Friday, October 20, 2006

School daze

Today for the third year running I journeyed to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to speak at the the fall conference of the Kettle Moraine Press Association. That's a group for journalistically inclined high school students, hordes of whom converged on the small campus to hear presentations by the likes of me. I talked in one session about food writing, and in another about feature writing.

On the whole the talks were fine, but the kids seemed more unruly than in previous years. Things never reached this point, happily.

On a completely unrelated note, check out my writeup on the Daily Page of David Maraniss' appearance at the Wisconsin Book Festival yesterday.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Good word

"The moment Mr. Foley's e-mails became known, we saw that brand of fearmongering and bigotry at full tilt: Bush administration allies exploited the former Congressman's predatory history to spread the grotesque canard that homosexuality is a direct path to pedophilia. It's the kind of blood libel that in another era was spread about Jews."

-- Frank Rich ($)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Yes, I'll hold

Yesterday on CNN's "Reliable Sources," Ana Marie Cox of Wonkette fame (and now of said this:
Bloggers really are kind of parasitic on the actual reporting that many mainstream media outlets do. Let's face it, reporting is very expensive, it's very time consuming. It's not something that has immediate rewards. And blogging for all the good things that it can do, the kind of collective intelligence can bring to analysis, isn't -- isn't the kind of medium that really sustains any kind of thoughtful investigation.
Bloggers indeed are not known for doing original reporting, and instead commonly link to mainstream news outlets as their sources -- and, as commonly, to other bloggers.

Why is this? Does anything prevent bloggers from, to paraphrase Nicholas Lemann, calling powerful people on the phone and asking them blunt and impertinent questions, then reporting the responses? And would we all benefit if bloggers habitually did? Probably, though the change would come at the expense of newspaper journalists like yours truly.

But the fact is, it's not particularly fun to call powerful people and ask them blunt and impertinent questions. It can be downright uncomfortable, actually, though it gets easier with practice. It's a skill, really, and it helps make journalists journalists.