From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Estate-tax attorneys for Prince, who died last week, must attempt to put a precise financial value on his name, image and likeness.

That Prince-ness could make him one of America’s top-earning deceased celebrities, and it may be one of his estate’s largest assets—subject to a 40% federal tax.

 In Hades the IRS reigns;
they keep the taxpayers in chains.
In Heaven the Feds
are thrown in old sheds
and listen to lectures by Keynes.


From today’s Los Angeles Times:

America’s high school seniors’ reading and math test scores are barely holding steady or slumping, according to national standardized test results released late Tuesday.

If you have a high school degree

you’re sharp as a sugar snap pea.

You read very slow;

and math you don’t know —

a journalist you ought to be!

Schoolboy wearing dunce cap
Schoolboy wearing dunce cap

It ain’t milk chocolate no more . . .

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Chocolate maker Hershey Co. has a solution for America’s waning taste for candy: beef snacks.

The 122-year-old company is betting that dried meat bars are the new chocolate bars.

To that end, Hershey will start selling Krave protein bars in August, made from dried meats and a combination of other ingredients such as mangos, cranberries and quinoa.


The end of the road for cuisine

is a Hershey bar made of protein.

Such animal glue

is blasphemous, too.

You might as well chew on baleen!


Youth, Schmouth . . .

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

What if there were a way to stave off the creaks and calamities of old age? Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, is working on it.

With word leaking out, seniors from all over the globe have been hounding Dr. Barzilai and his colleagues to get in on the action—with many writing to prove their worthiness. Never mind that formal patient recruitment is still perhaps a year away.


There was an old man who decided

the worship of youth was misguided.

For, he said brightly,

although I sleep lightly

my worries and wants have subsided.

from ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, by Lewis Carroll, with illustrations by John Tenniel. Macmillan and Co, London, 1898.
from ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, by Lewis Carroll, with illustrations by John Tenniel. Macmillan and Co, London, 1898.

The Snooty Old Lobsters of Sweden

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Maine’s congressional delegation is steaming over a push by Sweden to get the European Union to designate the North American lobster as an invasive alien species, which would halt live imports to the EU’s 28 member countries.

The Swedish scientists also worry about crossbreeding, saying it isn’t fully known “how American lobsters and European lobsters affect each other.”

The snooty old lobsters of Sweden

are not with our kind to be breedin’.

Your posh langoustine

ain’t better than mine!

(They all look alike when you’re feedin’)


No Bones About It

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation paid more than $1 million for a hacking tool that opened the iPhone of a terrorist gunman in San Bernardino, Calif., the head of the agency said Thursday.


A hacker who opens iPhones

can rate himself on the Dow Jones.

It sure does amaze

what Uncle Sam pays

without making any old bones.


There Once was a Man so Ambitious . . .

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Research on hypercompetitors sets them apart. Intense rivalry is linked with a win-at-any-cost mind-set and a tendency to ignore the perspectives and decisions of others, according to a 2010 study at Harvard University. Other research shows highly competitive people focus on attaining status over getting work done, and readily put their own interests above others’.

There once was a man so ambitious

his coworkers turned very vicious.

One morning they fought

to throw him in a pot —

and stewed him till he was delicious.



From today’s Wall Street Journal:

“In a world poised to disappoint, it seems simple common sense to minimize misunderstanding and heartbreak whenever possible. One way to do that is by ordering breakfast the way you like it. In my case that means soft—to the point of runny—scrambled eggs and crisp bacon. And I appreciate my toast to arrive buttered.”

 The world is a funny old place
where breakfast should be the first grace
of days long in mirth,
not worried with girth.
But oatmeal is all I will face . . .

Making new friends? Phooey!

From the Wall Street Journal:

A study published in February in the British Journal of Psychology looked at 15,000 respondents and found that people who had more social interactions with close friends reported being happier—unless they were highly intelligent. People with higher I.Q.s were less content when they spent more time with friends. Psychologists theorize that these folks keep themselves intellectually stimulated without a lot of social interaction, and often have a long-term goal they are pursuing.

 I’m not such a friendly old chap;
I do not enjoy the backslap.
It ain’t that I’m smart.
I’m just an old fart
who wants to get on with his nap!

Why Journalists Think Online Comments Are a Waste of Time

What do journalists think about the online comments readers leave on their stories? Not much.

Ever have a burning desire to leave an online comment after reading a news article? Many readers do, and act on it.

How do journalists react to comments on their stories?

I queried several dozen professional journalists and editors about their reaction to online comments from readers.

The result? Let’s just say that the majority of professional writers pay more attention to their mouse pad than to reader comments . . .

Says Robert Schlesinger, Managing Opinion Editor at U.S. News & World Report:  “We don’t run reader comments anymore; when we did run them I rarely read them and advised my writers against doing so because anger seems to drive commenters more than agreement.”

Josh Verges writes for the Pioneer Press in St Paul, Minnesota. He represents the minority of the journalists I contacted who value reader comments. He writes:  “I do generally read or at least skim the comments on my stories, both on Facebook and I pay closer attention to people who rarely comment because they often have a particular insight into the story. Hundreds of thousands of people interact with the institutions I cover, and story comments are an easy way to get a glimpse at their perspectives.”

Another reporter from the same newspaper, Bob Shaw, dismisses reader comments out of hand:  “I don’t bother looking at the on-line comments. It’s usually a waste of time to wade through dozens of them in search of the one constructive piece of criticism. Anyone who spots a factual error or wants to make a point usually calls me, so we can talk about it — which I do find worthwhile.

“I’m surprised at how quickly the comments section turns into a back-and-forth debate over the Obama presidency.”

Hugo Martin is a writer for the Los Angeles Times. He feels somewhat ambivalent about reader comments:

“I skim through readers comments on my stories primarily to see if anyone challenges the accuracy of my story. I think the comments can sometimes be helpful in ensuring we put out the most accurate information.

I’m surprised at how quickly the comments section turns into a back-and-forth debate over the Obama presidency. Even articles that have nothing to do with Obama or his policies will often trigger a debate over Obama. For example, if I write that tourism spending is up, partly because of an improved economy, the comments section will erupt in a feud over whether the economy has really improved and whether Obama had anything to do with it. Wow.” 

Wow, indeed. An editor at the Wall Street Journal, who did not wish to be named, emailed me:  “Off the record, if I were to guess unscientifically, I would guess that most reporters ignore them . . . ” 

Amber Phillips, at the Washington Post, is pretty adamant about online comments:  “I never, ever read the comments on my stories. I do scroll through once a day mentions on my Twitter account, which is of a similar vein to the comments in my stories, but I don’t spend too much time on them.”

Anne Kadet writes for the Wall Street Journal, among other newspapers, and she, too, mentions the recurrent Obamaphobia in reader’s comments on her stories:

“I don’t make a habit of reading comments, not because I’m too busy or not interested, but because I tend to be overly concerned with what others might be thinking about me and my work–reading comments just aggravates this tendency. It’s a shame I can’t indulge, because I am very curious to read what other folks have to say about the topics I cover. 
When I do have a lapse and read comments, I always get a kick out of the fact that no matter what topic I cover–food, the arts, real estate–several readers will invariably note that what I wrote serves as proof that Obamacare doesn’t work.”

“The more insightful debate is on Twitter”

The final word goes to yet another St Paul Pioneer Press reporter. If you’re wondering at the preponderance of quotes from reporters at that newspaper, I can tell you frankly it’s because, out of all the newspaper reporters I contacted, the ones at the Pioneer Press were the most forthcoming, followed by the Wall Street Journal. Reporters at the New York Times absolutely refused to comment on the subject, as did reporters at several other prominent national newspapers. I can only speculate that they felt completely above the fray of online comments, and were content to dawdle on Mount Olympus sipping ambrosia.

Reporter Fred Melo gives online comments some thoughtful comment:  “It helps to read the comments with a brave face, a wizened soul, and an open mind. Rarely do they do more than yap, but there’s occasional nuggets of perspective worth considering. So I consider them, with great grains of salt. The more insightful debate is on Twitter, where I can choose who to follow and users are more apt to link back to articles and web sources to back up their point of view.”

So if you desperately want to make your opinion known to a journalist about his or her story, don’t bother to comment — either tweet them or call them.

Or, since Valentine’s Day is coming up, say it with flowers.

(And by the way, did you notice there’s absolutely no way you can comment on this story?)