Monday, June 30, 2014

The cartoon controversy that got Yahoo banned in Massachusetts

Furious Massachusetts legislators once got a Yahoo banned in the Bay State because they were offended by a religious cartoon it published.
The first panel of the controversial Yahoo 1966 cartoon
In print.
We're not talking about the Yahoo! we know today that was founded in 1994 to guide computer users through the World Wide Web, which began in 1990.
The printed Yahoo magazine guided readers to jokes, cartoons and humor about what was funny in the lives of college students at the University of Massachusetts, back when you didn't have to designate Amherst.
The magazine and its controversy is being recalled this summer at UMass' W.E.B. Du Bois Library Learning Commons in a display of student publications through the years. (Details below.)

Yahoo cover samples
Yahoo was first published in 1954, before, you could argue, the Internet was launched. Students created long articles, short jokes ("I think Jim and Sally were the cutest couple on the floor last night." "Oh, did you go to a dance?" "No, to a fraternity party.") and cartoons lampooning sex, beatniks, later hippies, The Draft, ROTC, Greeks and, of course, campus administrators.
Yahoo editors wrote of the magazine: "The general atmosphere it created was one of nausea occasionally punctuated with a burst of genuine satiric humor."

O tempora! O mores!

By the mid-60s, the times, as singer Bob Dylan attested then, were a-changin' and state leaders were losing traditions and control over society. In Spring 1966, a woman first ran the Boston Marathon, the Supreme Court overturned the Commonwealth's ban on English lit porn "Fanny Hill," and, worst of all horrors, Yahoo printed this unsigned four-panel cartoon:

The Spring 1966 Yahoo cartoon that sparked a ban depicts a priest, chalice and rabbit

The cartoon that offended Catholics proved too much for the Puritan state.
Complaints mounted. Six weeks after Yahoo published the cartoon, according to news accounts of the time, fury boiled over. According to news accounts of what happened May 12, 1966:

In Boston:
  • Gov. John A. Volpe ordered an investigation.
  • Sen. Kevin B. Harrington, D-Salem, showed the magazine to his colleagues, who voted 34-3 after a brief debate to create a five-member committee to investigate Yahoo and all UMass student publications. "I will not stand for an attack on my religion," he said. "Whoever is responsible for this magazine is going to go. There are going to be hard days ahead for the University of Massachusetts, and I predict that heads will roll."
  • The 6-foot-7 Harrington drew himself up in front of University President John W. Lederle at a Capitol hearing room where Lederle was testifying before a Senate committee about the school's $34.5 million budget. Harrington threw the offending Yahoo on the table and demanded Lederle explain why state funds were being used to produce a magazine offending state Catholics. Lederle told Harrington he agreed the cartoon was in bad taste and that a review was already underway.

Back in Amherst:
  • A university spokesman issued a statement assuring taxpayers no state funds paid for the magazine, just student activity assessments.
  • Roger C. Jones, Yahoo editor, issued a statement that the cartoon was being misinterpreted and was intended as "a light social commentary on the lightheartedness, if not bigotry, with which religion is treated by a minority of contemporary society. ... "Unfortunately this cartoon has been construed by individuals as a piece of the same bigotry which in actuality it was intended to satirize."
  • Msgr. David J. Power of the campus' Newman Center for Catholic students, called the cartoon "blasphemous" and "offensive to a majority of students, Catholics and non-Catholic alike."

In Springfield, Bishop Weldon, who earlier brought attention to the cartoon, was quoted as saying the maturity of students rather than freedom of the press was at issue: "These students are not quite housebroken."
About 3,500 students signed a petition calling for the student Senate to organize a Free Press Committee.
A planned march on Beacon Hill was called off when Harrington agreed to squelch the probe as UMass officials assured him college administrators were "on top of the situation."
The Yahoo staff answered with a supposedly innocuous Commencement 1966 edition -- except for this cartoon depicting the editors' assessment of the Capitol:

Yahoo, Commencement 1966 edition cartoon, depicts Capitol dome as ass

Administrators squelched Yahoo funds.
The Student Senate held hearings the following academic year.
Yahoo ROTC Cartoon, 1971
Yahoo cartoon, 1971

In 1968-69 students published an "unmentionable" campus humor magazine under the titles "Magazine" and "NO¢", according to UMass archives. The Yahoo name returned to campus in 1969 with trustees' approval. The last issues of Yahoo were published in 1973, when the Student Senate decided to pull funding for waning interest rather than offensiveness.

About the display 

The W.E.B. Du Bois library exhibit, "Student Voices: UMass Student Publications through the Years," 
showcases student publications from the Special Collections and University Archives department.
"We have one or two issues of Yahoo in there and mention the controversy," Kirstin Kay, archivist, told us in an email. 
UMass' W.E.B. Du Bois library, location
The exhibit may be seen in the Learning Commons during regular library hours through the end of August.
Kay supplied further details from the university:
"Since almost the time of first arrival of students at Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1867, the college's students have taken an active role in publishing items for their own consumption. Beginning with the appearance of the first yearbook, put together by the pioneer class during their junior year in 1870 and followed by publication of the first, short-lived newspaper, The College Monthly, in 1887, students have been responsible for dozens of publications from literature to humor to a range of politically and socially oriented periodicals. ... The exhibit has samples of newspapers, yearbooks, cultural, literary, and humor magazines. The display also includes limited production, World War II-era newspapers produced by the 58th College Training Detachment (Air Crew) of the U.S. Army Air Forces stationed at UMass and the temporary campus for returning veterans at Ft. Devens."

One more thing: Library fixed

It is supposedly safe to go into the library now.
Construction on the 296.5-foot tower began in 1969, under the direction of Lederle, a year before he retired as a president who oversaw many construction projects, and then-Provost Oswald Tippo.
The tower promptly started falling apart after it was formally opened as the "University Library" on June 26, 1973. Falling bricks spurred students to nickname the library alternately as "Lederle's Last Erection"  and "Tipp-over Tower."
After closure in 1979 and limited use for a few years, the building was fully restored and operating again in the 1986-87 academic year.
Trustees renamed the tower in 1994 to honor Civil Rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois. The Department of Special Collections and University Archives hosts his "superlative collection" on the 25th floor.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Everyone needs a copy editor

Update July 14, 2014:
Add this to our Twitter hashtags: #everyoneneedsacopyeditor.
From TNT's promo for The Last Ship:
Waiver instead of Waver on TNT promo for The Last Ship
Promo for TNT's The Last Ship
(Hat tip to Mark Stevenson @markedits)

They fixed it! This aired July 13, 2014:

'Never Waver' instead of 'Waiver' on TNT promo for The Last Ship
Updated promo for TNT's The Last Ship

A sign of our times, in Redmond, Washington:
Even the White House announcing the deal to free Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl (later fixed):

Yes, there for but the grace of God, etc.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Suzanne Vega says she still reads paper newspapers

When Toms Diner came on the radio this morning, we wondered on Twitter if Suzanne Vega's lyrics about "I open up the paper..." would be different if she wrote the song today. Apparently not!

She tweeted this answer:
"yes I still read paper newspapers"

When asked later by media blogger Jim Romenesko which ones, she replied "Nytimes mostly." 

"Tom's Diner," first written in 1981, was a Billboard hot single, with DNA, in 1991.

BTW, Vega has a new album out: "Tales From the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles"
Details here:

Tom's Diner lyrics excerpt:
... I open
Up the paper
There's a story
Of an actor

Who had died
While he was drinking
It was no one
I had heard of

And I'm turning
To the horoscope
And looking
For the funnies ...

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bill O'Reilly in past on new home of Google barge: 'Why would you have a boat in Stockton?'

Fox News' Bill O'Reilly once wondered aloud who would have a boat in Stockton. Now Google does.

Google floated its 200-foot mystery barge from San Francisco Bay to the Port of Stockton on March 6.

So will O'Reilly -- who spouted the line "why would you have a boat in Stockton when you can't go nowhere?" -- have any new thoughts about the worthiness of the city's waterways?

We've reached out to the "No Spin Zone" master.

Google recently received regional and national media attention for a barge it was building at Treasure Island. The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission ordered Google to move the barge because it didn’t have the proper permits.

Google officials chose the Port of Stockton as the barge's temporary home. Stockton officials reportedly saw the barge's arrival as a well-needed image boost for a city that declared bankruptcy in 2012, two years after Forbes magazine proclaimed it one of America's most miserable cities.

The Forbes declaration prompted O'Reilly's remarks during a March 24, 2010, on-air discussion with newsman John Stossel. In the discussion preserved by, the two agreed Stockton officials were "stupid and arrogant," in part over a project restoring the city's marina, less than a mile from the Port of Stockton.
Their Stockton discussion:

O'REILLY: All right, Stockton. Stockton is sister city to San Francisco, the capital of California. [JJ note: Sacramento is the capital of California.] And it's kind of a casual city. I've been there a couple of times. It's not formal.
STOSSEL: It has good weather.
O'REILLY: What's the problem here?
STOSSEL: The problem again is the ignorant and arrogant city fathers, who say, "We know best. We can plan it for you." The — Forbes interviewed the mayor who said, "Oh, we're turning things around. We built a downtown arena, a ballpark, an arena, a marina, a downtown events center."
O'REILLY: How can they have a marina when they're inland and there's no ocean?
STOSSEL: They're not entirely inland.
O'REILLY: Yes, they are. Look at — look at the map. Stockton, what, is it on a river or something? Maybe that's what it is. But it is inland, Stossel.
STOSSEL: They do have a marina.
O'REILLY: They've got a marina. But it's inland. Look. There it is right there. It's on some kind of canal.
STOSSEL: It lost $700,000.
O'REILLY: The marina lost…
O'REILLY: Because why would you have a boat in Stockton when you can't go nowhere?
STOSSEL: Well, almost any city.
O'REILLY: There's no ocean there.
STOSSEL: Even if they were on the ocean. If the government runs it, it loses money.
O'REILLY: Do they have corruption in Stockton or pollution?
STOSSEL: Mainly the big government was the complaint. High unemployment.
O'REILLY: The people running the show are stupid.
STOSSEL: And high unemployment. Arrogant and stupid.
O'REILLY: Arrogant and stupid. That's not a good combo, is it?

According to Google, Stockton's just fine for the barge:

"It's been a busy six months for our barge and it's grown tired of all the attention, so we are moving it to Stockton where it can have a break, enjoy the city's delicious asparagus and warmer climate, and get a bit of rest before its next chapter."

The Port of Stockton is located on the Stockton Deepwater Ship Channel 75 nautical miles east of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Stockton grew from a small settlement to a thriving commercial center during the California Gold Rush when, like other communities, pioneer residents discovered that serving the needs of prospectors was often more profitable than seeking gold.

Let's see what O'Reilly says.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Time to chew on proposed food nutrition label changes: How to comment

If people are hungry to be heard about food labels, now's the time.
By Tuesday afternoon, 42 people bit at the opportunity to post official online comments about the Food and Drug Administration's proposed update for Nutrition Facts labels for packaged foods, the first major change in 20 years; 11 commented about proposed changes to serving sizes.

Proposed nutrition label
One commenter called for labeling genetically modified foods; another demanded plainer language.

The official comment period opened Monday and continues until June 2.

Much was written in the past week about the proposed changes, which, the FDA says, "reflect the latest scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. The proposed label also would replace out-of-date serving sizes to better align with how much people really eat, and it would feature a fresh design to highlight key parts of the label such as calories and serving sizes."

The LA Times, in an editorial that drew only four online comments, called the proposal a "mixed bag," and warned, "Once labels say that 20 ounces of soda is a single serving, consumers might start thinking of that as a standard, reasonable size. They shouldn't."

First lady Michelle Obama, announcing the proposed changes, said, "Our guiding principle here is very simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family. So this is a big deal, and it’s going to make a big difference for families all across this country.”
Many stories didn't have instructions for readers on how to comment because the official comment period wasn't open when the stories were published. It is now.

If you want to be heard, the FDA says:

For comments to be considered, they must be submitted to or sent by mail to the address below.

The docket for the proposed rule will open Monday, and you can enter comments by going to and entering in the “key word” box the docket numbers below:

To comment on the Nutrition Facts label: FDA-2012-N-1210

To comment on the changes to the serving sizes: FDA-2004-N-0258

To comment by mail, send written comments to Division of Dockets Management, Food and Drug Administration, Room 1061, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852. Make sure that the docket number is written at the top of each page of your comment.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Help with Yelp: What joke would you tell to get an editor job?

Yelp said it was looking for an editor with a good sense of humor.

To apply, it said, "Please submit a resume, cover letter, writing sample, and a link to your Yelp profile! And one joke."

That request might stymie an applicant. An executive interviewing me once over dinner asked what my former colleagues would say about me if asked. I mentioned to him that among leadership and editing skills, they might mention my alleged good sense of humor.

"You have a good sense of humor? Tell me a joke," he said.

His demand briefly chased any joke I knew momentarily out of my mind.

I eventually recovered and tortured him with the classic Roy Rogers cat joke, which can be stretched out to half an hour, but I didn't want to hang around that long (a short version is below if you really want to see it). The interview didn't even last through the main course.

If you were seeking the Yelp editor job, or want to help someone who is, please enter a joke for Yelp on our Facebook page.

Roy Rogers' cat joke in brief:

Roy Rogers rides home from a hard day's work on the ranch, a slain mountain lion draped across the back of Trigger.

Roy's new boots are all scratched, ripped and muddy.

Dale goes out to greet him and spots the mountain lion, looks down at Roy's shredded boots and back up at the mountain lion, and says:

"Pardon me Roy, is that the cat who chewed your new shoes?"

The Chattanooga Choo Choo Song: