Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Offers and demands

Today's A.J. Liebling quote is an enduring favorite, in no small part because, as the swamp of masscomm theory was slowly drifted into by us, it stood out as a link to the past: Aw, cool! You guys have a theory for why news does this?

Here it is, with a bit of context. The topic is the great New York newspaper strike of 1962/63, and Liebling is discussing the coverage of a report from the Board of Public Accountability:

The Wall Street Journal wrote, "The report said the printers didn't present their total demands until fifteen minutes before their old contract expired," but did not reprint, "It was not until 6:40 on the evening of December 7th [with the strike set for 2 a.m. December 8th] that the publishers made a complete offer to the printers. That offer totalled, in increased benefits and costs, $9.20 per man per week," including 55 cents a week in cash for the first year. (The employer, in strike stories, always "offers" and the union "demands." A publisher, for example, never "demands" that the union men agree to work for a four-bit raise; the union never "offers" to work for more.)

Now that I've achieved a life goal of sorts by quoting this in a piece of Formal Skolarly Writing, I hope y'all enjoy it too.

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Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Well, now I want to read something by him. Would you recommend "Just Enough Liebling"? Or something else?

9:08 AM, April 29, 2009  
Blogger fev said...

I haven't seen the "Just Enough," but from the table of contents, it looks like a tasty sampler: just a bit from each period, but pretty high quality. "Westbound Tanker" may be my all-time favorite bit of war reporting, and "Death on the One Hand" is a lovely shot at the role of thumbsucking in international coverage.

I'm drawing mostly this week on the 1975 edn of "The Press," in which Jean Stafford freshened a posthumous collection of "Wayward Press" and other journalism pieces running from about 1947 to 1963. It's terrific.

There's also a really good anthology of international pieces called "Liebling Abroad" that includes a lot of prewar (in US terms) and wartime reporting -- Tanker and Mollie from the "Just Enough" collection, but also stuff like Liebling's account of the Normandy invasion (not bad for an old guy).

Oh, hell. Now I nottice that the library has a collection of hitherto unanthologized pieces I don't recall seeing. Gotta go take some boks back!

2:36 PM, April 29, 2009  
Blogger Strayhorn said...

The "Library of America" series has two very good anthologies out and they can usually be found in any college town used-book store.

1. World War II Writings by A.J. Liebling
2. The Sweet Science and Other Writings by A.J. Liebling.

"The Sweet Science" contains big chunks of "The Press" if that's your primary interest.

Although Chairman Mao would dispute Liebling's take that a gun was only a secondary instrument of politics.

2:53 PM, April 29, 2009  
Blogger John Cowan said...

My very favorite Liebling article (as distinct from news pieces) is "The Jollity Building". You can read most of it online at Google Books.

7:18 PM, June 08, 2009  

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