Asking the New York Times: “What would it look like for the Times to truly focus on improving the state of local news?”

From a post by Joshua Benton on headlined “An open letter to the CEO of The New York Times”:

…thanks to some smart strategy, great journalism, and Donald John Trump, The New York Times in 2020 is stronger than ever. Its newsroom is bigger than it’s ever been. It has more subscribers than it’s ever had. Its stock price is in shouting distance of a new all-time high. It’s expanding into other forms of media from a position of strength, not fear or wary obligation. It’s flexing its muscles at Silicon Valley. It’s even making buzzy acquisitions, and it has hundreds of millions in cash lying around if it wants to make any more.

Isabel Wilkerson: “I wish we could see more books about the inner lives of everyday people.”

From a New York Times “By the Book” interview with Isabel Wilkerson:

Isabel Wilkerson: Author and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist.

What books are on your nightstand?

I have years of catching up to do. I am especially looking forward to reading “The Sympathizer,” by Viet Thanh Nguyen, “Washington Black,” by Esi Edugyan, and “The Vanishing Half,” by Brit Bennett.

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

A Good Editor Has a Good B.S. Detector

Ross’s ability to detect falseness of any sort and in any form was one of his most important attributes as an editor. He was naturally drawn to what was genuine, authentic, real, true. His eye and his ear—and another sense or two that he peculiarly possessed—were affronted by a word, a phrase, a sentence, a thought, a bit of information, a line of dialogue, a short story, a piece of reporting, that was not the real thing, that was in one way or another specious, spurious, meretricious, dishonest.”

—William Shawn on Harold Ross, from Brendan Gill’s book, Here at the New Yorker

Remembering Otto Feurbringer: “He believed that facts were Time’s editorial currency and fact checkers were Time’s treasurers.”

By Barnard Law Collier

Time magazine editor Otto Fuerbringer looking almost happy.

Otto Feurbringer, magazine editor, founding spirit of the 48-story TIME LIFE building, died July 28, 2008, at age 97.

My first 150-square-foot office was on the 34th floor. I was a contributing editor for Time.

The “news” veterans at Time wrote for the influential Nation and World sections. I got the newbie’s slots: Latin America, the People column, and Milestones, which were anniversaries, memorable dates, and obits.

The edge-of-new-and-cool vibe people felt inside the Time Life building radiated out of the office of Time’s managing editor, Otto Feurbringer (or “Firebringer”).

Ron Martin: “A passion for finding good stories, an award-winning reporter, an outstanding mentor.”

From an obit by Sandy Strickland in the Florida Times-Union headlined “Ronald ‘Ron” Martin, 1931-2020: Fearless journalist know for education, government coverage”:

Ronald “Ron” Martin, an award-winning education reporter and governmental affairs editor for the Jacksonville Journal, has died at age 88. . . .He also was an editor with the Florida Times-Union after the Journal ceased publication.

When the Duval County school system lost its accreditation in 1964 and in the years leading up to desegregation, Mr. Martin wrote a series of hard-hitting stories about poor conditions in schools. Some executives formed a group called WORM (Wipe Out Ron Martin) as a result, said his son, Eric Martin.

Stolley’s Laws on how to get the attention of readers

Dick Stolley, the founding editor of People magazine, once came up with his laws of magazine covers and in many ways they apply to digital journalism:
1. Young is better than old.
2. Pretty is better than ugly.
3. Rich is better than poor.
4. Movies are better than television.
5. Movies and television are better than music.
6. Movies, TV, and music are better than sports.
7. Anything is better than politics.
8. Nothing is better than a dead celebrity.

Looking Back: “The inky crossroads where publishing and scholarship intersected.”

From a book review by Ernest Hilbert in the Wall Street Journal of Inky Fingers by Anthony Grafton:

In an age of briskly marketed “beach books,” it is easy to think of time spent turning pages as a leisure activity, almost an indulgence, anything but work. Even the familiar dream of retiring to a cabin to write a book seems like nothing so much as a vacation. It was not always so, as Anthony Grafton makes clear in “Inky Fingers: The Making of Books in Early Modern Europe.”.  .  .

The Difference Between Novelists and Government Bureaucrats

Novelists, Margaret Atwood once said, spend their time imagining some nonexistent people are real.

Bureaucrats, she continued, do the reverse: As they construct rules and procedures to make normal life impossible, they pass their days imagining that real people don’t exist.

—From a review, by Andrew Stark, of the book Out of Our Minds, in the Wall Street Journal.

The Peanuts Way of Attracting Readers

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 10.35.22 AMBy Jack Limpert

One of my favorite books was Schulz and Peanuts, by David Michaelis; it’s the life story of Charles Schulz, a shy kid from Minneapolis who created the nation’s most popular comic strip.

Here’s Schulz talking about how to attract readers:  “You must give the audience moments. You must give them laughter, you must give them a little poignancy…”

How does a writer create moments?

Getting laughter is hard. But any writer who does great reporting can create moments of poignancy, moments that get the reader to say wow.

“I think we should consider protest songs as a form of journalism. They report events, document injustice, and prompt questions.”

From an essay by Dale Keiger on headlined “How protest songs echo—and sometimes lead—the stories of our times”:

On a warm spring night in 1974, I was an Ohio University student reporter amid a riot. Not a riot against repression or inequality or injustice or the Vietnam War, not that sort of riot. Rather, the sort of riot that results when a throng of restive, probably beered-up male undergraduates in the center of town grows in number until there’s sufficient mass to produce something stupid, like someone hurling bricks through a few shop windows, and the city authorities prove even dumber by deploying several dozen helmeted cops armed with tear gas and clubs so big they could lean on them. Witless boys instigated the vandalism. The police instigated the riot.