Category Archives: A blogger’s musings

SF Bay Area papers eliminating critical editors


Back when esnl got his start in the newspaper game, our stories were subjected to at least three levels of editing, sometimes more depending on the size of the newspaper.

The first level came from the supervising or assigning editor, usually a deputy city editor. The story then went to the city editor, then to the copy desk, where the story was checked for grammar, style, typos, and continuity problems by a copy editor. From there it went to the slot man, the final check in the editing process, who examined the story for content and placement.

If the story was sufficiently significant, the vetting might also include the managing editor and his boss [all the editors of that level were male at the papers where we worked], plus a lawyer if any legal issues were raised. Then, after the story was set in type, a proofreader gave it the final once-over for typos and dropped lines of type.

That’s why you rarely if ever saw misspelled words, misattributions, incorrect tiles, and so much more.

But with the waves of downsizings we’ve reported over the years, typos flourish, facts go astray, and stories have grown choppier — and so much more.

And now the Bay Area News Group [BANG], the company that owns almost all the newspapers in the San Francisco Bay area, is getting rid of the last vestiges of editorial review.

Here’s the memo staff members received today, via Romenesko:

From: James Robinson
Date: Apr 22, 2016 6:02 AM
Subject: Some changes to our editing and production processes
To: &BANG News All

We’re launching a series of changes to the assigning and copy editing process in an attempt to manage a planned loss of approximately 11 FTEs. We are choosing this course, as many papers have across the country, rather than cutting more deeply into the ranks of content producers or neglecting our digital needs.

The bottom line is that we will be eliminating a layer of valuable editing across most of the copy desk — what is known in desk parlance as the rim. The result:

  • Staff stories that go inside sections will not be copy-edited. The assigning editor will be the only read. (In sports, late stories that do not go through an assigning editor will continue to be read on the desk, once.) Stories for our East Bay weeklies will not be copy-edited.
  • Staff stories for section covers will receive one read on the desk rather than the current two.
  • Proofreading will be reduced. This is going to place a new level of responsibility on reporters and, especially, assigning editors. Many of the ways in which the desk bails us out — often without us noticing — will disappear. That will mean:
  • All assigning editors must run Tansa on stories before moving them to the desk, and all proper names will have to be cq’ed. Grammar mistakes that make it through an assigning editor are highly likely to appear in print.
  • Reporters and editors will need to be more familiar with AP and BANG style.
  • Budgetlines will need to include accurate deadlines and lengths. Desk folk who receive overly long stories will not have time to redo page designs; they will be instructed to cut from the end (on some occasions, early notice to the desk that a story is running long may avoid this fate). When deadlines are blown, the desk may need to grab a web version of the story and move on.

There’s lots more, after the jump. . .

Continue reading

Child concussions trouble parental relationships


A fascinating study leads to a troubling but logical conclusion, one that’s logical given that brain plasticity is at its post-natal peak in the years covered by researchers.

It’s a subject of personal interest, because we sustained just such an injury at age four or five when we leaned over the edge of a basement staircase and landed head-first on a concrete floor. That was back in the days when doctors made house calls, and we regained consciousness twenty minutes later lying in our own bed and a doctors opthalomoscope glaring in our right eye.

From the University of Montreal:

The incidence of concussion is particularly high in the preschool years – up to around 2% of children aged 0 to 5 years per year. A study by researchers at CHU Sainte-Justine mother-child research hospital (affiliated with the University of Montreal), recently published in the Journal of Neuropsychology, reveals the adverse effects of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) on the quality parent-child relationships.

“The young brain is particularly vulnerable to injury because the skull is still thin and malleable. In the months following the injury, one of the first visible signs of social difficulties in young children is a decline in their relationship with their parents,” said Miriam Beauchamp a researcher at Sainte-Justine, professor of psychology at the University of Montreal and senior author of the study.

Knowing that good parent-child relationships are synonymous with better social skills later in life, the researchers stress the importance for parents to monitor behaviour changes in their child in the weeks that follow the trauma and adjust accordingly during this period.

Given the relatively limited social and cognitive skills of preschoolers, a concussion at this age can slow the development of new abilities, for example, certain communication skills. “Very little data exists about the first signs of socialization problems in preschoolers after a concussion.  Parent–child relationships represent the center of young children’s social environments and are therefore ideal contexts for studying the potential effects of mTBI on children’s social functioning,” said Gabrielle Lalonde, BSc, a doctoral student and first author of the study.

The laboratory recruited a group of 130 children aged between 18 months and 60 months, divided into three categories: children with concussion, children with orthopedic injury (usually a fracture or sprain of the arm or leg) but no concussion, and a control group of non-injured children. The aim of the study was to assess the quality of parent-child interactions six months post-injury.

“We asked parents to fill out a questionnaire so they could evaluate their relationship with their child. At the same time, they participated in a filmed evaluation session in the laboratory in which they and their children took part in typical daily activities – such as free play and snack time – allowing the researchers to measure the quality of their communication, cooperation, and the emotional atmosphere,” said Miriam Beauchamp. “The quality of parent-child interactions following concussion was significantly reduced compared to non-injured children.”

There’s more after the jump. . . Continue reading

Dude, we’ve all be owned! Or Election 2016


Just some random Tuesday afternoon thoughts on a central theme. . .

The real brilliance of the political game as played in these neoliberalized United States has been the way the winners, the ones who’ve amassed all that wealth and power, have been able to control the messaging, target the optics.

The winners are those who have demonstrably benefited most from the direction the game of politics has evolved.

The United States went from a nation in which the rich paid a big part of their income back to the institution nominally representing the interests of those who had produced and consumed the products that had so enriched them. Taxes also bankrolled the infrastructure required by wealth producers to generate their riches efficiently.

For corporations, things have usually been just peachy in the United States.

Railroad corporations were bankrolled by Native Americans through the military seizure of their ancestral lands.

Interstate highways are bankrolled in part through fuel taxes paid disproportionately by private motorists, while commercial truckers pay fuel and mileage taxes amounting to only a fraction of the damage their trucks cause to the freeways.

The list is endless.

Corporations dodge taxes through offshoring operations and nominal headquarters, lobbyist-written tax law changes, and a host of other tweaks and outright robberies, while governments give them ever larger slices of that which was once owned by all in common.

Corporations have offloaded pension obligations onto the backs of their employees, cut benefits, robotized and virtualized jobs into oblivion, while busting unions and levying endless threats to leave altogether unless yet further concessions are made [we watched Bayer do that here in Berkeley, threatening to move a high tech plant unless the city came up with more giveaways]. Much of the East Bay shoreline is now one big Enterprise Zone, an orchard of nice, ripe giveaway plums nt allowed to Mom and Pop operations.

Then there was public schools, colleges, and universities, once largely financed by governments for the benefit of student citizens and now bankrolled increasingly by those very students, with escape-proof loans for which they be paying financial predators for decades to come.

Ah, yes, liberal Berkeley. . .

The discourse used locally is much the same as employed nationally, the implicit assertion of corporate over human rights, a trend about to be launched on steroids if and when the two major transoceanic trade agreements are activated.

What is billed as the “ownership society” is anything but.

Or, perhaps, it really means what it really says: Every aspect of our lives is owned by a corporation, a parasitic metaorganism into which we are assimilated.

We don’t owned most of the music we hear, and unlike sheet music, records, and CDs, we can’t give it away. We don’t truly own cars and appliances: They contain or embody corporate intellectual property which cannot be severed from ultimate ownership by the corporations.

Dude, did you get owned!

We no longer buy things. We acquire only condition rights.

Oh, sure, we can still but some things. Our next to last toaster was a wonderful thing, until it wasn’t. When it abruptly stopped work, out came the toolbox. But on turning the toaster over in search of screws to open the case, all was hermetically sealed plastic. Any effort to fix it would’ve destroyed it.

No wonder, then, that trade agreements were spearheaded by corporations with the most tenuous of rights, with the leading exemplar being a certain big-eared rodent.

While all this has been going on, the media distract with the ornamental rages of the American two party system, a spat between competing parties of the wealthy, one willing to make minor social concessions, the other unwilling.

Step right up ladies and gentlemen!

To distract us from the reality, politics itself has become a reality show, one in which the camera’s focus and the microphone’s range are very narrow.

Want to cut spending schools? Make the discourse all about race, rather than addressing the very real needs of our children.

Want to concentrate wealth on the guns and butter side of the equation, from the local streets to nations halfway across the globe? Then whip up racial, ethnic, and religions antagonisms.

An ailing construction industry? How about wall in Mexico, a metaphorically and literally monument construction job! And then there was the truly Hitlerian American embassy compound in Baghdad, a project even Albert Speer would’ve envied. Arms manufacturers hungry for more moolah?

And, hey, why not turn life itself into intellectual property, property you can keep alive only by purchasing our other products. Why not be Roundup Ready?

Because, if those Evangelical Christian Republicans are right, we all need to be Roundup Ready.

Got migraines? Then odds are you were abused


And not sexually or physically abused, but emotionally abused as a child.

From Newswise:

Children who are emotionally abused may be more likely to experience migraines as young adults, according to a preliminary study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 68th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada, April 15 to 21, 2016. The link between migraine and abuse was stronger for emotional abuse than for physical or sexual abuse in the study.

“Emotional abuse showed the strongest link to increased risk of migraine,” said author Gretchen Tietjen, MD, from the University of Toledo in Ohio and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Childhood abuse can have long-lasting effects on health and well-being.”

In the study, emotional abuse was assessed by asking, “How often did a parent or other adult caregiver say things that really hurt your feelings or made you feel like you were not wanted or loved?”

The study included data from 14,484 people age 24 to 32. About 14 percent reported they had been diagnosed with migraines. The participants were asked whether they had experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse in childhood. Physical abuse was defined as being hit with a fist, kicked, or thrown down on the floor, into a wall, or down stairs. Sexual abuse included forced sexual touching or sexual relations. About 47 percent of the participants answered yes to having been emotionally abused, 18 percent physically abused and 5 percent sexually abused.

Of those diagnosed with migraines, 61 percent said they had been abused as a child. Of those who never had a migraine, 49 percent said they were abused. Those who were abused were 55 percent more likely to experience migraine than those who were never abused after accounting for age, income, race and sex.

Those who were emotionally abused were 52 percent more likely to have migraine than those who were not abused, after accounting for other types of abuse as well as age, income, race and sex. In contrast, those who were sexually or physically abused were not significantly more likely to have migraine than people who were not abused.

The relationship between emotional abuse and migraine remained when researchers adjusted the results to take into account depression and anxiety. In that analysis, people who were emotionally abused were 32 percent more likely to have migraine than people who were not abused.

Tietjen noted that the study shows an association between childhood emotional abuse, a very common occurrence, and migraine. It does not show cause and effect, although the finding that the likelihood of having migraines increases with increasing number of abuse types is suggestive of it.

“More research is needed to better understand this relationship between childhood abuse and migraine,” said Tietjen. “This is also something doctors may want to consider when they treat people with migraine.”

We were subjected to repeated emotional abuse as a child by a parent who had suffered similar abuse, and it was migraine headaches that finally kept us from serving in Vietnam. We were sent home from basic training after a hospitalization en route to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. To fill our time before we were sent home, we volunteered to process discharges and got to see our own file, which was marked in big red hand-scrawled letters COMBAT INFANTRYMAN. Given that we were sadly out of shape and have a congenital inability to submit to mindless authority, that abuse may well have saved our life.

WordPress appears to be broken. . .


No images will upload, and other users are having the same problem, effectively blocking all the posts we’ve written so far today. The problem appears to be general across the WordPress platform. No word on how long they’ll take to fix it.

We have tried video yet, but will soon.

Farewell To Glenn Frey, an Eagle soars no more


First, from today’s Washington Post:

Glenn Frey, who co-founded the Eagles and with Don Henley became one of history’s most successful songwriting teams with such hits as “Hotel California” and “Life in the Fast Lane,” has died.

Frey, who was 67, died of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia, the band said on its website. He died on Monday in New York. He had fought the ailments for the past several weeks, the band said.

>snip<

Guitarist Frey and drummer Henley formed the Eagles in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, along with guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner. They would become a top act over the next decade, embodying the melodic California sound.

There’s one Eagles song that will never leave us so long as we draw breath. Ever since we first heard it back in 1972, we were haunted by “Take it Easy,” one of the first hits of that then-new band, the Eagles, formed as backup for evocative vocal stylings of Linda Ronstadt.

It’s one segment that stirred something deep within, a reminder of our very first job in journalism, working in early 1966 for the Winslow Daily Mail in a dying railroad town in Northern Arizona.

I have memories of standing on a corner, wondering what to do with my teenage self. It’s the same corner that now boasts a park, inspired by that same song.

The Daily Mail is now long gone, one of the countless casualties of the Internet [Gored as it were], but the song by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey still sends shivers down our spine, especially this section:

Well, I’m a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona
and such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed
Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me
Come on, baby, don’t say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love is
gonna save me
We may lose and we may win though
we will never be here again
so open up, I’m climbin’ in,
so take it easy

Here’s a 1977 performance in Germany via fritz51357:

Eagles – Take it easy 1977

No Eagles song is more famous than “Hotel California,” the lead track on a 1976 album that went on to sell an amazing 16 million copies and embodying a guitar riff ranked number one on by readers on Guitar Magazine’s Top 100 Guitar Solos of All Time. The magazine also ranked is as the number one 12-string guitar single.

And here it is, with music by Don Felder and lyrics by Frey and Don Henley:

Eagles – Hotel California Live. At The Capital Centre, 1977

Finally, here’s the band performing with Ronstadt, singing a haunting tune by Frey and Henley:

Eagles & Linda Ronstadt – Desperado – Live 1974

ZioNutsies strike again: Scared of young woman


ZioNutsies is an esnl neologism, used to refer to zealous Zionists who never let truth stand in their way when it comes to doing their best to deliver thuggish assaults on anyone who dares suggest that the Israeli government is anything other than a bastion of peace and democracy.

We were attacked with vicious rhetoric after the proved the blatant speciousness of claims made against the Berkeley Daily Planet in the days we reported for the paper’s now-defunct print edition.

We spent a couple of weeks looking into the claims made against the paper, and definitively debunked them. The paper’s only “fault” was that unlike any of the seven newspapers we worked for, publisher Becky O’Malley believed that she had an obligation to open up her publication as a community forum, publishing almost every single letter to the editor or reader commentary to pass over the transom. The result was a boisterous public forum on a host of issues.

And what the paper’s ZioNutsy disparagers insisted the paper was flooded with antisemitic rants. just six percent of reader submissions dealt with the Israel/Palestine conflict, with pro-Palestinian submissions outnumbering pro-Israel submissions by about two-to-one, no surprising given the city’s role as a university town with a significant leftist population, many of them Jewish.

But threats to advertisers, including boycotts and outright intimidation, precipitated a revenue decline, and given that the publication had never money, it folded.

At 16, the latest victim of ZioNutsy zealotry is considerably younger that the grizzled esnl. She also an Israeli-born Jew.

From The Young Turks:

Teen Girl Accused Of Bullying For Criticizing Israel

Program notes:

A teen in New Jersey has been reprimanded by her high school for bullying. She tweeted criticisms of the Israeli government, and the school has taken action saying that it could be perceived as anti-Semitic towards Jewish students. Here’s the problem: She’s also Jewish. Ana Kasparian, Jimmy Dore (The Jimmy Dore Show), Jayar Jackson, and Becca Frucht hosts of The Young Turks discuss.

A New Jersey high school student found herself in a social media storm on Wednesday after she live-tweeted and apparently secretly recorded a trip to her principal’s office.

She said administrators warned her that her comments about Israel and a fellow student on Twitter might have violated a state law against bullying.

The student, Bethany Koval, a 16-year-old Israeli Jew, said she had been reprimanded by administrators at Fair Lawn High School in Bergen County for a tweet that contained a string of expletives directed at Israel and expressed happiness that a pro-Israel classmate had unfollowed her Twitter account.

More from San Francisco journalist Annie Robbins, writing at Mondoweiss:

During her holiday break on December 22, Koval was engaged in a conversation about Palestine/Israel and the viability of a 2 state solution, the discussion turned to Hamas. Koval tweeted she didn’t think Hamas was extreme; “Hamas is just painted that way Hateful rhetoric against Hamas is what allowed the Gaza bombing”. Another student at her school took offense to her tweets and began discussing them with friends. It occurred to Koval she could get in trouble and that her opinions could be construed as “hate speech“.

She explained in her statement to the authorities “A girl…told her friends I had no right to speak on this, and erased my Jewish ethnicity”.  Unfortunately challenging the ethnicity of Jews who expose Israel’s atrocities is not uncommon. Koval wrote she retaliated by writing a tweet about it, a “general message”. Hence, students reported her and she was accused of being a bully, a charge that is punishable by suspension and/or expulsion (pdf) in the state of New Jersey.

“Why I am accused of “bullying”, I think because I wish for a Free Palestine. The freedom of speech is chained and beaten in this school.”

Given that president and most of the members of the U.S. Congress attend the annual gatherings of the AIPAC, possibly the most powerful political interest group in the U.S. [no such turnouts for NRA conclaves], it comes as no surprise that the campaign of intimidation of pro-Palestinian voices has now descended to America’s high schools.

Parents, watch out what your kindergartners say. At this rate, their time will come.