Esteemed thinker: Nellie Bly

yellow journalismThe media has a dramatic effect on the attention of the populous severely influencing who will succeed and who may not. It has the power to guide and influence in a positive way, yet regularly chooses paths that would ordinarily be dismissed as follies. How often have we been bombarded by irresponsible reporting, leading us through the briar patch and around the same thorny trail… and then at the end giving exclusive coverage to those who have, shall we say, have the squeakiest wheel. Not always accurate or relevant, more time is allotted to individuals that do not merit the notoriety they inherit.

So, like a disease we had all thought had been eradicated, yellow journalism has been resurrected, gaining credence under the guise of information, whereby the best vaccine we can hope for is to inoculate with common-sense in hope that the subjected majority finds the means to the filter for themselves what is organically truthful.

Nellie BlyToday’s blog brings to you the esteemed thinker: Nelly Bly, (1864-1922) born in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth Jane Cochran was her given name however after her unique start to a most illustrious journalist career she used the pseudonym, Nelly Bly. In 1885 she sent an angry reply to the Pittsburgh Dispatch, regarding an article titled “What Girls Are Good For”. The editor was so enamored with her writing that he offered her a reporter’s job.

Nellie Bly broke the male barrier in journalism during an era when women reporters were relegated to cover only “women’s issues.” She became one of the most famous and influential American reporters, earning recognition for her fine undercover work in a mental institute 1887 for her exposé on the conditions of asylum patients at Blackwell’s Island in New York City. She gained international recognition by traveling around the world following the fictional character from Jules Verne’s novel, Around the World in Eighty Days.

Nellie Bly was a unconventional reporter who went undercover to seek out the truth and wrote her articles not with sensationalism but with facts. From a follow-up article titled in The New York World, 1887, “Untruths In Every Line”. I submit to you a few lines from Nellie Bly’s own words.

“On my first arrival in New York the editor of the Sun said to me in an interview, “There is nothing so valuable as a reporter who gives facts; who, when told that two and two make four, puts it four instead of three or five.” I have always been particular in stating only facts in all my work, but never did I confine myself so closely to this rule as in my story of “Behind Asylum Bars.” As the Sun undertook to prove that I really passed ten days as an insane girl on Blackwell’s Island, I would like to correct the many mistakes and misstatements which I found throughout the six columns recently published about me in that journal . . .”

First image: N.Y. : Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, Puck Building, 1910 October 12

Christopher D. Morley and languages

languages We reside in a world that is large enough to host so many languages that it is quite possible that if all were listed on a sheet of paper, most of us would not recognize to what country they belong. For example in Ethiopia the people speak Tigrinya, Oromo, Gurage, Somali, Arabic, 80 other local languages, and English, while in Bahrain, Arabic (Arabiyya) English, Farsi, Urdu are spoken.

If we were to dig deeper and look inward into a smaller realm, we will encounter sub-languages that consist of terms and words used only with those who are familiar within the a specific specialty. How often do we find ourselves confronted with a legal document that although it may be written in our own “tongue” we still need to take it to a lawyer to translate in lay terms what it means. If we were to read text with regards to computer programming, many would look to a person versed in technology just to translate its content for us.

And so it is the same for those confronted with the sport fishing section of the local newspaper. For here is a sample of an article written for those interested in taking day off with an angler; “Troll small hair jigs, 1-inch tube jigs, or grubs tipped with minnows along the bottom, or fish trout magnets, popeye flies, and small tube jigs tight to brush early in the morning, or later if the water is heavily stained.”…So it appears that a translator is also required to get the full gist!

christopher_morley(1) For today’s post I bring back to the esteemed thinker: Christopher D. Morley (1890-1957 ) an American author that has graced the pages of fiction and non-fiction with much of his humor although to our chagrin he has fallen into the world of the more obscure. Best known for his journalism, Morley was also a witty poet, where I have selected a work that further brings testimony to the unforgiving ways that language likes to toy with us. From his book, Mince Pie I bring you a clever piece.

THE UNFORGIVABLE SYNTAX

A certain young man never knew
Just when to say whom and when who;
“The question of choosing,”
He said, “is confusing;
I wonder if which wouldn’t do?”

Nothing is so illegitimate
As a noun when his verbs do not fit him; it
Makes him disturbed
If not properly verbed—
If he asks for the plural, why git him it!

Lie and lay offer slips to the pen
That have bothered most excellent men:
You can say that you lay
In bed—yesterday;
If you do it to-day, you’re a hen!

A person we met at a play
Was cruel to pronouns all day:
She would frequently cry
“Between you and I,
If only us girls had our way—!”

First image: 1941

Esteemed thinker: William Cobbett

lovers Advice is something we often receive freely even if we want it or not. Most people readily hand it over and wish nothing more in return except perhaps to be acknowledged that they are “correct”. It can be solicited without our intention such as through one’s appearance; “Your hair would look better combed,” or it can open up a world of advice by way of a simple question such as…. “Do you think I could wear this to the office?”

Advice is given in many forms. It can be written, spoken, and even offered as a gesture. For example rather than saying “my advice to you is ….” one may receive a “thumbs down”.

Those seeking advice have relied upon the famous such as Anne Landers and Dear Abby, the curious such as palm readers, and even the impersonal such as horoscopes. Yet no matter the advice one receives, no matter the way it is given, ultimately it becomes the decision of the seeker to make, and for that we bid “good luck!”

NPG 1549,William Cobbett,possibly by George Cooke Today’s blog introduces a lesser known English political journalist, the esteemed thinker: William Cobbett (1763-1835). Born in Farnham, Surrey County England, this author, satirist, journalist, and editor may not be a household name today, however it is to be noted that he was a champion of the people; fighting for reforms and exposing corruption in both the Church and Parliament during 18th and 19th century England. Through his writing in pamphlets, newspapers, and books he called for radical reform regarding poor working conditions for laborers and farmers.

Cobbett’s newspaper journal, The Political Register, was widely read by the working class people. As a result of his public outcries, he became an enemy of the government and fled to the United States in 1817 rather than being arrested for “sedition”. Here he lived on Long Island and wrote his most famous work, Grammar of the English language. Upon his return to England, in 1831 he continues to publish his radical newspaper and though running for the House of Commons, is defeated.

And so, we will now turn over the post to William Cobbett. The selection takes a bit of a turn from his political activism. From his series of Letters Advice to Young Men, and (incidentally) to Young Woman, you may be surprised to see that he too has some thoughts for those seeking love.

“… There are two descriptions of Lovers on whom all advice would be wasted; namely, those in whose minds passion so wholly overpowers reason as to deprive the party of his sober senses. Few people are entitled to more compassion than young men thus affected: it is a species of insanity that assails them; and, when it produces self-destruction, which it does in England more frequently than in all the other countries in the world put together, the mortal remains of the sufferer ought to be dealt with in as tender a manner as that of which the most merciful construction of the law will allow.

The other description of lovers, with whom it is useless to reason, are those who love according to the rules of arithmetic, or who measure their matrimonial expectations by the chain of the land-surveyor. These are not love and marriage; they are bargain and sale. Young men will naturally, and almost necessarily, fix their choice on young women in their own rank in life; because from habit and intercourse they will know them best. But, if the length of the girl’s purse, present or contingent, be a consideration with the man, or the length of his purse, present or contingent, be a consideration with her, it is an affair of bargain and sale…

Let me now turn from these two descriptions of lovers, with whom it is useless to reason, and address myself to you, my reader, whom I suppose to be a real lover, but not so smitten as to be bereft of your reason. You should never forget, that marriage, which is a state that every young person ought to have in view, is a thing to last for life; and that, generally speaking, it is to make life happy, or miserable; for, though a man may bring his mind to something nearly a state of indifference, even that is misery, except with those who can hardly be reckoned amongst sensitive beings. Marriage brings numerous cares, which are amply compensated by the more numerous delights which are their companions. But to have the delights, as well as the cares, the choice of the partner must be fortunate…”

First image: The lovers: New York : Published by N. Currier, c1846 lithograph, hand-colored.
Second image: National Portrait Gallery UK Painted circa 1831 by artist George Cooke (1781-1834)

Charles Dudley Warner and the newspaper

town crier Once upon a time ago the only means of receiving news was via the “mouthpiece” of a town crier… a person who because he could read and probably had a loud voice, would go about the town, stand in a designated location and impart to the public information from the King; where upon he would then “post” it on a door of an inn or other such place. It is said that he was protected by law since not all the news was greeted with civility. (Hence the expression, “Don’t shoot the messenger!”) And then, there was the invention of the mechanical printing press…thank you Mr. Gutenberg, a most ingenious fellow from Germany who opened the world of local news into mass communication in the 15th century… the printing revolution had begun…though it was a most laborious but effective means of reproduction. And as technology progressed, so has the system of mass producing; no longer are small blocks of letters needed to be placed individually to create independent words, but the voice of the writer now is digitally set.

There are very few places where the newspaper hasn’t graced our lives. For centuries news has magically appeared in the wee hours of the morning just waiting to be unfolded and read. They have traveled with us on the subway, found morning coffee dripped upon their pages , rolled up for an occasional disciplinary tool for that naughty puppy, lain flat across the bottom of the canary cage , and even insulated newborns in bitter cold apartments. The newspaper has dotted our lawns, provided job security for countless youth, and even though scoffed at for staining our finger tips with ink…it has been like a friend who not always tells us what we want to hear.

However, the 21st century has not been kind to our faithful companion, who even expanded its “greetings” to early and late editions. Folks today have changed their habits; like those who once ate a wholesome breakfast at the kitchen table, presently have little patience for even a café grande” in the car. So it appears that taking time to peruse a newspaper has diminished into moments to scan paperless waves ….

Charles Dudley Warner _2 Today’s blog reinstates esteemed thinker: Charles Dudley Warner to the forefront; friend to Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain; he is a noted and accomplished 19th century essayist and writer. Extracted from his essay “American Newspaper” I give you his “clever” writing that will take you on a cerebral sabbatical away from the hustle bustle of the day.

“… Yet it must be confessed that here is one of the greatest difficulties of modern journalism. The newspaper must be cheap. It is, considering the immense cost to produce it, the cheapest product ever offered to man. Most newspapers cost more than they sell for; they could not live by subscriptions; for any profits, they certainly depend upon advertisements. The advertisements depend upon the circulation; the circulation is likely to dwindle if too much space is occupied by advertisements, or if it is evident that the paper belongs to its favored advertisers. The counting-room desires to conciliate the advertisers; the editor looks to making a paper satisfactory to his readers. Between this see-saw of the necessary subscriber and the necessary advertiser, a good many newspapers go down. This difficulty would be measurably removed by the admission of the truth that the newspaper is a strictly business enterprise, depending for success upon a ‘quid pro quo’ between all parties connected with it, and upon integrity in its management…

The power of the press,” as something to be feared or admired, is a favorite theme of dinner-table orators and clergymen”… The power of the press is in its facility for making public opinions and events. I should say it is a medium of force rather than force itself. I confess that I am oftener impressed with the powerlessness of the press than otherwise, its slight influence in bringing about any reform, or in inducing the public to do what is for its own good and what it is disinclined to do..

The publication of the news is the most important function of the paper. How is it gathered? We must confess that it is gathered very much by chance. A drag-net is thrown out, and whatever comes is taken. An examination into the process of collecting shows what sort of news we are likely to get, and that nine-tenths of that printed is collected without much intelligence exercised in selection. The alliance of the associated press with the telegraph company is a fruitful source of news of an inferior quality. Of course, it is for the interest of the telegraph company to swell the volume to be transmitted. It is impossible for the associated press to have an agent in every place to which the telegraph penetrates: therefore the telegraphic operators often act as its purveyors. It is for their interest to send something; and their judgment of what is important is not only biased, but is formed by purely local standards. Our news, therefore, is largely set in motion by telegraphic operators, by agents trained to regard only the accidental, the startling, the abnormal, as news; it is picked up by sharp prowlers about town, whose pay depends upon finding something, who are looking for something spicy and sensational, or which may be dressed up and exaggerated to satisfy an appetite for novelty and high flavor, and who regard casualties as the chief news. Our newspapers every day are loaded with accidents, casualties, and crimes concerning people of whom we never heard before and never shall hear again, the reading of which is of no earthly use to any human being…
And there is scarcely ever a cause, or an opinion, or a man, that does not get somewhere in the press a hearer and a defender. We will drop the subject with one remark for the benefit of whom it may concern. With all its faults, I believe the moral tone of the American newspaper is higher, as a rule, than that of the community in which it is published…”