Yoo-hoo, Yahoo! Anybody home?

I’ve seen a lot of bad editing over the years, but Yahoo! News raised the bar on awful to a new level yesterday. How on earth could a writer begin a piece with . . .

President Barack Obama makes the first extended trip to Africa of his presidency next week — but he won’t be stopping in the country of his birth. [Boldface is mine.]

. . . and have such a dumb mistake make its way onto a news website?

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post asks three questions, two of which are well worth repeating here:

1) How on earth?

3) Any editing over there?

Emotional distress

Fox News Being Sued For Accidentally Airing Suicide On TV (Mediaite)

You may recall that last September, Fox News aired a car chase that culminated in JoDon Romero getting out of his car and shooting himself in the head. His suicide was aired on Fox before they could cut to commercial, and Shepard Smith apologized on the air for showing it. Now, Romero’s three young children (one of them only nine years old) have filed suit against Fox News, claiming the cable channel’s airing of their father’s suicide has caused them serious emotional distress.

I feel bad for the victim’s kids — how could you not? — but what a ridiculously frivolous lawsuit. It may have turned out to be in bad taste, but there’s no law against bad taste. Fox News had a First Amendment right to show the video, accidentally or not.

We’ve seen video of all sorts of monstrous tragedies — the World Trade Center collapse, the tsunamis in Japan and Thailand, two space shuttle explosions, assorted plane crashes . . . Can you imagine if events like these were followed by lawsuits against the TV channels that showed them, complaining about emotional distress?

That’s what the news IS. Every “good” story is emotionally distressing to someone.

This lawsuit is just plain silly.

Worth reading, 06/20/13

Tom Sietsema: Just say ‘No, grazie’ to La Tagliatella (Washington Post)

La Tagliatella in Arlington makes a strong case for hazard pay for restaurant critics. The Italian concept, an unfortunate import from Europe that plays up 400 combinations of pasta and sauce, is so distasteful on so many different levels, I was tempted to dismiss it after just one visit. I changed my mind when I considered its prime corner real estate in Clarendon and the Poland-based chain’s intention to expand elsewhere in the United States.

Someone needs to put a stop to this threat to our nation….

The slick menus with their commercial-grade food shots suggest the sort of reading you might find on the desk of a budget hotel or the seat pocket of an airplane….

The wines by the glass will remind you of the stuff you left behind in college, but the drinks here are generous and strong. Cocktails, it turns out, are one way to get through a meal at La Tagliatella, a brand unleashed on America last year with two branches in Atlanta, poor thing.

Yeah, he didn’t like the place. And the Washington Post asks on its homepage if this may be its harshest food critique ever. But Sietsma’s review pales in comparison to the standard set last November in the New York Times, Pete Wells’ unforgettable review of Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar Restaurant in Times Square.

Bon appétit!


Wait, Am That Baseball Dad? (Slate)

Excessive behavior is embarrassing to your child, it’s embarrassing to yourself, and it teaches your child all the wrong lessons about sportsmanship, character and grace. But even if you’re not risking those outcomes, there is a challenge to finding the line between unconditional love and intensity. Even if you stop short of acting like the horrible parent, there’s a finer line to walk. You don’t want to smother the experience for them with too much engagement. It’s their game—just as it’s their life. Know when to butt out.

I’ve seen the worst of parents at Little League games. Smoking was not allowed on school grounds where my kids played Little League. One day, a mom lit up a cigarette from her seat on the grass berm behind the team I managed. One of the kids complained to me that she was smoking. I asked her nicely to put out her cigarette. She stood up, and loudly — so that everyone at the game could hear — told me she’d do whatever she want. Then she flipped me the bird, for added effect.

I once was umpiring a game at first base. A dad sat down in a chaise longue (yes, I spelled that correctly) with a six pack of beer and booed every call I made throughout the game.

I was umpiring behind the plate once when my second-base umpire made a bad call. But it was HIS call and I couldn’t reverse it. The fans from the team that got screwed spent the next inning booing loudly at every ball or strike I called. It got ugly. I told them if the abuse continued, I would have to stop the game, which would mean a forfeit. I was told that if I did, I wouldn’t make it to my car in the parking lot. They were serious. A kid I knew was on the team and he literally told his teammates, the umpire is OK. It’s Mr. Bromberg. I felt bad for him, because he felt bad for me.

Little League parents are the worst.


‘Ex-gay’ group says it’s shutting down; leader apologizes for ‘pain and hurt’ (nbcnews.com)

A Christian ministry that led the so-called ex-gay movement, which professes to rid people of their homosexuality, has announced that it will shut down, and its leader apologized extensively to gays for causing “pain and hurt.” . . . .

The president of Exodus, Alan Chambers, said late Wednesday on the ministry’s website that he had “conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions” but now accepts them “as parts of my life that will like always be there.”

Addressing gays, Chambers, who is married to a woman, wrote: “You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours.”

“Sorry” doesn’t quite cut it here. The damage Exodus International has done for more than a third of a century is incalculable.


Strategist Out of Closet and Into Fray, This Time for Gay Marriage (New York Times)

As the Supreme Court considers overturning California’s ban onsame-sex marriage, gay people await a ruling that could change their lives. But the case has already transformed one gay man: Ken Mehlman, the once-closeted Republican operative who orchestrated President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election on a platform that included opposition to same-sex marriage.

Now Mr. Mehlman, a private equity executive in Manhattan, is waging what could be his final campaign: to convince fellow Republicans that gay marriage is consistent with conservative values and good for their party. His about-face, sparked in part by the lawyer who filed the California lawsuit, has sent him on a personal journey to erase what one new friend in the gay rights movement calls his “incredibly destructive” Bush legacy.

To his credit, Mehlman is trying to undo much of the harm he helped inflict before he came out.


Tea party scalds Marco Rubio (Dana Milbank in the Washington Post)

The tea party returned to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, but this time the don’t-tread-on-me crowd trod upon one of its own.

Much of the scene was familiar: the yellow flags, the banners protesting tyranny and socialism, the demands to impeach President Obama and to repeal Obamacare. But there was a new target of the conservatives’ ire: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and his “amnesty” plan for illegal immigrants. The loathing of this onetime darling of the movement — Rubio rode the tea party wave to office in 2010 — could be seen in the homemade signs on the East Lawn of the Capitol proclaiming, “Rubio RINO” (Republican In Name Only) and “Rubio Lies, Americans Die.” Rubio antagonism became a main theme of the event, held by Republican Reps. Steve King (Iowa), Louie Gohmert (Tex.), Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and other opponents of the bipartisan Senate immigration legislation that Rubio negotiated.

Et tu, Tea?

Worth reading, 06/19/13

A couple of fine columns today by two of the best.

Read Maureen Dowd in the New York Times for her insights on the Whitey Bulger trial:

Johnny “The Executioner” Martorano, who turned government witness and copped to killing 20 men and women as part of Whitey Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang, explained to Whitey’s lawyer Tuesday in federal court here that he was motivated by love of family and friends.

“I didn’t enjoy killing anybody,” he said. “I enjoyed helping a friend if I could.”

If anybody insulted, implicated or roughed up his brother or a friend’s brother, if anybody looked at him funny while he was with a date, if anybody ratted on his fellow gang members, if anybody could eyewitness a crime committed by an “associate,” he grabbed a .38 or a knife, a fake beard, a walkie-talkie or a towel to keep the blood off his car, and sprang into action. And somebody usually ended up in a trunk somewhere, sometimes still groaning.

And read Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post because, hey, you gotta love a column that features the word fecundity:

Distilled to a slogan, politics of late goes something like this: “I’m more fertile than you are.”

It seems fecundity is emerging as the best argument for public office, policy or even citizenship. What was once an unconscious appraisal — Is this person strong, healthy and vital? — has morphed into the sort of explicit review one usually associates with an X rating….

This brings us unavoidably to Sarah Palin, who reminded us recently that fertility is the ultimate trump card.


Study Finds Sharp Drop in HPV Infections in Girls (New York Times)

Imagine that. You vaccinate girls against HPV, and the world doesn’t come to an end. And fewer women will get cervical cancer. This is awful news, right family-values types?

Waiting to hear from Michele Bachmann on this.


The Privilege of the Unpaid Intern (New York Times)

I’ve worked at places where the internships were unpaid. The kids got a great experience, and the companies took full advantage of their hard work. And mommy and daddy picked up the tab. And that’s just plain wrong.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if internships are unpaid, the only kids who will be able to fill the “jobs” will be those who can afford not to make any money. Try to work your way out of poverty with that restriction. Hey kid, your mom gets food stamps? This internship — your pathway to a good career — just isn’t for you.


Columbia’s Cons: Ivy League social work program run by team of former prisoners (FOXNews.com)

EXCLUSIVE: In the hallowed halls of Columbia University, a nest of ex-cons — who have served time for murder, attempted murder, robbery and assault — hold court on their unique brand of social justice for admiring students enrolled in the school’s social work program, a FoxNews.com investigation has found.

The ex-cons work for or with the Criminal Justice Initiative (CJI), co-founded in 2009 by former Weather Underground operative and Columbia adjunct professor Kathy Boudin, who pleaded guilty to felony murder for her role in an infamous 1981 armed robbery that left two police officers and a security guard dead. And while that case was well-publicized, the group is hardly upfront about the “practical experience” of Boudin and others associated with the CJI.

I lived in Nyack for 25 years, and the 1981 murder of Officers Waverly Brown and Sean O’Grady will never be forgotten. I still can’t figure out how Kathy Boudin went from a life of privilege to a murderer. But I also can’t figure out why she’s an adjunct professor at Columbia University.

Say what you will about Fox News’ motives in this story. I’ll say this . . . They’re right.


Corrections and amplifications (Wall Street Journal)

A Bloody Mary recipe, which accompanied an Off Duty article in some editions on June 8 about the herb lovage, called for 12 ounces of vodka and 36 ounces of tomato juice. The recipe as printed incorrectly reversed the amounts, calling for 36 ounces of vodka and 12 ounces of tomato juice.

Lucky me

I saw Lucky Guy last night, and it reminded me how much I loved newspapering. Every day was a new day. The quiet ones were the worst. But even then, you knew the phone could ring any second and change everything.

I got a 1 a.m. call that Billy had referred to Reggie and George with the immortal words, “One’s a born liar, the other’s convicted.” I was there when the managing editor, Vinnie Musetto, told the metropolitan editor, Marc Kalech, that the Challenger launch would get 12 inches or so on Page 13, “and let me know if it crashes.” I was there for Headless Body in Topless Bar.

I inhaled way too much second-hand smoke and saw way too many reporters perform miracles under the influence of way too much alcohol. But the competition between The Post and The Daily News was thrilling.

I was night sports editor at The Post when McAlary and Drury were reporters, and I did not know how much both wanted to cover the city. McAlary wanted to be Breslin. Drury wanted to be Hunter Thompson.

McAlary came much closer. So happy that he won the Pulitzer, so sad that he died so young.

They were great days, and they’re gone now. But I was there when they were great, and nobody can take that away from me.



My first real-world boss was Ike Gellis, the legendary sports editor of the New York Post. How I got the job is told in this post. How I kept it will never cease to amaze me.

Ike sat behind a large wood desk in the middle of the sports department, a filthy room in a decrepit fortress of a building on South Street. He was lord of the room, able to see everything, hear everything.

Ike was described in Pete Hamill’s book, A Drinking Life, as “the world’s shortest Jew.” And he very well may have been. He stood about 4-11 in heels. That’s him at the top, in the center, his feet way off the ground, decades before we crossed paths. Ike was much older — and shorter — by the time I met him. (The Post’s longtime and hugely respected executive editor, Paul Sann, is on the right.)

There was a man named “Iggy” in the mailroom down the hall. He would stand on a stool so he could see through the window that separated his room from anyone coming to pick up or mail a letter. That’s because Iggy was a dwarf. Or as we say these days, a “little person.” He was also the only person in the building who was shorter than Ike. He’d stroll into the sports department now and then . . . and Ike would immediately get out of his chair. We’d all fight our best to suppress falling on the floor in gales of laughter. Iggy walks in, Ike stands up. He sure loved being taller than someone.

I held the lofty title of Sports Editorial Clerk, which meant I was a copy boy who could type a bit. When Ike’s glasses were dirty, he’d hand them to me to run to the bathroom and clean them. When Ike wanted to place a bet with the bookie downstairs, I was the one who went down and placed it. When he invited his friends in the building into the sports department to share some Isaac Gellis kosher hot dogs (yeah, he had a background in kosher meats), I was the one who got to clean out the pan Ike cooked them in. And no, I never got to eat a dog.

One of my assigned daily tasks was to compile the Sports on the Air, the listing of what sports were on TV and radio. It was a very serious job. I had to call all the stations and go through large piles of mail daily to collect all the information, and then make sure I got it right in the paper. Get the starting time of the Knicks game wrong, and all hell would break loose.

Here’s what you need to know about Ike. He was a New Yorker through and through. I think he traveled north of 86th Street only for Yankee games. He thought Yonkers Raceway was upstate. He thought Albany was in Manitoba. And TV was in New York, and that was all there was to it.

One day in late January, Ike was reading the Boston Globe. He looked at the Globe’s sports listings and discovered that the Super Bowl was going to air on Channel 7. But it said right there in the New York Post that it was on Channel 4. Clearly, somebody was wrong. And clearly, it was me.

“Hey Geronimo,” he said, motioning me over. “How come it says in the Boston Globe that the game is on Channel 7 and we say it’s on Channel 4?”

I explained that the NBC affiliate in Boston airs on Channel 7, and that the NBC affiliate in New York airs on Channel 4. This, of course, made no sense whatsoever to my boss.

“Better check it out,” he said.

And he watches as I walk back to my desk and ponder my next move. Do I call the top sports guy at NBC, with whom I spoke regularly, and ask if NBC is planning to air the Super Bowl on Channel 4 in New York? Ike is watching. He’s waiting for me to pick up the phone.

Here’s to Sid Friedlander, assistant sports editor, who took pity on me and ambled over to Ike to explain that NBC would, in fact, air the game on Channel 7 in Boston and Channel 4 in New York. It’s kind of how TV works, Sid told Ike.

Ike didn’t quite understand it, but he could accept it because Sid said it was so. No way he was going to believe me.

Time for some diversity. Or not.

“Letters From Dad” are a routine read on Father’s Day. You round up a few dads, ask them to pen letters to their kids, and you publish them so that readers can nod and think yeah, that’s what fatherhood is all about. The most important thing I’ll ever do and I’m so proud of you and you’re the best thing I’ve ever done and it’s the greatest role I’ll ever play and blah blah blah.

And you know people will read the “letters from Dad,” because they’re the ultimate Father’s Day feelgood.

So wouldn’t you think Time Magazine’s editors would know there are some black dads capable of putting their thoughts into words?

Maybe not, as Mediaite noticed today.

What a dumb omission. Not too smart, Time.

Must read 06/16/13

Gail Collins’ column, The Other Side of the Story, in Saturday’s New York Times is on the essential reading list. If you’re not concerned about the possible effects of data mining, just read about Brandon Mayfield. It’s a chilling story, and worth remembering. Bookmark this one and reread it every now and then.

An AP story on FOXNews.com has a Methodist minister opposing license plates that feature an “iconic image of a young Apache warrior shooting an arrow skyward [that is] depicted in Allen Houser’s “Sacred Rain Arrow” statue [and] was a clear choice of a public that looked at more than 40 designs that featured Native American art, cowboy images and western and wildlife themes.”

Tourism officials hailed the license plate as a traveling billboard for Oklahoma, and the image was deemed the best license plate in the nation in 2009 by the American License Plate Collectors Association.

But a Methodist minister claims the plate is an affront to his Christian beliefs, and a federal appeals court ruled last week that the minister’s case can proceed.

“I think it’s important to understand that whether it was a Native American symbol or a symbol of any other faith, the issue would be the same,” said Keith Cressman, pastor at the St. Marks United Methodist Church in Bethany.

It pains me to say this, but the minister is right. If the image depicts a prayer, it does not belong on a license plate.

And finally, Mo Elleithee offers this on Salon: To my daughter on Father’s Day: Sorry I used to be a sexist. 

I never had a daughter, but I like to think I’d be writing this to her if I had.