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Archive for February 2014

The daily newspaper editorial: Make it weekly, please

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Who — or what — killed the great American editorial? Wasn’t there a time when great newspaper editorials regularly thundered and whispered, sighed and screamed, were outraged or outraged others?

Paul Greenberg, the editorial-page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and a 1969 Pulitzer Prize winner, poses these questions on the website of the Association of Opinion Journalists.

Greenberg calls the forces that murdered the American newspaper editorial “as impersonal and characterless as many of the editorials themselves.” Among them are the goal of not pissing off anyone; “the stultifying editorial conference,” designed to drain life out of editorial positions; and hewing to “the party line or socio-economic fashion.” These forces produced, says Greenberg, “terminal neutrality.”

Although these forces had the daily newspaper editorial on its deathbed by the mid-1980s, Greenberg doesn’t reveal that I — yes, me! (gasp!) — pulled the plug on its life support. Yep, I pounded a few nails into the coffin of the daily newspaper editorial all by myself.

Greenberg missed a few reasons why the Meaningful Editorial™ has been dead for decades. Admittedly, its cousin, the Occasional Meaningful Editorial™, pops up from time to time, but that appearance is rare. So here’s the story of how I personally killed off the newspaper editorial as an effective voice.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

February 26, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Advertising’s enticement: You must crave, therefore you must buy

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Despite my exposure to what a colleague estimates is nearly 100 million advertising impressions as I approach seven decades of life, I am not taller, I am not more attractive, I am not thinner, and I sure as hell don’t smell much better than I did in the 1950s.

I teach in a journalism school in which more students aspire to be advertising and PR madmen and madwomen than journalists. So I think about advertising often — mostly with disbelief and frequent outrage (the righteous kind, y’know).

The disbelief: I watch an ad in which a pricey luxury sedan maneuvers at night through lanes illuminated by paper lanterns. The lanterns seem to stretch to infinity in the background. Damn. Nobody set out a gazillion lanterns and kept them all lit at the same time. Must be effin’ CGI.

Then comes the outrage: Well, crap. If the images in the ad are literally unbelievable, are the claims about the product being pushed similarly unbelievable? Remember, unbelievable means not to be believed.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

February 17, 2014 at 7:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A contrarian’s disheartened view of loyalty

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As I age, I increasingly ponder loyalty. Most of us, I suspect, have an understanding of it. Perhaps it’s a feeling that we’d crawl through burning oil and run across broken glass because the person to whom we are loyal needs it. And that person never asks; we merely give unreservedly.

Lately, however, loyalty I have awarded (given? allowed? presented? What is the word that best presents bestowal of loyalty?) has been strained. Is it because I have come to except something in return? A little quid pro quo? If that attitude has emerged in me, I am saddened. But I fear it has. I am human: I have done for others without marked compensation or gratitude for so long … but now, am I finally seeking a little sugar for my faithful attention?

I used to advertise my loyalty and I don’t believe there is a single person I loved that I didn’t eventually betray.
― Albert Camus, The Fall

Loyalty for me has always been freely given with no expectation of reciprocity. Either in an instant, or over time, I have become loyal to you. You owe me naught. But 70 years old is no longer a distant horizon. Has the erosion of physical ability or the emergence of emotional and intellectual insecurity altered that equation? Do I now need something, somehow, from an individual or institution that has received unqualified, unquestioned loyalty from me?
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

February 10, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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