Tag Archives: writing

On AltDaily’s “If You Read the Paper”


A new essay is posted at TReehouse Magazine on a great feature at AltDaily, a local alternative news and opinion website in the Hampton Roads, Va., region.

The (week)daily feature is a regular stop for me when I surf online. As the essay says:

(If You Read the Paper) has shown itself to be a flexible, funny, often astute barometer of local news, how it is gathered, and how the gatherers may fall short.

This essay followed up on some reporting (some might say bloviating)  I did about a year back on the local alternative outlet scene, and my hope that they would cover the health, importance and quality of The Virginian-Pilot, our local daily paper and my former employer.

As the essay notes, Jesse Scaccia of AltDaily had a much better idea. Hope you’ll check out the feature, TReehouse (run by former PortFolio Weekly editor Tom Robotham) in general, and AltDaily, too.

Links to some other essays and journalism I’ve written for Tom are on the right rail of this blog.

In other local alternative media news, Jeff Maisey of Veer Magazine, an alternative monthly print pub and online outlet, has launched Afr-Am, a new pub aimed at the African American community.

Haven’t seen it yet, but it’s supposed to be on the stands around town. We had another pub around here called Mix that Landmark, the company that runs The Pilot, did, but it folded.

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Barely South Review features Dennis Lehane


The new edition of Barely South Review is now online, and among its many new features is an interview/essay by Tony DeLateur with Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River and other novels.

DeLateur is a pal from the Old Dominion University Creative Writing program. He does a nice job walking through Lehane’s general chop-busting of writerly writers and the critics who love labeling, and slides into the advice:

Responding to the aspiring writer’s first great hurdle, the blank page, Lehane simply said, ‘Gut it out…the only answer is the answer that nobody wants to hear: you just have to put your ass in a chair and write.’

And capping his take on Lehane:

Dennis Lehane’s ability to execute intricate, believable stories that rise naturally from characters’ actions has garnered him both success and recognition. In addition to his print work, Lehane was tapped for HBO’s The Wire, a sprawling drama hailed by many critics as one of the greatest television series ever made. Three of his novels have been adapted into feature films. All this is proof enough to certain bitter writers that his work is too universal, too simple. But after hearing this author expertly dispatch preconceived notions about what a “crime author” should value, I left believing that only two types of fiction exist: stories that work – that have journeys which contain drama and emotional depth and action – and those that don’t.

So I hope you’ll read the story, if you dig Lehane or writing in general. The advice is fairly common sense, of course. I just like Lehane.

I also pulled out my notes from Lehane’s talk last year at the ODU Literary Festival, and here provide some high points.

Lehane on Lehane:

I’m a bastard child of pulp fiction and high art.

On writing:

You should always write the book you want to read.

You can’t be an author without being an outsider, a round peg in a square hole.

The relationship when I write is a very intimate and charged relationship between me and an imaginary reader.

If you’re going to write a novel, you’ve got to know how to plot. Tell a story, move it forward, have a beginning, middle and end. … People read for story. … You have to engage the reader in telling a story, and nobody can tell me different.

On when you meet an ass of a writer:

It’s cause they never had friends.

And (though you miss a bit without Lehane’s delivery) on graduate students in MFA programs and such:

I always write 20 pages into a book of a character sitting in a room. You guys actually turn them in.

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A news tax on fast food?


I recently wrote about the issue of subsidies for public-interest news gathering for TReehouse. Though I realize there is little chance such subsidies will be realized given the current political climate, I support the idea as a way to help ensure public-interest journalism remains viable.

AltDaily, an alternative news website in Hampton Roads, Va., has a somewhat related discussion going at its Facebook page about whether folks might support a fast food tax to fund investigative reporting at The Virginian-Pilot.

The discussion, as I write this, shows that some folks do not understand that news gathering organizations, including corporate ones, have historically been subsidized by various forms of government. Some remain so today, both directly and indirectly.

My feeling continues to be that this has not demonstrably been shown to cause an ethical conflict that is in any way different than those conflicts facing news organizations covering corporate interests with which they engage in business relationships. Applying logic and caution might contain concerns about slanted or tainted coverage with subsidies of various types or sizes in place.

The potential for conflict, of course, is great. Potential conflict and realized conflict are two distinct matters. They should be treated as such.

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Walter J. Ong


I just read “Writing is a Technology That Restructures Thought” for an upcoming rhetoric class at ODU, and thought it was a great essay. Through a framework of considering writing as a technological innovation (of the past) in term of a modern innovation (computers and associated literacy issues), Ong catalogues some of the innovative aspects of writing compared to oral tradition.

Here’s a link to another recent blog post on Ong’s work, from the Ravenous Language blog). The post hits most of the points, and there’s a link to a PDF of the essay.

The arguments he puts forward support my own feelings that written words (generally, in my case, print journalism and essay) are a more specific form of communication that rely upon their own precision to persuade. One can make an imprecise oral argument and persuade, as political rhetoric delivered amid symbolism/symbolic visual and audio cues often does, if only in the moment. From Ong:

By distancing the word from the plenum of existence, from a holistic context made up mostly of non-verbal elements, writing enforces verbal precision of a sort unavailable in oral cultures. Context always controls the meaning of a word. In oral utterance, the context always includes much more than words, so that less of the total, precise meaning conveyed by the words need rest in the words themselves.

Consider that in terms of how a print news story, supported by specific facts and quotes, is delivered (via online or periodical) and processed (by the viewer) compared to how the same story is delivered and processed by cable or local TV news to the viewer. The factual specifics are perhaps less important than is the presentation of specifics. TV news, generally, is delivered in a compressed timeframe and is reliant upon symbols/images/ambient noise as much as words, and most words are spoken rather than written.

From Ong:

Thus in a primary oral culture, where all verbalization is oral, utterances are always given their greater precision by nonverbal elements, which form the infrastructure of the oral utterance, giving it its fuller, situation meaning. Not so much depends on the words themselves. … (T)exts force words to bear more weight …

Tougher to obscure meaning, logic and purpose in writing.

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