Bill Raspberry—Great Journalist, Great Man, Still Making a Difference

By Jack Limpert

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Bill Raspberry was a columnist who looked for common ground.

Here is an update of a post from July 2012 about the life and good works of one of Washington’s very best journalists. When Washington Post columnists now tell readers what to think about race relations, my reaction almost always is, “If only Bill Raspberry was here to help all sides better understand.”
Bill Raspberry, 76, died July 17, 2012, in Washington. Very few journalists, and almost no columnists, had as many readers, admirers, and friends. Here are snapshots of Bill from 40 years of knowing him.

How Richard Nixon Made Me a Bread Baker

By Mike Feinsilber

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Mike Feinsilber, when covering President Nixon for UPI, was encouraged by an AP reporter to learn to bake bread.

Richard Nixon did awful things, but let’s face it. He was capable of some good deeds. Like making me a home baker of bread.

Here’s how that happened: In the spring of 1974, the House Judiciary Committee conducted closed hearings into whether Nixon’s Watergate and coverup misdeeds warranted impeachment. (He quit before the House could act.) I covered the House committee’s proceedings for United Press International, which, back in those days, was still a player.

Where Have All the Editors Gone?

From a New York Times Sunday conversation between Norman Lear, the legendary television writer and producer, Seth MacFarlane, a fellow sitcom creator and filmmaker, and Philip Galanes of the Times.

Norman Lear: We have lived with Judeo-Christian ethics for 2,000 years. Look around. It’s horrific and amazing where we are. I would have to be a horse’s ass to think my little shows could change something that all of humanity couldn’t.

Philip Galanes: But wouldn’t honest conversation—

Seth MacFarlane: Not today. If you make a thoughtful statement, or even ask a question about an uncomfortable subject today, you are pounced on by a thousand different media outlets that will eat you for breakfast.

Why I Write

By Ray E. Boomhower

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James Salter (1925-2015): “The only thing left will be…what is written down.” Photograph courtesy of Flickr.

“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”
—George Orwell

“Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.”
—Octavia E. Butler

“I write to understand as much as to be understood.”
—Elie Wiesel

Never Write It If You Can Say It—and There Are Times You Shouldn’t Say It

By Jack Limpert

This morning’s conversation of the day among our neighborhood dog walkers was triggered by a Washington Post story about what two Virginia doctors said about a patient after he was sedated for a colonoscopy. The anesthesiologist, a woman, said of the patient, “I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit.”

Before the colonoscopy, the patient had put his smartphone on record, stuck it in his pants pocket, and his pants were placed under the examination table. When he later heard what the doctors had said about him, he sued and a jury awarded him $500,000.

Journalism 101: Declaring War on Wedgies

By Mike Feinsilber

Harry Levins was a senior writer and writing coach at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He dispatched daily emails to colleagues, critiquing the paper. His targets were stories from the Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times news services as well as stories from the Associated Press and the Post-Dispatch.

“Wedgies” is what he called incidental information (nonrestrictive clauses, if you want to go formal) that were wedged into a sentence between subject and predicate and that could, just as easily and much more clearly, stand alone in an independent sentence.

“Just Focus on What You Can Do Next”

By Jack Limpert

Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer pitched close to a perfect game yesterday. He had retired 26 batters and needed one more out. He had two strikes on batter Jose Tabata when Tabata appeared to lean into an inside pitch, letting it clip his elbow and allowing him to trot down to first base. Nats catcher Wilson Ramos said the pitch looked like a strike and most Nats fans would be forgiven for thinking that Tabata had cheated Scherzer out of a place in baseball’s history books.

In Matters of Style…

In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. —Thomas Jefferson

Never offend people with style when you can offend them with substance.
—Sam Brown

What Journalists Can Learn from a Sociologist and a Psychologist

By Jack Limpert

Two recent posts here were critical of a report from the Poynter Institute for Media Studies that seemed to emphasize the importance of team play in journalism, advising journalism schools that “Educators might want to think about how they can help students understand that journalism is not a ‘lone wolf’ profession.”

Block Those Metaphors, Boswell

By Jack Limpert

Reading the last grafs of this Tom Boswell column in the Washington Post was a reminder of the fun the New Yorker has had over the years with newsbreaks called “Block That Metaphor.” I sent it to a fellow baseball fan who said of Boswell, “The downside of a Harvard education spent at Fenway Park.” Good line but Boswell graduated from Amherst.
When driving a car, if you start to lose control, you’re taught to turn the wheel in the direction of the skid. Everybody learns it. In a hairy moment, not everybody can do it. In baseball, when a team starts to go into a skid—and everybody can feel that slide just as clearly as tires spinning on ice—the natural instinct is to snap the wheel back to straight ahead, fight the approaching slump,