All posts by Matt Wilson

Matt was a reporter. Now he isn't. He used to write comedy stuff at http://www.the-iss.com and now does so at http://www.highmindedbs.com. Earlier this year, he self-published a book called HATE YOU FOREVER: HOW TO CHANNEL YOUR RAGE INTO EFFECTIVE SUPERVILLAINY.

Cheers and Regards for the Week of November 22, 2010

If you ever get an e-mail from a journalist, there’s one portion of it you should pay attention to more than any other. No, it’s not the part where they’re asking you about that entire live turkey you ate; it’s the sign-off.

If it’s “Cheers,” you’re cool. You did OK. If it’s “Regards,” you pissed somebody off, and you better figure out how to fix things, quick.

We apply those same tenets here, every week.

CHEERS and REGARDS to Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell for announcing he would leave the company behind at the end of its bankruptcy proceeings. Regards for all the obvious reasons: For buying the company using its employees’ retirement funds, for publicly stating that he wasn’t going to invest any of his own financial well-being into the compnay, for filling the company’s executive offices with radio jocks who made it into an uncomfortable and aggressive place to work. Cheers for finally ending the torture and letting people who actually care about the Tribune and its legacy to pick up the pieces.

CHEERS to the National Sports Journalism Center for trying to drag editors into the late 20th Century by informing them that a link isn’t a tacit advertisement. Readers expect links now, and you have to give them to them.

REGARDS to Gawker Media founder Nick Denton for laughing off any contention that his ring of blogs shouldn’t participate in checkbook journalism. He’s not altogether wrong to point out that all sources have an agenda — paid or not — but aren’t people a lot more likely to just make shit up if there’s a paycheck involved?

CHEERS to PBS ombudsman Michael Getler for wagging his finger at the producers of the award ceremony for the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor for editing Tina Fey’s comments about Sarah Palin. The producers said that portion of Fey’s acceptance speech was cut for time, but wouldn’t that part of the speech be the most important, considering how well known Fey is for lampooning Palin?

REGARDS to the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis for forcing a local school’s paper to pull an editorial criticizing an anti-gay DVD from its website. The editorial was well-written, expressed its viewpoint well and maintained an air of respect. So the only thing we can figure is the church got mad because some kids didn’t like their gay hating.

Cheers and Regards for the Week of November 15, 2010

If you ever get an e-mail from a journalist, there’s one portion of it you should pay attention to more than any other. No, it’s not the part where they’re asking you about the political donations you made online as you were sitting at your anchor desk; it’s the sign-off.

If it’s “Cheers,” you’re cool. You did OK. If it’s “Regards,” you pissed somebody off, and you better figure out how to fix things, quick.

We apply those same tenets here, every week.

CHEERS to NPR’s On the Media for this discussion of the ideal of objectivity in the wake of the two-day Keith Olbermann suspension and the hoopla over news organizations not allowing their employees to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity. Participants make points for reporters expressing their political views and keeping them quiet, but admit upfront that they aren’t automatons. They’re going to have opinions.

REGARDS to NPR for most likely not releasing its internal report on the firing of Juan Williams. Way to really make people who were suspicious of you to begin with completely believe you’ve got something to hide, NPR!

CHEERS to Columbia Journalism Review and The Wall Street Journal for refusing to allow Sarah Palin to distort the record. Sure, a few million more people likely heard what Palin said than read either correction, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.

REGARDS to Gannett for its ongoing massive layoffs, which hit a Pulitzer-Prize-winning cartoonist last week. If a guy like that isn’t safe, who is?

CHEERS to the Atlanta edition of Creative Loafing for its clever lampooning of the Atlanta Journal Constitution‘s recent decision to give its old building to the city. CL one-upped the daily (which, incidentally, covers city government) by giving the city a bunch of crap they had around the office.

REGARDS to the Chicago Tribune for continuing to push for bonuses in the midst of a colossal bankruptcy and continuing criticism over the paper’s management. Let it go for a year, guys.

Cheers and Regards for the Week of November 8, 2010

If you ever get an e-mail from a journalist, there’s one portion of it you should pay attention to more than any other. No, it’s not the part where they’re asking you about how you said seeing Muslims made you eat your own arm off once; it’s the sign-off.

If it’s “Cheers,” you’re cool. You did OK. If it’s “Regards,” you pissed somebody off, and you better figure out how to fix things, quick.

We apply those same tenets here, every week.

CHEERS and REGARDS to ABC News for almost putting, then opting to avoid putting professional shit-stirrer Andrew Breitbart on TV election night. What in the world made them think that would be anything but a terrific disaster is anyone’s guess (and they claimed they never planned to actually put him on TV, but rather simply relegate him to the ghetto of an online discussion). But thank the Lord they had the good sense to stop that before it got started.

CHEERS to the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank for taking what everybody sort of already knew about Fox News’ direct connection to the GOP and putting a number on it and spelling out their narrative to everyone who avoided it last Tuesday.

REGARDS to Joanna Ostrow at the Denver Post for making a story out of the fact that news outlets used the Internet to report election data Tuesday night. That’s no grounds for back-patting; it’s just the reality of reporting in the 21st Century.

CHEERS and REGARDS to MSNBC for suspending Keith Olbermann without pay for his contributions to three Democratic candidates this year. On the one hand, MSNBC isn’t Fox. It has to maintain some appearance of ethics and objectivity when it comes to political candidates. And there’s no sign of partiality greater than making political donations. Anyone who claims to report the news without fear or favor must make every effort to avoid such public displays of such partiality. But on the other hand, this is Keith Olbermann we’re talking about here. Contributing to Democratic candidates may be the least partisan thing he’s done in like five years. So you have to wonder: Do the bosses at MSNBC even watch their own shows?

Cheers and Regards for the Week of October 25, 2010

If you ever get an e-mail from a journalist, there’s one portion of it you should pay attention to more than any other. No, it’s not the part where they’re asking you about how you said seeing Muslims made you eat your own arm off once; it’s the sign-off.

If it’s “Cheers,” you’re cool. You did OK. If it’s “Regards,” you pissed somebody off, and you better figure out how to fix things, quick.

We apply those same tenets here, every week. And this week was a humdinger.

REGARDS to Juan Williams, NPR and FOX News.

To Williams, not only for his initial comments about being afraid when he sees Muslims at the airport (though the full transcript reveals he was illustrating a bigger point about how it was wrong to feel that way), but even more so for his defiant response to NPR firing him over those comments. Certainly he has a right to be mad, but slinging mud at his former employer and putting words in the mouth of revered, now-deceased newsman Daneil Schorr only makes him look bitter. On top of that, saying the comments that got him fired weren’t bigoted? That’s all kinds of wrong.

To NPR for overreacting, making Williams a martyr, and looking suspiciously like they won’t stand for their commentators to have anything but the most politically correct opinions. Is it bad to say you’re scared of anyone you see dressed in Muslim garb? Absolutely. But it’s also a natural reaction, even for the most liberal, tolerant people out there. I don’t doubt Williams and lots of other people feel that way, at least until their brains kick in and tell them it’s preposterous. Williams even made that point. This firing simply confirms for many FOX News viewers a belief they already held: that NPR quashes real discourse just as much as NPR’s listeners think FOX does. Williams has said some things that should raise eyebrows and might even be worth taking him off the air, but it shouldn’t have been this.

To FOX News for seemingly rewarding bigotry. You’ll notice that FOX didn’t offer Williams a $2 million contract after making his original, measured point. Only after NPR cut him loose for generalizing about Muslims did FOX scoop him up with as much fanfare as they could muster. Was that act a rallying cry for honest discussion? Maybe so. But it sure looked like they wanted to get their hands on the guy NPR didn’t want because he said racist shit.

CHEERS to a whole bunch of commentators who wrote brilliantly about the whole fiasco.

To Slate’s William Saletan for rightly pointing out how similar this case is to the Shirley Sherrod debacle. It’s not a perfect comparison, but there are certainly some similarities, the key one being the fact that the speaker’s comments were taken out of context to make him/her look like his/her remarks were quite different from what was actually said.

To Gawker (I know, I was just as surprised as you) for articulately explaining the repercussions of Williams taking the FOX contract. A formerly respected civil rights writer has cemented his new reputation as “that guy who gets scared when he sees Muslims.” Worse yet, he’s become a trophy. And he’s letting FOX make him into those things.

And finally to NPR’s own ombudsman, Alicia Shepard, for admitting the firing wasn’t handled well. In addition to the earned self-flagellation, she gives good arguments for why Williams couldn’t continue to simultaneously be an NPR commentator and a FOX talking head. Too bad they couldn’t put the whole thing in that context, you know, before they fired him.

Cheers and Regards for the Week of October 18, 2010

If you ever get an e-mail from a journalist, there’s one portion of it you should pay attention to more than any other. No, it’s not the part where they’re asking you about all those stunts from Jackass 3D you tried to recreate; it’s the sign-off.

If it’s “Cheers,” you’re cool. You did OK. If it’s “Regards,” you pissed somebody off, and you better figure out how to fix things, quick.

We apply those same tenets here, every week.

CHEERS to the New York Times for ditching its silly “Editor’s Choice” iPad app in favor of one that offers the full paper. It’s free for now, but the paper will start charging in 2011, and hey, it might even be worth paying for. (MW)

REGARDS to the Washington Post for running running an op-ed by a noted anti-gay activist on National Coming Out Day essentially blaming teen suicides on the gay rights movement. Bonus regards to the paper for failing to understand Twitter. (DW and MW)

CHEERS to the Beard Journalism awards for no longer making unnecessary distinctions between print and online food writing. A writer who calls everything except the trendiest of foods bland and inedible should never be ignored just because he or she did it on the Internet, we say. (MW)

REGARDS to the 40 or so foreign journalists who covered last week’s Delaware Senate debate between Democrat Chris Coons and not-witch Christine O’Donnell because it’s “sexy.” Let’s not kid ourselves here. This isn’t about control of the Senate. It’s about waiting for a kook say kooky things. And it just encourages more kooks to come out of the woodwork to attract attention. Let’s not feed the kooks. (MW)

CHEERS to the so-called “alliance for public media” for its plans to hire 100 journalists each in four to six different cities. However, those 400 to 600 people should be aware they probably won’t get to go to any Jon Stewart rallies. (MW)

REGARDS to the University of Kentucky for banning distribution of the student paper at the school’s football stadium because of a conflict with a sports marketing firm that prohibits outside publications. But, of course, when it comes to athletics vs. student rights, you would expect a university to side with its students, would you? (MW)

Cheers and Regards for the Week of October 11, 2010

If you ever get an e-mail from a journalist, there’s one portion of it you should pay attention to more than any other. No, it’s not the part where they’re asking you about the stuffed animals filled with drugs you’re transporting across state lines; it’s the sign-off.

If it’s “Cheers,” you’re cool. You did OK. If it’s “Regards,” you pissed somebody off, and you better figure out how to fix things, quick.

We apply those same tenets here, every week.

CHEERS to PBS’ Media Shift blog for allowing the odd-looking fellows who run Examiner.com to present their defense after they bristled at being called a “content farm” in an earlier piece. Interviewer Mark Glaser doesn’t go easy on them, though, and forces them to prove why they shouldn’t be lumped in with other content farms. Whether they do that or not is left up to the reader. (MW)

REGARDS
to The Jewish Standard in New Jersey for vowing to never, never ever again run a marriage announcement for a same-sex couple, after a group of Orthodox readers complained that it “caused them pain.” A brief look at reader response to this move suggests that, whatever their feelings on same-sex marriage, the Standard’s readers are not the least bit happy about a paper that is supposed to be covering the entire Jewish community censoring themselves in order to placate just one group. (DW)

A very mild CHEERS to the same paper for walking back its decision to stop publishing such announcements. It never should have happened to begin with, and they haven’t completely reversed the terrible policy yet, but at least they acknowledged the mistake. (KL & MW)

REGARDS to MarketWatch for publishing this terribly inane column supposing that John Lennon would have used Twitter if he was alive today. There’s more to writing a column than looking at a calendar, noticing it’s the anniversary of something, and shoehorning social media in with it. (MW)

CHEERS to the NYTPicker blog for picking up on one of print media’s biggest crutches: Go-to sources who will always support your story’s thesis in a neatly packaged quote. In this case, it’s The New York Times’ use of Syracuse University pop culture professor Robert Thompson, who’s spoken to 78 different Times reporters over the last 20 years or so. But without him, how will people believe people really eat spaghetti tacos? (Full disclosure: I used to talk to the same three political science professors at least once every two weeks when I was a government reporter.) (MW)

REGARDS to Lowell, Mass. radio station WCAP for charging candidates $490 for a 25-minute interview segment. The station’s owner seems to think the practice creates a “level playing field” because it’s so hard to give free time to all the candidates. A “level playing field” where only candidates with money get to say anything is pretty representative of the American political apparatus, we must say. (MW)

Cheers and Regards for the Week of September 27, 2010

If you ever get an e-mail from a journalist, there’s one portion of it you should pay attention to more than any other. No, it’s not the part where they’re asking you about the romantic night you spent in the gorilla cage; it’s the sign-off.

If it’s “Cheers,” you’re cool. You did OK. If it’s “Regards,” you pissed somebody off, and you better figure out how to fix things, quick.

We apply those same tenets here, every week.

CHEERS to Slate.com’s Jack Shafer for continuing to call out  bogus trend stories. 

REGARDS to the editor of the Portland Press Herald for apparently hanging up on On The Media’s Bob Garfield in an interview about the paper’s apology regarding its 9/11 coverage (they ran a Ramadan story on the anniversary and 9/11 stories the day after). “We refuse to stand by our coverage!” we imagine he said.

CHEERS to bloggers at Forbes.com for taking the magazine to task over its sensationalistic cover story about President Obama and his supposed anti-colonial, anti-business stances. Calling the magazine that runs your blog a publication that would run a “quasi-racist bomb toss?” Ballsy.

REGARDS to, well, the news in general for devoting 30 percent of the newshole from Sept. 13-19 to Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell’s primary victory in Delaware. Sure, she’s an entertaining kook, but do we really need to focus this much on O’Donnell when other Tea Party candidates could genuinely win?

CHEERS to the Los Angeles Times for thumping celebrity magazines who run story after story using anonymous sources. Come on, guys. Somebody has to be willing to go on the record to say Britney Spears is doing all better, right?

REGARDS to CBS affiliate news stations for apparently catching Hawaii Five-O fever. That shit is vile.