Joseph Epstein: The Five Stages of Trump Derangement Syndrome

From a Wall Street Journal column by Joseph Epstein headlined “The Next Pandemic: Trump Derangement Syndrome”:

It’s been going around for some time and now appears to be in danger of spreading widely. I refer not to Covid-19, but to Donald-20, or, to use its pseudoscientific name, Trump Derangement Syndrome. Research has shown that TDS appears in five stages, each of advanced intensity. . . .

In Stage One, the afflicted has decided before 2016 that Donald Trump has serious, even strenuous, character flaws that disqualified him for the presidency or any other public office. Voting for him was never possible. For Stage One sufferers, a second Trump term could have effects that are frightening to contemplate. . . .

Life in 2022: “Cities may be left without the only major source of information about local politics, business, and education.”

From a New York Times piece by David Leonhardt headlined “It’s 2022. What Does Life Look Like?”:

It’s 2022, and the coronavirus has at long last been defeated. After a miserable year-and-a-half, alternating between lockdowns and new outbreaks, life can finally begin returning to normal.

But it will not be the old normal. It will be a new world, with a reshaped economy, much as war and depression reordered life for previous generations.

Thousands of stores and companies that were vulnerable before the virus arrived have disappeared. Dozens of colleges are shutting down, in the first wave of closures in the history of American higher education. People have also changed long-held patterns of behavior: Outdoor socializing is in, business trips are out.

How James Gordon Bennett Transformed Journalism: “He printed what he thought the readers would want to know, not what he wanted to tell them.”

From a column in the Wall Street Journal by John Steele Gordon headlined “Political Neutrality Is What Made American Newspapers Great”:

Many of America’s great newspapers have moved away from even the pretense of political neutrality. That tradition dates to 1835, when a Scottish immigrant named James Gordon Bennett founded the New York Herald. He had $500 in capital, an office in a dank cellar, and only himself as staff.

“The Wall Street Journal is one of many media organizations, including The New York Times, where staff members have questioned leadership.”

From a New York Times story by Marc Tracy and Ben Smith headlined “Wall Street Journal Staff Members Push for Big Changes in News Coverage”:

Staff members of The Wall Street Journal have been pressing newsroom leaders to make fundamental changes in how the newspaper covers race, policing, and its primary focus, the business world, along with other matters.

In a June 23 letter to the editor in chief, Matt Murray, a group identifying itself only as “members of the WSJ newsroom” said the paper must “encourage more muscular reporting about race and social inequities,” and laid out detailed proposals for revising its news coverage.

Jhumpa Lahiri: “She rented a room and pecked out stories at night on her typewriter.”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri, born Nilanjana Sudeshna Lahiri in London in 1967. Her father, a librarian, moved the family to Kingston, Rhode Island, when Lahiri was two.

Growing up, Lahiri often felt conflicted between two worlds: that of her parents, who still listened to traditional Bengali songs on a reel-to-reel tape player, and that of her American friends, who watched television and went to the movies. A nervous child who was afraid of sports and public speaking, she found solace in reading.

Mom’s Commandments: “Her lessons have helped shape me as a writer and editor.”

From a medium.com post by Mary Melton headlined “Mom”s Commandments”:

Four days into 2014, I lost my mom, Ruthe Powell Melton. She was 83. Born in Hollywood, she was my role model, joke supplier, shoulder to cry on, and closest friend. She was also the coolest L.A. woman I knew. Her passing made me aware of how much she taught me about living, and how those lessons have helped shape my profession as a writer and editor. I wanted to share her pearls of wisdom. I call them “Mom’s Commandments.”

“Since Watergate — a mistrustful electorate, a generation of reporters hungry for stories that carried a whiff of political malfeasance.”

From a New York Times review by Jennifer Szalai headlined “Newt Gingrich and the Dawn of a Toxic Political Era”—the book reviewed is Burning Down the House by Julian E. Zelizer:

To hear President Trump use the term, “corruption” can do double duty as a hand grenade and a safe word — a ready-made epithet to yell out whenever he’s feeling the squeeze.

Barton Swaim on Margaret Sullivan:”Perhaps I’m naive to think America’s premier media critic would dare to criticize the media.” 

From a Wall Street Journal Bookshelf column by Barton Swaim headlined “News You Can Lose” about the Margaret Sullivan book Ghosting the News:

News coverage of state and local government affairs has never been great, but in the past decade or two it has ranged between abysmal and nonexistent. Craigslist began siphoning off newspapers’ ad revenue in the early 2000s; social media gave people the feeling of keeping up with the “news” without actually reading any news; and all the while newspapers—not including this one, I’m happy to say—were gullible enough to believe that they could give away their content on the internet and make up for the consequent drop in subscriptions with digital-ad revenue. The result: Regional newspapers, already struggling for attention in the 1990s, have spent the past two decades shedding employees and closing their doors.

“Judith Viorst and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad President”

From a Washingtonian magazine feature “Writing Through the Pandemic”:

We asked Washington writers to share stories, poems, drafts, musings, and other things they’ve been working on during the pandemic. Today, a verse from Judith Viorst, whose many books for children and adults include, most famously, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. A graduate of the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute, Viorst is the author of Necessary Losses: The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies, and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow. Among her books of poetry is her latest, Nearing 90: And Other Comedies of Late Life.

How Editors Can Help Writers Do Great Stories

What can editors do to help writers do great stories? I asked writers:

1. Pay me enough that I feel rewarded for my best efforts.

2. Give me enough time to do the needed reading, reporting, and thinking.

3. Be helpful but give me the freedom to write the story the way I see it.

4. Be reachable if trouble arises.

5. Protect me from others–fact-checkers, sub-editors, accountants, etc.–who make unreasonable demands.

6. Keep me in the loop if big changes are being made to the story.