Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Weekend Blogging (Ex Post Facto)

Some Memorial Day Weekend Media Notes:

Good coverage of the Indianapolis 500 in both dailies on Monday. The JG had a nice photo montage on the front page; the N-S featured a Reggie Hayes column -- a good one, save for a few times when he got too cute -- on its front page. (We'd link to the Hayes column but apparently the N-S web staffers were on vacation yesterday so nothing from Monday's paper was posted on its site.)

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Frank Gray had an interesting column in Sunday's JG on Don McClure, a scam-hunter who actually responds to people in Nigeria asking for money -- but in the hopes of exposing them, not in search of his fortune. Superior to the piece, though, was the accompanying photo of McClure, taken by the Journal's resident photo wizard...Frank Gray?

That's right -- Frank can take a mean photo, it seems. And one that captures the feeling of his piece. Let's hope this is the result of Frank wanting to shoot the picture and not the JG cutting back on its photo staff.

(The photo is not available online. Otherwise we certainly would have posted it. Send complaints to: Journal Gazette news technology manager Tom Pellegrene Jr. at 260 461-8377.)

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Steve Penhollow's Rants and Raves column in the same issue contained this gem (and we're not being sarcastic):
The following three things about the Cookie Monster were not lost on us kids:

1. Because of his devouring lunacy, the Cookie Monster never got much of anything in his mouth.

2. And it really wouldn’t have mattered if he’d chewed more deliberately, because he doesn’t have a hole in the back of his throat.

3. And if there weren’t any cookies around, the Cookie Monster would eat the box they came in, then the table the box was on, then the curtains.

And we would laugh our keisters off.

If you think about it, Cookie Monster expended an enormous amount of energy failing to eat a cookie.

What a good role model!
He also had an item about Body Worlds 2, an exhibit featuring plastinated cadavers and real body parts currently in Cleveland.
Plastination, invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, is a process whereby the body’s water is replaced by polymers that preserve the flesh for all time.

[...]

One of more amazing things that von Hagens and his scientists managed to do (which is really saying something in this exhibit), is isolate and plastinate the circulatory system.

That extraordinary web of tiny red wires filled me with more spiritual awe than scientific curiosity.

When the show was in Los Angeles, it was fully vetted by bioethicists and clergymen from every conceivable denomination save Scientology and they all gave it their seal of approval.

Many saw it as a deeply spiritual exhibit and I think this possibly will surprise people who may assume that religious leaders would and should be upset.

Another reason why everybody should go to this thing.

The exhibit continues through the summer and a combo ticket gets you into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s current exhibit is “Premature Deaths of Rock Stars.”

Not really.

It sounds like a capital pairing to me, though, which is why it’s a good thing that I’m not in charge of programming these things.

We think it is a good pairing, and maybe Steve should be in charge of programming these things.

(The original exhibit, Body Worlds, was the talk of Los Angeles last fall, and for good reason. It's currently on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. If you're there or in Cleveland this summer, you ought to stop in and see what all the fuss is about.)

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We promised a comment on the Todd D. Burlage resignation, and we like to keep our promises.

(Note: In case you missed it, we included the article that started it all in an earlier post.)

First, here's what Monday's MediaWatch had to say:
This termination seems a little harsh, even bizarre to us and we think that there has to be more to the story. If not, the "asked-for resignation" seems to be a penalty that exceeds the "crime."

Klugman has got to explain why a reporter, who has an "in" to a story, was let go for a failure to keep his editor up to snuff about that "in." But knowing JG and Klugman, we expect no clarification, and no rationale for the "firing."
That Burlage broke the rule doesn't appear to be a matter up for debate. But whether his punishment -- which we infer was to resign or be fired -- seems to be.

First, there's the question of whether Burlage should have written the story in the first place, considering his intimate connection to the subject. We think that, as long as he disclosed that connection, he's probably more suited than most reporters to write it. After all, he's got a lot more context that an assigned reporter could hope to gain in the time spent researching and writing it.

Might he be predisposed to being either positive or negative about the program? Certainly, but oftentimes an opinion infuses the writer (and the writing) with a passion for the story that does not occur in the everyday yeoman story. Frankly, we expect that most reporters have an opinion about the subject of their stories (after all, writers are human beings), and that opinion helps fuel the tenacity that powers so much of the good work being done in Fort Wayne journalism.

We're not against having opinions -- as long as the reporter is fair. And if there is a connection, as in there was Burlage case, it's declared upfront.

Which did not happen. We can understand why Craig Klugman and Sherry Skufca took this so seriously. It's a breach of trust between the newspaper and its readership, and as any journalism school graduate could tell you, what Burlage did was wrong.

In the newspaper business, certain sins are considered more egregious than those of us on the outside. To the man on the street, Burlage neglecting to mention his personal connection may not be a big deal, but to those within the journalism community, it's a serious breach of trust and a threat to the JG's credibility. And Klugman and Skufca know that without their credibility, they don't have a newspaper.

So, while we'll miss reading Burlage's often very good work, we understand and support the decision for him to resign. (We also note that he took responsibility for what he did and submitted his resignation, rather than force management to fire him. It was a noble thing, regardless of the mistake he made.)



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