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Press Clips: Corgis, Mermaids & Buffalo Beasts

Feb25

This just in: At this hour, the Calbuzz Little Pulitzer Jury is meeting in closed-door, emergency executive  session, intensely discussing how to sort out the impact on this year’s journalism awards of Carla Marinucci’s game-changer, global exclusive interview with Jerry Brown’s dog.

As the world now knows, Costco Carla not only obtained the first sit-lie-rollover face-to-face with Sutter, the stylish and charming Welsh Corgi recently named California’s First Dog, but also somehow obtained permission to walk the dog around the Capitol.

The key  issue in the hush-hush meeting of the LP prize panel is this: While Marinucci’s incredible, multi-platform storytelling feat makes her the clear front-runner for this year’s Blair Witch Award for cinema verite enterprise journalism (25K daily circulation category), should she be DQ-ed for not reporting a crucial bit of historic context?

To her credit, with the glaring exception of the phrase “era of bi-pawtisanship,” the latter-day Lois Lane produced her canine chronicle with a minimum of bad dog puns (alas, the same cannot be said of Debra J. Saunders, who provided the print-only version of the big event).

Nevertheless, senior Calbuzzers on the jury expressed concerns about her assertion that the comatose display of full underside nudity, provided by the passive pooch while under questioning, marked “the first time…a subject has fallen asleep DURING an interview.”

Maybe so, several judges acknowledged, then quickly countered that the veteran news hen failed to mention a famous and relevant journalism case study of how a California REPORTER once fell asleep during an interview.

Sources recalled that, in the summer of 1990, when Your Calbuzzards were bitter rivals and fierce competitors, both were granted interviews on the same day with Pete Wilson, then the Republican nominee for governor, in the lobby of the San Jose Fairmont Hotel.

After the pair nearly came to blows over who would go first, a coin flip decided the matter; moments later, an astonishing scene unfolded, as the go-first ink slinger (we name no names) nodded, drowsed and then fell completely asleep during Wilson’s protracted answer to a question about land use planning.

“The combination of Pete’s extraordinarily tedious monotone and his amazing ability to never pause for breath has an overwhelming somnolent neurological effect,” the nonplussed newshound said in his defense. “It’s truly hypnotic.”

Will Marinucci’s omission of this media milestone doom her chances with the contest judges? We’re standing by to bring you the news of their decision in the case as soon as we get it. Back to you, Brian.

The not-so-little mermaid: Mega-kudos to Timm Herdt for a fine yarn highlighting the hypocrisy of local officials who won’t stop caterwauling about Brown’s move to shut down redevelopment agencies, shouting to the heavens that it’s an outrageous violation of Proposition 22.

That measure, for those who were still drunk from celebrating the Giants championship and missed election day, was aimed at blocking Sacramento from grabbing money from cities and counties to paper over the state deficit. Local officials now fighting Brown on the redevelopment issue insistently invoke Prop. 22, with the same level of fervor (and logic) Tea Partiers use when they triumphantly note that the Constitution doesn’t specifically give  Congress the right to pass laws about cell phones.

As the wily Herdt notes, however, Brown is simply using the same argument that Prop. 22 boosters themselves used to sell voters on the initiative:

Last fall, the League of California Cities, which spent $2.5 million to promote a ballot initiative, argued forcefully that property taxes should be used only to pay for essential public services…

In the 463 words of the cities’ ballot argument in favor of Proposition 22, “911 service” is mentioned five times, “fire protection” four times, “police service” four times and “senior services” twice. “Redevelopment” — which pays for none of those things — was mentioned not at all…

To argue that voters gave a mandate to protecting redevelopment is dishonest and silly.

Putting redevelopment into their initiative was an overreach on the cities’ part, and one that now complicates any possible compromise that would allow redevelopment agencies to continue while also turning over a greater portion of their tax revenue to be spent on basic government services.

As we posited this week, with unusually measured restraint (“Strident, indeed. Hysterical, overwrought and hyperbolic, too. Seldom have we witnessed such widespread, collective urban self-centeredness coupled with apparent disregard for the social fabric”), redevelopment types are simply on the wrong side of history on this one.

As Tom Meyer demonstrates today, making manifest a splendid column by our friend George Skelton, the self-righteousness of the statewide urban developer-political hack nexus is too much to bear when you start to look at what some of these latter-day Phidias types are actually building.

Dive Bar features what is billed as the largest nightclub aquarium in the world. That’s impressive, sort of. But is a mermaid bar — any bar — really what tax money should be spent on when governments are struggling to keep their heads above water?

Maybe laid-off teachers can land jobs as mermaids.

“Not everything that dives in the water is a mermaid,” goes a Russian proverb. True dat; sometimes it’s just taxpayers taking a bath.

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Dumbo and the Beast: Corgis notwithstanding, for pure, unadulterated buzz this week, it’s impossible to top the effort of Ian Murphy, editor of the Buffalo, N.Y.-based site The Beast. Murphy’s cojones enormes, world-class quick-wittedness and beyond-Beckett sense of the absurd yielded him the biggest phony story scoop since Orson Welles led the aliens in invading New Jersey.

His pantsing and punking of the repulsive Wisconsin governor Scott Walker,  who along with his senior staff totally fell for Murphy’s low-rent imitation of oligarch David Koch, was not only an all-time, real-time prank, but also a white-bright laser beam that instantly illuminated the high stakes political dynamic playing out in the Badger State.

That said, one thing it wasn’t was journalism, at least as practiced in the U.S. for the last hundred years or so. Although the Society of Professional Journalists aimed a scalding screed at Murphy, citing chapter and verse of how he’d violated every ethical tenet in the book, what their bashing demonstrated more than anything is the vast distance between the venerable ethics, standards and values of the MSM and the warp-drive universe of the internets. Not to mention the utter futility of codifying any standards whatsoever for the drive-by, Mad Max online frontier that extend beyond self-policing.

Let’s review: the SPJ calls Murphy’s hijinks “underhanded,” “inflammatory,” and “inexcusable” – this aimed at a guy who advertises The Beast as “the world’s only website,” features on the home page a sad image of a starving kid urging readers to “donate now” to help the editors buy drugs, and features in his list of sponsors a pharmaceutical cure for those who suffer from “Oldness.” Talk about ships passing in the night.

So journalism, it’s not. High-end new media theater? Way.


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There are 3 comments for this post

  1. avatar pdperry says:

    You give kudos to this kind of provocateur?

    http://buffalobeast.com/126/Fuck.the.troops.Ian.Murphy.html

    One heckuva laser beam there.

  2. avatar SezMe says:

    Sure is, pdperry, but not in the way you think. The USA has to get over its mindless, ceaseless veneration of the military. Or as your link puts it, “As a society, we need to discard our blind deference to military service.” The opinions expressed there are spot on and should be front page stuff in the NYT (not, I hasten to add, that Calbuzz is not in the same league).

    Tell you what. I’ll gladly sign out the hosannas for the military till your ears hurt right after Hannity sings the praises of the Americorps and Palin throws a block party for returning Peace Corps volunteers. Till then, let’s stop treating the military with such reverence.

  3. avatar tegrat says:

    Yes, Murphy says what others fear saying. You can fault him for crassness, but not for content. Is there something in that column that is not true? I can’t find it. Like everything else, we must learn to accept the good with the bad, and call out, forcefully, the bad when we see it. To do otherwise just enables further damage.

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