Category Archives: journalism

Richard Rhodes on Guernica


I thought I knew something about Picasso and Guernica before I started editing this piece, “Guernica: Horror and inspiration,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Richard Rhodes. I was wrong. By way of explanation, a sample of Rhodes’ prose:

Most of the buildings in Gernika were constructed of wood above the ground floor. For that reason, the Junkers had been loaded with both high-explosive bombs and incendiaries—the HEs to make kindling, as Kurt Vonnegut once explained to me from his similar experience in Dresden, the incendiaries to light the fires. The HEs were 100- and 500-pounders. The lightweight incendiaries—tubes 14 inches long and 2 inches in diameter, made of Elektron (an alloy of 92 percent magnesium, 5 percent aluminum and 3 percent zinc) filled with thermite—were packed in droppable dispensers, each holding 36 bombs.

Thousands of Elektron incendiaries fell on Gernika that night, skittering down like icicles broken off a roofline. Pure metal burning at 2,200 degrees Celsius, they were almost impossible to quench.The Australian journalist Noel Monks describes the aftermath (Monks, 1955: 97):

guernica

[On arrival] I … was immediately pressed into service by some Basque soldiers collecting charred bodies that the flames had passed over. Some of the soldiers were sobbing like children. There were flames and smoke and grit, and the smell of burning human flesh was nau-seating. Houses were collapsing into the inferno.

In the Plaza, surrounded almost by a wall of fire, were about a hundred refugees. They were wailing and weeping and rocking to and fro … . Most of Guernica’s streets began or ended at the Plaza.

It was impossible to go down many of them, because they were walls of flame. Debris was piled high. I could see shadowy forms, some large, some just ashes. I moved round to the back of the Plaza among survivors. They had the same story to tell, aeroplanes, bullets, bombs, fire.

This one is worth reading all the way through. It’s part of a Bulletin of the Atomic Scientistsspecial issue on art and destruction that is also worth taking a look at. As is the exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, which collaborated with the Bulletin on parts of its Doomsday Clock Symposium in November.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

November 29, 2013 · 6:33 pm

Please don’t read this post (PDRTP)


I’m sharing this Texas Tribune post in hopes my various journalism-professor friends will also share it, so baby journalists across the land encounter the real-life example of how acronyms ruin stories, and why journalists need to step out of their enclosed little worlds and remember that no one is assigned to read what they write. Here’s the headline of the story:

House Committee Pushes CPRIT Reforms.

 

Of course, we all know what CPRIT means, right? But that’s not the extent of the sin. The  story below the headline uses the CPRIT acronym 11 times in 454 words. Not to mention two uses of CTNeT. The story looks like ants are crawling through it. Capitalized, poisonous, illiterate, unidentified ants that don’t want you to read … one …  word … further.

ADDENDUM: The Texas Tribune has updated this story with information on testimony before a legislative committee, adding four CPRITs and three CTNeTs and possibly setting a new world record for acronym misuse by a digital nonprofit news enterprise.

imgres

1 Comment

Filed under absurdity, journalism, Uncategorized

Instant impact


Because the good that comes of serious journalism is often very hard to document, and the shallow/self-promotional/leering aspects of many mass media outlets are so obvious, journalists are, as Jack Shafer notes over at Reuters, easy targets for demonization ala Gingrich.  But this Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists column by Dawn Stover not only got the attention of the Energy Department; Energy is making improvements to its new website  based on Stover’s criticisms, just days after they hit the InterWebs. Not every good journalistic deed can show such clear results, so it’s important–at a time when visionless Tribune-esque beancounters and cheerleading Webtastic click-chasers rule much of the media landscape–to note the stories that do have impact. Journalism is different than marketing and SEO; it has intrinsic value to the culture. But no one’s going to acknowledge, protect or reward that value if journalists don’t point it out now and again.

Leave a comment

Filed under journalism