May 13, 2013
David G. Savage:
Church-state, literally? Supreme Court weighing public school graduation in a church
May 10, 2013
Rabbi Berel Wein: Be all that you should be
May 8, 2013
Peter Ford: Why China is welcoming both Israel's Netanyahu and Palestinians' Abbas
Obama administration quietly backs out of appeal over new contraceptive mandate
At Kerry-Putin meeting, US-Russia relations thaw --- a tad
The Kosher Gourmet by Leela Cyd Ross :
Almost too pretty to eat, this colorful salad with Sicilian inspiration will tickle the taste buds and delight your visual sensibility
May 6, 2013
May 3, 2013
Kids, kittens the Same?
With employee perks at struggling Internet pioneer Yahoo! it's hard to tell
Artificial kidney offers hope to patients tethered to a dialysis machine
April 29, 2013
Poland's new Jewish museum celebrates life, doesn't revisit Holocaust
Terrorism in America: Is US missing a chance to learn from failed plots?
Boston Bomber's 'Svengali' Revealed
Tiny satellites + cellphones = cheaper 'eyes in the sky' for NASA
April 26, 2013
Clifford D. May:
Defense in the Age of Jihadist Terrorism
Sharon Palmer, R.D.:
How to feel your best -- with plenty of energy, a healthy weight and optimal mental and physical function -- without driving yourself batty
April 24, 2013
Admit it: No one has any idea what's going on
April 22, 2013
US man departing country arrested on terror charges
An unorthodox but growing treatment in a 9-year-old's battle against cancer
April 19, 2013
Caroline B. Glick:
Why Obama's visit to Israel had no impact on public opinion or government policy
Gold collapse: The start of something big?
Livable super-Earths? Two candidates among Kepler's latest finds
April 17, 2013
Too much of a good thing? 'Palestinians' realize downside of foreign aid boom
BAD NEWS: EVERYONE IS RIGHT!
April 15, 2013
Egyptian Christians respond with harsh words to attack -- rocks, Molotov cocktails, and gunfire -- against main cathedral
Marcy Darnovsky and Karuna Jaggar:
High Court to decide if you should own your DNA
US bracing for more Russian blowback after taking action against 18 more human rights violators
April 12, 2013
New cybersecurity bill: Privacy threat or crucial band-aid?
Jewz in the Newz by Nate Bloom:
The Kosher Gourmet by Susan Russo:
Jackie Robinson's Friend, Hank Greenberg; CNN's Jake Tapper; Texas County in the News is named for 19thC. Jewish soldier and Congressman
FRUITY QUINOA STUFFED PEPPERS: A flavorful, colorful and edible vessel of delicately fluffy, mildly nutty filling combined with chewy apricots, tangy cherries, and crunchy pistachios
April 10, 2013
North Korean missiles: Could US shoot them down?
Warning: Don't waste your capital being fooled by profit prophets
Donald Hensrud, M.D.:
Mayo Clinic Medical Edge: Take vitamin supplements with caution --- even approved, they may actually do damage
74 DNA discoveries move cure closer for three cancers
April 8, 2013
Jonathan Tobin: What Part of No Preconditions Do American Jews Not Get?
Is Putin finally trading his own party for a new power base?
Jewish World Review
Oct. 11, 2010
/ 3 Mar-Cheshvan, 5771
The State of the Obsession: Report From an Anarchists' Convention
DALLAS, Tex. -- I was going to call this dispatch from the editorial writers' national conference The State of the Art, except that opinionating is more obsession than art. H.L. Mencken, who certainly should have known what moves certain depraved souls to press their opinions on others in the most public fashion, once explained the compulsion this way:
"Why, then, do rational men and women engage in so barbarous and exhausting a vocation? What keeps them from deserting it for trades that are less onerous, and, in the public eye, more respectable? The answer, it seems to me, is as plain as mud. An author is simply a man in whom the normal vanity of all men is so vastly exaggerated that he finds it a sheer impossibility to hold it in. His overpowering impulse is to gyrate before his fellow men, flapping his wings and emitting his defiant yells. This being forbidden by the Polizei of all civilized countries, he takes it out by putting his yells on paper. Such is the thing called self-expression." ("On Literary Gents," The Chicago Sunday Tribune, June 20, 1926)
Call it verbal exhibitionism. All of us opinionators may have the notorious artistic temperament, but only the exceptional among us are artists -- like Mencken himself. Most of us are just in the grips of an obsession. And we're grateful to find a newspaper that will harbor us. That's certainly how I felt when I was lucky enough to get hired on at the Pine Bluff Commercial as the paper's editorial writer more years ago than I'd care to remember. I'd just been drummed out of Columbia University's graduate school of history. For just what, I wasn't sure of at the time, except that my sin had been egregious. It since has acquired a name: political incorrectness.
It was a time when young editorial writers would say our job was so much fun that, instead of the publisher's paying us to write, we'd gladly pay him--if only we had the money. Imagine: being handed two blank columns every day to fill with our undying prose. Surely that would be enough space in which to save the country, if not the world.
Then as now, the world may not have been paying us overmuch attention, but it was getting published that mattered, not whether anyone was listening. It was the work that counted, not how it was received. In that regard, we did have something in common with real artists.
I don't hear as many editorial writers as excited about ideas these days. Maybe because there are fewer editorial writers around to be heard from.
The decline in our numbers mirrors the decline of the whole newspaper industry. Yet those of us who are left seem just as devoted to this annual conference and family reunion. You start seeing the same people the same time next year, and friendship develops. Something more than friendship. Call it devotion.
I think if I were ever in real trouble, as I've been from time to time, I'd pick up the phone and call some of the folks I first met here so long ago. And I've done just that from time to stressful time. Even if I didn't, the knowledge that I could was always assuring, It's that kind of outfit.
By now some of the widows of editorial writers I met and admired at these conferences are in attendance. Yes, it's that kind of outfit. We've laughed and cried, celebrated and mourned together over the years; now we comfort one another.
An informal show of hands indicates that maybe half of those here are paying their own way--rather than being on expense accounts, the newspaper business being what it is these days. These meetings can become downright habit-forming, like those of AA.
Membership in the National Conference of Editorial Writers may be down, but not as much as it was last year--in the trough of the recession. Happily, the first-timers here sound just as enthusiastic about editorial writing as we old-timers ever were. They've noticed that the job is fun. Of course it is; it's a ringside seat at the human comedy. And we get to write the review. Every day.
There ought to be a handy gauge, like a thermometer, that would indicate the health of American editorial opinion. But what would it measure--heat or light, emotion or reason? When it comes to a single quality I'd use as a test of editorial vigor, I'd nominate a sense of humor.
Yet every year editorial writers seem more solemn, more deferential to each other, and just more taken with the Seriousness of It All. That's not a good sign. It may explain why so many of the editorials that I see come across not so much as serious but just dull. Is this the root of what a pediatrician might call our failure to thrive?
These annual conferences reflect the full spectrum of American styles in opinionation--from the frustrated world-saver to the disinterested observer of the human condition. There are the captains of opinion who have a whole crew of writers under their command, and the one-man bands who do everything on their editorial pages from editing the letters to the editor to drawing an occasional cartoon. Their little skiffs find safe harbor at this annual conference, too, right next to the great battleships. Once a year the whole fleet's in.
It's quite a gathering--in variety if not number. At coffee in the morning or around the table at dinner, you might find yourself squeezed in between Mr. Righteous Indignation and Miss Cool Analysis. Editorial writers still come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of sobriety. The good news is that, even if our numbers are declining, our opinions remain as varied as ever and even, on happy occasion, as eccentric.
Paul Greenberg Archives
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