Sunday, November 10, 2002


Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time’s to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.

– Siegfried Sassoon, Counter-Attack and Other Poems, 1918.
More of Sassoon’s poetry may be found here.
posted at 10:45 AM

All's quiet on the OmbudsFront
With the election over, OmbudsLand is relatively peaceful this weekend. Here’s a partial rundown:

Over at The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Lou Gelfand treats readers with respect. Even when disagreeing with criticism by journalism student Gary Schwitzer, he observes that, “in principle, Schwitzer makes a good point.” That’s a polite brush-off, Gary.

Karen Hunter, with the Hartford Courant, takes her paper to task for reporting, from an “anonymous source,” the bogus information that "The FBI Has Bugged Our Public Library." The author of that howler is one “former executive director of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union,” Bill Olds, who explains, “In the atmosphere of secrecy created by the Patriot Act, my sources misinterpreted what the FBI was doing." Perhaps the tinfoil on your "sources" heads should have given them away, Bill.

Meanwhile, at The Orlando Sentinel, Manning Pynn reminds readers that just because a newspaper sells advertising to a political candidate, including on the bag in which the newspaper is delivered, doesn’t mean that it lacks impartiality. This strikes me as a rather odd subject given that The Sentinel issues political endorsements on its editorial pages – which certainly does create an appearance of lack of impartiality.

Mike Needs, The Akron Beacon-Journal’s resident apologist Public Editor, gives his employer a hickey for not publishing a photograph of an elderly woman and her son grieving over the murder of a neighbor. It seems:

They sent a message through the police asking -- no, pleading -- that the photo not be used. The son explained that his mother feared for her safety and that a photo, combined with the angst of the attack, would be too stressful.

At least the photo didn’t go to waste -- Needs got an entire column out of it.

The Louisville Courier-Journal’s Pam Platt draws a lesson from the TLC network’s show, Trading Places.

I don't think Hilda and Doug, two of the designers who work on ''Trading Spaces,'' could be less interested in the likes and dislikes of the folks whose homes they invade like Normandy.

Sure, they ask for nominal input and get it -- ''Our friends don't like dark colors, they don't want you to touch their furniture and they love their ceiling fan,'' the worker bees are likely to buzz.

In the next instant, the two diva designers are likely to blithely reply, ''OK, great, thanks. We're going to paint these walls black, we're going to shellack (sic) the furniture and that ceiling fan is history.''

In other words, no one listens, and no one is heard and sometimes someone ends up with straw glued to their walls. No kidding.

So when readers want to ''trade spaces'' with me -- that is, phone or email to talk about what's junking up journalism in general and this newspaper in particular, and what needs to be cleared out or spiffed up -- I try not to go all Doug or Hilda on them when they share their likes and dislikes.

Connie Coyne, OmbudsLand’s very own Hilda, dismisses a reader’s complaint about a piece promoting Eminem in The Salt Lake Tribune. She informs the reader that back in the ‘50’s Her parents:

were sure my generation would wind up in the eternal flames because we were dancing to Little Richard, Elvis Presley and -- gasp -- Jerry Lee Lewis (who, as I recall, was married at one point to his 13-year-old cousin).

Hilda’s advice to the reader? “if you don't like the subject of a review, don't read it.”

With advice like that, who needs an Ombudsman?

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