Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Sometimes I have a great notion

September 12, 2020

No, I’m not snorting a line. Not right at that moment, anyway. …
Photo 1981 by Tom Warren | Corvallis Gazette-Times

Somehow I never thought of Oregon as a place that would burn.

I never thought it could burn.

In my mind Oregon remains a damp, dreary place where I spent a lot of time indoors, either working, hammered, or both. The only place I never owned a bicycle. Occasionally I walked, but only if I was too drunk to drive.

All my people were back in Colorado or in California, where I spent some months trapped in a Simon and Garfunkel song:

Asking only workman’s wages I come looking for a job

But I get no offers

When an offer finally came the job was in Corvallis, in Oregon’s Mid-Willamette Valley. It was good to be working again instead of sponging off friends and family, but the baggage I brought with me held more than T-shirts and jeans.

I made some friends, most of them on the job, your typical newsdog. And we had some laughs, catching Andy Irvine and Paul Brady in concert at a tiny venue downtown, or motoring to Portland to hear Johnny and the Distractions.

Occasionally I’d meet my old buddy Merrill in Seattle, a change of scenery for us both. He was trapped at a newspaper in eastern Washington, which was another sort of hell altogether.

But I spent a lot more time slouched in Squirrel’s Tavern or in my tiny apartment, huddled with my dogs next to the wood stove, or taking aimless solo drives out to the coast, places like Newport or Depoe Bay.

Mostly I remember rain, damp, the kind of cold that a Colorado winter doesn’t prepare you for, the sort that settles right down into your bones and makes itself at home. I got fat in self-defense, trying to make my bones harder to find.

If you’d told me the place would burn I’d have laughed out loud and poured another one. But I don’t drink anymore, and I’m not laughing, either.

• From Oregon Public Broadcasting: How you can help.

All in the family

August 11, 2020

“Albuquerque Journal, mister? Fresh from Santa Fe!”

I almost missed this in the hubbub over “Nasty” Kamala joining “Sleepy” Joe atop the Communist … pardon, Democratic Party ticket.

The Albuquerque Journal and The New Mexican have announced an agreement to print their publications in Santa Fe.

Both papers are family-owned, which is an honest-to-God miracle in the modern era. And their newsrooms will remain separate and independent.

The idea, of course, is to enhance efficiency. Just ask ’em:

Robin Martin, president of The New Mexican, and William P. Lang, president of the Journal, collaborated and determined the two production facilities, just 50 miles apart, could operate more efficiently as a single operation.

They obviously didn’t collaborate with a copy editor on that paragraph. But still, the point limps across.

And you don’t have to be a president to know what the word “efficiency” means: layoffs! As in up to 70 positions in Albuquerque.

So, come mid-October, when and if the snow flies, Duke City subscribers may be draining their second cup of joe — or even on lunch break — before the blat hits the driveway. But hey, that’s efficiency for you.

Extry, extry, readallaboudit!

Clubbed

July 17, 2020

Your Humble Narrator working a race for VeloNews Back in the Day®, when subscription fees and advertising revenue were enough to make the nut.

Steve-O raises an interesting question:

Your thoughts (and everyone else’s) on Bicycling’s new $40/year membership model?

This seems to be the flavor of the month. VeloNews is doing something similar for $99 a year, along with most of its cousins in the Pocket Outdoor Media group.

It’s tough to get readers to pay for “content.” Most people who read a daily newspaper Back in the Day® had no idea that their subscriptions didn’t cover the cost of the ink on the newsprint, much less the tab for all the technology and people it took to make the blat land on the stoop every morning. For a reader, the daily paper was a cheap date, with the real cost borne by advertisers.

Advertising is a tough sell these days, for newspapers, magazines, and websites. So what’s left? “Memberships.”

The New York Times has had some success with digital subscriptions. Likewise The Wall Street Journal. Two real powerhouses that can serve up the goodies you can’t get anywhere else.

I see value in the NYT and The Washington Post, so I subscribe to both. I also subscribe to The Atlantic, and Charlie Pierce’s blog at Esquire. All of these outfits provide things I want and need. I wish there were some Flyover Country version of The Atlantic so I could subscribe to that too.

But when you get down to the enthusiast-publication level, the pitch for memberships gets a little tougher. What do Bicycling or VeloNews have that I want/need badly enough to pay for it?

I like reading Joe Lindsey and Andrew Hood. And I like them as people, too. But with all due respect, I’m not sure that I want to spend $150 a year with their employers. There’s a bunch of stuff in both magazines/websites that I couldn’t care less about. It would feel like signing up for cable TV. I pulled that plug back in 2006 and now we buy our TV a la carte.

Perhaps the biggest issue with hawking memberships, subscriptions, and advertising is the one that started cropping up toward the end of my freelancing career. I was fortunate to be earning steady, predictable money as a regular contributor to both VN and Bicycle Retailer. But there were lots of other hired guns who were starting to get ambushed by what we called “fans with keyboards.” People who’d work for chump change, a T-shirt, or even just the byline.

Today there are so many talented amateurs and semipros out there who are willing to create wonderful stuff for free, or for pennies, that paying for the pros — who so often find themselves consigned to following the dictates of some uninspired editor or an advertising-driven calendar of theme issues — can seem extravagant.

“OK, guys, time for the annual stationary-trainer roundup, the ‘How LeMond won using aero bars’ retrospective, and who’s doing this week’s ‘fitter/faster in 10 seconds a day’ piece?”

Everybody thinks they’re working hard, and that you should buy what they’re selling. Not everybody is right.

Happy Juneteenth

June 19, 2020

What a brilliantly simple illustration for an essay on whether the “b” in “black” should be capitalized. I appropriated it from The Atlantic.

I made Juneteenth very famous, as you know.

No, I didn’t. And neither did that other peckerwood.

I’m not big on holidays. They were nothing to look forward to in the newspaper biz. Whether it’s Arbor Day or Zoo Lovers Day, the paper must appear. And no matter what capitalist fantasies motivate the business decisions at Gannett and Alden Global Capital, a newspaper won’t publish itself. Yet.

Once you’ve eaten a few dozen “holiday” meals at your desk while decoding a school-board story written by a functional alcoholic the term “holiday” loses all meaning.

Most holidays are dubious, anyway. Christmas? Sorry, not one of mine. Thanksgiving? Is that the one where George Washington threw his wooden teeth across the Potomac and killed a turkey perched in a cherry tree? Fourth of July? That’s the “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” one, right? Except for, you know, those people.

Then there’s Juneteenth. LIke Independence Day, it commemorates a beginning, a first step on a long march to a battle that seems to have no ending.

Though the celebration has its roots in Texas, I don’t recall hearing about it when I was in school down there. Too busy teaching us about how John Wayne fought Communism at the Alamo, I guess.

We never heard anything about the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, either.

And so I suffered from ignorance, a condition with which I continue to struggle. It, too, is a long march. The trick is to keep putting one foot ahead of the other while keeping your eyes, ears, and mind open.

Here’s something I stumbled across along the path. It drew my attention because I’m an old newshound, a retired copy editor, and I love watching the language as it tries to evolve to meet the times. It’s an article in The Atlantic by Kwame Anthony Appiah, a professor of philosophy and law at New York University, and it’s titled “The Case for Capitalizing the ‘B’ in ‘Black.'”

Water logged

June 2, 2020

The rain was bucketing down last night, and we have the bucket to prove it.

It rained like a mad bastard here last night, with lightning strikes aplenty and one thunderclap that sounded like the SWAT team triggering a flash-bang before hitting the door.

The cacti got a charge from the evening’s rain.

The weather probably kept the cops and citizens from doing it hand to hand again downtown, as they did on Sunday night. Call me simple, but I don’t see how setting Dumpster fires and trashing the KiMo Theatre advances the Revolution.

Nor do I believe one achieves peace through superior firepower. The Albuquerque Police Department apparently broke out the flash-bangs, tear gas, and rubber bullets in honor of the occasion, saying some miscreant fired on them.

But hey, this is Albuquerque. If you don’t hear gunfire when the sun goes down, that just means everyone’s busy reloading.

The journalism performed in honor of the hullabaloo was so comically inept that it’s hard to get any sense of what actually went down. Much noise, very little signal.

Why, it’s enough to make a fella open up one a’ them whatchamacallits? Social-media accounts! I hear they come with cute kitten videos and everything.

It’s snot right

March 15, 2020

Everything these people say for public consumption should come with an asterisk and a footnote reading:
“Caution. May contain toxic amounts of bullshit.”

The New York Times has stepped on its old gray dick again, with a headline reading “Trump Tests Negative.”

These bozos still don’t get it. The man is a documented liar a thousand times over, and yet they insist on feeding us preposterous bullshit like this.

The Washington Post gets it right with “Trump tests negative for coronavirus, physician says.” See how easy that is? Absent independent verification, you attribute the statement.

“Hey, we never said that shit. His doctor did.”

If the sonofabitch said the sun rises in the east, I would step outside to see for myself. And on more than one morning, too.

Just say what?

February 13, 2020

“Recovery is possible?”
Not based on my experience with bicycle racing, it isn’t.

OK, I’m bent, twisted, more than a bubble off plumb.

I know this about myself, and I came to terms with it long ago.

But I can’t be the only person who finds this “dose of reality” amusing.

The 2021 Escalade Multiplex

February 8, 2020

This beast has nearly as much screen real estate as my living room. The difference is, my living room gets better mileage and won’t be found parked on top of a cyclist because I was having trouble deciding what to watch.

Call me old-fashioned, but when I read a statement like this

The most important screen for any driver of the new Escalade is the 14.2-inch digital instrument cluster that sits just behind the steering wheel.

… I long for the days when editors, like, y’know, edited, an’ stuff.

I would argue that “the most important screen for any driver of the new Escalade” is the fucking windshield.

Our man at The Verge doesn’t get around to wondering whether this mechanized multiplex is a good idea until quite late in the piece. Given that the curb weight of the 2020 2WD model is 5,311 pounds, you may consider me a strong “No” on that question.

Nobody needs 38 inches of OLED on the ROAD, which s/he shares with pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and other, lesser autos, like UPS trucks, cement mixers, and SWAT-team armored cars. You want to play with screens, get a living room and a comfy chair.

R.I.P., Dirt Rag

January 30, 2020

Ah, Dirt Rag, we hardly knew ye.

Well, this sucks.

Dirt Rag has been in the bicycle-journalism racket exactly as long as I have. We both rolled around in 1989, though I was mostly on a road bike.

American Cyclery is getting a seismic refit and, eventually, it is to be hoped, a new owner.

I never thought of myself as a mountain biker. And Dirt Rag was never just a mountain-bike mag. Maurice Tierney and the gang were into art and culture and all manner of good shit. Did you know Mo is a deejay at KALX, 90.7 FM in Berserkly? True fact.

Also, this:

The oldest bike shop in San Francisco is on the block. American Cyclery built my Soma Saga Disc for me, and they did a stellar job. I haven’t had to do jack shit to that bike except ride it and fix an occasional flat.

I thought Friday was the day when all the bad news dropped. Trust the bike biz to get it wrong.

 

R.I.P., Jim Lehrer

January 23, 2020

It’s -30- for Jim Lehrer, co-founder of “The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour” on PBS.

Lehrer started out as a print guy, and maybe that’s why I liked him. He worked for papers in Dallas, where he covered the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and then shifted to TV, where he and Robert MacNeil were all over the Watergate hearings. He went on to moderate a dozen presidential debates.

MacNeil praised Lehrer for his “very direct manner of interviewing” and his “extraordinary ability to listen.”

“You know the hardest thing to do on TV is listen,” he added.

Sometimes the hardest thing is to watch, especially given the motley crew of talking heads that fills screens these days. Unlike the bulk of them, Jim Lehrer will be missed. You can read his obit in The New York Times here.