Blue collar.

God bless this nice lady, Heather Bryant for falling for, and marrying, a truck mechanic. As someone who did what lots of journalists do — marry a co-worker — I could have spared myself a lot of grief over the last 15 years if I’d done the same. As it is, our two-income household is a very fragile thing, and likely will remain so until we collapse, exhausted, into retirement like a couple of people outrunning zombies in a horror movie. A truck mechanic likely out-earns both of us, and maybe both of us together.

And of course, all journalists love a good essay, especially one that tells us how much we suck. I’d have probably given her a version of the look she describes, too:

While they didn’t explicitly say it, the person was very much thrown off by the nature of my husband’s work. I was left with a very strong feeling they were expecting a more middle-class answer than a garbage worker. Their facial reaction has been stuck in my head for a while now. Surprise. A little confusion. And just enough distaste to notice.

Face it, you just don’t meet many Stanford Fellow/truck mechanic couples these days. And lady, that’s a hell of a lot of subtext to read into one facial expression, but never mind that.

Because I agree with her: Journalism would be better if we hired more people who had the basic skills, or a trainable aptitude for the job, but no college degree. As she puts it:

That person was genuinely surprised that the spouse of a journalist had such a blue collar job. The reaction makes me wonder how badly our industry really lacks for people with more diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Our journalism would be better if we were a better representation of the backgrounds and experiences our audiences have.

From time to time during my career, I’ve heard of various programs to do just that. All collapsed, or graduated trainees into jobs at such insultingly low salaries (because that was the motivation for starting it in the first place — to snag candidates without an expectation of ever making a college graduate’s living) that they failed to sustain themselves.

I remember one at my alma mater, and can’t remember if it was for non-grads or just those with no journalism classes or experience. It was specifically for racial minorities, because the lack of diversity in the newsroom was and remains a stubborn problem. I’m not sure how it turned out, because its big splash was ruined by one of its leaders calling it a six-week journalism boot camp, and someone else informed the world that “boot” was an obscure, but definite, racial slur. (Yeah, I’d never heard it either, and I thought I’d heard them all. I think the etymology is shoeshine boy > boot black > boot.)

Another I remember was started by a chain of weeklies whose bosses simply couldn’t get people to work for the poverty-level wages they were offering, and I thought I’d seen most of those, too (the lousy salaries, that is). Many of the younger staffers in Fort Wayne had second jobs, if not to make ends meet, then at least to have a little bit of extra spending money. Fort Wayne is a cheap city to live in, and a running joke — which was actually true — was that the bosses lured potential hires by mentioning that all the grocery stores doubled coupons, and sometimes tripled them.

I don’t think that training program worked, either. Probably the chain went under, or was sold to an even more chintzy owner. Even in rural Kansas, even in double-coupon Fort Wayne, being a journalist is a hard choice these days; the pay isn’t great, the hours are long and the president rains contempt on the whole craft with every tweet. You’d think being an enemy of the people would pay better.

Michael Moore hired a guy, Ben Hamper, off the line at some GM factory to be a columnist, first for the Flint weekly he ran, then for Mother Jones. I think I read a couple of his pieces, and they were pretty good — one took aim at Bruce Springsteen, Troubadour of the Working Class — but Moore didn’t last at MJ, and neither did Hamper. I just checked, and his home page is dead. Facebook says he lives in northern Michigan now, and works for a public radio station. Talk about frying pan to fire.

There are some lucky people who can make a decent living, and I count our co-prosperity sphere among them. But as I said before, it’s a creaky arrangement and has been for a while. I’ll be honest: If Kate told me she wanted to change her major to journalism, I’d cry, then tell her to reconsider.

So yeah, sure, let’s get some blue collars in the newsroom. I knew one at WANE-TV, in the early ’90s. He’d been a union electrician in Michigan, a very smart guy who decided one day he was tired of wiring buildings, put himself through Michigan State and graduated into a sub-100 media market, i.e. Fort Wayne.

I went to his going-away party. I asked what he planned to do next.

“Get re-certified as an electrician,” he said. “I found some of my tax returns a few months ago. I was making more money in 1973 than I am today.” This was 20 years later.

God bless him, too.

So, bloggage:

Someone on Twitter remarked that she’d been trying to figure out who in the Trump family was Fredo, then realized they’re all Fredo. Yes, I’d say so:

President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.

The meeting was also attended by his campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner only recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times.

The Times reported the existence of the meeting on Saturday. But in subsequent interviews, the advisers and others revealed the motivation behind it.

“Game of Thrones” fan, are you? The definitive essay on George R.R. Martin’s fondness for soup.

Happy week ahead, all.

Posted at 12:01 am in Current events, Media | 86 Comments
 

Drowning in…something.

So, Father’s Day is upon us. Barely noon, and I have already tired of the social-media parade of World’s Greatest Dads. (Admittedly, I contributed.) Holidays like this turn us all into Mitch Albom; there’s just no room for shadows, even though shadows are what give figures dimension and make them more interesting.

My dad did OK. He could be a jerk, but he was my jerk, my dad, and he did well enough. That’s all you need to get a headstart in the world. Good-enough parents, not great ones.

And in the Department of Pre-emptive Apologies, I have a week’s worth of evening stuff coming up. And guess what it is? One of the women in my swimming cohort is training a few of us to be lifeguards. I’ve been thinking for a while now that I haven’t had a CPR refresher since I took a class in the ’80s, and my first aid is equally rusty. Tim, our coach, is 77 and creaky, and has said often that he’d really like to have some backup on morning swims, so here we all go. It should be over in a week, but I have another conflict Thursday, so it might take a little bit longer.

I did the qualifying stuff Saturday: 300-yard swim, two minutes of no-hands water treading and the infamous pick-up-a-brick exercise. That’s where you swim 20 yards or so, surface-dive to pick up a 10-pound brick in 10 feet of water, then take it back to the starting point, get it out of the pool and then heave yourself out behind it, all in a minute-forty. The last was harder than I expected, but I made it with plenty of time to spare. The two women I was testing with needed multiple tries, but then again, none of us are planning to get jobs as lifeguards. But you never know. The siren song of the red tank suit and the privilege of sitting on the high chair in mirrored shades may well lure me out of journalism.

Speaking of which, this is an outstanding “This American Life” segment on a 66-year-old lifeguard who sued New York City for age discrimination. A NYT account of the same situation.

Who knows, I may not pass the final. But I’ll be fresh on my CPR and first aid. I have this fantasy that my post-retirement career will be as a personal trainer to postmenopausal women. Step one!

Just one link today: Mark Bittman is doing regular food writing again. For New York magazine, no no registration, no paywall. Huzzah.

So, maybe see you guys on…Wednesday? That’ll work.

Posted at 1:31 pm in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 66 Comments
 

We meet again.

Yes, my little minions, I made it to and from Columbus in one piece. The greatest threat was potentially dying of boredom on the trip down from Lansing on Friday, which seemed endless, all gray skies and flat fields and nothing on the damn radio. I turned on Google Maps’ navigation function as I drew near, and it led me, turn by turn, into an area I remembered as a slum, where today the greatest threat is being hit by a guy on a $3,000 bicycle who was just doored by a BMW.

Gentrification. On the one hand, it displaces the poor. On the other, it displaces the Short North Posse.

Anyway, the party was fun. Nice to see friends old and new, and my biggest fear — that I’d look around and think, “What do I have in common with all these old people” — was not realized. We have a strange relationship with the people we work with; we often spend more time with them than our own families, and when it comes to an end? Sometimes we stay in touch, sometimes people fall off the earth. But it was great to see everyone.

Several journos-turned-authors in the group, or editors of authors. That was interesting. Also, lots had bailed out when the parachutes were still pretty big. Not so much anymore. The copy desk has already been outsourced – to Austin, Texas. That’s how you get mistakes like this, which is not the Columbus Dispatch’s, but a Michigan chain with similar cost pressures:

frontpages

Oopsie. The Lions played the Giants this weekend, not the Cowboys.

And while you’re feeling contempt for the media, do consider that this AP photographer literally risked his life to capture some startling images of the Russian-ambassador assassination in Ankara earlier today.

A strange business. Let’s turn from the tragic to the comical, shall we?

Remember how Tim Goeglein disgraced himself and embarrassed his hometown paper by plagiarizing a couple dozen columns over the course of several years? Well, guess what? He’s writing again — for the same paper, which apparently now has no standards whatsoever.

But he’s delivering a message they’re comfortable with, so I guess all is forgiven:

In 1988 Dan Quayle became vice president of the United States and Dan Coats was plucked from near-obscurity by Indiana Gov. Robert Orr and appointed the new U.S. senator from Indiana. Without peer, Coats was the right man for the job because his character and integrity were unassailable and because he had never lost an election. Even though most Hoosiers hadn’t a clue who he was, those who knew him best knew his personal integrity and natural grace would carry him to the heights of political power.

It’s really a remarkable column. I’m sure it’s not plagiarized, but it’s so…weird and icky that I had to read it a couple times. Coats, who is leaving the Senate at the end of this term, moves Tim to many adjectives, most of them deployed with some stupid adverb, so he’s “loved and respected roundly and widely,” a man who “intentionally widened his gyre in a manner that would serve him and our country powerfully in all the years ahead.” Needless to say, his faith is “deeply felt.” About that faith:

It is that faith that is at the heart of the man himself – utterly foundational to understanding everything he finds most important in life: his long marriage to Marsha, his boundless love for their three children, and the unmatched devotion he has for their many grandchildren. His exceptional respect, love and devotion to his wife and family are his pillars.

Tim! If you’re reading this, here’s a lesson from Comp 101: Show, don’t tell. If you can’t think of a single anecdote or example of all this love and respect in action, adding a bunch of extra adjectives won’t help sell it. And if you choose the wrong ones, it’s just creepy. Lots of people respect, love and are devoted to their spouses and families, so to call one guy’s exceptional, absent of any evidence, is irritating to many readers. And almost everyone would do anything, even give their life, for their own child, so calling Coats’ paternal love boundless is just trite.

Also, stop saying categorical. And immutable. You use utterly twice in adjacent paragraphs. And slipping in the vanilla good in the midst of all that silly froufrou is almost jarring.

At the end, Tim stands revealed as the worst kind of boot-licking toady, all flattery and blandishments and sweet nothings in the ear. Which, when you come to think of it, is probably a good skill set in Washington these days. There’s a new administration hiring, and they like that stuff.

Expect spottier posting for the next couple of weeks, as we move through the holidays. The spirit may move within me, it may take a fortnight off. Fingers crossed.

Posted at 5:38 pm in Current events, Media | 73 Comments
 

In the grinder.

Wasn’t I just saying I hoped this week would be a little easier than last? Guess what? It’s not. Nothing horrible, just a fairly blistering pace. Plus, Alan’s sick — came home with a sore throat and a canker sore, the latter of which seems to be bothering him more than the other. I hate canker sores so bad, so I get it. Probably shouldn’t have made ribs with so much chipotle pepper in the rub, however.

But once the weekly menu is set in this household, it is set. No substitutions!

Now it’s Wednesday, and things are finally slowing to a nice, steady trot. Have some lines to re-bait, and an application for a workshop/conference next spring in Columbus, spaces in which are to be awarded on a competitive basis. That means I must start the bullshit machine that lives deep in my chest, so a nice steamy batch can be perked up when I start to write.

The spot includes a week of lodging in my ol’ hometown. That’ll be fun. I’ll invite all my friends over to trash the hotel, Led Zep-style.

Before I go on, though, I want to make a book recommendation. (I haven’t changed the On the Nightstand feature in close to a year, but I have been reading, promise.) I recently finished “In the Darkroom,” Susan Faludi’s memoir about the last year’s of her father’s life, after he underwent a sex change in Thailand and emerged as Stefanie. I bought it on the advice of Hank Stuever, mainly in an attempt to sort out my frankly confused thoughts about transgenderism. I lie somewhere between full-and-open-embrace and the position laid down by more radical feminists, who reject transwomen as having a claim on the gender at all.

I don’t come to the debate with animus, however. I’m just very confused.

Faludi came to the reopened relationship with her parent — they had been estranged — as a middle-aged woman and an incisive journalist. And she misses very little about the tangle of contradictions that Istvan Friedman, who became Steven Faludi, who became Stephanie, presents to the world. A man who’s had three names and two genders in the course of a lifetime will have an interesting life’s story, and s/he is no exception. Istvan Friedman was a Jew in WWII Budapest, which meant he was no safer than Jews anywhere else in Europe. Born to a wealthy family that was atomized by the Holocaust, Istvan survived on luck and hustle, shape-shifting his identity and front to match the occasion, many of them perilous to his health. He later emigrated to Brazil and then to the U.S., where he became Steven Faludi (“a good Hungarian name”), married and became a father. But that didn’t work out, and he repatriated to Hungary and eventually shed another skin, emerging as Stefanie. His tale is only reluctantly told by the septuagenarian matron that was his final identity, but his daughter is relentless in her pursuit of her parent’s true nature. The picture that emerges — the title is a play on both her father’s occupation as a photographer and photo processor and the nature of his manipulated self — is hardly sharp. People are complicated, and some people are really complicated.

But the book is wonderful. It’s in Alex’s hands now; his father was a Hungarian immigrant, and Stephanie’s story is of a piece with her native land, itself a bundle of contradictions. I thought I knew my Holocaust history, but I knew little of Hungary’s role in it, it turns out. The details were appalling and dispiriting in the age of Trump, and the behavior of Istvan/Steven/Stephanie, both then and in the contemporary era, are baffling and revelatory. (Stephanie votes with the far-right party, the one that teeters on the edge of ethnic cleansing.)

I don’t really understand transgenderism that much better now, but I’m enlightened about one of its story threads now, and I recommend “In the Darkroom” to anyone in search of a good read on this or any of its related topics.

So, a new thread for us to chat about the final debate, and some bloggage: I’m appearing on WDET tomorrow to trade snappy banter about it with two other panelists; I’ll be the one with the higher voice and XX chromosomes. Listen live in the 9 a.m. hour Thursday, if you’re so inclined.

Last week I went to Flint and stared into a hole, watching a typical pipe replacement, a huge project just getting ramped up. Read this thrilling tale of mud and infrastructure, here, after it goes live at 6:10 a.m., EDT.

The catastrophe of citizen journalism, from NYMag.

“Mulatto cock.” OK, I’m done.

Posted at 5:50 pm in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 53 Comments
 

Rainy day.

Yeah, it was just that kind of day:

lodgeflooded

Torrential overnight rains FUBAR’d all the local freeways, not just the Lodge, abated for much of the day, and then picked up again at quitting time. Alan generally works from mid-morning until early evening, leaving for work about 9:30. Typically it takes him 20 minutes to make the drive. I texted him at 11:15 asking how bad the commute had been, and he reply was: “Just got in.” Ugh. There are days when I wish I had more contact with two-legged mammals during my work day, but there are just as many that I’m profoundly grateful my work can be done anywhere I can take my laptop and phone.

Right now I’m propped up against the foot of my bed, with Wendy close by. Cozy, but she’s going to need a walk soon and she hates the rain.

I did a fairly innocuous story a few weeks back, about how Michigan cities are changing their infrastructure to deal with rain events like these, which are far more frequent in this era of climate change. An interesting thing I’ve noticed lately: No one I spoke to, or speak to on related matters, bothers to deny climate change, and I’m not just talking to commie college professors who’ve walked across melting glaciers. It’s here, it’s happening, we better get used to it. Someone from a state farming organization told me a grain elevator is either built or being built near Saginaw, a farther-north location than had ever been able to support one before. Corn and beans are being grown, in pockets, as far north as Gaylord; make your Michigan hand map, find the topmost knuckle on your middle finger, and that’s where Gaylord is. That’s pretty damn far north, 50 miles south of the bridge, above 45 degrees latitude, for crops we generally associate with the flatlands of downstate Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, among others.

Meanwhile, many elected officials continue to insist it’s either a) not happening; or b) not our fault; or c) can’t be fixed, so woo, let’s all put a pineapple tree in the back yard. Also meanwhile, we just endured a blistering, dry summer, and just took in a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours.

Sorry, great-grandkids, we broke the planet. Enjoy the off world colonies.

I’m not really depressed or anything. In truth, I adore an occasional overcast day like today. We had one — just one — when I was in California, and the locals were moping about it. “You mean, the sun isn’t actively trying to kill me today?” I said. “This is not a terrible thing.” We had a very California summer, so this feels like a pleasant reprieve. Of course, knock wood, I got no water in my basement (yet). So there’s that.

Now I’m thinking about dinner, and have some grocerying to do beforehand. Let’s see what sort of bloggage can be scrambled here.

The Detroit News, Alan’s employer, has never endorsed a non-Republican for president in its 143-year history. Until today, when the editorial board endorsed…Gary Johnson. Sigh.

Remember how Donald Trump kinda-sorta defended himself for stiffing contractors at his various properties, saying, “Maybe they didn’t do work to my satisfaction”? I wonder what this piano dealer did to displease him. Was middle C flat?

The New Yorker knows how to deal with this beauty queen.

Great weekend, all. See you Monday.

Posted at 5:45 pm in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 117 Comments
 

This way to the weekend.

A mixed bag today, as the week lumbers to a close. It was a fairly productive one; can’t complain, even though I was a no-show yesterday. Just one of those days, when nothing much went well and I ended it thinking all I wanted from life was a little Netflix and a book. The next thing you know, you look up and there’s been a plane crash, Morley Safer checks out and…it’s Thursday night.

Happy Friday.

So let’s start with the best bloggage of the bunch. We were talking a few weeks back about the various eagle cams and falcon cams and all the rest of the cams that show us avian predator life in its cuddly fledgling stage. A great piece follows, from the WashPost, about the nest-cam operators who are shutting down, because the thousands watching online? Can’t handle the truth:

The osprey cam at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is trained on a nest near the Massachusetts seaside, and the pair that call it home are now waiting for three eggs to hatch. But for the first spring in a decade, the camera is dark, and a note on the institute’s website offers only a two-sentence explanation.

“Regrettably, the cam will not be operating this season due to the increasingly aggressive actions of certain viewers the last two years,” it begins.

That is a staid reference to cam fans whose emotions about the nest morphed into vitriol — and fighting words. When the osprey mother began neglecting and attacking her chicks in 2014, anxiety exploded among some viewers, as did demands that the institution intervene to save the baby birds. When the same thing happened in 2015, the public passions took a more personal turn.

“It is absolutely disgusting that you will not take those chicks away from that demented witch of a parent!!!!!” one viewer emailed to Jeffrey Brodeur, the communications specialist who ran the camera. Another wrote: “I realize this is nature, but once you put up a cam to view into their worlds it is no longer nature. You have a responsibility to help n save when in need.”

It’s a great story — lots of anecdotes about people who are way too over-invested in the world that flies around over our heads. How much so? Oh, you have no idea:

In 2014, when the chicks featured on a bald-eagle cam in North Fort Myers, Fla., weren’t getting much to eat, some viewers decided to take matters into their own hands. Under cover of darkness, they headed to the nest site and tossed meat into it — a roast, to be specific.

I love the eagle cams as much as the next person, but when things get a little dicey, I just click away. That’s why we have Donald Trump – for the distraction.

Speaking of which.

The WP also has a pretty good piece about the next generation of Trumps, specifically his sons, Eric and Don.

It’s pretty good, but Hank Stuever started an interesting Facebook conversation about the difference between the Trump scions, who at least talked to the Washington Post, and Chelsea Clinton, who apparently still thinks it’s 1993 and she’s 13 years old, protected like the tender bud she was then. Now it’s 2016 and she’s 36, and she still doesn’t answer a question that wasn’t vetted, but feels she can campaign for her mother and face only the scrutiny she approves. So, then: Props to the young Trumps, who I liked better after reading this. Dammit.

Can we trust the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education? Because these numbers are crazy:

If 10 percent of American smokers gave up cigarettes and the rest cut back by 10 percent, the U.S. could shave $63 billion off medical costs the next year, the analysis found.

It doesn’t pass the smell test, but I have no idea it’s a big number. But is it that big?

The new study found that regions with lower smoking rates had substantially lower medical costs from 1992 through 2009.

Californians spent $15.4 billion less on healthcare in 2009 than they would have if they smoked as much as the national average, the analysis estimates. At the other extreme, Kentucky residents spent an estimated $1.7 billion more than the national average on healthcare because they smoked more.

Maybe.

Here’s a nice Neal Rubin column from Detroit, about the breakup of a chain of sleazebags ripping off Detroit Public Schools. I don’t want to excerpt anything from it, but read it — it’s good.

Finally, Lisa Belkin, the former NYT reporter and author “Show Me a Hero,” wrote a piece about the time when, as a young reporter, Donald Trump made a pass at her. It attracted this fan mail:

belkin

Sorry for the language, but this is the sort of thing women who write on the internet get used to. Enjoy your weekend. May you get no communiques like that.

Posted at 12:02 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 60 Comments
 

Two glorious days.

We had a spectacular weekend, weather-wise. I bet you did, too, as I gather this blessing of sunshine and warmth was granted to most the country east of the Mississippi, and after last weekend, we wuz OWED. So both days had a bit of work, but also fun, and nothing you say will make me feel guilty about that.

So’s how about some photos, then?

Saturday’s big event was a brunch to honor the retiring head of the journalism fellowship I did back in the day. Over to Ann Arbor to eat eggs, drink mimosas and enjoy some fellowship one more time. I took a walk though Wallace House, too. Charles, the retiring director, loves editorial cartooning. In 2000-01, Milt Priggee, who worked for the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, was a member of the class and drew the seminar speakers. Many of these pieces are framed and hanging on the wall. Never noticed this one before:

snyder1

Of course, the subject doesn’t look like this anymore, and he has a new title now, too:

snyder2

“In happier days,” as they say.

Pat Oliphant visited during our year, and many others. He talks about current events and sketches at the same time, and these great, loopy caricatures emerge from it. Charles always has the best ones framed, and they’re really filling the place now. This one is over the stairs:

nixon

You really can see why cartoonists truly mourned Nixon’s exit from public life. The nose, the brows, the hairline and boom, there he is.

Took a bathroom selfie, and yes, the whole quote runs around the perimeter. (Improperly attributed to Voltaire, some say.)

bathroomselfie

And after all the catching up and email addresses were exchanged, it was off to north campus to shlep a few things home for Miss Kate, who will be rejoining us in just a couple more weeks. Where did the year go? Michigan dense-packs its academic year, and then that long summer — it’s great for out-of-classroom learning for sure. I found her enjoying that perk of college, outdoor studying:

katestudies

Change a few details, and that could have been me, once upon a million years ago. Also, she’s prettier, and studies more.

Seeing her with her devices reminds me that we saw “Steve Jobs” later that night, which was perfectly fine, if you like Aaron Sorkin talkfests, which I must say don’t always hit me the right way. I give it points for taking a different approach to the ol’ biopic, and structuring it in a novel way, but I did doze off for a few seconds here and there. Worth a watch if you’re an Apple person, maybe less so if you’re not.

And then Sunday was a bike ride, first long one of the season, maybe 15 miles, followed by a draft beer. If you had a better Sunday than me, well, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Not a lot of bloggage — the newspapers are oddly uninteresting on weekends like this — but maybe two things. First, the aforementioned Farm to Fable package from Florida (and everywhere, really), which pries the lid off the locally-grown myth. Like a lot of great reporting, it points out things that are lying in plain sight, but it does it in a readable, genial, well-designed package that seems perfectly suited to the content. We’re talking food here, not rapacious charter schools, so the amble-with-me-into-this-thicket-of-lies approach works really well:

What makes buying food different from other forms of commerce is this: It’s a trust-based system. How do you know the Dover sole on your plate is Dover sole? Only that the restaurateur said so.

And how can you be sure the strawberries your toddler is gobbling are free of pesticides? Only because the vendor at the farmers market said so.

Your purchases are unverifiable unless you drive to that farm or track back through a restaurant’s distributors and ask for invoices.

I did.

For several months, I sifted through menus from every restaurant I’ve reviewed since the farm-to-table trend started. Of 239 restaurants still in business, 54 were making claims about the provenance of their ingredients.

For fish claims that seemed suspicious, I kept zip-top baggies in my purse and tucked away samples. The Times had them DNA tested by scientists at the University of South Florida. I called producers and vendors. I visited farms.

My conclusion? Just about everyone tells tales. Sometimes they are whoppers, sometimes they are fibs borne of negligence or ignorance, and sometimes they are nearly harmless omissions or “greenwashing.”

This approach is getting some meta-journalism attention, too. It’s the first investigative series I’ve seen compared to Netflix. So there’s that.

A charter-school smackdown Brian should enjoy.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to enjoy the golden light of the day’s magic hour and mentally prepare for the week ahead. Hope yours goes well.

Posted at 12:01 am in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 69 Comments
 

Bringing home the paper.

Thank you for all your kind thoughts about our probable success in the SPJ-Detroit contest, but it wasn’t quite so grand. We have always entered the Online category, ‘cuz that’s what we are, and always done well, because there aren’t very many online-only publications in Michigan. Which is fine, but you want your wins to be significant. So this year we entered the largest print category, up against the big dailies.

And we won three awards. But the one that had my name on it (along with, y’know, three others, and the unseen name of our editor, who made it immeasurably better) was a first place.

award

That was the college-drinking project, fyi.

So it was a good night. I had three glasses of wine and regretted it yesterday, because I am old and can no longer handle liquor. (Next stop: The grave.) Either that, or I didn’t have enough to eat, a strong possibility as I try to go Clean again. It was still a fun night. One of Alan’s staffers won Young Journalist of the Year, so a good time was had on both sides of the Nall-Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere.

May I just say? While you guys were carrying the load here over the last 48 hours, I was highly amused by Danny’s comment on the Tinder date, a very only-in-California story. And I was moved and heartened by MichaelG’s travel to Europe. Sail on, sailor.

Perhaps weighed down by trying to process a mere 12 ounces of wine, Wednesday was a snoozer. Fortunately, the bloggage is not. Somehow I got on the Wayne County prosecutor’s press-release mailing list, and every so often it delivers a gem:

An American Airlines co-pilot, John Francis Maguire, 50 (DOB 9/30/65), of Pennsylvania has been charged with the misdemeanor charge of :Aircraft – Operating Under the Influence. On March 26, 2016, at approximately 6:45 a.m. at Detroit Metropolitan Airport it is alleged that Maguire in the cockpit of an American Airlines plane and was under the influence of alcohol when he was detained and then arrested. He was later released by authorities on the same day.

Maguire will be arraigned and have a pre-trial hearing on May 11, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. in 34th District Court.

Prosecutor Worthy said, “Although we do not often hear of pilots being allegedly intoxicated, the laws apply to everyone – whether one is on the roads or airways.”

There’s nothing worse than drunken white girls, especially when they run in packs:

It’s a Friday night in Provincetown, in late August, and the mise-en-scène of this delicate ecosystem, plopped atop a sandbar in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is being threatened by a new and unfamiliar scourge. They are called, simply, The Bachelorettes.

Provincetown is, of course, as gay as …a very gay thing.

Determined to find some bachelorettes who will let me spend the night bar-hopping around Provincetown with them, I go to MacMillan Pier on Saturday morning to await the first boat from Boston. Immediately, I encounter a sextuplet of blondes wearing team bride tank tops. Maid of honor Stacey will not shake my hand. I ask if I can hang with them tonight.

“I don’t think so,” Stacey says. “Girls only.”

I am completely befuddled. “In Provincetown?” I ask. She is standing only feet away from a gaggle of bearded men sipping Muscle Milk and talking about Beyoncé.

“Sorry,” Stacey says in a smug, dense way.

I’m told they do that here, too, but I haven’t been invited to a bachelorette party in decades.

Finally, while I know there are a great many charter-school foes in this readership (coff-Brian-coff), after a few years of reading and reporting on them, I think the whole movement was best summed up by a charter expert who told me, “I’ve been in charters so good they make me want to give up a tenured professorship and go teach in them. And there are some that are just terrible.”

Here’s one in Detroit that Bridge wrote about. Guess which kind it is?

Now I’m going to swallow a melatonin and try to make up for the sin of drinking on a Tuesday night.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Detroit life, Media | 31 Comments
 

Kibbles ‘n’ b.s.

The day we took our first Jack Russell terrier home, the breeder gave us a deli container of food – Iams Eukanuba. “I’ve always fed my dogs Eukanuba, and they’ve done well on it,” she said.

So we took Spriggy home, gave the bag of Purina we’d already bought to the shelter, bought a bag of Eukanuba and never looked back. Sprig lasted until a month shy of his 18th birthday. So when we adopted Wendy, we bought a bag. I couldn’t find it at my beloved locally owned pet store (Lou’s, the best in town), so I bought it from a regional chain a few blocks away, one with a very all-natural, snooty kind of nothing’s-too-good-for-my-fur-baby vibe. They had a frequent-buyer’s program, and I dragged that punch card around for the more than two years it’s taken to buy 12 bags. On Saturday, I took it in for my free 13th bag.

“Just to let you know,” the clerk said, “but we’re not going to be restocking this when the inventory is gone. It has…corn in it, which is contrary to the Snooty Pet Store philosophy.” All this delivered in a sort of of-course-you-agree airiness.

I stood there thinking, “If it weren’t for the Chinese and their poisoned pet food, this place wouldn’t exist.” Also thinking, “If this is a ploy to get me to pay even more for dog food, it ain’t gonna work.” You can put organic lamb and mountain blueberries in kibble, but we’re still talking about an animal that will eat its own poop, and with gusto.

Any suggestions? This place gets on my nerves.

So, then. Perhaps you’ve heard about Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who recently learned the man who he thought was his father, wasn’t. His real father turned out to be Sir Anthony Montague Browne, an aide to Winston Churchill. But until you’ve read his mother’s marvelous explanation of how this happened, you really haven’t lived:

Gavin Welby, my ex-husband, was a very strong, possessive character. At the end of March 1955 he was bullying me to leave my job as personal secretary to the Prime Minister and run away with him and marry him in the United States where his divorce was being finalised. At the age of 25, as I was, the pressure became too great and in the end I found myself unable to resist.

One feature of this pressure is that I was already drinking heavily at times. Although I could then ensure that this did not affect my work, it was later to develop into serious alcoholism during the 1960s which only came to an end when I entered rehab in 1968. I have not drunk alcohol since.

Although my recollection of events is patchy, I now recognize that during the days leading up to my very sudden marriage, and fuelled by a large amount of alcohol on both sides, I went to bed with Anthony Montague Browne. It appears that the precautions taken at the time didn’t work and my wonderful son was conceived as a result of this liaison.

Girl, that sort of thing happens all the time. Relax. You got a fine boy out of it. He grew up to be Archbishop of Canterbury! Blood will always tell. I’m sure he’ll forgive you.

You might have heard that Andrew Sullivan, the ultimate bad penny, is back on the job, or will be soon, this time at New York magazine. Roy makes the case for not forgetting Sullivan’s background, in case you need to be reminded, you fifth columnist.

God, here comes Tuesday. No entry tomorrow, alas — journalism awards tonight, so I’ll be curling my hair and getting my Oscar dress steamed.

Posted at 12:19 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 88 Comments
 

The sword of truth.

After Friday’s excoriation of the poor shlub who wrote the Daniel Holtzclaw piece, I feel the need for some balance. Check out the first couple grafs of this Jeffrey Toobin piece on Antonin Scalia:

Antonin Scalia, who died this month, after nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, devoted his professional life to making the United States a less fair, less tolerant, and less admirable democracy. Fortunately, he mostly failed. Belligerent with his colleagues, dismissive of his critics, nostalgic for a world where outsiders knew their place and stayed there, Scalia represents a perfect model for everything that President Obama should avoid in a successor. The great Justices of the Supreme Court have always looked forward; their words both anticipated and helped shape the nation that the United States was becoming. Chief Justice John Marshall read the new Constitution to allow for a vibrant and progressive federal government. Louis Brandeis understood the need for that government to regulate an industrializing economy. Earl Warren saw that segregation was poison in the modern world. Scalia, in contrast, looked backward.

His revulsion toward homosexuality, a touchstone of his world view, appeared straight out of his sheltered, nineteen-forties boyhood. When, in 2003, the Court ruled that gay people could no longer be thrown in prison for having consensual sex, Scalia dissented, and wrote, “Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.” He went on, “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a life style that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

You know what I like about that? There’s not a whiff of equivocation in any part of it, just simple declarative sentences, dropping like truth bombs, ending with a long passage written by the deceased himself, and not that long ago, underlining just how retrograde his opinions were. Were. He’s dead. Let’s move forward. So many writers are afraid, of blowback, of Twitter, of whatever, that they can’t even express a clear opinion anymore. It’s not that I think this, but that I really think this — you can find that sentence in a dozen columns published today. If you’re good, no one would get confused in the first place.

The essay doesn’t lose steam — and isn’t that long, I should add — but if I may quote one more paragraph, or portion of it:

Not long ago, Scalia told an interviewer that he had cancelled his subscription to the Washington Post and received his news from the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times (owned by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church), and conservative talk radio. In this, as in his jurisprudence, he showed that he lived within the sealed bubble of contemporary conservative thought.

And this man, I remind you, is considered a towering intellectual. He got his news from Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, et al. Good luck with that level of intellectualism, guys.

Whew, that felt good to read.

So, we had ourselves a lovely weekend at my latitude, two days back-to-back with temperatures in the 60s. I ran errands on my bike, smelled the breeze, did some recreational reading, attended a dinner party and otherwise, we enjoyed ourselves. Of course, because I am a homeowner, I looked at the considerably colder forecast for the coming week and thought, “Good thing I got most of the dog poop picked up, because the snow’s going to cover it all back up again.” Lord Grantham never had this problem.

I hope I can be one of those people who looks forward as I get older. Endless nostalgia is a truly destructive attitude to carry into life. As anyone who reads Bob Greene could tell you.

The rest of the weekend was not so great in Michigan, as current events will demonstrate. My friend and former student Ryan had to roll out for K’zoo Sunday morning. As he was leaving, his girlfriend informed him he would be missing her breakfast tacos, “which only makes me hate this fucking loser even more,” he said.

But he filed a good story. Best detail:

Michael Arney, a local radio reporter, said he attended Comstock high school in Kalamazoo with Dalton, who was now, he said, the third murder suspect from his 1989 graduating class.

The delamination of the less-well-educated white American male? Or coincidence? You tell me.

Have a good weekend, all.

Posted at 12:22 am in Current events, Media | 41 Comments