Access vs. Objectivity: “Reporter’s closeness to Ginsburg raises questions.”

From a Washington Post story by media writer Paul Farhi headlined “Reporter’s closeness to Ginsburg raises questions”:

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday, NPR reporter Nina Totenberg was among the first to break the news. Not surprising: Totenberg is one of the most accomplished chroniclers of the Supreme Court, covering it for all of the associate justice’s 27-year term and beyond.

Totenberg had another reason for being on top of the news: She was a long and close friend of Ginsburg. The relationship dated back to the 1970s when Ginsburg was a pioneering feminist lawyer. The Ginsburg and Totenberg families shared dinners and celebrations together. Ginsburg even presided over Totenberg’s wedding to her second husband, David Reines.

Agatha Christie on the Art of Opening a Mystery Novel

From a post on headlined “Agatha Christie and the Art of Opening a Mystery Novel:

Murder on the Links:

“I believe that a well-known anecdote exists to the effect that a young writer, determined to make the commencement of his story forcible and original enough to catch and rivet the attention of the most blasé of editors, penned the following sentence:

“ ‘Hell!’ said the Duchess.”

Strangely enough, this tale of mine opens in much the same fashion.

Peril at End House:

Inside the Los Angeles Times: “Norman Pearlstine and a summer of turmoil and scandals.”

From a Los Angeles Times story by Meg James and Daniel Hernandez headlined “L.A. Times shaken by a summer of turmoil and scandals”:

On a Friday night last month, Los Angeles Times Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine sent a short email to the newsroom, announcing sports columnist Arash Markazi had resigned.

The columnist had copied information contained in seven stories from other sources, an internal investigation found. Pearlstine said “for the record” clarifications were added to each of the articles.

When an Editor Has to Fire a Writer

By Jack Limpert

You can learn life lessons from sports—practice, teamwork, resiliency—so when I saw the words a football coach used in kicking a player off his team, I thought maybe that’s language to keep in mind if an editor has to fire a writer:

“I have dismissed Chad Kelly for conduct detrimental to our program,” Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney said. “He has had a pattern of behavior that is not consistent with the values of our program. I hope he will mature and grow from this and become the man and player I know he can be. I wish him nothing but the best in the future academically and athletically.”

CNN and the Rise of Donald Trump: “Jeff Zucker’s thirst for ratings blinded him to the damage CNN was doing by transforming Trump from a local blowhard into a national figure.”

From Ben Smith’s Media Equation column in the New York Times headlined “Jeff Zucker Helped Create Donald Trump. That Show May Be Ending.”:

In December 2015, after the demagoguery of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign became clear, I asked CNN’s president, Jeff Zucker, if he regretted his role in Mr. Trump’s rise.

First Mr. Zucker — who put “The Apprentice” on NBC in 2004 and made Mr. Trump a household name — laughed uproariously, if a bit nervously. Then he said, “I have no regrets about the part that I played in his career.”

Looking at Writers as Left-Brain or Right-Brain Thinkers

By Jack Limpert

During 50 years of editing, I found that the simplest way to look at writers was left brain-right brain. The theory is that left brain types are better at logic and analysis, the right brain types better at imagination and creativity.

Writers come in many different packages—good talker-good listener, book smart-street smart, lots of drive-kind of lazy, I’m only doing it for the money-it’s my passion in life, etc.—but the left brain-right brain approach seemed most useful. Some magazine stories needed more logical thinking, some needed more emotional life.

When the New York Times Created the Op Ed Page

From The Writer’s Almanac:

On this day in 1970, The New York Times premiered a new section called the “Op Ed page,” a section opposite the traditional editorial page that was to be devoted to the columns of outside writers and to illustrations and political cartoons.

The invention of the “op-ed,” or, to put it another way, the willingness of a newspaper to include the perspective of non-newspaper writers, as well as its endorsement of visual art, shifted the way newspapers did business — and the way readers interacted with them.

A Presidential Campaign Full of Dreadful Lies: “Four Pinocchios From the Washington Post”

From a column by Marc A. Thiessen in the Washington Post of September 19, 2016 headlined “Hilary Clinton, who tells dreadful lies”:

Hillary Clinton tells us she is recovering from a mild case of pneumonia, but less than half of American voters believe her belated explanation of why she appeared to faint leaving a 9/11 commemoration. If she wants to understand why, she can find the answer in a children’s poem.

In his 1907 classic, “Matilda Who told Lies, and was Burned to Death,” Hilaire Belloc tells the story of a young girl who “told such Dreadful Lies, It made one Gasp and Stretch one’s Eyes.”. . .

Max Perkins: “His genius was his ability to inspire writers to do their best work.”

By Jack Limpert

My sense of how an editor should behave was shaped by reading Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, by Scott Berg. Perkins was a book editor at Scribner’s and his authors included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, James Jones, and many others.

His genius was his ability to inspire writers to do their best work. He often had a big impact on a book—the length, structure, and title—but to the outside world the finished book always was the author’s; it was the author’s genius, not the editor’s.

Washington Post editor Leonard Downie: “Woodward was a talented reporter but his writing was wooden. Bernstein could be strikingly selfish and irresponsible.”

From a Washington Post review by Connie Schultz of the Leonard Downie book All About the Story: News, Power, Politics, and the Washington Post:

Downie writes about the rivalries within the newsroom, which are common at larger papers, and is critical of the political beat system. Nowhere is this more evident than in his account of the Watergate coverage that ended in Richard Nixon’s resignation. “Too many national news reporters gave too much deference to what they were told by their sources in government and politics, whom they talked to every day and came to know well,” Downie writes. “They regarded the ‘dirty tricks’ they came across in political campaigns as relatively insignificant and outside the lines of the game they covered, as though it were a sport, like baseball. For too many long months, Watergate appeared to many of them to be well outside the lines.”