Archive for category: Newspapering

The Wire’s Final Season and the Story Everyone Missed

17 Mar
March 17, 2008

From the Huffington Post, March 17, 2008
Reprinted with Permission

Well now, it’s been a week since The Wire‘s final episode and a certain calm has descended, leaving a little less agita and a little more reflection. A moment for one last question:

That wasn’t too vicious, was it?

Sure there was a fabulist and, yeah, he snatched the big prize. Couldn’t resist, sorry. That was a bit beyond the historical reality; at the historical Baltimore Sun, he was a mere Pulitzer finalist. And okay, the city editor, the honorable fellow, the one for whom journalism was an ethos, he got slapped down and thrown to the copy desk. We did that, too, because hey, to criticize such a newsroom culture did indeed carry those risks in Baltimore.

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Does the News Matter To Anyone Anymore?

20 Jan
January 20, 2008

From The Washington Post
Sunday, January 20, 2008

Is there a separate elegy to be written for that generation of newspapermen and women who came of age after Vietnam, after the Pentagon Papers and Watergate? For us starry-eyed acolytes of a glorious new church, all of us secular and cynical and dedicated to the notion that though we would still be stained with ink, we were no longer quite wretches? Where is our special requiem?

Bright and shiny we were in the late 1970s, packed into our bursting journalism schools, dog-eared paperback copies of “All the President’s Men” and “The Powers That Be” atop our Associated Press stylebooks. No business school called to us, no engineering lab, no information-age computer degree — we had seen a future of substance in bylines and column inches. Immortality lay in a five-part series with sidebars in the Tribune, the Sun, the Register, the Post, the Express.

What the hell happened?

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The Reporter I: Cops Killers and Crispy Critters

01 Nov
November 1, 1992

Published in the Media Studies Journal of the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University, this was an argument for a return to narrative as a means of humanizing crime coverage.  I’d just published my first book and contemplating the second.  At this point, though, this is a rather amusing artifact given how the argument for narrative led me, kicking and screaming, out of journalism entirely.

At the moment you begin reading this, some poor bastard three years out of journalism school is sitting at a video-display terminal in a newspaper office somewhere in these United States, fingers darting on a keyboard. No doubt a cursor flashes through line after line of the same simple, tired

equation:

“A 17-year-old West Baltimore youth was shot to death yesterday in a murder that police say is related to drugs….”

Or, perhaps: “The battered body of a 25-year-old Queens resident was found by police along the shoulder of a Long Island expressway….” ‘

Or: “A 43-year-old East Los Angeles man was found stabbed to death in the trunk of his car…”

Behold the entrails of any large American newspaper’s metro section—misdemeanor homicides, casualties that will for the most part be interred in four paragraphs or less in those around-the-region packages.  Oh sure, if someone is unfortunate enough to be killed in the right zip code, if the victim happens to be famous, if he or she is killed for some unusual motive or in some unusual way (“Police said it was the first slaying involving a staple gun in more than a decade.”), then chances are a good newspaper will give it some space.  But most violence, when it first crosses a city editor’s path, looks decidedly similar: drug murder, drug murder, robbery murder, domestic, drug murder.

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