Wednesday, April 29, 2009
1. I'm in finals and don't have the time or energy to write anything thoughtful;
2. Just kicking Jessie's ass at Sporcle is starting to bore me; and
3. This is a shameless way to keep you coming to my blog.
So every day, I'll post the link to the Sporcle of the Day, as well as my score. Then hopefully you'll post your score in the comments and talk shit to me and each other. Obviously we're all on the honor system here.
Today's SOTD is:
I scored 21/30.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
No, I am not the rambling Bennett. Chris has graciously invited me to write a guest column on his blog, since I am seemingly incapable of maintaining my own beyond a few initial postings. Plus, I think he has more readers than I ever did.
Before I digress, let’s get to the point—Chris and I have spent a good deal of time lamenting the fall of newspapers, and never ones to sit idly by while the things we love are ripped away from us, we have developed a skeleton framework to “save” print journalism. How modest of us. I proposed stretching a guest entry into a 4-6 part guest series on his blog to spread the word, so here we go.
However, the other night I had a terrible thought: “what if newspapers aren’t worth saving? What if they’ve served their purpose and have outlived their usefulness?” I’ll be honest; I was wholly unprepared to handle such a thought. After all, Chris and I had been operating under the assumption newspapers HAD to be saved. To quote the real genius Chris Knight, it was “a moral imperative.” Now, I was faced with the possibility that newspapers might just be meant to die, replaced by television news, the Cable news infrastructure, and (shudder) the internet-fueled citizen news blog-o-rama. Parts 2-6 of my manifesto might not really be necessary after all.
This hit me incredibly hard. Not just “hey you chose a dying major” hard, but more “Vader is Luke’s father” hard. I’m sure you can tell the difference. I was shell-shocked.
Let’s delve into the heart of the problem: does the modern newspaper structure provide more plusses than minuses? Does it offer a necessary and irreplaceable service? After all, the dissemination of news information has come a long way since the Acta Diurna of ancient
Benefits of newspapers:
- People will always crave information, and newspapers are a regular, reliable, easily attained source of daily news. They cover a wide variety of subjects and can be tailored to fit a specific community’s news needs, or cast a wide net for national or international appeal. They have the framework in place to provide the kind of detailed coverage necessary in today’s insider-obsessed culture.
- Newspapers maintain their independence from government influence, and can act as a public and visible manifestation of the will and opinion of the people in the face of government, corporate, or civil oppression.
- Local newspapers provide in-depth coverage of stories national cable networks and online-focused publications miss. Also, with the limited time network television designates for local television news coverage, newspapers may be the only source for some stories. Fox News isn’t going to tell me about the mayoral race in
St. Louis, or break down last week’s school board meeting in . Austin
- The framework of newspaper reporters is responsible not only for print journalism, but also a large portion of online journalism. The free access to online news that we all enjoy is by and large funded by print journalism. When the New York Times folds (no pun intended), so does the New York Times online.
- There’s something to be said for professional journalists with a large pool of resources at their disposal. While it may be true that self-taught bloggers might occasionally break a big story or be a wealth of information, there’s a certain percentage of new “citizen journalists” who don’t follow the journalism code of ethics and/or have the necessary resources to properly research stories. Everybody remembers the times a blog breaks a huge story but forgets the numerous times that same blog chose immediacy over accuracy, forsaking fact checking and source verification to get the story up more quickly.
- Historically, newspapers have been both a check against tyranny and oppression, and source for information to be processed and distilled for general consumption. That’s an incredibly tough standard to maintain, as those two points may seem mutually exclusive. However, through careful, objective, fact-checked stories, balance can be kept.
- Let’s go back to reliability for a minute. I think it’s important to note that newspapers have solid, unchanging deadlines that prevent them from playing the immediacy game. While cable news stations may trip over each other in an effort to break a big story quickly and with a unique angle, newspapers can remain concerned with accuracy. That’s a big advantage when it comes time to talk about credibility.
Shortcomings of newspapers:
- Online news is free, newspapers are not. Even the online equivalent for many newspapers is free! Why would you pay for something to which you already have access? I’m thinking of an old saying that involves some milk and a cow…oh yeah, don’t be a slut or he won’t marry you.
- Newspapers can’t keep up with the speed of today’s breaking news. We need to face the fact that today’s society is massively geared towards immediate gratification. After all, if we have the means to break a story, shouldn’t we do so? Online publications are more flexible in that they can report on a story as it is happening. By the time a newspaper reports on yesterday’s stories, cable news outlets have already framed the story, celebrity blowhards have already weighed in, and online discussion forums and the blogosphere have already swollen with both intelligent discussion and abject stupidity. Traditional newspapers are left in the dust.
- Advertisers want bang for their buck, but they also need flash. Whether we like it or not, advertising is the sweet, sweet gasoline fueling the motor pool that is journalism. In an era of declining circulation, advertisers are hard-pressed to justify supporting yesterday’s news, when a flashy television ad might become a cultural phenomenon. Print ads generally don’t generate that kind of momentum. This may be more of a symptom of the overall problem, but it is still a huge mountain to overcome, and needs to be done quickly.
- People like pictures, graphics, and animations. Sadly, those are all very expensive to put into newspapers. Sure, simple bar graphs or pie charts are commonplace, and photojournalism is a moving and intricate part of the newspaper machine, but television does it so much better. So does the internet.
- The proliferation of local-oriented coverage in national sports publications. Yes, local coverage was a definite positive for newspapers, but the gap isn’t as wide as it used to be. You can find write-ups on nearly every game played anywhere in the world on espn.com or cbssportsline.com, to name a few sites. Sadly, the coverage they provide isn’t that different than what many local papers offer in their own sports section, once a driving force in newspaper subscriptions.
- The AP Newswire. Too many stories in today’s papers are lifted straight from the AP. If every story is a tiny blurb written 1000 miles away and slammed out as fast as possible, what am I paying for with my newspaper subscription again?
Now that we’ve established some of the positives and negatives of the modern newspaper, do the shortcomings outweigh the benefits? I submit to you that they do not. Newspapers, while perhaps more cumbersome than the flashy new-media darlings, still form the backbone of our news-gathering world. When you look at the quick +/- analysis above, it is obvious that newspapers face many obstacles in the current marketplace. They’re certainly not the only game in town anymore, and I think we all can agree that most papers were slow to adjust to that fact.
The bottom line is this simple question: would we be better off without newspapers? I can say honestly and without hesitation the answer is a resounding NO. Cutting off access to information is never a good thing, and pushing out such an established and respected institution with centuries of inroads would be a disastrous setback to the free flow of public information.
So now that we’ve established (to the best of my standards, anyway) that newspapers should be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future, let’s take a look at the rest of the picture. We can break the situation down into two parts, and go from there. Part one is figuring out why newspapers are failing—what is going wrong, and who is responsible for this decline. Part two is to find a viable solution that reflects the day and age we live in, while still keeping an eye on the future to prevent the obsolescence of papers in the future.
Comments are welcome. It’s going to take a lot more minds than just Chris and I to save newspapers. Look for the series to continue next week sometime, as we explore why newspapers are in this dire situation.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I'm posting this for my friend and freshman year PA Scott:
For the fourth year in a row, I'm raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Great Strides walk. My 6-year-old nephew, Aidan, has CF. It's a life-shortening disease that affects his lungs and digestive system. There is no cure.
Despite those facts, Aidan tries to live a normal life. He's in kindergarten. He just lost his first tooth. He's a new big brother. Still, life's not quite normal for the kid. He has to swallow special enzymes before he eats most food. He also completes special breathing treatments each day.
Wanna learn more about Aidan's battle with cystic fibrosis by watching an educational and adorable video?
Aidan's Dream Team 2009 from Aidan Jones on Vimeo.
To help out, head to: http://www.cff.org/Great_S
Thursday, April 16, 2009
So I wasn’t really planning on writing another blog post quite so soon but I also wasn’t planning on Rick Perry so profoundly demonstrating what a blowhard he is last night.
While whoring himself out to the Paulites teabagging each other, Rick Perry proclaimed that Texas has the right to secede under the agreement which led to the annexation of Texas. In doing so, Perry perpetuates a longstanding myth that Texas entered the United States with such a reservation. Of course, this myth is just that, a myth. The Ordinance of the Convention of Texas contains no reference whatsoever to Texas having a right to secede. Read it for yourself if you don’t trust me: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/texan03.asp. You would think this a document that the Governor of Texas might take five minutes out of his day to read, but clearly Perry felt no such compulsion.
Furthermore, even if such a provision existed, it would violate the doctrine of the equality of the states unless all states have a right to secede. In January 1845, six months prior to the admission of Texas to the United States, the Supreme Court of the United States held that no state may enter into a compact with the United States which either diminishes or enlarges the rights surrendered by the states under the Constitution. See Pollard v. Hagan, 44 U.S. 212, 229 (1845). In other words, all states are on equal footing, with no state having greater or lesser rights than another. So even had such a mythical provision, it would only be legal if all states have the right to secede, in which case the provision would be without effect because the right already existed.
Now some have argued that all of the States have an inherent right to secede. The Supreme Court addressed this issue shortly after the Civil War, when they found that the United States is perpetual and indestructible and that no state has the right to leave the union except through revolution or through consent of the states. See Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1868).
So either Rick Perry was advocating revolution against the United States, known as treason to most, or was suggesting that the rest of the United States would just let Texas take it’s ball and go home, in which case, the ‘right’ to secede wouldn’t really be at issue as the secession would be unchallenged. Or of course, the most likely scenario, that Rick Perry is in way over his head and has no idea what he’s talking about.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
So I was reading a law review article yesterday and in a comment, the writer quoted a portion of a Supreme Court opinion where Justice White used the phrase ‘just deserts’. Because I’m a huge dork, this caught my eye as I have always been under the impression the phrase was ‘just desserts’.
So my first instinct was the author just mistyped it because there was no designation that the typo was in the original. So I looked up the opinion itself and sure enough, it’s spelled ‘deserts’ in the opinion.
At this point, I started doubting myself. Sure, my ego is sufficient that I have no problem conceiving being smarter than a student on the SLU Law Journal. After all, when the student wrote this comment, she was just a 3L, as I am, and sure, she had better grades than I do but we all know what miniscule value I place on grades as an indicator of intelligence. But no, the error was not the student’s. So my ego was now confronted with trying to convince myself that I was smarter than Justice White, which I’m most definitely not, and/or one of his clerks, which I’m most likely not. I mean, the law clerk probably went to Harvard or Yale, which is impressive but so did Caroline and Lord knows she isn’t smarter than me. But of course, the law clerk then presumably clerked for a circuit court somewhere before being hired by White so they had to kick ass at being a clerk in addition to making ridiculous grades at a great school.
So since this perceived misspelling had now been signed off on by at least two people smarter than me, and a third who I may or may not be smarter than, I was faced with the fact that the error may in fact be mine. So I looked it up, and sure enough, the phrase is ‘just deserts’.
Now allow me a moment to defend my error. For one, the phrase is pronounced like ‘duh-zirts’, not dez-irts. Furthermore, the phrase makes perfect sense if it’s ‘dessert’. Much like dessert at the end of the meal, you’re getting what’s coming to you. I mean come on, getting one’s ‘just vast barren wasteland’ doesn’t make a lick of sense and it couldn’t be the verb ‘desert’, though pronounced the same, because, well it’s a verb and that would make even less sense.
But of course, it turns out there is a third word ‘desert’. There is of course the noun, and it’s adjective derivative, meaning ‘vast barren wasteland’ as well as the verb meaning ‘to abandon’. But there is also another noun, meaning ‘that which is considered deserved or merited’. Seriously, what the fuck English? Why on earth would we have three words spelled the exact same while all being completely different words with two different pronunciations, three different definitions and of course, three different etymologies? Furthermore, why is one of these words pretty much non-existent in the language outside of the phrase ‘just deserts’?
So ultimately, I’m probably the only person who found this even remotely fascinating, and perhaps I’m the only one who has always been completely mistaken about this phrase. So if nothing else, you get to see me admit, in writing no less, that I was wrong.