Taking a stand: Rupert Murdoch and the Chicago Sun-Times

Some people are ready to throw the entire journalism trade out with the week’s trash thanks to the deepening Rupert Murdoch scandal. But to some people, this wasn’t a surprise at all.

In 1984, 60 journalists took a stand against Rupert Murdoch. Without them, he quickly ran a once-proud paper into the ground, and he cut his losses and sold out after just two years of ownership. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Should journalists hack?

I experienced an interesting collection of contrasts going to journalism school in the mid 1990s. Inside the same building, we had investigative journalists who specialized in advanced use of databases and stodgy editors who missed the days of manual typewriters and wore technological ignorance as a badge of honor.

And yet, there were textbooks that said journalists ought to be learning computer programming, because there was going to be a need for journalists who had the ability to do both. It took a while, but it seems that day has come. Maybe not to sit down and write applications software, but to hack.

But is it ethical for a journalist to hack?
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Why total freedom of expression is a reader’s worst nightmare

A longtime reader asked me about news writing, and writing in general, after complaining about the sorry state of writing these days. I think a lot of things are in a sorry state, and the writing is a reflection of that. But maybe if we can fix the writing a little, it’ll help everything else, right?

Kurt Vonnegut once said writers should pity the readers, who have to identify thousands of little marks on paper and make sense of them immediately, an art so difficult that most people don’t really master it even after studying it for 12 long years.

He says to simplify and clarify.

As writers, we’d rather live by Zeuxis’ mantra that criticism is easier than craftsmanship. But one way to avoid criticism is to make sure the readers understand what we’re writing in the first place.
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Bias is good?

Blekko could be an idea whose time has come. It’s a search engine with bias.

The idea is, you punch in what you’re looking for, and include a slash term to bias the search in a particular direction. That could help filter out spam sites–sites that are loaded with keywords and a few links but no real content, for instance.

But I imagine some significant percentage of its users will use it to try to find content they already agree with. Read more

Missing the playoffs because News Corp. and Cablevision are greedy? Build an antenna!

So Cablevision and News Corp are arguing about money, and the result is Fox is dark on cable in New York and Philly tonight, and for the foreseeable future.

Build an antenna. No, seriously, build an antenna.

Over-the-air HDTV looks better than cable, because they have to compress and recompress the signal in order to bring you those 432 channels nobody ever watches. And DTV reception isn’t like it was in the analog days. With a good antenna design, reception is much better than it was a few short years ago. Build a Gray-Hoverman antenna out of $10 worth of readily available materials, and you’ll never miss a local broadcast again. In fact, you’ll probably wonder what’s wrong with your cable provider.

And yes, Game 1 of the NLCS is a pretty good game so far. Definitely not worth paying to miss.

Rupert Murdoch delenda est.

Barely scraping by on a quarter-mil a year

This WSJ article (with profuse apologies for linking to something owned by Rupert Murdoch) offers some advice for those who are struggling to make it on $250K or $350K per year.

It’s good advice for people making 1/10 of that too.The gist of it is that people need to lower their expectations. I’ll make this real personal and include myself in this group.

About a year ago, I ran into a former coworker in the parking lot. He asked how things were going. They happened to be going bad that day. Real bad. “Got any job openings?” I asked.

“Actually, we do,” he said.

A day or two later, I sent him my resume. Another week or so later, I was interviewing for a job. Another week or so after that, they offered me a job, with the biggest raise of my life, though I’m still well below that $250K threshold.

Still, I’m making more than I’ve ever made, and I’m having more trouble paying my bills than I’ve had in a very long time.

Don’t feel sorry for me.

I got lazy and I got sloppy in my budgeting. It’s not my employer’s fault for not giving me a bigger raise, and it’s not the government’s fault for taxing me too much. It’s my fault for not bothering to stop for a minute and figure out what I can and can’t afford before plunking down the cash or reaching for the plastic.

Of course there are other things you can do that this article doesn’t suggest, such as buying high-efficiency light bulbs that use less energy and last longer. This saves money on the electric bill every month, and reduces those trips to Target resulting in fewer temptations to buy $100 worth of other stuff you didn’t really need. But the mentality matters more than the specifics. Develop the mentality, and specifics will follow.

And it matters whether you work in food service making $18,000 a year or you’re a professional athlete making millions per year. After all, how many athletes have we heard about going broke after their career ends in spite of earning tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars?

Personally, I’ve been eating a lot more Campbell’s Chunky Soup and using a lot more coupons lately.

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