Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Language Arts 101, by Mr. Jaspan

We bloggers do love to pick on journalists. But can you blame us? They so often serve up such tempting food for the picking.

Michael Totten has a post about one Andrew Jaspan, who is quoted as saying something so mind-bogglingly absurdly stupendously gobsmackingly stupid that at first I had trouble accepting that I wasn't reading the Onion. Here's an excerpt:

Jaspan is the editor-in-chief at Melbourne’s The Age. Seems he was a bit offended when his fellow Australian Douglas Wood said the guys who kidnapped him in Iraq are “assholes.”

[Jaspan quote:] "I was, I have to say, shocked by Douglas Wood's use of the a---hole word, if I can put it like that, which I just thought was coarse and very ill-thought through and I think demeans the man and is one of the reasons why people are slightly sceptical of his motives and everything else. The issue really is largely, speaking as I understand it, he was treated well there. He says he was fed every day, and as such to turn around and use that kind of language I think is just insensitive."

I became interested in learning more about Mr. Jaspan. Let me just say that Google is a glorious thing, and a very quick perusal revealed a few interesting facts.

First of all, I had found it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that an Australian could be so--well, so prissy about language. Well, my notion of Australians can remain intact, because I was relieved to discover that Jaspan is no Australian. He seems to be English (or perhaps Scottish; it's a bit unclear, and I got tired of trying to find out). See this article, written a year ago when Jaspan worked for the Sunday Herald in Scotland and was being considered for the post at The Age--apparently, Jaspan gets around:

Surely you can’t be serious that Fairfax management is looking to hire Andrew Jaspan? The editor of five papers in 10 years before being fired from The Observer and landing at The Sunday Herald in Scotland. When his name was first mentioned serious observers of British newspapers such as myself, and those of us with high hopes for a revival at The Age, thought it was a quaint way of showing that the search for a new editor would be global. Has Fairfax done its homework or has it been swayed by Jaspan's well-known ability to talk the talk?

The article goes on to describe certain eccentricities of Jaspan's, including his editorial policy of "design-over-content," which certainly seems consistent with Jaspan's remarks about Wood and his captors. However, also in light of those comments, I found the following to be most interesting indeed (quoted from a Scottish columnist named Terry Murden):

I recall one meeting with Jaspan when he described a critical profile of him in The Sunday Times Scotland as a ''shitty piece of journalism.''

Oh dear oh dear, Mr. Jaspan--such language! But of course I would imagine those profiling him in The Sunday Times Scotland were a lot crueler than Douglas Wood's kidnappers.


At 4:15 PM, June 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of these days my head is going to fall off from vigorishly shaking it in either agreement with your point or dismay at the ridulousness of some of those you bring to our attention.

At 9:11 PM, June 28, 2005, Blogger Pancho said...

For more on Mr. Jaspan journey over to the Australian Blogs of Tim Blair or better yet my friend Professor Bunyip where the little Scottish prig of an editor is roasted quite often and with much relish.

At 9:29 PM, June 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Pancho. I don't know how I'd managed to avoid having heard of Mr. Jaspan before, but now I'll have to start paying attention.

And careful, meander. I don't want any lawsuits :-)!

At 4:54 PM, June 30, 2005, Blogger Bookworm said...

Unless I misread your post -- which I'm entirely capable of doing -- it seems to me Mr. Jaspan was saying that, because Wood was fed, he wasn't maltreated. So, if I get this correctly, it is maltreatment if the US detains warriors, feeds them well, houses them with a modicum of comfort, treats their religious books better than we treat our own, and (yes, this is war) messes with them somewhat to get information that may benefit national security. However, it is not mistreatment if warriors kidnap a civilian, tie him to a bed, slaughter people around him, threaten him with guns to his head, etc., because they fed him. Am I right about this? I'm perfectly willing to hold America to higher standards, but this is ridiculous.

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