Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2003 / 3 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764
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.
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
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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.
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Hey, Mom, could you spare a dime?: Parents' obligations unending
© 2002, Sarasota Herald Tribune