Tag Archives: media

by the numbers

numbers

“Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.”  -Aaron Levenstein

I’ve spent the past eight months trying my best to be useful—and trying to get paid for it. I arrived in New York City in October, a few weeks after the fall of the first big, public dominos of the financial crisis. Thousands were being laid off every day, and I was looking for work. I got my foot in a very specific door—web editorial work—and I learned that I’m actually a methodical, detail-oriented person, capable of handling large amounts of material and performing repetitive tasks without gouging my eyes out. I’ve gotten gigs up and down the length of Manhattan: big media corporations, small magazines, dictionaries, an investigative journalism outlet. It’s fun wearing my fancy pants one day and jeans the next, but it gets confusing, and it’s hard to feel wholly committed to anything. I know people who’ve done this for years; I’m already completely exhausted.   Continue reading

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on hope

the president elect

“Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.” -Barack Obama, after winning the Iowa Caucus

Four years ago, I cast my very first presidential ballot. I was 19, living in one blue state and voting absentee in another, and there was something vaguely unsatisfying about putting a little X next to John Kerry’s name. I was voting against George W. Bush—who terrified me, a memory that’s hard to reconcile with our 2008 keep-as-low-a-profile-as-possible president. Bush’s first term marked a strange time to grow into a thinking member of the electorate: September 11th, the hyper-patriotism that followed, the lead-up to the war in Iraq, the invasion of Baghdad, the Patriot Act, and Abu Ghraib. I didn’t think we could afford four more years, but a slim majority of the American public disagreed with me. I cried on election night, and when I woke up the next morning, I wrote an editorial for the campus newspaper that basically endorsed resigned disillusionment. There was hope and there was fear, and the latter had prevailed. Reading over the piece now, this passage stands out:

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parables and princesses

“‘Wall·E’ can’t help but send out a powerful and even frightening environmental message. Though G-rated, its dystopian vision of what the perils of consumer excess have in store for the planet is unnerving without trying too hard, bringing to mind the old truism that Walt Disney and his company (Pixar’s parent) have scared more people than Alfred Hitchcock.”       -Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

Note: Minimal spoilers in this post – not much beyond your standard movie review. But really, you should go out and see “Wall·E” immediately!

There was a group of snarky children sitting behind me in the movie theater the other day. We had come straight from happy hour to “Wall·E,” and I wasn’t in the mood to listen to sullen kids shouting, “Lame!” during the previews. “Wouldn’t it be weird if you grew up watching so much computer animation?” my coworker whispered as we suffered through the fifth trailer for a sub-par movie about talking animals. I thought that if the children behind us were any indication, we’d have incredibly high standards for animated films. Nothing would dazzle us; the bigger and flashier, the better. They whispered loudly through the charming short film that preceded the main feature. But as the screen darkened with the first expanse of outer space and the strains of “Hello, Dolly!,” (“Out there, there’s a world outside of Yonkers”) the kids finally fell silent. 

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belmont 2008

“Big Brown had a bad day, but things have could have turned out worse, as we all know. Horses humble men on a regular basis. Here is to the smooth and steady Da’ Tara, the sweet-riding Alan Garcia, and a superb conditioning job by Nick Zito. The beauty of horse racing is overcoming great odds to win, rising out of the dust to prevail in the big race. The Da’ Tara team did just that.” -Sid Gustafson, “Horse Racing Prevails,” The New York Times

In the paddock, the mutuel clerks watched the Belmont Stakes play out on peoples’ faces. They’ve taken most of the televisions out of the bays – a futile attempt to curb employee gambling – so we leaned out our windows and watched the crowds gathered in small groups. There were cheers with the starting bell, but they faded quickly. “Who won?” the clerk next to me shouted, cupping her hands around her mouth and sounding like Rosie Perez. The silence was unnerving, the kind of hush that accompanies a horse’s fall. The race ended without ceremony and people dispersed, muttering and tossing ripped tickets on the asphalt. “It was the six,” someone called out from down the row. We pulled up the odds; the six was a long shot, largely ignored by my customers. “What about Big Brown?” someone else asked. “Last,” a man near the windows announced, grimacing as he flipped through his losing tickets. “Dead last.”

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this ain’t news

“The assumption that it was done to conceal a crime is just that: an assumption … This ain’t news.” -Attorney General Michael Mukasey  

Where have these people been for the past six months?  Tap dancing at John McCain rallies?  Butchering Tom Jones classics?  Or maybe they’ve been reveling in their perceived political irrelevance and slipping in the same old policies under the radar.  At this point, it can’t be all that hard: no one seems to be paying any attention. After all, would you rather hear about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or the way Barack Obama likes his eggs?  Some of us have been tired of George W. Bush for seven years; just about everybody’s tired of him now.

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the place to be

Well this is, as you can tell, my first book tour. It’s the first book I’ve ever written, and I can’t tell you how much I love it! I walk around the house hugging it. I love the heft of it and the permanence of it and I even love the fragrance – a fresh book has a fragrance to it. I try to sneak looks at it but my wife catches me every time. She says, “Put the book down!'” -Roger Mudd

I can’t imagine having a conversation with a national news anchor. Wolf Blitzer is too scary, Brian Williams is too polished, and so many of the rest seem to let the teleprompter do all the work. I can imagine meeting Anderson Cooper at a cocktail party and getting really flustered. But their unapproachability gives them this false air of authority, boosted by slick graphics and intense theme music. People wax nostalgic for the old network newscasts and those steady, honest anchors. They probably weren’t particularly accessible, but at least they seemed smart, trustworthy, and genuinely charming. I get frustrated when older journalists rail against our generation and the bleak future of reporting, but when I went to see one of those old anchors a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but think that we’re all missing out on something these days.

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