If you are on the BU campus this Wednesday, we are lucky to be hosting a visit by Carlotta Gall, who has covered Afghanistan and Pakistan for the New York Times for more than a decade. Forget the analysts. Forget the politicians. Here comes someone who really knows what she’s talking about.
Place: CAS, 223. Time: 4 p.m.
by Chris Daly
For years, I had heard about a newspaper that once existed in New York City that carried no advertising.
How could this be? I wondered.
Years later, I had the chance to explore the history of that newspaper, which was called PM. For eight madcap years during the 1940s, PM defied many of the assumptions about the news media and offered New Yorkers a daily paper that was smart, funny, and avowedly left-wing.
As it turned out, the paper’s founding editor was Ralph Ingersoll — one of the most important journalists of the 20th Century whom no one has ever heard of. To my great good fortune, it also turned out that Ingersoll decided to donate all his papers to Boston University. That’s where I caught up with them and discovered that Ingersoll was a great keeper of records and a serial drafter of his own memoir.
The result is an article that I wrote for the Columbia Journalism Review, which posted it to the CJR website today. Enjoy.
(BTW: In the CJR piece, I did not write the headline!)
By Chris Daly
I just finished a book that surprised me — Second Read: Writers Look Back at Classic Works of Reportage.
I found it surprising because when I first picked it up, I thought it would be yet another anthology of great works of journalism, perhaps with brief headnotes introducing each one. Instead, this is a collection of well-considered essays by contemporary writers about some of the great works in the history of (mainly American) journalism. The overall editor is James Marcus of Columbia’s J-School, and he drew on the faculty and the masthead of CJR for most of the entries.
A few of these essays pointed me to works that I have never read and now want to catch up with (DeFoe’s “A Journal of the Plague Year,” Paul Gallico’s “Farewell to Sport,” Cornelius Ryan’s “The Longest Day”).
Others were meditations on familiar works that made them fresh again (Evan Cornog on Liebling’s “Ear of Louisiana,” Scott Sherman on Frady’s “Wallace,” David Ulian on Didion’s “Slouching Toward Bethlehem”).
My only regret is that this book does not include the originals — or at least significant excerpts — that are being celebrated. I am sure a publisher can explain why this book can make a little money at 184 pages and would lose a fortune at 1,840 pages. Oh, well. Off to the library to hunt down the originals.
If you have any interest in journalism history or “literary journalism,” don’t missSecond Read.
From David Carr comes welcome news to all of us who care about the magazine trade, long-form journalism, etc.: Esquire magazine is thriving.
Way to go, David Granger!
By Chris Daly
The Supreme Court (finally) got one right today. Ruling in a critical case that involves (among other things) your freedom to control who knows what about you, the Court said the police do not have the right to sneak into (or under) your car to plant a secret GPS device so they can track your every move, for as long as they want. It was a unanimous ruling, no less, which is a rarity these days.
Here is the ruling.
Here, for the record, is the Fourth Amendment (always worth brushing up on), plus the Wiki page.
Can this happen fast enough?
Look here and here.
My only quarrel with Joe Nocera, who is doing some good reporting on this issue, is that I think he just wants to reform the NCAA, when the real answer is staring him in the face: Ban intercollegiate sports.
Here’s my question: What educational goal does the NCAA advance?
To read the full Supreme Court decision in the foreign-copyright case (Golan v. Holder), go here.
Be sure to read the dissent by Justice Breyer, which kicks in after page 41. He alone on the court seems to get that the Constitution recognized copyright as a mechanism to provide for the general benefit of society and not to create a property right for certain individuals.
May some future court come around to that understanding.
By Chris Daly
–First, let’s pause a moment and let this sink in: Eastman Kodak has filed for bankruptcy protection.
This is the company that ruled photography in the 20th Century, the company that made photography a popular activity, and the company that really enabled photojournalism by making cheap portable cameras as well as flexible, lightweight film.
–Second, the chips are falling in the online piracy dispute. Regrettably, this issue appears to be turning into a shouting match. For all the advocates of “freedom,” the question remains: What about stealing the work of creative people? To be continued. . .
–Coincidentally, there was also a little-noticed SCOTUS ruling yesterday on copyright. Now, while I favor granting copyright to make sure that content-generators get paid for their work, I have to wonder how much sense it makes to impose new copyright restrictions on the work of dead foreigners. The purpose of the U.S. copyright law is to encourage creative output by giving Americans an economic incentive to write, compose, paint, etc. Putting new restrictions on “Peter and the Wolf” is not going to bring any new work out of Prokofiev (no matter how much his heirs may rake in). This, too, is not the answer.
–Finally, the gift (to media reporters) that keeps on giving: The Murdoch Hacking Scandal. Jude Law is smiling today because he is among three dozen victims of phone hacking by Murdoch reporters who have extracted “settlements” (i.e., payoffs) from Murdoch’s News Intl. The “nut graf”:
The apparent admission of a cover-up seemed likely to add to the challenges facing Mr. Murdoch in Britain. News International, the British subsidiary of News Corporation said it would not immediately comment, Reuters reported.
Andrew Cowie/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
By Chris Daly
I am trying to resist the temptation to pile on Mitt Romney (Oh, all right: I am not trying very hard!).
When journalists assess his claims to be a job-creator through his work at Bain Capital, they need to dig a little. The important issue, of course, is whether Bain was a net job creator.
Take one case: Understandably, Romney is fond of citing his role in launching the office supply superstore chain Staples. His campaign boasts that Staples “created” 90,000 jobs (and sometimes 100,000 jobs). That may be true, although journalists should still check it. But even if true, it is not the whole story. Staples is what is sometimes called a “category killer.” That means that its success depends on — or at least results in — the elimination of a whole category of existing businesses. In the Staples case, the rise of all those superstores did not occur in a vacuum. Their growth came at the expense of many, many little mom&pop stationers that used to occupy storefronts in many downtown areas. Those independent small businesses are now almost completely gone from the American scene.
It’s the same process you see with Home Depot. As they grow, there go the little, local hardware stores that used to be everywhere. Same with WalMart and other “category killers.”
So, the question that journalists should pursue about Romney is: how many jobs were left after Staples wiped out the category known as the independent stationer?
Particularly in a party that venerates small businesses, that is a question that should have some political salience.
By Chris Daly
I don’t usually take frankly partisan positions in this blog, and I will try not to do that here, even in the midst of the Iowa caucus-ing.
What struck me in the last few days was the lament of Newt Gingrich about the flamethrower approach of the Romney camp, which has bombarded Gingrich with negative TV ads. For a Republican to complain about unrestricted negative campaigning is more than a bit rich. It’s like Dr. Frankenstein complaining about his monster.
Questions for the media to keep in mind:
1. Who elevated the dark art of negative campaigning to its highest level?
[Hint: Lee Atwater, Karl Rove. . .]
2. Who thought is was a good idea to allow unrestricted spending on political ads?
[Hint: Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito, Kennedy.]
In other words, the answer to both questions is REPUBLICANS. To the best of my knowledge, no mainstream media accounts of this election have mentioned this factual matter of background. I would say that reporters and editors should give this some thought. How will the media address this reality? Will journalists explain the factual history of the issue? Will they try to find a way to neutralize or offset it? Will television station owners in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and elsewhere reject those ads? Will the media interpret non-partisanship to mean that they must look the other way?
To be continued. . .
[Illustration of the Goethe figure the Sorcerer’s Apprentice by S. Barth, via Wikimedia]