Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Can’t find my way home

February 11, 2019

Good thing it doesn’t matter when a virtual press runs, because someone has been intercoursing the penguin as regards his self-imposed deadlines.

Radio Free Dogpatch is intended to be a weekly affair, scheduled for Fridays, but just ask the penguin how well that’s worked out for him (whoops, too late, he’s exploded). To date the thing has reared its ugly head weekly, semimonthly, and on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays.

After three or four goes at this most recent episode, which came this close to becoming a plain-vanilla blog post, I’m starting to think Wednesdays are the ticket. Showtime. Whatever.

In any case, and without further ado, here’s episode 19 of Radio Free Dogpatch. Too bad I couldn’t get it finished in time to win a Grammy to go along with all my Pulitzers, Reubens, Emmys and MacArthur Fellowships.

Oh, well, there’s always next year.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Editorial notes: Shannon Hall wrote about the meanderings of magnetic north for The New York Times. Steve Frothingham has been following the trials and tribulations of ASE and the various media-consolidation stories for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. John McNulty wrote about super-salesman Elmer “Sell the Sizzle” Wheeler for The New Yorker way back in 1938. And Sam Dean of the Los Angeles Times gave us a peek at Zwift’s e-sports ambitions.

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with an Audio-Technica AT2035 microphone and a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. I edited in Apple’s GarageBand on a 2014 MacBook Pro, adding audio acquired through fair means and foul via Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack (no profit was taken in an admittedly casual approach to various copyrights). Speaking of which, Buck appears courtesy of the 1935 William Wellman film “Call of the Wild,” while Nick Danger took a break from his Further Adventures to ask directions to The Firesign Theatre’s Old Same Place. The background music is “Crusin” from Zapsplat.com. And Blind Faith wrapped it all up with “Can’t Find My Way Home.”

And in other news …

January 31, 2019

VN and BRAIN, together at last.

… we have this. More later.

The wrong Bozos keep getting kicked off the bus

January 26, 2019

Here’s a golden oldie, from my short stint at The Arizona Daily Star. I didn’t stick around to get the sack; I shot out of that place like a rat out of an aqueduct.

As long as we have a cartoon president, how ’bout drawing him up a cartoon Wall®?

We have the technology. Also, the manpower. Newspapers are shitcanning Pulitzer-winners right, left, and center, among them Steve Benson, who was the editorial cartoonist at the Arizona Republic back in 1980, when I scribbled the occasional ’toon for The Arizona Daily Star.

This is nothing new, of course. A J-school prof warned me in the Seventies that there were maybe a thousand editorial cartoonists, tops, and that I might consider expanding my portfolio a tad. This was excellent advice. Because their numbers kept shrinking like a spider on a hotplate, to hundreds and finally dozens.

It was nearly impossible to even make a start Back in the Day® because what few cartoonists there were could be had for chump change via syndication. So the editor of the Frog Dick (S.C.) Daily Lily Pad & Croaker could have Pat Oliphant every day for the price of a tepid cup of Maxwell House at Lulu’s Lunch Bucket.

I still got to draw cartoons, as you know. But I did it as a reporter, as a copy editor, as an assistant feature editor, and like that there. On the side. Onliest time I ever got hired as an honest-to-God cartoonist was when that Boulder-based journal of competitive cycling decided I was too dim to be their managing editor but funny enough to scribble gags about fat masters, dope fiends, and Suits.

In a few short years there won’t be any of us. Robots will be drawing all the cartoons. And you won’t get any of the jokes, because they will be by robots, for robots.

“Ha ha,” they will say. “That’s very logical.”

Oh, good

December 14, 2018

Q: You know why editors die earlier than reporters?

A: Because they want to.
Photos 1981 by Tom Warren, Corvallis Gazette-Times

From Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

Here’s a guess: the first serious use of AI in the newsroom will be to replace editors, not writers. Roughly speaking, AI will take reporters’ notes or rough copy—or even what we humans laughingly call finished copy—and turn it into great prose. We’ll still need someone around to nag us about issues of substance, but the robots will compose sentences and paragraphs better than us. What’s more, they’ll be able to churn out multiple versions of our writing instantly: the magazine version, the 6th-grade version, the TV script version, the Spanish version, the PowerPoint deck, etc. Just tell it what you need and you’ll get it.

Reporters will last a little longer, but just a little. I’m giving editors until, oh, 2035. I think that’s generous. Reporters will be out of business by 2040. Better get ready.

I’m totally ready. By 2035 I’ll be 81, which in O’Grady years is stone cold dead.

Cold blow and the rainy night

December 7, 2018

The transition from fall to winter is always a sketchy time around here.

I’m not a fan of shorter, colder, darker days. They remind me at a genetic level of why my people invented uisce beatha. And since I no longer indulge in that miraculous restorative I’m at sea without a paddle on these chilly gray mornings, when the hangover is outside my head, at large and in charge, and not even aspirin is of any use.

This is when I await a tot of bad news, the way I once awaited a shot of good booze. The life of the free-range rumormonger is wild and free, until it isn’t, and it’s generally around this time of year when editors count and cull their herds.

“Oh, that one’s got to go. Dumber than three mules, eats like six of ’em, and shits all over the place. Fetch my .30-.30.”

It was fall 2017 when I got the word that Bicycle Retailer and Industry News would no longer require my “Mad Dog Unleashed” column. This was not a surprise. The industry-news biz, and the industry itself, was not exactly flush. Flushed was more like it. And shortly thereafter the publisher who gave the order and the editor who carried it out were no longer with The Organization.

About the same time Adventure Cyclist guessed that they wouldn’t need me at Interbike Reno, the Last Dance in Sin City having demonstrated all the intoxicating power of a half-can of O’Doul’s, a two-wheeled version of P.T. Barnum’s This Way to the Egress. When I heard nary a word about the show afterward I assumed Management had made the right decision. A bored and sober Dog makes a poor companion indeed. Whining and snarling and pissing on things.

And an old Dog, too. Set in his ways he is. ‘Tis a wee bit late to be training him so. Is there a .30-.30 to be had somewhere, d’ye think?

Well, p’raps. But not right now. Until I hear otherwise, I’m to deliver the first “Shop Talk” cartoon of 2019 to BRAIN next week. And a fresh Adventure Cyclist review bike awaits me down at Fat Tire Cycles, one of the few Duke City shops I have yet to visit.

And thus we have this week’s edition of Radio Free Dogpatch: “Cold Blow and the Rainy Night, or Whatever Floats Your Boat.” Give it a listen.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with a Shure SM58 microphone, Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack, and the old 2009 iMac. Cap’n Whitebeard used an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic. I edited the audio using Apple’s GarageBand on a 2014 MacBook Pro. The background music is “Into the Sunset” from Audio Hero via ZapSplat.com. Sounds of the sea courtesy Freesound.org.

• Editor’s note: The very day I recorded this episode BRAIN announced that the bell had tolled, not for me, but for Interbike, both show and staff. That shit will roll downhill — just how far and fast remains to be seen — and I feel the pain of all those who saw the business end of that .30-.30. Marc Sani, one of BRAIN’s founders and presently its interim publisher, has a few thoughts on the whys and wherefores. As for me, I wrote about the final Vegas show in 2017, and you can read that after the jump.

• Off to see the Wizard in 2017

Fred neither pedaled nor peddled

September 29, 2018

Some pixel pusher doesn’t have his shit Wired tight.

I know, I know, sometimes it seems as though the bike biz is more about peddling than pedaling, but still, Wired, Jesus H., etc.

‘The Post has been totally gutted. …’

May 7, 2018

“We need more budget cuts. Call it 10-15 percent. And a couple of bibs.”

When Lean Dean says you’ve gone too far, you’ve gone too far.

Dean Singleton, who once mused about consolidating, outsourcing and perhaps off-shoring the various MediaNews copy desks, says the owners of The Denver Post have “cut the heart out” of the once-mighty newspaper.

Undeterred by bad press, senior staff departures, and even the resignation of Lean Dean, the hyenas at Alden Global Capital continue gnawing away, taking comfort in the knowledge that there are plenty of toothsome tidbits left on the stinking carcass.

I know, I know — it’s a new world, information wants to be free, adapt or die, etc., et al., and so on and so forth. Doesn’t mean it’s pretty to watch.

Bang a gong, get it on

May 2, 2018

The stars of The Pueblo Chieftain copy desk circa 1984. Two of us are still walking the earth. Guess which ones.

The news biz is a tough racket. Yeah, I know, “stop the presses.”

Up in Colorado, The Denver Post is in a bad way, thanks to the vulture capitalists who have been treating it like an ATM at a Vegas casino. They may be wiping their overfed asses with your local daily, too.

And now The Pueblo Chieftain is said to be in the midst of a sale to … well, someone. Some thing.

I worked at The Chieftain for a spell back in the early Eighties. It’s where I met my man Hal Walter, who helped me get off the cigarettes and back onto the bike — at that point, a $320 fire-engine-red Centurion Le Mans 12.

As I wrote in my journal in 1983 — you remember journals, a sort of analog blog with a readership of one — “I can’t wait to get it and start riding all over fucking town. I may take it with me during my vacation so’s I can get some exercise between drinks.”

Yeah, I still had a ways to go. But still, baby steps, amirite?

Anyway, Hal has penned a recollection of the glory days — and some observations about The Chieftain‘s future — for Colorado Central magazine. He makes mention of Your Humble Narrator, and yes, my lawyers have been informed, so you’ll want to read the piece before HBO makes a documentary of the entire sordid mess and we’re strolling along the red carpet at Cannes giving the finger to Tarantino, the Coen brothers and del Toro.

I see T.J. Miller playing me, or perhaps Rory McCann, and probably Justin Timberlake as Hal, whom we used to call “Teen Angel,” for reasons that should be obvious. I mean, just look at that fucking picture, f’chrissakes.

Make travel great again!

March 19, 2018

Such a bargain!

Now this is amusing: Jason Wilson visits five Trump-branded properties to get a squint at Il Douche, “promiser of luxury experiences, through the eyes of a travel writer.”

And what did the travel writer perceive, luxury-experience-wise? A profoundly unsettling boredom, “a relentless, insistent, in-your-face mediocrity,” even for a pro “who has stayed in many soulless hotels and eaten in many overpriced restaurants in many disappointing places.”

“Nothing was bad, and much of what I was experiencing was even pleasurable,” Wilson writes. “But these were not great places. These places didn’t even seem like they were trying to be great.”

What Wilson experienced was not exactly a reverse Midas Touch, but something very much like it. With Trump, what you get is not the Warhol, but the actual can of soup (and not at Campbell’s prices, mind you). And now this half-assed hotelier has laid his tiny little hands on our country.

Forget bang. Think whimper.

Technology Tuesday

January 16, 2018

When I was a copy boy in the mid-’70s this was one of my babies.
Ding! Ding! Ding! Photo liberated from UPI

I’ve embraced antisocial media in 2018.

Facebook? Don’t care how it rejiggers itself, my account stays croaked. Ditto for Instagram and Snapchat, the latter of which I never did figure out, because apparently as a senile old goat I’m not supposed to.

And a couple weeks into the new year I can’t say I miss Twitter, either. That account remains open, but unused as of Jan. 1.

I enjoyed the service once. At 140 characters it reminded me of headline writing, which was always one of my favorite parts about deskwork.

Even at twice that its immediacy reminded me of the wire services. Man, you’d hear those bells ring in the teletype room — Ding ding ding ding ding! — and you knew instantly that some shit was hitting the fan somewhere.

But there were those long stretches of not much going on, too, just the machinery mindlessly punching out dreck from drones that nobody was ever going to read, not even the copy boy, and that’s what Twitter has become for me. More characters and fewer characters, all at the same time.

Now if I crave to inspect the latest outrage from Sir Orange of Golf, I have to go looking for it, which mostly I don’t.

And yes, the reverse QWERTY dent in my forehead is healing nicely. Thanks for asking.