Monday, August 06, 2007

Odds & Ends

Here are a few things I've come across recently that I thought worth sharing.

Money & Flattery Will Always Do It. Washington Post media critic Howie Kurtz shows how The Atlantic's owner David Bradley lands top journalistic talent: through a mix of "smart-bomb flattery" (sometimes playing out over several years) and paying salaries as high as $350,000. That's a pretty powerful combination. On the other hand, Slate's Jack Shafer last year documented the other side of Bradley's niceness. He called him "a narcissistic and needy bore."

I Spoke Too Soon About Cindy Sheehan. Only last week, I wrote about antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan's decision to retire from public life. But in a newly published Q&A with Sheehan, Radar Magazine breaks the story that she's rethought her retirement. Why? It seems she was outraged by Bush's decision to commute Scooter Libby's sentence, which she calls "another act of treason." Unfortunately, she still seems haunted by some of the tone-deafness I mentioned. In the interview, she brags about getting backstage passes to Rage Against the Machine concerts because she's friends with someone in the band, and suggests she's just as qualified for leadership as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "She's speaker of the House and I'm a nationally known figure," she says (cue the rolling of eyes). She also describes how she's positioned to the political left of Congressman John Conyers, which is not easily done.

An Ingenious Circulation Device. Longtime NYT columnist Russell Baker may be retired from daily newspapering. But he shows in this interesting essay/book review in the New York Review of Books that he's still closely watching and thinking about the changes buffetting his profession. And he seems to understand the power of the web better than many of those still working in newsrooms. He writes: "At present the Internet is basically an electronic version of the ten-year-old boy on a bicycle who used to toss the newspaper on the front porch: an ingenious circulation device."

Sometimes You Find Great Writing in the Most Unlikely Places. And finally, I came across this nearly perfect sentence in an article in the trade pub Media Week, of all places. "Advertising is the intersection of Eros and Mammon, a dimly lit crossing where manufactured desire is sated by consumption, and it works best when it makes anyone who comes into contact with it crave something they don't really need." Hats off to writer Anthony Crupi. He proves once again that no assignment is too unimportant, and no audience too narrow, that it can't benefit from good, vivid writing.


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