Jul 20

New month, old paper

Here’s video from dinner the other night, because I uploaded it and never shared it. And because we needed something colorful here.

Doesn’t hurt that it was quite tasty, either.

Anyway, not much here right now, so we go back, back, back in time. This is 105 years ago, 1915. Let us see what was going on around here.

Newspaper design was not going on, that is for sure. This is a four-page rag, and it was a slow week in a sleepy town and we’re going to get into all of the news and, this time, ignore the society pages altogether. I am inclined to think there was the editor, the typesetter and, otherwise, the old Evening World was a slim operation. There’s not a lot of unique local stuff to see. Let’s see what there is to see, though.

Do not go fast. Charley Stevens, who doesn’t pop up in a lot of search engines today, is warning you. You’re supposed to do 10 miles per hour, and no more. Ten miles to the hour, excuse me. Town squares are fascinating features. It looked exactly like this in 1915. It looked nothing like this in 1915.

This is the editor of the other paper in town. And this is a big description about an out-of-town trip. And this has to be an inside joke or something. Also, this is on the front page.

No one was in trouble. Grover Lazelle messed around got a triple-double. It was a good day.

This seems impressive. Remember, it was four years before Dwight Eisenhower’s transcontinental Army movement. His caravan covered 3,242 miles through 11 states in 62 days, an average of 52 miles per day, going from Maryland to California. Ol’ Willie Curry did the hardest part coming the other direction.

Ike lost two days in Nebraska. Curry apparently lost two tires over the whole trip.

There’s a big block of text about the fireworks you couldn’t buy anymore, and an editorial bit about the stuff you can buy. Some stories, it seems, never change. But to get SAFE AND SANE you had to be unsafe and insane, right?

Someone surely looked at the mangled hand of some kid the year or two before and said, “Y’all. This is insane.” Then there was legislation, and the marketplace kicked in to high gear. And, sure, stuff got safer, and more refined over time, thank goodness, but some of the stuff you couldn’t use anymore, by 1915, even, sounds kind of awesome? And terrifying?

Finally, this news update is brought to you by this advertisement. You figure Mr. Man, sitting there at his desk, let his eyes drift over the society mentions and saw that and thought, “You know, I haven’t had any look keeping the books all week … ” It’s easy to think he put two and two together there, but, you know.

It went on for two more paragraphs, but given what we know of the digestive habits of the time, surely this is all anyone need read. Sentanel, despite the unfortunate spelling, stayed an operating concern until at least the 1930s, but you don’t see much of it after that. I guess their job was done.

And so is mine, for now. Tomorrow … I’ll have something or other for you here. You’ll see!

Jun 20

A flashback before a big flashback

We were sitting in a corner booth at the OK Cafe in Atlanta, Georgia in 2006 or 2007 and I was, as usual, thinking out loud. The Yankee had to have known that by then — this guy does all his thinking outside of his head — and she still decided to hang out with me.

We were talking about this trip she’d made to New Orleans. She was a TV hotshot and a station down there wanted her to come work for them and, as part of the tour, they drove her around to see what New Orleans was like after Hurricane Katrina. One of the job interview meals was at McDonald’s. There still weren’t a lot of options even at that point in the aftermath.

We’d watched it from afar, fearful for our friends and thankful it wasn’t our coverage area, and knowing that in all that horrible devastation that the media down there would do good, solid, amazing, real work. The year before we’d done the same when another hurricane right into the Port of Mobile. Our corporate boss forwarded us a very complimentary email he’d received, saying our work deserved the Pulitzer Prize. Only Pulitzer didn’t offer it in that format for which I would have been eligible in 2004. But they surely did in 2005 when Katrina roared ashore in New Orleans and our peers in the newsroom down there did the work and got the prize and to live and struggle and grieve and upend their own lives and look after their families and then go back to work to do it all again the next day.

It’s probably easy to forget, if you weren’t there, or somehow otherwise immersed in it, what New Orleans was like after August of that year. In the last week, a quick Google News search tells me, that three dozen stories referencing the storm have been written. It was 15 years ago and it’s still on the tip of their tongues. Which is why the news director wanted to give her the tour when she went down there for the job interview. You need to see, he said, what it is like right now. Usually when people bring you in from out of town they show you the good stuff. Back then, they had to show you the real stuff.

It was, I am sure, sobering. She ultimately turned down the job, but we talked about it a lot, and in that cafe in Atlanta I remember formulating what I thought would be just the neatest job in the world. Because I think out loud it started out pretty ragged and never really got much better, especially the name, but I called it a history journalist, reporting the journalism through the prism of time and past events, and history through a lens of journalism.

None of the things we cover or experience or watch or read about happen in isolation, after all. And New Orleans, a place hip waist deep in history and hip deep in tragedy, would have been a place for that sort of work.

They didn’t invite me down for an interview, which is fine and probably for the best. I would have pitched something like that idea and it would have been dismissed out of hand. A role like that is a passion project. It would take time and vision. And it is, admittedly, incredibly niche, when all of my media work was incredibly immediate and niche in some other sort of way. Besides, most journalists that do that sort of work? They have another name: Author.)

Anyway, I was thinking of that cafe and that corner booth and that conversation and how, all these years later that still sounds like the coolest idea. I interviewed a medical doctor and a professor who somehow holds appointments in seven different areas around the university. He’s written hundreds (literally, hundreds and hundreds) of journal articles and 12 books and he is still practicing medicine and who knows what else.

The subject was how the coronavirus pandemic is sometimes sorta similar to the influenza pandemic of 1918. He answered these questions in his role as a medical historian.

And if Dr. Gunderman, there, can find time in his day to be a medical historian on the side, I should be able to figure out some way to be a history journalist. Right? We should dive into some of that soon.

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Jun 20

Dip your toes in, the water’s fine

And, now, a scene from “the beach,” which is how I mistakenly thought of the lake’s shore line when we were out there for a few minutes today. That says something about how long since I’ve seen a beach.

It was Christmas, last time I saw a beach, and that was just looking into a sound, so it might not even count. If you don’t count that you have to go back to last July. I’m not the biggest beach person in the world, but that still seems like too long.

So we were at the lake for a few minutes. It rained. I sat under an umbrella talked on the phone while The Yankee did some considerable distance of freestyle swim. And that was lunch. Down to the lake, in for a quick dip and then produce a show.

Talked to an economist today. Bottom line is … we know a lot of things, but that really just illustrates what we don’t know. We’re about to start stage four of back-up-and-at-’em here, which will be normal-ish but for some restrictions that won’t get honored a lot, I’m sure.

The good news is that the jobless claims are coming down from the spring. The bad news is they are still very high. The other bad news is that state tax revenues are taking a hit. This was not a surprise, but still, it is underway and impactful. The good news is that people are going back to work and so there is progress to be made. But don’t take my word for it. I have a minor in economics. This is an actual economist:

I have a love-hate relationship with security-footage-as-news stories. It doesn’t devalue a story, but too often it elevates a story beyond its natural worth because of suddenly compelling available video. Compelling, easily available video. (That part is important.) Or, even worse, it elevates a story because there’s video and no one else has anything better that day.

It’s a tricky thing, when visual drive messages. I see and have worked with and teach this stuff, so I consider all sides of the argument. I think we all should consider all sides of its use before using it, and that’d be a great starting point, I’d say.

And then there’s stuff like this …

Funny how video has helped bring to light rampant injustice in society. Funny how necessary that video is for this sort of circumstance. Sometimes the visuals have to drive the message.

More on Twitter, check me out on Instagram and more On Topic with IU podcasts as well.

Jun 20

Let us all be upset together

I don’t know who needs this — goes the well-meaning message on social media, which was instantly copied to the point of becoming a satirical meme all it’s own — but here are a few seconds of quiet video of the creek.

We walked down there on Sunday. Kids play there. Sometimes little, sometimes small. Always it’s fun. It’s a place filled with the screams and the shrieks and the joy of families doing things that young families should be doing. It’s a place where people create soggy memories and stay cool and promote wonder and it’s all free, because it’s a stream. The cost seems to be trampled grass, and occasionally a bit of litter, but someone keeps this area nice and tidy.

And sometimes, like that little moment there, it is nice a quiet.

It was a nice and warm summer day today, 89 degrees and definitely not spring any more.

It was slow, except for the swift parts, which only punctuated the slow parts. Highlighting them, if you will.

We’re going to talk about the news.

First, look at the source. Ahead of Trump Bible photo op, police forcibly expel priest from St. John’s church near White House RNS is an 86-year-old outlet and it is affiliated with no less than the Missouri School of Journalism. This is a place with history and bona fides. And there’s a lot more to that carnival you saw last night than you realize.

The church appeared to be completely abandoned.

It was, in fact, abandoned, but not by choice: Less than an hour before Trump’s arrival, armored police used tear gas to clear hundreds of peaceful demonstrators from Lafayette Square park, which is across the street from the church.

Authorities also expelled at least one Episcopal priest and a seminarian from the church’s patio.

“They turned holy ground into a battleground,” said the Rev. Gini Gerbasi.

Bishop Budde, who oversees that church, got in front of The Washington Post immediately. She called in to CNN and they cut off a three-way panel, in fact interrupted a retired three-star general mid-sentence, to express her outrage. And here she is on PBS:

Much of the talk is about clearing out that path for this gigantic overreach — there’s no two ways around this, the administration overreached and it’s hard to imagine them not realizing it almost immediately — and it should be. And people see the violence in New York, California, Philadelphia. I also watched really spotty coverage of riots that followed peaceful protests in my hometown early this morning in anger and despair. I also watched a reporter I know there get mugged by looters. And this happening in smaller towns, too.

In Little Rock, like a lot of places, reporters are catching it from all sides:

Not for nothing, but that would have been me 18 years ago. It could be my peers and friends and former students today. It could be my students tomorrow.

This is a paragraph or two after we should remind ourselves what terrible injustice brought that on and why we are here. Let’s remember who brought us here. And those authorities are doing this too:

They’re doing it in great numbers. When police across the country know that people are watching them more closely than ever, this has been their reaction. That’s instructive.

160 Threats to Press Freedom in the United States—This Week (Part I):

In this spreadsheet, I identify 160 threats to press freedom that have transpired amid the George Floyd protests in the United States this week.

Let’s note: Not every item is equal in gravity. Some instances are simple and you may be well reasoned to wonder “How could the police avoided that?” Others are serious violations of press freedom by an over-militarized state.

I include arrests, police beatings, pepper spraying, shootings with rubber bullets or other projectiles, incidents where police forced journalists to the ground, forced them into pepper spray, or wrongly denied them certain access.


Many of the incidents I document came after or seemingly because journalists identified themselves as press. Many had press badges on, gave verbal indications, wore press vests or helmets—and many were blatantly ignored or targeted for that.

It’s going to get worse. It’s going to get better. There’ll be no rhythm or reason to how it waxes and wanes, this pain and this anguish. But so long as we’re referring to American cities as “battle spaces” and, God, help us from that, and this sort of thing is taking place …

It’ll keep happening. And let’s let this ring with the clarity of the bells: This is happening to all of us.

May 20

Here’s a distraction

It occurs to me that I am ready for a three-day weekend in the most desperate way. Which is odd, right? I’m going to spend it at home just like all of the days. And I’ll try to think about work less, but otherwise, status quo ante.

I suppose it is all mental, or I am.

Makes you wonder what next week will be like. Tuesday is Monday, and by this time next week we’ll be here thinking “thank goodness for a four-day week.” It’s a weird moment, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, we have that to look forward to, and brothers and sisters, I am looking forward to it.

Brothers and sisters. Huh, he said, writing this in an almost stream-of-consciousness style while also knowing where it was going. I had a news director who called everyone brother or sister. He wasn’t a particularly religious man then, moreso now it seems, so it struck me as an odd word choice. I just figured he was from where he was from, and that’s the way it was there.

He was a nice guy. Young. His first news director job, he was being handled and he didn’t need to be. After he figured out what was what in that market and who the sharks in the building were he was good at it. I only worked with him for a short time, but he was nice to work with, and gave me one lasting piece of advice: You have to look out for yourself, because no one else will.

It was that last bit of early-20s advice I really needed, I think. It was overdue, perhaps, but I took it to heart.

He’s a news director in Nashville now. He and his family are doing well, according to his Facebook feed. Always seems happy when we catch up. Brothers and sisters.

Let’s look at some old newspapers again. Let’s go back in time 111 years and look at the local paper on this date in 1909.

We save by using the ditto marks and pass along the savings to you! I love the little local ads that exist because of the university. It’s always difficult to tease out their story, though. One of the owners has two other men of different generations using the same name here. The other couple don’t leave much of a trace either. And that’s not an uncommon book store name, it turns out.

Oh, it’s one of those seasons. The Milwaukee mayor was in town. And one of the authors of the legislation.

This wasn’t outright prohibition, it was about home rule and liquor licenses and how much a saloon would have to pay and, yes, about prohibition. The Anti-Saloon league held a powerful sway.

The registrar speaks! Terrific news! Had there been an accident? Was he recovering, then? Was he coming out of mourn — oh, he was just weighing in on the debate of the hour.

He wants to leave out the moral question, indeed, he mentions it twice in here in this brief selection. I’ve edited out a few paragraphs in between because, you know academics, we do tend to go on.

This was actually Craven’s paper. He founded it in 1893 and ran it into his brother bought him out in 1906, just three years prior. He was the registrar for 41 years, until 1936.

A registrar, by the way, keeps the academic record of all the students and plans the registration process for classes. Craven did all that while he was a student. Academia was a lot different back then.

Look, I wear a suit to work. Not while fishing, though:

Kahn Clothing was Moses Kahn, and a partner, Solomon Tannenbaum. There was a big fire, but Moses was soon back to work, and became a founding member of the local fire department. He ran that store until he died, in 1920, at about 70 years of age.

Someone was in a mood when they went to look for filler:

I love that these places didn’t need an address. You just knew where The Globe was. I don’t. Or I didn’t. A few other searches tell me it was on the square. You can assume everything was there, but you shouldn’t. It’s just one square.

Elmer Bender was in the clothing trade for a long time. You can still find references to him through the mid 1920s. And soon after he joined the city council. He died in 1957.

Safe to say the newspaper was coming down on the side of the Drys. I’ve edited a bit of this to get to the real panic.

Ninety percent of the murders were somehow tied to saloons and drink! And you want that to come here!?

That’s an instructive look at fear-mongering you weren’t expecting out of this exercise.

The vote was just a few days away. I skipped ahead. The drys won the day. It seems they thought the city would vote dry, but the vote totals went against that idea. It rained and that let the farmers come in from the fields and voted dry. There was a big stir about whether many of the students who voted were eligible to vote. But across the state, it was a series of wins for the Anti-Saloon League.

I’m through here every so often.

When I first read that I thought, I should keep a look out.

You never know when a lost cufflink will turn up, but if I see it, Mr. J, I’ll let you know.