Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sarkozy Walks Out on 60 Minutes Interview

Cozying up to Sarkozy obviously was not on the CBS agenda, and a bluntly prying question into the connubial conundrum of France's first couple backfired. This is a lesson on how not to conduct an interview with a head of state.

Friday, October 26, 2007

FEMA stages fake news conference on California wildfires

The saga of the latest federal fumble, and how journalists are burned over flaks posing as hacks has put FEMA's credibility in ashes. The Washington Post broke the story, and wire services picked it up. Hekuva job, Harvey. Read on:

WASHINGTON - The main U.S. disaster-response agency apologized today for having its employees pose as reporters in a news briefing on California's wildfires that no journalists attended.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, still struggling to restore its image after the bungled handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, issued the apology after The Washington Post published details of the Tuesday briefing.

"We can and must do better, and apologize for this error in judgment," FEMA deputy administrator Harvey Johnson, who conducted the briefing, said in a statement. "Our intent was to provide useful information and be responsive to the many questions we have received."

No actual reporter attended the hastily called news conference in person, although some camera crews arrived late to film incidental shots, officials said.

A spokeswoman for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who has authority over FEMA, called the incident "inexcusable and offensive to the secretary."

"We have made it clear that stunts such as this will not be tolerated or repeated," spokeswoman Laura Keehner said. She said the department was considering reprimands.

The White House said: "It was just a bad way to handle it." The Bush administration has faced criticism previously over accusations it masked public relations efforts as journalism.

FEMA had called the briefing with about 15 minutes notice as federal officials headed for southern California to oversee firefighting and rescue efforts. Reporters were also given a phone number to listen in but could not ask questions.

But with no reporters attending and a FEMA video feed being carried live by some television networks, FEMA press employees posed questions for Johnson that included: "Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?"

Johnson replied that he was "very happy with FEMA's response so far," according to today's Post account, which FEMA spokesman Aaron Walker confirmed.

Johnson also told the briefing that the agency had the benefit of "good leadership" and other factors, "none of which were present at Katrina." Chertoff was head of the Homeland Security Department during Katrina.

FEMA's administrator during Katrina, Michael Brown, resigned amid widespread criticism over his handling of the disaster, despite U.S. President George W. Bush's initial declaration that he was doing a "heck of a job."

E-mails between Brown and his colleagues over the course of the storm revealed a preoccupation with his media image.

"I am a fashion god," he wrote.

FEMA is reviewing its press procedures and will make changes to ensure they are "straightforward and transparent," Johnson said today.

Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino said the White House did not condone FEMA's action and would not engage in such practices.

But in 2004 the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, accused the administration of "covert propaganda" in distributing video packages about federal health programs that looked like independent news reports.

Conservative pundit Armstrong Williams lost a syndication deal for his column in 2005 and apologized after a disclosure that he accepted $240,000 from the Bush administration to promote education legislation in his commentaries.

U.S. defence officials that year also confirmed that U.S. troops wrote articles that were planted in Iraqi newspapers in exchange for money. Reuters

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Future humans to divide into giants and goblins. Will hacks be among the elite? Or just give them coverage?

There's fodder for thought on the BBC Website today, as an evolutionary theorist ponders how humankind will split into elite and sub-species, as HG Wells predicted.Science is on thin ice with such long range predictions, but Oliver Curry's theories on the species may not please troll-like geniuses or strapping dimwits. read on.

Humanity may split into two sub-species in 100,000 years' time as predicted by HG Wells, an expert has said.
Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge.

The human race would peak in the year 3000, he said - before a decline due to dependence on technology.

People would become choosier about their sexual partners, causing humanity to divide into sub-species, he added.

The descendants of the genetic upper class would be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the "underclass" humans who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures.

Race 'ironed out'

But in the nearer future, humans will evolve in 1,000 years into giants between 6ft and 7ft tall, he predicts, while life-spans will have extended to 120 years, Dr Curry claims.

Physical appearance, driven by indicators of health, youth and fertility, will improve, he says, while men will exhibit symmetrical facial features, look athletic, and have squarer jaws, deeper voices and bigger penises.

Women, on the other hand, will develop lighter, smooth, hairless skin, large clear eyes, pert breasts, glossy hair, and even features, he adds. Racial differences will be ironed out by interbreeding, producing a uniform race of coffee-coloured people.

However, Dr Curry warns, in 10,000 years time humans may have paid a genetic price for relying on technology.

Spoiled by gadgets designed to meet their every need, they could come to resemble domesticated animals.

Receding chins

Social skills, such as communicating and interacting with others, could be lost, along with emotions such as love, sympathy, trust and respect. People would become less able to care for others, or perform in teams.

Physically, they would start to appear more juvenile. Chins would recede, as a result of having to chew less on processed food.

There could also be health problems caused by reliance on medicine, resulting in weak immune systems. Preventing deaths would also help to preserve the genetic defects that cause cancer.

Further into the future, sexual selection - being choosy about one's partner - was likely to create more and more genetic inequality, said Dr Curry.

The logical outcome would be two sub-species, "gracile" and "robust" humans similar to the Eloi and Morlocks foretold by HG Wells in his 1895 novel The Time Machine.

"While science and technology have the potential to create an ideal habitat for humanity over the next millennium, there is a possibility of a monumental genetic hangover over the subsequent millennia due to an over-reliance on technology reducing our natural capacity to resist disease, or our evolved ability to get along with each other, said Dr Curry.

He carried out the report for men's satellite TV channel Bravo.

Hence the mention of pert breasts and impressive swinging dicks, presumably. This may be down to wishful thinking. (And where on the scale does the good scientist, pictured right, place himself? No doubt a feral beast will ferret out his height and condom size soon. All the British papers have carried his academic musings.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Waxing eloquent on pandas, bamboo forests, crabs, and Brazilians

Prize for oddest analogy of the week goes to the curator of the Rotterdam Natural History Museum, who solemnly requested the public to donate their pubic crabs, claiming that the lice population was dwindling drastically as a result of Brazilian waxes.
"When the bamboo forests that the Giant Panda lives in were cut down, the bear became threatened with extinction. Pubic lice," curator Kees Moeliker explained, "can't live without pubic hair."

The press widely publicized this plea for odd museum donations (anonymity assured)

Monday, October 22, 2007

From Parisian Pimp to Actors Studio, Lipton invites you inside

James Lipton, the host of U.S. talk show, Inside the Actors' Studio, once worked as a pimp in Paris, France, according to the Associated Press.

The revered TV presenter, who has sat down with Hollywood's biggest names for in-depth chats about their life and work over the last 13 years, has revealed he once procured clients for French hookers.

He says, "This was when I was very very young, living in Paris, penniless, unable to get any kind of working permit... I had a friend who worked in what is called the Milieu, which is that world and she suggested to me one night, `Look, you'll be my meck... We would translate it perhaps... as pimp.

"We were earning our living together, this young woman and I, we made a rather good living, I must say."

Lipton reveals in his new book Inside Inside he would set up sex shows for clients of his lady friend.

He adds, "I had to accompany my clientelle to the Rue Pigalle, which is where these things occurred. And then I'd take them up to the room and I had to remain there because they were very nervous, they were young Americans for the most part... and they didn't speak French."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Perez Hilton Profiled in Rolling Stone

Wanna-be celeb Perez Hilton, whose gossip reports may not be any more reliable than his recent too-early report of Castro's demise, is nevertheless hitting the headlines with his vituperative blog which gets millions of hits and has heavy impact. Rolling Stone labels him, rather approvingly if not so originally, the "Queen of Mean". Read on.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gossip columnist Lloyd Grove grooves on NY swag and DC pols

Newsmax's Ronald Kessler spills the beans on how NY Daily News gossip columnist Grove compares NY to DC. Now that he's left the trade that brought him nearly a dozen invites a day, the guys swears he's dropped 20 pounds. Party on.

“In New York, more than in Washington, there are people who always want to give you things. Give you a handmade suit, or jewelry, or liquor, or whatever. And it was my practice really to shy away from that. But the culture of swag is very highly developed in New York in a way that it’s not in Washington.”

Washington is a company town, Grove says.

“Pretty much everything is focused through the prism of government and politics,” he says. “New York has 20, 30 major industries that are headquartered here, everything from the arts to sports to media to finance to real estate. And as a journalist covering both towns, I mean Washington is a lot easier to get your arms around. I pretty much got to know all the players. And in New York, it’s much more complicated, and I’m still on the learning curve.”

Events in New York are often organized to promote a movie or a product like Donald Trump’s vodka.

“The party at Trump Tower had the stickiest floor of any party I’d ever been to, from all the vodka that was spilled,” Grove says. “A lot of parties in New York are held to highlight some fragrance, movie, clothing line, hard liquor. And a lot of parties in Washington are held to highlight some kind of politician.”

In Washington, you see the same people.

“Meg Greenfield [the late editor of the Washington Post editorial page] famously compared Washington to high school,” Grove notes. “And there’s a bit of that in New York, because you have these different groups of people in various lines of work, but there’s so many of them, and they seldom intersect.”

As a journalistic butterfly, Grove would go from one group to the other.

“Depending on what party, whose group’s party you were at, it would often be many of the same people,” he says. “For instance, at least once a week, I would see Harvey Weinstein, the head of now the Weinstein Co. studio and before that Miramax. I’d see Barbara Walters everywhere. She would be at the opening of the opera, and at a book party. And you see the Clintons around too, particularly Bill.”

Asked if Bill behaves himself, Grove says, “He was very well behaved. Every party I saw him at, he behaved almost as much of a gentleman as you are.”

Donald Trump was omnipresent.

“Donald is a staple of the columns, and I developed a very good working relationship with Donald,” Grove says. “You also see these models everywhere—Petra Nemcova, Paulina Porizkova.”

In both cities, Grove was besieged by people wanting publicity.

“You’re constantly hearing from people who want something from you, and it’s understandable,” he says. “As in Washington, there are people who understand what you do, and you can have working relationships with them, and they know how to pitch a gossip column. And there are people who really are kind of clueless, and it’s just sort of stuff for the circular file.”

When it comes to food, the party scene is overrated.

“I’ve had a lot of cheap wine in my job,” he says. “I’ve rarely had beluga caviar..."

Investigative reporting team unleashed

As cutbacks thwart investigative reporting at small US papers, venture journalism with a conscience is being launched and calling itself Pro Publica. Veteran journalist Paul Steiger, from the Wall Street Journal, is recruiting top reporters, according to the NY Times. Pro Publica will pay their three dozen reporters well, but give away the articles so readers in, say, Middle America might be enlightened.

The nonprofit group, called Pro Publica, will pitch each project to a newspaper or magazine (and occasionally to other media) where the group hopes the work will make the strongest impression. The plan is to do long-term projects, uncovering misdeeds in government, business and organizations.

Nothing quite like it has been attempted, and despite having a lot going for it, Pro Publica will be something of an experiment, inventing its practices by trial and error. It remains to be seen how well it can attract talent and win the cooperation of the mainstream media.

“It is the deep-dive stuff and the aggressive follow-up that is most challenged in the budget process,” said Mr. Steiger, who will be Pro Publica’s president and editor in chief. He gave up the title of managing editor of The Journal in May, but is staying on through the end of the year as editor at large; during his tenure, the newsroom won 16 Pulitzer Prizes.

Pro Publica is the creation of Herbert M. and Marion O. Sandler, the former chief executives of the Golden West Financial Corporation, based in California, which was one of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders and savings and loans. They have committed $10 million a year to the project, while various foundations have provided smaller amounts. Mr. Sandler will serve as chairman of the group, which will begin operations early next year.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Publicity-shy Newsweek launches 'Stealth Makeover'

Paper stealth has its place. But is it effective? Without trumpeting the changes in the usual, Newsweek tomorrow will unveil facelifts on its magazine and website, which cuts its longstanding link with old cyberpartners msnbc.com. Even the famous logo is being reshaped a bit. (Readers squawked when Time magazine printed their famous brand in pink instead of red for a recent breast cancer cover story.)
Will anybody notice Newsweek's efforts?
According to Keith Kelly of the NY Post,
Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham has consciously avoided publicizing Newsweek's revamping.

"It was stealth redesign," Meacham said yesterday as he was getting ready to ship the first of the new-look pages to the printer.

"I just want people to judge it when they see it," said Meacham. "I don't believe in sweeping declarations."

As part of the redesign - the first in six years - Newsweek's logo will undergo a slight tweak, but won't be radically different from what it replaces. In addition, many of the stories in the print version will be longer.

Meacham has also lengthened its Periscope section, doubled the size of its Conventional Wisdom Watch and added four new columnists.

"What we are trying to do here is clear out the clutter and speak in a print vernacular," said Meacham.

Meanwhile, Newsweek.com will now be a standalone Web site, though it will still have some loose ties to MSNBC.com under a new multi-year contract.

The new Web site goes live tomorrow with more breaking news, a blog from Newsweek political reporter Andrew Romano and daily updates of popular print columns such as "My Turn."

Though the magazine's Web strategy of going it alone will give Newsweek technological control of over how its site is displayed, it's a gamble because a large chunk of Newsweek's Web traffic was driven by MSNBC.com.

In August, for example, roughly 50 percent of the 7.2 million unique visitors to Newsweek's Web site came from MSNBC.com.

Rival Time magazine, meanwhile, had 4.4 million unique visitors.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

'Grin and Colbert It'-Impregnating the Country with his Mind

Faux-pundit Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's "Colbert Report" has surfaced with
an unlikely page-turner entitled "I Am America (and So Can You!)"?

Here is a typically wacky excerpt, running on Editor & Publisher website, which in turn was picked up from a plug on www.abcnews.com today.

Now, you might ask yourself, if by yourself you mean me, "Stephen, if you don't like books, why did you write one?" You just asked yourself a trick question. I didn't write it. I dictated it. I shouted it into a tape recorder over the Columbus Day weekend, then handed it to my agent and said, "Sell this." He's the one who turned it into a book. It's his funeral.

But I get your "drift." Why even dictate? Well, like a lot of other dictators, there is one man's opinion I value above all others. Mine. And folks, I have a lot of opinions. I'm like Lucy trying to keep up with the candy at the chocolate factory. I can barely put them in my mouth fast enough.

In fact, I have so many opinions, I have overwhelmed my ability to document myself. I thought my nightly broadcast, The Colbert Report (check your local listings), would pick up some of the slack. But here's the dirty little secret. When the cameras go off, I'm still talking. And right now all that opinion is going to waste, like seed on barren ground. Well no more. It's time to impregnate this country with my mind....

See, at one time America was pure. Men were men, women were women, and gays were "confirmed bachelors." But somewhere around the late 60's, it became "groovy" to "let it all hang out" while you "kept on truckin'" stopping only to "give a hoot." And today, Lady Liberty is under attack from the cable channels, the internet blogs, and the Hollywood celebritocracy, out there spewing "facts" like so many locusts descending on America's crop of ripe, tender values. And as any farmer or biblical scholar will tell you, locusts are damn hard to get rid of....

I said on the very first episode of The Colbert Report that, together, I was going to change the world, and I've kept up my end of the bargain. But it's not changing fast enough. Last time I checked my supermarket still sold yogurt. From France! See a pattern? Turns out, it takes more than thirty minutes a night to fix everything that's destroying America, and that's where this book comes in. It's not just some collection of reasoned arguments supported by facts. That's the coward's way out.

Friday, October 5, 2007

After 106 days in coma, Alexandra Boulat passed away today

Friends, family and photography buffs are grieving at the loss of Alexandra Boulat, the sensitive and brave conflict photographer who shot the photo below in Afghanistan. (A young female burn patient undergoing treatment at Herat Hospital. Shahima, 25, whose face is covered with a veil to protect her from flying insects, set herself alight to escape domestic violence and complete submission to her new stepfamily.) Alex was not afraid to look at death, and she embraced the complexities of life.

Alexandra was an elegant and vibrant woman, who had an exacting eye for lighting and detail and a passion for the truth. Our deepest condolences go out to Issa Freij, her partner in Ramallah, and Annie and Antoinette Boulat, her mother and sister in Paris. After suffering her brain aneurysm last June, Alex never regained consciousness. She was strong physically and held on for more than three months, first in Israel's Haddasah hospital and then was medi-vaced to Lariboisière in Paris. She died at noon today, age 45.

Gaza became an obsession for this exceptional photojournalist, who co-founded the renowned photo agency VII, and her friends will go through Erez crossing and make a donation in Alex's memory for the women and families whose lives are blighted by that conflict. Alex used to record the border guards' commands and the whirrs and dehumanized inspections every time she crossed this checkpoint and use them for background in podcasts.
Rest in Peace, Alexandra.
(Will post more details about funeral service and obituaries as they become clearer.) It is indeed a sad day.

UPDATE: A memorial service will be held on Friday, 12 October in the chapel at Jacqueville, outside Paris. Alexandra will be laid to rest beside her photographer father, Pierre Boulat.

The family would like to announce that a Foundation to continue Alexandra's and Pierre's legacy will be established in the coming weeks. The Foundation will support the ideals and issues that Alexandra and Pierre were concerned with. If you would like to contribute to this Foundation please contact: boulat_foundation@viiphoto.com

If you prefer to send flowers please send them to:
Cimetière de Jacqueville
77 760 Amponville, France

Click here to see the VII archive portraits of (not by) Alexandra.


Alexandra Boulat was born in Paris, France, in 1962. She trained in graphic art and art history, at the Beaux Arts in Paris. She was represented by Sipa Press for 10 years until 2000. In 2001 she co-founded VII photo agency. Her news and features stories are published in many international magazines, above all Time, Newsweek, National Geographic Magazine and Paris-Match. She has recieved many International Awards for the quality of her work.

Boulat covered news, conflicts and social issues as well as making extensive reportages on countries and people. Among her many varied assignments, she has reported on the wars in former Yugoslavia, the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq, Afghanistan at the fall of the Taliban, and the Women condition in the Islamic world. Other large assignments published in National Geographic include country stories on Indonesia Albania, and Morroco.


Best Women Photographer, Bevento Oscars, Italy 2006
Overseas Press Club 2003 - Afghanistan
World Press Photo / Art 2003 - Yves Saint Laurent Last Show
Infinity Award, International Center of Photography, New York, 1999 - Kosovo
USA Photo Magazine's photographer of the year, 1998
Perpignan, Visa d'Or pour l'Image, 1998 - Kosovo
Prix Paris-Match 1998 - Kosovo
The Harry Chapin Media Awards 1994 - Besieged Sarajevo


PARIS -National Geographic France 2002
ECLATS DE GUERRE (lights of war).
Les Syrtes Image, 2002

Wars in Former Yugoslavia, Visa Pour l'Image, Perpignan 1995
Wars in Former Yugoslavia, Gallerie Debelleyme, Paris 2002

See also obituary in the Times of London, as well as the Independent, the Guardian, and a tribute in Time.

Hamsters on viagra, gay bombs, sword swallowers' sore throat cures win improbable prize

Real research, reported by the Beeb from Harvard Yard.

The Ig Nobel Prizes were created by the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), a science magazine.

The awards, now in their 17th year, are intended to "celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative - and spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology".

Marc Abrahams, the editor of AIR, told the BBC News website: "When I became the editor of a science magazine, suddenly I was meeting all kinds of people who had done things that were hard to describe, and for the most part, nobody had ever heard of.

"For some of them, it seemed a great shame that nobody would give them any kind of recognition, and that was what really led to the birth of the Ig Nobels."

Like their more sober counterpart, the Nobel Prizes, the Ig Nobels are split into several categories and all research is real and published.

2007 Ig Nobel Winners

Medicine - Brain Witcombe, of Gloucestershire Royal NHS Foundation Trust, UK, and Dan Meyer for their probing work on the health consequences of swallowing a sword.

Physics - A US-Chile team who ironed out the problem of how sheets become wrinkled.

Biology - Dr Johanna van Bronswijk of the Netherlands for carrying out a creepy crawly census of all of the mites, insects, spiders, ferns and fungi that share our beds.

Chemistry - Mayu Yamamoto, from Japan, for developing a method to extract vanilla fragrance and flavouring from cow dung.

Linguistics - A University of Barcelona team for showing that rats are unable to tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and somebody speaking Dutch backwards.

Literature - Glenda Browne of Blue Mountains, Australia, for her study of the word "the", and how it can flummox those trying to put things into alphabetical order.

Peace - The US Air Force Wright Laboratory for instigating research and development on a chemical weapon that would provoke widespread homosexual behaviour among enemy troops.

Nutrition - Brian Wansink of Cornell University for investigating the limits of human appetite by feeding volunteers a self-refilling, "bottomless" bowl of soup.

Economics - Kuo Cheng Hsieh of Taiwan for patenting a device that can catch bank robbers by dropping a net over them.

Aviation - A National University of Quilmes, Argentina, team for discovering that impotency drugs can help hamsters to recover from jet lag.

Meet Charlotte, her hack highness from the Sindy

This Princess of Monaco is not such a grim Grimaldi, even though she dared to enter the very lair of the feral beasts, working on a London Sunday paper.

Time was when the Independent was an insouciant but principled newspaper which refused to cover the shenanigans of royalty. That all changed during Queen Elizabeth's Annus horribilis, when the monarchy actually made news. But as recently as 2005, when Prince Charles wed Camilla Parker-Bowles, the newspaper (which styles itself a views-paper now) cocked a snook at the royals with a full front page splash about the fairytale nuptials of Thomas Crapper, and demoted the heir to the throne's Windsor wedding to a meager two sentences on the inside.
How things change. Tristan Davies, the editor of the Independent on Sunday, famously fawns over celebrities. He was beside himself when Bono signed on as a guest editor for a Red edition of the Indy which was not so widely read. George Clooney is tapped to be the next editor-for-the-day (a conceit from Vogue magazine, more suitable to the langours of a monthly.) But Tristan has outdone himself. He has hired a genuine pouting princess on as a work-experience intern. She is Charlotte Casiraghi,age 20, the daughter of Princess Caroline of Monaco and granddaughter of Princess Grace. Hello. She may possess Hermes Kelly bags of talent, but her main journalistic experience so far is being on the opposite side of the lens as paparazzi snap away. Nothing fazes her much.

The MediaGuardian opines: It can only be a matter of time, given editor Tristan Davies's love of posh celebrities, that he blows all the savings made through the paper's redundancy programme and gives Casiraghi her own column.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Burmese Junta pulls the plug on Cyber-Revolution

Silencing the protestors used to be easy: intimidation was all it took, just a shaking of the iron fist. And if it shields itself from the prying eyes of other countries, a hermit nation like Myanmar can oppress its people with impunity. To counter the biggest Burmese popular uprising in the past 20 years, when monks in blood-red robes took to the streets, the military junta finally got to grips with the 21st century and pulled the plug on the country's two internet servers and all mobile phone networks to silence the festering dissidence. The mobile video phone is the subversive which just may prove mightier than the sword. But, writes Seth Mydans in the IHT, the digital age brought new power to ordinary people:
a guerrilla army of citizen reporters was transmitting videos, photographs and news reports over the Internet even as events were unfolding.
The old technology of guns and clubs had been ensnared by the immediacy of electronic communication in a way the world had never seen.....
They sent SMS text messages and e-mails and posted daily blogs, according to some of the exile groups that received their messages. They posted notices on Facebook, the online social networking Web site. They sent tiny messages on e-cards. They updated the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

They also used Internet versions of "pigeons" - the couriers reporters used in the past to carry out film and news - handing their material to embassies or nongovernmental organizations that had access to satellite connections.

Just as important, these images and reports were broadcast back into Myanmar by foreign radio and television stations, informing and connecting a public that receives only propaganda reports from its government.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

"Iran so Far"...a gay theme tune for Mahmoud

After all the kerfuffle over the Columbia University speech, the Saturday Night Live skit mocks Mahmoud with real verve, especially his "no gays inside Iran" assertion. Ahmadinejad looks particularly fetching stretched out atop the grand piano, dontcha think?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

New York Sun set in its ways: stylebook spells out Israeli coverage

Sure, perhaps this newspaper "shines for all," but Ne Plus Ultra-orthodox, apparently, is a motto for scribes on the New York Sun.
Ms Heidi Bruggink, of the NY Observer's Media Mob column, shares some inside info from the editorial room of a newspaper "known for its pugnacious coverage of Jewish-related issues--particularly a strong proponent of Israel's right to defend itself."

The in-house style guide of The New York Sun can be taken to offer some insight into the editorial positioning of the publication. We found, among the many entries, the following:

"aliya, not aliyah. Jewish immigration to Israel. Literally 'going up.' Opposite is yerida, the 'going down' of Israeli Jews to live in other countries, like America.

"Avery Fisher Hall: At Lincoln Center."

"Charedi. Literally, trembling. Prefer 'fervently Orthodox' or 'black-hat' to this Hebrew word. Avoid the term 'ultra-Orthodox.'"

"Decter, Midge. The Cold War heroine. Note the spelling of her last name."

"Ethnic. Means not Jewish or Christian."

"Gentile. Not Jewish or genteel."

"Jerusalem. Avoid the phrase 'Arab East Jerusalem.'"

"Matzo. Unleavened bread eaten at Passover, also called the bread of affliction."

"Peace process. Confine use to quoted material. Use the Oslo negotiations or the Arab-Israeli negotiations or the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs."

"Prime ministers of Israel. Our readers can be counted on to know of which country Prime Minister Sharon heads the government. Likewise with the American president."

"Reveal, revelation. Use only in quoted matter or when referring to what happened at Mount Sinai…"

"West Bank and Gaza Strip. Territories under Israeli control from 1967 onward. 'The territories' is acceptable on second reference, as are Judea or Samaria for the Southern and Northern regions of the West Bank. Avoid the phrase 'occupied territories.'"

UPDATE: This one was too good to leave out...

"communist, socialist. See AP stylebook. Any favorable reference to a communist must be shown to either the editor or the managing editor of the Sun before publication."

Junket Journos, corporate gifting, and unbiased reporting

Quality Street Digest is a sounding board for freelancers who contribute to "London newspapers formerly known as broadsheets." The odd name may bring to mind those tins of British wrapped toffees once handed out by PR firms, but it refers specifically to "quality" daily newspapers in London which eschew tabloid values, except for the shape of the paper. This exchange recently appeared there:

C: I was shocked recently when a journalist becoming newly established asked at a meeting how she could get free trips abroad etc, & I think this sort of 'chase the jollies' approach damages our trade and needs discouraging.

W: I am less worried about it, having had it as part of my life since
starting work. But in my first job, there was a shrine to the
crappiest corporate gift given to journalists. That attitude towards
the freebies has been evident in every job I have ever done. I have
found most hacks can still annihilate a company that deserves
annihilating no matter how much corporate hospitality and freebie
trips they have received from that company.

At the entrance to the Delhi Foreign Correspondents' Club, everyone steps on a pricey Oriental rug given by a Pakistani general as a welcome present to an incoming South Asia Bureau Chief from Washington, who only accepted it because her translator insisted; otherwise great offense would be taken. As soon as she crossed the border, she quickly donated it to the Delhi hacks' clubhouse-- as if it might be radioactive. "We must refuse to accept anything that could be construed as a bribe," she intoned. At a Bombay press conference for a satellite channel launch the same year, all reporters were given new television sets in their goodie bags, but by this time she did not even blink. (Nor did she take the TV home.)

What's the most blatant corporate gift you've come across as a reporter on the job?