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Journalism

Whenever I meet young people who are determined to become journalists, I try to talk them out of it. And if I can’t, I tell them to go work on little papers, where real journalism is still possible.

Looks like I was right. (The comments contain probably the best comments validation I’ve ever seen.)

Washington

I don’t remember who told me to read it, but Meg Greenfield’s “Washington” is the best book about the Village I’ve ever read. (I highly recommend you get a copy.)

Greenfield, a Pulitzer prize winner and the Washington Post editorial page editor, wrote the book as she was dying from cancer; she kept it a secret from all but one of her friends. It was published posthumously in 1999.

And I can see why she waited. She’s a sharply perceptive woman who sees people clearly, facades and all. Not only was she their colleague, she was their friend. The book is filled with the kind of thing you’d like to tell a really good friend about themselves — if only they had the nerve to ask for your advice.

If you’ve ever wondered why journalists don’t ask politicians about obvious contradictions, or why so many whiz kids fizzle out once they’re in political office, you’ll appreciate her take.

She writes that high school is the only correct social analogy for Washington (we already knew that) but makes the incisive point that the District is filled with people who were very successful children. She breaks them down into types: The Good Child, The Head Kid, The Prodigy, and the Protege:

They will have developed instead the mediating-between-generations way of doing business, protecting the boss and appeasing contemporaries by telling them how much can be extracted by the boss. With that prop gone, newly elevated figures are expected to act boldly, to direct, to deliver, to have the brass to themselves utter the decisive words “yes” or “no” — not to negotiate, Moses-like, with God for limited concessions.

[…] Years of exercising derivative power in a defensive, backstairs, non-accountable way have also unfitted the poor protege/prodigy for the elementary requirements of his new role — the direct statement, the assertion of will or position, and above all, the concomitant acceptance of the murderous criticism that being in charge inevitably generates.

[…] … The Washington child-politician, fully in charge and fully accountable at last, is utterly unaccustomed to being called anything other except an outstanding young person of exceptional promise — no matter what his age.

She also foresaw how the internet and the political imagemakers were going to distort the political discussion.

Yes, she was a creature of her time. But for the political junkie who ask not what, but also why, this book explains a lot.

Another Reason To Dump Comcast

You might remember I’ve mentioned what a bad idea it is for a major cable provider to buy NBC? Here’s the latest proof: Comcast is introducing a right-wing cable channel called “RightNetwork” – because, you know, all those liberal channels are just too infuriating to watch:

This one’s a show where wingers play poker and make fun of liberals – an hey, the ever-popular Andrew Breitbart! (No, this isn’t an Onion spoof.)

You remember Andrew Breitbart. He’s the guy who’s always wrong and never admits it. Apparently this is a quality that makes him well-suited to appear on countless “news” shows – but you know what low standards librul media has.

Our mission is clear: to entertain, engage and enlighten Americans who are looking for content that reflects and reinforces their perspective and worldview.

RightNetwork will become an integral, relevant piece of their
daily media consumption On e that consistently impacts the
political and cultural discussions of Americans. Accessible
anywhere, anytime, from every device.

[…] The lineup focuses on entertainment with Pro-America, Pro-Business, Pro-Military sensibilities — compelling content that inspires action, invites a response, and influences the national conversation.

This would be a good time to find another cable provider. Personally, I’d pay extra to a company if it meant I wasn’t supporting exploitive crap like this.

I urge you to file an FCC comment opposing the NBC purchase here.

Philadelphia Daily News Wins Pulitzer – Company’s Up For Auction

Yeah, the Washington Post won a bunch of Pulitzers yesterday, and so did Pro Publica, the new non-profit investigative organization. (Hank Williams won, too.) But I really have to give props to the scrappy little paper that could, my hometown paper: the Philadelphia Daily News.

Even though they’re operating in the shadow of an April 27 bankruptcy auction, and functioning with a threadbare staff, the Daily News pulled it out and won the Pulitzer prize for investigative reporting yesterday for their investigation into a squad of corrupt narcotics cops that sounded like something out of “The Shield.”

With good old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting, journalists Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman did a very unpopular thing – they stood up for justice, at great personal risk. This is the kind of reporting that’s all too rare today, and now they have a Pulitzer to show for it:

The newsroom was quiet this afternoon, save for the sound of a nervous editor repeatedly clicking his mouse while staring at a computer screen.

Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

Finally, at 3 o’clock, the silence was pierced by a euphoric cry of, “YES!”

With that, word spread instantly: Daily News reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman were named winners of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for the “Tainted Justice” series, their takedown of allegedly corrupt narcotics cops.

Their investigation into Officer Jeffrey Cujdik and other members of the Narcotics Field Unit began last February, when an informant told the reporters that the cops sometimes lied on search warrants.

Other serious allegations were uncovered during their reporting, which prompted an FBI investigation and numerous changes to police policy.

More than 50 convicted drug dealers are now fighting for new trials, alleging that officers fabricated evidence against them.

Laker, 52, and Ruderman, 40, are the third and fourth journalists to win a Pulitzer in the Daily News’ 85-year history.

[…] Laker and Ruderman were visibly overwhelmed by the news of their award. They hugged, laughed and jumped up and down while colleagues cheered wildly around them.

“I always felt like this is something that happens to other people, and not us,” said Laker, who joined the People Paper in 1993.

“We couldn’t have done it without our police sources, who were fantastic and who I adore,” added Ruderman, who joined the paper in 2007, following a five-year stint at the Inquirer.

[…] Daily News editor Michael Days said he believed all along that Laker and Ruderman deserved the Pulitzer Prize for the investigative work they did on “Tainted Justice.”

“They went through thousands of search warrants and knocked on hundreds of doors,” he said. “Nobody worked harder than those two.”

Because the paper is operating under the possibility of layoffs or even closure, this win was especially bittersweet:

Ruderman says winning the award is a journalist’s dream come true:

“Yeah, I feel like I can die or go into P.R. or something terrible like that. I just feel like I accomplished something that I never dreamed I’d accomplish.”

Laker agrees it’s a dream come true, but adds it’s more rewarding to give voice to the voiceless, remembering one night when she tracked down a woman who’d allegedly been sexually assaulted:

“She got out of the car and came over to me and she started to cry. And she hugged me and she said ‘I’ve been praying for this day.’ And at that one moment, I thought this is why I do what I do.”

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