27 December 2008

"What We Must Hope for, is Hope Itself!"

Well, I've paraphrased. And badly. But I think hope is going to be that important this year.

In just a few short weeks, we shall have a new president; a new leader for this country and the most powerful man in the Free World. And since it has been well-noted that he comes to the job a mite bit under-prepared but proclaiming himself the Leader for Change, I would like to note that what he does do well is something we haven't seen in awhile.

He's an awfully good orator. Yikes! The man won election in good portion because of his speaking skills. Remember the last time we had a great public speaker who gave us all hope in the house? Yes, Bill Clinton was good at that, but that's not who I'm thinking of. I'm thinking of Ronald Reagan, who had some level of executive leadership experience having run the "Fifth Largest Economy in the World" of California.

(And please, don't email me to say that GWB is a good orator because I will have uncontrollable giggle fits for days. The 43rd President spent most of his five six months as a President slumping to the side at podiums from coast to coast. Just once, I wanted one of his handlers to approach him during a speech and whisper in to his ear, "Sir, the American people are watching. Show them the respect they deserve by standing up straight, please?)

Ronald Reagan was also the Great Communicator. His talent as an actor was legendarily mediocre, and he wisely moved into public speaking and politics as soon as his good looks began to wane in Hollywood. (Wow, these days, that would have put him running for office at age 23, eh?) He spoke eloquently, to the people, with excellent command of the language but without pretense of high-mindedness. He was down to earth but incredibly compelling.

And he made us all feel better about our country and ourselves, as Americans. He knew that we wanted to feel good about being a Super Power and that to have a hero, we needed a villain. It was so gratifying when that Villain ran out of money and with all the flourish of a vaudeville curtain torn aside, the Berlin Wall came down. Fortunately, he knew he wasn't the be-all, end-all intellectually, so he hired good help, too, to carry out his ideals and they became our ideals. He provided our best image of ourselves.

So now we have Barack Obama, elected because he makes us feel good and we all want to join in the change and be part of the future of racial equality in this country. (Nevermind that it doesn't exist. There's a saying in Hollywood: "Fake it 'til you make it.") President-elect Obama is everything we like in a President in these United States.

He's tall, slender, youthful and good looking with a strong, well-educated woman by his side and two beautiful daughters to raise in the White House. And one heckuva public speaker.

The man brings together all the best traditions of public speaking, from Martin Luther King's use of anaphora (repeated phrases, like "I have a dream...") to his dynamic vocal delivery, use of pauses and pacing, and even his exceedingly apparent personal confidence. He exudes the hope that we are looking for.

And let us hope that he can deliver on it. Otherwise, 2009 may be very dark indeed.

17 December 2008

"All We Have to Fear is Fear Itself"

You've seen pictures like this before, right? I mean, we all know what this is: an ostrich with its head in the sand. It's the image of a frightened animal, avoiding the very thing it fears by hiding its eyes and leaving the majority of itself vulnerable to whatever threatened it.

I'm never really sure (nor is important to this post) that these images are real or photoshopped.

These are dark days for journalists. Dark, bleak, frightening days of seemingly endless cutbacks and layoffs and buyouts. The road to the unemployment office or back to college is well traveled.
It's a sad and painful and uncertain time. The recession is hitting at a moment when the internet was already encroaching on how journalists are valued. And we aren't coming out ahead.

So I was very excited to meet with a news executive at a major city television station a week ago. He had sternly warned me prior to the meeting, "I have no jobs to offer. If five people walk in and quit tomorrow, they will not be replaced." But I was ready to counter that. I said that I had internet proposals for social network marketing and other suggestions. He seemed agreeable and interested in that idea and I took heart in my preparations.

I like to speak in simple terms, so let's just say my proposals were grouped in two categories: freebies and not so free. The freebies included ideas for social network marketing and setting up structures to handle those responsibilities and give the TV station's team of highly respected journalists ways to express those deep voices in the "new media."

The news executive told me "My people wouldn't be interested in that. They seem to get a big head of steam and then lose interest after two weeks."

I must admit feeling a bit surprised. I can only conclude he flunked the class at management retreat on "locker room pep talks." His people lose interest? (Anyone who has ever given an up-and-coming reporter a chance to promote their stories knows they rarely think of anything else ever again.) These were suggestions that wouldn't have cost him a dime to put into place and it wasn't within my power to offend the man by asking how he could afford to allow his people to not utilize these methods? To not promote his news product in these newer ways? I tucked my hair behind my ear and thought "Ok, so much for the freebies."

Then I offered my larger, over-arching proposal. It might have required some effort and perhaps working with the other stations in his group to develop the concept. But I think it would be a worthwhile investment in terms of what the future holds. It would have put that group forward in terms of where they stand in the new media and multiple platform use. And I included a quote I had seen in an article on Forbes.com only days before:

"Every day a station doesn't push more of its resources online is another day a competitor might."
He said he didn't see any benefit to it. His community wasn't interested and any investment would be a waste. I think at that moment I realized that I could say to him "Oreos are good dunked in milk," and he would have responded, "No, I think that wouldn't work for our viewers."
Let me point out that he lives in one of the top 2 or 3 most internet-connected cities in the country, where a large percentage of the population utilizes mass transit in their commute and is very focused on the daily news. So interested are many of his older viewers that they have an eye on the day's events continuously throughout the day. My proposal addressed all three of those aspects, and would have put the station itself out in front of many other stations and... allowed them a bigger piece of the network-to-affiliate pie. (Food metaphors flowing fast here today.)
Change is difficult. It frightens most of us. It is terrifying and painful and scares us witless. But as frightening as change is, in the communications field what we ought to fear most is being left behind.

And why do we have to be afraid? Can we not go forward with the knowledge that yes, there is a bit of Darwin's process is at work here. The fearless are going to make it. The weak are not. I don't know which I will be numbered among but I do know, I am not wanting to sit idly by and wait for it to happen. I'd rather bruise my knuckles knocking on the door than sit in the newsvan and do nothing. I'd rather get in the mix and be swallowed than the last kid in the game. There's always a risk that you get leftout that way, you know.

And if you stick your head in the sand, there is a possibility that winds will come up, swirling the sand around your body in a drift and bury you. Or at the very least, looking odd and a bit left out.

10 December 2008

It Runs in the Family...

I have a lovely niece who likes to write. Don't you think she's lovely? (She hasn't told me, but I'm pretty sure that's exactly the face she makes during most of our conversations. Hmmmm.) She's just published her first article in the hometown paper in the tiny little Western village where she lives. (I drove through there several weeks ago. Trust me; it's a village.) Here's a link to the newspaper's site and article. http://www.hurricanetimes.com/article.cfm?articleID=18206

She sent it to me first, along with a note pleading with me to be gentle on her beginning writer feelings, all tender and new and dewy. "Blah blah blah...tender. Blah blah blah... please don't pick on me blah blah... too much."

In the true spirit of the season, I thought "Bah humbug, kid! Get used to it."

I went on to suggest all kinds of changes, additional punctuation, explanations of various terms and names that would be needed even if only the 27 families and their various scarecrows did all read it. ("What is a 'Lin tree'? Is that a new species of fur?" "Who are the ladies of the Desert Rouge Hattitudes? Is that a group of overly made up hat-wearing grannies? What does that mean?") Oh my goodness, you would have thought I had said her writing was total poo and that Auntie no longer loved or would share funnies on youtube with niece-ums.

A day later and it was my turn. I was preparing for a meeting to discuss internet and social network marketing proposals with a group that I'm interested in working for, and I turned to nicey-nice-Niece and said "Would you mind taking a look at this for me?"

I have to admit genuine pride in Ms. Nicey-nice at this moment. She's so humble and probably a lot nicer than her Auntie. (Or was she being facetious? There's apparently a wild streak of that in the family, somewhere...) She said "Oh, you want me to look at it?"

I have tried to explain to her in the past that professional writing is an extremely collaborative kind of thing. Journalists often ask for their editor's eyes on what they are working on. Or they turn to a trusted colleague and ask which turn of a phrase they prefer. Egos are nice things, but they generally cost too much for my backpocket. I'd rather be right on the facts and on the writing.

So my Ms. Niece-let read my report. She gave it a thorough going-over, too. And returned it back to me with changes made in the best possible way. (A microsoft document software that I'm still not completely sure I understand, but.. Ms. Nicey-Nice does!)

And I went on my way with a better report. Because Ms. Nicey-Nice Niece who reads occasionally at this spot on the Internet, that's what we do in journalism: we work together. We collaborate. We appreciate along the way. And things get better.

08 December 2008

What If?

What if you could talk to your viewers/
readers/ content recipients every day, all day long, offering them little tidbits about your story to intrigue and excite them? Wouldn't you do that?
Then why aren't you Twittering?
The New York Times says, Twitter is "one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the Internet". The free social messaging service provides anyone who signs up with the opportunity to connect and stay connected with their network.
To use it, Twitter users simply answer - "What are you doing" in 140 characters or less. Using a rich set of tools, hosted by twitter and 3rd-party developers, twitter users then connect around these conversations.
Maybe those users might send a message back. Maybe it might be a helpful little bit of information to steer a journalist towards another source, a different direction, or something they had previously discarded but now perhaps deserves more thought. Maybe it might provide NEWS.
Twittering isn't what it used to be anymore. And by tomorrow, it won't be what it is today. But neither is journalism. It's not the flat, dead, and decaying profession we were warned it might be in J-school. It's vibrant, alive, on the web and growing. And we're going to have to get behind it.
If you started with pad and pencil, typewriters might have been fearsome things. Computers --the devil personified and humming along towards the Gates of Hell. But Twitter might be the little bit of self-promoting, viewer-inducing technology of your dreams. And it will only be that if you allow your definition of dreams to involve the word "change."
And who knows? Change might be for the better.

07 December 2008

Forward... MARCH!

Yes, I think we've got to EMBRACE IT.

The New York Times Sunday magazine has a lovely article this weekend. It's the second weekend in a row where the NYTimes puts a scare on the media. Last weekend, it told the world the dirty secret that we've all known for awhile: tv stations are getting rid of high priced talent. That's nothing new. It's been the established pattern of every recession ever seen, so why would this one be different?

This week's scare puts all the cards on the table for all media everywhere. It says basically, get with the new media or get ready to fade away. It sorta reminds me of the elves in the Lord of the Rings who say that they will "fall in to shadow and go to the North."

Before we fall upon our swords on behalf of righteous journalists, let's think this through. Why would we NOT want to use twitter? Why would we not want to put up a profile on facebook and market the #!$!&%!! out of it? Market ourselves? Our abilities, talents, people, viewpoints and the fascinating quirks we see in the world around us?

I read a quote once from Anais Nin where she was talking about coming to a turning point in her life. She stood poised on the precipice of a great decision, questioning whether to go forward or back in that moment. She said she finally moved forward realizing that her fear of going back or even standing still was greater than her fear of moving forward into the unknown.
I think that's admirable. If we were afraid as journalists, we'd all be working in tiny little places, never moving forward. But instead we surge forward, looking for new challenges. Isn't it better to bruise your knuckles knocking on the door rather than to sit quietly and never ask?

And think about it. In every great story, does the hero or heroine ever find happiness by going back? No, they move forward. They go with confidence, strength, and a positive attitude, but by golly, they go FORWARD. And lean into it.
The Times blogger closes with this comment, "For old-media types, mental flexibility could be the No. 1 happiness secret we have been missing." I think that's really true. We trained and worked so hard that we're afraid of letting go of what we learned to try something new. But the truth is that if we examine the new media, we find new ways to offer our content to new receivers. Embrace, people! EMBRACE!
Of course Anais never had a blackberry, did she? Yeah sure, facebook-twitter-ning-RSS and farking are a little scary to some. But me? I sorta... digg it.

06 December 2008

This Day Onward... Just Three Things...

There's a study out that shows we'd all be happier folks if at the end of the day, we'd focus on finding three good things that happened that day and analyze why they happened. Sounds simplistic, doesn't it? What Thinktank run by Pollyanna and Underdog came up with that one, you wonder.
But it's actually a research project being coordinated by Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania. He and his colleagues collected about a hundred different suggested ways to increase happiness and they're are now systematically going through them, one by one. It's more of a scientific approach to happiness and I like that about it.
I'm going to just take this one and go forward with it. I think we're in such a tight spot right now, economically, that to do otherwise is to merely go with the cycle. Since it seems a downward spiral and I've always liked to buck the current, I'm going to give it a try.
And I have my own anecdotal evidence to offer.

One day when I was a wee cub reporter in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I went out for a little run. I left the house, smiling and happy. I had just walked out of the housing development and then took about seven steps of my run when I was hit with it: a black, rising tide of unhappiness, bleak depression and utter hopelessness. All this drama played out in seven quickly taken steps on a hot sidewalk at age 23. Can you see why 20-somethings can't be allowed to rule the world?
I immediately stopped what I was doing and assessed what had caused my mood to change. I thought "Wow, where did that come from? I have a decent job, enough food to eat and clothes to wear, and good friends around me. Why am I suddenly depressed?"
And right then, I realized that day's depression (in my particular case) was just a mood that I had allowed to envelope me, and further, that if I wanted to, I could change back just as quickly. So I did.
I can't say that life has been perfect for me ever since. I've had a lot of bad things happen. Jobs lost, cakes fell, boyfriends dumping or dying, and friends who have proven false. But I've never gotten seriously depressed again. I've had bad times, but always known that they were temporary and that I could work at them and change them.
We're in a rut of bad attitude in this country. Oh, I'm not saying that we aren't in a bad spot. Clearly, we are. But if we don't change our attitude to allow for recognition of the good things that happen in our lives, we'll never really experience them, will we?
I think we're headed for a rocky spot where we're going to have to make do with less. You've heard those fire victims, looking at their burned down homes, with tears in their eyes saying "Thank heavens we all got out ok. It was only stuff." I think that's a phrase we're going to have to start learning. We may have to be "ok" with a lot less stuff in the future. And we're going to have to internalize the feeling that that truly is okay because otherwise, nothing will ever be enough.
So three things. From now on, I think I'll just blog about three positive things here at This Day. Three positive things in the news, in my life, in the media, in politics. I've tried not to complain but to gently, humorously point out the idiosyncrasies in the media and politics in the past. Now, I'm going to cut to the chase and find the positives.
Which somedays, I hope will be gently humorous as well. We'll figure it out as we go.
PS: about the picture. Yes, I know it's ridiculous, but it's fun. Don't you agree?

03 December 2008

What Worries You Most?

You are worried, right? Is it that you'll lose your job? That you'll lose your retirement? That you'll need dental work this coming year and not be able to afford it? Or that you're going to have to scrimp to give the kids what they want for Christmas?

There are lots of worries facing all of us right now and yes, the nightly news does make it worse. When day after day, the problem continues to unfold, it becomes difficult to get grasp at what seems to be a cliff that is crumbling and feel yourself slipping away.

We were on a slippery slope of spending and an utterly ridiculous sheet of very thin ice as far as home loans in this country for a very long time. And everyone knew it. That was the worst truth: we all knew it. But nobody could... or would do anything about it.

So now we're being honest about it. We've stopped making loans and started yanking homes back from people who sadly couldn't actually afford them in the first place. I'm sorry for them because they lost their stake and their credit rating due to unscrupulous lenders. But if the government buys them a house, then by gosh, I want it to buy me a house, too. I've been waiting for years because I couldn't afford it, but you didn't see me signing in the funny pages after a wink and a nod from a sleazy mortgage lender.

Now we're being honest. But are we also being brutalized by the nightly news? At some point, we're going to have to turn our attitudes around. At some point, we're going to have to start focusing on better days ahead. We're going to need to pull our wallets out of the deepest part of our back pocket and pull out a few bucks to spend.

And with those dollars, we're going to buy back our country's economic health. We won't turn this around until we turn our attitudes around.

I'm not trying to be a Pollyanna here, but we are going to have to put it behind us, show some faith in the American economy and start the wheels grinding again. I'm not the greatest believer in our economy. I don't know that we'll ever have the huge lead we used to have over everyone else. Something about the size and buying power of all those people across the Eastern pond makes me think we might just be small potatos. I desperately hope as a people, we have learned a few lessons here and won't be such ridiculous, laughable, spoiled consumers. But just as desperately, I hope we start consuming again.

It would be nice if we could count on the media for help, but to be honest, people in my business aren't going to... not yet. We'll get around to it, but at the moment, we're a bit overwhelmed by all the gloom and doom stories that are coming our direction.

(Trust me on this. I'm a lifelong news junkie but I feel torn every night because I spend the day picking my attitude up and out of the gutter, just so that Charlie, Katie and Brian can kick and trod it under again every evening. I want to filter out the economic stories a couple of nights per week so that I can get a decent night's sleep. Oh, the inhumanity of it all!)

The news will turn it around, but not until every reporter among us has felt like we've gotten a piece of it. And then after we're at saturation, then we'll start looking for the "new angle" and find ourselves grasping for any positive thing that comes along.

So please be patient. But go be patient in the checkout line. Because with spending, even if it's at a store that ends in "mart," some is better than none. And it's just going to have to do until sometime in 2010. At least that's what they say on the news.

04 November 2008

What Will We Talk About On Thursday?

I think we can all expect that on Wednesday, the day after the voting, we will still be talking about who was elected. The media will do the most unsufferably long examination of the campaign and a completely over-the-top, self-absorbed and outright self-destructive examination of the coverage in which we'll find ourselves completely innocent of all charges of bias in reporting and covering the election.

Not exactly news, but we'll call it that, yes?

So what will we talk about on Thursday? It's rather like the 1970's housewife who has to answer the daily grinding question of what's for dinner?

Here are a few of my suggestions:

Global warming?
Child Poverty in Orange County, CA?
Internet Marketing?
Nut harvesting in the Amazon?
Why Gas Prices Always Go Up Stunningly AFTER an Election?
The Economy? (Stupid!)
The Ethics of Being Giving More Lower Priced Christmas Gifts Manufactured by 7-Year Olds in Southeast Asia or Fewer Higher Priced Gifts Made by Overpaid Kentuckians?
Inflation in Apartment Living in Dubai?

But please, no more Proposition 8.

29 October 2008

This or That?

So here we are... less than 30 days and counting. And what do I think? I think... what I usually think. I think there's a reason that I rarely actually register to vote. I recall when avoiding that civic duty was enough to get me out of jury duty. Sigh. Ahhhhhhhh, those were the days. Doesn't work that way anymore... darnit.
Back to the topic at hand: presidential elections.

I have friends who have never been able to see beyond the history-making involved in this election.

I have friends who don't seem to see beyond what it will do for them.

I have friends who, at this moment, seem to be resigned to their fate as far as who will be leading this country.

As for me personally... well, I did see someone promising an awful lot of stuff in his speech accepting his party's nomination. "If you've got health care, I'll get it for you cheaper. (HUH?) If you don't have it, I'll get you Congress' health care." (DOUBLE HUH?? In case you aren't aware, friends, we can't afford for Congress to have Congress' health care.)

But I'm a reasonable person who understands that Congress sets the taxes and spends the money in this country. So this doesn't particularly bother me.

I am a little concerned that one of the candidates admits he is under-experienced about the economy. But in consideration of his opponent's level of experience in the federal government in general and foreign diplomacy in particular, I'm less concerned about that.

What I do see is that electing one of these two could give the economy and consumer confidence in this country such a boost that it might help lift us out of our doldrums. It might motivate banks to start lending, businesses to start investing, consumers to start spending, and otherwise get the dollars circulating again.

And if it doesn't, I'm willing to let that particular candidate ride down into the volcano.

I recall about 16 years (count with me... "4 administrations ago? Oh yeah, I remember who!") the election of a brilliant (but morally flawed) man into the White House. The saying then was "It's the ECONOMY, Stupid!" And for the American voting public and him, at that time, it was.

And so it is again. Except the economy is a cyclical thing. I think if Bill Clinton were truly honest, he'd admit that. He knows it. (Why shouldn't he admit it? A month or so ago, he admitted that Democrats in Congress were responsible for the mortgage meltdown. He's gotten some honesty streak in him... belatedly.) His election signaled a younger crowd and new generation riding into Washington. It cheered the voting public.

But again, mostly, he rode the economic cycle upwards. It would seem apparent that we're hitting a downtrend that will likely last a year, possibly two more. So if the man who seems likely to be elected according to the national polls does win, I say good for him. Let him try and goose the economic mood upwards a few notches. If he does, then he deserves to win. But if, as seems more likely, his "boost' is short-term and the recession is here for a long and ugly haul, then it'll be interesting watching that next president ride it into the volcano.

As a member of the press, I'll happily trot up to the edge of the thing to get a better look.

14 October 2008

In Fairness...

So there they are: the Ladies of The View. It started out as Barbara Walters' innocuous little daytime program inhabited by four women of various opinions and ideologies. But it didn't stay that way for long, did it?

There was Rosie O'Donnell, who scrapped her way to an early out by fighting so viciously with "poor little Elizabeth Hasselbeck" that no one could doubt the air kisses and friendship on air were exactly that: on air.

Rosie left, and Whoopie arrived to fill out the frame. Now we get a daily dose of Whoopie, Joy Behar, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Sherry Shepherd, and sometimes Walters herself. And the ladies topics have uptick'd, too.

Elizabeth was gone one day this week and to "level the playing field," Walters brought in E.D. Hill from Fox News. Nice, huh?

Except that maybe Walters' math is a bit... off. It's been known to happen among us "media types." Let's take count.

Whoopie Goldberg, who last week suggested that all the banks in this country just drop the interest rates for all those homeowners facing foreclosure. Just drop them. Drop the rates. Drop the profits. Drop the corporate responsibility to all their shareholders. Just drop it.

I'm going to venture out on a limb and chalk her up in the liberal cue.

Joy Behar, who if you've watched any of the shows at all, is so firmly behind Barack Obama as to be almost out in front of him. Same category.

Sherry Shepherd, who has set records for apologizing for statements (often about the other Ladies) spouts off most frequently in favor of Barack. (Isn't it a bit obvious if you're calling someone by their first name?)

Ms. Walters also seems to weigh in particularly in favor of Mr. Obama's candidacy.

By my count, that's four against one. Since Ms. Walters says she was "leveling the playing field" by bringing in E.D. Hill, I must say that's a huge compliment to the often beleaguered Hasselbeck, if Walters thinks four on one is a "level field" in any game.

10 October 2008

"It's the Economy, Stupid!"

So... it IS the economy. Stupid!

Ha! Okay, but enough is enough, right? Lately, it seems we are all caught up in the pain of watching the markets meltdown.

Or at least some of us are. Others are watching what they believe is the meltdown being brought on by the media.

Some folks say this is being made worse by all the negative reporting going on. Television newscasts that nightly run dramatic "Economic Meltdown" banners while sounding the alarm with very serious background music and the newspaper photographers who seem to capture the most unimaginably negative facial expressions plastered on traders faces as the days events transpire. (Seriously, folks, for all we know, the photograph above was taken when someone dropped a cardboard tray containing four Starbucks cups and a donut. "Not the donut! Catch it! Catch it! For the love of Heaven, CATCH IT!!")

Just now as I walked past my television, NBC interrupted afternoon programming once again to give us the news: The NYSE closed down.... again. It lost another 100+ points.

I must admit that after a week in which the American stock market has lost about a quarter of its value, I don't think that the market being "off another 100+ points" is necessarily news.

I've heard one piece of good advice in the last couple of weeks: don't check your funds and accounts daily. Avert your vision to something more positive. I've found that helps.

Last night's local newscast on the Los Angeles ABC affiliate featured interviews with people who lived through the Great Depression. I know they were trying to be helpful. The interviews all said "This isn't nearly as bad as that." But somehow the knowledge that they were bringing these people forward and reminding me of that very difficult time made things seem all the more painful.

It's a difficult time. We all know that. In the coming weeks, we may see even more painful financial times. (I have no idea. I am NOT a financial analyst, nor do I *ever* claim to be one on TV.)

But better days are ahead. The government's rescue program will have effect on the credit markets. Life will improve once again. And then I think we'll all hope that perhaps this moment in time has it's one potentially positive effect: making Americans respect their earnings again.

07 October 2008

Where Is that Fat Lady?

Did I miss something? Did I fall asleep and wake up in December? Because I don't remember an election where the Big Faces on tv seemed more inclined to suggest that "it's all over."

I think this is somewhat amusing because I remember all the times that the networks have banded together to steadfastly promise not to call the results too early in the evening, before the states where polls closed last (ie Pacific Coastal States) had finished their voting.

And I remember eight years ago when were were all stuck covering "The Election" for an interminable two months. I think that was possibly the worst.

But here we are. It's early October. And I'm getting the impression that some folks are inclined to say it's over.

I got a note over the weekend from a friend on Capitol Hill. He said he was depressed because the Ohio Atty. General was "allowing early voting using same day registration with no id requirements and no polling place observers permitted, at least not Republican observers. The Dems are literally picking vagrants off the streets and running them through the polling places."

I'm a little skeptical of that report, but it is interesting.

And then there are the polls showing McCain to be sinking. It's hard not to think the worst, particularly when Mr. McCain threw in the towel in Michigan, signalling to anyone who is watching that clearly, blood is in the water.

I hate to see this ending when it seemed to be engaging the minds of so many. Plus, I wonder who is going to buy all those ad hours if the political campaigns go away? Maybe those media folk ought to learn which side their bread is buttered on, and button it up with the dire predictions for a few more weeks?

03 October 2008

I've Been Talking to God, and Man Is He Ticked!

Have you noticed how much God is in our conversations these days? Well, maybe not yours. But definitely in the public discussion. And look at him in that picture. He looks anything but happy about it.

I don't mean discussion as in societally, we're actually talking about religion, spirituality, the Greater Good or the spirit of the rocks that some folks pray to. (I live in California.)

I'm talking about the use of the word God.

A few years back, the words "Oh my God" weren't used in general conversation. They certainly weren't acceptable in use by the media or on television shows for impact. They weren't usable anymore than any of the "Seven Words that You Can Never Say On TV" inaugurated by the late George Carlin. (I checked. None of his "7" are 3-letter words.)

I remember not so long ago when Deborah Norville, Jane Pauley's ill-fated replacement, was practically drummed off the air. One of the gripes that viewers had was that they didn't like her tendency to exclaim "Oh My Gawd!" whenever she was surprised by something. Viewers felt it was disrespectful, irreverent and flat-out wrong for her to do that on air.

But these days, thanks to a bunch of little girls that were never famous for anything other than being famous, we hear it everywhere. We hear it on little girl tv. (Think about it: you know which shows on what network I'm talking about.) We hear it on the occasional newscast. And at the moment, it seems to be on a constant loop at CBS where the season premiere includes the death of one of the major characters (That's what happens when the actor playing the character is caught in a drug bust that is believed to be beyond simply "going to rehab.") and the final 2 seconds are another character sounding an agonized "Oh my God!!!"

I work with men all day long. Many of them are brilliant. Some of them are profane. I recall working with one particularly talented man who also swore a lot. I never minded until one day, he fixated on the same word all day long. It was in every sentence. It's a verb, so sometimes he conjugated it differently, but still I grew tired of it.

At 2pm one fine afternoon as we worked in a small room editing the visuals of the story, he got frustrated one more time and shouted that same profane word at the machine. I looked at him and said "Joe, (not his real name) you know I don't care about your swearing, but pick a different word. I don't care what you say but PICK A DIFFERENT WORD. You have worn that one out. I need variety in my swearing! Break it up for me!"

I'm reaching burnout on "Oh my God." And the "God" word in general. I can't be the only person out there who is offended by all the "Oh my God" references going on. I'm a little surprised that TV networks haven't suggested that executive producers red-line that reference because it is potentially offensive. And when I get offended, I tune out.

And as for me, I'd like a return to that gentler age when God was someone whose might we respected, whose Second Commandment we respected, and whose other children we respected by not shouting potentially offensive things about God to them.

Because You Know Who might just get ticked off by the whole thing.

28 September 2008

Washington Post, NBC/ABC/CBS, NY Times and ...SNL?

There she blows, Tina Fey masqerading as Gov. Sarah Palin and doing a brilliant job, by all accounts, of skewing the Republican Vice Presidential Nominee. Here's a link to the video in case you wish to watch the entire seven minute skit.


What I find interesting is the level of influence our comedy programs have in politics at this time. Saturday Night Live isn't a news program, but comedy. I'm not sure I find Bill Maher's show to be anything but one man's vent, so I'll skip discussion of that one.

But I think the most telling thing are the surveys which show that viewers of the Comedy Central news and political shows are the most politically savvy and well-informed of American voters.

It doesn't bother me because I am just in favor of voters getting informed in any way, shape, form, or delivery path. Especially if they laugh all the way to the voting booth.

It does sort of make me wonder if some day we'll be asking which of NBC's programs is more politically influential: NBC Nightly News or SNL?

19 September 2008

"Let Them Eat Cake... or Lobster with Lychee Salad"

I don't like to stir the pot against my profession. I don't. But... when did we start giving cooking advice?

I was just watching a news magazine show on a certain network a few nights ago. It's part of the "news division" at that network. I was caught by a teaser about the price of gold, which is skyrocketing in the current economic crisis. Made me want to hustle down there and weigh a few things in. Not to sell, mind you, but just to feel a little richer as I walk out the door smiling with them still in my pocket, okay? Glad we got that one settled.

Anyway, the gold segment ended and before I knew it, I was caught up again by talk about a segment "coming up next" about a chef. Out of sheer curiosity at the idea of News-Magazine-ala-Food Network, I stuck around through the commercial.

The segment came on and it was a lovely French chef with a heavy accent. He spoke for a minute or so on his "influences," which I can only assume was how he came to view food. Then he made an entree. It was lobster with a lychee-celery salad dressed in a mace and piquine chili vinaigrette.

I love lychees. But whenever I mention my love of the juicy little Asian-fruit with the pebbley skin, most of my friends give me a blank look. They've never heard of it, much less tried it.

I can't recall the last time I had lobster. In my defense, I think lobster is more "East Coast," and sushi is more "Southern California." I do remember the last time I made it at home. It was before I moved here. Maybe 8 years ago? I don't think I have any mace but if I wanted to make this recipe, I wouldn't hesitate to go out and buy it. It's a spice. Piquine peppers are the pinkie-finger sized Asian ones. Hot-hot-hot!

So let me bullet point this for you. What this news magazine on a certain network has begun including as apparently a regular segment is a profile of a chef and his recipe. The chef bears the accent of a country that most Americans associate with rude waiters and being unhelpful when the United States asked for assistance. (Remember when French fries became Freedom fries. Thought so.) And he's making a recipe that features a pricey shellfish at a time when most Americans are struggling or at the very least concerned about their pocketbooks. And its rounded out by other ingredients that they've never heard of, nor would they know where to buy if it was even available in their small towns.

I love this particular news magazine on a certain network but... this does make me wonder. Do they ever leave New York? Who do they think lives in Iowa? Kansas? Arizona? Alabama?

I'm going to do a little shameless plugging here. If you look up and to the left, right under my picture, "Sucking Viewers In" is my own little manifesto of everything that could be done to help TV news stop losing viewers. I think there may be a section in there on this very problem. We've got to stop feeding lobster and lychees to people who right now are worried about being able to afford burgers and fries.

French... or otherwise.

Final disclaimer: this post wasn't meant in any way to slander France or the French. It's a simple assessment of the need to stop pushing American viewers away by losing touch with them.

17 September 2008

Social Networking Overtakes Porn as #1 Internet Draw

Good news for Moms everywhere: Reuters reports that social networking sites are now officially the top attraction on the Internet.

They have triumphed over pornography, which for years has been the leading destination for internet surfers. They also put down gaming sites, which perhaps were never really in contention as much as they were draws for teenaged boys and very sad social outcasts in their 20's and 30's.

But what this also indicates is a major change in how people communicate, according to some experts.

Bill Tancer, general manager of global research at analytics firm Hitwise, said in the article that analyzing web searches did not just reflect what was happening online but gave a wider picture of society and people's behavior.

"There are some patterns to our Internet use that we tend to repeat very specifically and predictably, from diet searches, to prom dresses, to what we do around the holidays," said Tancer, whose new book, "Click: What Millions of People are Doing Online and Why It Matters," was released a few weeks ago.

Tancer said in the article that porn surfing has dropped to about 10 percent of searches from 20 percent ten years ago. "As social networking traffic has increased, visits to porn sites have decreased," said Tancer, who also indicated that the 18-24 year old age group particularly was searching less for porn.

Social networking is actually often a more convenient way to communicate with friends because it weeds out everybody else. Anybody who has been put on a corporate listserv knows that going on vacation means you need to arrive back two hours early in order to clear out the email box so that you can start the real work of post-vacation catch-up.

Another reason it's good news: it also means we might be reading more... instead of just looking at the pictures.

15 September 2008

Journalists Behaving Badly...

I use the term "journalists" very loosely here. This is not a pretty blog post for my profession. In fact, I think it speaks to why media credibility, influence, and ratings are diminishing. This is so disappointing that it is disheartening. I love my profession and this hurts us all. I don't like posting about extremely negative, shameful things, but here it is again and I can't ignore it.

The national politics and issue magazine hired a photographer to shoot pictures of John McCain for a cover story about the Republican Presidential candidate. This is what they chose.

It's on their cover, coming soon to a newsstand near you. Or you can check out the article on their website at http://www.theatlantic.com/. Haven't read the article myself so far. I'm still too appalled. Why?

Because their photographer Jill Greenberg has admitted, and in fact more appropriately bragged about setting up McCain's shoot to deliberately make him look hideous. Frightening. Distractingly, detractingly menacing and ugly.

Those of us who are in "the business" know too well that lighting can make or un-do us. I watch my lighting, angles, and photographer like a hawk. (Um, which no, they don't always appreciate. But it's not their face and name on the story, now is it?) A low angle adds weight; bad lighting adds years. And Adobe Photoshop can add anything else a photographer wishes. She wielded two out of three in this picture:

The Atlantic wisely chose to skip that picture along with any others it felt made the candidate look unduly off. But then the photographer (who had the audacity to post the job on her portfolio website: http://www.thenemanipulator.com/. Interesting choice of website name, isn't it?) switched things up. She got really childish, really ugly, extremely unprofessional, and downright nasty with her software.

She also turned crude. If you check out some of the photos on this website, http://americandigest.org/mt-archives/bad_americans/the_atlantic_mo.php you will see what I mean. They are, as the site above points out, political pornography.

I think we all see what this was on the surface, but let's see it at its purest: a lack of faith in the American system and voters. Nobody has to take these shots. Americans who are interested in the electoral process tuned in during those political conventions. We all heard the speeches made by these two candidates. We will all make our own decisions.

Nobody needs to throw themselves on the political fire in this country to show Americans who their candidates are. What this says to me is that a rather silly woman chose an underhanded and devious way to demonstrate her belief that her candidate can't win on his own merits. She believed that her help was needed by Barack Obama to win against his opponent.

The Atlantic has apologized to its readers on its website. And the publisher says he is drafting a letter of apology to the McCain campaign. (Who apparently need to hire a more savvy media handler who goes everywhere with the candidate. Who does photoshoots with a strobe light?)

But its a sad day when someone for my profession when purports to be among us, but clearly has chosen to move to a sideline... also known as the gutter.

09 September 2008

He Said that Who Said What about Which?

And so in this year of "historic" and "trail blazing" elections and candidates, three out of four national candidates are male and yet somehow the discussion is all about... lipstick.

""You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig," said the Democratic Candidate of Change, Barack Obama. He was talking about his opponent John McCain who says he's a candidate of change, too.

Obama was ticking off a list of ideas that McCain says he wants to change, too, ie -- economic policy, taxes, education, foreign policy, campaign tactics. Obama says his opponent is not about change. He says John McCain is all about more of the same.

That's when he made his lipstick comment, with the crowd erupting into shrieks, whoops and cheers.

Why is this such a big deal? Because during her speech at the GOP convention, newly announced Vice Presidential Candidate, Sarah Palin told an off the cuff joke:

"Do you know the difference between a pitbull and a soccer mom? Lipstick." She got roars of approval from the audience.

So was Obama's comment a reference to Governor Palin? Was Barack Obama taking a shot at the new candidate, the first Republican woman to get on the ticket? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm not going to tell you that I read minds or know the heart and soul of any Presidential candidate. (And it's a relief not to have that power! )

Barack Obama excused his reference saying that in the past, John McCain attacked Hillary Clinton using a line about lipstick on pigs.

So here's my question: if Barack Obama is all about change, why is he recycling John McCain's old lines?

Don't get me started on the pregnant 17 year old. We might be here all day.

08 September 2008

Ready! Set! Wait? ...And Maybe Learn

This is what I've spent the last week looking at. Closely inspecting. Trying to dissect and understand. This is Hurricane Ike. I had lofty hopes for this hurricane. But alas, I am once again, disappointed. ABC News, which sent me to New Orleans for Gustav and then on to Atlanta for Ike, finally decided to send me home.

I am terribly typical of my industry in that I do get more interested in things as their "disaster quotient" goes up. But I think in this case, I am content to hope for clear blue skies.

As I made my way out of New Orleans last Wednesday I had to drive because the airport was still closed. With only a few residents of New Orleans and south Louisiana allowed to return home, they really couldn't reopen at that time. But I was feeling just the slightest bit cheated. Gustav fizzed to a Cat 1 and I was disappointed to be going away without having been witness to a "real" hurricane as it struck land near my location.

But as I drove I listened to the local talk radio station. The talk show host was taking calls from local people trying desperately to get home. Those people were trying so hard to find gas for sale to drive back and see what was left of their homes. They were being kept out by the City of New Orleans leaders and police enforcing a tight curfew; by lack of fuel to get home; and by lack of resources to purchase the fuel and food they would need in a city that had precious little provisions once they got there.

It was hard to hear those voices, so full of longing to see and touch their homes again. They just wanted to be once again, in familiar surroundings and get back to normal life. They wanted home and family and maybe a little quiet dinner on the table in the family kitchen.

Aren't those the things that we all want? I know that after waiting in Atlanta for 5 days, I longed to be at home.

So tonight, as Ike leaves parts of Cuba in ruins, I look at that picture above and ponder how something beautiful from a distance could be deadly down below.

And I think maybe... if I am very lucky... it will slide out into the Gulf and never return to land.

06 September 2008

I Went to a Hurricane...

...and it was a bit of a wash. Pun intended.

So after two days of Gustav ("the Hurricane that wasn't" -- at least in New Orleans) I went to the airport to fly home to LA.
The airport was closed, so I called ABC and drove to Atlanta to visit some favorite (and sadly neglected friends, Bob and Cindy and their two kids) friends.
Enroute there, I got a call about a job. A full-time job that I had applied for. Funny story there, but that's for another day.

I drove to Cindy and Bob's house. Emailed ABC and said "I'm here until Sunday, if you need any additional help." Emailed back to the people with the job and flew to their office on Thursday.

I met with them on Friday (horrifically nice people. Really splendid!) and then flew back to Atlanta where I got a message from ABC News saying, "Yes, we will take advantage of having you in Atlanta. Please go to Miami on Monday to cover Hurricane Ike."

Do you feel sorry for Bob and Cindy yet?

Anyway, early on Monday, I will fly to Miami. And until then, I'm going to try to make it up to Bob and Cindy for all the past neglect and recent abuse of their patience.
Have a great week! Live shots from Miami and Hurricane Ike begin at 5am EST/CST/MST/PST on your local stations.

29 August 2008

But Before I Go...

So now it turns. The twist is in. Whichever party elects their candidate this November, it's History In The Making. I'm a little a-political at this point in my life, but I'm curious to see what happens. So many were so proud to possibly have the first African American in the Oval Office.

Now there's the choice of having a woman in the West Wing. It will be interesting to see which group holds more power.

Barack Obama is a voice for change, but the nature of the word "Minority" means strictly speaking, he's got fewer of "his people" behind him.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, just announced as the GOP Vice Presidential running-mate to John McCain, is very much the political newcomer, so she could bring new ideas, but she might also fall in line with the Republican Party Line. Well, as much as anyone campaigning with Mr. McCain can, anyway.

But she's not a minority. In fact, "her people," if you look at it from that standpoint, represent half of the voters in the country.

So... the playing field levels just a tiny bit more. Interesting. But... so are hurricanes. ha!

Gone for the "Holiday" Weekend...

Hey, I'm almost out of here. I just want to throw down on the pilates mat for 45 minutes, then grab a quick shower and I'm gone.

I'm off to Hurricane Gustav with ABC News. Please tune in and watch on your local stations. My coverage starts Saturday evening from New Orleans. Then again LIVE on Sunday morning. I had such a good time covering the floods, but this will be a different kind of assignment for me. I'm excited, but... curious, too.

I've never been to a Hurricane. I've always wanted to go. I joke with the bosses at ABC that "I pay extra for hurricane coverage!"

So I'm off. With a shoulder bag crammed full of waders, full rain gear, boots, two hats (Neither of which "Shame on you!" have the ABC logo on them. Oh well.) and notebooks that will have to be stuffed into ziplog bags before they can be used. They do take me to such glamorous locations around the globe, don't you agree?

I've got a bag of raw almonds, a box of nutrition bars, some "meat stix" (scary!) and my beloved Crystal Lite with caffeine.

Please pray for those poor people in New Orleans. And me. Because if you know me, you know what I'm praying for.

Have a great Labor Day weekend! I'll be laboring.

19 August 2008

What Are You Watching?

According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, we're still getting our news from television. Whew! That's great news and very comforting to some of us.

The Pew Research Center's Biennial News Consumption Survey was released over the weekend andit shows that Americans still turn to traditional platforms, television is included in there, for their news. Yeah, yeah, they're going to the net. But a whopping 46 percent of those polled, the largest block, still head for the boob tube at some poit during the day.

Sadly, the survey also found this group skews the oldest, with a median age of 52 and is also the least affluent, with 43 percent unemployed. Aren't you glad you don't live in that neighborhood.

But here's an eye opener, the viewers of "fake news" like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are the best informed of the group still glued to the tube. Scratch your head over that one, if you will.

They're far more informed than those who tune in for "real news" programs such as Larry King Live, the O'Reilly Factor and Lou Dobbs.

The survey also classifies news consumers in four categories: Traditionalist, Integrator, Netnewser or Disengaged. If you'd like to check your status, here's a web address:


18 August 2008

Can You Hear the Crowd Cheering?

It was great, wasn't it? For just a moment, to turn away from the problems, the worries, the troubles in all our lives and watch him be happy. It was great.

Michael Phelps won his 8th gold medal at the Beijing Olympics this weekend. And even in victory, it was truly great to watch him.

His final medal at this Olympics (it's tricky to state this correctly, because barring unforeseen circumstances, he'll be at the London Olympics in 2012) was part of a relay and my personal favorite part was immediately after the win when he turned to a teammate and shouted "Thank you!"

Not "Hurray! I've done it!" Not "Hurray, we're number 1!" But simply, "Thank you." They say in the Olympic Village, he's just "one of the guys." He eats where the rest of them eat and sleeps where the rest of them sleep. He hangs out and sees a few sights. And now he's being called the Greatest Olympian of All Time.

The previous guy with that title was Mark Spitz who won 7 medals during his run. Early last week, he was spotted making international news by complaining that "nobody invited" him to the Chinese Olympics. He said he didn't think it was right for him to just show up and sit in the stands. He expected to be invited, attended to, cosseted and fussed over. No fuss? No show. That's what he said.

When he was an Olympian, he was famously standoffish. He didn't eat the same things as the rest. He rarely spoke to the other athletes. He was focused, driven, and legendary for being a loner.

So now comes Michael Phelps, the 23 year old from Baltimore, who says he wants to soak up every second of this experience.

Saturday night at the Baltimore Ravens game in Phelps hometown, stadium officials told the crowd that they could stay after and watch him compete for that final medal on the jumbotron. They figured maybe 4000 would stay. At the end of the game, there was a delay but then the relay race began. And at the end, 20,000 Baltimore fans stood, screaming and cheering their homeboy on to his greatest win ever.

And at the end, Michael Phelps turned and shouted "thank you" to one teammate after another. But nobody invited Mark Spitz to Beijing? Hmmm, imagine that.

13 August 2008

Didn't We Want to Believe?

Another Presidential Campaign... another candidate with a secret. It's sad, because it seems we wanted to like him, didn't we?

I mean, the story was floating around for months. The National Enquirer, that pillar of great journalism, was running with it since February. But non-tabloid journalists, real journalists, we ignored it. Nobody wanted to look, and maybe that had to do with the exact instances. Who wants to prove the guy is cheating on his terminally ill wife who may take a turn for the worse when she sees it on the evening news? Heaven help Elizabeth Edwards because that's exactly what happened.

John Edwards was clean cut and good looking in an All-American boy kind of way. He was well educated, seemed to be hard working and family oriented. He stood by his wife as she battled cancer. They lost a child together a dozen years back. They were sweethearts, right? And he stayed in the race with her full support when it became clear that her fight wasn't going to be won.

Now we find out that he had an affair. He was involved with 40-something Rielle Hunter who gave birth to a child out of wedlock. (For a good laugh and dose of the reality of life in Los Angeles, please read this article: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/sunday/commentary/la-oe-miller10-2008aug10,0,6388212.story )

And his best defense? Edwards says that is not his baby (does anyone else hear Michael Jackson singing "Billy Jean" in the background whenever they read about this?) and he gave an exclusive interview to ABC's Bob Woodruff in which he made a point of telling his interviewer that the relationship was only "when his wife’s cancer was in remission.”

(And let's give credit where credit is due. Edwards' media handlers gave ABC the interview on the day of Opening Ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics. And oddly, the evening's Ceremonies drew the largest audience ever for Olympic starts: 34 Million Americans. Can you say "blip" for Nightline where ABC ran its Edwards' exclusive? Those are some smart media folk!)

Like a lot of Americans, I'm not sure that a spouse getting a medical "all clear" makes it acceptable to cheat. I haven't checked the Marital Rules Handbook in awhile but last time I looked, "okay to cheat" wasn't listed anywhere in there.

But I do see that since her giving him the high sign to go ahead with a Presidential Campaign while she was facing life threatening (and we now know incurable) cancer, he probably would want us to understand clearly that this peccadillo didn't happen when she was suffering. I mean, if using your wife's health in the public eye to your benefit is important, then certainly it would be best to offer such clarity when staging your indiscretions.

And yeah, I loaded those pictures in together on purpose. They seem to have more and more in common these days. What can I say? Anyway, you were already thinking it.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I flipped John Edwards' picture so that it would face the opposite direction of Bill Clinton's photograph. It's less accurate, technically, but I thought it looked better that way. Also, I am not the father of Rielle Hunter's baby.)

09 August 2008

In Memoriam...

I have spent the day feeling the loss of Bernie Mac, a comic who made me laugh at black people and white people and not feel one bit bad about either. I liked the way his mind worked. Too many comics with or without color make us feel bad. Bernie could say the ugly things but make them seem amusing and like we were all working on them. Together.

He died this morning in Chicago of complications of pneumonia. He's survived by his wife (and high school sweetheart) of more than 20 years, his daughter and a granddaughter.

08 August 2008

Have you noticed that the further we get into our computer-driven lives, the more alone we are? I saw a photo on a social networking site today. You know the kind of website I'm talking about. It's a place you go to socialize so that you don't have to actually go out to interact with others.

Look at this fellow above and to the right. This is one of three pictures he had online. He was all alone in them. And in this photo, he was not only alone but he took it himself. It's hard to hide that when you're home and alone, taking pictures of yourself, using your cellphone in the bathroom. I'm pretty sure that 30 years ago, someone would have told this fellow that such activities can make a guy go blind or at the very least, grow hair on his palms.

This next guy is an example of the very thing I saw on that social networking site. The photograph was titled "cheesy self-portrait. You have one, too. You know you do!" And clearly, this guy did. He took it himself. That's obvious from the angle of his shoulder toward the camera. Well, and the look on his face.

Do you think he would trust anyone else to take this picture with that grin? It's a look of "Hi there... I'm pretending I'm Joe Cool!" I sorta like the look on his face. He's a cute man, right? Clearly, he's willing to take a few risks by posting this photograph at all. He's comfortable in his skin.

But what I find sad is that fewer and fewer of us are willing to smile like that to our friends. We have to be alone to take such pictures. Where are our friends when we are taking pictures? It seems like more and more, we are alone in our photographs and taking them ourselves.

So here we are in 2008, alone in our homes, taking pictures late into the night, posting them on the internet for others to see. And why? In hopes of attracting friends. But who wants to hang out with people who spend all their time alone?

To me, it seems like we're making more of a statement about ourselves by our status in photographs than what we're seen doing. It seems a little sad. I wonder that that we're all alone, lonely, and using cell phones to take pictures in our bathroom mirrors.

And in the end we look at the camera and purse our lips as if to kiss someone. But like usual, no one else is there.

06 August 2008

Nature vs. Nurture?

Most of you know I'm fascinated by what people eat, right? I love to cook but more than that, I love to poke my nose into what people are eating that day. I love to ask "what're you eating?" And I've been known to randomly ask friends, "what's for dinner?"

So let's delve the subject just a little. I tend to be moderate in my views about food and nutrition. I don't go for vegetarianism, although I love vegetables. Outlawing steak just seems so wrong to me. And I actually think it's sorta rude to turn up at a dinner party and presume to rule the roost on menu selections.

I am always keenly interested in the raw experience because I had dinner at a raw restaurant in Atlanta about a dozen years back. As a result, the 3 hour drive back to Knoxville took approximately 5 and a half hours and I got a lovely Tour de Force (Trust me. This is the right expression) of restrooms in every gas station and fast food concessionaire between Atlanta and Knoxville. I always wonder when someone tells me they are into raw foods because I'm curious about their digestive tract. I know it's getting a better workout than mine!

But that's ok. I've always said I prefer to eat interestingly rather than well. I'd rather eat something new and different even if it's questionable over something traditional and known to be just "okay." I'd love to try the whole dining in the raw thing again sometime. And soon.

So here comes a new report about various aspects of our diets. It's actually a regimen proposed by the Weston A. Price Foundation, which espouses a diet of primitive origins. (I've been longing to use that word, espouses.) Devised by Mr. Price himself, a Cleveland Dentist who traveled the backroads in the early part of the last century to produce writings in 1939 that he titled, "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration."

In it, Weston A. Price concludes that a diet high in the vitamins found in animal fats and untouched by "modern" innovations such as refined flour, sugar and chemically preserved foods was the key to preventing chronic disease and tooth decay.

Our dentist then takes things a few steps further than the popular high protein twin-set of the Atkins Diet Plan or the South Beach Diet. He suggests raw milk. And in a convenience store full of cookies, candy, chips, and soda pop, he would call for you to seek out the pork cracklings. You gotta like a man with the chutzpah to do that and call it "healthful." But he did.

If you saw a recent comparative study of three extremely popular nutritional plans: low fat, low carbohydrate, and Mediterranean diets, then you know what is what. Researchers found that the low fat diet could help a person lose weight. Those on the Mediterranean diet (comprised of healthy fats, fruits and vegetables) lost more. But those who followed the low carbohydrate, high protein diet plans out there lost the most and kept it off. Maybe Weston A. Price wasn't so looney after all. Maybe he was recommending pork crackling ahead of his time.

I'm still thinking about the raw milk. I'm not sure I want to keel over after consuming uncooked cow juice. But slather on the butter? You better believe I'm in!

05 August 2008

The Power of Love

Forgive me. I've been at home with a summer cold for the last several days and now I feel better. I want to giggle.

And just in time, the First Lady of France is releasing a solo album. The very thought makes me smile. It actually makes me grin from ear to ear.

France's First Lady has only been First Lady for a relatively short time. It was only last February that she surprised the world by becoming the third wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Before that, she was the Italian model who broke up Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall.

And of late, she's styled herself as the French Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. She stuns diplomatic circles with her chic style. And wherever she goes, the paparazzi follow.

But she wears it well. She also wears Chanel, Gucci, and several other things well, but that's another story.

It just seems odd to me that everyone who finds themselves famous decides that they suddenly have a great creative gift. Actually, it's not her first album. She's got a couple of other albums available for purchase on iTunes, priced at an economical $9.99 each.
But this time around, the song has changed. Bruni has apparently decided that monogamy is the way to go. And that hubby Sarkozy is God's love-gift to her. Here are some of her lyrical stylings:

"I who always sought fire/I am burning for you like a pagan woman/I who made men dance/To you I give myself entirely."

And in describing her lover-man:

"my drug/More deadly than Afghan heroin/More dangerous than Colombian white."

Are we to believe these insights about the state of marriage for France's First Couple? I think it's perfectly charming that she's so in love, but looking at photographs of the two of them makes me wonder, is it that love is blind? Or that power is the greatest aphrodisiac in the world?

Mrs. Sarkozy's album is available in stores starting today. It is titled under her maiden name, "The Power of Love," by Carla Bruni. It is mostly in French, but you be the judge. And let us know how it all works out for you. I'll be sitting here smiling to myself. No hurry.

01 August 2008

The End of the Innocence

A Maryland scientist who worked on a vaccine against anthrax has committed suicide. Prosecutors say 62-year old Bruce Ivins was about to be indicted in connection with the 2001 anthrax scares in Washington DC. The government's top lawyers were considering whether to seek the death penalty in the case when Ivins apparently killed himself.

For those of us who lived in Washington during the weeks and months after September 11, 2001, this is somewhat of a relief. A former colleague and I were discussing our "day of" stories earlier this week, and it all came flooding back: the shock and numbness of that horrible day; the regular sight of troops in the Nation's Capitol thereafter, and watching our countrymen turn from a happy, relatively naive status to victims of terrorism.

Then came the anthrax attacks. The government investigator's working theory is that Ivins wanted to highlight our vulnerability. His "highlights" killed five people and further terrorized the nation. It was a lesson that cost too much.

I don't know if Bruce Ivins was responsible, but I'm sorry for his loss. I'm also sorry for the loss of innocence in a nation that quickly joined the rest of the world in its understanding of terrorism. Things that hadn't been seen on our shores suddenly became real and have never been far from our thoughts since. Ivins' death won't restore that loss or bring back those good feelings.

31 July 2008

A Tale of Two Videos

I want to point you toward a couple of videos today. Here's the latest advertisement by the John McCain campaign. It's not for McCain as much as it is against Barack Obama.


The conventions are still ahead and they're already bringing out the guns. Bombs. Howitzers. But the McCain campaign isn't alone in the war zone. This next video is from Progressive Accountability and surprise! It features one of the same big names.


I want to point out that last night, I watched a network newscast that skewered John McCain for his advertisement, attacking Obama. (To be clear, the report didn't particularly dispute the negatives for Obama, ie global celebrity status, arugula-consuming, autograph signing style. It did Obama no favors.)

But since I know for a fact that the network I was watching had received a news release spotlighting the Progressive Accountability online video posting, I was surprised that it didn't get mentioned. At all.

I'm sure the networks would offer an explanation such as "well, one was an advertisement. The other was just a group posting an online video."

But this is not the 1980's. Nor even the 1990's. This is Campaign 2008, where many Americans get their information online and the term "viral video" is one that makes advertisers and campaigners salivate.

I'm seriously puzzling over this one today. I don't like the obvious answer that many would offer. So maybe you have an answer?

30 July 2008

"Why Don't They All Just Move?"

Fires. Earthquakes. Fires. Mudslides. White-Hot actors driving drunk. Paris Hilton. South L.A. Fires. More fires. Killer bees. Killer real estate prices. Why don't Californians leave? Why don't we just move somewhere more safe, stable, and affordable?

Someone asked me that a couple of years ago. At the time, I said "When you live in California, you accept the fact that at some point, something bad is going to happen." And that's very true.

So the earth shook for about 20 seconds on Tuesday. It was interesting. Apparently, my "immortality complex" is still working overtime. All I did was walk to the phone and call my favorite network employers who kindly offered to take me in for a lucrative day. Or two.

What can I say? Some of us are meant to shake. Others to shakedown. Have a great day!

28 July 2008

"A Gift from the World to Us in so many Ways!"

Are you one of those poor down-trodden right-thinking Americans who believes the candidates aren't being covered equally? Turns out you're right. At least according to Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News. But it turns out, there's a reason why.

Williams says that newscasters in the United States are giving more airtime to the Democratic candidate because of the historic significance of his campaign, and because he was a new face in comparison to Mr McCain.

(The difference in coverage has prompted the McCain campaign to put together a video entitled "Obama Love", which pokes fun at the media's "bizarre fascination with Barack Obama."

Here it is, just in case you missed this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6CSix3Dy04. Doesn't it sorta remind you of something the MRC would put together?)

Williams said: "He (Obama) is the newcomer. His uniqueness in several areas, beyond just the physical, is obvious. So....as the young fresh-to-the-scene candidate, as a man who would be revolutionary in terms of our past presidents, he is getting the lion's share of the coverage.

"Senator McCain has run before and is a well-known figure to Americans, and in name and recognition terms is far and away in front of Obama."

I thought as journalists, we were supposed to rise above the "newness factor" in favor of fairness, particularly in election years. In fact, I would have sworn there were laws requiring us to do exactly that. Sure, we have a little ADHD, but couldn't we hide it better during working hours.

And historic significance? Uniqueness? I bet Hillary Clinton is locked in a closet somewhere screaming with her head spinning 360 degrees every .5 seconds.
Are you one of those poor down-trodden right-thinking Americans who believes the candidates aren't being covered equally?

(Editor's Note: Someday, when I learn to properly work with this site, I will be able to give photographic equal time to candidates. Until then, it's one photo per posting. Apologies to any offended.)

27 July 2008

A Spot of Semantics...

"The financial markets were roiling today..."

"Car sales numbers roiled the markets today."

Do you know what the word 'roil' means? As in to roil someone beyond their ability to tolerate? It's one of those words you almost never hear except when the economy is in trouble or the markets are being rocketed up or down by some particular news or event.

Roil:–verb (used with object)
1. to render (water, wine, etc.) turbid by stirring up sediment.
2. to disturb or disquiet; irritate; vex: to be roiled by a delay. –verb (used without object)
3. to move or proceed turbulently.
4. when a nearby member of the British House of Winsor sneezes on you. You can accurately then describe yourself as having been roiled.

Didn't we all learn about such words in journalism class? I took Journalism 101 for Broadcast majors where we learned that "yes, those words are available for use." But we were also told that the big words, the "$40 words," were best left for the folks in print. The reason for that of course, is because in a newscast the viewer (usually) can't go back and re-listen to the information. It's a one-time offering on our stories, therefore the information must be easily understood instead of full of sticking points.

Or snobbery. Who talks like that? People who went to schools where their education cost half the operating budget of a small Third World country and they rightfully want to make sure everyone around them knows it.

I'm for everybody knowing who bought what in a college education and all, but... isn't the use of such words also a bit divisive? It drives a wedge between the people in the Ivory Towers and the people in the plain states. And the Plains States, for that matter.

How can we wonder why the viewers are leaving us behind if we're not talking to them, but instead intentionally talking over their heads? If we direct our stories at the lofty few who understand what we're saying, can we really be surprised when the rest of the people get up and leave the room?

I'm not suggesting we need to talk down to viewers, but since most people (including the well-educated among us) don't use the R-word in every day conversation, should we be using it at all when communicating on television? I always heard that good manners were best defined as 'the art of making others feel comfortable.' Since we've always used the metaphor of being invited into someone's living room to describe the evening newscast, perhaps we need to remember our manners?

If we want to advertise the impressiveness of our education, we should stick to annoying, er, informing those in our immediate circle and perhaps post it somewhere on the Internet. That would allow our fans easy access to such information and at the same time, give others the opportunity to understand what the devil we are talking about.

By the way, I attended a small private university in the West. I graduated with 5 cents to my name and no debt. And yes, I do know how to use roiled in a sentence. (See definition #4 above. And see "Sucking Viewers In:" over under my picture on the left.)

"I went to London a few years back, but didn't see any opportunities to get roiled."

26 July 2008

"Forest, Meet Trees. Trees, this Is Forest."

I like to read what they're saying about the United States around the world sometimes. I like to think it gives me a little perspective. At the times when we've been attacked as a country and people around the world say and do things that let us know they despise us, I think back to my personal travels and sorta nod. But on smaller issues, internet newspaper sites can provide such an interesting dose of reality.

For instance, Barack Obama is in Europe today. During this trip abroad, he's met with Israeli leaders. He's met with the Palestinians. He's met with both the current and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He's explaining why he didn't go to meet with those poor, injured American troops in Germany. But he's definitely made his bones on this trip. And clearly, he's well-received and if elected would suffer from no un-likability factor.

But aren't we getting a little ahead of ourselves? Our chariot may be galloping ahead of a large pack of horses. The papers in London seem to think so. Here's their analysis:


I'm not going to go off on this any further. It's pretty well laid-out in the Daily Telegraph. You can read it for yourself.

And sometimes, I think it's nice to stand back and admire both the forest and the trees. A little perspective can be a helpful thing.

25 July 2008

Life's Little Lessons

Larry Mendte. Now there's a name that we'll remember for awhile. He was a man who seemed to have everything going for him. A huge, public profile and adoring public. An extremely lucrative job. A loving wife and kids. Tons of awards and accolades.

You would think all that would be enough, wouldn't you? I mean, how much more could he want? Need? Expect out of life? Apparently, it was not enough. Larry Mendte became obsessed with taking his co-anchor down.

Mendte is the Philadelphia television anchor who hacked into his co-anchor's email to read her personal and professional communications. He then used the correspondence as fodder for local television and gossip writers. The co-anchor/target of his obsession, Alycia Lane, already appeared to be in a downward spiral, but Mendte hastened it all, jumping up and down as hard as he could on her grave.

When the FBI served a search warrant on his office and home, confiscating his computer and hard drives, it was a shock to most in the business. I sorta laughed when one reporter wrote, "Mendte never thought he'd get caught." Ya think?

Still it's sad when people who should depend on each other can't. Even sadder at a difficult time for our business and our country's economy when we are more focused on tearing each other down than building each other up. Mendte forgot the cardinal lesson of an anchor team: you sink or swim together.
But maybe he's learned a new lesson that he'll remember a long time. After all, he could have a full six months to contemplate very little else.