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This has nothing to do with books or reading, but it does deal with journalism.  I can’t help but share it. I recently read (on another blog that I admire very much) about how tonight’s broadcast of ABC’s Nightline will not be aired across the country. The entire broadcast was going to consist simply of…

A Political Act?

This has nothing to do with books or reading, but it does deal with journalism.  I can’t help but share it. I recently read (on another blog that I admire very much) about how tonight’s broadcast of ABC’s Nightline will not be aired across the country. The entire broadcast was going to consist simply of Ted Koppel reading the names of those soldiers who have died in the war, as their pictures are put on screen. The rumor is that not every affiliate is going to carry it. (From what I read, Sinclair, the company that promises not broadcast tonight’s show, only owns eight stations across the Midwest). Here is a letter about it, put out by a few liberal organizations:

“Tonight, ABC’s Nightline is doing something beautiful and courageous. The entire show will consist of a reading of the names of each soldier who has fallen in Iraq, while his or her photograph shows on the screen.

But ABC affiliate stations around the country will be prohibited from airing the special. That’s because they’re owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group, a company whose executives have given tens of thousands to Republicans and whose right-wing allies tout it as “the next Fox.” [1]

In a statement released earlier this week, the company said that to honor the men and women who died in this way would be a political act that is “contrary to the public interest.” Censoring images of the fallen serves the right-wing ideologues who pushed the war in Iraq, but it certainly doesn’t serve our country to hide those who were killed.

In order to highlight this censorship and let other media outlets know that it’s not OK, we’re asking you to write a letter to the editor of your local paper. It doesn’t actually take very long—you can do it in ten minutes or less.

Military families have called on Sinclair to air the special tonight. Jane Bright of Military Families Speak Out is the mother of Sgt. Evan Ashcraft, who died July 24, 2003, near Mosul, Iraq. She said: “The Sinclair Broadcast Group is trying to undermine the lives of our soldiers killed in Iraq. By censoring Nightline they want to hide the toll the war on Iraq is having on thousands of soldiers and their families, like mine.” [2]

According to ABC News, “The Nightline broadcast is an expression of respect which simply seeks to honor those who have laid down their lives for this country.”

Yet Sinclair refuses to distinguish between public mourning and a statement against the war: “Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for the show the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq.” [3]

Take a few minutes to write a letter to the editor to make sure the word gets out.

Nightline is also certain to get lots of nasty right-wing hate mail about this broadcast. Show them the overwhelming support for this sort of recognition of the young men and women killed in Iraq with a quick note at:

Finally, you can call on Sinclair to honor our troops and run the Nightline special at:

David D. Smith, CEO
Sinclair Broadcast Group
(410) 568-1500 x1504

Then tune in to ABC tonight to see Nightline’s special tribute to our lost servicemen and women.”

[1] http://freepress.net/news/article.php?id=3334
[2] http://www.mfso.org/
[3] http://poynter.org/forum/?id=misc

Posted by Joel Schettler on April 30 2004 • Journalism

A Harvard Education

imageThis is a story that I like to read. According to the New York Times, it seems that for the first time in 30 years, Harvard is reevaluating its undergraduate curriculum to “concluding that students need more room for broad exploration, a greater familiarity with the world that can only be gained from study abroad, and a deeper, hands-on understanding of science.”

Being the proud graduate of the University of Minnesota with a Master of Liberal Studies degree, I can heartily attest to the merits of having a well-rounded education in the liberal arts. It’s not to say that my study and final project lacked direction. They certainly did; it’s just that my research crossed academic disciplines--something that Harvard undergrads will soon learn to value.

Posted by Joel Schettler on April 29 2004 • Current Affairs

The Creative Class

Here is an interesting site to check out in coming weeks, if you are interesting in Richard Florida’s views about courting the “creative class” (http://www.americancity.org/Archives/Issue5/florida.html). Florida, the Heinz Professor of Economic Development at Carnegie Mellon and Visiting Scholar at the Brookings Institution published “The Rise of the Creative Class” in 2002, which just came out in paperback.

The book has received quite a bit of attention over the past few months (I recommend it on this site--I enjoyed it very much). Basically his premise is this--quoting from the book jacket. “Millions of Americans are now beginning to work and live the way creative people like artists and scientists always have--and as a result our values and tastes, our personal relationships, our choices where to live, and even our sense and use of time, are changing.” Based on these new realities, Florida advocates that we rethink how our society is ordered. It is in attracting these new “creative workers” that a city can build its economy, says Florida. In doing so, we will gather new ideas in how to manage many aspects of American life--everything from city planning, tax structures, and even whether cities should build an expensive sports stadium to foster economic growth. (It is amazing that so many people in promoting the construction of stadia actually point to Florida in doing so. Read the book. On about every other page, he screams that it’s a big waste of money).

I find Florida’s arguments to be well thought out, and I agree with much of what he has written. Well, it seems that Florida has received some criticism for his views. The above mentioned Web site’s series promises to begin “The Great Creative Class Debate.” The first to sound of in this debate is Richard Florida himself. (It must be some criticism he’s getting, since his opening is: It would be an understatement to say that my book The Rise of the Creative Class has generated heated debate. With the national culture wars escalating on all fronts, it’s not surprising that most of the controversy revolves around the idea that cities with thriving arts and cultural climates and openness to diversity of all sorts also enjoy higher rates of innovation and high-wage economic growth.

It’s a great article, with enough material for a hundred posts. Check it out; let’s start our own creative class debate. By the way, the article said that Florida is currently working on a new book, The Flight of the Creative Class, to be published in spring 2005. “A collection of his essays, Cities and the Creative Class, will be published this summer by Routledge. For more information, visit http://www.creativeclass.org."

As always, let me know your thoughts. What do you think?

Posted by Joel Schettler on April 28 2004 • Current Affairs

From Dawn to Decadence

imageJacques Barzun is one of those scholars that the world of academia will likely never produce again. An historian, and author of thirty books, Barzun is a scholar who is rightly defined as a master of Arts and Letters. I came across his masterpiece “From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life” after it was recommended by a professor when I was a student in the liberal studies program at the University of Minnesota. This is a delightful book that really captures what liberal studies is all about, bringing the rigor of one form of scholarship to other subjects, or many. This book covers so many disciplines. On one page I am reading about the different words for man and woman in various languuages, and on another I learn that the word golf originated from a Dutch word kolf, which means club. Here are a couple passages from the book:

Topic: Venice’s neglected place in political and artistic history. “Who now thinks of Venice as a supreme creator in political science? The name raises only aesthetic ideas and even these are incomplete: Venetian painting and architecture--the collective memory stops there. They are solid, visible, much written about --Ruskin’s Stones of Venice is a monument itself. But Venice in its prime made no contribution to world literature--a curious fact since Ferrara, the home of Tasso and Ariosto, was only a day’s journey away; and this lack of [literature] may account for the forgetfulness about what Venice did contribute, because it is poems, tales, and plays, rather than paintings, that carry to posterity the details of life.”

Here is another insightful passage describing the Stoics: “But to practice Stoicism uses up energy to coerce the natural impulses; and among these it denies the urge to explore the world. Stoic and scientist is not a likely combination. True, Newton thought that studying the ways of Nature was trivial compared with interpreting Revelation; but other natural philosophers were neither true Christians nor old Stoics; they were Epicureans, which does not mean pursuers of pleasure, but believers in importance of the sensory world. Among them were some who earned the name Libertines--again not loose-livers, but freethinkers. This intellectual Emancipation did not simply facilitate the scientific enterprise; it also revived the hopeful vision of Man as capable of improvement and creator of Progress.”

Posted by Joel Schettler on April 28 2004 • Books

My Life

clinton_bill-19921105007F.2I just read today that Bill Clinton’s memoirs will be available June 30. I will be interested to see how much detail he gives about what was going on behind the scenes during the impeachment episode. The book, titled “My Life,” is already number one on Barnes and Noble’s list.

Posted by Joel Schettler on April 28 2004 • Books

Iraqi Freedom

An interesting lead from an April 22 story in the New York Times. “WASHINGTON, April 22 - The Bush administration’s plans for a new caretaker government in Iraq would place severe limits on its sovereignty, including only partial command over its armed forces and no authority to enact new laws, administration officials said Thursday.” It sure doesn’t sound like we are spreading democracy.

Further down, the story continues. “Only 10 weeks from the scheduled transfer of sovereignty,
the administration is still not sure exactly who will govern in Baghdad, or precisely how they will be selected. A week ago, President Bush agreed to a recommendation by Mr. Brahimi to dismantle the existing Iraqi Governing Council, which was handpicked by the United States, and to replace it with a caretaker government whose makeup is to be decided next month.”

Further down in the story… “Asked whether the new Iraqi government would have a chance to approve military operations led by American commanders, who would be in charge of both foreign and Iraqi forces, a senior official said Americans would have the final say” ... “Since last November, when the June 30 transfer of sovereignty was approved by President Bush and decreed by Mr. Bremer in Iraq, the United States has insisted that Iraq would have a full transfer of sovereignty on that date.

“Mr. Grossman, however, referred in testimony on Wednesday to what he said would be “limited sovereignty,” a phrase he did not repeat on Thursday, apparently because it raised eyebrows among those not expecting the administration to acknowledge that the sovereignty would be less than

“The problem of limiting Iraq’s sovereignty is more than one of terminology, several administration officials said in interviews this week. The proposed curbs on Iraqi sovereignty are paving the way for what officials and diplomats say is shaping up as another potential battle with American allies as the United Nations is asked to confer legitimacy on the new government.”

Nobody really expected anything different. Let’s just not call it democracy or freedom.

Posted by Joel Schettler on April 28 2004 • Current Affairs

British Bookselling

Selling books is a tough business no matter where you are. The New York Times reported that the well-known British bookseller W.H. Smith is in dire straits. The bookstores are located everywhere in Britain, train stations, airports, on every corner. I’ve only been to England once, but of course I visited this chain while I was there. The Times reports: “Last week, the company became the target of a $1.7 billion takeover offer by a private equity group that, if successful, could result in the sale of some of its publishing businesses. Reports over the weekend indicated that another prospective buyer could join the bidding.”

Over the past six months, the bookseller has lost $149 million. The result is the “elimination of at least 270 jobs at its London headquarters and a retreat from Asia. Last year, W.H. Smith sold its 155 stores in 23 North American airports to the Hudson Group.”

Posted by Joel Schettler on April 28 2004 • Current Affairs

Best Life

imageIt seems like the grown-up male magazine reader is not being served. I just read an article in the New York Times that said a new magazine for the older male will be officially launched May 11 by Rodale, called “BestLife.” (Some copies of the magazine have already been circulated in test markets, including the Twin Cities). From the same company that publishes Mens Health, this magazine, as Dave Carr of the NY Times writes (my favorite description of this target audience), “will seek grown-up men who not only yearn for the reproductive act, but are happy to parent the consequences.”

“Executives at Rodale, which already publishes the successful service magazine Men’s Health, sense that there is room for such a magazine, in part because a retailored GQ has moved away from its longtime competition with Esquire to join the hot pursuit of younger men,” writes Carr.

While geared toward older men, BestLife promises not to be your father’s magazine. It will begin publishing every other month, beginning in the fall. According to the article, this demographic is a hard group to reach. But the demographics also make sense. “There is significant demographic wisdom, if not marketing, behind a magazine focused on older readers. According to the Census Bureau, the median age of the American male will rise to 36 by 2010 from 28.8 in 1980. And those men are notably different from their fathers - more active, more style-conscious and remarkably concerned about trends.”

(OK, I really just wanted to post a photo of Johnny Depp, so Phoebe would think my Web site was cool!)

Posted by Joel Schettler on April 27 2004 • Journalism

Your Cheatin' Heart

OK, I apologize for being a bad blogger. I promise to add new material on a more regular basis. Here is an interesting piece (http://www.triangle.com/books/zane/story/1151270p-7254225c.html). If you want to read what a scathing book review reads like, check it out. It is a book review by award-winning columnist J. Peder Zane of the News & Observer, for the new book “The Cheating Culture.”

My favorite line: “Here’s the book’s logic: We all think more people are cheating; I can’t demonstrate this with any rigor; ergo, more people are cheating. One wonders how such nonsense gets published. The answer is that despite its veneer of respectability, “The Cheating Culture” is not an honest inquiry. It is an anti-right-wing polemic less interested in examining our moral fiber than in bashing conservatives.”

Zane does bring up a good point about our culture and current best-seller lists. Most of the tomes on the best-seller lists today are just expressions of bias (on both sides of the political fence) rather than thorough report. Zane writes, “Like the bound rants of Michael Moore and Ann Coulter, Callahan’s book shows how the world of publishing is being co-opted by the gasbag approach of talk radio: Say it and it is so.” As always, let me know your thoughts.

Posted by Joel Schettler on April 27 2004 • Books

The Real America

imageI like this story. One, I enjoy reading about new magazines. But I also like this story for what it suggests about our country. What is the real America? It’s a tale of two magazines. One is a sunny, rural folksy publication located in Memphis. The other, a hip-hop, pop magazine about how music is a force for current American culture. Both are real. Both are true. Both have the same name.

“The magazines, with names separated by nothing more than a single letter, will probably not share a single reader,” writes David Carr in the New York Times. Carr writes: “That two publications with so little in common have chosen such similar names says something about the mutability of the word “America” and the bifurcated republic it represents.

“The two magazines nicely convey the dyads: rural and urban, mass and elite, red and blue. America’s America is sleek, multiracial and wonderfully coiffed. The images on the oversize, foil-edged pages are outr√©; in one photo essay the actress Juliette Lewis is curled up in a refrigerator, having a moment with herself. Using hip-hop as its motif the magazine roams across fashion, film and technology. It takes the reader behind the velvet ropes and assumes anyone who is reading it belongs there: America magazine defines and covers its own species.

“American Magazine’s America seems more like a teddy bear you can hold on your lap. The January-February issue was anchored by photographs of Valentine’s Day cookies, with 40 or so hearts sprinkled through pages that included a paean to the world’s largest snowman and a story about being nice to strangers. This is a magazine in which nobody is special because everybody is special, in which warm, friendly people move through vast, pretty landscapes.”

It seems that all is not exactly well with naming the magazines America and American. Some quoted in Carr’s article are upset with the play on using the country’s identity as a label for “special-interest” publications--which was purely intentional with one of the publications. “America means a lot of things,” says one critic in the article, “but it certainly is not a brand.” What do you think? Check out David Carr’s article in the Times. Share your views.

Posted by Joel Schettler on April 21 2004 • Journalism