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OpeningDay2021

Millions of Cats, Passing notes, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and more on Opening Day: newsletter, April 2, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,369) on Friday, April 2, 2021.     The 2019 college admissions scandal that resulted in the indictments of more than 50 people — most of them the well-off and well-intentioned parents of college-aged children — was based on an idea that many people carry […]

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JohnKeats

Maxine Cheshire, Martha Gellhorn, and the poet who died too soon: newsletter, March 5, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,386) on Friday, March 5, 2021.   When I got into the rhythm of writing this newsletter several years ago, one of the things that I knew early on was that I wanted to learn more about – and write about — women who had […]

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MaxineCheshire

Maxine Cheshire: a reporter’s instinct and a little luck

Maxine Cheshire was a reporter who knew how to get under people’s skin. She irritated Frank Sinatra into a drunken, expletive-ridden rant that was witnessed by dozens of people. She made Jacqueline Kennedy cry and provoked a presidential call to her publisher. She exposed the Nixon family’s greed in keeping gifts from foreign leaders. More […]

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Picturing the inauguration for the first time

Presidential inaugurations have taken place in America every four years since 1789 when George Washington first took the oath of office, but it was more than 50 years after that event that the public saw a news image and got an idea of what an inauguration really looks like. That image, however, was not seen first by Americans. […]

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LawrenceBlock

Susan Glaspell, a forgotten feminist writer, and Lawrence Block, successful and prolific: newsletter, January 15, 2021

  A common saying among woodworkers – one you have probably heard – is “measure twice, cut once.” That saying counsels us to be careful. But there is another saying that is less well-known and maybe just as important: “Let the tools do the work.” What that saying tells us is that sometimes we can […]

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Richard Tregaskis

Richard Tregaskis, the tall guy on Guadalcanal

The Marines that he wrote about on Guadalcanal would tell Richard Tregaskis that if the Japanese captured him, they would probably use him as an “observation post.” They weren’t far from wrong. Tregaskis, a reporter during World War II for the International News Service, was six-feet, seven-inches tall — tall enough to be an observation […]

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First cup at sunrise

The unknown Jacques Futrelle, Drew Pearson (part 2), and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, October 30, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, October 30, 2020. Back to the (Zoom) Future. In the last few days, I attended a poetry reading of a friend’s new book on Facebook; I helped another friend launch a book on Zoom; and I attended a memorial service on YouTube​ for a friend […]

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Abandoned schoolhouse

More on Mary Mapes Dodge, Josephine Tey and paranoia, and a couple of podcast recommendations: newsletter, September 18, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,529) on Friday, September 18, 2020.   Getting a book that you have anticipated for a while and then having it live up to your expectations is a particular delight. That happened to me with the arrival of Ian Toll‘s Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western […]

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RichardBenCramer

Richard Ben Cramer on ‘what it took’ for Joe Biden

Richard Ben Cramer, an extraordinary reporter, could pack enough energy into a paragraph to charge a lightning bolt. To read Cramer is to get caught up in his rhythm, to follow is thinking, and to come to his understanding of the subject he was reporting on. Cramer brought all of his writing and reporting talent […]

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Being tall at Guadalcanal, a notorious pirate, rural noir, and the serial killer: newsletter, August 14, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 14, 2020.   One of the things on my mind this week is the concept of respect. The thinking on that was kicked off by an NYT column by Bret Stephens on the 18th-century politician and philosopher Edmund Burke (Why Edmund Burke […]

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Arc de Tromple

Changing American attitudes toward slavery, police reporting reconsidered, and reader reactions: newsletter, July 17, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, July 17, 2020.   The world gets crazier and the pandemic, in America, gets worse. My heart is with those who have to make difficult decisions, from sending their kids to school to ordering businesses to shut down. I pray for their […]

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Onthewaytothemountains1

The sharp words of Ida Tarbell, the dilemma of Woody Allen, more on cultural appropriation, and reader reaction: newsletter, March 20, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,597) on Friday, March 20, 2020. The magnitude and rapidity with which the world has changed in the last week lies beyond our complete understanding. Those things that we could confidently predict — high school graduations, opening day of the baseball season, the church service […]

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Advice to Robert Caro: Turn every page

When Robert Caro began his reporting career for Newsday in New York, an editor gave him a key piece of advice. Caro was working on his first big investigative story and going through lots of files. The editor’s advice: “Turn every page.” Caro took that advice to heart, and now he is one of the […]

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MillerHall1

The college admissions scandal: a modest proposal

What has practically every story you’ve read or heard during the last couple of weeks about the college admissions scandal had in common? The journalists and commentators have consistently used the terms elite colleges or elite universities. They have done without any critical assessment of the terms themselves, and therein lies a problem — possibly The Problem. We […]

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Pablo Casals on staying young, an interesting blast from the past, and post-prison rehab: newsletter, Feb. 8, 2019

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,912) on Friday, February 8, 2019.   This week’s newsletter takes a short break from writers and writing (mostly) and explores a couple of other topics, such as post-prison rehabilitation and the interesting story of a 1960s folk music classic. But you can […]

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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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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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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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ElizebethFriedman

‘The Woman Who Smashed Codes’ taught her biographer cryptology after her death

Journalist Jason Fagon, when he set out to write a biography of the extraordinary Elizebeth Friedman, America’s chief codebreaker during World War II, had an obstacle to overcome that most biographers don’t face: He had to learn cryptology, the art and science of secret writing. Fortunately, Fagon had a good teacher: Elizebeth Friedman herself. Friedman […]

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Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 10.02.59 PM

Slow Burn, Season 2: Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, and impeachment

It’s been almost two decades now (really? that long!), and the impeachment of Bill Clinton still rubs up against raw feelings on the part of Clinton’s supporters and opponents. And even if you don’t have feelings about it that were generated at the time (maybe you weren’t old enough to really remember), you should list […]

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