What to write next?

Deciding what to write or edit or otherwise work on next has been a simple matter throughout my day-job career. As a general assignment reporter for daily newspapers, of course, there were daily assignments and clear deadlines and, when I filled in on the police or courthouse beats, I had other stories to chase down and photos to shoot.

Pixabay image. Some may recognize this as a typewriter.
Pixabay image. Some may recognize this as a typewriter.

Deadlines these days are more flexible and often self-imposed if they exist at all, but the priorities are usually pretty obvious.

Writing on my own time is quite different. Deciding what to write next, what work of crime fiction or other story to tell over the next several weeks and months, has been a mystery lately. My first two crime novels were done in fits and starts and stops and restarts over a longer time than I care to admit. Since sending the second one out into the world not long ago, I’ve been lost, without creative purpose.

Now I know I have to start something new. Not writing is not an option. Many other writers will relate to that.

Some people have asked if there will be another book in the Detective Red Shaw series. I honestly don’t know. It won’t be what I write next, but in the past few days I did decide what the next thing will be.

I will let you know when it’s done.

Read on,

B.J.

Vultures circling, Denver Post calls for its own sale

Anyone who understands the importance of a strong, free press will be disturbed about the precarious state of journalism in Colorado.

So dire is the situation that the Denver Post today called out its owner, a New York City hedge fund, for yet another round of cutbacks. It called on Alden Global Capital to sell the newspaper to an owner that is “willing to do good journalism.”

The Denver Post has done good journalism for decades but is being starved of the resources it needs to continue. These are challenging times for most news organizations, yet many, including The Post, can and do remain viable if that’s what ownership wants.

The Post’s ability to fulfill its important role in the community has been diminished by round after round of greed-induced reductions in newsroom personnel. The latest cuts will further damage its ability to keep us informed.

I could go on, but read the newspaper’s own call for action and act accordingly:

As vultures circle, The Denver Post must be saved

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Columnist’s phony ‘compromise offer’ to the politically correct

Accusing the Denver Post of pandering by proxy to the ignorant, intolerant right end of the political spectrum by publishing pieces like this one by Jon Caldara might be a bit of a stretch, but what the hell.

As a writer and editor myself, I would demand better of a person who identifies as “a Denver Post columnist.” I would expect a columnist to have a better understanding of the importance of words than Caldara exhibited in his “compromise offer.”

No one is “mandated” to use what he derisively calls “politically correct terms.” In our still free society, we can learn to respect others’ wishes regarding how they prefer to be identified, or we can be like Caldara: Insult them as hyper-sensitive snowflakes and whine like a spoiled child about how many syllables they expect us to use.

I know Caldara didn’t really intend to reach out to anyone with his phony compromise. Some years ago I edited nationally syndicated opinion columns, so I’m familiar with some of their devices. He used “sincere” when he meant “insincere.” He proposed to make a deal with the imaginary “PC” monolith that the right so loves to hold up to ridicule. He tried to use his son, his “Downs kid,” to gain some sympathy and score anti-PC points.

Jon, here’s the same question I asked you on Twitter: How many syllables in “libertarian-conservative”? Probably way too many by your standards, but if that’s how you identify, stick with it.

Dear Denver Post, I think I’ll go with “pandering by proxy” after all. You can do better.

“Good content can’t be free”

That’s a direct quote from an opinion piece by Bloomberg View columnist Leonid Bershidsky. It ran a few days ago in the Denver Post, which I read both in print and online. I pay for it.

In the context of Bershidsky’s piece, I could not agree more. He writes about the trend toward paywalls that real news organizations use to get paid. The jury is still out on how well that will work out, but news consumers will pay and should pay for good, trustworthy reporting.

I also could not agree more with his statement in another context: News organizations and others that charge for their content or that generate ad revenue by providing content should pay the people who write it.

Good content can’t be free.

Bershidsky points out that the Huffington Post, which has a history of getting something for nothing from gullible writers, has “scaled back its platform for unpaid bloggers.” That’s a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough.

I don’t imagine the Huffington Post cares, since it is on the receiving end of a content giveaway, but writers who donate their work to help such companies make a profit demean themselves. They also drive down compensation and dry up opportunities for professional writers, freelance and otherwise. (Much of what they give away is crap, too. It’s true that you get what you pay for.)

Until such platforms for unpaid bloggers are gone, or those bloggers stop giving their work away, I won’t be reading anything that companies like the Huffington Post publish. Neither should you.

Throwing journalists out of the White House is throwing the people out

The Esquire story about ending the decades-old presence of reporters in the White House will warm the hearts of those who enjoy denigrating “the press.”

the-white-house-1623005_1280It certainly isn’t a surprise that the new administration would consider taking the matter so far. They know that it pays to pander to the minority of voting citizens who helped them win the Electoral College vote. News organizations are an easy target.

The story quotes someone identified as a senior official as calling the press “the opposition party” and saying, “We are taking back the press room.” The new press secretary maintains that the move is about logistics, that having press conferences and briefings elsewhere will enable more “press” to attend. (Coincidentally or not, it would also enable the positioning of more paid staff to cheer and applaud.)

The words and the symbolism are important, so I think we need to clarify some terms.

Journalists (news reporters and editors) play an important role in our society. Unfortunately in some cases, so do the analysts, columnists, commentators, propagandists, and bloviators that some citizens mistake for journalists.

Journalists report on what is going on in the world and help readers and viewers understand what’s going on by providing valuable context. The others may or may not do that.

The former keep an eye on those in power on behalf of the citizens to whom the powerful are accountable. Some of the latter have the best interests of the public in mind; others have their own political or financial interests in mind. Some will lie if necessary or profitable.

Powerful people and others who see it to their advantage throw all of these purveyors of information and or lies* into the nebulous category of “the press,” or the more all-encompassing “the media.”

If moving the “press room” out of the White House makes it more difficult for journalists to do their work, that is cause for concern.

When the incoming administration labels journalists an “opposition party,” it puts itself in direct opposition to the American people and the U.S. Constitution.

It slaps all citizens in the face, whether they feel the sting yet or not.


* Lie: Fake news, misinformation, and disinformation are among the popular euphemisms for this straightforward and easily understood term. See the Merriam-Webster definition of the verb form that means making an untrue statement with intent to deceive.

What y’all owe me, and I owe you

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You don’t read much poetry.
That’s an assumption on my part,
and I can’t say that I blame you.

Poetry is for everybody but
it can be hard to understand
or appreciate, and
it doesn’t always rhyme
and what the hell is up with that?

So this isn’t poetry,
because I want you to read it.

It is my opinion.
It is about what I think
you owe me and
what I owe you
and what we both deserve
as human beings.

We owe each other our honesty.

We owe each other our
best efforts to understand
the differences between news
and disinformation,
between facts and what people
are calling “fake news,”
which is a tricky new term for lies.

I could go on about
what news is
from the perspective of a guy
who studied journalism
and who wrote and edited news
for newspaper readers.

I’ll spare you that
(you’re welcome)
because I think
you already know what news is.

About those best efforts
that we owe each other:

I’m going to trust that the words
and pictures and videos
that you share with me and
the rest of the world
are not lies.

I need to be able to trust
that you think hard about
what you share before you share it.

I will not lie to you.

Let’s not disappoint each other.
Deal?

Contrastly, I couldn’t find it in a dictionary

Constrastly.

That string of letters (I hesitate to use the word “word” here) turned up in this otherwise sort of interesting piece about sports “journalism” and the teaching thereof.

I don’t know much about this Bill Simmons guy except that there are a gazillion articles and blog posts about his departure from ESPN clogging up news feeds throughout the civilized world right now.

Based on what I’ve read, though, I’m not sure I would call him a journalist.

Feel free to agree or disagree.

Embed from Getty Images