Posts Tagged ‘News’

“Think About That for a Moment”

August 7, 2018

That’s what Gayle King, a co-anchor on CBS This Morning, advised us to do as she reported on the largest forest fire in California history during the rapid-fire, tightly-edited Your World in 90 Seconds opening segment on the show. (At one time, I did not like newscasts to be referred to as “shows.” I thought of them as being serious business. That was during the Walter Cronkite era. Now, unfortunately, the term “show” is accurate.” None of today’s news shows comes close to the numbers Cronkite, Brokaw, or Jennings newscasts pulled on CBS, NBC, and ABC. Admittedly, there were fewer choices then. But, I digress. Back to MS King and her advice.) If we had stopped to “think about that,” we would have missed the beginning of the next story.

That is one advantage that newspapers and magazines had over broadcast news. We could stop to think about a story before we went on to read the next one.  However, there is now something that lessens that advantage. It’s called a DVR, which stands for “digital video recorder.” Miss a story because you’re thinking about the one you just watched, just hit the rewind. I wouldn’t be without a DVR.  The latest stats I could find online show a little more than half of TV households have a DVR. Commercial TV stations and networks probably weren’t too pleased with them when they came into use because a lot of folks, including me, record most of what they watch so they can fast forward through the commercials. I do watch some commercials, the clever ones that give me a little entertainment or important information for my time spent watching their sales pitch. They have to come at the beginning of the break to hook me.

What’s the Hurry?

December 8, 2017

If I didn’t have a DVR, I would miss a lot of what is said on the CBS This Morning newscasts.  I find myself rewinding a lot to be able to understand some reports. And sometimes even that doesn’t work because the information isn’t properly explained. Not only do the anchors rush a lot of their copy and run words together, but the production of the reports is often too tight..  Maybe the editors should cut down on the number of stories and give each one a little more breathing room.  Also, in my view,  there needs to be a brief pause between the reports, and transitions help the viewer stay on track.

Any basic course in writing for broadcast news makes it clear that writing for broadcasts is different from writing for newspapers and magazines. Readers can pick their speed and can easily reread the copy.  Listeners and viewers have to be able to understand what is reported the first time around, especially if they don’t have DVRs.  Perhaps it’s time for some producers to get back to the basics.

For some reason, the three major network producers seem to better understand this on the evening flagship newscasts.

Escape Radio, TV, Books, and Movies

March 4, 2015

When I was young, fiction interested me more than non-fiction.  Since my family subscribed to both the Columbus Ledger and the Columbus Enquirer, I did see the front page headlines on the way to  the  comics and movie ads, and I did  see the newsreels when I went to a movie, so I did  have an idea of what was going on in the world. But it was the feature films and the cartoons that I cared about.

Then, as I got older I became more interested in reality.  A highlight of the year was radio, and later, TV coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.  And when, as a teenager, I got into radio broadcasting, announcers did a little of  everything back then. They read commercials, newscasts, and hosted disc jockey shows. It was the disc jockey shows that I wanted to do the most. Still, reading wire service radio news copy served me well when I matured enough to specialize in news, first on radio and then on TV. I learned to interview news subjects, edit audio tape for radio, and shoot and edit film and video for TV news. 

I basically stopped reading fiction, concentrating on non-fiction.  But, I never stopped going to  the movies,  watching entertainment TV,  and listening to music, live and recorded. All of us need some escape from the real  world. And now I find myself escaping even more when I watch TV and go to the movies.  There is so much distressing news in the world.  Fortunately, there are enough quality TV programs and movies to hold my interest. A prime example of quality TV programs is Downton Abbey.  The British are especially good at producing period series and movies for TV. Downton Abbey is over for  this year, but Selfridges, another excellent period series follows it, so I won’t complain.  



A Blogger’s Free and Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning

June 29, 2014

Being a UU, I know that Unitarian Universalists do not have a creed, but UU communities affirm and promote Seven Principles. The Fourth one, “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning,” is the one that concerns us for this post. I am examining how that principle applies to the body of work that I have produced for this blog, which is a Personal blog. WordPress, which hosts more than 60 million websites including this one, says Personal “is the broadest category and includes blogs about personal topics like politics, music, family, travel, health, you name it.”

Since I started this blog in 2008, there have been 690 posts. There is no way we can examine each one, so let’s take a look at the one that has gotten and continues to get the most hits. The August 19, 2009 post AN EMOTIONAL WILLIAM CALLEY SAYS HE IS SORRY not only continues to get a lot of hits, but continues to get comments from readers.

Former Army Lt. William Calley, the only person convicted of participating in the massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam War, including a lot of  women and children,  used the occasion of speaking to the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus (Georgia), to apologize for his  role in the war crime.  My report was picked up by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, carried by all McClatchey newspapers , and fed by the L-E to the Associated Press,  causing it to be reported around the world.

I can’t speak  for others, so I’ll just concentrate on what I  see to be true in the report.  One significant truth to me is that some human beings of any nationallity are capable of unspeakable acts. Another one is that not only are some people incapaable of that, but they will actively oppose those who are.    

 What’s the meaning of the story?  For one thing, to me, it again raises the point that  war is an insane way for nations to resolve conflicts.  For another,  it shows that political leaders can get a lot of people killed unnecessarily and can be disingenuous about justifying their lethal actions.    

I realize that it may have an entirely different truth and meaning for you. Please feel  free to click on the comment button and let me know how you feel about the subject.  I do request that comments be civil, not too profane, and sans name calling. 


I’m Working on a Biggie

February 26, 2014

There is a reason I didn’t make my semi-deadline Monday.  It’s a semi-deadline because, when I  made the semi-promise, I inserted a loophole. I said I would TRY  to have one by each Monday.  I’m working on an in-depth “biggie” for you.  The first installment will be posted soon. I know you’ll be waiting with bated breath.  No, it isn’t spelled “baited.” We’re not talking about fishing, but about being almost breathless with anticipation.  If you already knew that, I apologize for insulting your intelligence.  If you didn’t, you had the pleasure of learning something new, and I’m happy for you.  



February 6, 2013

So what. The way TV newscasts went on and on about this symbolizes what’s wrong with news media today.  It was worth a mention, but leading with it even the next morning and devoting so much time to it illustrates how sophomoric the media has become in its quest for ratings.  It’s disgusting. 

Mike Wallace and Me

April 9, 2012

When a broadcast journalist giant like Mike Wallace dies,  the natural reaction is to think about the time I met him.  Al Fleming and I had gone to the CBS studios in Manhattan to record promos with him and Dan Rather.  While we did them together with Dan, we recorded them separately with Mike.

This is a CBS still photo that was sent to me and Al following our promo recording session with Dan Rather in New York. There was also one of Al and me individually with Mike Wallace, but that was lost years ago.

Dan was quite sociable and we had a nice chat with him when we recorded the promos with him on the CBS Evening News set. I reminded him of the time he had visited the WRBL studios to edit an interview he had done with a West Point mill executive on brown lung disease for 60 Minutes, and we talked about that. Dan had time for us. That was not the case with Mike.  He was stationed on the set of a new daytime show (which tanked) that he was doing for CBS.  The set was dwarfed by the cavernous studio in which it had been erected. When I walked up to shake hands with him, he smiled and said hello, but immediately started yelling kiddingly across the huge studio to a pretty young co-worker, completely ignoring his guest, who happened to be me.  He carried on a yelling conversation with her until she had left the studio. He then turned to the studio crew and authoritatively said, “All right let’s do this.” We read the promos on the teleprompter screen, doing it in one take. Then he gave me a condescending smile as we said our goodbyes as he and his crew waited for the next CBS affiliate’s news anchor to come to do another promo that would run on the affiliate’s station.

So Mike had lived up to his tough, brusque reputation in my encounter with him. Al told me later that Mike hadn’t been friendly with him. Even though I reflected that to me he was an egotistical, rude man who wasn’t interested in a conversation with a small-market anchor, I nevertheless admired his ability to solicit dynamic interviews with some very important people, including a lot of crooks whom he confronted on 60 Minutes.  Just as Morley Safer and Steve Croft, who worked for years with Mike on 60 Minutes, said on CBS This Morning, Mike was highly confrontational and abrasive, but he knew how to use those qualities to get all sorts of famous, and often villanous, people to say things that would make news. And like so many others in the business, I used that direct technique from time to time to get the news subject to do the same thing.  Once, when I was doing the news for WSB in Atlanta, the late Senator Herman Talmadge called the president of Cox Broadcasting  and said that I was trying to embarrass him with a question I asked him.  I really didn’t care, because I knew the question got right to crux of the story.

Safer, whose CBS office was next door to Mike’s, said at one point that he and Mike didn’t communicate for months, because Mike, who was highly competative , would steal stories from him. Croft said the same thing.  Both also said they liked him and admired his journalistic abilities, creditin g him with being the main reason that 60 Minutes  was one of the most succesful prime time news magazine programs in broadcasting history.

I remember when he first broke into the national broadcasting scene with his highly confrontational interviews on the Mike Wallace Show on ABC in the later fifties.  His subjects would actually break into a visible sweat during the interview. I had to admit it was highly entertaining, though sometimes cruel.  Those interviews made such an impact that they were parodied on the Sid Caesar Show. Sid Caesar was one of my favorite comedians.

As CBS was showing the long list of world-famous celebrities that Mike interviewed over the  years, they said, “He even interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt.” S0 did I. I was working at WSB at the time. It aired on NBC.

All in all, I admired Mike’s journalistic ability, thought him highly entertaining, and appreciated the fact that he didn’t appear to be afraid of anyone he interviewed, including heads of state and powerful politicians and businessmen.  He indeed was a giant in broadcasting.

News Blues

June 6, 2011

A fellow worker once told me how he solved his depression problem. He said he had been a country music fan, but he finally realized that the sad stories told in country music were causing his depression. He said he stopped listening and stopped being depressed.  Well, just think about the stories being fed to us constantly by news media.   They give us a constant stream of all of the horrible and unjust things going on in the world, about man’s inhumanity to man, his proclivity to stay at war, his greed,  the wrath of nature with its more powerful tornadoes,  hurricanes,  forest fires, melting ice caps, rising oceans, plagues and famines.  Maybe they will throw in a warm and fuzzy tale at the end of a newscast to try to keep people from feeling either depressingly sad or mad after watching the news,  and that may work some, but it’s overpowered by the rest of the newscast.

 I can’t give it up altogether, but I can cut back and that’s what I have done. Admittedly, I opt for escapism.  I watch American Idol, America’s Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars, and So You Think You Can Dance, and I can understand why so many millions of others do, also.

I read more novels that I did in the past – though I also throw in some history books because I am a history buff – and I watch movies, and still go to movie theaters, and I watch the Braves occasionally (though, that can be depressing, too) and I go to music concerts, and plays, and am now more inclined to watch comedies. Life is tough enough without my spending time on made up tragedies.

Earning my living by reporting the news on television and radio, it’s hard for me to come to the conclusion that if I want to be less depressed I should stop watching, listening and reading the news. But, to be honest I have come to that conclusion. 

I can’t give it up altogether, though. One does need to know what’s happening because it can have a direct effect. Take the sad story – well, sad for me and everyone else but the 8-figure oil company executives and people who own tons of oil stocks – of the price of gasoline.  I can’t ignore that because I must have gasoline. Still, there is a sense of helplessness about it, because the only thing I can do about it is drive less. If enough of us would do that, and stop buying gas guzzler SUVs and monster pickup trucks that are rarely used as trucks, and slow down, we could perhaps affect the price of gasoline some, but basically that’s not happening.

Bottom line: no, I can’t give up keeping up.  That’s really not a smart thing to do. But, I don’t have to spend all day wallowing in the horrors of the world, and I’m not going to. 

The Oasis Goal Sounds Good to Me

March 21, 2011

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer Executive Editor Joseph Kieta (File photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1)

  Now we know how the new management of the Ledger-Enquirer is changing the paper.  Proclaiming the changes with the lead article on today’s front page – incidentally, that’s where it should be, in my view, since a daily newspaper still has a tremendous responsibility to and influence on a community – Executive Editor Joseph Kieta  explained the changes are in response to reader calls for an improved paper.

Instead of commenting on the details of the changes, because you can read that story for yourself easily enough, I will just lift out the one paragraph that is the most significant to me: 

“We want to create a daily newspaper that is an oasis from the noise of the daily news cycle – a deep breath and exhale that adds depth, relevance and context and answers the questions ‘why’ and ‘how.’ If we do our jobs the right way, we’ll probe deeply into local affairs and thoroughly explain community issues.”

If the paper can accomplish that, it will indeed provide an extremely important service that is sorely needed.  There is a big problem though. The public’s attention span is probably its shortest ever.  In-depth analytical writing that is succinct, incisive, insightful, and easily and quickly read has always been a daunting challenge, and it still is. 

The L-E folks have my best wishes in meeting that challenge because for many years I have been troubled by the egregiously superficial news reporting so common to  TV,  which, according to Pew Research, is still where the largest number of people get  their news.  That’s why I have always said that newspapers are extremely important because of their ability to report in-depth.  Still, being in-depth is no substitute for being clear.  

New Ledger-Enquirer Excutive Editor Promises a “Better Paper”

January 6, 2011

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer Executive Editor Joseph Kieta speaking to Columbus Rotarians (Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1)

 If first impressions mean anything, and according to the book Blink, which gives scientific evidence, they definitely do, I have to say I am feeling good about the future of journalism in our area. 

Based on what he told Columbus Rotarians today, the Ledger-Enquirer’s new executive editor, Joseph Kieta, is my kind of journalist, one who understands that a free press has a responsibility to do more than make money, though, of course, it must also do that to survive..

 What a lot of people who run today’s media, especially local TV stations,  don’t seem to realize is that doing a first-rate job of investigative reporting  is not only responsible journalism, it can be quite profitable. Back in the old days, I did some investigative reporting, and the ratings were boffo.  If a paper or TV station wants a truly impressive exclusive story, it digs, goes beneath the surface, and comes up with  news that no one else has. Yes, it takes capable reporters, and you get what you pay for…well, sometimes. Hey, it takes money to make money. How’s that for a run of clichés!

 He promised a paper that will “probe, illuminate, compel and not be boring.”  He also promised to “shine light into dark corners,” saying he agrees with the statement that “sunshine is the best disinfectant.”  Amen.

 There will be changes. He plans to reorganize the paper’s newsroom, but gave no details. He praised Dusty Nix for his editorial page work. During audience question time, someone asked if he was going to check with other members of the community about keeping Dusty. That got a big laugh, but Kieta said, with a smile, that a reader might not agree with everything that Dusty writes, but that what he says will provoke thought.  As I told him after the meeting, Dusty is intelligent and does a good job. I stand by that. Besides, I like him. He has no problem speaking truth to power.

 Kieta acknowledged that the media ball game has changed drastically over the years, and that newspapers have changed and will continue to do so. Since papers can now break stories on their websites at any time, which lets them better compete with electronic media,  in the future, the print edition will concentrate more on reflective reporting rather than printing “yesterday’s news.” Makes sense to me. I look forward to it. 

We didn't get to hear from the Ledger-Enquirer's new President and Publisher Rodney Mahone, but since Joseph Kieta works for him, I suppose we can assume that they share the same journalistic philosophy. Good.