Weekend Wisdom for Journalists

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.
—Richard Feynman

Don’t tell me about the law. Tell me about the judges.
—Roy Marcus Cohn

Love your mother, but cut the deck.
—Sidney Zion

Ego interferes with understanding.
—The Marathon Key dolphins

The wise learn from everyone.
—The Greeks

If you are good at making excuses, you are seldom good for anything else.
—Ben Franklin

If you wish to be a good editor learn to be charming with a sabre.
—Mark Twain

—Posted by Barney Collier

The Future of Magazines? “Food, Fashion, Home and the Styles of Famous Personalities”

From a Wall Street Journal story headlined “Meredith Shares Plunge on Disappointing Outlook”:

Shares in Meredith Corp. fell sharply after the publisher of People, Better Homes & Gardens and Real Simple said it expected to generate significantly less profit in the coming year than analysts had projected. . . .

Meredith, which is based in Des Moines, Iowa, spent the past year selling off magazine titles that provide news or sports coverage. However, the company’s executives see big opportunities in the lifestyle arena, where food, fashion and home content isn’t time sensitive and the styles of famous personalities have unique appeal.

“I Prefer to Write By Hand Rather Than Type”

From an essay by Hanif Kureishi that appears in the book, How I Write: The Secret Lives of Authors, published by Rizzoli International Publications.

I prefer to write by hand rather then type; the movement of the arms seems closer to drawing—doodling, rather—and to inner movement. Ultimately these are habits; daily repetitions. A new thing is an excuse for another thing the same. Then you know who you are. Beckett is full of these obsessions—you might call his an aesthetic of futile repetitions.

The Wayward Day of the Week: Cut It Out

A group of these state officials, representing the broader coalition, is expected to unveil the investigation at a Monday news conference in Washington, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss a law enforcement proceeding on the record, cautioning the plans could change.*

—The Washington Post, page A20, 9/4 in a story about a forthcoming investigation of Google.

Ismail Ajjawi, a 17-year-old who lived in a refugee camp in Lebanon and earned a scholarship to Harvard, was allowed Monday to enter the United States, his attorney Albert Mokhiber said.

An Entertaining NYTimes Piece on President Trump’s Often Odd Tweeting of the English Language

From an August 31 New Y0rk Times piece, by Sarah Lyall, titled “Trump’s Twitter War on Spelling”:

. . .After he has spent nearly three years in office, Mr. Trump’s critics ask, why does he remain intent not only on making egregious errors, but also on deliberately failing to correct them? Leaving aside its splenetic tone and in-your-face ad hominem attacks, knee-jerk defensiveness and ugly, dog-whistle language, why is so much of the direct communication from the president to the world heaving with bad grammar, bad spelling, bizarre punctuation, muddy diction and inexplicable random capitalization?. . .

A Cop Talking: “You Don’t Have to Talk to the Press. It’s Better If You Don’t.”

Author Laura Lippman.

From the novel Lady In the Lake by Laura Lippman: The novel is set in Baltimore and some of the chapters are in the first-person by a character in the story. In this chapter a policeman is talking; he’s dealing with a woman who discovered a murdered girl’s body and he’s telling the woman to be careful about talking with journalists.

The news people finally get wind of it. We’ve been careful on the radio, but we are less than a mile from Television Hill and the road has been blocked. . . .The reporters are kept at the end of the street, sometimes yelling out questions, but mostly quiet. . .

The Child of the Sea

By Barnard Law Collier

Miami Beach—Writers almost anywhere on Earth know that hurricanes are God’s way of letting us know that we are way too cocky.

In the actual world, no words and no weapons can gentle a hurricane’s wrath. Every hurricane in history is monstrous in its own way.

The biggest hurricanes generate disintegrating winds of 150+ miles per hour with tornadic squalls of up to 240 miles an hour. A human body and most man-made structures are torn to shreds at those velocities.

The tropical cyclone, which is a hurricane’s meteorological name, has been employed for several thousand years as a sure-fire literary device.

How Wisconsin Reflects the Nation’s Politics: “Both Sides Approach It Nervously”

Paul Ryan and Donald Trump in Green Bay.

From an earlier About Editing and Writing post about Wisconsin’s role as a swing state in presidential elections (I grew up in Wisconsin so follow its politics with added interest):

A case can be made that Wisconsin is good proxy for the nation’s politics—its voters have elected a balance of Democrat and Republican candidates that seem to reflect what’s going on nationally. And much like the country’s politics, the outcome in Wisconsin is often decided by the split between urban and non-urban voters. Not urban and rural, as big city journalists like to describe it, but urban (Milwaukee and Madison) and non-urban (mostly cities such as Green Bay, many with over 50,000 population).

“Words That Have Never Been Written”

W.S.Merwin (1927-2019): His poetry
was noted for indirect, unpunctuated narration.

Inside this pencil
crouch words that have never been written
never been spoken
never been taught

they’re hiding

they’re awake in there
dark in the dark
hearing us
but they won’t come out
not for love not for time not for fire

even when the dark has worn away
they’ll still be there
hiding in the air
multitudes in days to come may walk through them
breathe them
be none the wiser

When Johnny Carson Became Ashamed of His Audience’s Bad Manners

From The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, a book by Maxwell King, published by Abrams Press. Rogers was an influential figure in the history of children’s television. As the creator and star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he was a champion of compassion, equality, and kindness.

Johnny Carson played Fred Rogers in a 1978 parody in which he donned a bad wig and found only a dead fish in the famous tank on a simulated Neighborhood set. Instead of sneakers, Carson donned white shoes of the sort gamblers might wear in Vegas. And holding Barbie and Ken dolls, speaking in a slow and seemingly child-friendly cadence, Carson’s Mr. Rogers, full of sly innuendo,  shows the audience how the two dolls get under the bed covers to make a baby.