NO KIDDING: I was going to write a Thanksgiving column this week, celebrating all that the mass media have lately given us to be glad for. A very short column. Just kidding.
Then Mike Fancher wrote a Thanksgiving column last Sunday, detailing the things to be glad for in The Seattle Times. So it's only fair to salute a few highlights in the Post-Intelligencer, which doesn't blow its horn so much.
Paul Krugman's columns from The New York Times, when the P-I bothers to reprint them. Economist Krugman can outwrite most professional pontificators and do the numbers, which they can't. Not that anyone's listening, but he's been blowing the whistle on the duplicity, venality, unfairness, shortsightedness, special-interest favoritism, and sheer hooey of the Bush economic agenda since McCain was a contender. When the bills come due, top-end tax cuts leave nothing for real stimulus, and the Social Security trust fund's gone, Krugman will get to say, "I told you so." Cold comfort.
Joel Connelly, a local columnist who actually knows the locale and has more than sound bites to say about it. Yes, Connelly can be a bit pompous (did I just call the kettle black?), but he's a blessed antidote to what one disillusioned news junkie calls "Nicole Brodeur Syndrome."
David Horsey, whose rich, naturalistic drawing is a fine anachronism in an age of cartoon scrawlers, and whose wit and insight on a good day match the best.
And thanks to three more sources of illumination in topsy-turvy times. PBS's Frontline, whose recent pieces on terrorist intrigues and the Saudi tar baby remind us that it's still the best topical documentary series. And NPR's Talk of the Nation-born in the Gulf War but lately listed-which has been reinvigorated in this war since razor-sharp Neal Conan replaced fat-headed Juan Williams as host.
Finally, to William Safire, the conservative columnist so smart even liberals have to like him. Last Thursday, Safire delivered the most stinging rebuke yet to Bush's notorious executive order assuming, in Safire's words, "dictatorial power to jail or execute aliens . . . to circumvent the courts and set up his own drumhead tribunals—panels of officers who will sit in judgment of noncitizens who the president need only claim 'reason to believe' are members of terrorist organizations." Could that include, say, a Canadian animal liberationist who vandalizes a lab? Where is the outrage, the editorial battle cry, at this worst and latest attack on America's system of justice by its own president and attorney general?
Good news, meanwhile, at The Seattle Times, which last week settled its festering fight with the last workers who struck a year ago, save one. That one is, no surprise, Ivan Weiss, the raging bull of copy editors, a 33-year Times veteran, union stalwart, and unfettered critic of the paper's ownership and management. Weiss says he turned down back pay and severance and is still pressing claims that the company misclassified him, targeted him for layoff, etc. "My attitude is, 'Fuck you: I'm entitled to a job, and they're going to give it to me.'" Meanwhile, he's studying technical writing.
On the picket line, Weiss was heard telling then-Times president Mason Sizemore, "When this is over, they're going to be looking for a scapegoat." Three weeks ago, the well-respected Sizemore suddenly announced his immediate resignation. A couple days earlier, the Times Company finally struck a deal with employees at its main Maine paper, the Portland Press Herald, who'd been without a contract for three years. The timing will doubtless fuel the newsroom rumor mill over Sizemore.
Earlier this month, Times managing editor Alex MacLeod announced four more newsroom layoffs, suburban photographers not needed without zoned editions, bringing the news staff down 25 percent in a year. But he declared those might be the last, and even anticipated hiring in core positions "in the next few months." That won't include competition for Horsey; the editorial cartoonist slot will stay vacant, as it has the last five years.
Meanwhile, ex-Times aerospace reporter Chuck Taylor, who edited the Union Record strike paper, has released a redesign of his excellent news-portal site, www.newsdex.net. But Taylor announces he'll have to lay off and "get serious about finding a real job." Question: Is journalism still real?