Jan 30, 2014

Don't bury the lede

Okay. I won't:

Yahoo News needs a wire editor who isn't smoking crack on duty.


Home base for YN is here, and it has been a bookmark on my Mac for years.

This morning, the news lineup there begins with a hit piece on Obama by YN's own Matt Bai.

Next, a Daily Beast hit piece on Ted Cruz.

Then a nigh incomprehensible  satire (?) by Ann Coulter, followed by a MatchCom ad dressed up as a news headline, then another D. Beast thumbsucker on pot laws.

A couple of similar items later you get to the first actual news report which, this morning, is offered in Spanish.  And that is probably the first thing the reading masses will catch as a probable journalism screwup.


I speak now of a certain period of time, beginning roughly in the 1880s and ending  about the time the national information system was captured by vidicons imaging beautiful coifs yammering happy talk on the six-o'clock news.

In those days, every daily newspaper bigger than the Bloomington Pantograph employed a wire editor, usually a crusty old reporter too far gone to be of much use on a beat but still possessed of the single  most important thing in journalism: news judgement.

He monitored the old 66 words-per-minute Teletypes*, ripping copy, spiking** most of it, selecting the best and most relevant stories for his readers.  These he massaged in several ways and passed on to the senior editors at the "desk."

The better ones came to work sober and didn't reach for the jug of Jim Beam hidden in the file drawer on the right-hand side of their two-pedestal desk at least until the presses were rolling with the bulldog edition.

The final product was a paper which, whatever its faults of emphasis, story placement, and editorial slant, gave its readers a concise and (more-or-less) dependable  view of changes in the world and the nation since the previous day's editions.

Not even the worst of the damned Hearst rags would have gone to press with the above-mentioned Yahoo cesspool on Page One.


There are still men and women alive who practiced journalism with an almost religious belief in the sanctity of the mission. That's why you see so many of us trudging around with sad basset -hound eyes, fighting the urge to reach down for our hidden flask of Jim Beam.



*Through the WW2/Korea era there were three fierce competitors based in the U.S.  The Associated Press (AP) was the unquestioned leader, followed by United Press  (UP)  and International News Service (INS). INS sold itself to UP, creating United Press International (UPI) which went broke in the 1980s and survives today mostly as an internet logo, a feature service at best.

**Spiking: Unwanted wire copy was slammed on to the spike in case it might be needed later.

If some guy you met in a bar claimed to be a wire editor and could not display several puncture-wound scars on his palms, he was lying to you.

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