A New Day…

…or A Dark and Stormy Night

I got called a news whore today. It was an accurate description; I had two web browsers open to watch the mayor’s swan song and a third with weather radar showing the approaching storm with its attendant tornado warnings.  There are days for ex-news types when we’re like the horses that pulled the fire wagons of old… we hear the bell ring and we’re ready for action, even if our time has passed.

He Really Did It

He Really Did It

In the summer of ’91, most of the People’s Convention events took place on weekends, and I was the weekend reporter at channel 3, so I did some of the station’s first stories on Herenton’s nascent campaign. By the time of the actual election though, I had been reassigned to the health beat, so I actually spent that historic election night at home, watching the coverage.

Enjoy Your Pensions!

I never expected to still be in Memphis when the mayor actually stepped down; I guess we never know where fate will take us. But there I was, just watching the coverage again, tossing up Twitter posts during the event. One good thing; a friend who had to be out of town was following the action through my tweets — hey, I’m kind of a reporter again!

It’s a little strange. There are people who are practically adults who have never known anyone else as mayor of Memphis. Herenton made the point during his last mayoral news conference that he “wins elections.” Can’t argue with that; he’s won every one he’s been in so far. And he didn’t have to start small and work his way up to mayor; he started there.

Now, with a 30-year pension from the school system and a 17-and-a-half year pension from the city, as well as the promise of employment with his son, you’d think it would be a perfect time to reflect and relax. Maybe write about his historic role in the city or teach political science at one of the colleges in town.

Keep It Real

Keep It Real

No, instead of “take it easy,” Willie Herenton is going to “keep it real,” and run for Congress. It’s quite possible that he and his supporters are right; he might just have enough support to mount a reasonable challenge to Steve Cohen.  It’s hard to imagine unseating a popular incumbent, but as Willie’s been telling us for years; he’s a fighter.

I liked that last punch he threw, calling City Council President Myron Lowery to the podium to make a presentation of handing over his resignation letter. He told Myron that he couldn’t give the council the letter when they were “demanding” it, but I don’t remember him being too clear on why that was. Still, if he was trying to accomplish one last bit of political theater, he can rest easy knowing that mission was accomplished.

But gee, couldn’t the weather have been a little more cooperative? Bad enough that most of the TV stations relegated coverage of the resignation to their websites, rather than interrupt whatever game, court or talk shows that were on (although I saw that WMC did go on the air finally). Just as the news conference was getting close to wrapping up, the skies exploded.

Danger!

The rain was coming down in sheets when I drove home Wednesday.  I knew more storms were expected Thursday, but the early forecasts had them blowing in around 6, when I would be safe in my cozy little home.  But we not only got thunderstorms, we got tornado warnings and reports of cyclonic and straight line winds… sending the local meteorologists into full “weathergasm” as my good friend Joe Larkins likes to put it.

That meant no recaps of the retirement on the 5 or 6 o’clock newscasts. It also meant no network news, so no coverage of the “Beer Summit” at the White House with the president, the cop and the Harvard professor (kinda sounds like the start of a bad joke… “so, the president, a cop and a Harvard professor walk into a bad…”).

Willie, who has been pretty good at stealing the thunder of others for nigh on 18 years, had some of his stolen… by actual thunder… and lighting… and possible tornadoes.

What's Next?

The outgoing mayor did promise to brief the interim mayor Thursday. And since the resignation goes into effect at 12:01 am Friday, we’ll wake up to a new mayor… and a lot of storm damage.  Myron Lowery has wanted an opportunity like this for a while. We’re not good friends, but we’re both from Columbus, Ohio, so I’m going to wish him good luck in getting through this 90 days successfully.

And much like Dorothy, I’m hoping to get through the storm (got through the literal one, now hoping to get through the figurative one of all the jockeying to see who wins the special election).  Cross your fingers and gird your loins folks, I’m betting we’re in for a few bumps before it’s all over.

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Dan Rather Reports

Oh, the things you see in the newspapers. I saw a link to a piece in the Aspen Times that caught my attention, so I clicked through to take a look.  Dan Rather, former CBS News anchor (currently lost on HDNet) was talking about the current shape of journalism.

Oh, Dan...

Oh, Dan...

Dan was in town at the Aspen Institute, as part of the “McCloskey Speaker Series.” His big point?  Journalism is in pretty bad shape (no duh…) and according to the article, he believes that media reform should be an “immediate national priority.”

Okay, let’s accept his basic premise as a truism. Things are bad in the world of news.  Dan pointed to the “dumbing down and sleezing up of news,” while also noting the decline of newspapers in the U.S. When Elvis died, it was on the CBS Evening News, but it wasn’t the lead.  Michael Jackson’s untimely passing led the current form of that newscast for weeks.

One of the things that I usually wrote during my last year at CNN was the intro to the daily entertainment report in our newscast. The segment was pretty much an opportunity to promote that evening’s “Showbiz Tonight” on Headline News, sorry, they call that network “HLN” now. Cross-promotion is not a bad thing, but it’s not exactly using news time to promote “Meet the Press,” or “Face the Nation.”

Federal Bureau of Journalism?

Federal Bureau of Journalism?

Anyway, Rather, who left CBS under a cloud a few years ago (and is currently suing the network), tossed out the idea that the president (of the United States) should start a commission on public media and independent reporting.

Do what?

Credit to Dan for creative thinking, but really now, do we really need a bunch of appointed (and self-important) stuffed shirts sitting behind a big ol’ table covered in green felt, listening to professors, pundits and practitioners go on about what’s needed to fix what journalism has become?

I had posted the article to my Facebook page, which drew a tongue-in-cheek response from a friend of mine who is now an attorney, but who, in a previous life, was a television news producer. He said:

I have to agree… lets just go ahead, let government now OFFICIALLY run the media, which only makes official what has been happening now… we’ll rename the whoe thing… hmmmm… Pravda!

Lemme get this straight...

Lemme get this straight...

Okay, it’s not all that bad, but shouldn’t we be at the point where we accept the fact that journalism may not be exactly what it was 20, 30 or 50 years ago. It’s an organic thing that adapts and adjusts to what people want and what people can do.

At one point, information that appeared in newspapers was specifically colored by the view that ownership wanted presented. Making sure news is reasoned, responsible and balanced is a relatively new concept.

That model, presented in print and broadcast, isn’t as attractive to consumers as it once was. People are responding to advocacy and point-of-view coverage, which may be why Fox News and MSNBC do better in prime than the down-the-middle kids at CNN (except for you Lou Dobbs!).

I'm sorry, your news is busted

I'm sorry, your news is busted

When one delivery system fails, it’s because people have usually turned to another. It then becomes incumbent for the old form to adapt or perish. Newspapers found a way to survive when radio came along. Radio news pretty much disappeared when TV started growing, but that didn’t kill radio, it just became something else. Of course, the buggy whip folks didn’t know what to do when the car rolled up.

Rather calls the Internet one of the “great innovations,” although he worried about the lack of fact-checking and accountability.

Fair enough. But it’s up to the marketplace. People will decide whether they really want news and information. If they do, they’ll decide where they want to get it from. It may be from John Stewart. It may be from headlines online. If they don’t like the quality, they will turn to avenues that provide what they want.

No Bailout for News

No Bailout for News

It’s not about propping up businesses with models that no longer attract customers or figuring out where they went wrong. Especially not by the government.  It’s currently messing up enough archaic business models without taking on journalism. Rather, it’s about seeing what develops to bring people the information they want or need. If it’s completely different that what we’re used to, Dan, that’s the way it is.

Really?

“Some men see things and ask why…”  I see things and say ‘I’m not really surprised.’

Public School Education?

Public School Education?

You see here a road sign.  In Wisconsin. I saw this picture on Fox 13’s website, where it links to video on another Fox station’s website.

What’s the big deal? The only word spelled correctly is “exit.”  That’s right, the sign markers misspelled the names of both towns on the sign, mangling “Schofield” and “Rothschild.”  They even managed to put the “i” in the wrong place in “business.”  The boss at the company that made the sign admitted the mistake, calling it “poor, poor work.”  Really?  I’m thinking that maybe they had some extra “e’s” lying around.

Can I Get Some Help?

Can I Get Some Help?

It almost gets to the point where you expect poor customer service and are a little surprised when it seems like someone is going out of their way to do a job the right way.  I know we’ve all encountered the sullen boy or girl at the fast food restaurant or convenience store counter.  But it seems to reach into all aspects of life, whether dealing with people in person or on the phone.

There are exceptions.  We pretty much always get decent service at trivia on Monday.  That may be because we’re big tippers.  But I was in a Mapco Tuesday, picking up a couple of things and the lady at the counter was polite and helpful to the point that it almost seemed like she was trying too hard.  And isn’t that the shame of it?  You run into a really pleasant person and it’s rare enough to be weird.

Doggone It!

I don’t know whether I was surprised or not when I saw that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell conditionally reinstated Michael Vick.  Mike missed the last couple of seasons while he was a guest of the government for his role in dog fighting ring operated on his property in Virginia.

Collector's Item?

Collector's Item?

I was living in Atlanta when Vick came to play for the Falcons, and I can say that I’ve never seen anyone galvanize a town like that.  CNN Center is right around the corner from the Georgia Dome, and since I worked Sundays, I either ran into traffic heading to the game as I was going to work, or I was trying to get into work as everyone was leaving.  Before Vick; not too much of a problem.  It was the NFL, so there was traffic, but it exploded after Mr. Vick came to town.  And all the kids had to have #7 jerseys.  Then of course, his smiling face was also on billboards for AirTran, and you’d hear and see him in radio & TV commercials.

I’m not an apologist for Vick or his boys.  There’s no way to justify dog fighting, no matter how prevalent it was wherever you grew up — it’s cruel and mindless entertainment..  At least wrestling’s staged and the UFC and MMA fighters get to make the choice to be there.  So, while I’m not joining PETA anytime soon, I completely understand the outrage.  And since it’s illegal, it was right that Vick go to jail.  Arthur Blank, the guy who owns the Falcons, deserves some credit for asking for his money back and dropping Vick from the team.

Play or No Play?

Play or No Play?

Okay, here’s the part I don’t quite get.  Mike gets to sign a contract to any team that wants him. He gets to take part in training camp and the last two preseason games… but then the commissioner won’t even think about giving the guy full reinstatement until Game 6 of the regular season.  So Vick sits out 2 seasons… and kinda gets to come back… but then has to sit out a few more games before there’s a final decision.  He comes back from a 2-year suspension to another suspension…?

I guess the key here is to not do anything stupid if you’ve got the world on a string. We constantly see not just bad, but downright stupid behavior from athletes and other celebrities for no other reason than they think their popularity allows them to act any way they please. And I wonder if Vick realizes that having someone like Terrell Owens take up for him in the media might not be the best recommendation.

226

The battle  continues. After the second official weigh-in at work, I ended up in third place, which isn’t bad. But then I had a little weight rebound that put back everything I had lost. By Sunday evening, I had managed to re-lose what I had already lost, along with a little more. I’m going to have to go afterburners to make up some additional ground before the next weigh-in on Tuesday.

Not Much Fun

Not Much Fun

I have to admit that I feel a little better with a couple of weeks of fitness under my belt. However, it’s not much fun. The semi-animated fitness trainer on my Wii Fit keeps asking whether some of the activities are more fun when I post an improved score. NO, little cartoon trainer, it’s not fun, it’s hard work, even with the fancy graphics and music.

I usually do the Wii thing in the mornings before work, and then go outside after work, alternating the bike with jogging. As I run across the cracked sidewalks and sometimes fetid aroma that hangs over parts of downtown, I almost long for the graphics of the Island Run on Wii Fit.  No trash on the streets, no oppressive heat, no traffic.

I’ve pretty much determined that I’m going to have to give up the fries at the Blue Monkey Monday night. Finding dining options in a bar isn’t always easy. The food there is good, but it’s still bar food… I could get the vegetables, but they’re sauteed in butter, so I wouldn’t really be doing myself a whole lot of good, would I?

In the brightest day…

I was quite the avid comic book reader when I was in elementary and junior high schools. Press Pharmacy, which was next door to the grocery store in our neighborhood, had a very extensive comic book section. If memory serves, new issues came out on Tuesday. The years I was regularly buying, the price was moving from 15 to 20 to 25 cents, so getting a few of my favorites wouldn’t break me.

I have no trouble admitted that I still read a few from time to time.  I’ve picked up collections, reprints and graphic novels, along with a few individual issues (which have a posted price of $2.99!).  A few years back, I watched the Superman and Batman animated series (Dana Delany did a great job as the voice of Lois Lane). I also watched Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.  Teen Titans, JLU and The Batman (which is a different show than Batman: the Animated Series) run on the Boomerang channel between 9:30 and 11pm every night.

...in Blackest Night...

...in Blackest Night...

I see that a new straight-to-DVD animated story is coming out Tuesday. “Green Lantern: First Flight” tells the story of Hal Jordan, the best known of the Green Lanterns, a group of intergalactic space cops who use power rings to get around. I don’t have plans to buy it, since I’m pretty sure it’ll end up on Cartoon Network in a few months. That’s the nice thing about synergy. DC Comics is a TimeWarner property, as is Cartoon Network.

Most of the animated stuff I watch is DC-based, although I like Marvel stuff too, although their live action material is better than the animated stuff (in my opinion). Iron Man was great! The X-Men movies were good (although I didn’t go to see Wolverine), I liked both Fantastic Fours, and all three Spider-Man movies. Anyway, both companies spend enough money on these properties to avoid the cheesiness of both the animated and live action efforts of the 70s. The new Green Lantern has Chris Meloni (of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit providing the voice of Hal Jordan/Green Lantern).