Archive for the ‘newspaper’ tag
I’ve tried some zany design strategies in my day — superimposing a giant, six-column photo over the main newspaper banner comes mind — but this, from The Huntsville (Ala.) Times takes the cake. While the content of the following graphic is troubling for students, the design itself, while my conservative newspaper mind finds it a bit appalling and unsightly, this may have indeed been a winner for the paper. After all, what screams “Buy me” more than a colossal red anything spanning the entire length of the broadsheet?
The following is a report by the Tampa Bay, Fla.-based St. Petersburg Times about alleged abuses and violences inside the Church of Scientology, stemming and following the untimely death of Lisa McPherson. The church was charged with abuse/neglect and practicing medicine without a license in the death of McPherson, who died Dec. 5, 1995 of pulmonary embolism under the care of the church’s Flag Service Organization. The church was dropped of charges after the cause of death was changed from “undetermined” to an accident on June 13, 2000. The church later settled on a civil suit in 2004. On further allegations of physical violence inside the church, here is the Times’ report:
David Miscavige, the church’s leader, e-mailed the Times after the story was published that he had agreed to an interview, but could not conduct the interview in the time frame requested by the Times. (There is, indeed, a wonderful invention called the telephone that allows interviews to be conducted at anytime, day or night, whenever said busy person gets some spare time.) Thus, the Times continued on with the story, as well it should have. So often, government entities and different organizations, arrogantly, think the press should work within their time frame rather than the other way around. While equal respect should be fostered when possible, the press is certainly within its right to publish a story as long as it has made due effort to contact the other “side.” Here is Miscavige’s letter to the Times after the story was published. I thought this statement was meaningful in understanding the shear mindlessness of the religion with which we are dealing:
I am at a loss to comprehend how the St. Petersburg Times can publish a story about me and the religion I lead without accepting the offer to speak with me, on the pretense that you cannot wait until after I have fulfilled my religious commitments. — David Miscavige, letter to the St. Petersburg Times
Note his words: “the religion I lead.” Not, the religion some god leads. Not the religion the pope leads. He readily admits it’s a man-led religion, and that is to say, a religion led, as readily, by you or I, which renders it no more or no less irrelevant than Mormonism, which, as we remember, sprung up from Joseph Smith’s claim that he had received a word from some angel named Moroni to translate some tablets he had found around 1830. (As I noted here, Scientology, is as incredibly fantastical and ridiculous as anything one could imagine. It saddens me, as it should anyone, that folks whose reason is intact in every other area of their lives, can be so diverted to dabble in the abject foolishness dreamed up by a mammal in just this century (L. Ron Hubbard) to let it control their daily lives. Tom Cruise, for instance, is a gifted actor but is drinking from the crazy juice when talking about his zany religion.
Let’s even ignore the fact that this St. Petersburg Times report doesn’t give a reason why these folks were allegedly abused. Who cares. The question I’m interested in is this: Why do people surrender their entire lives to a belief that is unquantifiable only by claims of personal experience (In this case, the claims of Hubbard and other supporters)? Why are people willing to surrender their entire selves (We only have one, after all) to a belief or unequivocally manmade doctrines like with no proof whatsoever that the founders are not self-ingratiating lunatics, notwithstanding the fact that Scientology’s brand of religion is particularly bizarre.
I feel a lengthy essay about Scientology brewing in the near future, a la this post, and probably focused specifically on St. Petersburg Times’ series of stories on the church, a religion — or something — based, like Mormonism and the rest, on the writings of a mere man, and a decidedly maniacal and self-ingratiating one at that. But that will be for another day, or, perhaps, for another hour in this day. We will see.
For now, I wanted to speak briefly on art. I have spent a little time recently modifying a few entries on Wikipedia, namely a woefully incomplete list of authors, which, if you can believe it, did not include Thomas Wolfe, one of the great American writers of the 20th century, nor William Styron, author of the book, turned movie, “Sophie’s Choice,” and the historical-fiction work, “The Confessions of Nat Turner.” (The question has come up on occasion, most memorably by Dr. Paul Anderson, my Civil War professor at Clemson University, about whether William is my kin. The votes out, but I would happily accept that ancestrial connection if it were the case.)
File sharing, or the transmission of music, videos, documents, programs or other files over the Internet, if we narrow it down to music or movies, is really nothing more than the exchange of art for free. Record companies, of course, seem to have made headlines the most for their attempts to quell such activity, with or without hearing the opinions of the artists they represent. For a good article on the topic, see here. Understandably, artists of any medium tend to feel a bit slighted when their works are copies and distributed among the masses as if its creation took no effort whatsoever and as if the works were made without tireless, sometimes agonizing hours of recording and sampling. Artists like Metallica, which has in the past stood firmly behind the record industry’s attempted crackdowns, have at once slighted their own fans by standing behind the towering companies, who, consequently, pass along very little, if any, record sale revenue to the artists. Most artists have to “make their bones” — and their green — on the arduous concert trail.
Music is art. So are films. One could even argue that computer programs have definite artistic elements. When I write a song or a poem (I do this one very little because my meager attempts usually end in disappointment or frustration) or a newspaper column, it immediately upon its completion falls under U.S. copyright protection, whether I physically file paperwork in Washington or not. All music created under major record labels have that innate protection, plus additional legal protection from being copied or distributed. While it’s understood that major artists receive a two-fold benefit from their craft (making money and doing something they love for a living), artists also must understand, (Radiohead would be an example), that in this digital era, music, once its recorded in whatever fashion, becomes susceptible to dissemination. The millions of videos on YouTube showing fans playing the songs of the artists they love attest to this fact. For those not familiar with Radiohead’s album, “In Rainbows,” it was distributed free of charge (or whatever amount fans felt appropriate) in the weeks leading up to its official release in stores. I couldn’t with a clear conscious get it for free since it was so graciously offered to us, so I downloaded it for $5.
Record companies have a clear dog in the file-sharing hunt, but their purpose is singular, to make money, while the nobler artists out there seek to create art first and foremost, and if they can get paid for it, all the better. Most artists create because it flows out of them. They can’t not create. It’s in their bones as its in mine.
I recently reread John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” where Keats grapples with what must have been happening in the scene depicted on the urn. I regret that I only have time to briefly mention the poem, but here are a few words about it and the urn it depicts:
The first four stanzas are filled questions about the scene and the final stanza climaxes with the exclamation: “Cold Pastoral!” One can very well picture the author throwing his up his hands almost in frustration about this “tease” failing to be forthcoming with the full story about what’s taking place. In this first stanza, Keats throws out a wave of questions, which I think, were we to find the answers, would explain the meaning behind nearly every piece of music or painting in history:
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
And this is the essence of art: the stories of struggle, of escape, of mad pursuits, of wild ecstasy. In other words, the millions of pieces of art created through the generations are a million answers to one question: What does it mean to be human? Answers, painful or joyous as they may be, more often than not, come without the rewards of money or recognition.
Russell Adams’ source confirms rumors that have circulated this week. He writes: “The leading scenario set to be unveiled Tuesday would call for the Free Press and its partner paper, the Detroit News, to end home delivery on all but the most lucrative days—Thursday, Friday and Sunday. On the other days, the publisher would sell single copies of an abbreviated print edition at newsstands and direct readers to the papers’ expanded digital editions.
I admit. I haven’t worked in the industry for decades. I don’t concretely know what sells newspapers and what doesn’t. I know the direction the industry is going, and I know some strategies for luring potential readers to slip their hands into their pockets, find a couple quarters and deposit accordingly. But do any of us in the industry actually know what sells papers? Is it Godzilla-esque pictures or headlines? Teasers? Coverage on the issues that matter most to them?
I’m a word guy. I think well-crafted, well-reported stories are more important to fulfilling our service to the community than pictures or gigantic headlines. Especially in this era of “bigger is better” and less (content) is more, I suppose I’m in the minoritythere.
But the truth is this: we are living in an era where Reading — and its cousin, Learning — are not just dying, but are becoming taboo. Sure, Joe Schmoe reads, but it’s a headline here, a snippet there. The ability and desire to dig deep into the written word, to dig deep into complex issues has long-since escaped us. And that’s why the written word, the printed press, is slowly nailing itself to a cross. It really is a self-sacrifice. Newspapers still claim to be the authority on local issues ranging from zoning to immigration to water authorities and crime, but the nation’s leading papers — The New York Times being the exception … because it can — do their utmost to bury that important content inside the newspaper, thus making the front page appear like some daily Michelangelo painting, replete with teasers, huge pictures and giant headlines. But, consequently, my life calling is not to graphics and pictures, though I’m adept to these things, but to words on a page. Still, I play along.
Why have even the nation’s largest papers succumbed to such devices? I offer The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a prime example. The Anderson Independent-Mail as another, which, consequently, has seemingly banished copy altogether from its front page.
This, because the economic situation at many newspapers is that bad, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle on cable television and the general dumbing down of America. Continually, we hear about buyouts, restructuring, etc. within the industry’s leading papers. Photos and graphics become necessary in order for newspaper to compete and not be drowned out in the blare.
Obviously, this speaks to a larger issue: that of our Red Bull-infused, spastic society. And admittedly, I get caught up in the great and rabbit race to nowhere. Frequently, I will catch myself surfing online, and — oooh — something else comes up that I might like to check out, thus diverting my attention from whatever I originally was seeking information about. What was it? I can’t remember. It’s maddening. In another post, I quoted Kurt Cobain on television:
I hardly write any stories and I don’t work on my songs quite as intently as in the past. You know why??? Television Television is the most evil thing on our planet. Go right now to your TV and toss it out the window, or sell it and buy a better stereo. — “Journals,” Kurt Cobain
I posit that the Internet is the new television.
Have any of you heard of The Spectator? It was a short-lived publication in the early-18th century. It was published in an era where coffee houses were hubs of political and societal conversation and learning. People then read as if their lives depended on it, and often, they did. Television, since the late 1930s has served to muck that up. The Internet has mucked it up further. I would argue that the Internet is actually more productive for the educational betterment of society than television, but neither wins a gold star.
Simply, I wish folks today read as if their lives depended on it. We simply have to promote a society that is bent on making reading the printed word a priority. Why? Because, as convenient and good as it may be, the Internet isn’t ironclad. Books in hard copy form are ironclad. Government documents in hard copy form are ironclad. But once they reach the Internet or e-mail, they can be manipulated at will by people who know more than you about Web site security. By way of example, my entire blog www.jeremystyron.com, which is on a separate server, completely went down for a few hours yesterday I can only assume, by a hacker.
I’m not optimistic that such a society will emerge in the near future — our society will continue wind-blown into its own technological tailspin — but I am committed to at least trying, in as much as I can, to focus people to more hard copy learning. I say that while admitting that any kind of learning and reading, virtual or not, is benefitial.
The most efficient studying takes place, I feel, not when one is, in tandem, listening to music, playing an online solitaire game and reading some essay for class, but when one is sitting upright at a kitchen table, hunched over a book — with nothing as a distraction — with, perhaps, only a cup of coffee as company. Such a commitment will assist in building a society again more focused on the printed word, one more focused on dissecting and vetting the complex issues that confound us.