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September 5, 2004 - The Stanley Lord Journalism Awards?

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World’s Laziest Journalist


By Bob Patterson


On the 14th of April in 1912, at approximately 11:40 pm, the Titanic hit an iceberg.  The nearest ship, the Californian commanded by Captain Stanley Lord, was about ten miles away.  They were within sight of each other.  The Carpathia was 58 miles away.  The radioman on the Titanic sent the CQD distress signal at 12:15 am on the 15th.  The Carpathia responded at top speed.  The radioman on the Californian had ended his day at 11:30 pm and when a fellow crewman, Third Officer Groves, anxious to learn all about the new technology, tried listening to the radio at about 12:15 am he made a beginner’s mistake and heard nothing.


The crewmembers on the bridge of the Californian couldn’t understand why the Titanic was firing off flares and had blinking lights.  Apprentice James Gibson tried to respond with a Morse Lamp.  Finally he concluded that the other ship’s masthead light was flickering.


Second officer Harold Bride, one of the Titanic’s radiomen, was willing to take desperate measures.  Rather than the standard CQD distress signal, Bride suggested trying something else, which was being promoted by the radio community as an easier alternative.  At 12:45 am on April 15, the Titanic became the first ship to send an SOS message.


The Carpathia heard the first plea for help.  They immediately began racing through the dangerous dark night at top speed and arrived after the Titanic sunk.  They picked up most of the survivors and returned to New York City.


The Californian watched the flares and when the lights disappeared, figured that the Titanic had sailed beyond the horizon. 


A Night to Remember, by Walter Lord, described the events connected with the sinking of the Titanic.  Facts were extrapolated from that book for this column.


Obviously if the crew of the Californian was aware of the Titanic’s emergency; they were required to render assistance, but if they just didn’t realize the significance of the flares and weren’t required to have a radio operator at night, then it was just a tragic confluence of circumstances that they were so close and didn’t understand the situation.


The Carpathia arrived in New York Harbor a few days later with many of the survivors.  One industrious newspaper journalist managed to get aboard in search of a scoop interview.  The resourceful fellow was “decked” by the Carpathia’s captain.


One of the footnotes to history for the newspapers that covered the tragedy was that the death of writer Bram Stoker was buried far back on the inside pages.


As the November election approaches, writing columns about things like free bandages with purple hearts on them is a quick and easy way to amuse the voters.  You don’t even have to dig into details about how much advanced planning went into their sudden appearance at the RNC.  If new T-shirts appear overnight, then can’t bandages be “spontaneously” printed just as quickly and easily? 


Doing columns that involve extensive research, such as finding out how common it was for someone to get a commission in an Air National Guard unit, without attending the Air Force Academy, Air Force ROTC, or Officers Candidate School, is hard work - and voters with topic deficit disorder probably won’t read all 600 words, so why bother?


The conservative talk show hosts won’t ask if some rich kid who got special treatment is qualified to be commander-in-chief.  Obviously, the fact that he had such an aptitude for military matters that he didn’t need Officers Candidate School (very unusual, but not impossible) gives you the information that’s needed to leap to the appropriate assumption.  This is America.  Only the Democratic candidates require meticulous scrutiny of their military record. 


Isn’t a sentence or two about the role that leaping to assumptions plays, as part of the democratic process, an integral part of almost all patriotic fourth of July speeches?


It’s analogy time!  If it was obvious that the Titanic needed help, the California would have immediately leapt into action.  If there were anything unusual about Bush’s record thenthe news media, which are voraciously hungry for chances to win journalism awards, would immediately have given the same scrupulously detailed inspection to things like Bush’s medals and schooling, as they have given the particulars of John Kerry’s tour of duty.  Wouldn’t they? 


It seems rather natural that the World’s Laziest Journalist might ask:  Why, with awards being given for just about everything, doesn’t somebody give out awards for doing nothing?  For Geraldo Rivera wannabes, many opportunities for egregious examples of missed opportunities will proliferate during this election, which many pundits have dubbed the most important in recent memory.  Advice to Jr. Edward R. Murrows: Don’t let this chance pass you by, run out there and actively pursue the chance to win an award for doing nothing.  Maybe the Columbia Journalism Review and their site to assess this year’s election coverage will initiate the Stanley Lord Journalism Awards.


Ambrose Bierce in The Devil’s Dictionary defined duty thus:  Duty: That which sternly impels us in the direction of profit along the line of desire.”  Thus spawning the “What’s in it for me” school of business philosophy which has recently morphed into the accounting axiom: It’s not worth the cost so let’s not bother.


Now, while the women and children get into the lifeboats first, the band will play “Nearer My God to Thee.”  We will sail out of here for this week.  When you read the next column we will be one week closer to the November 2 election.  Until then have an unsinkable week and consider it your duty to ask impertinent questions and grant special privileges only to those people who can truly be called “rich kids.”






Copyright 2004 – Robert Patterson




We asked veteran journalist Bob Patterson for a bio and he sent this along: 


Bob was born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania.


Graduated from the University of Scranton in . . . make that "way back when."


He has worked as a reporter and photographer for daily newspapers in California, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.  During the "way back when" phase of his life.


Did photo stringing for the AP’s Los Angeles bureau in the seventies.


Has done some freelance work.


Held other jobs to pay the rent and provide meals money.


Has written book and movie reviews, and columns for Delusions of Adequacy online magazine for the last four years.


Recently the DOA management reportedly traded him to the Just Above Sunset online magazine team for an undisclosed sum and two future draft choices.


He is known to be in the LA area and is considered dangerous.  If you see him, call for backup before attempting to get his autograph or some such fanboy nonsense. 



Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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