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Facebook’s public image deteriorates as more of its private actions come to light

After a scathing two-part documentary by Public Broadcasting Service’s Frontline in October (The Facebook Dilemma, discussed in a JPROF.com post a couple of weeks ago), Facebook’s reputation as an idealist company that wants to change the world and do go continues to deteriorate. Here’s the lead paragraph from a New York Times story (Facebook Used […]

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AgathaChristie

Radio dramas from the BBC Radio 4

One of the great pleasures I had when I spent a couple of multi-month stretches in Great Britain in the 1970s (London for eight months and Edinburgh for seven) was listening to the radio — specifically BBC Radio 4. I didn’t have a television, but the radio dramas presented by the BBC more than satisfied my […]

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The British Library to present an exhibit on the history of writing in 2019 

The British Library will host an exhibit on the history of writing in April 2019. If you are going to be in London between April and August of next year, this would be one of those must-see events. Here’s how the library describes the exhibit: The story unfolds through more than 100 objects from the […]

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A recommendation for a winter read from LitHub: The Talented Mr. Ripley

As we head into the depths of winter — don’t worry, Christmas will be over soon, and then we’ll find ourselves there — Emily Temple, a senior editor at the excellent LitHub.com website has a good reading recommendation: Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. It is, in my opinion, the perfect winter holiday book. It’s […]

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by Charles Turner, after  James Gillray, mezzotint, published 1819 (circa 1800)

James Gillray: puncturing the pompous with caricature

Caricature is fairly common today (even amateurs like me try their hand at it), but in the late 18th century, it was a newly developing form of art, as well as social and political communication. And no one was better at it — a set a higher standard for others of his and those who […]

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Bret Harte: object of Mark Twain’s praise and derision

Bret Harte probably deserves a higher station than the one he occupies in the pantheon of American letters. A big part of the reason he doesn’t have it lies with his one-time friend, Mark Twain. Twain had known Harte from their days in the West when Harte achieved national fame in writing about the tall […]

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Joseph Priestly and his Big (writing) Idea

Joseph Priestly, the Englishman we remember as a great scientist and the one who first discovered oxygen, was a writer before he was a scientist. And he was a writer with a Big Idea. Priestly (1733-1804) lived in an age when interest in “natural philosophy,” what we would call “science” today, had exploded, and people […]

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Sinclair Lewis and the Great American Freedom of travel

Few novelists have explored the American mind and character as deeply and perceptively as Sinclair Lewis, who in 1930 became the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. The freedom of movement — the ability for Americans to travel — is, according to Lewis, one of the most important parts of the American […]

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A writer who didn’t want to be edited, the ‘real’ Moriarty, and your good words: newsletter, Nov. 23, 2018

  Thanks for the many emails about the words that we use and the ones we don’t hear enough. This week’s word, of course, is gratitude, in line with the Thanksgiving holiday that Americans have celebrated this week. All of us have much to be thankful for. I do my best to remind myself of that […]

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Muriel Spark, the writer who couldn’t abide being edited

Muriel Spark, the author of 22 novels including The Prime of Miss Jean Brody, always wanted to be in full control of her writing, and once she achieved a measure of fame and recognition, she got it. She refused to be edited unless she could have the final say in the matter. Just as The Prime of Miss […]

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PBS Frontline confronts the Facebook Dilemma

Some people spend hours a day on Facebook; others have never seen it and actively avoid it. Some people have strongly partisan views, one way or another, which may color their view of Facebook. In my view, it doesn’t matter whether or not you “like” Facebook, or whether you are red or blue or any […]

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Ring Lardner, the Grand Review, and a book illustrator who had to keep apologizing; newsletter Nov. 16, 2018

 This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,014) on November 16, 2018 Oxford Dictionaries, I understand, has chosen the 2018 International Word of the Year: toxic. The choice, according to those who choose these things, reflects the general “ethos, mood or preoccupation” of the year as well as its widespread use as […]

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Reginald Birch, the book illustrator who had to keep apologizing

Reginald Birch, one of the top book illustrators in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, spent a good part of his life apologizing for what he had done. Birch was a first-class artist. His skill as a draughtsman is evident in the illustrations that he drew for the more than 40 other books he […]

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RingLardner

Ring Lardner: when baseball no longer seemed like baseball

The story is that Ring Lardner was finished with baseball after news of the 1919 Black Sox scandal came out. Lardner had spent much of his journalism career covering baseball, first for the South Bend Times in 1905 and eventually for the Chicago Tribune in 1913. He knew the Chicago White Sox well. He had […]

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A legacy that began with veterans, a giant in the land of Sherlock, and GKC on what makes a good detective story: newsletter, Nov. 9, 2018

 This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,020) on November 9, 2018 My reading and browsing bring me into contact with so many good stories, unknown (to me) items, and interesting people that I don’t have time to write about them all (and to test your patience and indulgence) in this newsletter. […]

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The predecessor to Austen, Eliot, and the Brontes; Bill Mauldin; and why bees exist: newsletter, Nov. 2, 2018

 This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3) on October 19, 2018 About veterans: Someone put it to me this way: No matter what you ended up doing, if you were in the military service, at some point you pledged to give everything you had to your country, even if that meant […]

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The purpose of the honeybee

Bees give us honey. It’s a wonderful food, and many people make a living by harvesting and selling honey. Bees also pollinate many of our crops. Some estimate that up to 30 percent of what we eat is on our tables because of honeybees. Important as these activities are to humans, neither is central to […]

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Bill Mauldin, the voice of the grunt

Those who served in the United States military as enlisted men and women — particularly from World War II through Vietnam — have a particular affinity for Bill Mauldin. Mauldin was an artist whose cartoons depicted, with brilliant perception, brutal honesty, and insightful humor, the life of the everyday “grunt,” the guy who dug the ditches, […]

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Webster, Chesterton, a World War II hero, and a clock that hasn’t quit for 600 years: newsletter, Oct. 26, 2018

 This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,045) on October 19, 2018 This week you will meet a couple of “colossal geniuses,” one from the 19th century and the other from the 20th. You probably know of these guys: Noah Webster and G.K. Chesterton. I’ll admit I had heard of both, but I never knew much about either. […]

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The detective story, according to G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton, the great British author of the early 20th century, liked detective stories, read them, and wrote them. He had the formula down pat. It went like this: The bones and structure of a good detective story are so old and well known that it may seem banal to state them even in outline. […]

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