An Appreciation for Testy Copy Editors

Being who I am and how I earn my meager living, one of the things I spend time on is scouring the internet for any and all information I can find on publishing, its problems and its possible futures, or lackthereof.  One of my favorite websites to frequent is Newspaper Death Watch.  I was originally turned onto the site by a link from Mike Dixon’s great Elkton website, Someone Noticed.   Newspaper Death Watch was put together and maintained by Paul Gillin, a man with a quarter century of experience with newspapers and journalism, and a decade’s worth of time spent pursuing these functions online.  Gillin always has an interesting collection of links culled from all around the web, from straight news about cutbacks, bankruptcies and restructurings of media companies of all sizes, to long, detailed essays discussing the past, present and future of an industry in flux.  Generally, some pretty interesting stuff.

He also has a rather extensive list of links to other blogs relating to the industry and journalism down the right hand side of the page where I often peruse.  Each of these links leads, in turn, to even more links, and you know how it is from there.  I almost always run across some interesting stuff in my meanderings, like this one. I ran across Testy Copy four or five layers deep in blogs from Newspaper Death Watch, where I started.  How are newspapers supposed to compete with this, an almost infinitely layered array of information about any subject imaginable, grouped by links with no centralized controls whatsoever?  Most newspaper websites I’ve seen are like flyers stapled to a telephone pole in comparison.

Anyway, When I clicked on the link, I was immediately struck by the line right under the header; “We’ve made it more difficult and inconvenient to register!”  It was written with such obvious pride that I immediately was a fan.  The link itself brought me to this rather fierce thrashing of an innocuous local article about some Little League game in New Haven, Connecticut.  Being of conflicting personalities as both a master of writing long-winded, pointless narratives and an editor who hates having to read long-winded pointless narratives, this critical look at some bad writing was very illuminating, to me anyway.  It’s also really funny.  For all of you out there who fancy yourselves as writers, it can give you a little taste of what we as editors go through when reading your work.  Keep that in mind, please.

Published in: on August 29, 2009 at 6:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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$1 Movie Review of the Week

I always wanted to review movies.  I watch a lot of ’em, and most people tell me I’m too critical, so I’m certain that I can break down the intricacies of any film.  I recall, as a kid, watching Siskel and Ebert At the Movies every Sunday morning at 11.   Now Siskel’s moved on to that great screening room in the sky, and Ebert’s a recovering alcoholic, but its done little to dampen my youthful desire to do what they did, savage bad movies every week for fun and profit.  I even took a crack at it years ago on a website called epinions, reviewing books, movies, music and even one for beer.  I actually got paid, too, receiving a $60 check from them because my reviews generated some hits.

I’ve been renting movies for as long as I can remember, from the early days of going into the basement of American Home and Hardware in Elkton back when they had a movie rental department there, to stepping up to Blockbuster until their prices started to approach $5 a movie, to subscribing to the by-mail Netflix service for a couple years to my most recent addiction, stopping at the Redbox every time I get gas or groceries.  These little kiosks are damned convenient, and only a buck a day.  I love that they just charge me an extra dollar if I forget to return  a movie;  I think I owed late fee charges to every video store in a 20 mile radius at one point.  Getting rid of the entire concept of late fees was a beautiful touch, if I may say so.

Anyway, I rent a lot of movies from them, good and mostly bad, so I’m going to start reviewing some of them on here regularly.  That way, I don’t feel like I completely wasted my time watching them, not to mention the buck.  I put a link to a Redbox finder on the right hand sideboard, by the way, in case you’d like to give them a shot.  Their locations have swarmed the area like locusts,  so I’m sure there’s at least a half-dozen  near you.

Tyson (2008)

I’m going to start off with a movie I rented last weekend that was actually, surprisingly, quite entertaining.  Tyson is a first person accounting of the life of everyone’s favorite ear-biting, convicted rapist, former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, as told in his own words with interspersed archival footage of key fights, interviews and other  moments.  In a lot of ways, I was surprised by the tone of this film.  Tyson himself, once you adjusted to his voice, which is unusual to say the least, and his sometimes creative use of language, came across as far more earnest than I would have suspected, even breaking down in tears at times when discussing his mentor and the man who likely saved his life, Cus D’amato.

The film covers every aspect of Tyson’s life from his youth, robbing and selling drugs, to his introduction to D’amato, his amateur career, then his ascent to undisputed heavyweight champion.  Then, in the starkest of terms, the film chronicles his disastrous marriage to Robin Givens, his loss to Buster Douglas, his prison term for raping Desiree Washington and the total downfall from grace.   Tyson then moves on to tell of his climb back to heavyweight champion after his release from prison, and how he lost it all once again, culminating in the infamous ear-biting incident against Evander Holyfield.  It take his story through the last few forgettable fights, and his personal demons right up to his enrollment at a substance abuse facility, during which time he actually filmed this movie.

Tyson never shies away from any of the dark and difficult moments in this very-public man’s life, facing the good and the bad with equal clarity.  It’s well worth your dollar, and your time.  Now if that sounds interesting, go rent this movie then come back tomorrow and click on the read more link below.  I’ll be further discussing the films I review under this link and I’ll no doubt be giving some things away, so I don’t want to ruin it for you.  Watch the film first, then read on.  See you on the other side.


Published in: on August 29, 2009 at 6:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Preferential Treatment

Why is everyone so upset with Brett Favre?  I think it’s just jealousy.  There’s a notion in our society that everyone is equal and should be treated equally, the rules apply to all, no exceptions.  While that sounds all well and good (and slightly socialist), it’s not the least bit true, nor should it be.  I’m not suggesting that we should discriminate or treat anyone as less than human or without common decency and respect, but there are cases where people have earned preferential treatment based on their abilities and actions.

Brett Favre is a Hall of Fame quarterback.  He owns virtually every passing record ever conceived of.  He’s led teams to two Superbowls, winning one.  Anyone who doesn’t think the Minnesota Vikings just increased the likelihood of playing into late January or further is deluding themselves.  That’s not saying it’s guaranteed, nothing ever is, it’s a risk, and obviously one well worth taking for the Vikings.  And ask yourself, if you had a great quarterback who was 39 years old coming off an arm injury, would you rather see him playing summer scrimmages and preseason games the same as the 23 year old rookies, or do you want to see him taking the important snaps in December and January?

This entire story is all about resentment.  It’s about a group of media people who had to pay their dues more than it’s about Favre, people who had to spend their time in journalism school, work for years in a tedious newsroom somewhere, and fight for the positions they now have or still fight for the ones they aspire to, all the while, following industry procedures and step-by-step ladder climbing to seniority.  They resent a guy like Favre, who has the natural skills and capabilities to circumvent the standard procedures under which everyone else is subjected.  And they despise him for it.


Published in: on August 19, 2009 at 3:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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An Interesting Week For Animal Welfare Issues

It’s been an interesting week for animal lovers in the area.  First we have the litter of puppies saved from a horrifying death being trapped inside a sealed rubbermaid container, and now word is that the Philadelphia Eagles have signed everybody’s favorite dog-lover, Michael Vick. 

The puppies, by the way, are doing just fine.  They’ve been in the vet clinic I work for a couple times now,and seem to be well on their way to finding good homes.  I’d have a hard time imagining any animals more deserving of a life of leisure, luxury and all the treats they can eat than these puppies.  Still, I am somewhat surprised by the amount of media attention the almost-baked litter has received.  We’ve had two different Baltimore TV news stations in the clinic interviewing Ruff Life Rescue head Brie Masenoir and my boss, Dr. Lisa Twardus.  Unfortunately, I understand I was left out of last evening’s Channel 2 news piece.  They had a really nice image of my hands holding a puppy while the Doc drew some blood, but it ended upon the cutting room floor.  I guess I’m just not a hand model.

Anyway, not to downplay my absolute disgust with whoever perpetrated this act, but dogs get abandoned every day in this country, most not fortunate enough to be rescued.  While it’s a great thing that the press has jumped on this, and the attention will definitely help these poor puppies, and help Ruff Life, as well, it’s a shame that it takes something this vile to attract any attention to the problems of unwanted and abused pets.

Which brings me to Michael Vick.  It is very easy to condemn someone like Vick who has commited acts of unspeakable cruelty, but the number of animals who died in his little dog-fighting operation would make up a slow month for a significant number of animal shelters out there.  And if a similar box of pure-bred pitbull puppies were to show up on the doorstep of many rescues in this country, it’s a better than even money bet that they’d be euthanized by the end of the week, not turned into darling little news celebrities.  To many, Vick is a mass animal-murdering felon, but the shelters and animal control facilities are doing good work for us all, frequently paid for by our taxes.  Just a bit hypocritical, I think.  Either we respect the right of all animals to live or we don’t.  We can’t have it both ways. To do so devalues the lives of these animals,and it’s the reason why so many people have said about Vick,”well, it’s not like he killed a person or anything.”

These are real problems that never go away and deserve far more attention than they get.  Animal control operations everywhere need to be seriously looked at.  I commend the news operations for following the plight of these dogs, but come back more often, not just when we have a litter with a back story that’ll look cute on TV.

Published in: on August 14, 2009 at 3:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Puppies Saved From Death by Tupperware

A Channel 13 News cameraman films the rescued puppies playing on the floor of the Pet Wellness Center in  Port Deposit, MD.  By the way, camera-phones really suck.

A Channel 13 News cameraman films the rescued puppies playing on the floor of the Pet Wellness Center in Port Deposit, MD. By the way, camera-phones really suck.

I was just minding my business at the vet clinic today when we received a phone call from Ruff Life Rescue.  Apparently, on Monday, a litter of eight 7-week-old puppies was found sitting on a Baltimore street sealed in a large rubbermaid container.  Monday, being one of the hottest days of the summer so far with stifling humidity, especially in the city, it’s a small wonder that the puppies didn’t die from the heat and lack of ventilation.  Let me repeat this, someone left a litter of puppies in a sealed rubbermaid container on a city street during one of the hottest days of the year.  No matter how many times I say it, it still sounds unbelievable.

Anyway, the puppies were, fortunately, found in time, went through BARCs rescue and spent the night at Everhart Vet in Baltimore before finding their way to Ruff Life.

We work with Ruff Life to help provide veterinary  care to many of the animals that make their way to them.    I took the phone call from Bree Masenoir, who runs the rescue, to simply make an appointment to check out the newly saved litter.  But a few minutes later, she called back, saying Channel 13 news out of Baltimore wanted to come out and interview her, the vet I work for, Dr. Lisa Twardus, and the puppies.

So what was a simple morning turned into a tv news interview in the waiting room.  For anyone interested, the story will appear on the 5 and 6 o’clock news on Channel 13, and be posted on their website shortly thereafter.  The puppies are doing well, by the way, and appear for all intents and purposes, to be emminently adoptable.  One more time, someone left a litter of puppies in a sealed rubbermaid container.  Sorry, just can’t get over that level of cruelty.

Oh yeah, the puppies, who are apprently celebrities enjoying their 15 minutes of fame, will be on Channel 45 news morning show tomorrow with updates every so often on how their morning is going.  If you happen to be up at 5:30, check it out as well.  And anyone looking for a new addition to your family, the puppies will be available for adoption from Ruff Life soon.

Full Disclosure

Recently, I found that I had been somewhat accused of being politically connected.   At least I thought I had been, anyway.  Being one who had thought I ‘d learned to think before I spoke, I immediately wrote a reply which disputed the “allegation” which turned out to be nothing more than an innocent request for identifying who I was.  Besides looking like an idiot, especially considering I had neglected to put my name on this site anywhere, the experience got me thinking.

How many times do we misread things and leap to false conclusions?  I took the term politically connected as a slight of some sort, without properly absorbing the context before my reply.  So I thought about what political connections I possibly could have had.  Well, as I mentioned in my reply, we do treat Deanne Gutman of Wonmore Kennels and SPCA Task Force member’s animals.  One of our occasional vet techs used to work for Commissioner Hodge back before he was a commissioner.  Hell, I had even briefly dated the daughter of another one of the the current commissioners a while back.   I’m also pretty sure that one of my relatives had been represented by Mike Smigiel a few years ago, when he was just a Main Street Elkton lawyer and not a fast-track politician.   And, in my publishing career, I’ve had several articles appear in the Cecil Whig.  None of these things has any relevance to anything, but to someone looking for a connection, there are “ties” to two Cecil County Commissioners, a State Delegate, the county’s SPCA Task Force, and the local paper.  Hmm, maybe I’m connected after all.


Published in: on August 8, 2009 at 6:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Newspapers are saved! Well, not quite…

Have you heard the great news?  Several big-time newspaper publishers are reporting nice profits for the most recent fiscal qaurter.  Halleluha!  The news business is saved, all of our jobs are safe forever and ever.  Well, maybe not.

I am constantly amazed at the lack of genuine understanding of even the most basic business aspects of the industry in the press.  When large companies make cuts as deeply as these guys have, of course they’re going to show a short-term profit.  And if their revenue was even remotely stable, I might be inclined to jump on the optimism bandwagon.  But it’s not.  By all reports, ad revenue continues to tumble by ridiculous margins, and even the most blinded true-believer doesn’t think it will ever rebound all the way.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen cutbacks in a slow market produce short term bottom line help.  The dirty little secret behind these moves, however, is that you won’t really see the damage done from the cuts for a while, and when you do, that damage is typically deeper and more long-lasting than the immediate benefits were.  In other words, all these corporate giants have done is exchange turning a short term profit now for crippling the long-term possibilities for sustainable revenue.

But what else is new?  This has been S.O.P. for the industry for quite some time now.  Cut, cut, cut everything that doesn’t involve an executive paycheck or bonus, reap the rewards in better-looking (the proper emphasis on “looking”) budget sheets for a few months, then blame the eventual drop off on a poor economy, lazy salespeople, a solar eclipse, anything but your own short-sighted decisions, then cut, cut, cut all over again.

The only problem is that now there isn’t anything left to cut.  And the great future for publishing is all about paywalls and gutting copyright law.  Wow.  I feel so much better.  Congrats on the profits, guys.  Hope they’re worth it.

Published in: on August 1, 2009 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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