Sierra's Word of Fire snuffed out

A few meters from the U.S./Mexico border in Ciudad Juárez, Spanish artist Santiago Sierra create a gigantic piece called Palabra de Fuego (Word of Fire) by carving 15-meter-tall letters into the earth, then filling each with concrete. "Sumision," Spanish for submission, references the sweatshop conditions many of the dwellers of Anapra zone labor under, the devastating health problems caused by nearby American-owned lead-smelting foundries, and the Cold War-style wall U.S. Homeland Security officials plan to build to control immigration. On May 24, Sierra was to complete the piece during a live webcast -- by igniting fuel poured into the concrete letterforms.

That never happened. Sierra's website says the effort was "obstructed by the local government in an action that included the use of public forces." Despite the fact Sierra obtained proper permits from the Urban Development and Ecology Secretary, local officials halted the burn, citing damage to the environment. Representatives of the project's sponsor, Proyecto Juárez, said it'd emit the same amount of fumes as two schoolbuses making a 20-kilometer drive.

Proyecto Juárez director Mariana David, also Sierra's wife, said the permit revocation amounts to censorship. "We came to Juarez to talk about power structures," she told Artnews. "And we're looking at a case of exactly what we're talking about -- an abuse of power."

Ironic: Anonymous Republican blocks vote on open government

Despite being passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by an overwhelming majority and getting Senate Judiciary Committee approval, a bill promoting government transparency has been barred from getting a floor vote, thanks to an anonymous Republican senator. The unnamed legislator put a secret hold on the Open Government Act, which can be done without revealing the senator's identity or a rationale for the move.

Aimed at strengthening the Freedom of Information Act and speeding up the processing of FOIA requests, the stalled measure has been targeted by journalists and bloggers seeking to unmask the senator. Said Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy, "It is both unfortunate and ironic that this bipartisan bill, which promotes sunshine and openness in our government, is being hindered by a secret and anonymous hold."

The Society of Professional Journalists is leading a crowdsourcing campaign to identify the senator. So far the effort has identified 75 senators who did not place the block. Minnesota's Sen. Norm Coleman was not among those 75.

Update: The Associated Press reports that Sen. Jon Kyl, a Republican from Arizona, placed the block because "the Justice Department is concerned that it could force them to reveal sensitive information." The SPJ has dubbed Kyl "Senator Secrecy."


Man in a Picasso Suit

In 1998, Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan hired an actor to put on a Disney-mascot-sized Picasso head and the painter's signature striped shirt and then hang out, jingling a cup of coins, near the MoMA entrance. At the time he said he liked "the contradiction of Picasso begging," but offered little more on the subject. Notorious for his pranks, Cattelan doubtless had an intent that hovered somewhere between homage, critique, and a joke at the art world's expense.

In preparation for the Walker Art Center's June 16 opening of the Whitney-organized exhibition Picasso and American Art, I emailed Cattelan asking for his thoughts on Picasso's impact on art, either his own or in general. His emailed reply, a lengthy list of lines that began "Picasso is," appeared to be either the result of free association or of a Google search of the phrase. Here's an excerpt from that email:
picasso is deadcattelan-sm.jpg
picasso is missing
picasso is a communist
picasso is an elderly cat with clipped ears
picasso is a docudrama and immortal beloved is a tragedy
picasso is not the sort of car that leaps to mind when you think 'road trip'
picasso is not the world
picasso is the only artist i know of that is mentioned in a devo song
picasso is 20th century art
picasso is one of the rare gold
picasso is being picky about eating and seems to be sulking
picasso is the greatest artist of the twentieth century
picasso is situated in the heart of historic paris
picasso is also equipped with a wealth of stowage space
picasso is much more controversial than Rembrandt
picasso is born in malaga in 1881 and died in the south of france in 1973
picasso is rather unique
picasso is a struggling artist
picasso is a feature film written and directed by stephen kijak with an ensemble cast including alexis arquette
picasso is a registered domain trade name of max corporation
picasso is not shown to have a remorseful bone in his body
picasso is known for his etchings
picasso is an interactive drawing tool in the style of unix idraw or macdraw
picasso is considered by most authorities as the greatest artist of the 20th century
picasso is soon to become a reality
picasso is the name of this ladybird
picasso is built in vigo
picasso is the greatest art genius of the twentieth century
picasso is a coloring book and creativity package for children
picasso is a womanizer
picasso is a 1994 westphalian gelding
picasso is interesting because everything about his life is related to his art
picasso is classified as a refined
Images courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery.

Kelburn Castle

With nine days to go, here's the progress made on Scotland's Kelburn Castle, which is gradually being covered by artworks by some of Brazil's best street artists.

"Throes" Turns Two

Two years ago today, Dick Cheney declared the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last throes."

In those two years, 1,049 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq -- nearly a third of all American military personnel killed in the entire war. That day Cheney said, "I think we're making major progress. And, unfortunately, as I say, it does involve sending young Americans in harm's way." On this last day in the deadliest month in over two years for U.S. service men and women, we've got to wonder what it'll take to either bring on the real "last throes" or to bring our friends and kids and siblings home.

At last: Strib hires a D.C. reporter

This shouldn't be big news but it is: after nearly three months without a single full-time reporter in our nation's capitol, the Minneapolis Star Tribune has hired a chief correspondent for its Washington desk. And, better still, it's Kevin Diaz, a veteran reporter who had the job before new Strib owner Avista low-balled him with a salary offer he couldn't afford to take. Read my Minnesota Monitor post to learn more.


Media News via RSS

Thanks to some new updates at Minnesota Monitor, you can now get my daily media news column -- or anything else I write for MN/MON -- via RSS feed: http://minnesotamonitor.com/userDiary.do?personId=10&feed=rss.
Or, just bookmark my author page.

Burnt Toast Savior

In Berlin, "a large portrait of Jesus made entirely from hundreds of pieces of burnt toast, all in differing shades of 'burntness.'"

Cindy Sheehan calls it quits

On Memorial Day, peace activist Cindy Sheehan decided to sell off her 5-acre Camp Casey and stop protesting:
The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.
She says she wants to go back home and be a mom to her surviving children and step down as the "face" of the peace movement. She has harsh words for Democrats and lefties who turned against her, she says, when her criticisms extended beyond George Bush to Democrats who've failed to stop the war:
People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifwhat we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?
Read my January 2007 interview with Sheehan.

Landscaped business cards

Just add a little water and some sun and these seeded business cards from Zurich-based landscape architects Tur & Partner will "sprout right through the holes in the plan printed on the card."


The impertinence of tenacious journalism

The impertinence of tenacious journalism: When U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Rachel Paulose stepped up to the podium on Monday for a press conference about the recent prostitution busts in the Twin Cities and Austin, Minn., she laid out her ground rules: she'd only accept questions on that topic. Most reporters toed the line, writes Powerline's John Hinderaker. But "[t]here were two notable exceptions to the professional demeanor of most of the reporters in attendance. One of the two was KARE 11's Scott Goldberg, whose story evidences his other interests, if not his rudeness. I forget the other, but he too was a piece of work almost up to the Goldberg standard. Let's call him the Goldberg variation."

Goldberg's infraction? Asking Paulose about, in his words, "the questions surrounding her appointment as U.S. attorney and her management style." (Paulose' age, 35, and her coziness with the Bush administration have caused many to wonder about the conditions surrounding her appointment.)

Brian Lambert reports that Goldberg shot back at his KARE 11 blog, saying Paulose's request was not a "ground rule [but] a joke":

In our industry, ground rules are conditions agreed upon by both parties before an interview takes place. The Paulose press conference didn’t begin with an agreement. It began with a decree...

A public official, in a public building, at a public meeting, can not tell reporters they are not allowed to ask questions about unpopular topics. That would be like Tony Snow announcing President Bush won’t be taking any questions on Iraq. Come on.

Let’s remember the backdrop:

1. This was the very first press conference Paulose held after three of the top lawyers in her office resigned their management positions and called her management style into question.

2. This was the very first press conference Paulose held after the news broke that the name of her predecessor, Tom Heffelfinger, had surfaced on a Justice Department “hit list.”

3. This was the very first opportunity we had to ask Minnesota’s new U.S. attorney about the scandal surrounding her boss, Alberto Gonzales.

4. This press conference happened to be taking place two days before Monica Goodling, the White House aide who played a role in hiring Paulose, was scheduled to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

Knowing all of that, why on earth wouldn’t we ask Rachel Paulose about the elephant in the room?

[Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor.]


Impaler's Film Debut

Minnesota's most-infamous gubernatorial candidate -- the one with the cape, not the feather boa -- is the subject of a documentary film making its U.S. premiere at Minneapolis' Oak Street Cinema on May 30. "Impaler," by Texas filmmaker W. Tray White, chronicles Jonathon Sharkey's 2006 run for governor as the Vampires Witches and Pagans Party candidate. Make that a "Satanic Sanguinary Vampyre and Hecate Witch." Sharkey's political platform runs the gamut from pulling troops out of Iraq and legalizing gay marriage to punishing "terrorists" (those who engage in anything from drunken driving to murder) with impalement.  Filmmaker White and Sharkey, who is running for U.S. president in 2008, will take part in a Q&A after the Oak Street screening. Watch the trailer.



Spoon, Cherry, Weird Toy.

One of the questions in the "How Minnesotan are you?" quiz is whether you've ever had your photo taken in front of the Walker's Claes Oldenburg sculpture Spoonbridge and Cherry. If you're a local, or just passing through, you probably have.

But have you done the perspective games (of the I-squish-your-head variety)? Painted a Spoonbridge art car? How about posing your favorite toy in front of the Minneapolis icon. At The Day Job, I started noticing the latter -- and now I'm looking for more photographic examples. Leave a comment if you've seen an example -- like Fred Flintstone, a yarn kitty, and Italian Jesus-- of the holding-something-in-front-of-Spoonbridge meme. If I find enough, I might do a feature in the Walker magazine. Thanks.


Squint to see Wal-Mart

For his walmArt series, artist Jonathan Lewis takes photos inside big-box stores, then pixelates them beyond recognition. Sort of. As Laurel at I [Heart] Photography writes, "The amazing thing is how distinctly they still read as consumer spaces."

Negroponte: Intel's trying to run me out of business.

Nicholas Negroponte of the One Laptop Per Child project, which famously created a rugged computer to be sold for $100 to students in the developing world, accuses Intel of selling its $85 Classmate PC under cost in order to run OLPC out of business. Negroponte says Intel is peeved that OLPC's laptops use processors from AMD, Intel's main competitor.

Gormley: Art is an open space for generating "alternative value."

Asking "What is art for?," Antony Gormely comes up with "some propositions":
• Politics has become management.

• Ideological positions are unsustainable when comfort is the highest good.

• We are post-ideology.

• Art is an open space that allows for the generation of alternative value.

Gormley just opened his first major London show at the Hayward Gallery. A key work in Blind Light is a chamber filled with dense vapor created by oscillating ultrasonic humidifiers that reduce visibility.



That's the sound of one horn honking: I won a 2nd place in the Society of Professional Journalists Page One Awards for this piece I wrote for Minnesota Monitor.


Infant gets Gun Owner's ID Card

Someday, Howard David Ludwig's Firearm Owner's Identification Card will be stored in a box with his first pair of shoes and perhaps a lock of his baby hair.

That's because the card was issued when Howard, nicknamed Bubba, was just 10 months old. It lists his height (2 feet, 3 inches) and weight (20 pounds) but doesn't note he's yet to learn how to walk.

With some exceptions, FOID cards are required of any Illinois residents purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition within the state.

The card wasn't a mistake. Bubba's father, a columnist for The (Tinley Park) Daily Southtown who is also named Howard Ludwig, paid the $5 fee and filled out the application.

Still, the card's arrival, complete with his son's toothless baby photo, surprised him.

Ludwig expected instead to receive a letter, he joked Tuesday, that read: "Thanks for your five bucks. You're an idiot. We're not sending your kid a FOID card."

Illinois State Police oversee the application process for the cards. Their purpose, said Lt. Scott Compton, was to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons, those under an active order of protection and those convicted of domestic violence.

"Does a 10-month-old need a FOID card? No, but there are no restrictions under the act regarding age of applicants," he said.
Read more.

Graf Castle

For less than a week, Brazilian graffiti artists have been having their way with a Scottish castle. The Graffiti Project at Kelburn Castle has invited street artists Os Gemeos, Nina Pandolfo, and Nunca to paint an entire building 35 miles west of Glasgow. Aiming to "take the vibrant and often transient art form of Brazilian graffiti out of its predominantly urban context and apply it to the ancient and permanent walls of an historic rural castle in Scotland," the project is coming along, but as the website's ticker states, they've still got 22 more days to go.

Here's where they're at now:

The Anti-Sit Archives

Just after our second-term Republican governor took office, one of his first decisions was to cut funds to social service agencies, including homeless shelters. At the same time, I started noticing metal pyramids being erected under highway overpasses to make it uncomfortable for homeless people trying to find a dry place for a rest.

This gallery of "anti-sit" devices
-- the spokes, posts, and pokey things meant to annoy or injure the seating-minded -- chronicles the endless "ways in which bottoms can be kept away without calling too much attention to the intimidation."


Hieronymus Bosch figurines

3-D figures from Hieronymous Bosch's triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, apparently from here.

Hieronymus Bosch figurines

Read Standing Up: New York Times' David Carr Comes Home to a Changed Media Landscape

Growing up in Hopkins, Minnesota, David Carr observed his dad’s morning ritual, which involved toast and a copy of the Star Tribune. "This, I thought, is what it means to be a grown-up,” he wrote in a January column for The New York Times. "You eat your food standing up, and you read the newspaper. So I did the same thing when I turned 13.”

Today, having moved from editor of the now-defunct Twin Cities Reader in the mid-1990s to editor of Washington, D.C.’s City Paper, to his current job as a blogger and media writer for the Times, he still reads his morning paper that way. But his family, as he notes in that essay, doesn't: his kids are checking text-messages, Facebook, or the mail for Netflix arrivals, while his wife heads to work with iPod earbuds in place.

In Minneapolis this week, Carr witnessed the local impact of this technological shift away from the "paper artifacts" he grew up reading. He covered the protest on Thursday by Star Tribune employees facing buyouts and reassignments. And he characterized the legal feud sparked by Par Ridder's jump from publisher of the Pioneer Press to the top job at the Star Tribune as a distraction for companies that should be battling to stay alive: the fight, he wrote, is as if "two men, hanging off the cliff by the fingernails of one hand, decided to have a knife fight with the other hand."

Before he gave the keynote at the Society of Professional Journalists Page One Awards banquet Tuesday night, Carr spent a few minutes with Minnesota Monitor discussing how such shifts are affecting the Twin Cities. He weighed in on local media players, including former City Pages editor Steve Perry (praiseworthy as an editor, less so as an individual) and Nancy Barnes, the Star Tribune editor who seems "plenty sincere," but finds herself "playing out of George Orwell’s playbook" in spinning newsroom cuts as a "renewed focus." And, in considering the Times' successes, offered a bit of advice for managers who are pondering deeper cuts at area papers.

"I don’t think that staffing appropriately to come up with compelling content is a luxury," he said. "I think it’s a necessity. I don’t think you can cut your way to excellence or cut your way to viability."

As past editor of the Twin Cities resident and editor who's now a New York Times media columnist, you have an interesting insider/outsider vantage point. With what’s gone on here with Village Voice Media and City Pages, the Pioneer Press lawsuit and the layoffs that preceded it, and the Star Tribune’s restructuring, what does it look like from where you sit?

I picked up a copy of City Pages this week as I always do, and compared to other alternatives, it’s a really good paper. I still have hurt feelings about City Pages eventually running the Twin Cities Reader out of business. I wasn’t here but I still felt it. ...I’ve never much liked [former editor Steve Perry] or his approach. But I think as an editor, he really had few peers, in his ability to attract and sustain really, really great writers.

People like to talk about his superciliousness or his politics. The test is on the page. For years I’ve been coming back and seeing that paper, and I see papers all over the country. It’s a great paper. Or has been. And the idea that Village Voice Media didn’t have worse problems on their hands, I think is a joke. When you’ve got people like Britt Robson, Dave Schimke, Terri Sutton. Come on! Those are super-talented people.

Some say the New Times purchase of the Village Voice chain will lead to a more libertarian and less liberal — or perhaps more apolitical — kind of writing.

I share politics, probably, with Steve Perry, but I share newspaper approaches with [Village Voice Media]. I’ve always been, at both the Twin Cities Reader and at City Pages, equal opportunity in terms of choosing opponents and choosing targets. I’ve felt my job is to hold up a rigorous and true mirror that allows readers to make their own judgments. So I don’t know if that makes me a libertarian. I think it makes me a newspaperman.

I never wanted to work on an op-ed page. The other thing: [Village Voice Media] papers in general are far superior to most weeklies, and they fund great journalism, pay a living wage, pay healthcare. So many times the weeklies talk about how bad the dailies are, and I always think to myself: “Have you looked at your own paper lately? This thing sucks!”

What about the metro dailies? The lawsuit, the downsizing plans at the Star Tribune? What does that look like from your office at the New York Times?

I’m a person who grew up reading both those papers. My heroes worked at both those papers.

Who were some of those heroes?

I watched Eric Black, Tom Hamburger, Stormy Greener, Dane Smith at both papers, and I mean not just to restrict it to them. Local journalism in general was great: Eric Eskola [of WCCO and TPT], Pat Kessler [at WCCO], you name it. These people were giants to me. So, to watch papers — first the Pioneer Press -- cut right to the bone and foregoing their ambitions is sad.

I loved how the Pioneer Press was positioned as a feisty, nimble, fairly muscular competitor. The Star Tribune I don’t think has been trending well as a media organization. I think it’s a fairly safe paper. It’s far too focused on what they think the reader wants, as opposed to covering what they do. But they’re still within the bandwidth – plenty of great journalism: Paul McEnroe, Jon Tevlin, you name it.

To watch newspaper reporters out marching like steelworkers and raising their fists at the building they work in was scary and frightening to me. I don’t think there’s a boat high enough to really – you shouldn’t position me as being in a perch at the New York Times. You know, the people at the Wall Street Journal thought they had a pretty good perch two weeks ago. All the sticks are up in the air, and I don’t think anybody should feel too smug about what they’re doing. The regionals got problems. The nationals got problems. Small local dailies with monopolies still seem to be OK.

The question is how do they get from one ledge to the other? If there is a digital future how do they get there and still have the branded, quality, local content that gives them the edge?

What about local? A lot of what Nancy Barnes, the editor of the Strib, has said, and much of what we’ve heard since the 2005 redesign, is about “local, local” -- that we can make a difference by being intensely local. But I’ve also heard a lot of criticism about what might be left out -- world and national news that people need to be engaged civic participants – of that equation.

The Star Tribune gave up on a lot of that slowly over time. They had two people in their national bureau, really good ones, and now they’re going to one. The fact that there’s going to be no Duluth bureau, that somehow not having Larry Oakes in Duluth is good? I mean, c’mon! Duluth is a huge news bed. It’s a port city; it’s a place where you can jump off and cover the other half of the state. That can’t be good for the state. It can’t be good for the readers. It can’t be good for democracy.

She is saying these things partly because she has to, partly because she has to believe it. I talked to her the other day. She seems plenty sincere, but any editor who’s selling cutbacks as a renewed focus is going to be playing out of George Orwell’s playbook: more is less, less is more. You know what I mean? You have to engage in doublespeak, because you can’t step up to the mike and say, “You know what? This really sucks.”

It seems there’s a lot of injustice to many of the workers who’ve been at the paper a long time, have developed an expertise, and now are being assigned out of their jobs. But, on the other hand, there are some harsh financial realities—

You bring up a great point. We’ve always written without much emotion about job cuts or job reassignments in other industries, and now that it comes around to our industry, we’re squealing like a pig. I do think there’s an increased sensitivity and awareness because it’s our ox that’s being gored. And I do not doubt there are people that doubt the direness of the financial situation. But when you’re talking about classifieds down 30 percent year over year, that is a significant business problem. But you cannot work only the cost side to fix that.

Gary Gilson, head of the Minnesota News Council, recently praised a piece you wrote about changes at The New Republic. “It seems to me that people interested in journalistic standards could have a rich discussion about objectivity if they focused on a story such as Carr’s,” he wrote. “What I loved about Carr’s storytelling was the fact that he convinced me that he KNEW what he was talking about and he TOLD us, instead of hiding behind the journalistic convention of having to attribute every idea to some authoritative source.”

He seems to be saying you wrote with attitude and edge, rather than that here’s-one-side/here’s-the-other kind of scientific method—

What’s funny about that: that was my first straight news story coming off the blog, and I’d been blogging for four months. That was a blog hangover where I was just stepping up and writing what I thought. When I used to work here, I think it was Richard Broderick who said, “Truth is not the hole in the middle of the donut.” It’s on the donut somewhere.

I think part of the Strib's problem is that they’re so concerned with being even-handed and the perception that, because their editorial page is liberal, that they’re somehow a liberal paper. I think they’re far too careful in their discourse. You have to make a good reasoned argument, you have to be completely fair, you have to be able to back up everything you say with efficacious reporting, but achieving some sort of formal balance I think is a little bit of an archaic news concept and it reads as such. It reads, sort of... boring.

As a somewhat younger reader, I liked the tone you established. Papers like the Strib say that to stay afloat, they need to figure out how to engage these younger audiences, and maybe that writing style is one way to do it.

There's been a slow, creeping but very definite innovation in tone and content at the New York Times for some time. People say, how can you get away with writing what you want? It’s not an issue. What’s an issue is if you get it wrong, than flying monkeys come out of the ceiling and kill you.

To be modern, to be engaging, to do as you pointed out, to reach out to audiences in demographic terms -- not philosophical terms -- you have to do a direct address to the readers, and that’s not about what you think. It’s about what you’ve found out. I don’t write about the space between my ears. I’m a reporter all the way. Even though I do a media column, it’s extremely reported.

I interviewed Steve Perry awhile back and he said watching mainstream media like the Star Tribune trying to adapt to new technology and relate to readers is like "seeing your grandma in stretch pants, doing The Robot." I feel like, finally, they’re catching on, with Buzz.mn and blogs like Eric Black’s where readers can have conversations, but it seems they have so far to go to adapt to this online environment.

People like you need to think what you do is magical and effable and tough to do, and it’s not. We’ve got 27 blogs at the New York Times, and we have a lot of business on our blogs. You’d like to think it’s big and mysterious and so hard to do. It’s not really. It’s having the permission from ownership to experiment. A lot of times at the New York Times what we’re doing is saying, “Let’s give it a whirl.” ...Because we have such a tight feedback loop with our audience and we’re not up on Olympus, we find out fairly quickly what works and what does not.

Do you think you could do that if you had to cut your newsroom by 20 percent like the Strib is doing?

We’ve had significant buyouts. But there’s no question I live an entitled existence in terms of the level of staffing. But you’ve got to keep in mind that with all those people comes a great ambition to not just cover a city, not just cover a state, not just cover a country, but cover a world. There’s not many Scrabble players at The New York Times. There’s not many people who stroke their beards. Everybody is engaged. I don’t think that staffing appropriately to come up with compelling content is a luxury. I think it’s a necessity. I don’t think you can cut your way to excellence or cut your way to viability.

We’re insulated by our two-tiered staff structure, but so is Dow Jones, and it seems like there’s some kind of questions about that. I do think that so far private equity as an owner of a newspaper, with their need for high margins and quick exits, have been a flop so far. Who knows?

Do you long for the Cowles days, the private ownership days?

Yeah, I do. I prefer to work with people I have values in common with. [Times publisher] Arthur Sulzberger and I don’t have a lot in common in terms of background, but we share values up and down. I don’t spend a lot of time talking to the guy, but when I see him, I think we both are oddly bullish about the newspaper business.

We’re growing audience. We’re diversifying into online businesses in meaningful ways. But when you belong to public markets or you belong to private equity, the clock ticks at a rate where it’s very difficult to innovate your way to the future. No one wants to hear about five quarters. They want to know what’s going to happen this quarter.

You can’t blame them. I mean, money has no conscience.

[Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor.]


Movie Posters in Belarus

Apparently, movie posters in Belarus are often handpainted, as these ads for popular American movies attest:
Freaky Friday

Shallow Hal
50 First Dates

Via Coudal.

'We will not go quietly': At 'Black Thursday' rally, Strib staffers protest cuts

Outside the Star Tribune offices Thursday afternoon, one of the few smiles to be found was on the face of Lucy, the newspaper- wielding "Charlie Brown" character rendered in fiberglass. Just behind her, more than 100 Strib employees and their supporters gathered to protest 145 planned cuts at the paper, the work of "21st-century robber barons who believe profits come before the people who work here [and] the people who read this newspaper," as 34-year newsroom veteran Randy Furst put it.

Many in the crowd wore black armbands and held day-glo signs that read "Save the Strib" and "Twin Cities Papers Under Siege," eliciting the occasional flurry of honking by passing cars. The purpose seemed to be two-fold: to rally both workers hit by an unusually emotional week and citizens concerned about the paper's future. An empassioned Furst, taking his turn at the bullhorn, addressed the group, "To the public we say, 'Speak out! They’re wrecking your newspaper.'"

Randy Furst, wearing a black armband, at the Thursday rally.
Many worried about their futures: management has told employees their jobs will change, but don't yet know how, and an "organizational table" is expected to be revealed by management on Friday or Monday, showing the positions that will be available to soon-to-be-reassigned newsroom staff.

The rally was also a show of solidarity for union members. According to Strib retail reporter and Newspaper Guild representative, management has barred union stewards from accompanying its members into meetings with editors on Wednesday. Reporter Rochelle Olson urged the group to stand firm and stick together and, as if to illustrate the us-and-them polarity of the management/worker divide, led the crowd in waving to managers, including managing editor Scott Gillespie, who were visible in windows on the top floors at 425 Portland Avenue.

Recurring themes at the rally were distrust of Avista Capital Partners and deep fear about the quality of news that'll come out of the Star Tribune in the future. Writer Doug Grow, who awaits word about the fate of his metro column, predicts the paper will not be worthy of its readers. "After losing 24 people, you can’t cut an other 50 people and then say, somehow, we’re going to be better," he said, adding that the Twin Cities market demands a paper that is "more than a shopper."

Furst lamented the paper's "shrinking newshole" and, specifically, plans to trim national and international coverage. "We have the luxury of putting a number of reporters into the field to dig and dig," he said. "They cut staff, what does that do? We’re the public watchdog. We have a responsibility. So everybody gets hurt if they clip the tail of the public watchdog."

Grow disagreed with Jim Boyd, outgoing deputy editor of the editorial page, who said in a Minnesota Monitor interview he thought the staff cuts might improve the paper by clearing out "deadwood" in the newsroom.

"We haven’t had strong inspirational leadership at this place for a long, long time, and if there is a ‘deadwood problem,’ it’s a deadwood management problem," he said.

Grow has big questions about Par Ridder, both his leadership abilities and the way he came to be the paper's publisher. "He comes in here under circumstances that we don’t understand. He’s 38 years old. He has no reputation for building anything. And within a few weeks of his entrance into the door, he’s slashing and burning," he said. "Trust is something that’s earned. Leadership is something that’s earned. He’s the publisher, he’s not the leader."
Doug Grow

He cites the case of Linda Mack, a part-timer who writes about architecture and design. "We live in a cutting-edge city, in terms of architectecture—projects are being mentioned all over the country, a lot of buildings I’m not too fond of, but they’re getting raves—and we had an expert in architecture. She's going to be given the opportunity to apply for something else. To me, dealing with people that way means they’re trying to run people out of here."

Furst, though, says this isn't the end of things. Encouraged by readers who he says are now starting to pay closer attention, he seems cautiously hopeful.

"This is the beginning. There’s going to be a big fight-back," he said. "We are not going to go quietly into the night."


Spooky: Bush transfers control of "Shadow Govt" from DHS to White House

Very weird: Bush has switched authority over the "shadow government" that'll rule the US in the event of a "decapitating" attack on the federal government from the Department of Homeland Security to the White House.

Why? And why now?

The Washington Post's report, in full:
President Bush issued a formal national security directive yesterday ordering agencies to prepare contingency plans for a surprise, "decapitating" attack on the federal government, and assigned responsibility for coordinating such plans to the White House.

The prospect of a nuclear bomb being detonated in Washington without warning, whether smuggled in by terrorists or a foreign government, has been cited by many security analysts as a rising concern since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The order makes explicit that the focus of federal worst-case planning involves a covert nuclear attack against the nation's capital, in contrast with Cold War assumptions that a long-range strike would be preceded by a notice of minutes or hours as missiles were fueled and launched.

"As a result of the asymmetric threat environment, adequate warning of potential emergencies that could pose a significant risk to the homeland might not be available, and therefore all continuity planning shall be based on the assumption that no such warning will be received," states the 72-paragraph order. It is designated National Security Presidential Directive 51 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20.

The statement added, "Emphasis will be placed upon geographic dispersion of leadership, staff, and infrastructure in order to increase survivability and maintain uninterrupted Government Functions."

After the 2001 attacks, Bush assigned about 100 senior civilian managers to rotate secretly to locations outside of Washington for weeks or months at a time to ensure the nation's survival, a shadow government that evolved based on long-standing "continuity of operations plans."

Since then, other agencies including the Pentagon, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA have taken steps to relocate facilities or key functions outside of Washington for their own reasons, citing factors such as economics or the importance of avoiding Beltway "group-think."

Norman J. Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and an adviser to an independent Continuity of Government Commission, said the order "is a more explicit embrace of what has been since 9/11 an implicit but fairly clear set of assumptions."

He added, "My frustration is that those assumptions have not gripped the Congress in the same way."

Other former Bush administration officials said the directive formalizes a shift of authority away from the Department of Homeland Security to the White House.

Under an executive order dating to the Reagan administration, responsibility for coordinating, implementing and exercising such plans was originally charged to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and later DHS, the Congressional Research Service noted in a 2005 report on a pending DHS reorganization.

The new directive gives the job of coordinating policy to the president's assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism -- Frances Fragos Townsend, who will assume the title of national continuity coordinator -- in consultation with Bush's national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, with the support of the White House's Homeland Security Council staff. Townsend is to produce an implementation plan within 90 days. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will continue to coordinate operations and activities, the directive said.

Thailand advances net censorship bill

From Metroblogging Bangkok:

Thailand's National Legislative Assembly approved a controversial law this week which could seriously effect how Thailand's internet users use the web. The main effect of the bill is to outlaw any attempt at bypassing government censors to access any of the thousands of sites that have been censored due to their moral or political purposes.

This single law could put Thailand in the same category as China and Burma with regards to censorship and the lack of a democratic right for free speech.

The bill sailed through its third reading on Wednesday by a vote of 119 to 1. It requires royal endorsement before it can be formally enacted into law...
Read more. And here's a Freedom Against Censorship Thailand's (FACT) petition to the Thai Human Rights Commission.

Boldfaced Birthday.

Helvetica is 50.

Tony Blair quits.

Says, "Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right. I may have been wrong - that's your call. But I did what I thought was right for our country."

Creepy 9/11 keepsakes

A creepy one from 2004: Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials have kept "souvenirs" from the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, including shards of the plane and rubble from the buildings. I wonder if he returned the items, which his representative admitted "he doesn't consider his own," when he left office?

The Department of Justice also reported in 2004 that a subordinate of then FBI director Robert Mueller asked for a piece of 9/11 rubble as a "memento," and that he also wanted to "obtain a half dozen items from the WTC debris so the items could be given to dignitaries."


On 'Codpieces' and Community: Strib's Boyd Discusses Editorial Page Shakeup

If you've ever heard the Star Tribune called the Red Star, you can probably blame Jim Boyd, at least in part. As deputy editor of the paper's editorial page, he's one of a handful of editorial writers who plots out its official stance on issues from Iraq to a statewide smoking ban to political endorsements. This morning, Minnesota Monitor confirmed that Boyd will be taking a voluntary buyout and leaving the paper after nearly 27 years of service, and that the editorial page staff of 12.5 full-time positions will be trimmed by five.

But, the Star & Sickle crowd must be asking, will that affect the paper's editorial stance?

"You'll be pleasantly surprised that it won’t change a hell of a lot," he said.

Avista Capital Partners, the Star Tribune's new owner, seems driven by financial goals and not ideology, so he expects a minimum of meddling -- unlike its previous owner. McClatchy didn't approve of the Star Tribune's outspoken editorials, he said, mainly because they "hated any kind of nail sticking up" and felt the editorials were harming the company financially. So they instituted what editorial page staffers jokingly call the "codpiece" — the "conservative of the day."

"They ordained that we would have a conservative of the day. I’ve got to tell you, you run out of good ones real quick," he said. "You’ve got Steve Chapman, whom I really like, who’s a libertarian and a good guy. So you didn’t mind running him, but you kind of held your nose when you ran Mona Charon or Debra Saunders. I mean, good grief. Jonah Goldberg? Finally, we were able to get rid of that bugger. That’s my point: Avista is much less of a micromanaging outfit than McClatchy was."

In a wide-ranging interview with Minnesota Monitor, he discussed the bright side of the buyouts (whether newsroom "deadwood" will leave), his assessment of insatiable Wall Street investors as journalism's "worst enemy," and his hopes for a Star Tribune that's nonprofit,  community owned, and -- above all -- reinvigorated.

How do you think staff reductions will affect the editorial page? Will its voice change?

[Some people] say, the paper’s “going to go conservative.” I don’t think anyone realizes the pressure we got to do that from McClatchy. That’s all gone away. I don’t think these people [Avista Capital Partners] have an ideological agenda at all. They want to make money. They’re not all that familiar with newspapers – aside from Par [Ridder, the paper's publisher]. I don’t see the voice of the paper changing in its worldview. I think there will be pressures upon production that’ll make it less likely that people will be able to go out into the community. The reason I got into international affairs is that it’s something I could do from my desk and still edit other people's copy and control the budget and go to unending management meetings so that others could be free to be out in the community.

The downsizing announcement on Monday focused on more local reporting — the “local, local” approach editors talk about — but isn’t management cutting some of the very people who could pull that off?

We have a pretty intense local focus already, if you look at what Lori Sturdevant and Dave Hage write. And Steve Berg. Steve’s impact on the built community and livability in Minnesota has been tremendous, I think. That’s very local. Then you learn tricks. The last few editorials I wrote about Iraq, I always pegged them with the Democrats in the Minnesota delegation: “Stay with Pelosi. Don’t desert her. The facts are with you.” And I got in my licks on Iraq by writing about Minnesota Democrats. So there are ways to do it.

I don't think there’ll be any more [reports about] Darfur or U.N. kinds of things. There used to be international reporting that I didn’t like, where someone from the Star Tribune would go to Russian and be certain to go to every 3M plant in sight and then write about that. I think Russia is inherently interesting as a subject in itself and you shouldn’t have to bend the twigs too hard to find the local angle. There will be less reporting from Russia. In our heyday we had a pretty healthy travel budget, and it went away, but not because of Avista. It was McClatchy.

And, it was McClatchy who ordained that we have our “codpiece” – our “conservative of the day.”

Was that your term or theirs?

We called it that. When they took us over from Cowles, they pledged that they would not interfere with editorial voice. But they hated it. They hated that we were way out front on Iraq. I don’t even think it was ideological. If I’d been [Fox News' Sean] Hannity and writing from that perspective, they’d have hated that, too. Because they hated any kind of nail sticking up. They didn’t want to be reading about you in Romenesko. And they thought we were hurting the paper financially, so they ordained that we would have a conservative of the day.

I’ve got to tell you, you run out of good ones real quick. You’ve got Steve Chapman, whom I really like, who’s a libertarian and a good guy. So you didn’t mind running him, but you kind of held your nose when you ran Mona Charon or Debra Saunders. I mean good grief. Jonah Goldberg? Finally, we were able to get rid of that bugger.

That’s my point: Avista is much less of a micromanaging outfit than McClatchy was.

But what about Par Ridder? People have accused him of “conservatizing,” if you will, the Pioneer Press editorial page.

I think partly that was marketing, partly it was being not the Star Tribune – finding a niche that wasn’t taken and was attractive. I don’t think it was ideological. It was, “How can we be different from the Star Tribune.” I haven’t had that much interaction with Par, but I don’t get the impression he has an ideological axe to grind… I don’t think being vocal on local issues will be a problem. We’ve been really vocal this legislative session on what should happen to St. Paul, and it hasn’t caused us any problems. They haven’t tamped down on us. I think people will have to work harder and quicker, there will be less energy to enterprise projects – I’m speaking about the editorial pages now. But I think, if the right people stay, you'll be pleasantly surprised that it won’t change a hell of a lot.

Is there an upside to the downsizing?

Possibly. I don’t want this to reflect on anyone specifically, but there was a fair amount of deadwood in that newsroom. The question is whether the deadwood goes away and the really good wood stays. [Avista has] been very explicit with all managers: do not express anything that could be taken as coercive one way or the other to anybody. That leaves it a little bit in flux. I notice they found some ways. They told Lileks to report to be a general assignment reporter. Well, that was kind of an invitation to go away, I think. But I heard Doug Grow will stay. You know what? This could be really good. Doug Grow is a real professional. He’s a good reporter and getting him involved again in a lot of reporting could be really good for the newspaper. Who knows? If the right people leave and the right people stay, you could see a reinvigorated newspaper.

It’s nice to hear a positive perspective for a change, especially when trends in the industry aren’t looking so good.

They aren't. We’re still getting through absorbing the body blows we took between 2000 and 2006. One nobody really recognized is how much the Do-Not-Call [directory] hurt. I think, in recognition of the public-service component of daily journalism, there ought to be an exemption for newspapers – even though we all hate those calls. It has really put a crimp in the circulation sales. Then help-wanted advertising at regional newspapers went away to the Internet, and it’s not going to come back.

We started out in 2001 at a profit rate of around 31 percent, and I’m told it’s below 20 now. The question no one is asking is: Is there a stabilization rate above zero that we can anticipate – maybe it’s 10 or 12 percent rate of return — that we can be satisfied with? Can we recognize that we’ll never get back to 30 percent? Everbody seems to assume that the trend line continues 'til it drops below black, and I’m not sure that’s a given. I’m not a newspaper economist, but I really would love to know if anybody thinks that trend line inevitably dips into the red or whether it might stabilize at a lower rate of return – and can Wall Street – the worst enemy we ever had – be satisfied with that.

What I would love to see happen would be for Avista take some cost out, sell all the property around the Star Tribune to [Vikings owner Zygi] Wilf or to the Metropolitan Sports Committee, and then turn around and sell the Star Tribune to some kind of community foundation here that would make it a bit like the St. Petersburg Times.

Nonprofits are businesses, but they’re a little bit insulated from Wall Street and they can then plow the profits back into making the product better. I think that St. Petersburg Times model would help newspapers a lot. Perhaps there could be some kind of legislation encouraging that or giving some special tax breaks, in recognition that newspapers have always been these two-headed beasts, part private company but part public service. As long as we were family owned, there was not a real contradiction between those two, but now that we’re completely exposed to Wall Street, the community service aspect is getting short shrift.

[Crossposted at Minnesota Monitor.]

Beyond "Black Monday" at the Star Tribune

Dubbed "Black Monday," the May 7 announcement that the Minneapolis Star Tribune is aiming to eliminate 145 positions including 50 in the newsroom, was followed by "Blue Tuesday," an emotional day in which newsroom employees were called in one-by-one to learn their fate. Many reporters will be assigned to new beats, some columnists will revert to reporting, and at least one has learned he'll be let go. And the unofficial word in the newsroom is that the editorial page staff will be cut to seven people.

The Rake's Brian Lambert reports that TV writer Neal Justin will be given the opportunity to "compete" with Deborah Rybak for a non-column reporting job; Linda Mack will be reassigned away from architecture coverage; and writer Sara Glassman will likely be losing her fashion beat.

Many longtime reporters are considering the buyout offer, which would offer two weeks of pay for each year of service, up to 52 weeks, plus six months of paid health insurance (the March buyout offer capped payouts at 40 weeks). The Newspaper Guild must approve the offer before its members can sign on.

Reached yesterday before she met with editors, Sharon Schmickle, an international reporter and 1995 Pulitzer Prize finalist, said, "It might be too strong to say I'm seriously considering TAKING a buyout. What I'm doing right now is using the occasion to explore a lot of options, to think about where the newspaper is going and whether I want to steer in the same direction or try something different."

She said, despite all the "gloomy analysis" about the future of print journalism, she's somewhat hopeful about new opportunities in the field, citing the online multimedia package on Liberia she worked on earlier this year.

"It was so cool to be able to add the power of audio and video to that report, and I'm eager to do more of it," she said. "On the other hand, I'm not sure how much interest there will be at the Star Tribune of the future in covering Liberia. The interest may be there. Nancy Barnes was very supportive of the project, and she committed the time and resources I needed to make it happen. I just don't know whether she could do the same in the future."

Pam Miller, at the Strib's Guild blog, wrote of the meetings, "People winced and wept upon learning that nonunion colleagues and friends were being abruptly let go. (We now work at a newspaper where someone like Par Ridder stays, and someone like Rob Daves goes?? Up is down, and down is up.)"

The paper's Matt McKinney reported Tuesday that the paper "gave an involuntary buyout" to Daves, longtime director of the Minnesota Poll and part-time manager of Buzz.mn. Daves said he was too busy at the moment to comment on what he admitted was "shocking" news of his firing. He's preparing for a high-profile address he's giving next week at the national conference for the American Association for Public Opinion Research. He's the organization's president.

[Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor.]


Solutions Twin Cities Connects Ideas on "Future-Positive Creativity"

Halfway through installing a green roof on Wednesday night, May 2, Corrie Zoll stopped to take a slug from a bottle of Guinness. It wasn't that he was tired out. Just three minutes into the demonstration, he was illustrating for the near-sellout crowd at the Southern Theater how easy it is to install a green roof and how such technology can help the environment by cooling buildings through both shade and "evapotranspiration."

Which is where the beer comes in.

Because plants move vapor from their roots and release it through their leaves, a green roof on a two-car garage can "sweat" five gallons of water on a hot day -- enough to fill 57 bottles of Ireland's finest.

Zoll and RoofBloom's Chris Wegsheid were among 13 groups presenting ideas at the first edition of Solutions Twin Cities, a networking event/show-and-tell session/progressive social, organized by Colin Kloecker, a blogger at Worldchanging Twin Cities who works at Cermak Rhoades Architects, and Troy Gallas, a member of Architecture for Humanity - Minnesota. Intended to showcase change-oriented projects in design, ecology, community development, and culture, Solutions takes its format from pecha kucha, a presentation format developed in Japan in which each each speaker gets 20 seconds to discuss each of 20 slides. As Worldchanging's Eric Larson aptly wrote, it's "no guff, no fluff, just the essence of the ideas."

While Zoll and Wegscheid fabricated a 3 x 4-foot section of roof, others used their time to discuss "future-positive creativity" ideas ranging from alternative currency systems and sustainable communities in Kenya and Uganda to Urban Earth, a new flower shop in southwest Minneapolis that's one of the country's only non-food-based co-operatives. For example:

• John Dwyer and Tom Westbrook of Studio 4284 presented student humanitarian architecture projects plus Shelter Architecture's Clean Hub, a shipping container that includes water purifying system, a compositing toilet and solar panels that can be dropped into slums or disaster zones after emergencies like Hurricane Katrina to provide clean water and sound shelter.

• Jacqui Belleau and Christian Trifilio of product-design firm Worrell Inc. showed plans for a mobile film trailer they're designing for FilmAID International, an NGO that brings entertainment and educational films on STDs to residents of refugee camps in Africa.

• Cathy ten Broeke, Hennepin County's Coordinator on Homelessness, offered shocking local statistics -- 9200 people are homeless in Minnesota on any given night, one-third of them in Hennepin County, and 47 percent are children or young adults -- before outlining the goals of "Heading Home Hennepin," a plan that involves expanding housing assistance, access to housing, and day-and-night one-stop service delivery, from medical care to housing placement, to homeless and borderline families and individuals.

Architecture for Humanity - Iowa members told of building an energy efficient bakery from straw bales and creating a recycling awareness campaign that hauled in thirty-five 50-pound bags of recyclables using a sculptural, floor-to-ceiling "sock" made of chicken wire and installed in a building on the Iowa State campus (the quirky project earned national attention from National Public Radio's SoundClips program).

• Scott Ervin of Alchemy Architects discussed his firm's acclaimed weeHouse prefab modernist homes and how designers, by utilizing techniques pioneered by car manufacturers and mobile home makers, can deliver on all three of the architect's pledges (of which, as the old saw goes, only two are usually on the table): Fast, Cheap, and Good.

Stephanie Kinnunen of NEED magazine unveiled the humanitarian magazine's second issue, which features stories about an all-women de-mining team in Cambodia, Minneapolis homeless advocate Mary Jo Copeland's Caring and Sharing Hands, and communities in Colombia that are banding together to kick out paramilitary groups that have contributed to a frightening statistic the country now claims: only Darfur has a larger population of internally displaced people.

While the format took some getting used to -- the rapid-fire nature of the talks meant for rushed, sometimes jumbled presentations, and the technology wasn't without its glitches -- the energy of the 250 or more attendees was palpable. Cheers went out after each 6:40 talk, a few tears were spotted, and the din of excited conversation filled the theater afterwards, muffling the strains of the Cadillac Kolstad Band's music.

That energy — or, more accurately, sustaining it — was the spark behind Solutions. Gallas and Kloecker got their inspiration for the event in November after a book-launch party in Northeast Minneapolis for Worldchanging: A User's Guide to the 21st Century, which included a slide-show of some of the book's most interesting revelations about sustainable design, green memes, and activism. [Full disclosure: I'm a volunteer blogger for Worldchanging and offered advice as he and Gallas developed the Solutions program.] While Kloecker was excited to see "the breadth of what was going on" in the realms of humanitarian architecture and green design, he said he was disappointed that "afterwards there was sort of this fizzle. There was no infrastructure in place to let the connections made that night go on."

Judging from the near sell-out crowd and its enthused response Wednesday night, Kloecker and Gallas have created a successful model for connecting like minds and, going Worldchanging one better, they've created an online hub to keep the energy going between editions: a Solutions mailing list, website (where all 13 presentations will be saved as YouTube videos), blog, Flickr group, and mySpace and Facebook pages.


Spider-Man Scales Front Page at Pioneer Press

Spider-Man took over the front page of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Friday -- and not the benevolent, good-guy superhero. Or so it seemed: Peter Parker's black-suited alter ego took up a quarter of the cover space, and the crouching web-slinger's ominous visage even obscured the name of the newspaper. The subhead read, "More villains, more action, more romance."

City Pages' Paul Demko seemed to think they left a line out: "More whoring ourselves out to advertisers."

True, the paper dedicated considerable space to the Sony Pictures film, opening May 4. In addition to 25 percent of the cover, half of the front of the Daily Life section went to the film review, the story was continued on 2E, and a full-color, 1/6-page ad for the movie appeared on 3E. (Across the river, the Star Tribune included a small photo teaser for the film on its cover, plus a review on the cover of its Scene section. Curiously, both print editions had a near-identical "Tangled Web" headline. I blame Par Ridder.)

Pioneer Press editor Thom Fladung said no ad dollars were involved in the decision to give the film such prominence. So why the hype?

"It's a huge movie opening tonight," he said. "On a day when we didn't have big compelling breaking news, I thought it was a way to make the front-page look distinctive."

But given Pioneer Press critic Chris Hewitt's rave-free review -- he said the film was "bloated," "a bust," "a real yawner," and "about as thrilling as walking into a cobweb" -- wasn't that action/romance/villains headline a bit of a bait-and-switch?

"Did it feel that way to you?" Fladung asked. "It didn't feel that way to me."

Related: "Front & Center: Metro Dailies Quietly Put Ads on Section Covers"


Again with the Internets

Calling himself "the commander guy," the prez again shows his command of the English language:
You've got a kid in Iraq who is emailing mom daily, talking about the realities of what he or she sees. Information is moving -- you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it's also moving through the blogosphere and through the Internets. It's amazing how many emails I see from people that are writing in what they think and what they hear.
But as C&L says, maybe Bush's big screwup is mentioning blogs at all: the "Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mail messages, without first clearing the content with a superior officer," according to Wired.

AltWeeklyDeathWatch shuts down

The anonymous blog AltWeeklyDeathwatch, having taken more than a passing interest in City Pages' editor Kevin Hoffman, has stopped publishing after reporting Hoffman threatened legal action against what he dubs a "hate site." Created in January by former employees of Village Voice and New Times (now merged as Village Voice Media), the site aimed to "chronicle the death spiral of the American alternative weekly as it descends through identity crisis, self-parody, and irrelevance."

In its final post, the site said Hoffman "has rained both legal and vaguely physical threats on our source," and added that the decision to stop publishing was made after "folks with no connection to this blog are named in a comments section."

The site has criticized Hoffman's writing, professional demeanor, and editorial style, while also veering into more personal areas: his marriage, choice of tattoos, and personal appearance. Asked to comment on AltWeeklyDeathwatch's shutdown, he said, "No, I'm not going to comment on that site."