Only in America, Part VII: From the LPGA tour…
I’ve been blogging since May 2002 — not one of the first, but well before all the cool kids tried it, made it a craze, then gave up on it. The best way to describe this portion of my writing life is part personal notebook where I test ideas and pieces of drafts I’m working on, part self-promotion, and part random ranting.
Frequently addressed topics include journalism, teaching and higher educations, writing, cooking, drinking (or, more specifically, not drinking, running, reading and life in general. Comments are appreciated but monitored before they appear on this site. All views expressed on “Cut Off At The Salad Bar” are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of any of his past, present or future employers.
Only in America, Part VII: From the LPGA tour…
Random media: I guess the saddest part about a Chicago newspaper starting a special edition for the 18-34 set is the fact that the industry is conceding its traditional product will never be interesting enough to capture that audience….
But why would they want to read it, when it seems that all they get are condescending columnists suffering from half-inch dick syndrome?
If you’d like further proof, we suggest that you check out the other medium that is going to end journalism as we know it — blogs. These are sites set up by energetic and often very opinionated souls who want to pass on interesting facts, stories and opinions. They can be very interesting.
They can also, as one of my old editors used to say, “wear you slick in a hurry.” Self-indulgent claptrap would be the kind description. Hundreds and thousands of words about waking up a little late this morning and deciding to have a second cup of coffee.
It never surprises me that the same people who hate web logs — namely, newspaper people — are the same people who hate talk radio. And I’ve previously compared blogs to talk radio, as, for now, they resemble that median more than they resemble journalism. Newspaper peeps don’t like an unwieldly format, they don’t like the fact that they’re bogged down by archaic rules when a talk radio host (or a blogger, for that matter) can say what he or she wants, when they want. If people aren’t interested by the “self-indulgent claptrap” they can switch the station or follow a link to something better.
Norman watch: Jeff Norman strikes me as being somewhat insane (“The media world continues to be aghast” is a bit of hype; the truth is, the media world probably doesn’t give a shit about Tony Norman — although he might try to lead you to believe differently). But some of the responses from members of the Post Gazette are pretty damn funny:
From: Jeff Norman [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, October 04, 2002 4:37 PM
To: Ed Masley; Andrea Davis; Alan Colmes; Sean Hannity; Bill O’Reilly; John Harris; John Harwood; Mike Knepler; Morris Kennedy; Jules Witcover; Mike Fitts; James Camden; Buddy Nevins; Barbara Serrano; Michael Smolens; Shia Kapos; Rick Armon; Tyler Whitley; Tim Nostrand; Scott MacKay; Schuyler Kropf; Barbara Galbincea; Brian Crowley; John Patterson; Michael Griffin; Tom Detzel; Frank Mickadeit; Joe Brennan; Josh Richman; Lonnie Isabel; Beth Silver; Doug Gramiak; Van Denton;
Angie Muhs; Jane Ann Morrison; Armando Botello; Michael Silence; Steve Kraske; Charles Oliver; Janet Williams; Don Mason; Tom Baxter; Taylor Battem; Susan Adler Thorp; Steve Neal; Stephen Hoffman; Scot Lehigh; Robert McCarthy; Mike Comeaux; Mick Hinton; Michael Kramer; Lynn Hulsey; Laylan Copelin; Jon Roos; John Robertson; Joe Sciacca; Joe Hallett; Jack Douglas; Hugh McDiarmid; Howard Wilkinson; Glenn Stephens; George Weeks; Fred Brown; Ed Golder; Donald Coleman; Dan Haar; Dan Greenfield; Dan Borenstein; Chris Fiscus; Carl Leubsdorf; Bob Secter; Bill Simmons; Al Cross; Kevin Dayton; Millie Quan; Tyler Bridges; Craig Gilbert; Daryl
Nerl; Deborah Orin; Gar Joseph; Dick Polman; James O’Toole; Peter Blake; Dan Walters; Jim Brewer; Mike Sprague; John Hoeffel; David McCumber; Amanda Davis; Kate Parry; Dennis McGrath; Josh McMahon; Frank Gibson; Tim Morris; Rob Martindale; Gwen Flanders; Joan Walsh; New Haven Register; James Ridgeway; Rush Limbaugh; Cotts, Cynthia; Rachel Coen; email@example.com; Brian Berke; Michael Escher; Dave Lieber; soundscene; business; localnews; Health and Family; magazine; Photography; Sports; travel; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; PGSTORE; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; Eric Heyl; Dimitri Vassilaros; firstname.lastname@example.org; bill Steigerwald; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; Brian Oneill; firstname.lastname@example.org; BCloud@post-gazette.com; email@example.com; Reg Henry; Peter Leo; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; Scott Mervis; firstname.lastname@example.org; Tony Norman; John Craig; email@example.com
Subject: Media world unanimously condemns Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The media world continues to be aghast over the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s unwillingness to acknowledge that it published a column about Bob Dylan written by Tony Norman on August 13 (to read, click on above link) that contains factual errors. Norman stated in the above-referenced column that he was relying on various sources, but he didn’t bother to name them. Despite repeated requests to identify those sources, Norman remains unwilling and/or unable to do so. Furthermore, when I brought the
problem to the attention of Norman, he showered me with insults as a means of avoiding his malfeasance. Similarly, Post-Gazette editor John Craig dismissed me as a mere irritant, and the issue I raised as unimportant.
Further research into the issue of journalistic ethics supports my contention that the Post-Gazette is wildly out of step with the standards of the industry. Everyone (except those at the Post-Gazette) agrees that sources are to be identified, not to be invented. Everyone (except those at the Post-Gazette) agrees that when an error is made, it should be remedied promptly by printing a correction. Everyone (except those at the Post-Gazette) agrees that a person who brings an error to the attention of the newspaper, should be treated with respect, not ridiculed. Everyone (except those at the Post-Gazette) agrees that these standards all apply to opinion columns as well as to hard news stories.
Here are the specific positions of various media organizations with respect to truth, accuracy, credibility, use of sources, and the obligation to issue corrections/retractions after a flawed story has been published:
“Substantive, factual errors should be corrected promptly and fully. Clarifications should be published as necessary when a story, column, editorial, headline, photograph, graphic, illustration, caption or layout could be misinterpreted or misconstrued.” – Arizona Republic
“We are a newspaper of record, and facts, even minor ones, should be accurate in that record…Staff members are strongly encouraged to be both pleasant and prompt in responding to requests for corrections and to actively pursue possible errors brought to their attention.” – News Gazette, Champaign, IL
“The newspaper should guard against inaccuracies, carelessness, bias, or distortion through either emphasis or omission. It should admit all substantive errors and correct them promptly and prominently.” – Associated Press Editors
“Deliberate distortion is never permissible.” – Society of Professional Journalists
“Editorials, analytical articles and commentary should be held to the same standards of accuracy with respect to facts as news reports…Unless there is clear and pressing need to maintain confidences, sources of information should be identified.” – Society of Newspaper Editors
“Facts should be presented honestly, fully and fairly. This applies to..columns…” – The Arizona Republic, Phoenix
“Editorials, analytical articles and commentary should be held to the same standards of accuracy with respect to facts as news reports. Errors of fact, as well as errors of omission, should be corrected promptly and prominently.” – The Journal Gazette
“Persons who call errors to our attention must be accorded a respectful hearing.” – The Washington Post
“Deception is a form of lying and is to be avoided in news gathering.” – Kansas City Star
“Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.” – Society of Professional Journalists
“Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility.” – Society of Professional Journalists
“A good newspaper is fair, accurate, honest, responsible, independent, and decent. Truth is its guiding principle.” – Associated Press Editors
“Good faith with the reader is the foundation of good journalism.” – Society of Newspaper Editors
“I can say that at my newspaper, we are prohibited from talking to our readers with the tone you described…We try not to insult them because we would like them to forgive and forget and come back and read us again…You are right that when you find an error in a writer’s work, it makes all work suspect…Keep enjoying Bob Dylan’s music, and keep up your skepticism and criticism of the press, because it is healthy.” – Dave Lieber, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
That’s what the experts say.
But do people really live up to these ideals? Well, in the past few weeks at least three different media organizations published stories that contained unverified sources. When the problem was brought to their attention, here is how The New York Times, the Associated Press and Salon responded:
“We remain committed to upholding the highest standards of careful journalism — and, wherever questions or problems do arise, to correcting them promptly and fairly.” – The editors of Salon
“As long as the authenticity of the message remains in doubt, it should be considered unsubstantiated. I erred by citing it in my column.” – Paul Krugman, The New York Times
“One of the important things about being a good reporter or columnist is to acknowledge when you failed to connect a dot, and I think that’s what Paul is saying.” – Gail Collins, editorial page editor, The New York Times
“Chris Newton maintains these experts are real…but our editors have been unable to verify that they even exist…we asked him to provide proof of authenticity, but he could not or would not do so…It’s a violation of our most basic rules. We are intensely investigating how this happened and reviewing our editorial process to make sure it never happens again.” – Kelly Smith Tunney, AP spokesperson, explaining why an AP reporter was fired for failing to verify sources
By contrast, here is what Tony Norman, his editor and his colleagues at the Post-Gazette have to say about my queries regarding Norman’s failure to verify the sources he claims he relied on in his August 13 column:
“Let this thing go.” – Scott Mervis, Post-Gazette Weekend/Pop Music Editor
“I do not think any positive purpose can be served by further corresondence between you and the Post-Gazette on this or related topics.” – John Craig, Editor of the Post-Gazette
“You’re a complete idiot…What an asshole…Unlike you, apparently, I have a job that keeps me pretty busy. I work at a newspaper…I suspect that even a geek like you realizes I’m perfectly capable of defending myself in an argument…You’re probably one of those demented Dylan stalkers…You’re obviously lonely…Please…get on with your pathetic, hollow life…” – Tony Norman, award-winning Post-Gazette columnist
“You are bent out of shape about a reference to Bob Dylan’s hair?…Counseling is available.” – Post-Gazette columnist Reg Henry
“I’m happy to count Tony as a colleague, and pleased that his columns are part of my newspaper…The ‘issue’ that set this off, whether or not critics focused on Dylan’s appearance, wasn’t worth worrying about from the beginning.” – Brian O’Neill, Post-Gazette columnist
“Obviously, this is not something I want to get in the middle of. I think all you can do is make your point, which is what you’ve done.” – Post-Gazette Associate editor/columnist Peter Leo
Only in America, Part VI:
When out of touch people dictate “trends:” Nancy Nall has good stuff today on trend stories, AKA bogus feature writing:
An editor (or writer — no job is blameless) conceives a trend — perhaps out of thin air, perhaps on evidence gathered in one’s immediate social circle — roughs out the template and then goes out and finds people to fit the narrative. Maybe this is happening in whatever city this writer works in, and someone wants evidence it’s a bona fide national trend. Whatever, but folks, this is backwards. You’re supposed to do the reporting first and then write the story, but contemporary newspaper management frequently demands the opposite. Why? Lots of reasons — an illustration has to be commissioned, a preposterously long-range news budget filled, a performance goal (“stay ahead of trends”) met. Whatever the reason, this is one reason you put down your newspaper and think, “Who the hell are these people? This has nothing to do with my life.”
Because once this runs, certain things will happen. If there’s still time to turn another story around before Halloween, this will be clipped and thrust upon any number of feature writers at smaller papers — remember, this is a paper with a national profile — with one word scrawled across the top: “Localize?” It’s happened to all of us, and you can bitch and moan and say, “But this is Fort Wayne, damnit!” all you want, but your editor just added you to the budget, and you have 36 hours to find local people who are supposedly following a national trend that might be only a figment of someone’s imagination in the first place.
Localizations are the crutch upon which lousy editors lean.
And lot’s more good stuff too. Check it out.
Random rolling: The Indianapolis Colts are the latest professional sports team to blackmail political leaders for public subsidies…Am I the only one disappointed thus far with the fourth season of the Sopranos?…more later.
Diversity journalism at its best: From Best of the Web Today:
A gunman is on the loose in Montgomery County, Md., having shot and killed a man Wednesday night and four people yesterday morning. (Here’s a map and timeline.) For the Washington Post, this is an occasion to celebrate diversity. Seriously. The headline and subheadline on an article about the victims read: “Arbitrary Victims, Identical Fate: County’s Growing Diversity Reflected in Those Gunned Down.”