Monday, March 31, 2008

Speaking of 1968

Here's another blogger recapping the events of that tumultuous year, at the Houston Chronicle: Rick Campbell's 40 Years After.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Those Memphis sanitation workers

1968 isn't just on my mind. Leonard Pitts went to Memphis to find the sanitation workers who participated in the strike that led to Martin Luther King's murder. He found several of them -- still working. It's part of a package including a timeline and videos: I Am a Man. Powerful.
Soon after, a new slogan appeared on the signs the black men carried. Four words, but they were provocative. Four words, but in that time and place, they were incendiary. Four words, but they managed to encapsulate at long last something black men had never quite been able to get America to understand.
Four words.
I AM A Man.
...And 40 years later, you arrive in an era where a black man is running for president and, for all the myriad issues of race and identity with which he is forced to grapple, he is not required to prove himself a man. His manhood is a given. The men who helped make that possible are aged and dying and largely forgotten. And feeling, some of them say, cheated.
They say the union they won is not strong and receives little support from younger workers. The job benefits aren't great, either. Ben Jones says he's still working at 71 because he needs to pay off his house; when he retires, his only income will be from Social Security. Sanitation workers have no pension.
Nor did racism disappear. "Some of 'em still call you boy," says Nickelberry. "In some of 'ems eyes, you ain't nothin' but a boy. Still a boy."
But there is, he says, a difference: You don't have to take it anymore. "I tell 'em, 'I'm 76 years old. I'm old enough for your daddy. I ain't no boy. I am a man.' "
40 years later.


Research links of the week

Back when I was doing a newsroom Intranet I posted dozens of links every week, since I was collecting everything I thought someone on the newsroom staff might be interested in; I whittled them down for the public blog but it was still always a long weekly list.
Now, the numbers of links have gone way down. I blog things I find interesting during the week, and usually save the pure research links for the weekend updates. But there don't seem to be as many of them lately: this is what I've noted during the last two weeks. They're good ones, though:

  • Quick Guide to Military Information, great list of links from Shirl Kennedy at Resourceshelf.
  • NAFTA Regional Database from
  • The Phrase Finder, including meanings and origins of over 1200 phrases and lots of forum postings on them.
  • PreCyDent, Open Law Source. Search decisions, statutes...
  • Congressional Tutorials from library at UC Berkeley, guides to research.
  • SearchMedica, a professional medical search; recently enlarged.
  • Mother Earth News' Seed and Plant Finder.
  • Research and Subject Guides from library at U. Colorado, great links to library subject compilations, like these on Religious Studies.
  • Opera Glass: libretti, synopses, composer bios, etc.


  • Friday, March 28, 2008

    Another Florida connection

    The Raw Story has news and photos about the house that Karl Rove has built at Rosemary Beach, Florida: Karl Rove's next move: A million-dollar home on Florida's Emerald Coast.

    Once, many years ago, this Panhandle coast was a wonderful isolated place with small towns and little beach cottage communities. But since St. Joe Paper Co. sold thousands of square miles for development, places like Rosemary Beach are becoming new McMansion strongholds.

    More hot news -- and good research -- from a new media site.


    Goodbye, Rose

    Rose Klayman was a staple of the Miami Herald library for many years. She died this week. Here's the Herald obit, by Ellie Brecher, with wonderful quotes from her friends and colleagues. What a story, from Playboy bunny to street denizen....

    Labels: ,

    40 Years Ago

    (An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

    I didn't know much about the Washington Post, either, despite working in a temporary job in the promotions department there for a few weeks.

    I'd been a daily newspaper reader all my life, reading the two Rochester papers and the Sunday New York Times since childhood. At college, it was the Times, where I probably got it daily by subscription. I'd enjoyed reading the British papers during my time in London, too, amazed at the number and variety of them. But I'd only been reading the Post for a couple of months.

    I didn't know but would soon learn, for example, that the Meyer/Graham families had owned it for the last 35 years, and that in 1954 they'd bought the premier Washington newspaper, the Times-Herald, and that the masthead still, in 1968, read Washington Post and Times-Herald, and that they'd recently bought a half-interest (with the NY Times) in the International Herald Tribune, and that the company also owned Newsweek. I didn't know that Philip Graham, from a Miami dairy farm family (and brother of future Sen. Bob Graham), who had married Katharine, the daughter of owner Eugene Meyer, and taken over the running of the paper, had shot himself to death in late 1963 after a long battle with bipolar disease. Or that Kay, a so-called 'mousy housewife', had taken control of the newspaper and picked her own editor, Ben Bradlee, to run the Post's newsroom. (Kay was no longer 'mousy' after her triumphant showing as the star of Truman Capote's 'Black and White Ball' in 1966.) Her son Donald had come back from his service in Vietnam and joined the DC police force in January.

    Russell Wiggins was still the editor, but he was due to retire at the end of 1968. Alfred Friendly had been the managing editor; but Bradlee's original stint as deputy managing editor lasted only from August to November 1965, when Friendly agreed to go back to writing as an associate editor and vice president, and had become a roving foreign correspondent based in London. (He was about to win a Pulitzer for his coverage of the Six-Day War.) Bradlee was in charge, and bringing in influential writers like Dick Harwood, Haynes Johnson, David Broder, Stanley Karnow, Ward Just, and Nicholas von Hoffman. (von Hoffman had written a wonderful series the previous 'summer of love' on the Haight-Ashbury scene. It was here the phrase 'We are the people our parents warned us against' originated.) Kay Graham had recently picked Philip Geyelin to run the editorial page.

    I also didn't know that there was tension in the newsroom between the new management and the old, represented by long time city editor Ben Gilbert, or that the Post had recently had to play catchup when the New York Times came out with the March 10 story about Westmoreland's request for over 200,000 more troops for Vietnam. The Post had only in January increased its Vietnam bureau to two men, Lee Lescaze and Peter Braestrup. After Tet, Herblock drew his first cartoon critical of the war. According to Halberstam, the Post's news meetings were becoming 'shouting matches' over Vietnam coverage and editorial policy.

    So, one day in late March, here I was, dressed in my good suit (my mother had cashed in a savings bond to buy it, a plaid wool suit with brass buttons, for going to job interviews), to have an interview at the Post's newsroom library. The woman who ran the promotions department had suggested it would be a good place for me, since my temporary job was ending soon, and sent me to see Mark Hannan.

    Mark Hannan, director of research. He ran the Post's library, along with two librarians, Ann and Bill, and a staff of about a dozen or so filers and researchers. Mark had come from the St. Petersburg Times, gotten a degree in library science, and also covered steeplechase racing for the Post. To my amazement, he hired me. I would start a fulltime job in the Post's library, with a 6 month probationary period, probably on Monday, April 1.

    I didn't know anything about news libraries, either, never knew they existed. This would be a whole new world for me. Looking back, it seems it would be a perfect fit.

    It was getting to be spring in Washington and we were eagerly awaiting the blooming of the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin. The annual Cherry Blossom Festival would be held next week, with the height of the festival on Saturday April 6.

    Meanwhile, Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, was killed in a MIG-15 which crashed on a training flight in Russia on the 27th. That day, students began a boycott of classes at Bowie State College in Maryland. It would end a couple days later when Gov. Spiro Agnew agreed to hear student grievances.

    On Sunday, March 31, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke at Washington's National Cathedral, in the last Sunday sermon of his life, where he tried to assuage Washingtonians' fears about the upcoming Poor People's Campaign march on Washington, scheduled for later in April.
    We are not coming to engage in any histrionic gesture. We are not coming to tear up Washington. We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty...We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago. And we are coming to engage in dramatic nonviolent action, to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment; to make the invisible visible...

    The New York Times reported that King also said that he might be persuaded to call off the Poor Peoples Campaign he were given "a positive commitment that (Congress and the President) would do something this summer" to aid the nation's slums.

    That night, Americans crowded around their TV screens to watch as President Johnson gave a televised speech to the nation. He announced that U.S. bombing of North Vietnam would be reduced, and requested that the Hanoi government resume peace talks; but also, that South Vietnam should increase its military effort against the North. He agreed to send an additional 13,500 U.S. troops to Vietnam. He promised that someday, American troops would be able to leave Vietnam. Then the shocker: these times as in times before, it is true that a house divided against itself by the spirit of faction, of party, of region, of religion, of race, is a house that cannot stand...I have concluded that I should not permit the Presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year....I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.

    Johnson had spent much of the last few days debating his decision, and the Vietnam situation, with his advisors, called 'the wise men', including new Defense Secretary Clark Clifford. They had sent word to Gen. Westmoreland that his request for 200,000 more troops was being cut. But this was a huge shock, and changed the political landscape that year.

    (Post references: The Washington Post, the first 100 Years, Chalmers M. Roberts, 1977; The Powers that Be, David Halberstam, 1975.)

    Labels: , ,

    Thursday, March 27, 2008

    Good and bad research

    Hmmm. It's been an interesting week in newspaper reporting, what with The Smoking Gun knocking down the L.A. Times' story about a possible Sean Combs involvement in the Tupak Shakur murder. This one certainly needed better research and it's always interesting when a Web startup (although Smoking Gun has been around a long time now) does a better job than a major newspaper. More at Editor & Publisher.

    On the other side, wonderful reporting from the New York Times about the Miami Beach company led by a 22-yr-old with legal troubles and a vice president who's a licensed masseur, which somehow got a $300-million defense contract to supply ammunition to Afghanistan. Supplier Under Scrutiny on Aging Arms for Afghans. Congrats to this reporting team, which included researcher Margot Williams.

    And, of course, there's always a Miami connection, in both these stories.

    Updated, the Miami Herald catches up on the contractor story with a glimpse at the proprieter's MySpace page....


    Tuesday, March 25, 2008

    A new resource for sources

    Help a Reporter is a new service from Peter Shankman, who says:
    This list was originally conceived on Facebook, but since Facebook caps group emails at 1,200 people, this is the next incarnation.
    I built this list because a lot of my friends are reporters, and they call me all the time for sources. Rather than go through my contact lists each time, I figured I could push the requests out to people who actually have something to say.
    Shankman's site asks people to sign up who have information that can help on a story.
    Ryan Sholin points to the service, as well as the Times' Shifting Careers blog.


    Alterman on newspapers -- and blogs

    Fascinating read, from Eric Alterman in the New Yorker: Out of Print: The death and life of the American newspaper.

    Labels: , , ,

    Monday, March 24, 2008

    No comment necessary: military patches

    From Wired's Danger Room blog: Most Awesomely Bad Military Patches.

    Thinking more about race and the campaign

    Over the last week, Dave Winer has been mulling over the Obama speech and the race question. This weekend, seeing a longer video of the speech by Rev. Wright, he had a revelation: Give Rev Wright a chance to convince you. Winer:
    This is a must-watch video. Stop what you're doing, right now, and watch it.
    I found myself captivated by Wright's ideas and the way he expresses them.
    I agree with everything he said.

    From the other side of the political spectrum, a similar decision by Andrew Sullivan: Wright in Context:
    ...I do see the roots of this message in a version of liberation theology and Christianity, rather than hatred of America as such. He includes himself as someone who needs to examine his own conscience and consider what he regards as a cycle of violence. I think the cable news clips are a little distortive and make more sense in fuller context.

    Over at Huffington Post, Linda Milazzo reports on a discussion on CNN where three pundits, David Gergen, Carl Bernstein, and Roland Martin, 'got' the media manipulation on the Obama speech and the race question: Truth on CNN! Pundits Defend Obama, Anderson Cooper Is Perplexed (As Usual).


    Fighting the fight for government information

    Utne Reader provides a great summary of the Bush administration's attempts to remove public information from public access: Bush Hits the Delete Button.
    Dick Cheney’s aversion to the sunlight has made headlines so often that his latest information crackdown is more likely to be fodder for David Letterman than it is to spark outrage. Still, if the average citizen saw a grocery list of all the instances of government suppression over the past seven years, it’s a good guess it would lead to an outcry. Something like: Hey, what the hell happened to the public’s right to know?
    There's a long list of information resources that have been shut down, all from the ongoing compilation being done by TPM Muckraker.

    Great work.

    And, speaking of supressed government information, due to the work of McClatchy's Washington Bureau, ABC News, bloggers and now, the Federation of American Scientists, a report based on captured Iraqi documents that showed little basis for the U.S. claim that Saddam Hussein was linked to al Qaeda has finally been published. Here's the story, from the FAS's Secrecy News Blog: DoD Report on Captured Iraqi Documents; and the report itself, on the FAS website: Iraqi Perspectives Project.

    In The Washington Independent, some background on the report and what it means and how two journalists built up their careers on amplifying the administration's claims: Fast and Loose with the Facts.
    An alternate view at the Wall Street Journal.

    Labels: ,

    Covering war

    Great article in The Times about the toll of covering the war in Iraq: not the equivalent of 4,000 soldiers dead, but hard, too: Trauma, kidnap and death: all in a day's work for journalists in Iraq.
    Journalists who cover conflict generally have strong stomachs. But Iraq's violence was not the regular battlefield kind, if there was ever such a thing.

    There's much more in The Times on this 5th anniversary, from a slide show of Times front pages to blogs and video.
    (Via Greenslade.)

    (And, via Wired, a link to the New York Times' Faces of the Dead. Most of those 4,000 are here.)

    Labels: ,

    Thursday, March 20, 2008

    40 Years Ago

    (An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

    March was certainly an eventful month that year.

    On the 12th, a hijacker commandeered a flight and ordered it to Cuba, just one of at least 19 such occurrences that year.

    That day, Lyndon Johnson barely beat Eugene McCarthy in the New Hampshire primary, by 7 percentage points. Newfield: “Suddenly, Lyndon Johnson’s renomination was in doubt”.

    McCarthy told his supporters that night: “People have remarked that this campaign has brought young people back into the system. But it’s the other way around. The young people have brought the country back into the system.”

    On the Republican side, Richard Nixon won the New Hampshire Republican primary, with 78% percent of the vote. His chief rival for the nomination had been George Romney, but he had withdrawn from the race in February, after reaction to his statement that he’d been ‘brainwashed’ on Vietnam by the military doomed his campaign. NY Gov Nelson Rockefeller got 11% of the vote, as an antiwar write-in candidate, and became the new rival.

    On March 16th, Robert F. Kennedy announced his campaign for president, in the same Senate caucus room where his brother had announced eight years before, saying “I do not run for the Presidency, merely to oppose any man, but to propose new policies” Kennedy's run was a shock to those who hoped for a change in McCarthy's candidacy; it seemed to guarantee a divisive campaign.

    Also that day, US troops under the command of Lt. William L. Calley Jr. massacred Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. We would not hear about this disaster for over a year. Press coverage of the incident just said: "U.S. infantrymen had killed 128 Communists in a bloody day-long battle."

    On March 17, 10,000 anti-Vietnam war protesters massed at London's Trafalgar Square, where Vanessa Redgrave was one of the speakers. The demonstration then moved to Grosvenor Square, where some tried to get into the the ultra-modern new American Embassy. 200 protesters were arrested and 91 injured.

    On March 19, Howard University students seized the administration building. A few days later, students protesting the Vietnam War, the ROTC program on campus and the draft, confronted Gen. Lewis Hershey, then head of the U.S. Selective Service System, and as he attempted to deliver an address, shout him down with cries of "America is the Black man's battleground!"

    On March 22, Johnson announced the promotion of Gen. Westmoreland to Army Chief of Staff, relieving him of his Vietnam duties. Johnson had been studying Westmoreland's request for 206,000 more troops, on top of the 500,000 already deployed, and his advisers were telling him the additional budgetary strain of a huge troop call-up would endanger the country's financial status.

    That day, Daniel Cohn-Bendit and seven other students occupied the Administrative offices of Nanterre, launching France into what would become a state of revolution in the month of May.

    Meanwhile, we were settling in to life in Washington. I didn't know much yet about the city at all. I'd visited once for a few days when I accompanied my father on a business trip to check out Trinity College as a high school senior. Then my senior year of college, two other roommates and I came down to stay with a fourth roommate at her Arlington home for a weekend. That was January '67, and warm enough to tour the city in a convertible with the top down. To me, it was the South. By late March this year, we would have been enjoying a few spring flowers and slightly warmer weather.

    About half our neighbors were black. We didn't spend a lot of time out in the neighborhood yet, but got to mingle with Washingtonians on the buses and at our work places. When we could, taking longer bus trips or finding people with cars to get out with, we acted like tourists, amazed by Washington's incredible scenery, especially the monuments on the mall and Capitol at night, all lit up, the crowds around the White House, the jumping bar and restaurant scene of Georgetown. Probably our first trips to the Smithsonian museums were in this period.

    We had read, of course, about the demonstrations. The summer before college I'd watched the March on Washington led by Dr. King on television, aching to be there; my parents didn't want me to go. The previous fall there'd been the march on the Pentagon. I wanted to go then, too, but knew I needed to stay and make enough money picking grapes so I could move to DC when the season finished. We listened to that one on the radio, I expect, as we were tuned to a Canadian news station most days, in that vineyard overlooking Lake Ontario.

    Now we were there and they were shutting down Howard University. Little did we know that the unrest would soon reach a lot closer.....


    A holiday for all of us

    Happy Nowruz. What?

    Oh yes, and happy all these holidays, too.

    From the Time magazine article linked above:
    Ed Reingold and Nachum Dershowitz, co-authors of the books Calendrical Calculations and Calendrical Tabulations, determined how often in the period between 1600 and 2400 A.D. Good Friday, Purim, Narouz and the Eid would occur in the same week. The answer is nine times in 800 years. Then they tackled the odds that they would converge on a two-day period. And the total is ... only once: tomorrow.

    Truly this is a special year to celebrate the cultural histories that affect us all....

    Wednesday, March 19, 2008

    Uncovered news, covering a war and a campaign

    I sure haven't seen much yet in the media about the death of Arthur C. Clarke. Seems there would have been more attention paid....

    On the 5th anniversary of the war in Iraq, interesting column from Greg Mitchell, who's written a book about it: 5 Years Ago: Many Top Newspapers Opposed War. How quickly we forget.

    Also from Mitchell, on a roll: The 'Unsung Heroes' in 5 Years of War Coverage. Among them, the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Lee Pitts, a wonderful example of a local paper's reporter finding the story that mattered to the men of a hometown unit, and making it national news. (And, of course, it shows the value of getting that reporter there, at any cost.)

    Reaction to the Obama speech is discouraging. Conservatives are seizing it as a means to more attacks, as if a radical thought by a black minister was somehow more damaging than those of radical white ministers. (Glenn Greenwald: The difference between Jeremiah Wright and radical, white evangelical ministers .)

    (Added later:) Andrew Sullivan, who was so impressed by the speech yesterday, today says he is shocked by the conservative reaction to it.
    To read the Corner today was to be reminded that some are immune to the grace and hope and civility that Reagan summoned at his best; the anger and bitterness is so palpably fueled by fear and racism it really does mark a moment of revelation to me.
    And here.

    Much of the media continues to focus on just the things Obama hoped they would get over:
    ... We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.
    We can do that.
    But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

    But some get it. Jay Rosen, in a Huffington Post column: Obama Tells the Best Political Team on Television: You Guys Have a Choice...At Firedoglake: Obama to Media: Raise Your Game.

    Not much, though, is being made of McCain's gaffe on his Mideast trip, where Sen. Lieberman had to set him straight about who's doing what in Iran and Iraq. Or as a Firedoglake contributor asks, Will McCain have Lieberman next to him at 3 a.m.? (I have news for you, Sen. McCain....) Firedoglake:
    Send this to as many undecideds that you know and ask them if we can afford another 4 years of this kind of cluelessness.

    Labels: , ,

    Monday, March 17, 2008

    The value of research, once again

    New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt, in Fooled Again, writes about how the Times could have been spared public embarassment if they'd just asked for a little research done before a story was published on "Margaret Jones" and her book about her supposed life as an abused child turning to gangs.

    Of course, it's since been reported that the name was a nom de plume and the writer had made up the stories. Hoyt explains how a researcher could have saved the day:
    WITH a few computer keystrokes last week at my request, Jack Begg, the supervisor of newsroom research at The Times, showed me that there was no record of a Margaret B. Jones in Eugene, Ore. With a few more keystrokes, he brought up property records showing that the house Jones said she owned was bought by Margaret Seltzer and another person in 2000 and now belongs to Stuart and Gay Seltzer after an “intrafamily transaction.”
    ...had Begg been asked to do five minutes of checking in readily available public records, or had reporters and editors done it themselves before the newspaper bit, The Times could have been spared the embarrassment of falling for yet another too-good-to-be-true memoir from a publishing industry unwilling to accept responsibility for separating fact from fiction.
    So easy to do, and so hard to make sure it gets done. I was once embarassed by a story the Times did about someone we should have run all the public records on before it became a big story. I thought the reporters covering the person had done it, and I guess they thought I had. It emphasizes that there's no substitute for making sure that the subject of every story needs to be vetted, and having someone manage a newsroom's research.


    From the archives: finding Hillary's thesis

    We have a theme today: the value of using archives for understanding the present. MSNBC's Bill Dedman, a pioneer of investigative research using computers, does an old-fashioned kind of research, by going to Wellesley College and reading Hillary Rodham's senior thesis.

    The thesis was locked away at the request of the Clinton administration during the Clinton years, but as Dedman says, "few realize that it is no longer kept under lock and key. As found, it is available to anyone who visits the archive room of the prestigious women’s college outside Boston."

    For years the thesis, on the topic of radical Chicago organizer Saul Alinsky, was cited by conservative pundits as a damning document hidden on purpose because she had supposedly been a secret radical despite being a professed Republican at the time.

    Dedman prophecies that this paper will become a future topic for anti-Clinton ads, quoting a Republican political consultant:
    He began to brainstorm what such an ad might look like:
    "You have to make it relevant to world events today.
    "Maybe you look at the contrast. What year did Hillary write this paper? 1969.
    "And where was John McCain in 1969? A POW in Vietnam."

    Labels: ,

    Old newspapers: LoC adds more, and magazine archives

    The Library of Congress has been digitizing old newspapers at Chronicling America for a couple of years and announces several states have been added to the database. Several are from Florida. States included now: California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Utah and Virginia. There are 61 newspapers represented, covering years from 1897-1910 mostly.

    Oh, if this had been around a few years ago! I tried searching the Florida papers for Frank Stoneman, who founded a newspaper in Orlando then moved it to Miami where it would become the Miami Herald in 1910. Frank Stoneman was the father of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and edited the Herald until his death in 1941. Of several stories found, here's a wonderful quote from one from the Gainesville Star, about Stoneman's political aspirations:
    We are not personally acquainted with Mr. Stoneman, but we are quite sure that he is a Democratic nominee for state elector, and that the soreheads that would like to get his place will not have it.

    (Something else I found: the Poynter has put David Shedden's landmark book, A Chronology of Florida Newspapers, online, all 109 pages. Worth a bookmark or download if you are interested in newspaper history.)

    On a similar note, here's a New York Times story about all the magazine archives that are becoming available online. Time's stories have been available for awhile now. But you can also get old stories from Sports Illustrated, and soon, more Newsweek stories. The archives are opening! Dusting Off the Archive for the Web.

    (Via Resourceshelf.)

    Labels: , , ,

    History made real

    OK, I just have to say this, after all my talk about The Wire: I have a new favorite television show. Two words: John Adams. Wow. Tom Hanks does it again. I loved David McCollough's book, it's a thrill to see it done so well.

    With this, Recount and Generation Kill coming, I guess I won't be cancelling HBO yet...

    And, for House fans, what a shock to see 'Tritter' playing George Washington!

    Sunday, March 16, 2008

    Miami Herald Watchdog

    It's about time. The Miami Herald has started its own 'Watchdog' page, with links to all its Pulitzer-prize winning investigations. There's also a database where you can search local crime, death records, and home sales (but only by address.) Further links find a political contributions search too.

    It's a start (still in beta). The Herald has a ways to go before it matches other papers' database pages but it's been a long time coming so anything is an improvement. Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal explains the release, in time for Sunshine Week.

    The Herald has a long record of great investigative reporting using public records. Nice to know there's finally a move to share them with readers. And nice to see an effort, too, to make the great work of the past -- back to Gene Miller's groundbreaking coverage of the Pitts and Lee case -- available for the future.

    Labels: ,

    Saturday, March 15, 2008

    For a rainy Saturday

    ...or for those still stuck in this long winter, something to make you smile, thanks for the link from Colleen at Loose Leaf Notes:
    Flower Garden. Click on the screen to see it grow.

    Independent Journalism in Cuba

    Reporters Without Borders has released its updated report on the state of independent journalism in Cuba, five years after the 'Black Spring' of 2003 when several were jailed: 'Black Spring' Five Years After. There is some good news:
    Today, most players agree that there are as least as many independent journalists in Cuba as there were before March 2003, which was seen as the high noon of the era of the free press. More importantly, the quality of their writing has improved. News agencies were created and networks forged.

    This is a revealing report for those interested in understanding the many websites, blogs, and news sources in/out/about Cuba. Which are truly independent? There's a discussion of Cubanet, based in Florida, and other news societies in and out of Cuba. There's also a report on the condition of the journalists still imprisoned or released, a mention of the 'Ladies in White' who lead a permanent protest in Havana, and a profile of Havana blogger Yoani Sánchez, whose Generación Y blog (named for all the young people in Cuba whose names begin with Y) gets a lot of attention, along with its companion website, Desde Cuba.

    In summary, Reporters Without Borders call on the Cuban government to reduce restrictions on the operation of a free press in Cuba. But they also ask the U.S. government to lift the U.S. restrictions on access to the Internet from Cuba, and ask all government embassies to help independent journalists there.

    This PDF is worth downloading and keeping for reference.

    (Updated:) Especially when there's news from Cuba like this, at E&P: Cuba Blocks 6 Journos From Attending FIU Workshop.
    Cuban authorities arrested two independent journalists and detained four others in their home to prevent them from attending...


    R.I.P., Carlos

    Sad news that the Miami Herald's Carlos Mielgo has died. It was not unexpected but still a blow. Carlos arrived in the newsroom, from corporate headquarters, after Knight-Ridder moved to California. Although there was often no love lost between news and corporate staffs, Carlos' helpfulness and good nature endeared him to many, quickly.

    Keeping track of newsroom expenses is a thankless job, and has been in these decades of expense cutting. But somehow Carlos always managed to find a way to get my expensive database subscriptions covered. And he always had the best gossip. How could you not love that?

    I didn't know about Carlos' career in the Air Force, cut short by 'Don't ask, don't tell'. What a loss for the service.

    So, here's a salute to Carlos, and to the people who believe in journalism enough to endure the tedious paperwork involved in keeping it afloat amid dire straits. Vaya con Díos....


    Friday, March 14, 2008

    Presidents, politics, the press and contradictions

    The recent remarks by Obama's minister are of course getting lots of attention, but a couple things less noted: Andrew Sullivan points to a video of the young minister who is taking over the church (Obama's next pastor), and the New York Times has a profile of Obama's mother.

    Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe (and, once, the Miami Herald), who won a Pulitzer last year for being the only reporter to take interest in presidential signing statements, has a story about a recent Bush executive order that basically removes the last government intelligence restrictions put in place after Watergate: President weakens espionage oversight. Wonderful photo illustrating, of a young Dick Cheney with president Ford and Jim Baker.

    At Pressthink, Jay Rosen discusses press neutrality and some interesting thoughts by longtime Wash. Post reporter Walter Pincus: Getting the Politics of the Press Right: Walter Pincus Rips into Newsroom Neutrality
    (Pincus) says that courage in political reporting sometimes means the courage to admit you’re a participant—a player, a power in your own right—within the struggle for self-government, the battle for public opinion and the politics of the day.
    Jim Lehrer of PBS would turn on his heel and walk away from Walter Pincus on some of these points. Leonard Downie, executive editor of the Post, would probably blanch.
    Lots of interesting comments already, including these suggestions from Lex Alexander:
    Some areas where newspapers might start:
    -- Public records. If you think of yourself as a public trustee and/or a watchdog, this is essential. It's also a fairly easy sell to the public.
    -- Being pro-consumer. The market is more and more a rigged game these days, from dirty air to downed cattle.
    Things papers should have been doing all along, of course.....

    This hardly needs a comment, from Reuters: Bush says if younger, he would work in Afghanistan, or as he told a group of soldiers and civilians in a video conference:
    "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."
    "It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger.
    As expected, this is attracting lots of snide remarks, like this one:
    If Bush were younger, he'd be in the Texas Air National Guard, skipping physicals, drinking a lot and going AWOL to work on one of his daddy's friend's campaigns. Does he think we have no memory?
    (Also from Matt Yglesias.)

    And, here's a fascinating tale about the value of databases and how they lose public interest after awhile, and why you really need journalists to interpret them, from Poynter's E-Media Tidbits: A Mortality Tale from the "Scorecard" Database.
    There are still a few databases you can punch a ZIP code into and find a shocking story. The question is whether there are still enough good journalists to make sense of them.

    Labels: , ,

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    Front pages and the Spitzer story

    Via Greenslade, a couple interesting ideas:

    A former subeditor at the Scottish Sun, after years of being asked to design fake front pages for departing colleagues, figured out this was something lots of people might like, so started a website called Scooped, where you can get your own front page for birthdays and other occasions.

    Over at the Financial Times, business columnist and blogger John Gapper has been posting on the business aspects of the Emperor's Club story, and is getting interesting comments, including some from women escort service employees who want their side of the story told.


    For the blogroll

    Via email from Guy Kawasaki, news that news/blog aggregator Alltop, mentioned here recently, now has a journalism feed aggregator, here at

    Looks like this will be a first look every day, along with Romanesko. Going right at the top of the blogroll.

    Labels: ,

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Wire withdrawal

    Well, it's over, but didn't feel over until I saw the last episode for the second time last night. I've never been able to get the whole plot without that second watching. And, when HBO runs the entire season over I will watch it again. (At least I hope they do, they have always....and run it again just before the next season was about to start...but if there's no more seasons.....?)

    Thank goodness for HBO's The Wire website, where I've been able to go back over the plots and cast lists to figure out what I missed. And, for a quick fix, check out the 'pre-story' episodes at The Wire Chronicles (as well as the promos).

    This show was so good that I think every literate household should have a copy of all 5 seasons on DVD, just as our ancestors had a set of Dickens, or later maybe Hemingway, in book form. It's that important at helping us understand our society. Sure, the plot stalled occasionally, as many commenters delight in pointing out today. Dickens didn't get it all right, either.

    There's lots of discussion linked at Poynter's Romenesko, including the Washington Post's Teresa Wiltz' online discussion which gets lots and lots of commenters. Many don't get some of the intricacies of the plot, which is hard to pick up on the first watching. Note Wiltz has summarized every plot, too, very handy.

    I've read every discussion over at Slate about the show, some of which was enlightening, but am happiest about the latest posting from Andy Bowers, which links to lots of interviews with the cast members. Oh, what a cast! There's never been a show with so many good roles for black actors. I hope they can become stars after this. (The Slate discussion has suggested a couple times that Wendell Pierce needs his own cop show. Just call it 'Bunk'.) (And maybe set it in New Orleans, where he's from...Pierce's interviews on Spike Lee's Katrina series were heartbreaking.)
    I'll be listening to these interviews.

    It's that important because there are kids like Wallace and Randy and Duquan, not to mention Bodie and D'Angelo (and Poot, but at least he has a job selling athletic shoes now) who have no chance at a real life. There are cops and politicians and journalists who take advantage of the system. There are bad people who feed off misery. And how can we know about them without storytelling? This is one of the best stories, ever.

    One last word, from David Simon to his fans:
    This year, our drama asked its last thematic question: Why, if there is any truth to anything presented in The Wire over the last four seasons, does that truth go unaddressed by our political culture, by most of our mass media, and by our society in general?
    We've given our answer:
    We are a culture without the will to seriously examine our own problems. We eschew that which is complex, contradictory or confusing. As a culture, we seek simple solutions. We enjoy being provoked and titillated, but resist the rigorous, painstaking examination of issues that might, in the end, bring us to the point of recognizing our problems, which is the essential first step to solving any of them.

    (Updated:) Lots more on The Wire at New York magazine.


    Saturday, March 08, 2008

    From the other blog

    If you briefly saw some pictures of today's snow here, they were meant to be posted on my other blog, where they are now.....

    Research links of the week, and daylight 'savings'

    Of all the boneheaded things done by Congress in the last few years, this one really annoys me: Daylight Savings Time arrives tonight. This actually went into effect last year, when the change came on March 11, although I don't remember it seeming so bad then.

    It's not even spring yet. The increasing daylight is lasting til about 6:30 or so around here now, just fine. It's light between 6 and 7 am, just fine too.

    Now what do we get? Light outside later in the evening when it's still too cool to stay outside then; heating will still be necessary. Sunlight warming the house later in the morning, making it necessary to run heat longer.

    It's still causing a stir, lots of news stories. The Australian study got a lot of press last year and is still referred to, but stories are now highlighting the latest study, on Indiana, out of UC Santa Barbara. Wall St. Journal story, information from UCSB.

    At Ars Technica, No Savings, No Point. In USA Today, Daylight Savings Boosts Energy Use. Slate questioned the value of this bill before it passed in Congress. The California Energy Commission has a good history of Daylight Savings Time.

    (Well, not the only boneheaded thing our government is doing...
    But then, Fox News has a list of terrorist attacks that happen because of our government's competence, so does it even out? Via J-Walk.)

    More things found this week:

  • from the University of Edinburgh, listen to words as pronounced in various English dialects around the world. Here's North Carolina (trad).

  • The Numbrary, a searchable depository for statistics, and The Numbrary Blog, news of new stats releases.
  • Health Data Tools and Statistics, from Partners in Information Access in the Public Health Workforce.

  • NewsNow Xtended from the UK-based news aggregator, more news faster, with better searching.

  • Omnibiography claims biographies of over 110,000 people. You can submit your own.

    Governments, politics:
  • Statescape Billfinder finds bills in state legislatures by topic.

  • Uncommon

    Wonderful memoir by Dick Cavett, in his New York Times column, about William F. Buckley: A Most Uncommon Man.

    Speaking of uncommon: there's an obituary in the Miami Herald today of Kaye O'Bara (headline is spelled wrong), who cared for her daughter since she went into a coma in 1970. Tere Figueras Negrete does a wonderful job with this story, but reading this makes me wish Charlie Whited was still alive....the Herald columnist wrote frequently about the O'Baras until his untimely death from cancer several years ago. Edwarda O'Bara website.

    And, a cautionary note for all those global warming naysayers out there (you know the ones, who every time there's a snowstorm delight to say 'what global warming?', from the Christian Science Monitor:
    Whatever global-warming models may suggest about the futures of Earth's climate, one thing is certain: Global warming never promised to eliminate winter, especially for those living outside the tropics.
    (Via Ashvegas.)

    Friday, March 07, 2008

    Enough with the drug war

    In a Time guest column, the writers from The Wire state their opposition to the drug war and a suggestion for action: The Wire's War on the Drug War.
    What the drugs themselves have not destroyed, the warfare against them has. And what once began, perhaps, as a battle against dangerous substances long ago transformed itself into a venal war on our underclass.
    ...There aren't any politicians — Democrat or Republican — willing to speak truth on this. Instead, politicians compete to prove themselves more draconian than thou, to embrace America's most profound and enduring policy failure.
    ...If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun's manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war.
    ...when the lawyers or the judge or your fellow jurors seek explanation, think for a moment on Bubbles or Bodie or Wallace. And remember that the lives being held in the balance aren't fictional.


    All on the Internet

    Hmm. Jack Nicholson's interview with MTV News about his video endorsing Hillary Clinton is worth a read and one point stood out as worth looking into more:
    I've just been re-reading Jann Wenner's fantastic interview with [Daniel] Ellsberg [who in 1971 leaked documents that helped to end the Vietnam War]. One of the things I heard in Hillary's campaign is she intends to put it all on the Internet and make it a completely transparent government. I think that's a sign of the times and something that's very good.
    Not to mention some interesting thoughts about women:
    MTV: Some have posited that misogyny may be a greater force than racism.
    Nicholson: I've posited it myself. I don't want to come to the conclusion that it's gender bias. My grandmother kind of ran the neighborhood. She'd look at me after one of these bozos left her and she'd say, "Do you think this pr--- would treat a man this way, Jackie?" I learned all those lessons early on.

    Thursday, March 06, 2008

    Cuba bloggers, and Hillary support

    Interesting article in the New York Times about Cuban bloggers and computer users: Cyber-Rebels in Cuba.

    And, surprising support for Hillary Clinton in presigious British newspapers: in The Times, They must go for Hillary Clinton, a column by Anatole Kaletsky. In The Independent, an editorial: Leading article: A good result – and not only for the Clinton camp.
    But it is surely better for the Democrats to ensure that they go into this election with a candidate whose strengths and weaknesses have been thoroughly probed. Texas and Ohio have done the Democrats a favour. The rival bandwagons move on to Pennsylvania.

    Labels: ,

    When registration doesn't work

    Yesterday I clicked on a Miami Herald story in a separate browser tab and got the message: Welcome to the new Miami Herald registration system. Yeah, yeah, I had to reregister a few weeks ago when my old ID and password wouldn't work and they may have sent me a password update but because my email at time of original registration was, I couldn't get it.

    So, I had to look up the ID I'd registered under this time. Minor, but annoying, hassle. It would be so easy just to stop going there altogether.

    Over at the south Florida blog, Some Cranky Guy, he's pretty pissed too:
    I am morally, philosophically and perhaps even religiously against such systems. If these weasel turds thing I am going to give up my private information just to read the news, they can go suck a fat Buddist’s toe.

    (Via South Florida Daily Blog.)

    (Update:) Even worse, the Herald's registration system is unreliable. Note that 'Cranky Guy' comments again: Miami Herald Free Again?

    Labels: ,

    Wednesday, March 05, 2008

    40 years ago

    (An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

    March was a quiet month for me, as I continued to work at the Washington Post’s promotions department, cutting up news clippings and pasting them into contest entry books.
    But it was a month of heroes and strife around the world.

    Over the weekend of March 2-3, there were constant meetings at the home of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in suburban Virginia to discuss the ramifications of a possible run for president. From Jack Newfield’s book, Robert Kennedy, A Memoir:
    The weekend….was an almost continuous meeting of Kennedy’s informal cabinet….there were long distance phone calls, and rotating participants, with Ted Kennedy, Kenneth O’Donnell, and Fred Dutton…Jesse Unruh told them that a new California poll showed Kennedy with 42 percent, Johnson with 32…McCarthy with 18…by this point Kennedy finally understood that running and losing would be less painful than not running and contributing to Johnson’s renomination….

    In Poland, a Mar. 2 condemnation by the Writers’ Union over the banning of a play would escalate into a student protest on Mar. 8, and more and more protests against the Soviet-controlled Communist government that year.

    On March 4, in Atlanta, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. announced the final plans for a Poor People’s Campaign, which would march to Washington, DC, in April. The New York Times said "For the first time he decisively linked its antidiscrimination and antipoverty objectives to a campaign to end the war in Vietnam."

    Top 10 songs in Canada, March 4:
    1.Love Is Blue Paul Mauriat
    2.The Unicorn The Irish Rovers
    3.Carpet Man The Fifth Dimension
    4.(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay Otis Redding
    5.Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo) Manfred Mann
    6.Brown-Eyed Handsome Man Jerry Jaye
    7.Just For Tonight The Chiffons
    8.Walk Away Renee The Four Tops
    9.The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde Georgie Fame
    10.Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) Kenny Rogers

    (That sounds about right for the soundtrack of that month. I can hear it now....)

    On March 6, the attacking forces around the embattled Khe Sanh marine base suddenly disappeared into the surrounding jungle.

    On March 7, the “Battle of Saigon” ended.

    On March 9, General William Westmoreland asked for over 200,000 more troops in Vietnam.

    On March 10, Bobby Kennedy went to California to join Cesar Chavez’ farm workers campaign. Cesar Chavez, who had been fasting for 25 days, broke his fast at a Mass attended by 8000. Kennedy called Chavez "one of the heroic figures of our time."

    On March 11, the U.S. military launched sweeps against the remaining Viet Cong forces around Saigon and other areas.


    Noted today:

    At Mother Jones, a powerful featured report, Torture Hits Home, with new update on torture in the Iraq War Timeline. (It also includes the 'Torture Playlist' I linked to last week.)

    At Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi profiles John McCain: McCain Resurrected.
    ... McCain's entire career has been dedicated to the idea that America must always have the right to solve its problems by force. Throughout his political career, he has argued for increased use of force in virtually every military engagement the U.S. has been involved in since Vietnam.
    The conservative blogs are all over this because of Taibbi's characterization of one of their own:
    From the battering that McCain is taking lately from the likes of Limbaugh and skanky bitch-whore Ann Coulter, who vowed to campaign for Hillary if McCain gets the nomination, one wouldn't know that most of his supposed crimes were actually based on conservative principles.

    Leonard Pitts: President Average Joe really not one of us.

    The Sun-Times investigative team: Sen. Obama, time to call us about Rezko: (312) 321-2417.

    Walt Handelsman's animated cartoon at Newsday: Frisky Business.

    Steve Earle (Walon, from The Wire) plays Toronto....

    Depressing thoughts from Doc Searls:
    ...there is no overstating the ability of the Democrats to shoot themselves in their feet, and settle on a doomed candidate come convention time. The ghosts of McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Kerry — and even Gore and Carter — loom large. Obama can win, mostly because he has so many positives and he isn’t hated by Republicans. Hillary can’t.
    So then the only question that remains is who McCain will choose as his VP candidate. Because, as of this morning, McCain and that guy (it won’t be a woman) will likely be our next two presidents.

    Also, from yesterday, Doc's thoughts about the future of energy: Can life keep up with death?


    Tuesday, March 04, 2008

    Ain't it the truth?

    Via Discourse Net, a You Tube link to Grant Peeples singing his song, "Sunshine State". This could be the theme song for a movie of one of Carl Hiaasen's novels:
    Come on down to the sunshine State. Bring your money check out the place.
    Chances are you’ll just stay Hell, everybody else does

    Suddenly I'm a Grant Peeples fan.


    I love maps

    So I've always had a good list of links for finding them. As I've been moving all my stuff from my old website to I found my map links were pretty out of date. So I updated them all the last couple of days. There's probably lots more I could add but still, there's some really cool and amazing stuff linked there now.

    I do love maps.

    Monday, March 03, 2008

    No comment needed

    From Juan Cole: Barack Hussein Obama, Omar Bradley, Benjamin Franklin and other Semitically Named American Heroes.

    And, at South Florida Daily Blog, Rick encourages readers to watch the '60 Minutes' piece on Americans without health care, and vote accordingly...

    Arianna Huffington: The $3,000,000,000,000 War.

    Saturday, March 01, 2008

    Weekend roundup

    More research links and other interesting things found this week.

    I liked this, in the New York Review of Books: The Charms of Wikipedia, by Nicholson Baker. He always gets to the heart of the question, even reviewing a 'how to' book.

    And this, now on the blogroll: Miami Every Day Photo, a photo blog by Lan Nghiem-Phu. I always wanted to do a Miami photoblog, tried to add new photos to my blog at least once a week when I was working there, but wasn't out enough to get really good photos all the times (Same problem I have with my Southern Highlands Cam blog now). And I've been looking for a Miami photoblog all this time. This one is the first one that fits. And it helps that the photos are from my old neighborhoods, a lot of the time. This picture looks like my old street. And it's nice to see the mango trees are blooming.....

    The other links:

  • All About Jazz; Musician Center now has over 15,000 musician profiles.
  • Maps I like this for its quick reference to state maps by county, highways, cities, rivers, altitude. Also: World maps.
  • My Newsroom toolbox page of quick reference links for journalists has been updated, all links fixed, and I'm adding new tools to the lists.

  • The Global War on Terrorism: An Assessment from Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments. From summary: "While the US has had many tactical victories since (2003), they have been offset by the metastasis of the al Qaeda organization into a global movement, the spread and intensification of Salafi- Jihadi ideology, the resurgence of Iranian influence, and growth in the number and influence of radical Islamist political parties. The threat has, on balance, intensified in Southwest Asia, South Asia, and Europe"
  • Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2007 The annual report updated.
  • New NOAA study on increasing hurricane damage: due to growth of coastal areas, not intensifying storms, it says.

  • County and City Data Book, 2007, new from Census.
  • UN Data: new search engine searches for data throughout UN sites.
  • U.S. Religious Landscape Survey from Pew Forum, new statistics on belief and affiliation.

  • Gigablast: new design, features for this megasearch engine.

    Public Records:
  • Miami-Dade Corrections: Inmate Search, with photos.
  • My Public Records links page has been updated, including some of the Florida records.