Steve OHearn's picture

Book Author Night - November 19th

One of my favorite events at the National Press Club all year is the annual Book Author night. This year the event will be held on the evening of November 19th. This year's authors include everyone from famed biography Kitty Kelley to Megadeth guitarist David Ellefson. Personally I'm looking forward to seeing Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian with his new book Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed. Web pioneer Marc Andreesen, speaking about the book, says "Software is eating the world and WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION is your ultimate cookbook." And of the course the coolest thing about Ohanian is what his Amazon author notes report: "He lives in Brooklyn but remains a diehard fan of the Washington Redskins."

A complete list of authors is available online here.

Steve OHearn's picture

The Tyranny of Style and Commas: Are We Slaves Or Are We Free?

A friend on Facebook just brought an article to my attention at the Business Insider that has fired up a passion in me like few other topics do. And you're going to laugh when you realize the title is 13 Rules For Using Commas Without Looking Like An Idiot, but hear me out.

Item 4 in the article is "Use commas to separate items in a series". It continues "For example, "I saw a duck, a magician, and a liquor store when I went running. That last comma, known as the serial comma, Oxford comma, or Harvard comma, causes serious controversy."

Don't laugh, I've come close to physical blows over this issue.

The official Associated Press style guide rejects the Oxford comma, creating sentences that are confusing at the least, and often factually incorrect at the worst. The National Press Club, home to a lot of good folks from the AP, adheres to AP style in many internal publications. A few years ago, I wrote regularly for the Club's internal newsletter, the Record, and while I loved the individual members of the team there, I hated their position on the Oxford comma. I used the Oxford comma in my articles, but it was always edited out by the rotating editors of the week.

I was shocked when I first encountered this, and I complained passionately, arguing that the edit totally changed the substance of the sentence. For example, to write that "the entries, received from committees such as New Media, Book and Speakers, were processed Friday" implies there's a "Book and Speakers" committee, and there isn't, there's a Book committee, and then there's a Speakers committee. But I was told "well I think our members know that".

I would argue "so what? Other people read this! Why go out of your way to transform clear sentences into confusing, misleading statements?" The answer: "because we follow the AP style guide".

Even when I became a rotating editor, if I included the Oxford comma, I was confronted on it by other editors who declared I was in "violation", like I should be fined or something.

There were some in the group who recognized what I was talking about, thankfully. And apparently Business Insider recognized the problem, so now I love Business Insider.

But this drove me absolutely crazy. Years later, it still irks me.

There is no good reason to deliberately confuse people. If you don't love the Oxford comma, get over yourself and embrace it. Otherwise, as Business Insider warns, you'll risk "looking like an idiot".

They said it, I didn't.

Shout it from the mountaintops. Shout it throughout the world in every home, school, and office. And that's three distinct places, not two places named "home", and "school and office". But you knew that already, thanks to the Oxford comma.

- Specific Steve

P.S. If you noticed my use of quotation marks with periods is also in violation of AP style, well, there is a reason for that too. That may be the subject of a future blog post.

Billiken Gerstenberg's picture

MORNING JOE: Chuck Todd on the criminalization of journalism

On MSNBC's Morning Joe, NBC's Chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd said: "If George Bush and Dick Cheney did this ... Candidate Obama would be unloading ... you can't look at this and see it as anything other than an attempt to basically scare anybody from ever leaking anything ever again. So they want to criminalize journalism."

Steve OHearn's picture

The Passing of Andrew Price, Longtime Head Waiter of the NPC

We just heard that Andrew Price has passed away. Andrew was the head waiter of the National Press Club for many years. He started his career with the Club in 1967 and was an institution there until his retirement in July of last year.

Andrew served all the most distinguished visitors to the Club, and became known to heads of state and VIPs from around the world.

I had the privilege of meeting and chatting with Andrew many times over the years, he was a gracious man. I think its fair to say he was respected and highly regarded by just about every member who had the privilege of meeting him. And I dare say he was better known than most Club presidents, who serve one year and move on, whereas Andrew was a Club mainstay for nearly 50 years.

His passing is a great loss. We miss you, Andrew.

For a more formal article about Andrew's passing, see the announcement at the National Press Club website.

Steve OHearn's picture

CHRISTMAS 1917: NPCers give Model T Ford to U.S. Senate's Preston

Years before the $20/$50 rules were established, members of the National Press Club gave a Model T Ford as a Christmas present to their good friend James D. Preston, the Superintendent of the Senate Press Gallery.  The photo above shows the presentation of the lavish gift, and is featured in shrdlu, which offers the following details:

In December, 1917, James D. Preston, Superintendent of the Senate Press Gallery, received a Christmas present of a new Ford Model T on the steps of the Capitol. Left to right: Jim Preston at the wheel, first derby Richard V. Oulahan, New York Times; Leo Sack, Scripps-Howard; Dan O'Connell, Washington Times; J. Bart Campbell, International News Service, and interested Senate pages. [1]

Preston was responsible for creating the role that served newspaper reporters so well from the U.S. Senate, as the official U.S. Senate government website reports:

As head doorkeeper, the sergeant at arms has responsibility for the Senate Press Gallery. The scope of this role expanded in 1897, when James D. Preston, a doorkeeper in the Senate Press Gallery under the sergeant at arms, started collecting legislative bills and other information for reporters and facilitating interviews with senators. Preston eventually assumed the title of superintendent of the Press Gallery. In the 1930s and 1940s, Superintendents headed new Press Galleries for radio and television, periodical press, and press photographers.[2]

When Preston began his work with the press in the Senate Press Gallery, there were 150 newsmen covering the Senate "with one telephone and no typewriters" as Time Magazine reported.[3]  He served for about 35 years, and when he left in 1931, there were 368 reporters. 

Scene from Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

Preston went on to serve as a key advisor to Hollywood director Frank Capra in the making of the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  As Life Magazine reported in 1939:

Before work started Director Frank Capra visited Washington ... His quest for Capitol blueprints touched off a minor spy scare. To many of his questions, Washingtonians responded: "You'll have to ask Jim Preston about that." So persistent was this suggestion that Mr. Capra finally hunted up James D. Preston who for 33 years was superintendent of the Senate Press Gallery, is now assistant administrative secretary of the National Archives. An enthusiastic antiquarian, Mr. Preston proved himself such an astonishing mine of information that he was hired as technical advisor for the film. ... In Hollywood Jim Preston insisted that every detail of Washingtoniana be authentic. Busts of Vice Presidents in the Senate gallery were reproduced with plaster casts. Bills and printed forms used were actual Senate documents brought from Congress. He saw to it that the Senate clock was padlocked (to keep pages from shoving the hands forward) and that the desk of the Senator Jefferson Davis bore the gash made by the bayonet of a Union soldier during the civil War.[4]

Preston's father was a correspondent for the New York Herald.  In 1909, Preston was part of the small group of dedicated volunteers who helped move the one-year-old National Press Club from its original quarters to its new location on March 20.  The valiant volunteers were accompanied by an escort of two Washington, DC police officers, and a marching band. [5]

[1] shrdlu, Chapter 4, World War. Washington, DC: Colortone Press, 1958. http://www.pressblog.org/shrdluChapter4

[2] United States Senate website, Sergeant At Arms. Washington, DC. 2011. http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/sergeant_at_arms.htm

[3]Time Magazine, The Press: Gallery Man. December 7, 1931. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,930414,00.html

[4] Life Magazine, Hollywood's Washington is an extraordinary likeness based on fine technical research. October 16, 1939.  Page 73. http://books.google.com/books?id=RUIEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA73&lpg=

[5] Twentieth Anniversary Yearbook, Marching On! To New Quarters. Washington, DC: National Press Club. 1928. http://pressblog.org/node/37


Billiken Gerstenberg's picture

FLASHBACK: J. Edgar Hoover Popovers

The following is an excerpt from Who Says We Can't Cook, published by the Women's National Press Club, 1955.

J. Edgar Hoover

THE DIRECTOR of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, sometimes called Washington's "most eligible bachelor," is almost as famous for his cooking as for his success in tracking down the nation's most-wanted criminals. Popovers are among his FBI specials. Here is his recipe:

3 eggs 1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons salad oil
or melted shortening
1 teaspoon sugar  
1 cup flour  

The following directions are for an electric mixer, but the same recipe may be used for mixing "by hand."

First of all, put greased muffin tins or custard cups into a very hot oven ~ 450o F ~ and heat until they are sizzling hot. Beat eggs at medium speed a few minutes until frothy. Add salt, sugar, flour and half the milk, and mix again, medium speed, until smooth. Then add remaining milk and salad oil, or melted shortening, and beat at low speed until just blended. Pour batter into hot muffin tins or custard cups, filling each about half full. Bake in a very hot oven (450o F) for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 400o F and continue baking for 15 minutes longer. Makes 12 popovers.

~ Recipe obtained by WNPC member Ingrid Jewell, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Admin's picture

New: Traffic Cams

We've added links to a couple of traffic cameras near the National Press Building, home to the National Press Club.  Both are on 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC, and both are pointed southward.  Neither shows the building itself, but both show the traffic traveling back and forth right in front of the building.

The traffic cams are online here.  They are also currently available from the menu above.

Steve OHearn's picture

FLASHBACK: From 2007, Newt Gingrich Luncheon Speech

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, currently a US presidential candidate, spoke to the National Press Club in a luncheon speech on August 7, 2007.  Below is the video from the C-Span archive.  The moderator is 2007 NPC President Jerry Zremski.

Tim Young's picture

Congratulations to the winners

I wanted to take a moment to congratulate Theresa and all the winners in the elections this week.

I also want to thank everyone who voted in the Press Club election over the past few weeks.  Voting reached highs for recent elections and it was because we, all the candidates, finally made it compelling.

And personally, I want to thank everyone for all of their support, especially those who told me they voted for another candidate, but appreciated my motivation and desire to help and give back to the club.   That was my one goal in this election, to give back to a community which has given so much to me.

I encourage everyone, especially Young Members to become more active in the National Press Club community and to begin to take ownership in the club that can provide so much for not only them, but the journalism community.

I know that Theresa and the newly elected officials will move this club in the right direction and I look forward to this year at the club.

- Tim


Tim Young, J.D.

Chair, Young Members Committee, National Press Club


Admin's picture

PressBlog - Analytics

Google Analytics Week of December 5, 2011 This website has been busy this week, particularly for a new site.  Google Analytics reports that for the five weekdays through Dec 9, the site experienced 2,411 page views (1,325 unique). 

Click here for the graphic.

PressBlog.org went live on Nov. 23 with its first blog post, which was quickly followed with the publication of shrdlu, the Club's 50th anniversary yearbook from 1958, and the Club's 1928 Twentieth Anniversary Yearbook. Also published were select photos from the collection of National Press Club veteran photojournalist John Metelsky

The blog played an active role during the historic 2011 Club elections, featuring candidate campaign statements, letters, member opinions, retrospectives of previous elections in NPC history, and statements of endorsement for various candidates from several Club members, including several from past NPC presidents. 

Google Analytics were first installed on Dec. 5.  This is the first report available since data has been collected.



Subscribe to Press Blog RSS