Volume III, Issue I Spring 2004

The Smoking Section

Marge Schott was not an easy woman to like, at least not through the media prism. Nonetheless, seeing her at the Cincinnati Reds' home games, puffing away on her ever-present cigarette in defiance of city codes was always a bit heart-warming, and made up – if just a bit – for the dumb and hurtful things she sometimes said.

And now she's gone, of course, and we're reduced to smiling in appreciation as the perpetually adolescent Courtney Love defies New York City's smoking ban by lighting up on David Letterman's show – about the only person willing to defy the health Nazis in such a public way.

Bebop Charlie, signing off

Chuck NilesIf you never had the opportunity – the absolute pleasure, actually – of listening to Chuck Niles on the air, you missed one of life's great luxuries.

Niles' deep voice was the sound of jazz in Southern California – and it was one hell of a voice. Equal parts gravel and velvet, and with a deeply measured delivery, listening to Niles was like sipping a really good bourbon, neat. No other radio host's voice ever captured the very essence of jazz like Niles'.

From 1964-1990, Niles was jazz host for KBCA/KKGO in Los Angeles, where a very young Turbula Nation first got turned on to him. When KKGO changed to a classical music format, Niles moved down the freeway a bit to KLON at Long Beach State (now KKJZ), where he held court until suffering a stroke in February.

His passing on March 15 leaves a giant gap in the SoCal jazz scene. Oh, it's not that there isn't still talent on our local jazz stations. Helen Borgers and Sam Fields at KKJZ, and Joe Kocherhans, J. Otis Williams and John Phillips at San Diego's KSDS all help fill the void left by Niles – and any one of them could end up being the same sort of heavyweight that Niles was, given enough time on the scene to hone their chops.

But for now, local radio seems a little grayer, a little less of an escape ...

Just let them do their job
San Francisco Chronicle

The mid-March decision by the San Francisco Chronicle to remove a reporter and photographer from the same-sex marriage beat has us scratching our heads (this keeps up, we're going to get a rash up there ...). The two women – who are a couple – were pulled off the same-sex marriage beat for ... getting married.

Now, whatever one may think of same-sex marriage, engaging in an activity your government tells you is legal – taking advantage of a service your local government provides for you – is hardly challenging any ethics of journalism we're aware of.

If Rachel Gordon and Liz Mangelsdorf had been engaged in public protests on either side of the debate, then, yes, their ability to report fairly could be called into question. But to quietly take advantage of a city service?

Should reporters covering adoption be prohibiting from adopting? Perhaps the religion editor should be banned from attending services. And for heaven's sake, keep the sports writers away from any sporting events lest their objectivity be tainted.

Chronicle pretty-boy editor Phil Bronstein overreacted, providing yet another reason that Philip Anschutz's purchase of the Examiner is good news for readers in San Fran ...

From the 'They just don't get it' department

USA TodaySo now the populist USA Today has joined the pompous New York Times in admitting that one of its star reporters was more novelist than journalist.

But what's most troubling about this episode – or at least should be for anyone who cares about the future of newspapers in the Age of the Internet – is the level of smugness surrounding the "investigation."

Bill Kovach, a former newspaper editor who was brought in to look into Jack Kelley's work over the past decade, found this silver lining in the fact that Kelley repeatedly made up people, quotes and other facts in his reportage: "I take a lot of satisfaction in what we're doing. This came out of the newsroom. ... You won't find that kind of commitment to keeping the faith of the people they serve in other professions."

You'll excuse us if we find Kovach's silver lining somewhat tarnished. Kelley's fabrications go undetected for year after year, and Kovach wants to talk about "keeping the faith"? And then dissing other professions?

Kovach's assertion will certainly be news to the doctors, attorneys, engineers and teachers who have blown the whistle on their associates' malfeasance through the years.

With the advent of the Internet, newspapers face a dicier future than ever. The kind of smug self-satisfaction in the face of gross incompetence seen above does nothing to improve the chances of newspapers surviving ...

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