A good one.

I read Kate’s report card when she got home today, teasing her by humming the “Jaws” theme before I opened it. It was fine. I declared the afternoon A Salute to Kate Day, and said we could do anything she wanted.

First, lunch at the Original Pancake House. She had chocolate-chip pancakes. (I didn’t.)

Then, a long-promised, good-report-card trip to Build-a-Bear Workshop, where she chose Mocha Bunny. Then it was off to Nordstrom’s, for a bathing suit that won’t crawl up her butt (half off!). Then we went to Restoration Hardware, because if we’re going to drive clear to Troy for shopping amusement, mommy deserves a little, too. Then home.

It was a good day.

Earlier, when I was waiting to meet her at our usual corner, one of our little neighbors passed by. She’s a year ahead of Kate, and was on the verge of tears. Why?

“I’m a little emotional about school being over,” she said, before hurrying on. Kate said she stopped at the end of the driveway later and outlined her anxieties: “I’m not big enough to be a fourth-grader. I’m only 8. That’s not old enough.” Then she hurried home to be emotional.

“How do you feel about school being over?” I asked Kate.

“Not like that,” she said.

Yes, it was a good day.

So let’s have a quick transition to bloggage then, shall we?

When I’m not enjoying my local a.m. newspaper — which I do very often — I am flinging sections to the floor. I can accept that Detroit is sports-mad. I can accept that the NBA championship finals are a big deal. I don’t mind seeing Pistons coverage on Page One. I don’t mind copious Pistons coverage elsewhere in the paper. And then I just…snap.

Take today: What’s on the front page? Pistons. It’s a warm, fuzzy feature about the pre-game prayer circle held by the team chaplain. (Look, more mocking of religion by the atheist, godless MSM!) At the bottom of the page, a huge teaser to the features front, which reveals the winners of the Pistons Fantasy Sneaker contest, one of those reader-participation features editors are so big on these days. So the Pistons are on the features front, too.

Needless to say, they’re all over the sports front. One column, two columns, another story, more. Big pictures, of course. I turn to the auto section. At first glance it seems it’s a story on which cars the Pistons drive, but no, it’s a column! If the Pistons were autos, what would they be?

Ben Wallace, I learn, would be a Ford F-150 — Powerful and durable, Ben’s not afraid to shoulder the dirty work. He digs into the unglamorous jobs and carries the load for the Pistons.

I’m developing a facial tic.

It might not be so bad if the week hadn’t begun with this, which included that photo played huge on Page One. This kid has been the key art — the little picture at the top of the page — every postgame day since, hiding her face in grief for the losses and exulting for the win. She’s four. I ask you.

OK, enough of that. I don’t know how I missed this Gene Weingarten column last month, about an online poll to pick the 100 greatest Americans, ever, but I’m glad I didn’t miss it this month. He’s interviewing a spokesman for the Discovery Channel, which will cover the runoff:

Me: I see Oprah is on the list, and Ellen DeGeneres, and Martha Stewart and Dr. Phil McGraw. They are apparently taking the place of people such as Whitman, Poe, Hopper, Gershwin and Melville, who many believe wrote the greatest American novel. So basically — referencing the McGraw-Melville calculus — Americans have picked The Ultimate Weight Solution over Moby Dick. Do you feel they are showing discerning literary judgment?

Elizabeth: We did notice that there were very few authors.

…Me: The list includes Michael Jackson, who is a Kabuki-faced deviant and notable skin-crawly weirdo of historic proportions, and Richard Nixon, a frothing-at-the-mouth political paranoiac, and Howard Hughes, who actually hoarded his own pee. Would you say Americans are making an interesting statement about the inevitable nexus of genius and madness, or are they just complete imbeciles?

Elizabeth: You know, people only had three votes.

Me: Really. That means that a lot of people must have chosen, like, Hugh Hefner over Thomas Jefferson or Albert Einstein!

Elizabeth: Well, yes.

Finally, this last link is only going to be of interest to journalists or those few masochists in the room who lie awake wondering why newspapers suck so bad. A long, long story from a magazine writer who did a three-year hitch reporting for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, it has a number of simple insights into why that might be. How about this?

The end result is an often strained newsroom where top editors drive the agenda, middle editors worry about their dictates and reporters take turns being confused and demoralized. Against all odds, good stories � and an occasional great one � get written, but you can�t help but wonder why the paper can�t be better. The answer begins in the chaotic mess of the newsroom.

… Newspapers across America face dwindling readership. The daily circulation of the Journal Sentinel has plummeted from 328,000 in 1995 to 238,000 today. Every year the paper has fewer customers, less clout.

The editors needed to grab readers� attention without getting some so mad they cancelled their subscriptions. Kaiser and Stanley yearned to win awards with tough reporting but without alienating the community.

�We�re losing touch with our readers,� Senior Editor Gary Krentz would say, suggesting that the coverage of some issue had gone too far in one direction.

A case in point was the �Blue Shirt,� the airport artwork that was rejected by county government, raising a host of fascinating artistic and political issues. But the public appeared to be anti-Blue Shirt and the newspaper was wary of looking elitist, so reporters weren�t allowed to dig too deeply.

I don’t know a reporter who wouldn’t nod like a marionette throughout this piece. If you are, well, “enjoy” isn’t really the word, is it?

The editors needed to grab readers� attention without getting some so mad they cancelled their subscriptions. How about some more Pistons stories?

Posted at 10:29 pm in Uncategorized |

3 responses to “A good one.”

  1. mary said on June 17, 2005 at 12:16 pm

    Gene Weingarten’s column was wonderful. The 100 list is really depressing, though. Tom Cruise? Brett Favre? Dr. Freaking Phil? Aaargh.

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  2. alex said on June 17, 2005 at 6:13 pm

    Wow. If the Fort Wayne Wizards were Vera Bradley handbags, what styles, patterns and colors of gingham would they be?

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  3. mary said on June 21, 2005 at 3:39 pm

    I gotta tell you. I’m still giggling over the Vera Bradley handbag idea.

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