Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2003 / 3 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

David Grimes

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

A career of sensational regrets | In 1999 the American Society of Newspaper Editors released a report stating that 80 percent of Americans believe newspapers sensationalize stories in order to sell more papers.

At the time, I accused the ASNE, in print, of being a bunch of syphilitic weasels who routinely kick puppies and cheat on the Crypto-Quip.

Now, in hindsight, I realize that my comments were overstated, and not merely because they failed to sell more papers but actually provoked one little old lady to come into the newsroom and whack me with her cane before canceling her subscription.

Now that I'm through the reconstructive-surgery and physical-therapy part of the ordeal, I realize that sensationalism is a big problem in print journalism and that I've been one of the most active transgressors.

Readers have reproved me on many occasions for what they perceive to be inaccuracies, bias, distortions, exaggerations and outright lies. Some have even accused me of making stuff up out of thin air and have wondered if our dwindling forests might be better served by filling the space now occupied by my column with a health column devoted entirely to the subject of varicose veins.

This is extremely painful to me, as you might imagine, and therefore I think it's time that I "come clean" with my readers and tell them the truth about some of the columns I've written over the past 20 years.

Donate to JWR

Let me begin by saying, contrary to previously published reports, that I do not have the body of Brendan Frazier or even, for that matter, Frazier Crane. The photo of the bloated, doughy-faced person above was actually taken about 15 years ago when I was in my "buff" phase. The editors have not updated the photo because maintaining circulation is dicey enough these days without readers seeing Jabba the Hutt staring back at them before they've had their first glass of prune juice.

Also, it is not true that my retirement account has shrunk so much that I will be spending my "golden" years living in an appliance carton underneath an overpass. The way I figure it, if I subsist on Saltines and cat food until I'm 65, I should be able to afford a top-of-the- line Army-surplus pup tent and maybe a used sleeping bag.

In a column I wrote in 1989, or possibly 1999, I said that if we followed the USDA's nutritional guidelines and ate, every day, 14 bowls of wheat-chaff cereal, 20 helpings of stringy vegetables and 39 helpings of fresh fruit that innumerable generations of deadly insects have used as a public toilet, a large construction crane would be needed to hoist us out of our beds each morning. That was pure, unadulterated sensationalism. The correct number of fresh-fruit servings is actually 42.

Some other corrections:

  • In a previous column, I wrote that the Chamber of Commerce requires Floridians to refer to cockroaches as "palmetto bugs" because if people from other parts of the country found out we have cockroaches the size of carry-on luggage, they would not shower us with tourist dollars and, as a result, our public-school system would not be the envy of the nation as it is today. That was nothing more than lazy reporting. Laser measurements of Florida cockroaches show that they're far closer in size to a mature cocker spaniel.

  • In a 2000 column devoted to the shameless self-promotion of my first book, "Tourists, Retirees and Other Reasons to Stay in Bed," I quoted Sarasota columnist and author Bob Plunket as saying, "This is one of the best books to come out this year." What he really said was, "This is one of the books that came out this year."

To me, this is nothing more than a quibble, but that's how strict and inflexible journalism has become these days.

Appreciate this column? Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


10/22/03: Ig Nobels reward weird science
10/16/03: TV golf needs a kick in the pants
10/08/03: That's geek to me
09/30/03: A man, a woman and a cat
09/22/03: A tale of two spams
09/16/03: Librarian action figure will be taking no guff
09/10/03: Slackers need to remain invisible
09/02/03: No fun in the summertime
08/26/03: The algebra of love
08/11/03: Journey to the center of the pavement cracks
08/06/03: Word dominance by U.S. appears a fait accompli
07/28/03: Ads that are hard to swallow
07/09/03: Keep cows out of the classroom
07/03/03: Little-appreciated facts about unshaven men
06/24/03: Brother, can you paradigm?
06/18/03: Cats, TV not a good mix
06/10/03: In defense of grumpiness
06/04/03: Do we really need keyboards in our Port-A-Johns?
05/29/03: Always a dull men's moment
05/21/03: Bad PC hygiene leads to bugs
05/12/03:Army mops up; Tony Blair doesn't
05/06/03: Grill a hamburger for PETA
05/01/03: Exams spice history
04/23/03: Too much money? Tax me more!
04/14/03: When good gourds go bad
04/11/03: One fish-tale that isn't --- and that's no lie!
04/02/03: Do you really want to know what your dog's thinking?
03/26/03: Pajamas make high school less stressful
03/21/03: It's time to be nice to the French
03/03/03: The ultimate clean and constructive sport
02/12/03: Get a bang out of cleaning with cruise vacuum
02/06/03: Voluntary kindness? Not likely
01/28/03: Signs our economy is on upswing
01/22/03: There may be cash in your old underwear
01/15/03: Banish these words, now more than ever
01/07/03: Coughing as an art form
12/24/02: Parents shell out for missed homework
12/17/02: French government says no to @ symbol
12/11/02: A latecomer joins fellowship of the DVD
12/02/02: Don't worry, be fat, unfit and really happy
11/18/02: Intrigued by a German invention that could get teens out of bed before the crack of noon
11/06/02: A noose by any other name ...
10/29/02: Iranian dogs on notice
10/22/02: Talk about a job that stinks --- literally!
10/15/02: The official world's funniest joke
10/02/02: Japanese turn eyes to computer haikus
09/27/02: Oh, no! Bosses want to know what's on your mind
09/24/02: An airbag, humanity's salvation?
09/06/02: Come listen to a story about a man named ... Bill
09/03/02: You're not in preschool anymore!
08/30/02: A charming idea from a brutal, whacked-out, megalomaniacal dictator-for-life
08/26/02: Blubber water? How to put on the pounds by gulping H20
08/21/02: The latest evidence that Mother Nature is out to kill us
08/13/02: Computers, airplanes and Canada don't mix
08/06/02: The sky's not falling? Dang it!
08/02/02: Some fond memories of worst TV shows
07/30/02: Pay my credit-card bill, please?
07/25/02: Something to celebrate
07/22/02: Baseball needs to ban the fans
07/16/02: Hasbro should consider new inaction figure
07/11/02: Decline in trash-talking is harming our mental health? Well, #@%&!
07/08/02 Americans retain right to fork tongues
07/01/02 These laws were made to be broken
06/18/02 Watching enough commercials?
06/03/02 Throwing your vote to the dogs
05/08/02 Hey, Mom, could you spare a dime?: Parents' obligations unending

© 2002, Sarasota Herald Tribune