Commentary: Journalism

Journalism

A Fuckbonnet For Our Time.

Hey, @jack. I thought, Mr. Dorsey, that we had an understanding. I would not ever concede that telling you or anyone else they ought to die of boils was unjustifiable after their own rhetoric lapsed into abject slander, dishonesty or dishonor, and you — pretending that I had somehow threatened the actual well-being of another human, or that my words were measurably more cruel than telling someone to, say, take a long walk off a short pier or grow like an onion with his head in the ground — would continue to bar me from the demagogue-encrusted, Nazi-profiteering national agora that you call a social-media platform. I was more than content with this bargain. For one thing, leaving intact on Twitter my threaded suggestion that boils are your deserved fate for your civic performance in this moment would make clear why I departed months ago. No one had actually been threatened or harassed, and the rhetoric itself was purposed as a precise critique of your incompetent attempts...

Read more
Gun Laws Journalism People Policy & Law Politics

Annapolis

Fifteen years as a newspaperman taught me a few select things. One is this: It is the god-given right of every American to resent or even hate his local newspaper. Indeed, it is our birthright to hate any and every news organization, print or broadcast. It is not certain that you will avail yourself of that right, or that you will invoke it consistently if you do, but it is there for you whenever life doesn’t go the way you want. Your hometown newspaper will highlight your most embarrassing utterance at the PTA hearing or detail your company’s bankruptcy, just as it will at some point ignore your daughter’s performance in the school play or miss the zoning hearing at which a porn shop is dropped a block and a half from your son’s middle school. It will herald some political views you abhor and denigrate some politicians you wish to cheer. It will spell your name incorrectly when you are named the Rotarian of the Year and dox you with precision when you are cuffed and processed for...

Read more
Journalism

Fare thee well, scrotelicks.

Once again — and this time with some expectation — I find myself banned from Twitter by virtue of an algorithm that protects, whether by willful intent or by incandescent stupidity, all manner of slander and brutality while policing only deserved insult. On this, perhaps my final go-round with the platform, the offense is as intended: I have, in my very critique of the Twitter rules, insulted its CEO, Jack Dorsey. I told him, in slightly more creative language, to drop dead.  Yes. I told him to take a long walk off a short pier, or grow like an onion with his head in the ground, or go jump out of a plane without a parachute. But in my particular case, I used the Yiddishkeit of my grandfather. I told him to die of boils. That’s it.  That’s what I did. And I will confess I find it harder and harder to believe that Mr. Dorsey or the others engaged in regulating speech on his horror-show of a platform are unaware that their detached and dystopic vision of what is...

Read more
Drug War Journalism On Newspapering and Journalism On the Drug War Policy & Law

Ain’t no justice. It’s just us.

In light of the frustration that many feel in the wake of this week’s mistrial in the first Freddy Gray prosecution, I thought I’d dig out an old newspaper clip. Written by veteran police reporter Roger Twigg and myself, it is an account of another Baltimorean who died in the back of a police wagon, and the early stages of an investigation that went nowhere once prosecutors, a city grand jury and police union lawyers did their business. In this instance, now nearly a quarter century old, the sustained injuries were not to the victim’s spinal cord, but to his spleen and his ribs. In this instance, the prisoner was also clearly in distress and ignored.  In this case, the wagon man rode the victim around Baltimore not for 45 minutes without medical assistance, but for a full hour. In this instance, the wagon man actually told other prisoners not to step on the prone victim, because, he said, the man had AIDS. And in this case, too, as with Mr. Gray, there was...

Read more
Drug War Journalism

Mr. O’Malley’s Bad Math

In 2000, as Martin O’Malley took over as mayor of Baltimore and promised to bring crime under control, there was worry on the part of some in the city that the zero-policing, broken-windows strategies he hoped to import from New York might result in a culture of mass arrest and a dimunition of civil liberties. A year later, after Police Commissioner Ed Norris had trimmed 43 murders to drop Baltimore under the 300-homicide-a-year mark for the first time in a decade, Mr. O’Malley could note  — and did note to the New York Times — that the achievement had come without any corresponding increase in the rate of arrest. “It never happened,” the new mayor said, proudly.  “We turned the murder rate by doing a better job of arresting the hard-core criminals.” And they had.  And though Mr. O’Malley at that time claimed an annual arrest total of 78,000 — it would eventually be recorded as 8,000 more than that — he was justified in...

Read more
Admired Work Journalism Memoriam Parenthood

Ted Lippman (1929-2014)

It’s hard to scale the heights of requiem without stumbling into a deep ravine of sentiment and cliche, and I know some will measure what follows against the known place of the old Baltimore Sun in the pantheon of American newspapering. No, we were not a Washington Post of the last late century, with Bradlee’s feet on the desk and Watergate dueling scars adorning a set jawline, or a New York Times for the Middle Atlantic, our paper-of-record certitude enshrining our every effort. We certainly weren’t some rough-and-tumble tabloid squealing about headless bodies in topless bars, or even a Chicago broadsheet or Hearst rag for which Hildy Johnsons might labor with gin on their breath and cigarette burns between their typing fingers. We were pretty staid. Too staid, perhaps, and a little too proud of a noble, grey history. We were often accused by our younger sibling, the Evening Sun, of pretense and pomposity. H. L. Mencken, who we vaguely claimed but who had in fact...

Read more
Drug War Gun Laws Journalism

The endgame for American civic responsibility. Pt. I

I’m going to write something fresh about Ferguson, Missouri, and the once-extraordinary notion that law enforcement officers — uniquely authorized, trained and armed as they are to use lethal force against American civilians in peacetime as is necessary to serve the commonweal — need not be identified when they have in fact taken a human life.  The notion that police officers are entitled to anonymity after such an action is not merely anti-democratic; it is, in fact, totalitarian.  The idea that a police department, with all of its resources and sworn personnel, might claim to be unable to protect an officer from retribution, and therefore employ such anonymity to further protect the officer from his citizenry is even more astonishing.  And any police agency showing such institutional cowardice which might then argue its public should continue to come forward and cooperate with officers in police investigations and to trust in the outcome is engaged in little more...

Read more
Journalism On Newspapering and Journalism Writing

Libel per se – UPDATED TWICE

UPDATE:  12 p.m., July 4 I am informed that the Huff Post piece has now removed the reference to my having been fired.  Instead, apparently, my revenge was had upon editors who spiked one of my articles because my writing wasn’t “Dickensian” enough.  They never said anything of the sort to me or anyone else, and that is not actually the reason that particular article was spiked.  I carefully related the actual sequence of events to Dr. Williams in my April memo as a discussion of  that particular article and its fate features throughout her manuscript, but no matter.  With regard to the Huff Post essay at least, I am libeled no more and I thank the author for her apology at the bottom of the essay. A brief word on the non-performance of the Huffington Post in this matter, on their publishing ethic, and on the manner in which this institution conducts its business: The abdication of editorial responsibility in the case of aggregated sites such as Wikipedia or barely...

Read more
Gun Laws Journalism

Addendum: The National Review and the deaths of schoolchildren

In the discussions that have followed the Newtown tragedy, I thought myself ready for just how much abstraction and distraction would be offered so that we might avoid focusing on the actual metallic instruments that fire actual projectiles that end actual lives. I’d heard it all before, and I assumed I’d hear it all again.  But no, I just encountered this essay, authored by Charlotte Allen. For real. Are the seeming adults who claim to be in command the National Review so committed to the ideological that they are ready and willing to twist childhood, or the culture and purpose of a classroom, or even the benign and essential role of the grade-school teacher, into something altogether hideous? Read the Review and weep for our pathetic, feminized educator class, devoid of any shred of warrior ethos.  Oh, those ineffectual teachers, thinking they were there to teach young children, when so much more was clearly called for.  They went like Jews to the ovens — unready...

Read more
Journalism

Stray penises and politicos

I can remember the specific moment when I swore off the sex lives of the famous as journalistic currency.  It was the case of a national sportscaster — I won’t name him, but, alas, most of those old enough will remember the name, which is regrettable — whose sex life had suddenly become the media chow. This man had been involved in a consensual relationship with another adult and for reasons both ridiculous and obscure, the other adult thought it just and meaningful to reveal herself and her complaints, making explicit all of the unique and varied ways in which she and this man had expressed their sexuality.  And my, wasn’t he a weird one.  And wasn’t it funny. When that story broke, I was standing in the newsroom of the Baltimore Sun and I remember my growing distaste watching reporters and rewrite men as they were sucked, joking and snickering, into the breaking news.  And no one had any doubt that it was news.  The man was a national sportscaster, for the love of...

Read more
Journalism On Newspapering and Journalism

Columbia Journalism Review: Free For All

For the last few days, I’ve been heartily engaged in the comments section of a couple CJR items that originated from the New Orleans Times–Picayune‘s travails.  I advocate for the industry-wide adoption of online pay walls to sustain high-end journalism. Others regard this as a disastrous suggestion. As the comments began to pile up, I saw some insight and a lot of argumentative fallacy.  People do love to call names. But I kept at it, hoping to draw others into the fray.  Maybe even get CJR to use their publication to revisit at this moment the idea of news as a product and whether that product can — in any environment, and under any conditions, not merely today’s dystopic newspaper dynamic — command a price commensurate with its cost, or much of its cost  (residual advertising revenue still being present  both on- and offline).  The New York Times just reported that Wall Street analysts are saying subscription revenue from the paywall adopted by...

Read more
Journalism

The Awards Culture Revisited

It seems that a stray reporter did something unthinkable within the established and calcified hierarchy of the New York Times.  He up and put his own work in for a Pulitzer Prize and then, as an additional affront, he managed to win the award for international reporting. When the Pulitzers were announced earlier this week, Jeffrey Gettlemen had won for the Times with his reporting on famine and conflict in East Africa, a corner of the globe routinely ignored as a matter of course.  A petulant Times foreign editor, Joseph Kahn, was quoted in the paper’s own coverage as noting that “while some reporters might have felt his editors knew best” about the nomination, Jeffrey put himself forward for the Pulitzers — and for that, Jeffrey, bless your heart.” What arrogance.  What narcissism.  What ego. Not Mr. Gettlemen, mind you.  But rather Mr. Kahn in as much as his words represent the prize-culture temperament at America’s last great newspaper. All in...

Read more

Send this to a friend