The Best American Band: The Hits List

I’m still thinking about the best American band, but while I am considering that weighty question I thought it might be interesting to note what the “hits” to our little blog indicates. Our blogging service tells us that the post about Steely Dan is by far the most popular of the 18 band-specific “best American band” postings. Whether this means that Steely Dan has more loyal fans, or just more fans who would read unremarkable blog postings, is unclear. In any case, the list of hits to Webnerhouse band postings, from most to least, is as follows:

Steely Dan


The Beach Boys

The Doors

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Rage Against The Machine

The Allman Brothers

The Velvet Underground

The Cars


The White Stripes

The Talking Heads

Pearl Jam


ZZ Top


Creedence Clearwater Revival

Van Halen

Edited to add: Time to Vote for your choice for Best American Band!

Burn On, Big River

The 1969 Cuyahoga River fire

The 1969 Cuyahoga River fire

On June 22, 1969 — 40 years ago — the Cuyahoga River caught fire.  It was, I think, the third time that had happened over the years.  People will say, in retrospect, that the fire helped to increase environmental awareness, led to the passage of the Clean Water Act and various environmental regulations, and therefore ultimately was a positive thing.  As a kid growing up in Akron at the time, I didn’t think about any of that stuff.  It was just another black eye for Cleveland and northern Ohio, and it hurt to hear comedians make jokes about the city.  But, who could blame them?  What could be more outlandish than a river catching fire?

I knew that the river was a mess, because I had visited it with my Akron City Schools grade school class for a cruise on the Good Time II.   The river smelled horrible and looked horrible; it was a black, oily mess that flowed sluggishly and was chock full of debris.  At one point on our cruise we passed a police boat that we suddenly realized was fishing a dead body from the river.  The teacher made us all go to the other side of the boat so we wouldn’t see it.

The PD has a good story today about the fire and its aftermath.  The picture of the man’s oily hand reminds me of the Good Time II cruise.  Interestingly, the river story has a happy ending; the regulations have worked, the river is clean again, and is the home to fish and the site of pleasant recreational activity.  But, when many people think of the Cuyahoga River, they will think of Randy Newman’s Burn On, which provided the title for this posting.  The facts have changed, but the city’s embarrassment still lingers.

Journalistic Ethics

The New York Times has reported that one of its reporters who was captured by the Taliban and has been held captive for seven months has escaped. What makes the story particularly interesting is that the Times kept the story of the reporter’s capture confidential during that entire time because it was advised that disclosure of the capture would endanger the reporter. The Times therefore was confronted with a choice between printing what was a newsworthy story or refraining from doing so because printing the story could be fatal to its subject. The situation presented a question of journalistic ethics, and I think the Times clearly made the right choice.

When I attended the Ohio State University School of Journalism, ethics was part of the curriculum — not a major part, but at least a topic that was discussed. I was surprised to learn that there really are no hard and fast standards that apply to all members of the news media. Instead, every newspaper and every reporter had to make their own rough cuts. One of my journalism professors said his particular rule of thumb was never to accept a gift that could not be consumed in one sitting.

For reporters, the ethical questions can arise in countless different scenarios. If a kidnapping occurs, do you follow the requests of the police and the family on what to print and when? I think most journalists and editors would agree to do so, because no story is worth a life. Do you offer a source anonymity when you suspect that they may be leaking to pursue a political agenda? I think most journalists would say yes, if the reporter had done enough checking to believe in the truth of the source’s information and there was no other way to get the story. Do you accept a free meal or round of golf from someone trying to garner some favorable press? I think most reporters would permit themselves to do so, and believe that they could maintain their objectivity — but what if it turns into many meals, rounds of golf, and maybe a junket to an exotic location? Some lines are easier to draw than others.