Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Obit watch: July 11, 2016.

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Sydney H. Schanberg, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, passed away on Saturday.

Mr. Schanberg was a correspondent for the NYT who covered the fall of Cambodia.

In the spring of 1975, as Pol Pot’s Communist guerrillas closed in on the capital, Phnom Penh, after five years of civil war in Cambodia, Mr. Schanberg and his assistant, Dith Pran, refused to heed directives from Times editors in New York to evacuate the city and remained behind as nearly all Western reporters, diplomats and senior officials of Cambodia’s American-backed Lon Nol government fled for their lives.
“Our decision to stay,” Mr. Schanberg wrote later, “was founded on our belief — perhaps, looking back, it was more a devout wish or hope — that when the Khmer Rouge won their victory, they would have what they wanted and would end the terrorism and brutal behavior we had written so often about.”

That didn’t quite work out the way Mr. Schanberg hoped. He was eventually thrown out of Cambodia and returned to the United States, but he never forgot Mr. Dith.

Overwhelmed with guilt over having to leave Mr. Dith behind, he asked for time off to write about his experiences, to help Mr. Dith’s refugee wife and four children establish a new life in San Francisco and to begin the seemingly hopeless task of finding his friend.

Dith Pran escaped Cambodia in 1979 and made his way to the United States. He and Mr. Schanberg got back together, Mr. Schanberg got him a job as a photographer with the NYT, and wrote an article for the NYT magazine, “The Death and Life of Dith Pran”. That became a book, and eventually the movie “The Killing Fields”.

“I’m a very lucky man to have had Pran as my reporting partner and even luckier that we came to call each other brother,” Mr. Schanberg said after Mr. Dith died in 2008. “His mission with me in Cambodia was to tell the world what suffering his people were going through in a war that was never necessary. It became my mission too. My reporting could not have been done without him.”

Today in journalism fraud.

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Noted author Gay Talese (“Frank Sinatra Has a Cold”, The Kingdom and the Power) has a new book coming out.

The Voyeur’s Motel is allegedly based on the diaries of a man named Gerald Foos. Mr. Foos owned a motel in Colorado, and claims that he constructed special walkways above the ceilings of some of the rooms so he could secretly watch his guests having sex.

Except there are some problems with the Foos story:

Foos sold the motel, located in Aurora, Colo., in 1980 and didn’t reacquire it until eight years later, according to local property records. His absence from the motel raises doubt about some of the things Foos told Talese he saw — enough that the author himself now has deep reservations about the truth of some material he presents.


Talese does note in “The Voyeur’s Motel” that he found discrepancies in Foos’s accounts. Foos’s earliest journal entries, for example, were dated 1966. But the author subsequently learned from county property records that Foos didn’t buy the Manor House Motel until 1969 — three years after he said he started watching his guests from the catwalk. “I cannot vouch for every detail that he recounts in his manuscript,” Talese writes in the book.

If you can’t vouch for details, why did you write the book? Shouldn’t this have sent up some warning flags?

In a series of interviews, he expressed surprise, disappointment and anger to learn about the transactions. He said he had not been aware of them until a reporter asked him about it on Wednesday.
“The source of my book, Gerald Foos, is certifiably unreliable,” Talese said. “He’s a dishonorable man, totally dishonorable. . . . I know that. . . . I did the best I could on this book, but maybe it wasn’t good enough.”

The odd thing is, nobody seems to be talking about pulling the book. Yet.

Edited to add: And now Talese is disavowing his disavowal:

In a statement from his publisher, Grove Atlantic, the 84-year-old author said, “Gerald Foos, as no one calls into question, was an epic voyeur, and, as I say very clearly in the text, he could also at times be an unreliable teller of his own peculiar story. When I spoke to the Washington Post reporter, I am sure I was surprised and upset about this business of the later ownership of the motel, in the [1980s]. That occurred after the bulk of the events covered in my book, but I was upset and probably said some things I didn’t, and don’t, mean. Let me be clear: I am not disavowing the book and neither is my publisher. If, down the line, there are details to correct in later editions, we’ll do that.”

If I were a betting man, I’d bet money that there’s going to be even more information coming out that throws doubt on Foos and his claims, and that this will end badly for Talese, the book, and Grove Atlantic.

Quote of the day.

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Apropos of nothing in particular, and certainly not related to anything below:

The paper of record.

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Two interesting bits from the NYT:

1. I noticed this yesterday, and Lawrence emailed me about it as well: Rudolph Stocker retired from the Times on May 18th at the age of 78.


Rudolph Stocker was the last printer at The Times working under a guaranteed lifetime contract; the last Times employee who knew how to operate a Linotype casting machine; the last journeyman of the old International Typographical Union and its New York local, No. 6, a bargaining unit that was once so powerful and important that everyone in the newspaper business knew it simply as “Big Six.”

When the Times went over to computer typesetting, part of their agreement with the union guaranteed job security to the existing printers (“…1,785 situation-holders and full-time substitutes, 810 of whom were at The Times”).

Did he sit on his butt after the paper phased out the Linotype?

“Rudy was an expert proofreader,” his colleague Barbara Natusch recalled, “and transferred his skills from operating a Linotype machine to producing ads for the paper on a Mac, using InDesign and Photoshop.”

Sounds like a hell of a guy. I hope he has a happy retirement.

Through his colleagues, he made it known that he was not interested in a valedictory interview.

2. The Times Insider talks about the process of getting Ali’s obit into the paper, including a literal “stop the presses”.

It’s always kind of nice to know these people are human, too:

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop smoking,” Mr. Coffey said, imitating Lloyd Bridges in the disaster spoof “Airplane!”

Obit watch: May 26, 2016.

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Mell Lazarus, noted cartoonist. (“Momma”, “Miss Peach”)

Edited to add: really good tribute to Lazarus in the WP‘s “Comic Riffs” blog.

Not strictly an obit, but there’s a good article in the NYT explaining the circumstances surrounding their obit of Donald W. Duncan, previously noted in this space.

Historical note, of questionable suitability for use in schools.

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Today is the anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde’s death.

I would otherwise have missed it, were it not for this (Warning! Slideshow!) article in the HouChron (Warning! Slideshow!).

While the photos are worthwhile, I’m kind of annoyed by the captions: some them, and the article, refer to the ambush taking place today, while other captions refer to it taking place May 24th. Wikipedia (I know, I know) backs up the May 23rd date, as does Jeff Guinn (from what I’m able to tell).

There’s one photo in particular that I like in that slideshow: the one of Alcorn, Hinton, Gault, and Hamer (number 19).

And I was hoping that I could visit the shooting site when I’m in Louisiana in a few weeks, but I sat down and did the math: sadly, it’s over three hours each way from Baton Rouge to Gibsland, and that’s just not going to work this trip.

(I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Go Down Together still gets an unqualified endorsement from me.)

Random notes: April 11, 2016.

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Statesman writer subscribes to LootCrate so he can get a box of pop-culture crap delivered to him every month.
Statesman writer discovers that he really doesn’t like getting a box of pop-culture crap delivered to him every month.
Stateman writer decides, not just to quietly cancel his LootCrate subscription and move on with his life, but to publish a “breakup letter” in his newspaper.

Editors. Where are the editors?

Obit watch: Dr. Charles S. Hirsch, chief medical examiner of New York City from 1989 to 2013.

In 2001, when two jetliners commandeered by terrorists struck the World Trade Center, Dr. Hirsch and six aides rushed downtown to establish a temporary morgue.
When the North Tower collapsed, two aides were severely injured. Dr. Hirsch, thrown to the ground, broke all of his ribs. His cuts sutured by a medical team, he returned to the examiner’s squat brick headquarters at First Avenue and 30th Street, coated in a ghostlike gray soot.

Begun, the “Hamilton” backlash has.

Quote of the day:

“I can recognize a nipple from 600 yards in the background behind a leaf at this point.”

Things: April 1, 2016.

Friday, April 1st, 2016

You know something? I still don’t like bullies.

Obit watch: Bill Green. Mr. Green worked as a newspaper editor, public affairs officer for NASA, and university professor at Duke.

He also worked for the Washington Post as their ombudsman from late 1980 to 1981. If you’re thinking, “Hey, that period sounds historically significant.”: yes, yes it was. “Jimmy’s World” was published shortly after Mr. Green became ombudsman, and he conducted the paper’s investigation when it fell apart.

Since it fell off the front page, I wanted to also note here that I updated the “Use of force” post: now with pyramids!

What is the name of this play?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

No, seriously. What is the name of this play?

Obit watch: March 13, 2016.

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

I actually didn’t find out Keith Emerson was dead until I sat down to dinner last night and started browsing while I waited for Lawrence. A/V Club. Lawrence. NYT.

Sunny Balzano, owner and bartender of Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook, Brooklyn, died Thursday night. I mention this here, not because of Mr. Balzano’s prominence, but because this is a really, really good obituary for a neighborhood “character” (for want of a better word): it is the kind of thing that the paper of record, when it does it, does it well.

The past is another country.

Friday, March 4th, 2016

They did things differently there.

The San Francisco Chronicle used to give out firearms as subscription premiums.

I am well pleased with the gun, as it is all that is represented to be. I did not expect to get a $100 gun for $13.50.

You could also get a Colt rifle plus a one-year subscription to the paper for $14.50. (“$15 of 1887 dollars would be worth: $362.50 in 2015.”)

Peter Hartlaub for the win:

We were like Leland Yee, but with more follow-through.

(Hattip: Jimbo.)

Well, crud.

Friday, February 26th, 2016

Soldier of Fortune, the notorious magazine chronicling the shadowy world of mercenaries battling it out in hot spots around the globe, is ending its print edition in April after more than 40 years on newsstands.

When I was but a wee lad, one of my uncles came down to Houston for a visit and brought along a copy of SOF. I think he may have picked it up on at an airport newsstand to read on the flight, and since he was finished with it, he passed it along to me.

I devoured it like a fat man attacking an all-you-can-eat buffet, and spent a lot of time and effort after that seeking out the latest issues. I would buy copies from the newsstand in the shopping mall. Or I’d ride my moped over the back roads to the closest Walden Books, which had SOF in their magazine rack. Later on, SOF even managed to penetrate the suburban Houston grocery stores.

But at some point, after I went to college – I think around the time they eliminated the classified ads, too – SOF changed. I felt it was for the worse. They used to run practical articles on subjects of interest to a younger me (for example, the best places to shoot someone holding a gun to a hostage’s head, in order to insure instant incapacitation). The newer SOF seemed to be more interested in geopolitics, and less interested in the “how-to” side of things.

I eventually stopped purchasing it. I’d still glance at copies when I saw them, but I grew up, got a job that didn’t involve being a mercenary, and didn’t really need it in my life any longer.

The teenage boy left inside me will miss it, and might pick up a copy of the last print issue because nostalgia is a moron. The adult me isn’t terribly surprised, and shan’t mourn for too long.