Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

Cheeps and Chirps for Oct. 1, 2018

October 1, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 1, 2018

Chirp shots from the peanut gallery.

• Politics

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A publisher finds her mettle during a fight over government secrets in Spielberg’s new historical drama, ‘The Post’

February 1, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 1, 2018

Steven Spielberg’s dozens of features are too numerous and diverse to categorize neatly. But if some hypothetical archivist were forced to sort the prolific director’s output into two boxes, she or he could do worse than to choose the labels “commercial movies” and “prestige movies.” Jaws (1975), the prototypical blockbuster, would belong in the first box; so would Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and the other Indiana Jones movies (the 1984 prequel and 1989 and 2008 sequels), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Jurassic Park (1993) and its 1997 follow-up, Minority Report and Catch Me if You Can (both 2002), War of the Worlds (2005) and other works, including the imminent Ready Player One and an upcoming Indiana Jones adventure.

Spielberg’s 2017 feature, The Post, belongs squarely with his prestige movies. It’s in good company, rubbing elbows with Empire of the Sun (1987), Schindler’s List (1993)Amistad (1997), Munich (2005 again), Lincoln (2011) and Bridge of Spies (2015). Other than the director’s very first prestige picture, The Color Purple (1985), which was adapted from Alice Walker’s phenomenal 1982 novel, all of these highbrow movies are based on true stories.

The Post reunites the director with Tom Hanks. The star of Bridge of Spies plays against Meryl Streep as the editor and publisher, respectively, of The Washington Post. Today, the newspaper is an iconic American journalism institution, and Ben Bradlee and Katharine “Kay” Graham are legendary figures. But when we meet the lead characters, in 1971, they have yet to secure their legacies.

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Crimes and misdemeanors: Considering criticism of The New York Times’s Michael Brown profile

August 26, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 26, 2014

The New York Times published dual profiles Sunday of Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. The former man, of course, is an unarmed 18-year-old who was killed this month  in Ferguson, Mo., while the latter man is the police officer who fired the deadly shots.

The profile of Brown, written by John Eligon, was poorly received. The sticking point was essentially this, the fifth paragraph:

Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life. Shortly before his encounter with Officer Wilson, the police say he was caught on a security camera stealing a box of cigars, pushing the clerk of a convenience store into a display case. He lived in a community that had rough patches, and he dabbled in drugs and alcohol. He had taken to rapping in recent months, producing lyrics that were by turns contemplative and vulgar. He got into at least one scuffle with a neighbor.

The complaints seem to boil down to the following two points:

• Why does Eligon mention Brown’s very minor offenses — experimenting with alcohol and drugs, scuffling at least once, making rap music — when these are things that many, many teenagers have done?

• Why does Eligon characterize the shooting victim as “no angel,” which many read as an implicit condemnation of Brown’s character?

I’m not impressed by either of these objections. Let’s examine them in order.

The first complaint is by far the flimsier one, to my mind. Brown’s use of drink and drugs, his one known fight, and his rap music are relevant because those are among the things that Eligon found in his reporting.

And Eligon didn’t exactly focus on Brown’s possible failings to the exclusion of all else. Here is the very next paragraph in his story:

At the same time, [Brown] regularly flashed a broad smile that endeared those around him. He overcame early struggles in school to graduate on time. He was pointed toward a trade college and a career and, his parents hoped, toward a successful life.

Might it have been better to put more emphasis on these details? Perhaps. But if the profile’s fifth and sixth paragraphs had essentially been flipped, I have a hunch that critics still would have focused on references to some of Brown’s questionable behavior.

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Freedom from regulation: Lax government oversight and possible private-sector negligence contribute to West Virginia water woes

January 15, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 15, 2014

Slowly, residents of West Virginia are having their potable water restored.

As previously noted, about 300,000 people in nine West Virginia counties were ordered not to use their water for anything but flushing toilets (and fighting fires) on Thursday evening.

There have been no documented deaths after about 7,500 gallons of methylcyclohexene methanol or 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, a chemical used to clean coal, contaminated the public water supply. And by Tuesday, more than 35,000 customers had been given the go-ahead to start flushing the poison from their pipes by running the faucets.

The flushing process apparently involves running taps for 20 minutes and replacing water filters. West Virginia American Water announced that its customers would be credited for 1,000 gallons, which it estimated would be enough to cleanse the pipes of a typical family home. (The average residential customer uses 3,000 gallons a month, the company said.)

Still, the bulk of the affected customers will have to continue to rely on bottled water for most uses (again, toilet flushing and firefighting excepted). And it seems that many schools and businesses in the contaminated area will remain closed Wednesday. A number of these have been shuttered since Friday.

I wrote this last week:

[A]ll too often, a deep dig into these incidents reveals safety inspection and permitting processes that are lax or underfunded. Frequently, there’s a pattern of penalties that either are not enforced or are too minuscule to dissuade dangerous conditions.

This wasn’t really a prediction, simply an observation based on an oft-repeated sequence. True to form, this very familiar blueprint seems to apply to the West Virginia spill.

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