Twitter was a pretty fascinating read throughout our airport adventure.
It was where we learned all about the the mass flight cancellations at
Horizon and Alaska, which helped shape our decision to stay on the
plane rather than disembark and face massive delays later in the week.
There was also chatter about the problems with the airport's de-icing
After posting our travel issues on Facebook, we got a flood of support from friends.
Great piece of reporting and writing here in The Weekly Standard by Matt Labash. "The City Where the Sirens Never Sleep" stars Detroit News reporter Charlie LeDuff, who used to be a New York Times star but now chronicles "forgotten people in forgotten places" of LeDuff's hometown.
When councilwoman Monica Conyers got in hot water for calling her
colleague "Shrek," Charlie arranged to have her sit down on-camera for
an interrogation by a group of middle schoolers. She proceeded to get a
condemnatory lecture on how to behave like an adult from the kids.
Charlie then interviewed her, convincing her to recite lines from the
infamous Shrek-ish city council meeting, with him playing the
part of her, in her sassiest Detroit voice. ("You know you not my
daddy!" he said.)
It was a good stunt, as evidenced by its getting picked up (without
attribution) by a number of national media outlets. But then he turned
around and wrote a wrenching story on the girl who schooled Conyers--a
13-year-old who is ashamed to be poor, whose parents sell candy out of
the trunk of a rattletrap Cadillac, who is not allowed to bring her
books home from school because there aren't enough, and who dreams of
escaping this city.
It's a long, engaging, surprisingly hopeful read that should make any newspaperperson proud.
Yesterday I was reminded how awful flying is and recalled with fondness my lengthy Amtrak trip from Seattle to Michigan and back, just a week previous. I used to love to fly and would always book a window seat. Now I just can't stand being confined like that. Physical discomfort is no longer offset by a stunning view.
By any present-day measure, my flight across the country on the Saturday before Christmas went as well as anyone could expect. I departed Seattle-Tacoma International Airport not an hour too soon. I arrived at Reagan National Airport in Virginia just a little late. It was a non-stop flight, which meant I didn't have to change planes in some crazy hub. I had an aisle seat. The leg room was adequate. The food was worth $5. The flight attendants were attentive and professional.
At our best, we informed that steelworker about his company and
industry, even when his bosses were withholding information from
We are often less, but at our best we report the news without fear
or favor. Whether on paper or online, we delight and entertain and
start conversations. Most important, we are watchdogs for a democratic
society as the framers realized when they wrote the Constitution.
For now, however, newspapers are in for their coldest winter, with probably more to come.
Update, 12-31-2008: This column has disappeared from The Seattle Times Web site, but I see the author has posted it elsewhere on the Internet.
SEATTLE, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008 — I had never taken the train to or from Portland before, so I was interested to see how it would go. After a two-night stop in the Rose City, near the end of my rail trip to Michigan and back, I was ready to get home to Seattle. It involved a three-hour ride over land I knew well, but seeing by rail a route that I had driven many times was a lot of fun and the time passed quickly. I rode business class on the Amtrak Cascades, and it was similar to that aboard the Wolverine — lots of room and a mostly quiet clientele. No kids.
a Navy News and Media Specialist, you could fill any or all of a number
of positions. Videographer. Photojournalist. Equipment repair
technician. Each one an important role in communicating current events
and documenting historic occasions.
The big Detroit dailies will home-deliver ink and paper just three days a week starting in the spring. This is going to be very disruptive to readers like my parents in outstate Michigan, who have been loyal Detroit Free Press readers for decades. I predict that by the time the change comes, Free Press owner Gannett and Detroit News owner MediaNews Group will decide not to bother with the other four days, of newsstand-only editions. If Detroit is anything like Seattle now, newsstand sales are an afterthought compared to what they were 10 or 20 years ago. Not sure how you could justify the overhead cost of four days of only single-copy sales, which are a small fraction of circulation compared to home-delivered papers. That ad revenue can't be worth turning the lights on at the printing plant.
This sets the stage for 2009 to be the year recognized as when printed newspapers died, in big cities, at least. Here in Seattle, the locally controlled Seattle Times is in very dire straits. The Hearst-owned Seattle Post-Intelligencer is a money-loser, too, but Hearst, at least, has very deep pockets and could weather the demise of ink and a recession all at once. I expect a year from now we'll have one daily printed paper here, perhaps a joint Times and P-I edition three days a week instead of just on Sundays. I think both brands could survive on the Web, but that will be only for as long as Hearst wants to continue to support a P-I news operation. And the newspaper business is deteriorating so fast, I'm not sure how long that will be the case.
ABOARD THE AMTRAK COAST STARLIGHT in Oregon, Friday, Dec. 12, 2008 — After a busy day in Sacramento, I climbed aboard my last overnight train sometime after midnight this morning. For this leg, a quick 16-hour run up to Portland for a weekend visit, I booked a roomette instead of a bedroom, as on the other legs. Roomettes are rather compact, with barely enough space for two facing seats which convert into two bunks. The bedroom, on the other hand, has some room to move and a combination toilet/shower. For such a short ride, I figured I needed primarily to sleep, and when I boarded, the bottom bunk was ready for me and I quickly fell asleep as the Coast Starlight pulled out of Sacramento.
I awoke in Northern California to a pinkish landscape of scrub brush and arid evergreens.
SACRAMENTO, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008 — Earlier this week I bid farewell to this and other pieces of the Lionel train set my brother, Keith, and I had when we were kids in the 1960s. We had a monster layout in the basement of our house in Albion, Mich. Its size and location — two plywood tables two feet off the ground in the southwest corner of the basement — made it the perfect tornado shelter:
ABOARD THE CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR in California, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008 — Breakfast in Winnemucca. Then, in Reno, a couple of volunteers from the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento boarded and provided occasional commentary as we crossed the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This was cool for me because I recently read (most of) Nothing Like It in the World by Stephen Ambrose, about the first transcontinental railroad, which was completed in 1869 by the Central Pacific, working east from Sacramento, and the Union Pacific, which built west from Omaha. Today's California Zephyr follows much of the original route, except for a detour south through Colorado instead of Wyoming, so as to serve Denver and the ski resorts.
ABOARD THE CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR in Utah, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008 — We left Chicago yesterday afternoon as a snowstorm was hitting Illinois.
One thing about riding trains is the intimacy you have with the passing landscape — it's right there, the train could stop and you could step off as if you were in a car. And yet you are in a moving house, in the sleeping cars, at least. The comfort of having a bed and a beverage and your slippers makes the experience a little surreal. A blizzard is right in front of you, but you are observing it as an unaffected ghost. No one on the outside knows who you are, if they even notice you at all behind the smoked window. Meanwhile, their lives are on display. You see more backyards than front yards, the rears of businesses, not as often the fronts. You see the junk out back, the cars up on blocks, the tidy patios of sweet suburbia.
So passed Illinois, and, during dinner, Iowa. I was asleep by the time we hit Nebraska and didn't awake until we were east of Denver, as the sun rose.
ABOARD THE AMTRAK BLUE WATER, Dec. 9, 2008 — Riding from Battle Creek, Mich., to Chicago, I was reminded that the Soviet Union had nothing on the U.S. when it came to urban decay and depressing, gritty, industrial wasteland. (And yes, I've seen both countries.)
The south shore of Lake Michigan where Illinois and Indiana meet, around Gary, is possibly the grimmest corner of commerce in America. I first saw it as a child when traveling to Chicago by car from our home in Albion, Mich. It is arguably worse now for the fact many of the foundries and factories clearly are no longer in use. And the ones that are seem uninhabited.
Today I continue my journey aboard Amtrak. (Most recent previous post.) I leave my parents' place in Albion, Mich., and ride the Blue Water from Battle Creek to Chicago, where I will board the California Zephyr for Sacramento. When I arrive there on Thursday, Dec. 11, I will jump the Coast Starlight for Portland, Ore., where I will stay the weekend. The circuit is completed on Sunday, Dec. 14, with a ride on the Cascades from Portland to Seattle.
This week the owners of Crosscut.com, of whom I am one, will likely vote to dissolve Crosscut LLC and donate the assets to a newly formed nonprofit called Crosscut Public Media. As Publisher David Brewster has written, a non-profit media outlet has potentially more sources of revenue and can be more pure as to mission. While it can continue to sell advertising, a nonprofit can also solicit reader memberships and grants, much as public radio does.
In 2003, National Public Radio received a generous bequest of $225 million from Joan Kroc, the wife of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, which boosted the public radio network's endowment and enabled it to expand news coverage and other programming with an estimated annual windfall of $10 million. The donation came with no strings attached.
That's a journalist's dream — a reliable stream of revenue that ensures news decisions can be made without outside interference. But without that sort of massive endowment, what does a non-profit news operation look like?