I watched the movie “Network” again the other day and was unnerved by how accurately screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky predicted today’s media and political environment. The line between news and scripted stories blurs, and truth is an old-fashioned concept. Middle-aged journalists waxing nostalgic about the “good old days” are out-of-touch bores. And we as a nation seem mad as hell and not going to take this anymore. Forty years ago, it was dark, dark satire. Now it seems like the stuff of my daily Twitter feed.
The Pitch: Pacific Standard’s executive editor offers some do’s and don’ts. Or, “In which an overwhelmed editor mounts a defense of tardy replies to emails.” In this latest installment of our popular series The Pitch, Jennifer Sahn says: “Every editor is now doing the job that two or three people did 15 years ago. Meanwhile, the volume of correspondence has exploded tenfold. There just isn’t a formula in publishing right now where there’s enough time to take the care to respond to everyone who wants to be part of your magazine.” She also offers this nice tip: “I’ll often encourage people to write the beginning of the pitch as you would the beginning of the story. Give a sense of the character, scene, narrative tension and narrative voice, especially if you haven’t worked with the editor before.”
The soundtrack: “Not Enough Time,” by INXS. I’m not a fan of this band, but the chorus of this song has a pretty good hook. “Not enough time for all/That I want for you/Not enough time for every kiss/Not enough time for all my love/Not enough time for every touch.”
One Great Sentence
“The American people want someone to articulate their rage for them.”
Paddy Chayefsky, “Network.” Read why we think it’s so great.
Syria’s “selfie teen” highlights the devastation of the war — and the fog of war. As contributor Abby Sewell writes: “The fog of war is especially thick in Syria, where access is nearly impossible for foreign journalists and accounts of the war often reach the outside world via social media. In the besieged Eastern Ghouta region, a blond, baby-faced teenager posting video selfies is the latest to step into the void.” But as Abby tries to confirm Muhammad Najem’s identity, she confronts the limitations of reporting via social media and instant messages. She concludes: “Their accounts have played a key role in getting the attention of the outside world. But in the absence of professional journalists on the ground, it’s hard to piece together the whole story.”
The soundtrack: “The Fog of War,” by Philip Glass. This song is from the score to the Errol Morris film “The Fog of War.” It has the trademark minimalist repetition of Glass’ work, which is either incredibly effective or slightly dulling and annoying, depending on my mood.
What I’m reading online: Geography of Poverty: States of the Union, by Matt Black. I’m a big fan of this photographer, a master of capturing little moments and the big truths held within them. As Magnum says here, “From December 2016 to September 2017, Black travelled over 40,000 miles across 27 states, his fourth cross-country trip, to explore the question of a divided America, a state of disunion.” Black found “region after region of the US marked by the competing conditions of poverty, violence, and prejudice as well as hope, honor, and pragmatism.” I like that: hope, honor and pragmatism.
Twisted, by Jason Kandel. When Kandel, a reporter for NBC4 in Los Angeles, emailed me about a six-part true-crime series he had done, I thought it would be video report. Instead, the link sent me to a written one. I like that visual outlets — and audio ones like NPR — are crafting written stories to accompany their other kinds of storytelling, just as print outlets are doing the reverse.
After 131 Years, Message in a Bottle Found on Australian Beach, by Megan Specia. I’m a huge fan of the Twitter account Messages from the Sea, which shares the last messages from shipwreck victims of long ago. So of course I was going to read this New York Times piece. But where the Messages from the Sea inspire immediate short stories in my head, this message disappoints: “The finder is requested to return this slip after completing the details on the reverse side to the German Naval Observatory in Hamburg or to the closest German consulate.”
What’s on my bedside table: “Quiet London,” by Siobhan Wall. This book is my antidote to the rush-rush of workaday London, with its sardine-stuffed Tube cars and elbows-out young businessmen and people staring at their phones or the ground or anywhere but another person. (Sorry, my Canary Wharf version of “That’s Entertainment,” below, doesn’t quite cut it.) A couple of old favorites are in the book, including Daunt Books, as is a new one, Vintage Heaven on the Sunday morning Columbia Road. I can’t wait to discover the rest.
What’s on my turntable: “Sound Affects,” by the Jam. This album contains one of the most stunning examples of lyrics as poetry in music history. Too superlative? I think not. The song is “That’s Entertainment,” and if I had room to post every single lyric here, I would. But here’s just the first verse: “A police car and a screaming siren/Pneumatic drill and ripped-up concrete/A baby wailing stray dog howling/The screech of brakes and lamplight blinking/That’s entertainment.” OK, one more: “Waking up from bad dreams and smoking cigarettes/Cuddling a warm girl and smelling stale perfume/Hot summer’s day and sticky black tarmac/Feeding ducks in the park and wishing you were far away.” Paul Weller is a genius.
If you want to chat about storytelling (or music), I’m Storyboard editor Kari Howard, and you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can find me at @karihow on Twitter.