Friday, July 10, 2009

What we get from good reporters and critical readers

In Who Needs the NY Times? We All Do. Still, Jim Sleeper points out what a newspaper can do by supporting excellent reporters, even if the same institution has critics who consider it guilty of a laundry list of sins from stodginess to dishonesty.

To make his case, Sleeper discusses three stories and a column that demonstrate reporters' skills, Times resources
and something extra:
Because Sleeper wrote his defense of the Times in the Talking Points Memo Cafe forum, there's a thoughtful discussion at the end of his column, and unlike too many online writers, he makes it a conversation. I get the impression that some of the participants didn't follow his advice and go read the Times stories themselves. I'm going to go do that now that I've bookmarked them.

This morning, however, I've been distracted by following links to other articles by Sleeper, a writer and teacher with a long resume, on topics ranging from Thucydides and the value of classical education to George Orwell, Tocqueville and journalism.

I've bookmarked his page of articles on News Media, the Public Sphere and the Phantom Public, surprised and embarrassed that I haven't read his stuff before.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Education 2029 and New Liberal Arts

Here's a look at post-Google education 20 years from now, by Tim Carmody at Snarkmarket, echoing the way his fellow Snarkers got the media thinking about the post-Google future five years ago in Epic 2015.

Tim's piece is part of a Chronicle of Higher Education conversation, "The Faculty of the Future: Leaner, Meaner, More Innovative, Less Secure," which non-subscribers can read for $10. However, Tim put a no-subscription-required version of his contribution on the Snarkmarket site. It starts like this:
"How is academe different in 2029? Let's begin with the basics: reading, writing, and teaching. If anything, Google is even more important. The 2009 author/publisher settlements that allowed Google to sell full access to its book collections didn't revolutionize books in retail, but subscription sales to institutions did fundamentally alter the way libraries think about their digital and analog collections. Access to comprehensive digital libraries allows teachers at any institution to compile virtual syllabi on the fly, seamlessly integrating readings, assignments, communication, and composition."
Speaking of education and Epic 2015, Robin Sloane and friends have a print/online book out, titled "New Liberal Arts," as mentioned at Snarkmarket. Here's a direct link -- and a chance to get in on the ground floor of an interesting print-first, PDF-later model.

Small sense of deja vu and gratification: I like seeing journalism on a list of liberal arts.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Off to run 'Tell the Truth and Run'

Will today's students pay attention to a 98-year-old on a July morning when they could be at the beach?

As substitute prof for a summer school "Media & Society" class tomorrow, I get to show, watch and discuss the film George Seldes: Tell the Truth and Run. (George is the 98-year-old, not me. At least he was 98 when interviewed for the film. He lived to be 104.)

I first saw the film in 1997, when Rick Goldsmith presented it at a conference in San Francisco. His work was nominated for an Oscar back then, but although well reviewed, it had a tough fight against story of the Ali-Frazier "Rumble in the Jungle," which took the prize that year.

For this course, Seldes is a more appropriate battler than Ali -- as a journalist, as a media critic, and as self-publisher of his "In Fact" newsletter.

Discussion question: How much did he have in common with some of today's bloggers and citizen journalists?

For students who want to get right to the source, some of Seldes's writings are online at PublicEye and, including Ten Tests for a Free Press.

That could be a good segue into another piece of early press criticism, Upton Sinclair's The Brass Check, which is also available online.

And the film quotes I.F. Stone, who called Seldes "the father of the alternative press," which might inspire some of the students to peek at Stone's own online archives.

Here's a bit of the blurb ran about the documentary, probably from the original press announcement. Students should learn the names...:
"Seldes at age 98 is the centerpiece of the film: remarkably engaging,witty and still impassioned about his ideas and ideals. Ralph Nader, Victor Navasky, Ben Bagdikian, Daniel Ellsberg, Nat Hentoff and Jeff Cohen, among others, provide incisive commentary. Stunning archival footage and over 500 headlines, photographs and articles provide a rich historical backdrop."
Hmm. It just dawned on me that one of the narrators of "Tell the Truth and Run" is back in the news this summer. I wonder if the students will recognize his voice. They're probably too young to remember Lou Grant.

Information overload department:
By way of introducing one of Seldes' themes to the class, I should bring my banjo and sing this song... But I'll be kind and just play Pete Seeger's clip of one verse, then read the more pertinent verse about "Press-titution."