A Merry Look at Journalism in “The Year Without a Santa Claus”

In the classic stop-action TV special “The Year Without a Santa Claus” (1974), newspaper headlines provide exposition and offer a low-budget way to depict widespread reaction to the events of the plot. Newspapers also introduce a plot hole that’s bothered me ever since I was a kid. When I watched the show again this year, I noticed some typographical oddities in the prop newspapers. First of all, the elves have…

Vanessa Otero’s Complex vs. Clickbait, Liberal vs. Conservative Media Chart

Vanessa Otero created an impressive chart that visualizes the problem with a simplistic “real news / fake news” dichotomy. News that skews left or right can still be valuable, and news that scrupulously avoids bias can still be vacuous clickbait. While you or I might disagree on whether the HuffPo/Occupy Democrats oval really parallels the Fox News / RedState oval, or we might quibble over the placement of some of…

Knee-jerk sharing of memes denigrates the truth.

Trump never told People magazine that Republicans are dumb, Sarah Palin never said “I can see Russia from my house,” and when Obama said “gotta have ribs and pussy too” in 1995 he was reading a line spoken by a character in his book. Sharing miscaptioned photos that criticize public figures or organizations for things they never actually said or did generates the kind of emotional response that can lead…

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Trump Fires Senior Adviser’s Son From Transition for Sharing Fake News

Trump senior adviser’s son, who used a transition team email but had, according to Pence, “no involvement in the transition whatsoever,” is now, according to a transition team spokesman, no longer part of the transition team. According to two other transition officials, the reason this person with a transition team email address who was never involved in the transition is no longer part of the transition team is because he…

How to Deal With 2016 Despair

Don’t let a TV screen make you live a life of fear. Be thoughtful participants, not passive consumers, in your culture. Create something. Improve something. Maybe yourself. Maybe the Wikipedia page for your hometown. Share your creation. Encourage and appreciate and critique and applaud what those in your community have created. Increase the sum total of good things in the universe by participating in the life around you. Heavy TV…

Emily Dickinson’s Singular Scrap Poetry

There’s never enough time to cover Emily Dickinson in an AmLit survey course. Only ten of her poems were published in her lifetime, all anonymously; publication was, as she put it, as “foreign to my thought, as Firmament to Fin.” Not that she intended her poems to go unread—she often sent them in letters to friends, sometimes with other enclosures: dried flowers, a three-cent stamp, a dead cricket. She also…

What TV journalists did wrong — and the New York Times did right — in meeting with Trump

The Times played it right…. Off-the-record was a mistake for the TV people, and it would have been a mistake for the Times. The paper successfully called Trump’s bluff. As much as he professes to despise the Times, he remains in some ways the Queens boy who lusted after Manhattan success and acceptance. In many ways, Trump can bypass the traditional press — using YouTube or Twitter to take his…