Journalism: I picked up William

: I picked up William L. Shirer’s This is Berlin: Radio Broadcasts from Nazi Germany — a new, paperback edition — today and as I leafed through it, I was surprised to witness a different form of journalism. In his daily radio reports from Berlin, Shirer told us what was happening there. He did not — probably could not — depend on lots of taped snippets and quotes; there were none of those obnoxious moments of atmospheric sound that you hear on NPR; there was just Shirer talking, observing, reporting. Take this from Sept. 2, 1939, two days after Germany invaded Poland and a day after England declared war on Germany:


The world war is on. The newsboys have ceased shouting it. The radio, too, because now the radio is playing a stirring piece from the Fourth Symphony of Beethovan….

There is no excitement here in Berlin. There was, we are told, in 1914, and it was tremendous. No, there is no excitement here today, no hurrahs, no wild cheering, no throwing of flowers — no war fever, no war hysteria.

But make no mistake, it is a far grimmer German people that we see here tonight than we saw last night or the day before. Until today, the people of this city had gone about their business pretty much as always. There were food cards and soap cards and all that, and you couldn’t get any gasoline, and at night there was a complete blackout, but the military operations on the East seemed a bit far away — two moonlit nights and not a single Polish plane arriving over Berlin to bring destruction….

Few here believed that Britain and France would move. They had been accomodating before. Munich was only a year ago….

But today it’s different. A world war is different. The people here are also different. They’re grim….

The papers tonight explain to their readers why it is advisable during air-riad alamrs to keep their windows not shut but open. The instructions are to open wide all your windows before you hurry to the cellar. It’s explained that in case of an explosion, the glass in the windows is much more liable to fly in bits in all directions, and thus cause considerable damage, when the windows are left closed. It’s also pointed out to those who might think that by leaving the windows open you, so to speak, invite the gas — if there is gas — to come into your house — it’s explained that gas is heavier than air, and therefore will not enter your house.

With every report, I feel as if I am in Berlin; I know what’s happening there; I feel well-informed.

I wish we had more of this form of journalism today: The journalism of witness.

More Newspeak
: Driving today, I heard a Blockbuster commercial refer to “extended viewing fees.”

That used to be called “late fees.”

But they clearly know how much consumers hate those late fees and the draconian enforcement of them. They also clearly know that there’s a new mail service out there with no late fees that is hurting them.

If you feel the need to invent a euphemism for the way you treat your customers — if even you know it’s a problem — you may want to think about a new way to treat those customers.

: I’m slightly shocked at Glenn Reynolds for dabbling in his own anti-PC version of PC talk when talking about his weapons:

EUGENE VOLOKH notes yet another poll showing widespread (73%) support for the Justice Department’s pro-individual-right position on the Second Amendment.

“Pro-individual-right position,” Professor? How about “pro-gun”? Call a Glock a Glock, man.

: Steve MacLaughlin says the latest trend on TV metastasizing: “Television execs seem to have fallen in love with a new program concept these days: Really real reality shows.”