that basically because provincial editors want to be invited to the White House correspondents’ dinner and check out Lindsay Lohan’s, or Tim Geithner’s,  tits.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/27/AR2009042700891_pf.html

To have One’s Own Reporter at the White House is the mark of the publisher’s influence either on national policy or society; the reporter is not so secretly viewed as being the publisher’s lobbyist. And the game is on,  the game of political journalism in which news coverage is seen both as a prize and a critique. It leads to such perfectly logical apotheoses as the politician John Edwards’ consulting the actor Sean Penn and movie director Paul Haggis on how to spin his bimbo eruption. That essential rats-in-a-bottle perversion of politics was the other lesson of Watergate, in All the President’s Men — that Washington was Hollywood and Hollywood was Washington.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/features/dcmovies/postinfilm.htm

So, how to cover politics for the 21st century is no secret. The tools have been here for 50 years, whether you call it the New Journalism, Johnny Carson’s monologue, or the Jon Stewart effect.

End political journalism as we know it. It is literally destroying our world.

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