S is for journalist George Seldes

George Seldes served on the board of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting ,

Somehow, it wasn’t until the past few months that I heard of journalist George Seldes. This brief biography serves as a emphatic primer.

“The story of George Seldes is the story of the Twentieth Century. He has written 21 books and is the archetype of the independent and crusading journalist. He was a witness to and occasional participant in some of the most important events of this century.”

His interview with Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg, the supreme commander of the German Army during World War I was censored by the Allies. He reported from the Soviet Union for a year in 1922-23 until he was expelled “for not bowing to its censorship of the news.” He was also eventually bounced in Italy after reporting on the rise of Benito Mussolini. He witnessed the fascist dictatorship in Spain.

“Dissatisfied with censorship and the Right-wing bias of the American media,” Seldes and his wife Helen Larkin “started In Fact, the first publication in America solely devoted to press criticism. It was published from 1940 to 1950 and had a peak circulation of 176,000 before being Red-baited out of existence.”

From the Spartacus Educational bio: “One of the first articles published in the newsletter concerned the link between cigarette smoking and cancer. Seldes later explained that at the time, ‘The tobacco stories were suppressed by every major newspaper. For ten years we pounded on tobacco as being one of the only legal poisons you could buy in America.'”

I found his some of his observations, as noted in Wikiquotes, appropriate today. “Never grow weary of protesting. In this sensitive business of dealing with the public which depends on faith and good will, protest is a most effective weapon. Therefore protest.” – Lords of the Press (1938)

And from the same source: “The failure of a free press in most countries is usually blamed on the readers. Every nation gets the government—and the press—it deserves. This is too facile a remark. The people deserve better in most governments and press. Readers, in millions of cases, have no way of finding out whether their newspapers are fair or not, honest or distorted, truthful or colored….”

From the Wikipedia: “Having both staunch admirers and strong critics, Seldes influenced some younger journalists. He received an award for professional excellence from the Association for Education in Journalism in 1980 and a George Polk Award for his life’s work in 1981. Seldes also served on the board of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).”

George Seldes was born in Alliance, New Jersey, on 16th November, 1890 and died at Windsor, Vermont, on 2nd July, 1995, aged 104.

For ABC Wednesday

Ellmers v. Aiken

It’ll be interesting to see what type of representative NC-2 wants.

112_rp_nc_2_ellmers_reneeEarlier this month, reporter Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner wrote “an article about the GOP’s poor messaging on the ‘war on women’ narrative. I posted some comments from Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., who said GOP men need to bring their messages ‘down to a woman’s level.’

“Ellmers called me a ‘liberal woman reporter’ and said I had taken her quote ‘completely out of context.’

“Below are her full comments from the event…, along with the audio of her segment. I have bolded the comments I used in my original post.” Having looked at the link, I feel Ellmers was treated fairly.

This story is still interesting to me because:
1) it IS the GOP war on women, being propagated by a woman
2) it is a classic “blame the press” ploy, which might work on a few, but not to anyone who bothered to read the transcript

Let me express my inherent bias here: all things being equal – and all things are NEVER equal, I’d be inclined to support a female candidate over a male candidate. In this case, though, if I were able to vote in the Congressional race for North Carolina’s Second District, I would support the male candidate.
Clay Aiken
That guy, BTW, is Clay Aiken, best known to me as the second-place contestant on an early season of American Idol; we even own one of his albums. You may have also seen him – I did not – on Celebrity Apprentice, where, I am told, he presented himself well.

Aiken had an odd row to the Democratic nomination. He had a tough primary fight with his opponent, 71-year-old Keith Crisco, back in May. Aiken won by a small margin, but Crisco had not yet conceded the race when Crisco suffered injuries from a fall at his home and died. Crisco associates say that he was about to concede the race to Aiken the next day.

It’ll be interesting to see what type of representative NC-2 wants, a two-term woman who appears to be over her head in Congress, or an openly gay man with a bit of entertainment fame. Last time out Ellmers won with 56% of the vote. As noted, my rooting interests are with the singer.

Fair and balanced news

Here’s something I DON’T understand: the European Union Court of Justice’s “right to be forgotten” ruling.

NewsMusing on what passes for news these days, I was taken by this story: The distorting reality of ‘false balance’ in the media. It’s saying, essentially, that if you have two people on the news debating whether the Earth is round or flat, you unnecessarily elevate the flat earth argument to be equivalent.

I haven’t written much about either the awful shootdown of Malaysian flight or the Israel-Gaza war, other than I found it depressing as all get out. (What does “depressing as all get out” mean? In this case, I want to get out from all this sadness.)

There is a certain arc to stories of tragedies on television: 1) The bare facts – airliner goes down, 295 aboard, likely no survivors. Wait, it was 298 people – those first stories understandably never get it quite right. 2) The speculation, official and otherwise, about caused the tragedy. 3) The narrative of the actual people who died, which is the worst for me to watch. This catastrophe was particularly painful for the Dutch, who lost the majority of the victims. Awful for the HIV/AIDS community, which lost some prominent scientists and activists. Add to this the treatment of the bodies and the crime scene in Ukraine and [throws up both his hands]…

The story behind the story in Israel/Gaza recently has been NBC pulling veteran reporter Ayman Mohyeldin after he witnessed Israeli killing of children in Gaza, also noted here. Maybe the coverage wasn’t McNewsy enough.

Once upon a time, in the Mesozoic era of Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley, it seemed that facts were, you know, facts. Now “reportage” seems to have an inordinate amount of opinion. One of the things I’ve only obliquely heard was this “blame Obama” mantra regarding the shootdown of the Malaysian flight, which somehow almost always leads to the deification of Ronald Reagan even though Reagan did little after a Korean flight was shot down in 1983.

Now, particularly with user-created content, it appears (SHOCKING!) that sometimes people LIE in order to drive their political agenda, falsifying reports. After all, almost everyone has a camera these days. Amnesty International has launched a video verification tool and website, which sounds really useful for them..

If journalism is the pursuit of truth – OK, my working theory – Here’s something I DON’T understand – the European Union Court of Justice’s “right to be forgotten” ruling. The unintended consequence is that it can become a disinformation tool. Fortunately, those whose articles are being delisted, many of which are journalistic institutions, aren’t going to simply lay there and allow some third party to selectively edit their publications.

“The Bolton News (UK) just received notification from Google that one of its stories was due to be vanished from Google’s search engine. Needless to say, this request has produced another story highlighting the original story the filer(s) wanted delisted.” Brilliant response, I say.

Finally, sometimes when you do write a piece accept praise for something great in your story, even if you didn’t mean it. This HAS even happened to me, in a blog post or two.
***
I was sad that actor James Garner has died. I watched him religiously in the TV shows Maverick, in which he played a gambler, and The Rockford Files, as an unconventional L.A. private eye. But I also saw him in 8 Simple Rules and First Monday, the TV movie My Name Is Bill W., the films Victor/Victoria, Murphy’s Romance, Maverick, and Space Cowboys, and probably others. He had a relaxed genius as an actor. Loved those Polaroid ads with Mariette Hartley. Oh, and apparently Rockford anticipated our current police state way back in 1978.

May Rambling: Faraway fire; faux news; second chances

I was noting in particular two Billy Joel songs, ‘Get It Right The First Time’ from 1977 and ‘Second Wind (You’re Only Human)’ from 1985, and how I prefer the latter sentiment.

Chuck Miller has taken on the task of promoting the work of his “fellow Times Union community bloggers, until that day when the Times Union itself will restore the ‘Best of Our Blogs’ feature to the print edition of the paper.” And one of those “well-written articles” was mine. Merci, Chuck.

The specter of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory looms over the garment factory that collapsed last month in Bangladesh, killing more than [1100] workers… But the world is smaller than it was 102 years ago. Tragedies of this sort in the Third World aren’t engendered only by forces in their proximity, and they won’t be averted unless the responsibility for change is embraced globally. Also, Is Rana Disaster Bangladesh’s Triangle Fire? I wrote about the Triangle fire HERE.

Meryl’s quite reasonable concern: ‘truth’ is becoming ever-more elusive with advancing photoshop technology and our modern vehicles of ‘news resources’ and communication. Related: Since Twitter hasn’t built a correction feature, here are 3 things journalists can do instead. And Who’s The Biggest Liar?

Howard Kurtz’s Belated Comeuppance: The Media Critic’s Firing Comes After a Long History of Journalistic Abuses.

For New York State, I thought the effects of hydrofracking was only an upstate problem, but it appears Manhattan will have its own issues.

In What Ways Does The Culture Of Comics Have An Impact On How Business Is Done? Also, The Library of American Comics at 75 Titles (and counting): Moral rights, reprint rights.

Boston Marathon Runner & Psychiatrist Shares Personal Story of Patriots’ Day 2013; written by a cousin of a co-worker.

Harriet Quimby – the 1st US woman to get her pilot’s license.

Space Oddities and Sensations: Inspiring Teaching and Learning , featuring Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Rare footage of Helen Keller speaking with the help of Anne Sullivan.

I was playing my Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits, Volumes 1 & 2 on a car ride recently; his birthday is in May. I was noting in particular two songs, ‘Get It Right The First Time’ from 1977 and ‘Second Wind (You’re Only Human)’ from 1985, and how I prefer the latter sentiment. Melanie writes about the second time around. Also, practicing in pieces.

Richie’s road of death.

Sitemeter for Ken Levine’s blog, Taken 1:46 pm, May 8, 2013

I’m less interested Ken Levine won’t give Zach Braff one dime for his Kickstarter movie project than the sudden surge in his blog, from about 5000 hits a day, +/- 2000, to over 620,000 after that article, and over 96,000 for the followup. Levine also dissed the Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter, one that SamuraiFrog supported, BTW. There were a number of folks who dissed Braff, but supported the Veronica Mars effort, which otherwise could not have been made. Here’s Levine’s last word on the project, now that Braff has secured alternative funding. Also, another story on the controversy. Fascinated by the fact that this is what is considered controversial these days.

Al Capp: The Shame of Dogpatch.

Cathy Rigby played Peter Pan in Schenectady in April, and we declined to go. Now that I know that she’s retiring from the role after 3000+ performances, I wish I had gone.

Why McLean Stevenson quit MAS*H.

Ray Harryhausen, master of stop-motion animation, died this month. Mark Evanier has a nice Harryhausen story. Also, Ray was Steve Bissette’s hero. And here’s a short video you may recognize.

Don Rosa and the late Steve Gerber have been selected to receive the 2013 Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. Both are heroes in their field, and it was Gerber’s blog that prompted mine.

K-Chuck Radio: Rest in peace, George Jones.

Mark Evanier is dealing with the first Mother’s Day after his mom died much better than I did with mine.

The newspaper misspells its own name in an article about winning awards.

Dustbury speculates why the IRS “Where’s my refund?” site was down last weekend.

2001: A Space Odyssey – Howard Johnson’s Children’s Menu (1968).

The technology that links taxonomy and Star Trek.

How ‘Star Wars’ Nerds sold Lucasfilm to Disney.

These re-made Disney DVD covers are scarily accurate.

Book review: JOURNALISM by Joe Sacco

Many black Africans travel across the Mediterranean Sea, attempting to get to Europe, but end up in the tiny island nation of Malta.


Cartoonist/war correspondent Joe Sacco’s new book, JOURNALISM (Metropolitan Books; on sale June 22, 2012) is doing an interesting thing, addressing wars and other conflicts in recent human experience in a graphic form, while attempting to operate in the discipline suggested by the book title. Moreover, he generally succeeds in his mission, though it must be said that the writer himself may be his harshest critic.

Most, but not all, of the work had been published before, in a variety of venues. “The War Crimes Trials,” for instance, was commissioned by Details “during the short stint when Art Spiegelman [creator of the historic graphic novel Maus] was the magazine’s comic editor. Sacco’s access was limited by Detail’s reputation for “glossy photos of spoiled young men and saucily clad women,” so that the last page was compromised. I thought it nevertheless worked well.

There were three pieces in The Palestinian Territories chapter, including getting to “look inside” Hebron, seeing both sides of the struggle between the residents and the Israeli neighbors. The Caucasus section is dominated by a 40-page explanation of “Chechen War, Chechen Women,” which explains the history of the conflict and literally illustrates the fate of the victims of war.

In the Iraq section, Sacco complains that his “Complacency Kills” piece could have reflected any war; to me, that was a strength, the universality of conflict. “Down! Up!” may remind you of the gym teachers or coaches you hated most.

The India section addressed Kunsinagar, a section in northern India in the Uttar Pradesh province where the notion of “untouchables” has been abolished legally but not actually, corruption runs rampant, and a certain sense of hopelessness rules.

The best-realized section, though, has to be the Migration tale, “The Unwanted.” Many black Africans travel across the Mediterranean Sea, attempting to get to Europe, but end up in the tiny island nation of Malta. Almost everything you’ve heard in the debate in the United States over illegal immigration shows up here: mutual distrust of the natives and the newcomers and neo-Nazi resistance to the Africans, who also fight among each other. This piece works so well, I suspect because Sacco is Maltese and still knows a bit of the language, though his family had emigrated to Australia a number of years ago.

In some ways, though, the most interesting part of the book is the Preface, “A Manifesto, Anyone?” Critics, Sacco notes, “question the notion that drawings can aspire to objective truth? Isn’t that — objective truth — what journalism is all about? Aren’t drawings by their very nature subjective?” While the answer to “this last question is yes…this does not let the cartoonist who aspires to journalism off the hook. The journalist’s standard obligations—to report accurately, to get quotes right, and to check claims—still pertain. But a comics journalist has obligations that go deeper than that.” Fascinating stuff.

“Another trap promoted in American journalism schools is the slavish adherence to ‘balance.’ But if one side says one thing and the other side says another, does the truth necessarily reside ‘somewhere in the middle’? A journalist who says, ‘Well, I pissed off both sides—I must be doing something right,’ is probably fooling himself and, worse, he may be fooling the reader.” I have frequently heard this very observation from some newspeople and it pains me greatly. It’s like saying that some claim that six million died in the Holocaust, while others deny it happened at all, so we’ll compromise and decide that three million died. This obviously pleases no one.

“Balance should not be a smokescreen for laziness. If there are two or more versions of events, a journalist needs to explore and consider each claim, but ultimately the journalist must get to the bottom of a contested account independently of those making their claims.”

I highly recommend this book. According to the press release, “Sacco received the Eisner Award for Safe Area Gorazde, which was also named a New York Times Notable Book and Time Magazine’s best comic book of 2000; his most recent book, Footsteps in Gaza, won the Eisner award in 2010 and was also the first graphic novel to win the Ridenhour Book Prize.”

[I received a review copy of JOURNALISM, but no other compensation.]