Dear Pat Ryan,

I just thought I’d check in to see how things are going with you.  Some of us have gotten a little curious because we haven’t heard much of anything from you in a while now and we started to wonder what was going on.  I mean, if you say you’re going to write a blog, it is customary to actually write something from time to time.  You know, something to make the customers realize that you’re not stone dead, or ignoring them, or “too busy with work and other things” to be bothered keeping up with your commitments.  C’mon, just six damn posts in the last four months?  What’s the deal?

I mean, fercryingoutloud, in just the last few months you’ve passed up the chance to say something about:

You’ve sort of led people to believe that you cared about civil liberties and the whole gay marriage thing, or were at least interested in the subject, but when

you observe radio silence.  I mean, you gotta understand why the people would at least wonder if you’ve given up, or converted or something.

You even let this great picture on Twitter go by without any acknowledgement!

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So anyway, I’d just like to say I hope you get your shit together and try to be a little more regular contributor in this space, or the owners may start thinking seriously about changing the name up there at the top of the page.

Watch Cosmos, be less dumb

I wouldn’t be much of a television professional if I didn’t watch a lot of TV, have an opinion on all of it, and insist on sharing that opinion even when you don’t ask.  But I do; I do; and even though you didn’t, here goes.

I hope you’re watching Cosmos.  If you’re not, you can catch it online here as well as on Fox and a few of the Fox-affiliated networks; next new episode is Sunday night.  Astronomer/rock star Neil deGrasse Tyson is an engaging if slightly self-absorbed host for a journey of the imagination that’s not only exploring out in space, but back in time.  This version takes full advantage of the capabilities of the medium in the modern day and tells a great story.  I don’t find it as enthralling as the original with astronomer/rock star Carl Sagan back in 1980, but it’s not fair to compare the two, not for people like me who saw the Sagan series when we were young and the things he talked about were actually new and unknown to us.  For me, it had the advantage of provoking wonderment in a way the current version just can’t; I hope it does for the kids of today.

The new series, produced by Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan, Seth McFarlane and others, is providing easy-to-follow explanations of some difficult scientific concepts.  The writers and producers have found a way to lay things out so you can understand the concept in the same way you eat an elephant (one bite at a time); it’s not scary to learn new things here.  I particularly liked Episode 2 for the explanation of evolution by natural selection.  Anyone who didn’t watch that show with a preset determination that evolution is for atheists could grasp the basics; yes, you’ve got to give up the notion that the Earth is only 6000 years old and that people and dinosaurs lived side by side, but you will understand what the scientific terms “evolution” and “natural selection” really mean.  It should be required viewing for the members of the Texas State Board of Education, that’s for sure.

If you prefer yours in a handy graphical form, here’s a swell chart from Reddit user SlipperyFish done for The Infographics Project (thumbnail image via Thinkstock).  Thanks to Upworthy for the link to this short answer to a perennial favorite dumb question:

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If you know anything, thank a reporter

Is it funny-strange that a blog that comments on reporting and journalism has a category for Woeful Journalism but not one to sing its praises, or is it just funny-sad that there hasn’t been a need to have one?

People who came to journalism post-Watergate and later, like I did, have a lot of complaints about the state of the art/profession/trade as it exists today; I suspect our elders have their own hit parade of infamies that we committed.  But my complaint has never been about how the digital revolution is changing the way information is presented to the reader/listener/viewer/consumer/custo-mer, because to my mind the delivery method is a tertiary concern.  The primary concern should be the content, with a little preserving-and-protecting-a-free-and-independent-press as a secondary.

I’m fine with electronic self-publication (duh!), and there’s not a damn thing wrong with everybody expressing their own beliefs and opinions.  But I don’t ever confuse what I and thousands and thousands of other people do at our own private keyboards with what real, professional reporters do out in the world every day.  Today I ran across two great examples of why that job is hard to do, and why it can be dangerous to do.

When the Earth quakes and the ocean covers the land and nuclear reactors split open, real reporters go to the danger because that’s where the story is.  When a dictator sends his army against its own people to suppress their expression of a desire for freedom, real reporters go to the danger because that’s where the story is.  Real reporters leave their comfortable homes and go where the news is happening, to observe real events and talk to real people, to report, so the rest of us can know what’s going on.  The biggest risk we stay-at-home bloggers take is suffering a fragmented hard drive.

The next time you hear someone complain about the biased news media, remind them that it’s real reporters, working for all kinds of publications, who provide us all with the raw data that pundits and demagogues misconstrue to suit their own purposes, and that sometimes they risk their lives to do it.  More times than you probably imagine, they lose their lives doing it.  We owe them our thanks and our respect.

→UPDATE Mar. 21: Times reporters released by Libya