Every day we see evidence of people promulgating information that supports their view of the world, and what information they want others to know, and how they want the money to flow.
As someone who disseminates information, the more work I do, the more I question my information: why is this person telling me this? What outcome does he or she want? It is my job to allow readers to come to their own conclusions, while taking responsibility for the information and how I have constructed it, always in an effort to make things clear, which nearly always first requires a whole lot of mucking around in the dark.
That's the journalist's job: to work from murkiness to clarity with one's best efforts. That's immutable; what every good writer knows, which makes David Carr's story, "At Flagging Tribune, Tales of a Bankrupt Culture," all more heartbreaking. Yes, my jaw dropped when I read about the bonuses. But people grabbing bits of the pie before it's gone is expected and babyish, the simplest idea in the room.
What I did not expect to see ravaged, and with such disdain, is the writing of stories, and how and what is offered. What really pissed me off is Tribune execs' pretending they understand how new technologies will allow us to do this in better ways, a stance that is risible considering their track record. Read the whole thing. You can also get a taste by reading the kicker, below, in which Carr perfectly captures the contempt of people deliberately or not (and I think it is deliberate) destroying what they do not understand and can never command.
The [Tribune] company recently announced the creation of a new local news format in which there would be no on-air anchors and few live reports. The newscasts will rely on narration over a stream of clips, a Web-centric approach that has the added benefit of requiring fewer bodies to produce.
“The TV revolution is upon us — and the new Tribune Company is leading the resistance,” the announcement read. And judging from the job posting for “anti-establishment producer/editors,” the company has some very strong ideas about who those revolutionaries should be: “Don’t sell us on your solid newsroom experience. We don’t care. Or your exclusive, breaking news coverage. We’ll pass.”
Hear hear for rationality in 2010: the best assessement of Dr. Laura's use of the N word that I've heard, from John Ridley. Two points I particularly like: I can make fun of my sister, but you can't, and the spot-on assertion that Dr. Laura (who I sometimes get a kick out of listening to on long car drives; her common-sense-by-cudgel delivery system never fails to fascinate/repel) is now painting herself as a victim, the role she constantly berates her listeners for playing. Bonus points to Ridley for pointing out her reductive thinking, of which she is clearly unaware, or perhaps simply proud of.
Just received an email from a friend who works at a Conde Nast publication, saying, "I had to read this three times to make sure I was still employed," referring to the memo, released this morning, saying the company is ceasing three of its publications, including Gourmet.
I will wager everyone over a certain age who cooks has a Gourmet story. Here's mine: I started subscribing to the magazine at age 12, thinking it so beautiful, so sophisticated; all these articles and beautiful photos from places like Gstaad and Vienna. It wasn't that I dreamed of going to these places, but of being the sort of person who went to these places. In the meantime, I baked from the magazine's recipes. Yes, at age 12, I was making a 12-layer Dobosh Torte.
I kept my subscription for 20 years, keeping years worth of the magazines shelved in the guest bathroom of the very first home my daughter and I lived in alone. I thought it a beautiful touch. A year later, I was contacted by Bon Appetit, to begin writing for them. They sent me on ski trips and cruises; I ate in cities all over, swam in three seas, for articles with beautiful photos. I had become that person I dreamed of, which astounded me.
Bon Appetit (whom I continue to write for) and Gourmet are both published by Conde Nast, and today, there is no more Gourmet. The wedge cut this makes in my day-to-day life will not be visible (for now), but psychically, something direct has been taken. When I metaphorically close my eyes, I see a road once traveled by a few writers and editors who were moving on by choice, or because they were not suited to the work, now increasingly crowded, moving briskly, but in which direction?
Reading Walter Cronkite's obituary in today's NY Times, I was delighted to learn that, amongst his many accomplishments, was his unwillingness to put up with bad grammar:
In 1954, when CBS challenged NBC’s popular morning program “Today” with
the short-lived “Morning Show,” it tapped Mr. Cronkite to be the host.
Early on he riled the sponsor, the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, by
grammatically correcting its well-known advertising slogan, declaring,
“Winston tastes good as a cigarette should.”
As someone driven to distraction by the mangling of grammar (mis- and creative spellings, I am OK with; language, after all, is labile. But "it's" for "its"? No), I adore this.
I can't say I have the sorts of memories of Cronkite that I am hearing recalled today; I was too young to see him broadcast Kennedy's death, and though I remember Martin Luther King's, what I most see is my mother crying, and earlier, watching the race riots on TV, fire hoses being turned on young black people in the streets (of Alabama, I think) at night, the force pinning them to a building, and my thinking, how is this possible? How can they do this? I remember RFK being assassinated, and the moon landings, and Kent State, and Woodstock, and the Nixon/Humphrey election, all of which happened before I was ten years old. And of course the Viet Nam War, from which my uncle, a 22-year-old Marine, came home without his legs and eight of his fingers. This is a lot of news in a few years.
I see I have detoured from the title of this post. But I have been thinking how, Cronkite was the person who delivered all this news, even if I don't recall the moments he told it, I do recall him always being there. He was the man who told you what was happening. Very steady. I don't think our children have this, unless it's Jon Stewart, and then we're not really talking about the same thing, are we.
Judges’ Comments: Nancy Rommelmann performs a skillful autopsy on the
JT LeRoy myth. In dissecting the motivations of a liar, Rommelmann did
not depend solely on the deceiver for the answers. She spins the story
from its crazy beginning in Brooklyn Heights, and holds back enough to
keep the reader's interest the way through.
My pal Amy "Advice Goddess" Alkon won for (ha!) best headline, "From Beer to Eternity." That's us, at left, after the third glass of wine xx