Monday, December 21, 2009

OLLI Course on Bay Area Journalism

I'm looking forward to teaching a course, starting in late January, for UC Berkeley's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). It's called "The Rest of the Story: Radical and Alternative Journalism in California, 1939-2009."

The idea is to survey California's key outlets for political journalism--including KPFA, Ramparts, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Daily Kos, and the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR)--to better understand our niche in the national media ecology.

To help us do that, I've invited Peter Schrag, Larry Bensky, Adam Hochschild, David Weir, and Susan Gardner (executive editor of Daily Kos) to join me in a conversation with OLLI's members.

It's an exciting prospect to speak with people who have made such huge contributions over the years. And many of these folks were involved with two or more key organizations. Adam wrote for Ramparts before he started Mother Jones. Larry was also with Ramparts before he landed at KPFA. David wrote for Rolling Stone (see image above) before he co-founded CIR. Peter has written for The Nation for decades, including during the McWilliams Era, in addition to editing the editorial page of the Sacramento Bee. So I imagine we'll get some interestingly layered perspectives.

To sign up for the course, click here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ramparts News

Yesterday was a good day for A Bomb in Every Issue.

Rose Aguilar interviewed me for KALW's "Your Call." The program should air in January.

Tom Gallagher posted a favorable review on his blog, Demockracy.

I learned that the WELL, the birthplace of the online community movement, will feature the book for two weeks in February.

I received a message from Ellen Adler, publisher of The New Press, who said orders for the book were strong.

And, to top it off, the San Francisco Chronicle named the book one of the 50 notable Bay Area books of the year.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Daniel McCarthy on Ramparts

I just read Daniel McCarthy's review of A Bomb in Every Issue. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but this is one of the most careful and appreciative readings I've come across.

I certainly wasn't expecting lines like this, on the early days of the New Left: "Richardson doesn’t waste words moralizing. He draws a picture and leaves the reader to draw conclusions—one of which might be that you could hardly blame a young man for wanting to take a blowtorch to the entire puking establishment."

McCarthy's conclusion: "Somebody should have listened to Thomas Merton." Writing for Ramparts, the Trappist monk and bestselling author urged (white) liberals to support the civil rights movement, warned of “an eventual civil war that might wreck the fabric of American society,” and feared “there might be a danger of Marxist elements ‘capturing’ the revolution."

Consider, too, McCarthy's description of Ramparts' editorial line--or, at least, one of its elements. Borrowing a term from Benjamin Tucker, McCarthy detects an "unterrified Jeffersonianism." Perfect.

The cover image above is from a past issue, but it conveys a bit more of the magazine's iconoclasm.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

The 1968 Project

I spent yesterday at the Oakland Museum (now closed for renovations) discussing a forthcoming museum exhibition. The working title is "The 1968 Project," and its website is here. The Oakland Museum of California is a partner, and the curators wanted to go over the plans with a group of locals. I was lucky enough to be selected.

I won't rehearse the details of our discussion here, but I found it very stimulating. It's almost impossible not to plunge directly into the politics of that momentous year, and that's exactly what I did at first. I suppose we're still struggling over who gets to tell that story and how. But the worlds of science, sports, religion, literature, film, music, art, television, fashion and so on were clicking along, and though none of those realms was untouched by politics, I was glad to see some balances struck in the presentation.

Full disclosure: I'm not really a visual or spatial thinker. As a Skando Lutheran (raised that way, I mean), it's all about the word for me. So when I think about all the different considerations in putting together an exhibit like this, I marvel at the talent of those who can pull it off. So many choices to make! Not just on the "content," but on the presentation. My god, where do you start? Happily, this project is well on its way and should be fascinating.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ramparts: History and Design

One of the best outcomes of the Ramparts book has been a renewed interest in the magazine's design. Several pieces have appeared, mostly online, and mostly focused on Dugald Stermer, the magazine's art director from 1964 to 1969. As I stress in the book, Dugald's contribution was an indispensable part of the magazine's success.

The most recent article comes from Steven Heller of the School of Visual Arts. An art director at the New York Times for over three decades, Heller interviewed Dugald and offers his own take on the magazine's successes and challenges.

It's always interesting to hear the experts discuss the magazine's look. My work as editorial director at PoliPointPress has taught me a few things about design, but I wish I knew more about it. A lot more. So I'm especially grateful for pieces like Heller's.

I already knew from my interview with Dugald that his son was the model for the April 1969 cover (above). What I didn't know was that his son's name was Chris, and that his reward for helping out with the cover was a trip to IHOP. That little bit of information came out in Jim Welte's piece for the Marin Independent-Journal.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Ramparts To Be Available Online!

This just in: Alexander Street Press has secured the rights to publish the full line of Ramparts magazine online. It will be available by subscription as part of The Sixties!, which includes primary documents and personal narratives that date from 1960 to 1974.

This will be a boon to researchers and aficionados everywhere. I heard about Alexander Street Press from Elliot Kanter, former editorial board member at Ramparts and now a librarian at UC San Diego. He suggested it to me when I interviewed him, I mentioned it to Guy Stilson (whose family owns the copyrights), and it turned out to be a good match.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Lo-Cal Swing

I'm off to Southern California this weekend for three events. I'll join Bob Scheer at all three, and Bob and I will appear with Scott Ritter and Iraq veteran Georg-Andreas Pogany at two of those.

The first event is in Venice on Saturday, Dec. 5. It's called "War, Media, and the Plight of the Veterans." We'll do it again on Sunday afternoon in Pasadena. Here's the link with more info:

The third event is also in Pasadena on Sunday. Bob and I will appear at All Saints Episcopal Church at 10 a.m. to talk about Ramparts magazine and A Bomb in Every Issue. More info here: