One year, 250 links

FergusonA lot was written about #Ferguson. Some of it was interesting. Some was good. A few things were important.

Stuffed sausages

It was a smile full of disdain, typical of self-important jerks who hang like stuffed sausages from the top of all corporate ladders. … They grew like a plague of fungi, thriving on the dung on which companies are built.

— Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

The focus should be …

558c38073f86c.imageFrom Post-Dispatch review of Henry W. Berger’s St. Louis & Empire:

… past attempts to address poverty, racial segregation and inequality, and troubled public education have had, at best, “limited success” and, in many cases, made things worse.

“Far more extensive attention and far greater corrective action” is required, he writes. “The focus should … be on people, not real estate. High-ticket enterprises such as stadiums, convention centers, and condo buildings do not a city make.”


Seeing the world through the eyes of the Globe

0 mdPeople who knew Martin Duggan as the elderly, avuncular host of a St. Louis PBS talk show also remember that he was a veteran newspaperman, the former editorial page editor of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

They may remember the Globe-Democrat as a conservative voice; they may forget, however, how reactionary, how out-of-step with the times, and how often foolish that newspaper could be.

In early 1983, the same year the Newhouse chain announced it was closing the Globe-Democrat, I interviewed Duggan for a profile of his newspaper’s editorial page. He was 62; I was 24.

He spoke about his reasons for only running columnists that agreed with the paper’s philosophy Read more of this post

‘Always remember, your work is not important. It is merely interesting.’

OKBA scale of basic values for an individual, or for a newspaper, in [O.K.] Bovard’s thinking, started with the concept of man as primarily an economic animal, whose life being was shaped to a great extent by his search for the necessities. But, while food, clothing, and shelter as basic needs of man provided the skeleton of his news philosophy, it was large enough to include such factors as the right to work, the right to know and learn, and medical care for the sick. Until a bed existed in every hospital for every sick and needy person, or until a desk was provided in every schoolroom for every child, Bovard felt that the question of a symphony orchestra for St. Louis should remain relatively unimportant. Thomas B. Sherman, the paper’s music and book critic, might argue that music should be classified as a necessity, but Bovard would not have agreed. This concept of news values explains in part Bovard’s desire to minimize the entertainment features of the paper and his eagerness to replace them with more solid stuff. He told Marguerite Martyn, who wrote about fashions and women’s activities, “Always remember, your work is not important. It is merely interesting.” When men were unemployed and starving, he grew impatient with the “fluff” and trivia that filled great quantities of newspaper space.” – James W. Markham, “Bovard of the Post-Dispatch (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1954) pp. 137-138

Read more of this post



‘Worst in the world for discovering genius’

EL_Masters1915Current_opinion“Your newspapers are really wonderful in many ways; they are positively audacious, astonishing, but they are the worst in the world for discovering genius. … It was an awful shame that a second-rate critic from England should have to be called in to tell Americans who their poets are.” — John Cowper Powys (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 1915)

Read more of this post

Understanding lettuce

green-leaf-lettuce“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.” — Thích Nhất Hạnh

Happy in Ząbkowice Śląskie

Formerly Frankenstein, Silesia.

Sunday A1 2015

01-04-2015 a101-11-2015 a101-18-2015 a102-08-2015 a102-15-2015 a102-22-2015 a103-01-2015 a1 04-17-2015 biz04-19-2015 a105-10-2015 a106-07-2015 a107-05-2015 a107-12-2015 a108-30-2015 a109-06-2015 a109-13-2015 a110-04-2015 a111-01-2015 a111-08-2015 a1Residents are tired of talk from EPA. (Jacob Barker, Jan. 4)

GMO wheat. (Tim Barker, Jan 11)

Stadium site far from empty. (Tim Bryant, David Hunn, Jan 18)

Struggling to recover. (Jim Gallagher, Tim Bryant, Feb. 8)

Prison services are profitable niche for Bridgeton company. (Tim Barker, Feb. 15)

St. Louis has a jobs problem. (Jim Gallagher, Feb. 22)

Health care subsidies hinge on four words. (Jordan Shapiro, March 1)

Traffic fine limits could turn screws on cities’ budgets. (Jacob Barker, April 12)

Chesterfield is flexing muscle as a retail hub. (Lisa Brown, April 19)

Medicaid missteps gave reluctant lawmakers a line of attack. (Jordan Shapiro, May 10)

Doe Run damage gives neighbors a sinking feeling. (Jack Suntrup, June 7, 2015)

Learning to adapt. (Jacob Barker, July 5, 2015)

‘Schoemehl pots’ in thick of debate over street closure. (Leah Thorsen, July 12, 2015)

Tax Bill Brawl. (Jim Gallagher, Aug. 30, 2015)

The ‘gig economy.’ (Tim Barker, Sept. 6, 2015)

Giant Illinois shooting range hopes for a shot at reloading. (Tim Barker, Sept. 13, 2015)

Washington U. to remake its front door. (Tim Bryant, Oct. 4, 2015)

Pointing fingers. Many players, theories in contamination of landfill. (Jacob Barker, Nov. 1, 2015)

Sustainable farming means full-time commitment to learning — and teaching — for Illinois couple. (Tim Barker, Nov. 8, 2015)

(Lisa Brown, Nov. 22, 2015)



David Carr interviews Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald

David CarrFeb. 12, 2015

A strategy based on more campaign ads, less industry competition

give light

E.W. Scripps Co. is in the process of shedding its newspapers as part of a combination with Milwaukee-based Journal Communications.  The newspaper-free E.W. Scripps will focus primarily on broadcast and digital. Its future, outlined by CEO Rich Boehne (excerpts below), anticipates a windfall of heavy campaign spending in a post-Citizens United political marketplace. It also looks to a future with fewer competing media voices in local markets.

Boehne & Co. have been singing the same tune for more than four years. In a 2010 presentation to analysts, E.W. Scripps gloated about the windfall it garnered from midterm elections. “We took more than our fair share — by design” read one slide in the presentation that was headlined: “2010 political winners: GOP and SSP.” (SSP is the ticker symbol for Scripps.)

Some idealists may think such a strategy — one that depends fewer competing news organizations and on 30-second, often vitriolic and misleading, TV spots — is cynical, Read more of this post

St. Louis, 2014

Saint Louis 2014


farm in winter“The snows, the length of the sub-zero weather, and the floods of 1936 go down in the annals as the worst since 1881, and for decades they are the yardstick against which all winters and springs are measured. … While the daily paper frequently did not get delivered, and the mail didn’t make it, either, while schools and businesses closed, while Greyhound buses coughed to a stop in snowbanks and trains came through only sporadically, Dougan Dairy battled drifts and floods and never for a day failed to deliver the milk to each customer’s doorstep — although sometimes a few hours late.” — Excerpt from “Snow,” from Jacqueline Jackson’s The Round Barn, Vol. 1, published in 2011.

The Round Barn, Vol. 2, was published in 2012; The Round Barn, Vol. 3, in 2014. The fourth and final volume will appear in 2015. The entire set is available at  (I began publishing Jackie’s work, including her poetry, when I was editor of Illinois Times, and later, in FOCUS/midwest. I also was able to assist her in completing The Round Barn series, a project she’d undertaken many years ago. It’s a remarkable work.)

SLMPD bars Santa from City Hall

A Christmas tale: How ‘Santa’ ended up buried in St. Louis

1900 SantaEarly on Christmas morning, in the year 1900 in the city of St. Louis, an old man with a long gray beard and shoulder-length hair wandered north on North Grand Avenue, leaning on a cane as a brisk cold wind stung his face and whipped his coat.

Sitting at the front window of 3615 North Grand the home of butcher Edward Ladain and his wife, Lulu  seven-year-old Elizabeth watched the old man with growing amazement.

Who would be outside on such chill morn were it not Santa Claus himself, weary from a night of hard toil and on his way home?

Little Elizabeth and other children in the house  their names lost to history  opened the door, and invited Santa inside to warm himself.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, then an afternoon newspaper, recounted in a story published Dec. 25 (“Mistook Him for Old Santa Claus“): “The old man paused, then he entered. He mumbled something and shivered with the cold.  The children bade him be seated before the big fire in the grate. He looked with vacant eyes at the demonstration of his little hosts. He could not divine the cause. It was so different from the other receptions he had had.”

Read more of this post

A successful year

12-15-1916 Weil ad (2)



Mr. Mooney

May 8, 1918(C.P.J.) Mooney was a newspaperman’s newspaperman. He would, if necessary, throw out features and even advertisements to make room for news. Incidentally, under his editorship, the Commercial Appeal not only attained the biggest circulation in the South but it probably reached its all-time high for profits. News-room reports had it that, one year, the paper paid dividends of sixty-four percent! Maybe Mooney had the right idea after all  give the public a newspaper, thorough, fair and interesting, and all these other things, including profits, shall be added unto you.

People would buy a copy of the Memphis afternoon newspapers with their heavy headlines about some tragedy, read the story and then remark: “Well, let’s wait and see what the Commercial Appeal says in the morning.

Get the story first but get it right” was one of Mooney’s mottoes. On the wall of the office hung this:

“The three essentials of reporting: First, Accuracy; Second, Accuracy; Third, Accuracy.” — From “Cub Reporter” by Boyce House, 1947.

Charles Patrick Joseph Mooney is still regarded as the greatest editor of The Commercial Appeal, the daily newspaper of Memphis. He died in 1926, a full decade before the paper became a link in the Scripps chain. Mooney ran the newspaper, but he kept the title of managing editor. Nobody held the title of “editor” or “editor-in-chief.”

Democratic hope

081914a1sWar has become a fully normalized way of life in the United States. It has been elevated to an all-encompassing ideology and politics that includes both a view of the population as potential suspects in need of constant surveillance and an aggressive intolerance of people who question authority or protest, whether they are educators, journalists, or ordinary citizens who have simply had enough.

Hope provides a potential register of resistance, a new language, a different understanding of society, and a view of the future in which governing authorities are fully accountable to and compliant with the will of the public, and not the other way around.

Hope also accentuates how politics might be played out on the terrain of imagination and desire as well as in material relations of power and concrete social formations. …

Democratic hope is a subversive, defiant practice that makes power visible and interrogates and resists those events, social relations, and ideas that threaten democracy and the public spheres necessary to practice it. — Henry A. Giroux, The Violence of Organized Forgetting: Thinking Beyond America’s Disimagination Machine (2014)

Filling in the blanks

anti-coon clubSeveral years ago, as I looked for coverage of a long-ago dairy show (I was helping a friend research a book), I spotted a brief article on page 4 of the Oct. 14, 1909 edition of The Missourian. It was a short report about a new campus organization.

Here’s the lede:

The ‘Anti-Coon Club’ is the latest at the University of Missouri. It was organized to keep negroes off the campus of the University of Missouri unless they have business there. The club was formed by thirty-two students who met in the smoking room of the law building yesterday morning. They object chiefly to the practice of negroes of carrying bundles of laundry, pushing wheel-barrows and riding bicycles through the campus.

The article listed the organization’s officers. Their plans: to post warning placards on campus and produce buttons for members to wear. “These buttons are to contain a picture of a negro standing on his head and above his feet the inscription, ‘I Belong to the Anti-Coon Club.’”

I was unable to find subsequent coverage. So I don’t know if the organization gained followers or lasted beyond the announcement of its formation. But it wasn’t difficult to track most of the individuals associated with the group’s leadership. Read more of this post

“We see evidence”

cookie-cutter lighthouseIt’s funny, and a little distressing, to watch clips of local television news personalities in different cities reading from the same canned script. It’s a reminder of just how inauthentic and goofy local TV coverage can be.

But cookie-cutter journalism began with newspapers, and was perfected by the first chain, founded by E.W. Scripps. More than a century later, the ethic of cut-and-paste is still alive there, even as the chain gets shorter and smaller and Scripps prepares to exit the newspaper business altogether. Here are editors (and one publisher) with E.W. Scripps papers telling readers about an upgrade in their digital presentation, including a website redesign:

xcookie-cutter lighthouseMichael Kelly, San Angelo, Texas, Standard-Times (July 12, 2014): “Across San Angelo we see evidence of new investments in our community’s future. Business is expanding, new housing developments are being built, our colleges are adding educational and training offerings and growth is evidence everywhere. … “

xcookie-cutter lighthouseTim Archuleta, Corpus Christi Caller-Times (June 8, 2014): “All across Corpus Christi we see evidence of new investments in our community’s future. Major industry is expanding, neighborhoods are growing, colleges are adding educational and training offerings, and even a favorite downtown coffeehouse is remodeling. …” Read more of this post

Hammer heads for hacks

garbage canWriting a snappy, provocative headline — one that accurately reflects the gist and tone of a story — isn’t easy. Not if it requires being original. In a pinch, time-pressed editors and designers turn to puns, movie titles and song lyrics. Those can work if there’s a broad-enough cultural reference, even if they’re derivative and lazy.  Then there’s the old reliable method: recycle. That explains why these headlines, among others, get used so often.

Grape expectations (regarding anything to do with wine) Example: “Grape Expectations: Until recently, few would have predicted that a winery would have the potential to bring tourists and their spending money to historically dry Edmonson County, let alone attempted to bring about that vision.” (Bowling Green, Ky., Daily News, June 29, 2011)

Dead dogs walking (regarding anything to do with stray animals, pet rescue) Examples: “Dead dog walking: Michigan Rottweiler survives botched euthanasia attempt.” (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 14, 2010) Others:  Orlando Weekly 1999; Riverfront Times (St. Louis) 1999; Illinois Times (Springfield) 2014  Read more of this post

Hard-working Americans

WPAWhen U.S. politicians talk about “hard-working Americans” instead of “Americans,” who are they describing? Americans with jobs? Americans with difficult jobs? Americans with jobs that don’t pay much? Americans who like to think of themselves as hard workers?

When politicians as diverse as Nancy Pelosi, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama and John Boehner address the concerns of “hard-working Americans,” are they also suggesting there are Americans who aren’t working all that hard? If so, who are these other Americans? Who are these slackers, parasites, paper shufflers, goldbricks, layabouts and goof-offs?

Most Americans like to think of themselves as hard workers —  that is, productive, self-reliant members of society. Folks who deserve what they earn, and then some. It’s clever to appeal to them, but are they really hard workers?

Read more of this post

Skeptical, yet eager to believe

boyce-house-book-cover“[T]he reporters complained bitterly among themselves and occasionally to the city editor about [the old typewriters]. Strangely enough, when a year or two later, there was a transfusion of new machines, the reporters complained about the change and several clung to their old typewriters. And there you had one of the chief characteristics of your old-time reporter; he was never happy unless he had something to fuss about. He was like the woman (every village used to have at least one) who ‘enjoyed’ poor health.

“The reporter hated sham and pretense. … Impersonal as a surgeon, yet impressionable, receptive, responsive and imaginative, such was the makeup of the reporter, if you can conceive traits so contradictory blended in a single individual. He was at once the skeptic and yet eager to believe. He liked to fancy himself as hard-boiled and so he was on the surface, but a warmer heart could not be found — he was good for a touch from any down-and-out newspaperman or almost any beggar with an appeal that was believable.

“A creature compounded of lust and thirst and poetry, he was capable of quick enthusiasms — for when the flame died, he was through … .” — Boyce House, Cub Reporter, 1947

The Naked Truth

Preetorius-Schurz-Daenzer Memorial, 1914
This year marks the centennial of a St. Louis statue honoring – incredibly – newspaper editors. German newspaper editors at that.

Named “The Naked Truth,” the statue is located in Compton Hill Reservoir Park, just south of the famous water tower. Three men get props: Emil Preetorius, Carl Schurz and Carl Daenzer.

Daenzer publishedImage the Anzeiger des Westens (born 1835; combined with the Westliche Post in 1898). Schurz and Preetorius, at one time, owned the Westliche Post (1857-1938). All three men had been hellraisers in Germany; all three supported the Union cause in their new homeland. (The Westliche Post is where a young Hungarian immigrant named Joseph Pulitzer began his newspaper career. Pulitzer later founded the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

Beer baron Adolphus Busch picked up most of the tab for “The Naked Truth,” which was sculpted by W. Wilhelm Wandschneider in Berlin. Wandschneider was known for his monumental Otto von Bismarcks and kaisers, not naked women. Still, “The Naked Truth” was controversial in St. Louis because the figure was, well, naked and there didn’t seem to be much about journalism in the representation. Read more of this post


“[Amazon’s Jeff] Bezos is right: gatekeepers are inherently elitist, and some of them have been weakened, in no small part, because of their complacency and short-term thinking. But gatekeepers are also barriers against the complete commercialization of ideas, allowing new talent the time to develop and learn to tell difficult truths. When the last gatekeeper but one is gone, will Amazon care whether a book is any good?” — George Packer, “Cheap Words,” The New Yorker, Feb. 17 & 24, 2014.

America Today

Tug Boats by I.J. SangerLand of Plenty by Lucienne BlochAnd Now Where by Rockwell KentSELECTED PRINTS from a 1936 book published by Dustbowl by Abromovitzthe American Artists’ Congress, a popular front group.

Traffic Control by Benton Spruance