Greg T. Spielberg

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Lee Carpenter’s Tim Tebow story needs a warning label

In Uncategorized, writing on August 20, 2010 at 4:37 pm

This picture is from a fun post  by Tom Scott. He affixes warning labels to different journalism stories that reflect the reason for their short-comings. For instance, “Warning: To ensure future interviews with subject, important questions were not asked.” This mask my favorite because the practice or writing “some would say” or “some claim” should never get into print anywhere, any time. It’s like being at the bar with a group of friends and calling out one of them: “Hey, why are you being so awkward?” Even if they’re not being awkward at all, it gets a false ball rolling.

Leaning on “some would say” or “some would claim” or “according to some” automatically means we’re dealing with a pale-faced sandwich of a story that should be tossed out. It’s not necessarily a journalist hiding his/her own views as it is creating a false reason for the story.  Earlier today, before I saw the Scott page, I tweeted this:

Yahoo is forever king of misleading, false, gossipy headlines. “Injury reinforces concerns about Broncos’ Tebow.”

The story by Lee Carpenter is exactly the type of story that should come with a warning, except it should just say, “This story contains the phrase ‘some people claim.'” Carpenter suggests that Tim Tebow, the rookie quarterback for the Denver Broncos, is considered unfit for the NFL. He says that Tebow’s pre-season plunge into the endzone, where he injured a Bengals defender and himself, reinforces an existing concern about Tebow’s style of play. There certainly has been criticism of Tebow’s game in the past — that he runs too much, that he doesn’t have a good a good-enough arm. Those are fair. But Carpenter doesn’t actually reference a critique at any point in his story. Instead, he writes, “those who say his style of throwing the ball is too cumbersome to translate to the professional game and find his headfirst plunges into the chests of tacklers as a great way to get hurt rather than a heroic display of manhood.”

“Those who say” needs a link. Otherwise Carpenter isn’t building an argument off anything. Barreling into the end zone is common. NFL quarterbacks do that. John Elway barreled into the end zone during Super Bowl XXXII. Donovan McNabb did the same thing last year and broke his ribs. Both are legit, long-career QBs. McNabb-frequent All-Pro. Elway-Hall of Famer and former Bronco. Steve Young scrambled, too, and won a Super Bowl. He had a weird delivery, played second-string, went to BYU.

“And so,” Carpenter writes, “a month into his NFL career, before a real game has been played, the worst fears about Tebow have been realized.” Whose fears? What fear. Mike Kils, sportswriter for the Denver Post, does a great job laying out the injuries that have resulted from Tebow’s running back style and includes quotes from past Florida teammates and specific examples. No warning needed.


Copying Ben McGrath

In Uncategorized, writing on August 10, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Hunter Thompson famously copied The Great Gatsby to learn the architecture of Fitzgerald’s sentences. His cadence. The length of each sentence. His punctuation and commas, and the speed with which Fitzgerald unfolded information. It was probably like osmosis. Picking up patterns that repeated themselves as they have to throughout an entire book.

This is such a good idea, and I don’t hear about much. I used to play piano and violin in elementary and middle school, and sheet music was essential to picking up the tune. Even for Suzuki, the memorization method, we started off with sheet music.

I’m copying a Ben McGrath Talk of the Town piece from the New Yorker right now. I have trouble synthesizing information and breaking it down from disjointed pieces of information into a clean flow. Talk of the Towns move quickly (as stories in the best publications typically do), but they still have the textured images and details that make visualizing the scene very easy. I want to be able to do that.

I just got through the first paragraph of his short piece about leadership training at the Columbia School of Arts. I’m only through one paragraph, and it’s scary. It feels like plagiarism and seems like a waste of time. The plagiarism tenseness is like breathing underwater with scuba gear for the first time. My entire body — from my chest to my fingers — wants to pull away from the action, and my breathing got shallow. I think this will be good, though.

Here this week: Optimistic women means optimistic me. The future of debit accounts. How banks go from fired to hired in one day.

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Women run the consumer economy. If they’re happy; I am too. Here’s why.

In the future, all debit accounts will be run through our driver’s licenses. It’s about time.

I’ve always been curious how a bank can fail on a Friday and reopen on a Saturday. A look at Renasant Bank’s takeover of Crescent’s 11 branches in Northern Georgia explains how.

Gay couples save more/pregnant women get screwed. B of A pushes insurance. Debit cards ramp up rewards

In stories, Uncategorized on July 23, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I’m on the bank and plastics beat at Bundle now, and am starting to build a feewatch twitter account. This week, I wrote three stories for Bundle, finished up a story about the MBA job market for C-Change, a feature story about the Stirling engine and a ront-of-book piece for Ode. Those won’t be published for a bit, but here are the Bundle stories.

Debit cards looking for all your cash

I sign up for Hartford Insurance hospital coverage recommended by Bank of America.

Pregnant doctor and her dual-degree husband are briefly stopped from getting a loan + gay couples save more

What a day for the New York Times. Why tapping college professors is a journalism company’s top priority

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Manhattan solstice by Soy Boy. Courtesy of Streetwater. SW

At dinner tonight, we were talking about journalism models and what I keep coming back to is Time as an example for a poor model. Time can be filled with fantastic writers each week, and business would boom. Simple as that. Bloomberg’s first issue of Businessweek included a story by Michael Lewis. Why doesn’t Time get Michael Lewis? Or Malcolm Gladwell? Time Inc. can pay the best writers — one each week — to headline issues.

They can also get college professors who are masters of topics and can turn out a 1,000-word story in a week. Adding flavor might be the a problem, but that wouldn’t be too much trouble for an editor that’s being handed a beautifully synthesized package of facts. College professors work largely off recognition, too, and as Art Markman a cognitive scientist at UT-Austin told me, his issue is getting the word out there to large numbers of people.

The New York Times had three fantastic stories today, two of which were written by college professors. Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor, writes about the meritocratic, inclusive nature of WASPs. Camille Paglia argues that flibanserin, female Viagra, won’t spice up an American woman’s sex life that’s been killed by sanitized working environments, androgynous genders and the lack of mystique between sexes. She’s wrong, but sparked great conversation today for me today. Paglia is a professor at the University of the Arts in Philly.

(The third story about the arrest of deep-cover Russian spies living as American citizens isn’t written by professors, but is a must-read and only the beginning of 500 stories from various outlets.  It’s written by a Scott Shane and Charlie Savage with reporting by Benjamin Weiser, Nate Schweber, Kenneth Change, Andy Newman, Colin Moynihan, Mark Mazzetti, Yeganeh June Torbati and Abby Goodnough.)

Utilizing college professors to write articles is, to me, the No. 1 priority for journalism companies.

1) They have deep knowledge about specific topics and can write coherently on a narrow angle. Feldman frames a religious-cultural issue through the selection of Supreme Court justices, a timely lede corresponding with Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings. He has an upcoming book about FDR’s many justices and uses an anecdote from Roosevelt in 1939. Very rich. Feldman then ties Supreme Court justices with Princeton, a longtime WASP bastion. He’s the first person (to me) who points out that if Kagan were confirmed, it would make three straight Supreme Court selections from the Ivy League School. (Alito Class of ’72, Sotomayor Class of ’76, Kagan Class of ’81.) Feldman provides contextual color for the pre-Alito days by quoting Hemingway. He writes:

“When Hemingway described Robert Cohn in the opening of ‘The Sun Also Rises’ as a Jew who has been ‘the middleweight boxing champion of Princeton,’ he was using the shorthand for a character at once isolated, insecure and pugnacious.”

Feldman’s whole story is rich, thoughtful and tight. He makes a compelling case for the Protestant inclusiveness, which is entirely different than the idea of WASPs as homogenous and elitist. He’s simply more powerful than 99 percent of journalists, and writers like this should be unrolled daily by major journalism companies.

Same goes for Paglia who is granular as hell and doesn’t blanket-statement anything. She has time to think and loves doing it. Contributing to a lady’s libido death is (in order of appearance): bourgeois proprietary, censorship, repression, Victorian prudery, the priggish 1950s, careerist technocracy, elite schools’ ideological view of gender as a social construct, the discreet white-collar realm, sanitized office space, office space androgyny, family life, men’s clothing, over-familiarity, simplified Hollywood plot lines, filmmakers, cartoonishly pneumatic superheroines, an appreciation for efficient bodies, rock’s superego. “Lust,” she sums up, “is too fiery to be left to a pharmacist.”

2) Professors are cheap. A professor is already paid, so a journalism company really doesn’t have to offer anything more than exposure. Michael Lewis and Gladwell are still journalists and have to be paid like great ones.

That’s a strong proposition: powerful writers a journalism company can pay at beginner rates in exchange for providing massive exposure to a professor’s thoughts. This, to me, is a central tenet of strong journalism companies in the future.