Friday, March 23, 2007

Reading went well. Mostly wanted to know about the coverage of "swastika incident" mentioned in book. The reporting of the finding of the Nazi symbol in a San Francisco fire house was a perfect example of "lemming journalism"in which everyone followed the leader in lockstep. The swastika turned out to be a decade old and had "Fritz' foxhole" on it, a fact that went unmentioned in the public prints until the complaining firefighters lost their discrimination suit. Even with this, newspapers kept repeating that a "swastika was found in a San Francisco fire house." Caroline Paul refers to this in her fine book "Fighting Fire." Remember, this incident led to a federal judge saying the SFFD was "out of control." The feds eventually overseered the department's hiring practices. One firefighter who read the book called me and said the Chronicle ran a photo of the offending symbol but airbrushed out "Fritz' Foxhole." Turned out "Fritz" was a German-American firefighter and the well-crafted wooden swastika was presented as a retirement gift that was left forgotten in a locker until someone, we don't know who, found it years later.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

more code

I get my first real test today. I will speak to a book club where each member has read "Philip's Code: No News is good News - to a Killer." The book is doing well. I will go on Amazon after I sell the latest batch of 100. I know the book will sell, but it will take a good agent or a break. It is definitely headed for a niche market, say people who believe in the "liberal media," which we all know is a myth, like global warming or evolution. Bet I ruffled some lefties with that. I think the news media has (stick "have." The wire services are so powerful as to comprise a monopoly and a singular. We don't say United States are, do we? Before the Civil War we did). The news business has bigger problems than mere bias. Betrayal of a public trust tops my list. When the competition provided by UPI vanished, absolute power filled the vacuum. We know what that does. Strange that this failing dovetails with the rise of the computer. That is why my book is dedicated t o all those who still believe the "pen is mighter than the mouse."

Saturday, March 3, 2007

more code

I came into the news game in San Francisco in 1960 when there were bars with such names as "The Fourth Estate" and "The Byline" that catered to reporters and editors. Those havens and heavens are long gone, victims of change that snuffed out smoking, a subculture and a profession. I was a cub for just a month or so when I saw two reporters fight in an alley outside a bar because one called the other a "hack" for always writing that "the union demanded" and "the company offered." Never the other way around. Today journalists belong to advocacy groups, which would have been heresy when I got my first press pass.
I was never called a hack, a word I would have regarded as a compliment. To "hack" out 400 words or so under deadline pressure was the essence of reporting at a wire service, which has a deadline every minute. Somewhere a newspaper, radio or TV station needs that story - and needs it now.
I know that today many people get their news from the net, but most of them are lost when asked "where does the Internet gets its news?"