Friday, July 29, 2005

Table Scraps

I have so very much to say today, but so little time in which to say it. So you'll just have to wait on those longer meals for when I can get around to serving them up. Meanwhile, munch on this quicky junk food instead. Hope it's filling enough for now.

An Unfortunate Sign of the Times. It's too bad that citizens have to be informed of their rights about being searched before boarding the subway. But at least this useful guide will get you through the thickets.

Best Comment of the Day. A caller on today's Diane Rehm show on NPR thought it silly to declare a war on terror. "You don't have a war on a tactic. That would be like a war on ambush, or a war on blitzkrieg." But he needn't worry any longer. As you may have noticed from various news reports, the imbeciles in the higher reaches of the Bush Administration have stopped using the term War on Terror, no doubt cause even they can see that average Americans aren't so stupid as to see that we seem to be losing it, and are beginning to ask when it might end. So they're simply switching to language that will leave them less on the defensive. A brighter bunch might actually rethink the wisdom of the underlying actions.

Calling All Personal First Amendment Machines. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, sort of an ACLU for the digital age, is sponsoring this worthy venture. Do consider helping out, if you can. And speaking of the First Amendment, my thanks to the gray eminence, Roldo Bartimole, who thoughtfully sent along as a gift a pocket version of the U.S. Constitution. It turns out he was following my blog debate of last week with the estimable Tim Russo, and figured I might have occasion to quote from our country's founding scripture sometime. Thanks, Roldo, it's much appreciated.

And speaking of Tim Russo... The man who calls himself Democracy Guy does a wonderful job of rethinking
his blog, with less clutter and an eye-catching design. Of course, none of it would matter much if he didn't also regularly serve up some of the more thoughtful writing to be found anywhere on Northeast Ohio's corner of the web. I especially love his motto: Grassroots, baby. It nicely captures his energy and approach. Jeff Jarvis, who until recently headed up the Newhouse chain's newspaper web strategy, seems to have taken a page from Tim, at about the same time. His Buzzmachine, once one of the butt-ugliest blogs anwhere (thought widely read), has been transformed by an appealing photo of an ancient, massive printing press. Meanwhile, it's interesting how both the Village Voice and, more recently, the New York Observer, have utterly transformed their websites in order to better react to (and benefit from) the web's faster news velocity. They follow similar experiments, from small but influential pubs, like the Washington Monthly, which a few months ago converted its website to a blog, which then contains links to stories from the print publication. Some healthy experimentation is going on all over journalism about how to better leverage the web, and make it complement rather than compete with print versions. And it's all healthy. The sky hasn't even fallen, so relax traditionalists. Journalism isn't dying--far from it. It's merely being reborn and rethought in particularly loud and vivid ways, most of which (I emphasize most) are healthy for democracy, however annoying and even frightening they might be for the old order.

Former Free Times Editor Now Blogs. My Cleveland readers may remember the name Lisa Chamberlain. Not so long ago, she was a junior hotshot writer at the Free Times, all full of anger and earnestness (not yet 30 at the time, she was famously known to muse aloud, with a grave expression, about how important people congratulated her on writing the most important stories in town). She later edited the pub, a more pleasing platform from which to continue to rail at civic wrong-doers. She was once quite a fan of her overseers at the Village Voice (which owned the paper, before trying to close it in a cynical deal with competing alt-weekly chain New Times, which smelled so bad that even a Republican Justice Department overturned it), as
this little Q&A explains. But the chain pushed her out, and she decamped to Dennis Kucinich's staff (where she had worked previously), a perch from which she continued to wage her battle with her ex-employer through the pages of the Scene. There, she charged that she had been fired for refusing to kill a story the publisher didn't want to run, an assertion that, to me at least, seemed less than persuasive. Anyway, time moved along, and so did Lisa. She left for New York, got a master's in journalism at Columbia, and did an impressive stint reporting on the last presidential election for, including an especially wonderful piece on the dark side of Ralph Nader. For the last year she has been reporting on real estate for the New York Times, a beat that can't be her first choice. She recently launched a blog, which is an excellent example of how a professional journalist can smartly supplement their work with an online companion. In a note to friends announcing its launch, she noted that it will include originally reported material. In the June archives you'll find links to her NYT pieces, including this appealing article from last August, on Shaker Heights. Do keep an eye on her. With her smarts, drive and energy, I expect she'll steadily climb the ladder at our national paper of record.


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