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Posts Tagged ‘journalism

“A convention was to him the arrival of a circus to a country lad”*…

 

On the occasion of the opening of the first of this summer’s political pageants, a look back at conventions as covered by H. L. Mencken

On June 20, 1948, a round and no doubt rumpled correspondent for the Baltimore Sun looked into the galleries of a Philadelphia convention hall and spotted the future.

His name was Henry Louis Mencken, and he didn’t like what he saw. It was the day before the Republican National Convention, and in a rehearsal of the proceedings technicians had turned on huge lights to accommodate television, a new presence at political conventions. In the dramatically increased glare, Mencken could see what these quadrennial political gatherings would become, and what they’ll be this summer, as another season of political conventions arrives in America: a pageant of images, in which what candidates say or do is perhaps less memorable than how they look.

“It passed off well enough, all things considered, and no one was actually fried to death,” Mencken said of the high-wattage illumination introduced that year in Philadelphia. “But I doubt if any politician, however leathery his hide, survives that unprecedented glare of light without a considerable singeing”…

More at “H.L. Mencken at the Convention.”

* Alistair Cooke, on his friend and colleague, H. L. Mencken

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As we vote our consciences, we might we might send acerbic birthday greetings to one of Mencken’s heirs, journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson; he was born in Louisville on this date in 1929.  The author of Hell’s AngelsFear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 is widely credited as the creator of the Gonzo school of journalism (an extreme form of New Journalism in which the reporter isn’t simply present, he/she is central), and widely remembered for his love of inebriates and guns, and for his hate of authoritarianism in general and Richard Nixon in particular.

…the massive, frustrated energies of a mainly young, disillusioned electorate that has long since abandoned the idea that we all have a duty to vote. This is like being told you have a duty to buy a new car, but you have to choose immediately between a Ford and a Chevy.
– Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72  (1973)

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Written by LW

July 18, 2016 at 1:01 am

“What the media produce is neither spontaneous nor completely ‘free’; ‘news’ does not just happen”*…

 

Every day, tens of thousands of publishers report the news world wide. Unfiltered News allows you to explore Google News data across all publishing languages and locations to find important global stories and perspectives that may not be covered in your location. Discover which locations report on similar topics, compare different perspectives on an issue, and track issue coverage over time.

Unfiltered.news

* Edward W. Said

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As we agree with Alan Kay that “a change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1865 that The Nation— the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the U.S.– was launched.  A successor to William Lloyd Garrison‘s anti-slavery publication The Liberator, it became the most widely read weekly journal of progressive political and cultural news, opinion and analysis.

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Written by LW

July 6, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind; for I can apply no milder term… to the general prey of the rich on the poor”*…

 

If all U.S. household income totaled $100, this is how it is divided

Something massive and important has happened in the United States over the past 50 years: Economic wealth has become increasingly concentrated among a small group of ultra-wealthy Americans.

You can read lengthy books on this subject, like economist Thomas Piketty’s recent best-seller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (the book runs 696 pages and weighs in at 2.5 pounds). You can see references to this in the campaigns of major political candidates this cycle, who talk repeatedly about how something has gone very wrong in America.

 Donald Trump’s motto is to make America great again, while Bernie Sanders’s campaign has focused on reducing income inequality. And there’s a reason this message is resonating with voters:

It’s grounded in 50 years of reality…

Take the tour at “This cartoon explains how the rich got rich and the poor got poor.”

* Thomas Jefferson

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As we take stock of ourselves, we might send yellowish birthday greetings to William Randolph Hearst; he was born on this date in 1863.  Hearst built the nation’s largest newspaper chain, and (in competition with Joesph Pulitzer) pioneered the sensational tabloid style– crime! corruption! sex!– that we’ve come to know as “yellow journalism.”  The possibly apocryphal, but indicative anecdote that became Hearst’s signature dates to the period just before the Spanish-American War: famed illustrator Frederic Remington, sent by Hearst to Cuba to cover the Cuban War of Independence, telegrammed Hearst to tell him all was quiet in Cuba. Supposedly Hearst responded, “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

Hearst parlayed his power as a publisher into a career in politics, serving two terms in Congress, then losing a series of elections (for Mayor of New York City, twice, and for Governor of New York State).  An early supporter of Franklin Roosevelt, Hearst became one of his staunchest– and loudest– opponents.

Hearst’s life was the inspiration for Orson Welles’s classic film Citizen Kane.

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“You are where your brain is but not where a front-page headline is”*…

 

Headlines in newspapers, teasers for TV new stories “at 11”– from it’s birth, the press has promoted its wares with précis that pique a peruser’s interest.  The advent of online journalism has only amplified that phenomenon… and to amusing effect.

Jeva Lange illustrates in “A field guide to identifying what website that headline came from.”

* Santosh Kalwar

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As we click on the bait, we might recall that it was on this date in 1920 that the 18th Amendment took effect, and the U.S. became dry.  Under 100 years earlier, American’s had been drinking an average of (the equivalent of) 1.7 bottles of hard liquor per week– three times the average these days.  A sin tax, levied at the end of the Civil War, moderated consumption a bit– but not enough to satisfy the coalition of women and evangelicals behind the passage and ratification of “The Noble Experiment”– the national ban on the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol that was better known as “Prohibition”– was ratified.  Prohibitionists had been after a ban for decades before the 18th Amendment went through.  But until the institution of an income tax (in 1913), the federal government depended for the majority of its income on alcohol taxes… so was indisposed to let Prohibition happen.

By the time it was repealed in 1933, organized crime had become a major feature of American city life, and the American public had adopted the invented-for-the-occasion word “scofflaw.”

The Defender Of The 18th Amendment. From Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty published by the Pillar of Fire Church

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Written by LW

January 17, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords”*…

 

Under the general heading “the robots are after my job,” Kevin Roose, the News Director of Fusion, on how he “wrote 7 blog posts in less than 3 seconds.” (Spoiler alert- it’s all about robojournalism…)

[image above from here]

* frequently-heard riff on Joan Collin’s immortal line (“I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords”) in the 1977 film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ Empire of the Ants. For more on ants, see yesterday’s (R)D

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As we polish our people skills, we might recall that it was on this date in 1876 that Seth Thomas was granted a patent on something that we may no longer need– an alarm clock.  U.S. patent No. 183,725 was issued for the metal case of a one-day back-winding alarm clock, the first American patent for an alarm clock of this familiar type.

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Written by LW

October 24, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event”*…

 

Witness Hilde Scheller during the murder trial of Paul Krantz, Berlin, 1928

One of the founding figures of photojournalism, Erich Salomon pioneered the use of hidden cameras—the phrase “candid camera” was first applied to him. A 1924 Ermanox equipped with glass plates and a relatively fast shutter speed, concealed in bowler hats and briefcases—and, in one memorable occasion, in bagpipes—allowed him to take photographs in places where they were strictly prohibited: in the casinos at Monte Carlo or at criminal trials. With a camera hidden in a sling, Salomon was the first photographer to take pictures of the United States Supreme Court in session.

Salomon was best known for his photographs of diplomatic gatherings at the highest level. Employing various subterfuges, he followed three statesmen across Europe—Aristide Briand, Joseph Chamberlain, and Gustav Stresemann—as they fecklessly tried, over champagne and cigars, to preserve peace in Europe. When he couldn’t gain admission to the inner sanctum, Salomon photographed the hat-check man asleep under the ministers’ hats, or members of the diplomatic entourage. One particularly brilliant photograph, rife with irony, shows Maurice Privat, Pierre Laval’s astrologer, perched on a sofa under Rubens’ painting The Conclusion of Peace, consulting a star chart as he waits for his daily session with the prime minister. The most famous of Salomon’s cat-and-mouse photographs records the moment when Briand, who dubbed him “the king of the indiscreet,” recognizes him across the room and points a friendly accusatory finger at him, just as Salomon snaps the image…

French Prime Minister Aristide Briand pointing at the photographer, during the negotiations of the Seven-Power Conference, Paris, July 19, 1931

More at “The Unguarded Moment.”

* Henri Cartier-Bresson

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As we “smile,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1954 that the iconic sequence of Marilyn Monroe, laughing as her skirt is blown up by the blast from a subway vent, was shot, during the filming of Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch.  One can imagine Salomon– or those he inspired (e.g., Cartier-Bresson, Eisenstadt, Walker) snapping at the same time…

Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch

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Written by LW

September 15, 2015 at 1:01 am

“In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs forever and ever”*…

 

Hand-wringing over the state of journalism– especially the state of print journalism– is a feature of our times. As Will Mari reminds us, the profession has been here before…

In the late 1950s, TV news was on the rise, as more and more Americans (nearly 90 percent of them, in fact) were buying sets. As broadcasters competed with print journalists for breaking news, writers for newspapers and magazines were rethinking their role as storytellers and interpreters.

Sigma Delta Chi, later known as the Society of Professional Journalists, recognized this. The Quill, its magazine for reporters and editors, confronted the occupation’s many challenges. From embracing discussions of technological change, to discussing journalistic failings (like how to handle the next Sen. Joe McCarthy) and encouraging its members to mentor younger journalists, the organization and others like it played a big part in the professionalization of the field.

Cartoons in The Quill poked fun at newsroom life. Occupational humor, often of the gallows variety, was (and remains) a critical way for journalists to think about their profession. Cartoons also appeared in abundance in other trade publications, such as in the American Newspaper Guild’s Guild Reporter and Editor & Publisher. The former championed labor, and the latter presented publishers’ point of view.

The Quill walked a middle path. Its cartoons, some unsigned and others bylined, depict the inhabitants of the newsroom going about their daily business. The humor had a light, earnestly innocent feel. Sigma Delta Chi’s members also included broadcast journalists, but the cartoons were drawn mostly from the perspective of print reporters…

* Oscar Wilde

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As we parse the new(s) paradigms, we might recall that it was on this date in 2005, in Woody Creek, Colorado, that the ashes of Hunter S. Thompson were “blasted into the sky over his farm [there], carried by red, blue and silver fireworks in front of a 153-foot monument that Mr. Thompson, the writer and avatar of “gonzo” journalism, designed himself almost 30 years ago.”

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Written by LW

August 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

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