My back, journalism, the weather, my bike

Ever have one of those days where the floor was the most comfortable thing you had? No? Just me then? OK.

So I spent a little time stretched out today because my back got all cinched up and my shoulder wasn’t helping. For some reason I decided the floor was a good place to be, and it turns out, I was right.

I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, and I’m not especially excited about that.

I have a new idea about the criticism of journalism. It goes like this, it is as shallow or meaningful as you want it to be, and the format doesn’t have anything to do with that.

Here’s the latest example in the all but exhausted “Real Journalists” versus “Just a Blogger” debate. The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer is struggling with the thorny issues: Is rapper Big Boi taking classes at Auburn University?

The answer? No. But his daughter is enrolling as a freshman. That doesn’t keep a lot of rhetorical questions at bay, though. They just fly out into the ether and are never answered, because who needs answers when you can embed a YouTube video?

I’ve had arguments with people that have worked at that paper about the various values of citizen journalism compared to professionals, and this is a perfectly good counter-argument to anything anyone says in that debate. To be fair, the writer of that sad little post is called an “audience engagement coordinator.” And therein, I think, lies the problem. It is as shallow or meaningful as you want it to be, and the format doesn’t have anything to do with that.

Meanwhile, a writer at stepped in it today. He offended women when assuming they didn’t understand football. Here’s the freshly edited version. It even made Romenesko.

In bigger news of things to read: Jeff Jarvis on how media in different countries are covering the recent governmental moves against journalism. Hint: shamefully poor.

Jay Rosen on the conspiracy to commit journalism, one of the better things he’s written in my view:

This battle is global. Just as the surveillance state is an international actor — not one government, but many working together — and just as the surveillance net stretches worldwide because the communications network does too, the struggle to report on the secret system’s overreach is global, as well. It’s the collect-it-all coalition against an expanded Fourth Estate, worldwide.


This tells us something. The battle I referred to is not a simple matter of the state vs. civilians. It’s not government vs. the press, either. It’s the surveillance-over-everything forces within governments (plus the politicians and journalists who identify with them) vs. everyone who opposes their overreach: investigative journalists and sources, especially, but also couriers (like David Miranda), cryptographers and technologists, free speech lawyers, funders, brave advertisers, online activists, sympathetic actors inside a given government, civil society groups like Amnesty International, bloggers to amplify the signal and, of course, readers. Lots of readers, the noisy kind, who share and help distribute the work.

This type of sunlight coalition — large and small pieces, loosely joined — is a countervailing power to the security forces, the people who are utterly serious when they say: ”You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more,” the same people who, as Bruce Schneier has written, “commandeered the internet” for their use because, viewed from a certain angle, it’s the best machine ever made for spying on the population.

If sunlight coalitions are to succeed, it won’t be by outwitting surveillance. Not better technology, but greater legitimacy is their edge. This attitude was perfectly captured by Ladar Levison, founder of Lavabit, who shut down his email service when the surveillance state demanded his submission. “I think if the American public knew what our government was doing, they wouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore,” he said.

Sadly, the wrong side has already won this argument.

Elmore Leonard died. I love some of his work, though, since I don’t read hardly any fiction, I’ve never read any of his books. But I quote him in one of my syllabi. Here are his invaluable rules to writing:

Never open a book with weather.
Avoid prologues.
Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

Go check out the rest, too.

And, now just to change the subject, all of this rain has hurt the cotton crop:

The fiber-producing plant is not getting the hot, dry and sunny weather it needs to turn the bolls into blooms. If the bolls don’t bloom before the first fall frost or freeze, the cotton won’t be harvestable, farmers and agricultural specialists said.

By and large the rainy season has helped the corn. I thought about that today while I was getting hammered by rain and pedaling around corn fields:


This was about the only time it wasn’t raining, for 34 miles mind you, and it was clearly coming on. And then came the lightning. I’m starting to add miles back in to my rides and this was my reward. Roads I’ve seldom, if ever, been on and one of the stronger storms I’ve ever enjoyed.

Two hours in the gloomy, escaping light and thunder and rain. How was your day?

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