creativity, cynicism

The 7 Stupidest Things That Make People Proud |

One of these days, I’m going to get a “DOWN WITH CYNICISM!” bumper sticker. Because I’m that guy.

But Cracked has explained why “cynical” and “mature” are actually opposites:

As you grow into an adult, you find out it’s not a simple two-step process of positive illusion then negative reality, but more like the Frogurt routine from The Simpsons. When you’re a kid, you think owning a puppy will be all sunshine and roses. Then as you get older and take responsibility, you realize it’s a lot of poop and barking. But then, after a while, you find out all the poop and barking doesn’t matter when he loves you just the same no matter what stupid mistakes you’ve made. Then you realize you didn’t know how much it would hurt when you lost him. Then you get a free Frogurt from the vet. But then the Frogurt contains potassium benzoate.

(That’s bad.)

There is no final answer. Observant, curious people keep finding out more and more about everything in life, both good and bad, because life is fucking complex. The person who stops at stage 2, decides they’ve figured out “the real story” and stops looking has their curiosity stunted at adolescence.

via The 7 Stupidest Things That Make People Proud |


Why Wikipedia skeptics need to get with the times

The jokes have been predictable today. “Oh no,” your neighborhood Web comic says. “Wikipedia has gone dark! Where will I find my erroneous information?”

(Please don’t write me to claim this joke. It’s not original. There are, as Mike said on The Young Ones, as-yet-undiscovered tribes in the heart of the Peruvian jungle who knew you were going to say that. (That’s not a SOPA violation, is it?))

Aside from the lazy comics, I’ve also seen snide comments from journalists. “Oh, you don’t really use that site, do you?”

Yes, I do. Every day. Multiple times per day. I have a shortcut set up in Chrome so that I can type “wp (whatever)” and instantly get to whatever I’m seeking.

Oh, but anyone can change Wikipedia! I can make it say Bill Clinton is a duck!

Yes, you can. And in the few seconds before someone else changes Wikipedia, perhaps a couple of idiots will see that and think the United States was governed by something that quacks. They may even wonder how a duck can be involved in a sex scandal.

Here’s the thing — if you read something that sounds fishy on Wikipedia, it’s quite easy to check it out.  Good Wikipedia editors often include links to their sources.

So why not go to the original source?

If you know exactly what you need, and you just need to confirm it with a reputable source, great. But what if you don’t know what you need? Suppose you’ve been asked to write about someone and you don’t even know where to begin.

Let’s say you’ve been assigned to write about Ole Einar Bjorndalen. Not being European or me, you don’t know who he is.

Off to Wikipedia, where you can quickly discern the following …

  1. He has won nine Olympic medals in biathlon.
  2. He swept the biathlon gold medals in Salt Lake City 2002.
  3. He also won a cross-country skiing World Cup race.
  4. He married another biathlete.
  5. In 2006, he tested a new ski boot.
  6. He doesn’t seem to be doing quite as well this year as he has in the past.

Is your story done? Of course not. Do you have a general idea of who he is? Yes. Do you have specific facts, such as specific numbers of medals and so forth, that you can quickly verify by following a couple of links? Yes. You also have a couple of story ideas — a new ski boot and what appears to be a decline this season.

You could even click on “biathlon” and try to get a general sense of the sport and its history. You might even learn that it’s staggeringly popular in Germany. Or that it has roots in military exercises.

What would you have done before Wikipedia? You probably would’ve asked around of your buddies. “Hey, have you heard of a guy named Bjorg … Bjornday … he’s a bitrathlete or something?” And then you would’ve eventually found someone who thinks he remembers that he won a bunch of medals or something.

And that’s sooooooo much better than checking with Wikipedia.

Basically, Wikipedia is just the same thing as asking around of your friends. Except that your “friends” are millions and millions of people with a collective expertise in almost everything.

But by all means … ignore all that. You’re a journalist, after all. You already know it all, right?


Update to My Previous Post on Truth Vigilantes | The Public Editor –

NYTimes public editor (others call that job “ombudsman”) Arthur Brisbane attempts to remove his foot from his mouth:

A large majority of respondents weighed in with, yes, you moron, The Times should check facts and print the truth. That was not the question I was trying to ask. My inquiry related to whether The Times, in the text of news columns, should more aggressively rebut “facts” that are offered by newsmakers when those “facts” are in question. I consider this a difficult question, not an obvious one.

Yeah, no. Some of the criticism Brisbane received for his initial post was silly — a classic case of people not reading beyond the headline.

But Brisbane’s still wrong. It’s only a difficult question if you think objectivity is simply getting “both sides.” It’s not. Objective journalism is the quest to get the facts no matter what the partisans want you to say.

Yes, challenging mistruth is difficult. You have to deal with legitimate criticism as well as the idiots and cretins will always attempt to discredit the fact-checkers. These days, you’ll get called “liberal” more often than not.

Yet if no one checks facts, what would prevent politicians from inventing new reality? What would make us different from the Soviet Union of the 1970s? Our bulwark against propaganda is already too thin.

I’m glad Brisbane raised the question. Plenty of people have forgotten that journalists are supposed to do more than repeat partisan rhetoric. But the answer is indeed obvious.

via Update to My Previous Post on Truth Vigilantes | The Public Editor –


Halifax Media tells new employees to sign non-compete agreement | JIMROMENESKO.COM

So you’re scraping by on the money the NYT has been paying you — enough to live reasonably well, not enough to save a whole heck of a lot.

Then your paper gets sold. You hold your breath and find out you still have a job.

Then this …

Halifax Media tells new employees to sign non-compete agreement | JIMROMENESKO.COM

So when you leave a smallish newspaper to go elsewhere, you must first spend two years living off … nothing.

Unfortunately, that means something very simple: Tell your colleagues not to work for one of these papers. The only entities offering a deal worse than this have red capes and pitchforks.