Archives for posts with tag: News

Thursdays are always a big day in the journalism world. It is the day of the week when the femme edition of the New York Times comes out, with both Styles and Home sections full of ads for weekend shoppers.

I started out in life writing for one of the so-called soft news sections of a great metropolitan daily newspaper. Not only was it not soft news, it was the only way to cover what was happening, the only real news written in the hard-fought style of the New Journalism. Tracking the permutations of the so-called soft news sections of the newspaper since the halcyon days when we invented rock ‘n’ roll, ended racial ‘n’ sexual discrimination ‘n’ The War, and invented the dear departed New Journalism, is the way of the ice floe.

Roz Russell and Cary Grant face off as reporters, His Girl Friday, 1940.

Oddly enough, I’ve been a fan of the derriere garde ladymags all these years, and when the Times femme section editors decide to be exciting and cover something New, like how to talk to your children about internet porn,  in the way of Home or Styles, something butch, like — I can’t remember the specific piece that made my heart sink recently. It wasn’t DIY wi-fi installation, wiring, real estate resale, asphalting your own driveway — all those things are femme these days, with my beloved house blogger chicks each and all wielding big bad power tools with enviable Born This Way girly muscles. Watching Ana White measure out roof trusses for the duplex she is building for her mother and mother-in-law, in Alaska, people, gives me the same thrill I felt forty years ago, first reading the famous Click essay by Jane O’Reilly in the incendiary, premier Ms. preview insert of New York magazine. Click. Yeah, I’m a feminist. You are too.

The NYT Home story that made my heart sink would have been in the soul-murdering R.W. Apple tradition of the Grey Lady, when she gets one of her very fast writers to churn out 5,000 words on such a re-re-rendering of received wisdom squeezed from a 500-year-old turnip, that you wonder if they’d know what news is if it bit them on the big grey booty. And there are real news stories out there in the Home and Styles world — how the one per cent live: techno MacMansions, the brutalist masculinist Playboy philosophy homes of the software moguls at the top of the Home list, and — well, there’s a million story ideas for Styles. Blatant elbows-out plagiarism among the MILF-porn house blogger bitches seeking monetization, for one thing.(What’s up with Heather Armstrong? Penelope Trunk? Yipes.) That whole suburban MILF-porn tube-top-‘n’-chandelier-earrings-SUV-devil-spawn-train-wreck phenom that kept my eyes glued to the nanny shows. Cheese with that? Yes, please.

Why it is I still look forward to the Thursday femme edition when it so seldom delivers news I’m far ahead of them on can only be attributed to nosiness. Glimpses of what other people are doing with their houses — the guy and his girlfriend with separate Caribbean Boho bungalows on a small tropical property, ohhh! — is pretty much all I care about, and it extends to Katherine Boo’s shacks in the Mumbai slum of Annawadi. How do you build and decorate one? All us survivalists, headed into 40 years of old age with no Social Security, need to know.

So today I open the femme edition. On page one, there’s a mysterious non-story about what didn’t happen when the Chinese dissident was forced out? — of the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

There was, as the lede of the Home section, a tour of the White House. Been there, done that. How about an interview with Michele’s mother, who didn’t want to move in because it was a museum? How did she deal? How about a story on the massive bunker/”Visitor Center”/green zone that has been built around the White House and under the Washington Monument since 9/11? In what way would the billions spent ward off either an airplane attack — was the Pennsylvania plane really headed for the White House? — or a handheld missile launcher attack by a pedestrian on 16th Street? You can buy one with your credit card in Alexandria. For realz. That’s a nice Home Land Security story, the closing by George W. Bush of the White House and Pennsylvania Avenue to the public. Where is it?

In Styles, a completely unreadable story by the wonderful Guy Trebay flogging something nobody gives a spit about — another ratfark art show, billed as possibly New York’s version of Art Basel Miami Beach. My eyes glaze over. Cover the cruising story, yes. The predatory collecting habits of the one per cent — the world-record shattering $120 million for a bad version of “The Scream”? — yes. The ratfark? The art? Is not the story. Sorry, Guy. It feels like the sports reporters who won’t cover the NFL brain injury/Junior Seau story. They fear, by covering the cruising/collecting stories, losing their access.

Give me Ana White and her pink power drill any day. And git ‘er done.

James and Rupert Murdoch testify before the parliamentary investigative committee July 2011.

So the House of Commons seems to have issued a bloviated report on the Murdochs, with six Labour/Lib Dems voting for it and five Tories against it, saying James and Rupert misled the phone-hacking investigations, led a coverup, and are not fit to manage a large corp.

“On the basis of the facts and evidence before the committee,” the report said in one passage, “we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.”

“This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organization and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International,” its British newspaper subsidiary.

“We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company,” the report said.

Forgive me, but that’s just stupid. A good coverup is the very hallmark of a well-run organization. Get over it.

I think the House of Commons has blown an opportunity to strike a major hit against the destabilizing, anti-democratic journalism values and business practices of the Murdochs by not holding their tongues. Of real value would have been a careful parsing of the evidence the Murdochs have already given.

My sense is that by saying Murdoch is not fit to run a business, the Labour/Lib Dems are trying to head off the acquisition of the majority of the shares of a pay TV company the Murdochs have been working toward. You have to be a fit and proper business person in the UK to get the broadcast license. The problem with this bloviation aspect is that the broadcast license agency, Ofcom, is already investigating the Murdochs’ fitness and propriety on the pay TV acquisition. The cabinet secretary in charge of this is in deep fucking trouble for expediting the Murdochs’ acquistion of this pay TV company. The whip smart Tory chick has it right:

Louise Mensch, a Conservative member of the panel, said the division had come about because of “the line in the middle of the report that said that Mr. Rupert Murdoch was not a fit person to run an international company.”

“We all thought that was wildly outside the scope of a select committee” and “was an improper attempt to influence” Ofcom, the British media regulator, which is already investigating whether News Corporation is “fit and proper” to hold a broadcast license.

In other words, the House of Commons Labour/Lib Dems have squandered credibility with inflated and spurious charges, voted upon with an even split down party lines, piling on in a battle others like Ofcom, the broadcast license agency, are much more qualified to fight. I think they’ve also taken the criminal heat off Hinton and Myler, who lied like rugs and are now here running things in the US. As well as coverup lawyer Crone and the unbelievable layers of bribe-taking corrupt Scotland Yard detectives and police officials around the country. If the Murdochs are not fit and proper on account of the phone-hacking coverup, what will be left to say when the police bribery cases are investigated?

That’s not exactly what I mean.

If the House of Commons is going to bloviate on the phone-hacking, which is extremely heinous, nobody’s going to give a shit about what they have to say about suborning the law of the land with money, which is treason. Very very heinous.

A thousand times more effective would have been a unanimously-approved immaculate bipartisan report in the form of a legal decision, or if not unanimous, with an honorable dissent appended.

Hopefully the Leveson special inquiry into this will finger the actual crimes and those who committed them.

I’m not articulating this very well, but the politicization of the charges against the Murdochs, which are extremely serious, makes them far easier to dismiss.The Labour/Lib Dems have lost any chance they may have had of getting rid of the cabinet minister who expedited the pay TV deal by doing this. And that is one guilty mamma jamma who should go, and go to prison.

Sometimes, the news sets an avalanche of accumulated epiphanies snowballing down into the abyss. I’m thinking about shamelessness apropos recent news. The former governor of CT, John Rowland, is bragging as a matter of resume-building that he became a born-again Christian in prison.

John Rowland, former governor of Connecticut, born-again Christian, jailbird.

The Chinese Watergate — phone-tapping his political superiors, among many other depredations by former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, his Lady MacBeth wife, and his party boy son — is making me think I wish I knew more about the Chinese. There’s a wonderful survivor memoir by Zhang Xianliang, a guy who spent 20 years in the Chinese gulag, the lao gai, Grass Soup. One of the things he learned in extremity was:

Yes, I was still able to laugh. I could even consider a tap on my shoulder by the Troop Leader as a special honour. People had already begun to regard the ridiculing of others as a means of education, so it was natural that people became thick-skinned and shameless. After ridicule became a proper and indeed popular method of education in China, we turned into a people that could not be shamed. p 137

Memoirs of the Khmer Rouge and Maoist self-criticism sessions in which, among other things, children were pressured to rat their parents out, a cataclysmic event for Asian filial and shame culture, emphasize the powerful social uses of shame and gossip as a police tool.

Son of Chongqing party boss, Harvard party boy Bo Guagua.

Emily Henderson, the HGTV design star, has made a post about how crazy interns are. Nearly 80 comments are divided between interns who say, what a bitch, you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, and bosses her own age (30ish, trending younger) describing the absolutely feral, off-the-wall and shameless behavior of young job applicants in every field. If the boomers can truly be blamed for something, it is the raising of this devil spawn. Here’s one of the best comments, from Donald of Baltimore, echoing the majority of the rest:

I hired this young, just out of college, guy at my publishing company. We were in the middle of moving from DC to Baltimore and his first week would be in DC then in Bmore permanently (where both he and I lived). My first big red flag….he wanted to know if I would put him up in a hotel in DC for that week because he didn’t think he could get up early enough to catch the train to DC (40 miles between the two cities and the train takes an hour, I gave him the most monumental eye roll in the history of eye rolls). The day before he was to start work I emailed him with the train schedule and just to touch base to answer any questions he might have and he told me that he had taken another job a week earlier and wasn’t going to take my job offer (that he had already accepted). Another week passes and his new job (sports marketing, Craigslist ad, rock and roll office, daily commissions) surprisingly (to him, not me) wasn’t working out and he wanted to know if my job offer was still available. Instead of mocking him for his immaturity and stupidity, I met him for lunch and tried to give him some life lessons and explain why I would never ever ever in a million years hire him, why he should stick it out at his current job, how being a grown up and responsibility go hand in hand, etc. He was the first of many new grads that asked about me buying them laptops to take home, iPhones, extra vacation time the first year (beyond the 2 weeks), could they work from home some days, expense accounts, etc. It’s mind boggling the expectations so many new grads have about their first jobs.

There’s so much that is offensive about this I can hardly deconstruct it, beginning, first, with the cluelessness of a supposedly literate young man — he is applying for work to a publisher — about not telling his employer that he decided not to take the job? And calls a week later to say the asshole job he did take is not working out? The generally accepted idea that you ask to get perks and bonusses to be on time for work? Your first week? Laptops? Iphones? Expense accounts?

This is of a piece with the toad intern Henderson hired who came onto the TV set, headed straight for the free food, stacked a plate high with Funyuns, sat down and started critiquing the show. Because, of course, as the immortal D.C. cab driver told me — the one with the four-foot-long Rasta dreadlocks cap — These people out here think they’re watching television.

Is this like feral latch-key kids of working single mothers?

I think not. It is of a piece with a snippet of information about James Murdoch I am still trying to digest, and which, I think, is the key to the whole implosion in Britain of the Murdochs’ News International media conglomerate. Simon Kelner, the executive editor of the UK Independent, was sitting in the newsroom one day working with the art director when James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, the flame-haired editrix, barged in, apparently without being announced. James was brandishing a copy of the Independent, and was objecting to one of the ad slogans the Independent was running apropos the 2010 elections, each slogan telling voters that vested interests would not determine the outcome of the elections, but that voters would. One of the ads read, “Rupert Murdoch won’t decide this election. You Will”.

It was to this James was objecting, loudly, saying Kelner had impugned the reputation of his family (in 2010!). That’s OK, if entirely assholeish, but then he called Kelner “a fucking fuckwit”.

This is not what even a balls-out executive does when he is being effective.

James Murdoch testifies before the Leveson inquiry on why he called Independent editor Simon Kelner “a fucking fuckwit”.

It reminds me of nothing so much as the conundrum of the war in Iraq I’m still ruminating. Even in the Republicans’ own Kissingerian terms, wouldn’t taking out Saddam destabilize the world simply by eliminating Nuclear Ahmadinejad’s one natural enemy? (Without meeting any of the cockamamie bellum iustus WMD and al Qaeda revenge goals Bush insisted were germane. Not going there. La la la.)

I can’t even.

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