Why must writers become editors?

Good question that recalls the Mitch Hedberg complaint: “Hey, you’re a really good cook? Can you farm?”

And a few sound criticisms of the status quo:

If you believe that having four editors edit a story produces a better story than having one editor edit a story, I submit that you have the small mind of a middle manager, and should be employed not in journalism but in something more appropriate for your numbers-based outlook on life, like carpet sales.

via Against Editors.

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Brooks Wheelan: Smartest SNL short-timer ever?

I love this guy’s positive attitude, and I love the description “comedian/biomedical engineer.” Maybe he and Ken Jeong can team up for the nerdiest sketch comedy show ever.

Brooks Wheelan on ‘SNL’ Firing: ‘Yeah, That Adds Up’ – TheWrap.

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Weird Al-related question: Lamest claims to fame

Lame Claim to Fame isn’t the best track on “Weird Al” Yankovic’s No. 1 album Mandatory Fun, but it’s worth a listen, and the video entertains:

And now it’s stuck in my head. Whenever I think of some tenuous connection I have to a celebrity, I hear the song.

So here’s a quick brainstorm of my unimpressive third-hand connections to famous people:

- My mom interviewed Kim Basinger before she hit it big.

- My freshman roommate went to work in the record business and is thanked on the liner notes of a couple of Barenaked Ladies albums.

- My granddad met Christie Brinkley while she was visiting Florida for a swimsuit shoot.

- My mom’s roommate married Ted Turner. (No, not Jane Fonda.)

- I’ve interviewed David Beckham 1-on-1. (OK, so that’s actually kind of a big one.)

- Alex Morgan called me an idiot on Twitter. (Coincidentally, I stood three feet away from her on Wednesday night.)

- I caught a page of George Will’s speech when a gust of wind blew it away at Duke commencement.

- Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor, once commented that my name was better than being named Bo Diddley.

- I checked into a hotel immediately after Gretchen Bleiler and talked about hotel amenities with her.

- I rode a ski lift with Sarah Hendrickson.

- I saw Bobby McFerrin perform before Don’t Worry Be Happy.

- Belly’s bass player told me not to wimp out and switch to acoustic guitar.

- I replaced Ben Folds as a percussionist with the Duke University Wind Symphony. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense — Ben Folds didn’t go to Duke. (He actually went to Miami and studied percussion but didn’t graduate.) But he was recruited to go on the Wind Symphony’s Fall 1987 semester in Vienna. That was my freshman year, and I had no idea what the Wind Symphony was but got drafted into the group to play string bass. (Which ALSO makes no sense.) I stayed in when the Vienna group returned, then switched to percussion partway through my sophomore year.

I had no idea that this was the least bit significant at the time, of course. I just knew a couple of dudes in Wind Symphony kept telling everyone to go see Majosha play. Turns out that was Ben’s band pre-Ben Folds Five. I didn’t even realize Ben had gone on the Vienna trip until — today, when I asked Wind Symphony alumni about the tie between the Wind Symphony and Majosha.

My journalism career is cheating in a way. I’ve obviously met and spoken with many famous soccer players and MMA figures. I was once in a mob of people interviewing Clint Eastwood (jazz concert at Duke). I did a phone interview with guitar legend Richard Thompson. In the one Duke men’s basketball game I covered, I asked a question of Mike Krzyzewski in the postgame press conference and spoke briefly with Grant Hill. I was in a small group for a postgame interview with N.C. State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow. I’ve met a couple of TV people — Bob Ley, Ian Darke. And I’ve exchanged friendly texts with a couple of legit celebrities.

Anyone else have some good lame claims to fame?

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Jason Biggs, Challenger and coping with tragedy through humor

You may have heard Jason Biggs, associated with either American Pie by people my age or Orange is the New Black by those a little younger, got in a bit of trouble for a tweet about the Malaysia Airlines downing.

Biggs joked, “Anyone wanna buy my Malaysian Airlines frequent flier miles?”

Bad taste? Compare with a punchline everyone of my generation knew:

Need Another Seven Astronauts.

Remember the joke? It was viral before “viral” was a big thing. We had no Internet, but this joke and many more somehow spread after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 killed seven astronauts, including teacher Christa McAuliffe.

That was how we coped. A sense of humor has long been our psychic defense against a tragedy we cannot prevent.

So what’s changed? Why is Biggs so vilified?

Is it because these jokes were always tasteless, and it’s only with today’s social media tools that the response can come so quickly? Or are we more sensitive these days.

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PolitiFact’s PunditFact scorecard: Give it an F

PolitiFact is a wonderful operation, but like any other analytical tool, it has its limits. The new PunditFact scorecards for the TV networks acknowledge those limits and simultaneously pretend they don’t exist.

Here’s how those contradictory forces play out:

1. Oh, don’t use these scorecards for comparing networks, they say. It’s unfair because CBS has less content than the others and because we aren’t checking every single statement.

2. By the way, CNN is faring the best at 18 percent.

The only way to do well on these scorecards is to come up with questionable things that turn out to be true. If it’s obviously true, PolitiFact won’t (and shouldn’t) bother to check it.

PolitiFact understands that. So why release a number that means nothing?


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Classic rock: Inside the numbers

From FiveThirtyEight:

Led Zeppelin is classic rock. So are Mötley Crüe and Ozzy Osbourne. But what about U2 or Nirvana? As a child of the 1990s, I never doubted that any of these bands were classic rock, even though it may be shocking for many to hear. And then I heard Green Day’s “American Idiot” on a classic rock station a few weeks ago, and I was shocked.

Welcome to the club. When I grew up, “classic rock” was just “rock,” and the stations would play the newest Aerosmith or Rush alongside the older stuff. When the rockers declined, the playlists just froze in place through the late 80s.

Then came the changes. As Bowling for Soup once sang, “When did Mötley Crüe become classic rock?”

Back to FiveThirtyEight:

It was my first time hearing a band I grew up with referred to as “classic rock.” Almost anyone who listens to music over a long enough period of time probably experiences this moment — my colleagues related some of their own, like hearing R.E.M. or Guns N’ Roses on a classic rock station — but it made me wonder, what precisely is classic rock?

That’s a good question. What exactly unites R.E.M. and GnR other than existing in MTV’s heyday?

As it turns out, a massive amount of data collection and analysis, and some algorithms, go into figuring out the answer to that very question.

And that’s where the piece gets interesting, even if it doesn’t tell me why D.C. radio stations play so much Foreigner.

via Why Classic Rock Isn’t What It Used To Be | FiveThirtyEight.

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The lines of legitimate debate: Climate change edition

Not quite as clever as John Oliver doing the “representative” climate change debate with 97 people vs. 3. But still an interesting pushback against the idea that “both sides” need to be represented when the two “sides” are clearly not equal.

News shows don’t put on a flat-earther whenever they show a map. They don’t get an opposing opinion from a young-Earth creationist when a new dinosaur fossil is found. They don’t interview an astrologer when a new exoplanet is discovered. So why put on a climate change denier when we’re talking about our planet heating up?

via Crackpottery: BBC journalists told to stop interviewing science deniers..

The funny thing is that you could certainly have a good debate about climate change without the denialists. How serious is the problem? How do we combat it? These are not easy questions, and there are more than “two sides” even without the crackpots and politicians.

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