Zooming In

January 9, 2006

The Mother of All Baby Names

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this edition: The Czechs' official baby-name minder; an ad of questionable taste; and an ironic citizen-journalism blurb.

David Goldenberg

Zooming In
Paul Antonson
Some of the most insightful writing from outside the U.S. comes from local media. In this occasional feature, Gelf identifies noteworthy stories that haven't gotten much attention outside local borders.

Czech Republic

If you want to give your baby an unusual name, you have to first check with Miloslava Knappová. As the only recognized Czech name expert, Knappová publishes the book How will your child be named?, which contains the few thousand government-authorized names and spelling variations. Any other names have to be vetted by Knappová at a cost of $23.50 each—she recently rejected "Chicago" because it derives from a Native American word for swamp. "Does one 80-year-old woman honestly have the right to decide my child's name?" Jan Lepař, the father of Finn, asked the Prague Post. For now, the answer is yes.

Hong Kong

Squatters who have occupied lots rent-free for the last 50 years were awarded ownership of those properties when the Court of Final Appeal decided to cancel the existing titles (South China Morning Post). Hong Kong law states that "if a person can prove they have effectively possessed a piece of land for more than 20 continuous years without entering into any kind of agreement with the leaseholder, ownership passes to them." One of the people who made out well in the decision was 84-year old Wong Yam-Tai, who was awarded five lots worth an estimated $36 million dollars. Harvest Good Development, which formerly owned the property, has filed a writ claiming that the ordinances on which the judgments were made are constitutionally unsound (SCMP).


According to Norwegian reindeer owners, one of the animal's most lethal predators is the golden eagle, which they claim killed over 2,000 of the deer last year alone (Aftenposten). The government gave the owners almost $1 million dollars in compensation for the losses, even though it seems unlikely that the eagles, weighing in at a maximum of 15 pounds, could have made off with anything but the tiniest of calves. "Just four years ago about ten golden eagle couples supposedly killed 15,000 reindeer on the Finnmark plateau alone," Per J. Tømmeraas, who researches birds of prey, tells the paper. "The number has nothing to do with reality. This was about raising money for the reindeer industry, not about biology."


Did a bus line go out of line trying to recruit customers for its Krakow-to-Auschwitz route? Its advertisement features a line of barbed wire in the background, set against the text "Auschwitz? With a return ticket? From the city center? Yes it is possible." (JTA, with a picture of the ad.) The president of PKS Malopolska, Thomasz Stanek, said the company will change the return-ticket line if it is truly offensive, as many Jewish leaders claim, but noted that the company had consulted with an expert at the Auschwitz Jewish Center before proceeding with the ad. The center, in turn, said the person with whom Stanek consulted was an intern who was asked only for her personal view.

South Africa

Starting today, the country's first major citizen-journalism project goes into effect. The website reporter.co.za, which is owned by Johnnic Communications—the same company that owns the Sunday Times and ELLE—has started publishing articles from lay journalists throughout the country. It pays between $2 and $6 a piece, depending on where the 20 editors place it on the site. The site also gives guidelines to aspiring writers, including "Keep your sentences short, preferably with no more than one thought per sentence. Long complicated sentences with words used inappropriately means your readers will (a) get bored (b) lose your train of thought."

In its greeting, the website includes a quote from Vincent Maher, director of the New Media Lab at Rhodes University's School of Journalism & Media Studies, in which he says the launch of reporter.co.za is "the most progressive move by a South African media company in the past two years." Complicating this endorsement; Vincent Maher is the author of the blog post Citizen Journalism is Dead.

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Article by David Goldenberg

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