Archive for Maynard Institute

A little good news, journalistically speaking

Posted in Internet, Journalism with tags , , , , , on January 7, 2010 by macmystery

When I started this blog in the summer of 2008 when I was at the Maynard Summer Editing Program at the University of Nevada in Reno, Nev., the general idea was that I would write about being a father and being a journalist.

Obviously, you can look down my list of posts and know I haven’t stuck to the format.

Writing about the kids is one thing, but when it comes to journalism, there hasn’t been a lot of good news to write about.

But in the past two-and-a-half months or so, there have been two nuggets of pretty good news — one for the paper as a whole and one for the sports section.

At the end of October, the now-defunct Editor & Publisher reported (Read our story here) that the Herald-Journal’s combined print and online circulation had grown 10.9 percent in the previous year. That percentage represented the fourth biggest growth nationally, behind only Luzerne County Newspapers in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., (14.6 percent), The (Greensburg, Pa.) Tribune-Review (13.6) and the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune (11.4).

Then, just before Christmas, the Associated Press Sports Editors named a Top 10 sports Web site (Read here) for newspapers with fewer than 1 million unique visitors.

Of course, neither of these guarantees that my job won’t go away next week, next month or next year. But a little good news is better than none.

Times are tough, just getting tougher

Posted in Journalism with tags , , , on December 18, 2008 by macmystery

As Christmas approaches, I think most Americans would be hard-pressed to ignore some of the ugly stuff that’s going on with our economy.

Every day brings more discussion on bailouts and the mortgage crisis and layoffs. It’s nearly impossible to ignore.

The climate in my profession, journalism, is no different than in any other section of the economy. In fact, I could probably support an argument that journalists started feeling the downturn long before most American realized there were any problems.

Long-term transition from a print-based product to a Web-based or multi-media product notwithstanding, newspapers, magazines and television all derive their proffits from advertising, and ad revenues have been dropping for some time.

While some of that is the result of what many believe is the slow death of newspapers, much of it is simply advertisers advertising less because they’re making less.

So our bosses’ bosses need to cut costs and the best way to do that is cut people. As a result, I work in an environment where there is the constant rumor of layoffs or buyouts or early retirement.

In fact, twice in the past year, there have been significant layoffs in our newsroom. The ones laid off face a sudden, undesired career change, while the ones that remain are asked to do more with less.

The obvious solution is to get out. As it is, this is a career where most newsroom employees could make more in another profession. Most newsroom employees in this country make less than the pretty-people drug reps that you see visit your doctor in droves while you cough up a lung sitting in the waiting room.

And, while they make less, their job is exponentially more important. It might seem idealistic, but if they are doing their job, journalists are the watchdogs in this country. They call foul when our leaders and our heroes cross the line.

For a while, even though people in my newsroom had lost their jobs, aside from my former boss being pushed into retirement, it had still managed to remain impersonal to me.

But lately, it’s gotten rough for me.

This past summer, I was in Reno, Nev., with eight other editors as a Reynolds fellow in the Maynard Institute’s six-week summer editing program. In the four months since the program ended, two of our nine are already without jobs.

If that wasn’t enough, a friend I worked with here for close to eight years has been laid off at his newspaper. It’s tough just to figure out how to approach the subject with him.

I went to school to be a history teacher. If I don’t wait too long, I can teach history or English or whatever in any number of districts here. I have a family I need to provide for and that has to be my top concern.

But I know if I get get out … there’s no getting back in. And I love what I do.

Every day, I struggle on the inside. How long should I wait before reaching out in a different direction? Should I look for another job in journalism somewhere else? How much longer do I have to stay here before another opportunity to improve my standing improves?

If you know the answers to those questions, you’re doing better than me.

“A Writer’s Credo”

Posted in Books, Journalism, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2008 by macmystery

My friend Jennifer mailed me a book on Yellowstone Park by a man named Jack Turner a few weeks ago. I can only imagine spending serious time in Yellowstone. It’s one of those places most people only read about. You know it exists, you’ve seen it on PBS specials but you’ve never been.

Consequently, making it to the east side of Yosemite National Park was one of my goals for my six-week stay in Reno this summer for the Maynard Editing Program, where I met Jen.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. It was simply a casualty of circumstance. I did see Lake Tahoe twice, Virginia City twice, and I made it to San Francisco and the West Coast for the first time in my life. (Not to mention, despite not being gay, I’ve now been to two major Gay Pride parades. Bizarre.)

Jennifer, who lives in San Antonio, saw the book at a booksale, knew about my unfulfilled goal and bought the book for me. She sent it along with some Alamo crackers for Dylan.

I haven’t got around to reading it yet. I will as soon as I finish the book I’m reading about the South. But I have perused “Travels in the Greater Yellowstone” enough to find this nugget between the acknowledgements and the introduction:

“The moral duty of the free writer is to begin his work at home: to be a critic of his own community, his own country, his own government, his own culture. The more freedom the writer possesses the greater the moral obligation to play the role of critic.”

The words were not written by Turner, but by Edward Abbey, “an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues and criticism of public land policies,” to quote Wikipedia, which of course, is always dangerous.

Apparently, Abbey, who died in 1989, was quite a controversial character. He was quite the environmentalist, with most of his attention focused on the American West, yet he refused to be associated with those we commonly know as environmentalists and tended to anger those on both the right and the left. For example, he advocated burning draft cards as early as 1947, but was known to support the National Rifle Association.

Abbey’s politics aside, his “Writer’s Credo,” originally written as a lecture and included as a chapter in his book “One Life At a Time, Please,”  is as on the money as one could be. And though Abbey was an author and not a journalist, at least in the common sense, he hits on what some of the goals of a journalist should be.

In the process of finding out more about Abbey, including spending considerable time on a Web site dedicated to his works and fans, per se, I came across a treasure trove of interesting quotes by the man. Here are a few: 

To truly bring about change, one must be willing “to oppose injustice, to defy the powerful, to speak for the voiceless.”

“Truth is always the enemy of power. And power the enemy of truth.”

“Whenever I see a photograph of some sportsman grinning over his kill, I am always impressed by the striking moral and aesthetic superiority of the dead animal to the live one.”

“Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.”

“A knowledge of the true age of the earth and of the fossil record makes it impossible for any balanced intellect to believe in the literal truth of every part of the Bible in the way that fundamentalists do. And if some of the Bible is manifestly wrong, why should any of the rest of it be accepted automatically?”

“The tragedy of modern war is that the young men die fighting each other – instead of their real enemies back home in the capitals.”

“Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.”

“There is no force more potent in the modern world than stupidity fueled by greed.”

“In art as in a boat, a bullet, or a coconut-cream pie, purpose determines form.”

“Grand opera is a form of musical entertainment for people who hate music.”

“Science is the whore of industry and the handmaiden of war.”

“The rich can buy everything but health, virtue, friendship, wit, good looks, love, pride, intelligence, grace, and, if you need it, happiness.”

“The feminist notion that the whole of human history has been nothing but a vast intricate conspiracy by men to enslave their wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters presents us with an intellectual neurosis for which we do not yet have a name.”

“There’s nothing so obscene and depressing as an American Christmas.”

“Motherhood is an essential, difficult, and full-time job. Women who do not wish to be mothers should not have babies.”

“The best American writers have come from the hinterlands–Mark Twain, Theodore Dreiser, Jack London, Hemingway, Faulkner, Wolfe, Steinbeck. Most of them never even went to college.”

“Abolition of a woman’s right to abortion, when and if she wants it, amounts to compulsory maternity: a form of rape by the State.”

“In the Soviet Union, government controls industry. In the United States, industry controls government. That is the principal structural difference between the two great oligarchies of our time.”

America My Country: last nation on earth to abolish human slavery; first of all nations to drop the nuclear bomb on our fellow human beings.”

Any hack can safely rail away at foreign powers beyond the sea; but a good writer is a critic of the society he lives in.”

“There never was a good war or a bad revolution.”

“Baseball serves as a good model for democracy in action: Every player is equally important and each has a chance to be a hero.”

“The most common form of terrorism in the U.S.A. is that carried on by bulldozers and chain saws.”

“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”

“Jane Austen: Getting into her books is like getting in bed with a cadaver. Something vital is lacking; namely, life.”

And last, but not least:

Life is too short for grief. Or regret. Or bullshit.”

Only the beginning

Posted in Introduction with tags , , on July 4, 2008 by macmystery

I hope this is the first of many posts.

I started this blog today as part of a project for the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education’s summer editing program at the University of Nevada, Reno. I have had a blog before, but work and family proved to be too time consuming for me to post as much as I would have liked, and our home computer was woefully inadequate. So eventually, I just let it die.

This time around, I’m committed to seeing it through.

My theme for this site is pretty loose. I hope to write about what I know and love: my family – my wife and our two children, my job, some movies and music, some politics and anything else interesting that’s going on around us

If you’re reading this, I hope you come back, and please, tell me what you think.

Until next time …