Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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After Heath Ledger's Death, Watching Reporting Happen Live

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I thought L.A. Times writer David Sarno, writing on Web Scout, had a good point about the finger-pointing that happened after various online writers got various details of Heath Ledger’s death wrong in their rapid-response blogging:
If you watched the story of Heath Ledger’s death explode chaotically across the Internet, with facts, errors, inconsistencies and confusions flying every which way, you may have concluded that in the new digital media’s race to break stories in minutes, accuracy has been left in the dust.

But here’s the problem: Stories have never arrived to the world fully formed or vetted. Journalists have generally had hours — not minutes or seconds — to craft a story from the blast wave of facts and factoids that comes in the wake of a bombshell. What people are seeing now is an old-fashioned process — reporting — as it unfolds in real time. If the public wants its information as raw and immediate as possible, it’ll have to get used to a few missteps along the way, and maybe even approach breaking stories with a bit of skepticism, like a good reporter would.
Briefly, some other (unrelated) links you’ll like: Bridget Collins, one of the chefs profiled in that very good New Yorker story about school lunches a year or two ago (find me the link and I’ll send you a copy of Sweet Valley High from 1983), has been hired to do her magic in Medford, Mass.; the Observer talks to George Packer, whose play Betrayed opens Feb. 6; and the National Catholic Reporter has a piece on the end of reading that responds to Caleb Crain’s recent story, among others. Caleb has been writing some very interesting blog posts that follow up on his piece, too, like “Is Reading Online Worse Than Reading Print?” and “Are Americans Spending Less on Reading?” Stop reading this blog, read his instead, then go buy a book! Then read it, in the bathtub—it’s nice, if you haven’t done it in a while.

NCR writer and Jesuit Fr. Raymond A. Schroth includes some prescriptions for university teaching that will no doubt be controversial, and others — “Every four years a teacher should have a reduced course load to participate in a faculty seminar to read, for example, the new translation of War and Peace or eight books on Iraq” — that sound pretty reasonable to me. Especially since professors aren’t guaranteed summers off anymore, committees multiply like Gremlins, and adjuncts have to wait tables and tutor in their spare time, so all that academic leisure in people’s imaginations is slipping away faster than you can say “Tenure? Dream on.”


Bloomberg News, which was broadcasting news online (albeit in a closed network through its terminals) for many years before the current wave of online news and blogs, always broke financial news immediately and then updated the same article throughout the day with emendations noted at the top. So maybe this isn’t so different except for the idea that not everyone reading today’s blogs understand upfront the inherent inaccuracies of breaking news.

That’s the piece! Are you sure you want a copy of The New Jessica, though? It’s yours for the taking, if so.

I remember Ann Cooper, and of course Alice Waters, who I believe was also mentioned in Bilger’s piece, but Bridget Collins was either a third chef who doesn’t appear in the abstract or was in another story altogether. I’ll see if the Complete New Yorker has any answers.

Well, I’ve now looked through Bilger’s piece, and great as it was, it contains no Bridget Collins. Oh well; Collins is still trying to do what Bilger was talking about, and that’s all for the good.

That’s OK. I thought it was Ann Cooper, (we read that article for the discussion group). It was interesting how Alice Waters’ idealism gets in the way of Cooper’s goals.

Also, the recent article by Michael Spector on carbon footprints adds to the confusion of identifying the environmental cost of food grown “local”.

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2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree