Gongol.com Archives: May 2020

Brian Gongol

May 12, 2020

Health A master class in plain language

Dr. Anthony Fauci's videoconferenced testimony to Congress is an excellent example of a technical expert using plain language to explain a sophisticated topic -- even using a sports metaphor along the way. This is how economists, engineers, scientists, doctors, and others in complex professions need to talk to elected officials. Be understood! The more complex our world becomes, the more we need technical experts who have the ability and the drive to make their messages clear and unambiguous to audiences who make decisions on behalf of us all.

News Where goes the newspaper editorial?

The Nieman Lab notes that "the [Providence] Journal abandoning editorials is a scale of retreat that may be unique in the United States: a state's dominant paper, in its capital city, volunteering to abandon one of its most significant roles -- with no rival paper in a position to take its place." The executive editor tried to spin the decision as something rooted in high-minded principle -- gobbledygook about how editorials "inadvertently undermined readers' perception of a newspaper's core mission: to report the news fairly." The plain evidence is that it's simply a reflection of Gannett's budget cuts that have stripped the institution of the labor required to write those editorials. And that's tragic. A newspaper editorial isn't sacrosanct in and of itself, but the idea that a group of people from differing viewpoints ought to be able to come together to form a consensus opinion on matters of importance to the community shouldn't be controversial, nor subject to the axe. It's so important that institutional opinions be formed, held, and communicated that in places where "corporate" won't pay for editorial boards, then community members ought to step in to fill the void. An opinion landscape filled only with individual voices is much too likely to reward the loudest and the most outrageous, since that's the only way to make a big name for oneself. The institutional voice, by contrast, is measured by consistency and thoughtfulness over time. The departure of those institutional opinions from daily life is a serious loss for our civic well-being.

Humor and Good News A useful how-to video that needs no words at all

When you're on a telephone call, there's always something missing. Nonverbal communication makes up so much of our "language" that it can be used entirely on its own to explain things -- like how to make a mask out of a sock.