Category Archives: The Liberal Media

Bibliomaniac’s Guide to Reading

Some days, it seems like reading is a lost art. Sure, we read text messages and Tweets and even Japanese cell phone novels; we read on the iPhone and the Kindle and maybe even the headlines at, but when was the last time you sat down with a serious work of literary fiction or long-form journalism and actually finished it? Whose was the last biography you read? The last book of essays? The last contender for Great American Novel?

The sad fact is, in the first quarter of 2009, one out of every seven books sold in the United States was by Stephanie Meyer, of Twilight fame.  The very existence of Dan Brown in the cannon should be enough to make writers, would be writers, and lit nerds alike throw down their swords and give up the fight. I’m not against popular literature–far from it–but wasn’t there a time in the not so distant past where we made a distinction between pop and pulp, where writers like Mark Twain,  Judy Blume and Kurt Vonnegut wrote blockbuster bestsellers that didn’t suck (and that’s just the Americans). Sure, good writers are still out there ( and G-d willing, always will be) but their market is ever-shrinking. The reason? Readers have forgotten how to read.

Sure, the internet has a hand in it, but so does the proliferation of the automobile, the explosion of television, the sub-/exurb and the increasing demands of modern life. Now that you’re un- (or under) employed (or, conversely, now that you’re maximally stressed trying to scrimp around the edges and make ends meet in a fantastically bad economy), here’s 7 tips to help you relearn reading.

1) Break it up: The number one reason non-readers don’t read is that reading is boring. Yes, I admit it, even I get bored with books. That’s why I read across platforms (to borrow terminology). A typical month includes daily internet news, two weekly magazines, one or two novels, a collection of short stories or essays and a biography or non-fiction book. That’s a lot, but even beginners can mix and match to match their ability, taste and appetite. For more clues on how to do it, keep reading…

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Filed under 3rd World Imagineering, Bibliomania, it's a small world, nanowrimo08, The Liberal Media

UPDATE: Roma and the Copy Fail

“The treatment of the Roma is a litmus test for civil society.”
–Former Czech premier Vaclav Havel, 1993


***To all my journalist friends out there: your copy desk is more open than you think. Please, if you see #gypsycopyfail, correct it. ***

Gypsy, Gypsies Capitalize references to the nomadic Caucasiod people found throughout the world. Also known as Roma or Romany.
—The Associated Press Stylebook 2008

A few months back, I wrote about the mechanics of the AP Stylebook and (characteristically) why you should care in the case of a particular European minority. Well, things have gotten even worse for the Roma in recent weeks, and if there’s any stronger evidence that we should stop calling them Gypsies, I’d invite you to find it.

By all accounts (and sadly, the moral accountants are few) the plight of Europe’s most blighted minority–slaughtered by the Nazis, stripped of their culture by the Soviets, swindled out of education, housing and work, and segregated out of Europe’s public life in the post Soviet era (and that’s just the last 100 years!)– is at a critical tipping point. Last year, Italy began an aggressive census of it’s Roma population, despite the failure of a popular push to fingerprint every Roma child. Violence against Roma in Hungary and Romania is so common, individual attacks rarely make the news. Now, it has begun to spill out of Eastern and Southern Europe into the vererable west, where earlier this month, one hundred economic immigrants to Northern Ireland–Romanian EU passport holderswere run out of Belfast. Roma in Kosovo are fairing little better. Recent events have prodded even sluggish American agencies to pick up their pens. At which point they commit the same fatal copy error, over and over, enshrining the same racism they are supposedly documenting against.

The fact is, the AP, the New York Times and other venerable American news organizations persist in the use of the word Gypsy in the face of overwhelming evidence that a) it’s offensive and incorrect and b) readers can handle the lexical swap. In my previous post, I offered some background on the formation and ammendment of AP Style–a system notoriously resistant to change. But enough is enough. Gypsy is a musical–Roma is a culture. If you work at a news organization, please keep your eyeballs peeled.  Even where AP Style is the gold-standard, most publications have their own styleguides, and your copy desk is more receptive than you think–if you believe the semantics are wrong, speak up. They’ll probably listen.

“They are not from Somalia. They are people like us.”

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EASTSIDE UPDATE—LAT scoops 2000 word expose on controversy it invented

Hello! It’s time again to visit the good ship LAT,  where we take you deep deep inside the west coast’s only major newspaper as it struggles for relevance and the $$$ to stay alfloat while draining the youth out of a small but significant generation of would be career reporters. For a fantastic chronicle of the paper’s decline, divert. If you prefer something lighter, keep reading.


If you’ve followed 3W1’s coverage in the past few months, you’ve probably read a good deal about the LAT/Eastside controversy. If not, the Times this week has a super-duper earnest Hipster vs. Hipspanic smackdown. Xavi Moreno wants you to know, Los Feliz can eat it—it’s not the Eastside.  BTW, Anyone who opted out of the Mixtec spelling of their name need not apply.

Exhibit A: The Eastside that’s east of the river, and the Eastside west of the river (which was first dubbed “Eastside” in a copy error by the LAT, reblogged into ubiquity, and by extension, correctness).  Eastside 1 has existed since the dawn of LA. Eastside 2.0 has existed since the late 2000’s. WINNER: Eastside 1

Exhibit B: The sudden and complete coup of Los Feliz/Echo Park/Silverlake over all that was Venice Beach/West Hollywood/Santa Monica vs. the continously crumbling, gentrification resisitant, educationally crumbling Bernal Heights et al. WINNER: Eastside 2.0.

Exhibit C: Cultural Prowess. As the article points out, Eastside 1 brought us the Chicano power movement, the LA riots, Antonio Villaraigosa and Ruben Salazar. Eastside 2.0 brought us ironic tatoos, zygote crushing skinny-jeans and Brooklyn comparisons galore. WINNER: ?

Whether or not you care, you’ve got to give it up to the rebel east-Eastside. They know how to rebel—

A year ago stickers declaring “This Is Not the Eastside!” were mysteriously plastered on telephone poles and sidewalks along Sunset Boulevard. A group of bloggers from also nabbed a stack of tour guides that said “Eastside” and, in symbolic protest, burned them during a potluck party.

That’s right LA. Stick(er) it to the man.

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Swine Flu, Day 3— (news) fatigue and (24/7) general malaise

The American public, it seems, is already exhausted by our (possible) pandemic. Even as HuffPo breaks the glass on their emergency 72 point font, people are suffering the first symptoms of Swine Flu fatigue. That is, in the weekend since H1N1 entered the national consciousness, our constant tumblring and retweeting, digesting and regergitating has produced an unwanted side effect—known in the medical community as general malaise—in our readers.  Gawker.and Mother Jones are already posting second day stories (MoJo, as usual, a thoughtful and valuable piece, Gawker, likewise, notsomuch) on what is stil very much a first day story.


Well, and how would you react? After all, this isn’t like the Chinese earthquake, where something happened  all at once and we spent weeks finding out exactly what,  or the financial crisis, which happened bit by bit every day. Right now, we’re mostly reporting  what might happen in the future. Yeah, you shit yourself when you first heard about it, but this thing is moving so slowly…I mean, how long can one topic really stay at the top of Twitter trends when it takes three days for the CDC to confirm a new case?   In a cycle where we can report each piece in real time, even the NYT’s valient attempt to constantly update a single, cohesive story each day feels exhausting.

Collective exhaustion  presents some really serious problems. The threat of a viral pandemic in an era when we are more densely populated and internationally connected is real and close, the threat of a panic even more so. New York, which has 28 confirmed cases and at about 100 suspected ones has already seen a rush on the anti-flu drug Tamiflu and emergency rooms full of jittery would-be patients. You know where’s a really great place to get sick…but I digress.

You only have to look at last year’s outbreak of measles (a disease against which virtually the entire country is vaccinated), which was imported from London in early spring and  swept Borough Park in the largest single outbreak since 1992 before traveling to Israel  to see that disease travels differently now that it did even 5 or 10 years ago. Measels is a very contagious disease that is not endemic to North America (meaning it’s always imported) against which every New York City public school student must be vaccinated, basically on pain of death. And yet, there were more confirmed cases of measles in Brooklyn than there have been of swine flu in Queens (look for that to change, like, tomorrow).

The point in all this being, comparisons to the 1976 scare are largely false. Insofar as they address the potential for media-stoked hysteria, and the dangers inherent to rushing a vaccine, it’s illuminating to study, but otherwise the world of Gerald Ford hold’s little relevance for us @ 6.7 billion. If we allow ourselves (as readers as well as writers) either to be sucked into the collective hysteria or, conversely,  to spit at the risk or use it as a springboard for something else entirely, we’re falling into our own trap.  That is, Gawker and the Times are each a little right: keep the pandemic stoked 24/7 and we risk burrying public information in public bullshit.

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Roma vs. Gypsy: NYT Copy Fail



3rdWorldImagineer is back today with another instalment of ‘why language matters’. For the record, I am not a PC fascist, but I do think it’s critical to examine how we talk about certain subjects, particularly ones gaining steam in the media. Hence, my semi-annual beef with the AP Stylebook.

For the uninitiated, the AP Stylebook is the vanguard of American newswriting style. Most publications write their own additions, but few deviate markedly from the BOOK.  Hence, the press dictates everything from what to capitalize to which country/city/state name is preferred (as in Mumbai/Bombay, Burma/Myanmar) and is NOTORIOUSLY adverse to change. In the words of TJK, one of the book’s overlords, “we don’t want to have to change it back.” 

The stylebook’s aim is a noble one: to take the world’s most widely spoken and written language–the lingua franca for news–and standardize it. Doing so requires a certain degree of rigidity, but sometimes conservative (and condecending) attitudes about the intelligence and adaptibility of readers block changes that are long overdue. Case in Point: Roma vs. Gypsy

The Roma, once called Gypsies (gitano or tzigan in most Euro languages),  are Europe’s largest ethnic minority. I had written a whole graph about it, but suffice it to say, their various plights in the post-Soviet era make them probably the unluckiest ethnic minority in the world right now (trust me, nobody knows how to brutalize like the Euros). To quote the Guardian:

The evictions underline the plight of Europe’s 8 million Roma as the continent’s most downtrodden minority. Subject to entrenched harassment, discrimination, and ghettoisation, the Roma are liberty’s losers in the transformation wrought by recent free elections and free markets

Given all that, you’d be forgiven for asking what’s  in a name. 

Unfortunately, there’s a lot. 

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Check Out my Awesome Slideshow


I am consistantly amazed at how much i get to do whatever i want.

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Filed under 3rd World Imagineering, Brooklyn, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, it's a small world, Sri Lanka, The Liberal Media, United Nations

Why Online matters, aka Kalashnikov toting coroners in the City of Angels

A word to the wise—if you’re a man between the ages of 20-29 living south of LAX or east of the Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles,  you should probably just stay inside this weekend. Especially if you happen to be black or Latino. Especially if you know someone with a gun. At least, that’s the word from the LAT’s Homicide Report, the mind-fucking blog about murder in that strange, strange city.

If you don’t already drool down your shirt over the homicide blog, here’s a reason to start.

picture-1This, my friends, is where Angelinos—most of them young, poor and brown—go to die, and where great online journalism (possibly the best and most underappreciated use of the medium) is born. This is the Los Angeles Homicide map.

Of course, the Times is not the first to pioneer a death app for Google Maps. The San Francisco Chronicle did some really stellar reporting a few years back when they mapped where dead bodies were picked up in Oakland (a municpiality with sort of a body dumping problem), and Gothamist feeds DCPI reports into a Google algorithm  for a pretty snazzy looking addition to their website, but nobody really does death like Ruben Vives (extra points for most ironic name, Rube).

I won’t bore you with why I think this is journalism at its best (something about how murder victims are poor and brown and live far far away from the rich white people the dying print industry is fellating in their attempt to comforting the comfortable and ignoring the afflicted). I will, however, give you another, more sensational reason to read the fucking Homicide Report.

Are you ready?

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Filed under 3rd World Imagineering, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, The Liberal Media