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Here are titles of the 8 essays I’ve written and presented to date before the Chicago Literary Club, since joining in 2005. I will present a new essay related to the use of colors in the world of power and politics on this Election Eve, which I will then also post here. Those of you concerned about the risks of the Electoral College in this year’s elections might take a look at my essay, One Collage Too Many, cited below, for insights and ideas. All my essays are copyrighted.You can pull up the full text of each by searching for the title at the website of the club at http://www.chilit.org

French Fried – From Monticello to the Moon, October 31, 2005
Masai Mara Hood Ornament, March 12, 2007
Samuel Johnson and His ‘Clubbable’ Friends, January 21, 2008
One Collage Too Many, November 3, 2008
Breakfast with Mr. McDonald, October 26, 2009
Acceleration, November 8, 2010
All That Glitters…, November 21, 2011
Bozzy’s Last Lap, James Boswell, The Great Biographer – 1789-1795, April 23, 2012

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Yes, there definitely should be a TV program called The Poll Show. You can’t watch or listen to 5 minutes of any news or opinion program anymore without hearing endless political poll results, more than often qualified with the caution that the comparitive numbers results are “within the margin of error.”

In a way, many of these broadcasts have become The Poll Show, insofar that their content is mostly the reciting of the latest political poll results and commentary about it. When did polls replace real journalism? If there is but one election, why do we need literally thousands of pre-polls to try to measure emotion?

Guess what? The election itself is the real poll. But what would the vapid, endless news and opinion “shows,” and they are mostly “shows,” rather than true programs, have to talk about if it weren’t for these polls. And how can the pollsters find new and meaningful people to poll, over and over again, when most people I know hang up on pollsters or anyone else soliciting them by phone, if they answer their phones at all?

The great “Poll Show” is everywhere’ indeed, and one of the first election reforms I’d like to see is for the so-called news media to forsake most political polls as meaningless exercises in temperature-taking that fill time for advertisers and give lazy news and opinion commentators something to talk about.

With today’s announcement that the print edition of NewsWeek will soon be no more, I lament the chance to hold it in my hand, take it to breakfast, and change out each week’s issue in my coffee table magazine piles (I guess I’ll have a lot more room soon on that coffee table).

Here’s what I wrote about Newsweek, which has been with me for 53 years, a while back on this blog:

Newsweek Should Stay

June 18, 2010 in Magazines, News Media | Tags: Literature, News Media (Edit)

As a high school civics student, I subscribed to Newsweek, and checked off every story, every week, as I read them all, from my most to least favorites. Maybe that had something to do with my getting interested in journalism; that, and liking to write and being a reporter for the school paper. But that, my friend, was 50 years ago this past spring.

I’ve subscribed to Newsweek (http://www.newsweek.com/)most of the time since, except during a short stint in Vietnam as an Army press officer (no magazines received there). I was just reading it over lunch today, and enjoying the good and relevant stories as much as ever. Now, the Washington Post has Newsweek for sale, and they say there have been some 70 bidders, including a Chinese news agency rumored to be associated with the Chinese government. Newsweek is losing editors and writers, and losing money more than anything. If the magazine itself were any thinner, it could be used for stuffing shoes.

But I think it’s still terrific, and a must-read up there for me with The Economist, Fortune, Wired and Popular Science. Editor John Meacham, a frequent guest on Morning Joe and other topical political shows, is one bright, articulate guy, even if he seems a little sad lately. I may be a loyal old softy, but in my book, Newsweek deserves to continue, in print, digitally or otherwise, but continue it should. It still informs, enlightens and stimulates, and that’s more than you can say for a lot of so-called news media.

You know those ubiquitous “news crawls” that appear across the bottom of the TV screen throughout cable news shows, often obscuring part of what you’d like to see onscreen?

Have you noticed how increasingly the so-called breaking news they were created to showcase just isn’t kept as up to date anymore? I just saw another one, reporting “breaking” news that was broadly reported several days ago. The old adage, “if you don’t have anything to say, keep your mouth shut,” could well apply here. It’s not journalism when it’s just news junk!

I can see interrupting regular programming with a news crawl when there is new, hot, important news, but just to make a screen busy and distracting is a negative. If some of these TV stations and programs don’t start investing in keeping their news crawls relevant and up to date, and boring me with old junk news, I may just retreat one step further away into this internet. How about you?

That’s right, DirecTV and Comedy Central have broken off negotiations over renewing their 7 year-old contract, over money, and so viewers of the Daily Show, the funniest, best and just about only candid and honest political TV news show on the air, will no longer get the program if they subscribe to DirecTV, like we do in Wisconsin.

If you, or someone you know and like, subscribes to DirecTV, or has any mercy on those who do, go online NOW to DirecTV and Comedy Central and tell them to grow up and settle their differences, or we’ll just have to sit out this election!

TIME used to be the weekly opinion magazine, while NEWSWEEK, that I’ve subscribed to since high school, used to be the balanced, largely non-political  magazine that was true to its name. Now, it is chock-full of opinion, and independent and very well done, in my opinion.

Tina Brown, British editor-in-chief, not surprisingly has an insightful editorial and feature on David Cameron’s relationship with Barack Obama, and an even more incisive feature on how Obama has rolled over, twice, when confronted with Bibi Netanyahu, on Palestine and Iran. We learn how the TSA is a rip-off, with nearly 4,000 bureaucrats with an average salary of $103,000 in D. C. alone, and $57 Billion in spending since 2001, stopping not one terrorist. We hear the Dharun Ravi may be a jerk, but probably  should not go to prison. We learn how Putin has swept aside reform and a move away from oil dependency in favor of a bigger Russian military budget.

NEWSWEEK a weekly must-read: thought-provoking, succinct as always, and better done than ever. Check it out: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek.html

The impending demise of the Chicago News Cooperative, which has a daily web feed and has helped keep the New York Times relevant in Chicago, signals another step backward in journalism. The cooperative helped serve as a rescue blanket for some leading former Chicago Tribune journalists. It was long on real news coverage and opinion, not on infotainment and “if it bleeds, it leads” news reports. It lasted a little over two years. RIP!

Chicago News Cooperative to suspend operations

  • A screenshot from a video of a Chicago News Cooperative staff meeting.
A screenshot from a video of a Chicago News Cooperative staff meeting. (Image via chicagonewscoop.org)
February 17, 2012|By Robert Channick and Becky Yerak | Tribune reporters

The Chicago News Cooperative, a non-profit news organization launched in 2009 to add another voice to the city’s journalism community, is expected to suspend operations, a source close to the organization told the Tribune Friday.

The CNC, which operates a web site and publishes a section in the Chicago edition of The New York Times twice a week, operates as a non-profit organization. It has a partnership with WTTW-Channel 11, Chicago publictelevision, and WBEZ, Chicago public radio.

If I were a PR counsel to Rupert Murdoch, and am sure glad I’m not, I’d advise that he convene combined forums of journalism academics and leading working editors and journalists, from print and electronic media, representing conventional and social media, from around the globe, and dig deep into the subject of journalistic ethics, with the goal of setting new universal standards for the 21st century.

Murdoch should make a serious investment, financially and in transparency, in the results and agree to take the lead in aggressively implementing and policing new ethical practices across whatever remains of his own journalistic empire, if he still has one by that time.

However, I’m not holding my breath…nor would I buy a used car from him.

When journalists read scientific reports, they usually try to find a theme, in plain language. That what The Economist Magazine (June 18-26), “Sun Down” and Popular Science magazine (July 11), “Sun Stroke,” did. The problem, their reading of the science reached totally solar opposite conclusions.

The Economist concluded that: “Several lines of evidence suggest the sun is about to go quiet.” They predict that something called “solar minimums,” in which the regular cycles of the sun slow down, with fewer sun spots and more reliable communications on Earth, not interrupted so much by solar activity. The cooling effect of such historical slowdowns could even counteract or offset some of the warming effects of greenhouse gases, somewhat canceling out global warming, or giving us some breathing space to deal with it.

Then there’s Popular Science, blaring that, “A catastrophic solar storm isn’t a question of when — and it looks like soon.” A charged cloud of particles, called a coronal mass ejection, or CME could hit the earth. Such an eruption could fry computers and power transformers across the globe, shut down nuclear power plants and transportation — in other words, put the Earth on hold. Such a massive solar storm is a low probability event, just as is a 100-year storm, says Popular Science, but the question they ask is: what are we doing to prepare?

At this time of the summer solstice, when we are all celebrating the onset of a hopefully nice summer, after a winter of devastating storms, let’s hope the sun stays on an even keel, and that the journalists take a second look into science’s crystal ball and see if there is some consensus we can trust.

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