Opinion

The Great Debate

from Jack Shafer:

Beware the old nostalgic journalist

No sadder sack exists than the journalist in the twilight of his career. After decades of scrutinizing other individuals and their institutions, the soon-to-be-retired journo predictably looks inward and, if his editor indulges him, pens a heartfelt goodbye essay to his readers.

Robert G. Kaiser, former managing editor of the Washington Post, contributed such a note to his paper yesterday. To his credit, Kaiser doesn't bawl with nostalgia for his paper's salad days, like so many other recent writers of goodbye notes to their publications. Nor does he take aim at penny-pinching publishers and greedy chief executive officers, the standard suspect in the who-killed-the-newspaper-and-put-me-out-to-pasture sage. Nor does he slag the Web on his way out. Kaiser is too smart for that. In 1992, he wrote a persuasive memo (pdf) about the coming triumph of digital news and advertising, a memo that the Post tried and failed to translate into a business model.

Instead of giving his publication and readers a nostalgic goodbye with his final contribution -- as is usually the case when a journalist departs -- Kaiser opens the choke to spray a melancholic farewell to the federal city of Washington, which he's called home for most of his 70 years. "[T]he political circus that enthralled me for so long," he writes, has lost its spell on him. Having recently relocated to New York, Kaiser adds, "I don't miss Washington, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon."

Rather than paraphrasing Kaiser, let's capture his yearning with several quotations, which detail how and why he has wearied of Washington:

Because for me, the fun has drained out of the game. So has the substance. I used to get excited about the big issues we covered -- civil rights, women’s liberation, the fate of the country’s great cities, the end of the Cold War. I loved the politicians who brought those issues to life, from Everett McKinley Dirksen and Howard Baker (Dirksen’s son-in-law, curiously) to Russell B. Long and Edmund Muskie, from Bob Dole to George Mitchell -- all people who knew and cared a great deal about governing. Watching them at work was exhilarating. Watching their successors, today’s senators and representatives, is just depressing.…

George Bush and Iraq: ‘Shoe’denfreude?

Salim Adil is an author for Global Voices Online, a website that aggregates, curates, and translates news and views from the global blogosphere. The opinions expressed are his own and those of the bloggers he quotes.

gvWill this become one of those moments in history? In years to come will you recount to your grand children where you were when an Iraqi journalist, Montather Al-Zeidi, threw his shoes at the president of the United States? For me I was at home just getting my kids ready to sleep when my father called me insisting that I simply had to switch on the television immediately.

Iraqi bloggers reacted in much the same way with a number who wrote their first new post in months just to make their comment. Abbas Hawazin went as far to predict that shoe throwing will now be part of mainstream culture and has gone to look for a good-sized shoe to carry in his pocket, “in case I need to make any public expression of anger should the case arise.”

  •