Over at eaves.ca, David Eaves raises some interesting and important questions about journalistic citation, after The Walrus quoted his blog in Gil Shochat’s “The Dark Country” (January/February 2010) without noting the exact source in the piece. In his post, David mentions his perception that journalism operates collaboratively, and cites our oversight as an exception to this rule. As the editor of the piece, I saw the decision a bit differently.
First, my personal experience is that most media enterprises jealously emphasize their original contributions to stories, and try to mask the fact that a sizable chunk of their content originates with competitors (even ones working in other media entirely). I’ve always found that mindset a little craven, mind you, and I do think it’s changing in the Internet/death-of-print-media age.
In this case, it wasn’t a question of being proprietary. As a monthly magazine, we don’t face the same competitive pressures as, say, a daily paper that doesn’t want to highlight that it has been scooped. Plus, we’re fans of eaves.ca, and would generally want to drive traffic there. (Disclosure: David and I know each other a little bit.) It was more a question of how including that information would affect the flow of the narrative, and what readers needed to know for the quotation to have its intended effect.
Going back to reporting classes in j-school, I’ve always tended to think of citation in journalism, by contrast with academic work or blogging, as primarily a question of relevant detail, more than of fair dealing or reader enrichment, as David casts it. Note that expert commentary of the kind David’s quotation was providing often appears without much context, partly because many stories would otherwise get bogged down in dreary repetitions of “reached by phone in her office, Professor X said…”
Insofar as I was making a conscious decision as an editor, I would have been asking myself whether mentioning eaves.ca bolstered the authority of the quotation or added narrative value. Ultimately, I concluded that David’s credentials were all readers needed to know. In hindsight, I might have chosen otherwise, in part because the quotation wasn’t a spoken one, and in part because this is a rare instance where the source actually ended up caring.
David also asks in his post why The Walrus hasn’t linked to his blog in the online version of the story. “When The Walrus doesn’t link to others, it is a policy decision,” he writes. “They believe in the myth that they need to keep people on their website — which means they also believe in keeping their readers away from the very material that makes their stories interesting.”
Ouch! We definitely don’t believe in that myth. We’re simply a monthly magazine first. We don’t go in and insert links into our magazine pieces because we don’t have the resources, and because the decisions about what and where to link would be difficult and time-consuming to navigate, especially given that we rely on freelance writers, who might have opinions about what should be linked to or not. It’s certainly not policy.
Generally speaking, we want to do anything that will help us be part of the public conversation on the issues we cover — in fact, doing so is part of our mandate as an educational publication. And we’re well aware of the value of linking to and from other publications. We do plenty of linking on our blogs, and the magazine’s Twitter feed (not to mention my own) is generally abuzz with links to and from other media.
It’s more that until a literary journalism–loving Web 2.0 billionaire shows up to bestow an endowment upon us, we’re limited in what we can accomplish. (If you are said billionaire, please click here.)
Picture it: Red Deer, 1992. A young boy, undersized for his age and uncertain of his abilities, steps to the service line on a volleyball court. He has been brought in to close out the first set of an exhibition match. If his serve goes in and he plays solid defence, he will secure a spot as the primary back-row specialist on an elite team competing for Alberta at the Western Canadian finals the following week.
The ball flies off his palm, drifting spinless toward the left side of the court.*Which, this site’s countless volleyball-nerd fans can confirm, makes for a more difficult second touch, as the setter must look back over his shoulder to track the first pass and rely on his peripheral vision to target his main options. Suddenly, as it crosses the net, it knuckles to the left. Out of bounds. The boy hangs his head and lines up to receive serve. He believes, because he must, that he was merely unlucky.
In the second set, he is brought in in the same situation, still undersized for his age an entire paragraph later, and now even more uncertain. He steps to the line. Again he strikes. Again the serve dances setter-side. Again it crosses the net and swerves out of bounds. This time, the coach benches him. His team loses the game, but goes on to win bronze at Western Canadians. Another, taller boy*One with a less active serve and less agile defence—not that the shorter boy is bitter or anything.is the back-row specialist. The boy who missed his serves is only allowed to touch the court in garbage time against a team from a province where volleyballs are scorned as Devil’s Leather. Most of their players have at least one pegleg. His only serve, it need not be said, goes in.
That boy was me. And those chokes were mine. (more…)
As mentioned in a previous post, I recently took a course at U of T on modern drama.*I’ll never reveal my mark, but it was probably a bad sign for one of us that my prof complained on my first paper about there being no letters lower than ‘F’. Among the gems I left with was this quote from Yeats, on J. M. Synge after Synge’s death at thirty-eight: “In all art like [Synge's], although it does not command—indeed because it does not—may lie the roots of far-branching events. Only that which does not reach, which does not cry out, which does not persuade, which does not condescend, which does not explain, is irresistible.”
I thought this was an excellent evocation not only of what makes a certain kind of drama powerful, but a certain kind of non-fiction as well. (more…)
With the departure of Maxime Bernier, Cabinet Draft 2008 appears to be getting underway. Prognosticators are busy speculating on who will fill which seats, and even whether any seats other than Bernier’s are up for grabs. (Google News result 2 for the query ‘harper cabinet shuffle’: “Bernier affair unlikely to prompt major cabinet shuffle, source says”*Translation: Harper’s office wishes to quell speculation, but isn’t willing to commit strongly enough to a small shuffle to say on the record that that’s what it will do. In the absence of a Daily Show up here, someone really needs to start a blog to sift through all the “unsourced” crap that is clearly coming from the PMO.; result 3: “Major cabinet shuffle expected in coming weeks.”)
Alongside this speculation has come a rash of banal tsk-tsking to the effect that Maxime Bernier’s departure illustrates why Cabinet posts should emphasize talent over regional concerns. This wisdom has emanated from The National’s At Issue panel,*Whose video podcast I am addicted to. Why must you tease me so with your sensibly furrowed brow, Andrew Coyne?*Also worth two minutes of every day: The Hour‘s Cold Openings. the Globe and Mail’s editorial pages, and practically everyone capable of formulating a reasonably intelligent opinion on politics.*Everyone who fits this description, step forward. Not so fast, robotic vacuum cleaner! (Sadly, nothing yet from Maclean’s generally excellent Blog Central.*Which, near as I can tell, operates as a sort of potlatch economy, granting bloggers status only if they lead with a gift of praise for a fellow Maclean’s writer.*Not so over here. FYI, Christopher Flavelle (walrusmagazine.com‘s Bright Lights blogger) still thinks practical jokes involving laser pointers are funny, and Jared Bland (The Shelf) cheats at beach volleyball. You should only read their blogs if the rest of the Internet is down.)
Clearly, none of these people watch enough sports. Or if they do, they aren’t giving them enough thought. I’m talking levels of thought that, properly applied, could resolve questions that have plagued human existence for centuries.*Such as: Why are we here? And: Why are we really here? And: Who do I have to kill to find out why we’re really here? And: What do you mean by yourself? Fortunately, my friends and I are up to the task. We’ve argued out the talent vs. regional representation thing many times before, in the form of the age-old debate between the Best Player Available (BPA) and Fill A Need (FAN) theories of drafting for major league sports teams. This argument predates politics, going right back to the dawn of human life, when God had to decide between creating Adam or a left-handed pitcher with great upside from Bayonne, New Jersey.*His choice is only the first of many reasons why Darwin eventually turfed Him.
The time I’ve been able to devote to my real work—blogging—has been limited lately thanks to my editing duties, researching a potential politics story for the fall, and studying for a course I’m taking on modern drama.*Which will, next time some Hollywood-approved star shows up in Ottawa to decry Bill C-10, prompt some seriously trenchant comparisons with Lord Chamberlain’s censorship of George Bernard Shaw’s Miss Warren’s Profession. I recommend checking in early and often. As such, in the grand tradition of starving freelance writers everywhere, I’m recycling some content created for another forum in hopes no one will care.
In this case, following is the text of a eulogy I delivered for Bigfoot last Thursday at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel, a launch for Walrus contributing artist Graham Roumieu’s Bigfoot: I Not Dead (which you can purchase here) that was part of the This Is Not a Reading Series put on by Pages Books. You can also read managing editor Jared Bland’s interview with Bigfoot for more.
I should note that I was forced to deliver this right after comedian and writer Seán Cullen had seemingly drawn out every laugh a hundred or so human bodies are capable of expelling in a single evening*Calculated by eminent guffologists to be exactly 1,753. with his largely improvised take on how we should all learn from Bigfoot’s ability to live in the now. But no pressure.
Warning: could be viewed as vulgar by human standards, though it will seem profoundly commonplace to most sasquatches.*And to Michael Winter, whose scatalogical eulogy stretched the boundaries of good, bad, and awful taste—and we are all the better for having heard it.
The McSweeney’s Joke Book of Book Jokes (featuring a riff on Borgès by occasional Walrus contributor David Ng),*I shouldn’t be honouring them, given that they turned down my hilarious submission, “Gary Shteyngart Is a Shtupidface,” but that’s just the kind of generous spirit I am. an unwittingly funny quote I had the misfortune to come across yesterday. It’s the response of Sweden’s foremost contribution to world literature, August Strindberg,*Sorry about your luck, Göran Sonnevi. to Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil :
My friend the Baronist recently loaned me the Simon Schama’s Power of Art DVDs. The BBC series, which first aired in 2006, crafts episodes around eight seminal works, combining biography, social history, and criticism to give a sense of what made each one significant during its time and what keeps it so today. I’ve thus far seen the ones dedicated to Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath (1601), Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Theresa (1652), Rembrandt’s The Conspiracy of the Batavians Under Claudius Civilis (ca. 1666), David’s The Death of Marat (1793), and Turner’s Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On) (1840).*Update for all you completists: I’ve since seen the rest. Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows (1890), Picasso’s Guernica (1937), and Rothko’s Black on Maroon (1958), for scorekeeper-completists. All have been riveting, with the exception of the one on David, who, as a painter, makes for a great revolutionary.*The violent kind, not the artistic genius kind, in case that wasn’t clear.
A few last thoughts on the subject of mixed martial arts*Before I get back to my true passion: Bennett Buggy repair. in the wake of UFC 83, which went off last Saturday in Montreal, and of an interview Robin Brown conducted with me for The Inside Track, which will air on CBC Radio One at 1:30 on Sunday, May 3, in most parts of the country (4:30 Pacific and 2 in Newfoundland, also on Sirius channel 137 at 6:30 Eastern).
So I’m going to piggyback on the recent blogosphere success of The Walrus‘s resident Man, Ed Keenan, by responding to his latest post, “The Manly Art, Minus the Artifice,” as well as to Frank Deford’s recent article on Sports Illustrated‘s website, “Has boxing been quashed for blood sport?”*Subtitle: “Why we’re getting our butts kicked by ESPN.com.” Both offer critiques of mixed martial arts, which, as mentioned a few times on the site the past few days, Jan Dutkiewicz and I have an article on in the current issue of The Walrus.
I went to see the New Pornographers and Okkervil River play at the Phoenix in Toronto on Wednesday night. The concert was surprisingly good. I say surprisingly first of all because the New Pornographers were excellent, though they don’t have much of a reputation as a live act. Carl Newman can churn out cheery distortion pop like nobody’s business, and he comes across as one of the nicest musicians you’d ever want to meet. But as my good friend the Baronist pointed out, when the music’s on, he comes across as one of the nicest musicians you’d ever want to meet. Dude rocks out with his **** in. Still, since Neko Case*Who I remain willing to marry despite her steadfast refusal to send me a mason jar with one of her high notes trapped inside. was singing and twitching the best tambourine this side of Betty,* I was impressed.
The May issue of The Walrus features a story I wrote with Jan Dutkiewicz on mixed martial arts. I promised when we went to press that I would write a blog post on the subject of Barthes and MMA, which will hopefully not prove as obnoxious as it sounds. I’m also not sure I can top Chuck Liddell (pounding Randy Couture in photo) on the subject, but I’ll give it a shot.
Like*As part of my and Ed Keenan’s ongoing efforts to reclaim the footnote from D1a2v3i4d5 F6o7s8t9e*r& W!a†lπl∑a√c≈e©, we’re taking things up a notch. Henceforth, sidenotes. most people with a Bachelor of Arts degree, I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to forget about Barthes. I’d largely succeeded at this task, until a former intern here, much better read than me,*Except for the works of Richard Scarry, which I am the world’s foremost expert on. It was I, you probably know, who first explicated the subtext of his masterwork, What Do People Do All Day? Turns out they mostly sit around thinking about sex. For shame, Mr. Scarry, for shame. handed me a copy of Barthes’ Mythologies in conjunction with my research for the story. She’d flagged the essay “The World of Wrestling” for me, which I soon realized I’d read and subsequently repressed as an undergrad. (more…)