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Monday, September 24, 2007

Walt Crowley and real journalism

As sad as it is to think about the recent death of Seattle journalist/historian Walt Crowley, I was heartened to see the remembrance Jean Godden wrote for Crosscut. It's classic journalistic writing, in the very best sense. Here's her lede:

I have six indispensable books authored by Walt Crowley on the shelf in my City Hall office, tears in my eyes, and a very large hole in my heart.

Godden, a longtime Seattle newspaper reporter and columnist before going over to the Seattle City Council, writes in the old style. When I read a well-crafted piece like this (and I don't, very often) I think that comparing blogging to classic journalism is like comparing a stroll around the block to mountain climbing.

On the other hand, I'd be the first to admit that it's an unfair comparison. Because there's very little "classic journalism" being written -- or published -- these days.

A few notes on communication

I was going to write today about how proud I am to be a graduate of Columbia University. The Columbia administration feels that our country is in no way threatened -- and in fact, demonstrates strength and confidence -- by allowing the president of a hostile country to appear on campus and give a speech. (Unfortunately, there appear to be thousands of people in New York who would prefer to live in a country where political speech is controlled and restricted.)

But, I'll spare you the long version of that rant.

Instead, take a look at this video produced by CommonCraft. As blogger Michael Markman points out, the production is low tech...but the communication itself is worth thousands of dollars.

Friday, September 21, 2007

God answers lawmaker's complaint

After an agnostic Nebraska lawmaker filed suit against God for bringing death and destruction upon mankind, the court clerk in Douglas County was surprised to discover on the office counter a formal legal response to Sen. Ernie Chambers' complaint. The response appears to have been filed by the Almighty; it's signed "God, Defendant." (A second response appeared at the courthouse, listing a phone number for a "Corpus Christi" law office.)

Included in God's response is the assertion that while He may have committed many of the acts Chambers is complaining about, He also gave humans free will, making them, rather than Him, responsible for much of their own suffering.

This, of course, is the sort of story that reporters and editors dream about.

What I found particularly newsworthy about God's responses were that they clearly indicate that God is an attorney. That's bound to upset devoutly held beliefs of many members of the medical profession.

The next big blog thing?

Scroll down to the bottom of the lefthand sidebar of Writer Way and you'll see BlogRush in action. I've enrolled WriterWay in the "writing" category of BlogRush, so that Writer Way posts now appear as teasers on other blogs in that category.

The idea behind BlogRush is to accomplish two things at once: To provide blog readers with links to blogs on the same topic, and the drive more reader traffic to participating blogs.

It will be interested to watch the effect on traffic to this blog. My prediction that BlogRush will increase traffic for a while, but then BlogRush will be hacked by the SEO "garbage blogs" and, as a result, readers will lose interest, and then legitimate blogs will lose interest. Of course, if the people who run BlogRush are smart, and have resources, they'll attempt to police the system to prevent abuse.

To paraphrase George Jones, "the rush is on."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Be kind

Did you know that September is "Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month"?

Humor writer Angie Brennan has blogged about six ways writers' friends and families can observe the season. Oddly, she has no suggestions for how to honor editors. Perhaps this is telling us something about the relationship between writers and editors...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Funny -- and fast

The Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop in Dayton, Ohio, attracts quite a few repeat attendees. I attended the 2006 workshop and found out why.

So when I got email Monday saying registration for 2008 was open, I signed up. And it was fortunately I moved quickly...the conference, with headliner Garrison Keillor, sold out in 77 hours.

It's encouraging when tickets to a writing conference go as fast as ones to a rock concert!

I'll have your headset on a platter

A few years back, talking with someone using a mobile phone was generally annoying. Calls were dropped, voices were delayed, and often it sounded as though the conversation were being conducted in the depths of an industrial popcornmaker.

Now that the quality of our mobile phones has improved, we've found a new piece of phone technology that screws up not only our wireless phones, but our land lines as well.

It's the headset.

You may be using the latest Bluetooth earbud or an ancient AT&T headset, but chances are, either you hate it, or the person talking with you does.

In the past two days, I've had the following phone "conversations" with people wearing headsets:

• "Hi, whoever this is, you'll have to call me back on my other line because I can't hear you. I can't get the headset on this phone to work."

• "Sorry, I'm having trouble hearing those numbers. It's this headset. Could you repeat them again?"

• "Sorry about that; I'm back. My headset fell off there."

• "Wait a minute. Let me change headsets." (horrible crackling sounds)

• "Do you hear an annoying noise? Do you hear it now? (Pause.) I think I need a new headset."

• "Hi. I'm just calling to test my new headset. How does this sound?"


I don't use a headset (after several tries) but I'm interested an another technological advance that's supposedly just on the horizon. It's an advanced form of Caller ID that can detect callers using headsets...and route them immediately to voicemail.