Where [his essays] fail to reach the reader’s heart, etc. etc.
SEE NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION, TO WHICH THIS HAS BEEN MOVED.
Where [his essays] fail to reach the reader’s heart, etc. etc.
SEE NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION, TO WHICH THIS HAS BEEN MOVED.
Another beautiful day, heading for 75, the young woman told me at Bread Kitchen. Even with a seasonal crispness to contend with, this coffee drinker repaired to a sidewalk table, today with a slice of honey whole wheat — so big a slice that he took some of it home with him, for depositing in the fridge door under wraps.
Being under wraps is not always a bad thing, by the way. Joe Biden seems to be staying that way in the current campaign, and it’s a good idea. He’s there for ballast (not for the Connecticut vote), supplying what Dems may think is gravitas, a Latin word that does not mean gravity. It had its day an election or so ago, so why bring it up here?
Because the Boy Wonder is among us, clean and articulate, as Biden said back in primary-campaign days. He is with us now for at least 24 days more, if not for an eternity beyond that. He has marvelous miraculous things in mind for us, such as raising taxes and creating jobs at the same time. He also has money by the carload, having reneged on his pledge to take public money and let it go at that. This is allowing him to flood airwaves with his inspiring message. Tsk, tsk.
His armies of the day and night are doing yeoman work. I mean the mainstreamers, who are setting new records, laying pretense aside as they huff and puff.
I was in an email group discussion the other day with ex-newsies bemoaning the fate of Chi Trib. One of them made a blog posting out of it. I’m the one who said he subscribes to the Wall Street Journal these days. I am not in there with my tentative, toe-in-water comment that USA Today-type format may be more suitable for the daily newspaper.
Unwilling to let this light bulb burn out too quickly, and blithely (if in no other way) unaware of who else may have said this a long time ago, I do want to pursue it, with this change: Make that tabloid format. The Sun-Times has been in that format, as we know, as was the Chicago Times before merging with Marshall Field’s Sun, a broadsheet, in 1948.
The tabloid better suits the spot-item character of the newspaper. The broadsheet (a la Chi Trib, if the term is new to you), on the other hand, is an incitement to blather. Add to that the dearth of sharp, unyielding city and copy deskers who make it their business to put things in English, as Chi Daily News’s Bill Mooney used to say, and you have at best a warm bath and certainly not the needle-sharp shower that a good newspaper provides.
Chi Trib, on yet another hand, is flirting with tabloid-style content and treatment (and layout, when it comes to big, BIG headshots) but remains the same old big-page paper, except not as well organized. I have no idea what they should do over there. Times are perilous.
No idea except that they go looking for the hardest-ass copy editors in the market, people who don’t give a shit who wins the election or whether the world burns up or freezes down or whether there are fewer black baseball players or white basketball players or all sorts of fever-producing issues that tell us WHERE THEY STAND.
Pleeez, I am (we are) hungry for items of info. We don’t care what they think. They should just tell us what’s happening, in raw form if necessary. And keep it short. Make nothing in the paper over 500 words, said a Daily News sub-editor to me years ago who went on to a long career at the Atlanta Constitution after the News folded in 1978.
Even then, even there, it was probably a minority opinion. But consider the discipline involved in reporters’ and editors’ keeping things that short, how such a strict norm would make them ask themselves what’s important, what do straphangers, a readership Bill Mooney kept in mind, want to know about this?
Sun-Times page one home-delivery head is Mary Mitchell column.
“Obama’s verdict: ‘She delivered.’”
Chi Trib’s is a bit more tentative.
Wall St. Journal’s is reportorial.
Washington Post (online) digs deeper.
Great speech, says Post,
But when Clinton stepped off the stage and the standing ovation faded into silence, many of her supporters were left with a sobering realization: Even a tremendous speech couldn’t erase their frustrations.
S-T’s using column for head has precedent. Other day they headlined a Carol Marin column: “Nepotitis!” No cure, etc. (I thought Marin was terminally ill with a new disease, but they were talking about nepotism in Illinois politics.)
Trib’s Jim Tankersley does workmanlike job, and that’s a compliment, giving us a good hard lede:
DENVER – It would have made a good acceptance speech. But that was not hers to give, and so, for a highly anticipated half-hour on Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton swallowed defeat and urged her supporters to accept Barack Obama.
Ditto Wall St. online story, rewritten for later deadline, different readership:
DENVER — Sen. Hillary Clinton’s speech to Democrats here Tuesday night was arguably as vital to the party’s hopes for winning the White House as Sen. Barack Obama’s big address will be Thursday.
Meanwhile, back at the online Trib, if you don’t mind throwing up, try Dawn Turner Trice, billed as telling us African Americans ‘felt sucker punched’ — AA’s “and others” actually, just before telling readers, “You tell me.”
Glad to. Start with the lede ‘graf of her junior-high prize-winning writeup, blog-style:
By the time I raced over to the Pepsi Center tonight, the fire marshals and Secret Service had shut the hall down. Many of the entrances to the main event were cordoned off. The convention hall was filled to capacity. Hillary was about to speak. Hillary in her hot tangerine pantsuit. Hillary with the FIRE in her belly.
Oh my. We are going all Norman Mailer, are we? Armies of the night, anyone? Go girl.
I watched her speech from the press tent a few yards away from the main hall.
I wouldn’t be telling you anything you didn’t already know if I said the first thing you feel (not see—because the feeling hits you in the gut) about Sen. Hillary Clinton is that she’s a complicated figure.
If we already know, why is she telling us? Feeling hits in gut? Who would have thought that? H. is not just complicated, but “a complicated figure.” Yes. Leave tight writing for Western Union.
Love her or hate her, she’s tough as hell. It’s hard not to — at the very least — stand in awe of a woman who wins 18 million votes in a presidential contest. She calls it 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling. I couldn’t agree more.
And yet, that gut feeling you get sometimes turns to queasy.
I feel her queasiness.
Hillary called it 18 million cracks, and Michelle used the phrase. Quick reference here, pls. Some of us non-Hillary-fans didn’t get Michelle’s allusion.
Turner T. offers this insightful remark, again in junior-high-winning prose, this time with a bit of Hemingway:
Hillary Clinton was determined to win during the primary. She wanted it—badly. [sic]
Wow. And the stunning closer:
Hillary Rodham Clinton is a fighter. That’s who she is, through and through. [Blah blah] Yes, the primary got ugly. It became divisive. She and her husband danced some not-so-fancy footwork around the color line. African Americans (and others) felt sucker punched.
But, in the end, it wasn’t personal. The Senator from New York [dramatic flourish here] delivered a winning speech tonight. It’s time for her newly minted detractors to shake it off?
Shake it off? Her newly minted detractors? What the hell is she talking about?
You tell me.
I don’t know.
Here’s exhibit 125th — or is it 1,125th? — why I have subscribed to the Wall Street Journal. It’s what I got on page one of my home-delivered Chi Trib, which landed right next to my Journal:
The Tribune’s Alex Rodriguez finds cagey denials and unverified claims aimed at gaining global support
By Alex Rodriguez | Tribune correspondent
12:07 AM CDT, August 18, 2008
TBILISI, Georgia — A Russian newspaper recently published what was portrayed as the seamy truth behind the conflict in Georgia: Vice President Dick Cheney helped engineer the war as a way to keep Barack Obama from getting elected.
The tortuous logic behind the claim may be hard to grasp, but the intent isn’t.
Russia acts like Germany in 1938, and we have time for relaxed irony? And with a touch of pox on both their houses, at that?
The claim, made by Sergei Markov, a political analyst closely tied with the Kremlin and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, was meant to shift blame away from Moscow and lay it on an obvious target on the other side of the Atlantic. In an age when Russia tries to show itself as a democracy free from the shackles of the Soviet mind-set, it had all the markings of Kremlin propaganda.
This is Tribune thumb-sucking at its best — while the newspaper burns. From their man in Russia, for God’s sake, here reporting from Tbilisi.
Now see what I found in the Journal:
First of all, it’s by one guy in Poti, another in Gori, each on the ground, as we say. The lede is crisp and business-like:
Russia, under intense diplomatic pressure, announced it will begin pulling troops out of neighboring Georgia — but it leaves behind a battered Western ally.
Since a separatist dispute flared into open war Aug. 8, Moscow has occupied chunks of Georgia’s territory, strangled its economy, cut transport links and damaged key investment projects.
There’s diplomatic reporting, from Georgian economy minister, the Russian president, Sec. of State Rice, White House spokesman, the German chancellor, the Georgian First Deputy Minister of Economic Development, etc.
Then from Poti, a town on the Black Sea:
Though hundreds of miles from the fighting in Georgia’s separatist province of South Ossetia and clearly not a military asset, Poti’s huge commercial port was targeted 10 days ago in a Russian bombing raid that killed 10 people and wounded 40. The town itself has seen daily incursions by Russian troops who have looted stores, trashed offices and systematically destroyed military infrastructure, according to Georgian officials. Some looting has been captured on local television.
From Alan Middleton, the English head of Poti Sea Port Corp.:
“The Russians deliberately targeted commercial operations to inflict economic damage on Georgia. Dropping bombs on Poti port, killing people — I don’t see how you can connect that with South Ossetia.”
Lots more from Poti, including:
[A]bout 700 Russian troops trundled into town in tanks and armored personnel carriers. Tengiz Khukhia, the town’s deputy mayor, approached the Russian commander, who told him they had orders to eliminate all Georgian military facilities in Poti. He also issued a warning. “He said if any of you touch a hair on any of my soldiers’ heads, we’ll flatten the whole town,” says Mr. Khukhia. The commander couldn’t be located for comment.
Lots, lots more, plus another story from the scene, in this case Tkviavi, with this lede:
As armored columns rumble by, the body of Shamil Okroporidze is rotting for the fifth day in his garden, just two steps off the main north-south highway that bisects this village deep in Russian-occupied Georgia.
And there’s neither pathos nor bathos nor sentimental rot, just reporting in time-honored straight fashion, bringing the reader along. And no “war of spin.”
Front page newspaper-ism in Chicago, yes. Chi Trib has major story, “The mud hits Chicago.” Read all about it.
The mud is an anti-Obama ad that the O. campaign has rebutted to its satisfaction. Trib Wash. bureau is on the job, making sure we know:
Obama’s campaign says the link between Obama’s votes and violent crime is specious, and that Obama has actually done more to effectively combat urban violence than his Republican opponent, John McCain, who it says has consistently resisted federal efforts to place more police officers on the streets and voted against banning vest-piercing, or so-called cop-killer, bullets.
Take that, McCain.
Next to it is big pic of half-naked swimmer, the guy we’ve been reading about all week. Read this story, fresh in your home-delivered Trib from the Baltimore Sun, and rehash what you know from watching NBC. Reading fun, to be sure. Front page newspaperism, remember.
Down below is a hot story about “seniors” — as in citizens, not high school or college — learning how to surf and, God knows, even blog. This is like the Obama campaign ad in that it’s an ad for this guy who gets $75 an hour to show seniors how to do it, complete with riveting shot of this guy and man who at age 76 — yes, 76! — is learning.
If this story is on the web site, it’s well hidden; so no link is offered. But for another about a senior who blogs (!), read this blog, day after day after day. It’s an ongoing saga of man against the odds, a thrilling tale, yes.
Finally on today’s front-page Trib, we have “Progress against toxins in toys takes small steps,” with this crisp lede:
When a nationwide ban on hormone-disrupting chemicals in soft plastic toys and cosmetics takes effect early next year, it will mark an important turning point in efforts to remove toxic compounds from consumer products.
You see it here in four lines. In the home-delivered Metro edition, bottom right FRONT PAGE, it’s in nine lines. Wow.
It’s all about phthalates, which
are suspected of causing reproductive and developmental problems, especially in boys. Then there are perfluorinated compounds in food packaging, stain-resistant carpets and non-stick pans that have been linked to cancer and birth defects. A chemical found in hard plastic baby bottles and water containers, bisphenol A, causes breast cancer and lowers sperm counts in animal tests.
Now what kind of reader wants to read all that over his morning coffee and whole wheat toast? And how many are there of this rare breed?
Sam Zell, do you see now what you’ve got yourself into?
The U.S. editor of Times of London has blessed us with a marvelous rendition of a recent non-political trip by a U.S. senator:
And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.
Etc. Read it here.
The life of the recently deceased Jerry Holtzman had its up and downs:
“Like so many who worked with him, I respected and loved Jerry Holtzman,” Michael Davis writes. “That may explain the pain of awakening Tuesday morning to read his obituary posted on the Tribune’s Web site. The story suggested Jerry had been run out of the Sun-Times in 1981, into the welcoming arms of the Tribune. It implied he had been a victim of neglect at the hands of know-nothing editors on Wabash Avenue.
“While it’s true Jerry was shunted aside in the mid-1970s by sports editor Lewis Grizzard, within a few years his career bounced back as if he had Flubber on his heels.”
Grizzard was a perfectionist as to writing style, the story goes, and got after Holtzman for using cliches. Holtzman told him they were cliches he had invented.
Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2007), a novella, is such a good book. The reader is the current Queen Elizabeth, who picks up reading in the years immediately preceding her 80th birthday and finds it liberating and elevating. It’s a book about reading and the life of the mind and coming to terms with oneself.
In the end she turns to writing, which leads to a stunning denouement better left unrevealed here. Writing her memoirs, that is, but not showing and telling with them: no gossip but “analysis and reflection,” as she tells her assembled privy councilors from her 50-plus years as queen, gathered for her birthday in a festive tea.
Proust weighs heavily in this decision. So does Ivy Compton-Burnett, whom she had “damed” some time back without reading a thing she had written. Wonderful, wonderful book.
Chi Trib books section, demoted some time back to a Saturday feature and on a diet with other book sections in recent years, repays rather close attention, I am finding in recent weeks. Today, for instance, It talks up a mystery book about Chicago written not in recent years at all:
Sixty years ago, Chicago newspaper writer Fredric Brown, a Gary teenager who’d started his career as a proofreader on a Milwaukee paper, won an Edgar Award for best first novel from the Mystery Writers of America. His book was “The Fabulous Clipjoint,” and it’s still considered one of the best crime novels about Chicago.
The reviewer, Dick Adler, reviews crime fiction for Publishers Weekly and other publications and blogs at The Knowledgeable Blogger, “for lovers of crime fiction — which he’d better update, since it calls him “a former” reviewer” for the Trib.
I have already ordered The Fabulous Clipjoint — set in the Tip Top Tap, atop the Allerton hotel on Boul Mich in 1948 at the latest — from ABE Books. The book aims to “preserve forever, like bugs in amber, the seedy pleasures of our shared pasts,” Adler tells us — invitingly to a Chicagoan who was then in his late ‘teens.
”We walked north two blocks on the east side of Michigan Boulevard to the Allerton Hotel. . . . The top floor was a very swanky cocktail bar. The windows were open and it was cool there. Up as high as that, the breeze was a cool breeze and not something out of a blast furnace. We took a table by a window on the south side, looking out toward the Loop. . . . ‘Beautiful as hell,’ I said. But it’s a clipjoint.”
That sort of stuff is not great, but it’s clean and clear. So is Adler’s discussion of it:
Ed [one of two prime protagonists] knows he has to find out what happened [to his murdered father] but can’t do it himself. So he heads for Janesville, Wis., where the J.C. Hobart carnival is doing business and looks up his uncle, Ambrose Hunter, a barker and roustabout who is the smartest man Ed has ever met. They head back to Chicago, where they pick up Wally’s trail, bribe a friendly detective, act like tough guys (not easy for the boyish Ed or the short and tubby Am), meet a swell dame who loves Ed and lies to him, and actually solve the murder.
Adler sold me, and his brief account of Frederic Brown’s writing life — “a man who often told his wife he hated writing” — did the same for a man he compares to Hammett “and other crime icons.” I look forward to the ABE copy, which I’m getting for under $5, shipped. An excellent service, that.
Oh to be in Winnetka, now that Cynthia’s there signing her book:
Come out to say hello and support Cynthia Clampitt when she talks about her book, Waltzing Australia, and does a signing, 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 4 at Chestnut Court’s Book Stall, 811 Elm St., Winnetka, 847-446-8880.
says Midwest free-lancers’ last, best hope, Midwest Writers Association. Ditto Wilmette, where another MWA member, Helen Gallagher,
author of Release Your Writing: Book Publishing Your Way, will present “Your book is being published: Now what?” about marketing a book through retail outlets, book clubs, and online resources. She will also discuss other marketing strategies.
That’s at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 3 at the Wilmette Library, 1242 Wilmette Avenue. Cost: $5. Call the library for directions at 847/256-5025. E-mail your RSVP to Jodie Jacobs.
And there’s “The New Media,” at the next Illinois Women’s Press Association breakfast, 10 a.m. Saturday April 19, downtown Chicago, 2nd floor of the Chicago Methodist Temple, 77 W. Washington St., across from Daley Plaza, where Northwestern U.’s
Medill Graduate School Director Janice Castro, a former long-time Time-Warner reporter and web-site developer, will talk on the changing world of today’s media so we can better understand how to continue working as writers, editors, communications experts. IWPA Members, full time students and guests $15; Nonmembers $25; cash or check at the door; RSVP to 312/458-9151 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Info cheerily provided by MWA website manager Jim Bowman at www.midwestwriters.com — check it out.