“We’re Journalists and We’re a Lot Smarter Than You Are”

Longtime Democratic leader Ted Van Dyk suggested yesterday that the Washington Post and New York Times now publish too much “daily snarky commentary” about President Trump and no longer are acting credibly or responsibly. If their coverage has become somewhat unhinged—and I think Van Dyk is right—how and why has it happened?

First, the Post and the Times are highly competitive with each other. The Times still remembers the Post getting most the credit for helping drive President Nixon from office in 1974 and the Times was incensed when Hollywood, after lionizing the Post in “All the President’s Men,” seemed to credit the Post instead of the Times for the disclosing of the Pentagon Papers in last year’s Tom Hanks-Meryl Streep movie “The Post.”

A Longtime Democrat on “the One-Sided Tilt of the Times and the Post”

In  1968 I was a Congressional Fellow in the office of Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Ted Van Dyk was Vice President Humphrey’s chief of staff. Ted, who now lives in his native state of Washington, has been active in Democratic politics since 1961, serving in the White House and State Department and several Democratic presidential campaigns. Here’s his Facebook post about the New York Times column written by an anonymous person who says he works in the Trump White House.

Writing 101: Block Those Adjectives

By Mike Feinsilber

When I was the writing coach for the Washington bureau of the AP, I wrote a memo about the overuse of adjectives. A particular target was the word “very,” which I argued performs contrarily to the writer’s intention—it dilutes what the writer intended to underscore. “Very,” I said, was never useful.

One of the bureau’s best writers dissented in a mumble heard round the newsroom.

“Well, I don’t know,” he said. “I think I’d rather be very rich than rich.”

Labor Day Remembrance: “You Do Not Touch the Type”

In the 1960s publishing was very different—hot type, composing rooms, and unions. In 1965 I left UPI to edit a paper in Warren, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, and during that first week I was in the newspaper’s composing room, learning how to help lay out page one. I saw a change that should be made and touched a line of the type on the layout table.

The composing room, noisy from all the linotype machines, went dead silent. “You do not touch the type,” a voice said.

In 1966 I moved to San Jose, California, to edit a group of six weeklies. They were printed on offset presses.

“No, the Idea That You Can Write in Your Head Is Ill-Conceived and Silly”

Yesterday’s post (How to Trust and Value Your Own Thinking) by former New York Times journalist Verlyn Klinkenborg was about writing in your head: “You’ll learn to be comfortable in that dark, cavernous place.”

It drew a harsh comment from Barney Collier, also a former New York Times journalist: “His dictates about how to construct a story are both ill-conceived and silly.”

Klinkenborg’s advice to his students had struck me as odd but interesting and I figured he had a Ph.D from Princeton and had taught at Harvard so he should be worth listening to. Barney disagreed with enthusiasm.

Writing 101—How to Trust and Value Your Own Thinking

From “Where Do Sentences Come From?”,  by Verlyn Klinkenborg,  a member of The New York Times Editorial Board and the author of Several Short Sentences About Writing.

So let’s demystify the origin of sentences. Think of it this way. You almost surely have a voice inside your head. At present, it’s an untrained voice. It natters along quite happily, constructing delayed ripostes and hypothetical conversations. Why not give it something useful to do? Memorize some poetry or prose, nothing too arcane. A rhythmic kind of writing works best, something that sounds almost spoken. Then play those passages over and over again in your memory. You now have in your head something that is identifiably “language,” not merely thoughts that somehow seem unlinguistic.

Now try turning a thought into a sentence. This is harder than it seems because first you have to find a thought. They may seem scarce because nothing in your education has suggested that your thoughts are worth paying attention to. Again and again I see in students, no matter how sophisticated they are, a fear of the dark, cavernous place called the mind. They turn to it as though it were a mailbox. They take a quick peek, find it empty and walk away.

Waggish? Droll? Playful? Whimsical? Surely Not the Good, Gray New York Times

By Mike Feinsilber

Years ago, I read in a book about what copy editors sitting around the rim at the New York Times did in idle moments. They composed tongue-in-cheek headlines about ancient events. I can remember only one of them, how the Times might have reported the deliverance of the Ten Commandments:

Moses, on Sinai,
Gets 10-Point Plan

Whimsy is back at the Times, once called “The good, gray lady.” Here are some of the Times’s recent headlines:

On a story reporting how Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, had after weeks of cat-and-mousing, agreed to testify at a congressional hearing:

Veterans Also Could Help Journalism See More Clearly

Alan Murray, president of Fortune magazine, writes today about how electing more veterans to Congress could “pave the way for solutions to our broken politics.”
Much has been made, rightly, of 2018 as the “Year of the Woman,” with a flood of female candidates running in midterm elections. But it is also the year that a new generation of military veterans—many who served post-9/11—are entering politics. Some 400 veterans are running for Congress alone. That could mark an inflection point for politics. Veterans account for just 19% of today’s Congress, down from peaks of 75% in the House in 1967 and 81% in the Senate in 1975. McCain’s sterling example gives reason to hope that a fresh crop of politicians who have proven their commitment to country could help pave the way for solutions to our broken politics.

If veterans account for just 19 percent of today’s Congress, I’d guess the percent of veterans working in journalism in Washington and New York is closer to five percent.

“Trump Acts More Like a Mob Boss Than the President”

“In his praise for Manafort, now convicted of multiple felonies but refusing to spill the beans, to his ire with Cohen for a willingness to cooperate, to his absurd claim that turning state’s evidence should be outlawed, Trump acts more like a mob boss than a president.”

”Tweet on August 23, 2018, from Congressman Adam Schiff of California
Vic Gold, who died a year ago after a long career in politics and journalism, wrote a 1980 Washingtonian story about what it’d be like if things got so bad that the American people would elect a Mafia boss as President. Excerpts from Vic’s story titled “If a Mafia Boss Ran the Country.”

What Capitol Hill Insiders Thought of John McCain

Every two years the Washingtonian surveys members of the Senate and House and their staffs, asking them to rate members of Congress in a variety of categories, some serious, some fun: Best Leader, Worst Follower, Hottest Temper, Straight Shooter, and more. In 2006, two years before he became the Republican nominee for president, here’s how Capitol Hill insiders saw John McCain.

Straightest Shooter

1. John McCain (R-Arizona)

2. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska)

McCain’s Straight Talk Express is still humming. He gets votes from both sides of the aisle, as does Hagel, considered “McCain Lite.”

Worst Follower