Michael Gartner, an Impressive Journalist

Among some of the yellowed clippings in my files, I have one by Michael Gartner, who at one time wrote a syndicated column, “Words,” that appeared in my local newspaper. I clipped this column, I think, because of his explanation of the difference between using “eager” and “anxious” in one’s writing. Here’s part of what he said:

Eager means intensely desirous or impatiently expectant.
Anxious means worried and distracted, uneasy.
‘Anxious has a long history of use in America as a synonym for eager,’ the American Heritage Dictionary says, ‘but many insist that the distinction between the two words should be maintained only when its subject is apprehensive or concerned about the event anticipated.
‘I was anxious to get home before it rained, but I was eager (not anxious) to get home and have a nice dinner.’
I’m among the many who want to maintain the distinction. You should, too.”

I”ve always been impressed with his command of the language. I’m also impressed with him in his role as a journalist with the Des Moines Register, the Wall Street Journal, the Gannett Company and USA Today and the Louisville Courier Journal. When he wrote the “Words” column, Gartner was president of NBC News.

According to Wikipedia, he resigned from NBC in 1993 as a result of controversy over the “Dateline NBC” show, which had reported on dangers of GM pickup trucks but which did not state in the broadcast that it had staged the explosion of a truck. Later, in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Gartner said, “It happened on my watch. I took responsibility for it. I did what I thought you ought to do when you make a mistake. You say ‘we made a mistake’ and apologize to the viewers.”

That sort of honesty is in short supply among today’s journalists. Many of them will not even interview those whose views differ from their own. And when they do include opposing sources in a story, they often present only a negative aspect of the views of the opposition.

If you’d like to learn more about Michael Gartner, USA Today in June 2006 ran a delightful article that he wrote, “A Life Without Left Turns.” Read it. I think you’ll like it.

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The List of Banished Words (and Phrases) for 2010

Lake Superior State University has released its list of banished words for 2010 and I’m glad to say that I agree that most of them should be banished, and quickly. This was the university’s 35th annual list of words “banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.” I was especially pleased to see “teachable moment” appear on the list. That phrase seems to show up with too much regularity everywhere.

A former public relations director with the university created the first list in 1975 at a New Year’s Eve party and released it the next day. The Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan school (it’s located near the U.S./Canada international border, which probably accounts for use of the phrase “Queen’s English”) has published a list of the troublesome words ever since. And readers are already sending in nominations for next year’s list.

In addition to “teachable moment,” the 2010 list includes these:
shovel-ready
transparent/transparency
czar
tweet
app (which I contend is not even a word but a made-up sound for people too lazy to use the proper term, application)
sexting (sending sexually explicit pictures and text messages through the cell phone)
friend (as a verb–you add someone to your social networking site by friending them and remove them by unfriending them)
in these economic times (“overused and redundant,” commented Barb Stutesman of Three Rivers, Michigan on the university website. “Aren’t ALL times ‘these economic times?'”)
stimulus (not only our money that is handed out freely to others but also a term much over-used by politicians and reporters, and by companies advertising their wares and services)
toxic assets (I agree with many others that it’s a wretched term)
too big to fail (“Does such a thing exist?” asks Holli from Raleigh,NC. “We’ll never know if a company is too big to fail unless somehow it does fail, and then it will no longer be too big to fail. Make it stop!”)
bromance (I still haven’t figured this one out. Is it anything like that earlier monstrosity “frenemies” for people who used to be friends but now are enemies? Does it mean parties to a broken romance? Something else? I give up.)
chillaxin (“A made-up word used by annoying Gen-yers,” according to a Fond du Lac, Wisconsin visitor to the university website.)
Obama-prefix or roots? (Obamanomics, Obamanation, Obamafication, Obamacare, Obamamalicious, Obamaland–where will it end? Do we have to suffer these so-called words until the next election?)

The 2010 list made my spell checker go crazy!

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They Held The First-Ever National Magazine Day and I Missed It

As a magazine junkie, I am distressed to find out that they held the first ever national magazine day last week and I missed it. That event took place on February 27 but I didn’t know about it until yesterday, when I dropped by Mr.Magazine’s blog and found “’Attack the Stack’ Ushers the First National Magazine Day.”

I always learn so much when I go to the site of Mr. Magazine (Samir Husni). According to him, the organizer of the First National Magazine Day is Kevin Smokler, a San Francisco writer who hopes it will become an annual holiday event. Mr. Magazine includes this quote from Smokler’s website:

On Saturday, February 27th, ordinary folk across America (like you, like me) will spend the day ‘attacking the stack’ or reading their way through the unread magazines they’ve accumulated. If you’re a big goody-goody and read your magazines straight through the moment they arrive, you may spend the day at your local library/bookstore/university exploring new periodicals, discussing your favorite magazines with friends, tweeting your favorite articles. As you wish.”

Considering the number of unfinished magazines on my office shelves (and in my living room, bedroom, etc.) the event would have suited me just fine. According to another bit from Smokler’s website, it is “a celebration of magazines and attacking the stack of unread titles piling up next to your bathroom sink.” And no matter where we live, he wants us to

invite friends over and rummage through each other’s stacks (of magazines). Spend the day reading at your local coffee shop or library. Mulch your magazines and construct a giant papier-mache wildebeest. It’s up to you. The idea is to spend the day having fun and forming community around a shared love of magazines.”

I’ve already marked the day on my 2011 calendar so I won’t miss the event next year. Although I’m nowhere near San Francisco, I figure I can be there in spirit to celebrate the day. Mr. Magazine sent congratulations to all magazine lovers on finally having a day they can call their own. I add my own congratulations.

You can read more about the “1st Ever National Magazine Day at The Booksmith.”
at Mr. Magazine’s blog on his website, and on of Kevin Smokler’s website.)
There’s also an interesting interview with Smokler here.

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