Archive for the ‘News Media’ category

Newsprint Past

October 26, 2014

Junk News Speak

Newsprint Past

There were times and places
when what you purchased
came wrapped in old newspaper
folded as neatly around–let’s say–
your nubby mandarins
as a steam-pressed collar buttoned
over an Adam’s apple,
only tied with a string
and covering everything.

At the end of shopping,
you might carry a stacked jam
like so many ironed shirts
tailored for people with trapezoidal
torsos, or if you lived in Great Britain,
fish and chips.

As you unwrapped
your fine print sacks, sitting at a table bare but for
peel curls, chip chips, you could, between whiffs
of orange or vinegar, peruse
an origami of ads, articles,
the snipped obits of those who some time recently
had died
and the whom they were
survived by,
phrases that kept
you company, quiet companions with interesting
while from outside,
came muted cries–
for those were also times and places
of open windows–not of anguish typically,
or not of extreme anguish–the crows of children
over rules, the hawking
of other vendors,
the banter of true bird, the
hum of machines
on the fly,

sweat nestling at the back
of your neck and inner arms, and,
if you were eating fish and chips,
probably also
your upper lip.

And, believe me, I am not in any way touting
those times –I am pretty sure
that while you were sitting there eating, some woman
in the background
was scrubbing pots, and some person of color
mopping stairs, and while there’s nothing wrong
with pots or stairs, scrubbing  and mopping,
they are not so great
as ultimate options, not to mention the fear stored in
closet shadows,
along with the broom handles, buckets, lye.

I’m just saying that newsprint seems a
helluva lot better to me
than plastic, no matter how
it’s used, and by plastic I don’t just mean
what now wraps all we buy,
but also what we see–that transfixed hair
upon the screen, the fake smiles,
smirks, the scooped pronouncements passing
as some synopsis of
the world’s long day, so much shiny
cheap, thin,
packaging, so much
to throw away.


This isn’t so much a poem as a rant.  I wrote it originally for Mary’s prompt on dVerse Poets to write about news – and am posting it on dVerse’s Open LInk Night

This is an old drawing, but seemed to fit. 


January 26, 2013

Junk News Speak


I try to skip the me-me-media
the talking heads of hair and tedia–
though it can be fun to watch those ‘dos
bob above their soundbite stews.

Still, the fact is there are those who will
shill and shill and shill and shill–
fake some outrage, mime some shock
though careful to keep every lock
of curl and bang and tress in place
while they fecklessly ape chase
of stories they tilt like a table
of pinballs whizzed right through the cable.

Instead I try to read and read,
or watch whole tapes, a whole news feed,
(Oh, sure I fail, sure I miss out–
there’s tons I don’t know much about.)
And maybe what I read ain’t fair,
But at least my news don’t come with hair.


Here’s a kind of silly poem for dVerse Poets Pub, hosted by the wonderful Brian Miller, on the subject of media.  I don’t read as much news as I should to be fully informed.  On the other hand, I do try to avoid TV news (don’t have a working TV), but I do get some news from clips!  And I think print media tends to be a bit more thorough and less narcissistic.  (That’s just my take though, and honestly, I don’t watch TV news so probably shouldn’t speak to it.) 

Can’t read the paper (not a problem of eyes.)

December 7, 2010

Lately I just can’t make myself read the newspaper.  Everything turns my stomach.   The New York Times especially.

I’ve even begun  to wonder whether the paper is following its ordinary lay-out; nothing holds the eye.

 This is not because the news is sad–some of it, such as the death of Elizabeth Edwards, certainly is.   Oddly, I can stand to read that story even though I  feel terribly sorry for Mrs. Edwards and certainly her children; there are elements of courage, strength, tragic loss.

Is it just me?  My over-stimulated ADD?

Or are stories laced with greed, posturing, and self-righteousness more sickening than stories about cancer? 

All the tax business, all the Wikileaks business, all the posturing, self-righteous business, all the posturing in the name of ‘small business’ business, all the greed.

I don’t think I would mind it so much if people flat-out admitted their weaknesses—if the New York Times, for example, in connection with its publication of all the Wikileaks stuff, said, “look, we want readers.”   

If the Republican leadership flat-out said, “look, we serve the rich.”   

 If Obama just said, “look, they’ve got me in a stranglehold.” 

Actually, I guess Obama is kind of saying that.  My eyes, heart, stomach, simply find it very hard to take.


Overly Cute Depictions of Fox (both as in News and Tails)

August 25, 2010

Unfortunately, it sometimes feels like Comedy Central, through the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report, provides the most probing commentary on TV.   In the August 23rd episode, Stewart examines Fox News’ allegations of possible nefarious ties between Park51, the organization trying to build the Islamic Center near Ground Zero, and the Kingdom Foundation run, as the Fox morning show casts it, by a shadowy “guy”, vaguely brought up next to the words Iran, ” who tried to give Rudy Giuliani 10 million after 9/11 and they had to give it back, a guy who funds radical madrassas all over the world.”  This “guy”, never actually named by Fox, is then revealed by Stewart to be Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, head of Kingdom Foundation, also a major shareholder in News Corporation, parent corp of  Fox News.

The Daily Show goes on with a rif on whether Fox’s  failure to properly identify Bin Talal arose from evil or stupidity (Wyatt Cenac taking the part of evil, John Oliver siding with stupid).

I was inspired.  Unfortunately, I can’t draw mordant, only cute.  Still, after doing the drawings, I noticed a suprising, if vague, resemblance—

Sly Fox


Dazed/ Dizzy  (I won’t say Stupid) Fox


(Note that the above images are subject to copyright.)

Business of News – the News Corp Business (and others)

August 18, 2010

"Conflict of Interest Wall"

I started today to write a post about conflicts of interest:  all that business about the News Corporation (as in Rupert Murdoch’s empire and parent company of Fox News) and its $1 million donation to the Republican Governors’ Association–

I started to write about News Corporation’s protest that the donation did not represent a shadow on the “fair and balanced” reporting of Fox News.  News claims any conflict of interest is nullified by the separation in its news division (the subsidiary company that didn’t make the donation) and its business division (the parent company that did make the donation).

This immense separation between the business side of the conglomerate and the news side is apparent even in the corporate name: “News” being one word and “Corporation” being another.

I included (in that not-published post) paraphrased jokes from Going Postal, the wonderful satire by the wonderful Terry Pratchett, in which Mr. Slant, zombie lawyer, explains the “Agatean Wall”, a barrier against abuse arising from conflicts of interest.

“‘How does it work exactly?” asked Vetinari.

“People agree not to do it, my Lord,” said Mr. Slant.

“I’m sorry.  I thought you said there was a wall,” said Lord Vetinari.

“That’s just a name for agreeing not to do it.”

In that post, I had all kinds of witty jokes.

And then, I got too depressed to finish that post.  Because the truth is that few of the people who go to Fox for their news will care about the big Republican donation.  (If they know of it.)

The fact is that news is a business in this country; news organizations have constituencies of consumers;  people tend to prefer reinforcement to challenge; in other words, they don’t mind biases in news, as long as the biases correspond to their own.   Which brings me to the item that kept me from finishing my other post – today’s headline in the New York Daily News (ironically not owned by the News Corporation) which claimed that Obama was supporting the 9/11 Mosque but not health care for 9/11 first responders, the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.  This, in spite of the fact that the Zadroga bill was defeated by Republicans in Congress, not by Obama or the Dems; in spite of the fact too, that Obama has not exactly supported the 9/11 Mosque (that’s been a source of complaint on other fronts) –  he’s supported freedom of religion on private property in accordance with local law.

So this evening Obama has released a statement explicitly saying that he looked forward to signing the Zadroga bill, when passed by Congress.  This, of course, is being touted by the Daily News as its personal victory.   No where does the victory article mention that Republicans have so far killed the bill, not Obama.   (I guess this level and kind of detail would not sell papers, even in NYC .)

The BBC, Mitch Miller, Insularity of U.S. News (Mommy Kissing Santa Claus)

August 3, 2010

Mitch Miller? (Looking for Mommy)

I’m a New Yorker.  I tend to read the New York Times and feel proud that it’s not the Post. But every once in a while, I feel a need to go further afield, usually to the BBC, partly so I can just listen to news rather than read it.  (If you don’t already know, the BBC has a wonderful site, in multiple languages with non-stop online “radio” choices.)

An hour of listening quickly changes one’s world view.  For one thing, it converts it into a world view.

This morning, for example, the BBC news stream gave time to the Papauan dissident with whom it had snagged an exclusive interview.  It reported the flooding in Pakistan; it quoted the South African judge sentencing a mendacious police chief; it interviewed the little Yemeni girls whose family took them from school when WHO stopped trading wheat for attendance and the girls’ mother who had to give them blood a couple of times against malnutrition.  It discussed a new novel about Afghanistan, some controversy involving Mossad, the current violence in Karachi.

Some of these stories were also reported in the New York Times, but when I looked at the online Times this morning, my eye kept hooking onto Mitch Miller’s goatee.  (Today’s article on Mitch was actually about an unsuccessful attempt to interview him.  Hmm….)

Sorry.  I actually love human interest stories;  I also loved Mitch Miller.  (Not just the Christmas hits; not only the happy accordian rifs–I will remember how my six-year-old heart twanged to The Prisoner’s Song till my final rest in the arms of my poor darling.)

What strikes one in listening to the BBC is how big the world is, how busy.  What is striking too is how local the many conflicts are–even as they are related to more universal issues of economics, religion, race == how they are played out in so many very local, very complicated ways.  In discussing the killings in Karachi, for example, the BBC talked of the number of Pashtuns in the city.  (To be fair, the Times mentioned Pastuns in their Karachi article too, but in a somehow more muted way.)    And me, I think “Pashtun”, that they are in Central Asia, Afghanistan.  Green eyes come vaguely to mind.

But what I am mainly impressed by is how little I know.  Like, sadly, most Americans.

What also impresses me is how much our regular news  (and I really don’t mean the Times here) often seems to reinforce our insularity and our ignorance of the world rather than dispelling them.   So that we can convince ourselves that we are well-informed simply because our homes have some kind of news feed 24/7–when often all that feed is telling us is about the time Mommy was seen kissing Santa Claus, or worse, suspected of kissing Santa Claus.

Junk “News” Nation – Twinkie/French Fry Speak Takes Bat At Kagan

May 16, 2010

Junk News Speak

Over the last few months on this blog, I’ve periodically embarrassed myself with confessions of my escapist fascination with vampire novels (and certain actors who play their starring characters.)  My only excuse has been a combination of stress, a decaying brain, and—I admit it—a wish to get “hits”.

Given my own weaknesses, I very much understand the drive of the news media (a) to sell papers; and (b) to get people to watch, or click on, their programming.

I also understand that legal theorizing, judicial precedent, and the parsing of amici briefs, can be–well, let’s say, boring. (We won’t go all the way to stultifying.)

As a result, I can imagine the glee of cable TV newsrooms when, faced with new Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, they found something other than Roe v Wade to hang a story on.

But, come on!  An old photograph–not of  the judicial nominee drunk and philandering, or speaking at a segregated club, or even wearing a funny hat–but playing softball?!  A game which is supposed to be the all American past-time, but which we now discover (after endless media discussion) is truly a code activity for gayness!

It’s all just so goofy (and sickening)–a dumb and dumber approach to news which relates to relevant fact in about the same way that tweeting relates to exposition.  Snarkiness substitutes for commentary; smirks for analysis; talking heads become chuckle heads as they fall over themselves to say that (a) they are not saying anything; and (b) by the way, did you get it?

In the same way that fast and processed food has taken the place of real food (food stripped of nutrients and hyped instead with artificial color, ultra-fructose sweeteners, and loads and loads of trans fat and salt), we now have fatty, salty, simpering gossip replacing real news, news that takes thought, and provokes thought.

At least, vampire novels don’t pose as anything but entertainment;  at least, the vampires in them openly show their fangs.

Newspeople, Bloggers, Blocking Writer’s Block

November 30, 2009

Yesterday, I wrote a kind of odd post about “Celebrity News” which focused on the addictive quest for celebrity in our culture.  I also discussed the intense craving of some newspeople, particularly TV newspeople, to be people “in the news” as well as people discussing it.

I felt a little guilty writing so dismissively about newspeople’s quest for attention.   It did not escape me that bloggers could be said to suffer from similar cravings.

I can’t speak for all bloggers—I only really know one.   Still, I think the average blogger’s pursuit of attention is somewhat different from that of the average TV newsperson.  First, the newsperson often seems to be embued by grandiosity;  a (perhaps inherent) narcissism has already been gorged by all the staff persons hovering– brushing their hair, checking their noses, patting their tummies—(wait a second, that’s spaniels–)

A blogger, in contrast, tends to be alone when working, either by choice or happenstance.  (The blogger’s family, losing all hope of a dinner at home, has gone out.)   The blogger, unlike the TV newsperson, or any TV persona, receves little coddling; their “stats” are a pretty good ego-toughener.   Moreover, the blogger knows that even the few that do “view” the blog may look for a second at most—the time it takes to realize that a mouthwatering tag like “Robsten” has led to no new gossip and questionable adulation.

As a result, the blogger must garner sustenance from the age-old wisdom of Gandhi, as quoted by that newly-minted sage, Robert Pattinson, in the trailer of his upcoming movie, Remember Me: “Gandhi said that whatever you do in life is insignificant, but it’s very important that you do it.”  (Sorry, but in the downswing from the manic side, I find myself studying this trailer.)

Which brings up what may be the most important difference between the TV newsperson’s motivations and the blogger’s.  The blogger (or at least the only blogger I know) does not crave attention so much as expression.  Yes, the blogger is thrilled when the number of hits rises, but his (her)  most engaging and happy moments, are those spent actually writing, typing, and cursorily editing, each post.  And then, of course, the pressing of the little button that says “Publish,” and the watching of that little button spin.

This is something for those with writer’s block to remember.   Try to get hooked on the process, and not to think too much of the impression that you, as the person engaging in the process, are making.  Of course, you need to keep your audience in mind.  You are trying to communicate.  You want your readers both (i) to be able to follow your work and (ii) to want to follow your work.   But try to keep the focus on the the writing, the message, and not on yourself as its deliverer.  Writing is not about getting your nose powdered, head (or tummy) patted, but about putting the words on the page.

Celebrity News

November 29, 2009

Addiction has long plagued man (and woman).  (Even, as was shown at the Central Park Zoo a few years ago, polar bear.)   There are the standard traps—alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and, if you are a polar bear, your 9 by 12 artificial arctic pool.   But addiction is not only a by-product of human nature, it’s also a creature of its time.  As a result, there are always new and interesting practices that people can get taken over by—crystal meth, online shopping, computer gaming, non-stop twittering or facebook checking (non-stop “stat” checking if you are a blogger), texting while driving, the 24 hour news cycle.  Even worse than an addiction to the 24-hour news is an addiction to the 24-hour celebrity news cycle;  worse than that, is the intense craving for celebrity status itself–the obsession with achieving fame.

Some addictions are obviously more damaging than others.  I, for example, view an addiction to either (a) Robert Pattinson, or (b) the Twilight books, as relatively benign.  They may be damaging to one’s reputation as a serious and/or thoughtful person, but they  are a relatively cheap indulgence, don’t truly harm others (except, perhaps, a thoroughly bemused spouse), and can even be satisfied in chocolate.  (See e.g. new Twilight assortments with foil wrapped and embedded portraits! )

Both Twilight and Pattinson also have the absolutely most healthy quality an addiction can have, which is that they get pretty boring pretty quickly.  (No offense, Rob; it’s not you so much as the dialogue.)

The addiction to the pursuit of celebrity status is a little more troubling.   Recent examples include Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the couple who crashed last week’s White House State Dinner, and Richard Heene, the father of the “Balloon Boy,”–all people apparently addicted to the pursuit of their fifteen minutes.

What’s more worrisome to me, however, is the Salahish, I mean salacious, pursuit of celebrity by people who once played serious and dignified roles in our culture.   I particularly mean people in the news business, who seem, increasingly, to want also to be people “in the news.”

In the early years of televised news, there was a dignity to the newscaster–Walter Cronkite, Frank McGee, David Brinkly, were TV personalities, but soberly somber.   We all know how this has changed in more recent years.   The reasons are obvious and not new—advertisers want ratings, outrageous and/or boorish commentators, perky blonde reporters, and “news” which is really entertainment (i.e. reality shows, sports, sensational crime shows) apparently achieve them.   Recently, however, the “celebritization” of newspeople on TV has not only become more intense, it has also spread to other sections of the press, which, due to commercial pressures and online versions, have  become increasingly TV-like.  For example, the New York Times now posts photos and videos, and advertises blogs and tweets, of its op-ed writers.  To some degree, this is useful;  you can better understand the overall stance of a commentator, and, if you like, you can read a lot more of them, but sometimes, well, you end up wanting to read a whole lot less.

Politicians increasingly crave “celebrity-style” status as well.  (Yes, Sarah Palin.)  As Colbert has demonstrated through his “Colbert bumps,” it’s better, election-wise, to be known, even if slightly ridiculed.  (Ideally, if apearing on Colbert,  it’s better to be known, and if ridiculed, also good humored.)

I guess people want circuses, even when bread is in short supply.

Talk About Sanctimony

September 5, 2009

Talk about sanctimony.   See e.g. the N.Y. Times “Lens” blog segment called “Behind the Scenes:  To Publish or Not” by David Dunlop about the decision of the Associated Press to publish the photograph of a mortally wounded marine over the objections of his immediate family members.

The photograph was part of a series by Julie Jacobson, a photographer embedded with a Marine unit in Afghanistan.  The series shows the soldier on patrol in the streets of an Afghani village, and then the solider on the ground minutes later, tended by a fellow marine, after his leg has been taken by a rocket-propelled grenade.  The series includes photos of fellow marines mourning the soldier, before his gear, at a memorial service.

The soldier’s father, when shown the photograph of his mortally wounded son, asked that it not be published, telling A.P. that by distributing the photo, it would be dishonoring the memory of his son.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote to A.P. on the family’s behalf, saying, “why your organization would purposefully defy the family’s wishes knowing full well that it will lead to yet more anguish is beyond me. Your lack of compassion and common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken child on the front page of multiple American newspapers is appalling.”

But, after what Santiago Lyon, head of the phography division at A.P. called “a healthy discussion…the decision we came to was that — as a journalistic imperative — the need to tell this story overrode some of the other considerations.”

Why am I not surprised?

A.P. and the photographer Jacobson acknowledge that the shock value of the photo was a strong factor in their decision to publish.  (Duh.)  As Jacobson said,  “it is necessary to be bothered from time to time.”  [Italics added.]

Okay, I understand A.P.’s position (which I’m going to accept is a good faith position and not simply as a cover for the photographer’s wish for fame and kudos, and A.P.’s wish to sell newspapers.)    I was very against the Bush administration’s refusal to allow flag-draped caskets to be filmed;  I felt it was a way to lessen the impact of the war at home, and that it, in fact, dishonored the sacrifice of the lost soldiers.

I’m also sure that Jacobson, embedded with the troops, grew to truly care about them and their sacrifice, and that she feels very strongly about the value of her work in bringing much needed attention to them.

So I understand (and I’m willing to believe) that A.P. and Jacobson really do want to show how awful war is, and to emphasize the burdens and terror suffered by the troops.

What I don’t get is how A.P. decided that the collective “bothering” of casual readers  (who can, if they want to get a better view, click a button to expand the image to full screen proportions) outweighed the additional specific anguish that they were causing the soldier’s family, the people who were closest to that soldier’s face and figure, who have a claim in his remains.  (The arrogance and sanctimony of that decision is so mind-blowing that it frankly tends to shake one’s willingness to believe that A.P. and Jacobson really are acting solely in good-faith, and are not swayed by unexamined narcissism.)

Yes, the photo makes the point about the omnipresence of terrible death in war.  But, in the face of the family’s objections, wouldn’t the image of the living soldier, with the phrase, “he was mortally wounded ten minutes later” do the trick?

Lyon of A.P. babbled that the death “becomes very personal and very direct in some way, because we have a name, we have a home town, we have a shared nationality and we have, to a certain extent, a shared culture and some common values.”  But couldn’t A.P. have illustrated the “shared culture” business by showing the soldier at, for example, his high school prom?

Jacobson, whom you sense is just desperate to defend her position (and is clearly devoted to a photo which she must view as one of the greatest of her career),  notes that the other marines in the squad had no objection to the idea of publication.  (I’m guessing the photo “bothered” them less since they were actually on the scene.)   Yet I wonder in this specific case if the marines were informed of the objections of their compatriot’s family.  Somehow I can’t quite hear them saying to Jacobson, “the family’s against it?  So what?”

The final appalling piece to me of this story is the sanctimony of the New York Times.   The Times, during the slow news days of Labor Day weekend, manages to re-publish the picture (again in clickable full screen proportions). In this case,the Times is not even reporting the poor soldier’s death or the terrible burdens faced by troops in foreign wars.  No, with pompous self-regard, it is republishing the photo simply to discuss the burdens of those in the Press.   (The burdens of dealing with family wishes, societal strictures as to appropriate conduct, good taste, compassion, common sense, honor.)

Shame on you, Times.