The wave of popular uprisings against repressive governments in such Middle Eastern countries as Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria was dubbed the "Arab Spring" last year, and became perhaps the biggest story of the year globally. The above photograph, which captures the human anguish that accompanied those protests, has been named the World Press Photo of the Year for 2011.
Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda shot it for the New York Times on Oct. 15, in a mosque in Sanaa, Yemen, where demonstrators were protesting the rule of Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The mosque was being used as a field hospital following a clash with government forces.
Buffalo News Chief Photographer Derek Gee, an accomplished practitioner of powerful photojournalism, had this to say about the award winner: "Most of all, it's an image of compassion. It's unexpected in that you don't see faces, but the vulnerability and grief comes through." He also noted the extraordinary achievement of this kind of access. "Most outsiders would not be able to get inside a mosque in Yemen."
And News design chief Vincent Chiaramonte noted the photo's symbolism, with the woman's covered face representing an entire culture and region. He also noted the postures within the image -- although in a Muslim setting, so similar to Christianity's iconic image, Michelangelo's "Pieta," calling it "both universal and unifying."
The award was announced Friday in Amsterdam. This Associated Press story shows more of the annual contest's winning photographs.
February 10, 2012 - 2:02 PM
February 10, 2012 - 12:02 AM
It's the story that just won't quit: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his lovely wife, Gisele Bundchen, are getting a lot of ink ever since she spouted off to the press about how the Super Bowl loss Sunday was not his fault.
"My husband," she memorably said, "can't (expletive) throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time," thus placing the blame squarely on the oversized shoulders of the Patriots' receivers. She added, petulantly, and very possibly stamping her Jimmy Choo-clad foot: "I cannot believe how many times they dropped the ball."
Her remarks caused New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs to offer this concise opinion, during his team's victory rally: "She just needs to continue to be cute and shut up."
Jacobs later apologized: "Given the fact that it's a colleague of mine's wife, I do apologize for saying that, because I shouldn't have said that. It's his wife and I should respect that just as much as anyone else." (ESPN's story and video is here should you want the gory details.)
Meanwhile, in Thursday's Wall Street Journal, columnist Jason Gay mounts a heartfelt (and funny) defense of Bundchen, writing that although her comments were ill-advised -- "10 out of 10 on the cringe index" -- they really just showed her deep feeling for her husband.
"She loves him in the irrational way that people who are in love love each other," Gay wrote. "She loves him blind."
Having reported these latest developments in the never-ending story of the pretty-boy quarterback and the Brazilian supermodel, I now pledge never to write another word about them again.
Unless I can't help myself.
February 9, 2012 - 12:42 PM
On my first day at The News as a student intern in 1980, I suddenly was surrounded by -- and working alongside -- the writers whose bylines I had grown up reading. My internship assignment was for Gusto, The News’ weekend entertainment tabloid, reviewing concerts and plays and writing feature stories. (This summer job was a dream come true, I might add.)
A few desks from me, amazingly enough, was Buffalo’s legendary food critic, Janice Okun. Not far from her was her cousin, the prolific and brilliant all-around critic Jeff Simon. A particular hero for me and my music-loving friends was pop music critic Dale Anderson, whose every word we had hung on during our adolescent years of concertgoing.
The boss, seated in the midst of it all, was Terry Doran, Gusto's cerebral founder and editor, and also its theater critic. As bright and verbal as all these writers were, a special luster surrounded art critic Anthony Bannon. With his complex verbiage and high-flown thoughts, he seemed to be operating in a different sphere from the rest of us ink-stained types. In all honesty, I didn’t understand what he was writing about most of the time, and I know I was not alone in that. His work was brainy, but not especially accessible.
He left the paper -- and journalism -- in 1985 to become the director of what was then known as the Burchfield Art Center. From there, he went to the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester.
Today, his photograph is on The News’ front page as he returns to Buffalo and to the Burchfield Penney Art Center -- now a much expanded and more ambitious gallery -- again as its director. Here’s critic Colin Dabkowski’s story on Bannon’s return.
As Dabkowski's story makes clear, the word “visionary” tends to come up when Bannon’s name is mentioned. As one longtime News staffer said to me today, “Tony’s thinking was always in the stratosphere.” Those of us who knew him in his Gusto days will watch his Burchfield moves with particular interest.
February 9, 2012 - 12:05 AM
Confessions of a Twitter newbie:
I embraced Facebook years ago, but, until recently, Twitter remained something of a mystery to me. I made one false start a year ago, and then abandoned it. But just within the last month, I've gotten more serious about Twitter (though that may be an oxymoron).
Here's what I've learned:
1) Twitter makes a great tip sheet. A scan of my Twitter feed can tell me quickly what's happening in my areas of particular interest: media, journalism, pop music, politics. For example, my first knowledge of the Wikipedia blackout protesting online piracy legislation came from a couple of early tweets, though I must confess I don't remember whose they were. "I use it as a news feed," says News reporter Tim Graham, an inveterate tweeter who boasts 9,806 followers (to my 94). "I can do a quick scroll and find out what's happening, whether it's in the Middle East or the AFC East."
2) Twitter is often annoying. Even though it's a cliche, and everyone should really know better, some people still want to tell you about the amazing lobster roll they just ate for lunch at a really cool place in the Meatpacking District. For an entertaining and helpful take on all of that, see Atlantic.com's Megan Garber's piece, "Be Better at Twitter: the Definitive Data-Driven Guide."
3) Twitter is not the most civil place on earth. By its nature, it allows mindless tweeters to insult and harm at will, immediately, and often with impunity. Poynter Institute's Shawn Williams shares his tale of being called the N-word on Twitter and how he handled it. And CNN has suspended staffer Roland Martin for his homophobic tweets during the Super Bowl.
4) Twitter may be distracting journalists from more meaningful reporting. While it's increased the democratization of news (as in Egypt last winter, as this Wired piece describes), Twitter probably has not added to the depth of news coverage. For a fascinating (and discouraging) take on that last point, here's Michael Calderone's report for the Huffington Post, "Campaign Reporters' Twitter Obsession Contributes to Superficial Coverage."
5) With its 140-character limit, Twitter makes even writers who tend to keep it brief (like me) feel long-winded. So let me try to express the essence of this blog post in tweet form: "Buffalo News editor: 'Twitter good, bad, ugly. But I like it.' "
February 8, 2012 - 12:01 AM
From the moment 20-year-old Amanda Wienckowski's body was found in a garbage tote -- frozen, naked, head down -- in January, 2009, the mystery surrounding her death has riveted Western New York.
"It fascinates people partly because it's the story of someone's fall from grace, a downward spiral," says Buffalo News Reporter Lou Michel, who has covered the story from the start.
He explains: "This is a young woman from the suburbs who, in some photos, looks like the girl next door, but who apparently had a heroin addiction and was believed to be a prostitute. Then, she's found upside down and naked in a garbage tote next to a church. That just doesn't happen very often."
The story has taken many twists and turns, with Wienckowski's family insisting that she was murdered, despite the county medical examiner's autopsy that determined she died of a drug overdose. The family's own medical report found that she was strangled and raped.
Tuesday, Michel was ahead of other media, breaking the latest development in the case on The News' website. His story, posted just after noon, reported that District Attorney Frank Sedita had the results of an evaluation of the two conflicting autopsies -- this from an independent medical examiner who called the cause of death "undetermined."
Michel said the story has been a challenge to report because of the intense interest of other Buffalo-area media. For this story, The News' scoop relied on one of the oldest and most reliable of reporting technique: the tickler file, a simple device that reminds a reporter to check on events. Tuesday, so reminded, he called Sedita, who told him he had the 16-page report in hand and could provide details.
By mid-afternoon Tuesday, Michel had received a call from Buffalo developer Carl Paladino, who offered him an interview with Leslie Brill, the victim's mother, in Paladino's office. Paladino has been helping the family after becoming convinced that the truth was not emerging.
An especially dogged reporter, Michel collaborated with his News colleague Dan Herbeck on the coverage of the Oklahoma City bomber (and Niagara County native) Timothy McVeigh for The News, and as co-authors of a best-selling book, "American Terrorist," published by HarperCollins in 2001.
With all the unknowns of the Wienckowski story, two things are certain: There's more to come, and Michel's byline will be worth watching.
February 7, 2012 - 12:02 AM
Today is Charles Dickens' 200th birthday, so let's celebrate by talking books.
First off, if you're looking for a juicy read, but you'd prefer something more contemporary than "Oliver Twist," the Boston Globe provides guidance in this helpful list of literary websites.
If you're curious about literary legend David Foster Wallace's favorite authors, here's a Slate piece that wonders whether to take him at his word (Stephen King and Thomas Harris?), or whether he really meant to say Descartes and William James.
And the Huffington Post offers this slideshow of new books you need to know about.
As for Dickens himself, here are a few worthwhile pieces commemorating the birthday of one of the greatest novelists of all time. One of the best is by Pauls Toutonghi in Salon, who writes:
"I love Dickens. Few writers have equaled his assessment of the human condition -- somewhere between tragedy and comedy, with a poetic attention to beauty, and an investigation of man-made ugliness."
The full piece may make you want to pick up "Bleak House" just for fun, so read it only if you have a lot of time on your hands.
From the New York Times, a look at the lawyers Dickens loved to hate.
From the Washington Post, five myths about Dickens, from why he wrote long books to whether he and David Copperfield were really the same person.
And finally, according to a Huffington Post story, Ebenezer Scrooge tops the list of the 10 favorite Dickens characters.
I've always been fondest of the tragic, lovelorn Miss Havisham from "Great Expectations."
In Pip's words: "Whenever I watched the vessels standing out to sea with their white sails spread, I somehow thought of Miss Havisham and Estella; and whenever the light struck aslant, afar off, upon a cloud or sail or green hill side or waterline, it was just the same. Miss Havisham and Estella and the strange house and the strange life..."
February 6, 2012 - 9:00 PM
Please click on the link below, watch the video and tell me if you think Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, aka Mrs. Tom Brady, is:
a) a loyal, prayerful wife who is just standing by her man
b) a spoiled rich girl whose house is so obscenely big that it has addled her brain
c) a person in need of a Xanax
d) someone who could learn a thing or two from Rob Gronkowski's admirable attitude in defeat
Here's the link.
February 6, 2012 - 9:50 AM
At $3.5 million for a 30-second commercial, with well over 100 million Americans watching, the pressure was intense on the creative minds behind this year's Super Bowl ads.
The results are in, at least according to one measure. Ace Metrix, a research firm that tracks the effectiveness of advertising, has released its scores from Sunday night's Super Bowl broadcast.
The Toronto Globe and Mail summarizes Ace's findings as follows: "In the most important advertising competition of the year, early results have chips, candy and pop coming out on top, and David Beckham’s behind coming in dead last." In essence, Doritos wins; H&M loses. Here's the whole story.
Meanwhile, New York Times advertising reporter Stuart Elliott graded the ads in this analysis. And the Daily Beast makes a case for Clint Eastwood's "Halftime in America" ad for Detroit's carmakers as the clear winner. Here are video links to some of the highlights, including my favorite: Elton John, dressed even more elaborately than usual, as a Pepsi-withholding king.
On a related topic, watch here to see Madonna's minor glitch during an otherwise slick halftime performance. (Overheard in the coffee line this morning, one fiftysomething woman to another, talking about Madonna's show: "I need to start getting to the gym again.")
The halftime show gave NPR's Linda Holmes a chance to write this perceptive appreciation of the pop star, remembering her decades-ago appearances at Live Aid in Philadelphia. She includes a video clip of Madonna in 1985 and notes, "This was really just singing and dancing and anyone who comes to think of her as purely an imagined concoction, all elaborate hat and no cattle, someone who never existed outside of video, is misremembering."
This should bring a smile:
February 4, 2012 - 11:23 AM
ItOther than those guys in Spandex and shoulder pads, it's all about Madonna on Sunday night.
A nation, helplessly immersed in what Carl Bernstein once called "Idiot Culture" (and, let's face it, the Super Bowl may be its annual apex), breathlessly waits to see what the 53-year-old Material Girl will do next.
What the heck. Let's join the party.
MTV has, ever so helpfully, put together a cheat sheet -- everything you need to know before Madonna takes the stage. Why you need to know anything at all is a question that will remain unanswered, but assuming that you do, this ought to help tremendously.
Earlier this week, in a news conference, if you can call it that, the former Madonna Louise Ciccone of Detroit showed off some slinky salsa moves and hinted at what her gig would include. One certainty is her brand-new single, "Gimme All Your Luvin'." She also promised what it would not include: a wardrobe malfunction, ala her rival diva Janet Jackson.
And she called this opportunity "a Midwestern girl's dream."
Not surprisingly, the upcoming performance has generated plenty of ink and digits. Here's some of the best of it:
The New York Times Media Decoder comments on the all-Madonna marketing juggernaut leading up to Sunday's show.
Greg Braxton of the Los Angeles Times offers his fantasy set list.
MTV looks back on the best halftime shows of the past, from Diana Ross to U2.
And more substantively, Sara Marcus, in Salon, offers a provocative look at Madonna's effect on American culture.
Marcus writes: "Her visionary assault on American prudery, her revelatory spreading of sexual liberation to Middle America, changed this country for the better. And that’s not old news; we’re still living it. "
And loving every media-drenched minute of it.
February 3, 2012 - 1:43 PM
Lisa Khoury had something to say and, as an editor for the University at Buffalo student newspaper, she had a forum in which to say it. So she did. She went way out on a limb and wrote in the Spectrum last Saturday that women shouldn't get tattoos, that they look better without them. Her piece was titled "Why Put a Bumper Sticker on a Ferrari?" Agree or disagree, this was a reasonable and unobjectionable opinion piece. Right?
Well, not so much. Hell, as it turns out, hath no fury like a whole university -- no, a whole world -- full of tattooed people scorned.
The story went viral, and Lisa Khoury got flamed, blasted and just about driven out of school on a rail in more than 700 nasty comments and more than 600 wicked Facebook posts.
One example: "So incredibly retarded I don't even know where to begin. who are you to lecture people on morals? what makes you the (expletive) authority? what a dumb b----."
And another: "GROSS.....I am a woman with tatoos.....I also have my BMA, am a mother, wife, professional, room mother, cookie mom for my daughters Girl Scouts, sister, daughter.....with that being said....they all love me for me...not my looks, weight, or clothes....ME! oh and as far as class goes, well clearly you have none!"
Her editor, Matthew Parrino, found it necessary, in an editor's column Thursday, to both apologize for and stand behind the piece -- a tricky piece of business. Here's an excerpt:
"Readers’ comments have nearly destroyed (Khoury) and it’s awful. She’s my staff member and I can’t do much to help her. She’s kind and hard-working and always willing to attack a story or take on a tough assignment. She wrote the tattoo piece as a counterpoint to another staff writer’s piece on why she gets tattoos. In her zeal to win the argument, perhaps she got carried away.…
What has baffled me more than anything is how much people care about this issue. Last month, we reported that this university gave money illegally to (then) County Executive Chris Collins’ political campaign and that UB President Satish K. Tripathi broke SUNY regulations. We got almost no response.
I respect people’s attachment to their tattoos and the personal and emotional value they hold for many. But as a student hoping to make my career as a journalist, I would also like to believe that the public cares about issues that extend beyond themselves."
We'd all like to believe that, and sometimes it's even true.
Lisa, tough it out; this, too, shall pass.
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