Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Journalism 101

I'm not God's gift to journalism, that's for sure. I was a professional broadcast journalist for most of my adult life. Certainly, my judgment on many occasions could legitimately have been called into question. I did pass several journalism classes in college, though. I also attended several seminars about news assignments, ethics and that kind of thing along the way.
One of the fundamentals of journalism, which is so fundamental that it has become cliche, goes something like this: Dog bites Man: not news. Man bites Dog: news. The idea is that if it's unusual, it might be defined as news. Look back on how that piece of advice starts: Dog bites Man: Not News. Comedy Central even produced a series called "Dog Bites Man."

And yet, on Wednesday a local television station actually aired a story about a mailman getting bitten by a dog.
I would have enjoyed witnessing the editorial meeting in which the decision was made not only to put a reporter on this story, but to tease it during prime time. According to the story, the mail carrier is not seriously hurt and the dog was properly confined in its yard. The reporter who presented this piece to the viewers is usually excellent and seems to enjoy a positive reputation. I'm guessing that he was pressured by a young producer to turn nothing into something. I'm guessing he's not happy about it.
I saw this and shortly thereafter realized I was actually scratching my head. Maybe I have fleas, but I don't think so.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Happy Anniversary to Daddy D.

An inauspicious occasion passed without notice this month, as inauspicious occasions have a tendency to do.
The first post to Daddy D's Storytime was February 7, 2006. Thanks to the tens of you who have visited over the past year. Please come back more often. I'll try to be better about picking up the pace.
A special thanks to Oregonian father of infant twins Matt Workman for inspiring the blog.
Thanks to local CPA Joel Thomas for naming Daddy D.
Y'all come back now, hear?


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Feel the Pinch

The middle-age pinch is really getting to me, and I’m not talking about my waistband. Here’s the playbill:

1) 17-year-old son.
2) 15-year-old daughter.
3) 80-year-old father.
4) 40-something year old lovely darling spouse.
5) 60-year-old chronically ill unmarried half brother.

Where shall I begin to tell the story of the family related stress I presently endure?
Someone asked me what I was like as a teenager and if I’m experiencing payback. Don’t ask my older brother, because he will just let loose with some sinister smart aleck guttural laugh which indicates an utter inability to put his feelings into words. Of course, that just may be him. My son is one of the smartest kids you’ll ever meet. He’s a deep thinker who wears his feelings not only on his sleeve but from head to toe. He’s one step ahead of us at all times, and naturally his mother and I don’t know what we’re talking about. If I can just convince him to maintain his truly amazing grade point average and get into a nice college, we’ll be okay. Believe everything you have ever heard about teenagers.

This brings us to our daughter. As Daddy D has shared with the vast blogosphere several times, she and her friends really are the light of my life. I feel things turning, though. Example: Last night, her mother and I picked her up from the health club. Her mom asked, “Did you swim?” One might expect a yes or no answer, maybe a detail about how many laps she swam. But, no, we got “Is my hair wet?” Implied in there, of course, is “you idiots.” Believe everything you have ever heard about teenagers.

My father is just plain old. There’s no getting around it. He lives alone. He still drives. He’s self sufficient, and I’m happy about that. However, he has shown a tendency recently to fall down. Old person + falling down = broken hip. This leads to rehab, nursing home, and God knows what else. Nobody wants that! So, I suggest maybe a walker or a scooter. Nope. It seems the walker would be worse, because he says if he falls on the walker he could break a rib or something. Then, he added this little zinger: “I’m not helpless yet.” Thank you.

My wife is magnificent, a saint. Ask anyone who knows her. However, there’s this little thing called menopause. I lived through it with my mother and I vowed never to live through it again. So much for vows. When you add recalcitrant, know-it-all teenagers in with a pre-menopausal woman, you have an emotional inferno.

I’m stress eating. I’m gaining wait. I’m feeling the pinch. Help me.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Crew Is Seriously Sick

Always on the cutting edge of breaking news, the local media reports today that there is a confirmed case of meningitis at a local high school. Here's the thing: the girl in question is home, out of the hospital and out of danger. I know this because the stricken teenager is a charter member of "my crew," the group of girls introduced to you by Daddy D a couple of weeks ago.
The young woman in question woke up in our house on a recent Sunday morning and was not herself. She was pale and lethargic. She was also hot to the touch. I took her temperature with a digital thermometer, and it registered 104! I don't know a lot, but I know that's dangerous at any age.
This disease can be fatal. We are closely associated with a family who lost a child to it several years ago. So, its presence at a local high school is legitimate news. This girl spent a few days in intensive care. The school sent out written notices and e-mails to parents explaining symptoms and offering advice. I consulted a physician who specializes in infectious diseases and took his recommendation. All the girls who were in our house that night immediately were prescribed antibiotics, and no one else has been stricken.
I really didn't see this coming. I knew her fever was alarmingly high, but I was kidding around with her. I remember saying, "gosh, we may have to pack you in ice." She didn't laugh. She has a tendency to be silly, so it became even more obvious that she just wasn't herself. Intensive care is just that. We'll spare the details, but let's just say she was uncomfortable for a while. We visited her several times and I can tell you that was a sick little girl. It was encouraging to hear that she expressed disappointment about missing the two major Mardi Gras parades in town. That tells me she's feeling much better. At least she's thinking about friends and parties again.
The friends are recovering emotionally. This hit some of them hard, and it wasn't in a teenage drama queen way. Given the fact that most of them know a child who lost a sibling to this same disease, they were legitimately concerned. Now that everything seems to be okay, it's nice to know they have a clear capacity for empathy. A lot of teens are self-centered by nature. I'm confident that they will become demanding and occasionally recalcitrant again soon. For a few days, they rallied around their friends' plight. They brought gifts, made cards and spent an extraordinary amount of time in her hospital room. They expressed love and showed true friendship. Naturally, her parents, sisters and other relatives rallied around her, as well.
Our ailing friend has a lot of work to do. She has missed a couple of weeks of school and she's still not fully recovered. She is out of danger, though, and she learned that she is surrounded by people who love her. Something positive will come out of this experience and she will perhaps be a stronger, more confident person because of it.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Anticipating Madness

March will soon arrive and all good sports fans will be expected to talk about basketball. The NCAA Tournament has become some kind of rite of spring. It commands our attention. Sixty-five teams from colleges across the country are invited in and every one has an opportunity, if not a legitimate chance, to win a national championship. Each game, each basket, each turnover is magnified because when a team loses a game, its season in finished. There are no second chances in the NCAA’s.
This event has grown on its own merits, but also has benefited from one of the most successful marketing campaigns in media history. A little alliteration goes a long way, it seems. “March Madness” and “March Mayhem” have become household catchphrases. Accompanied by a deep-voiced man booming it through your TV speakers with a background of up-tempo horns and video clips showing fantastic finishes, the allure is unmistakable. Television does a commendable job of showcasing the most compelling games and playing up the underdog storylines. It’s not so difficult to generate enthusiasm for an event which has at its base stories of success and inspiration.
All good sports fans do talk about basketball in March, but so do non-sports fans. That’s another reason this event has become part of the American fabric. It carries on for weeks and basically commands our attention. Why? Great sport certainly helps, but it’s gambling that has caused folks to tape open their eyelids and pay attention. The legal, conventional wagering in places like Las Vegas is dizzying. The amount of money bet on the internet and offshore is staggering. Gamblers are gamblers and this is just part of a routine year for them. It’s what happens among people who know who Bobby Brady is but couldn’t pick out a photo of John Brady that sets this thing apart.
Chances are a bracket will show up in front you. Someone you know, perhaps in your office, will start a contest. “Fill out a bracket,” you’ll be urged. “Even if you don’t know about basketball, it’s a lot of fun.” You might be compelled to throw ten dollars into and envelope in the hope of winning hundreds. Only the media elite can pretend to know something significant about every team in the tournament. I dare say no one has seen every team play. So, this bracket business becomes a big lottery. The lure of easy money is real. The desire to fit in, to participate in something with friends or co-workers, compels us to take a chance with our ten-spot. This is like Super Bowl squares on steroids. The process goes on and on, giving people something pedestrian to talk about. If you choose not to participate, you run the risk of being something of an outcast. Everyone’s invited to the party; sometimes you just need to ask if you can come in.
Whether or not it’s a good idea, the tournament brings us together. Troubles are set aside for a moment as we discuss how last night’s buzzer beater became a bracket buster. A flurry of e-mails with updated standings cuts into office productivity. Somebody’s elementary school kid will be in first place in your bracket contest after the first two rounds, and you find yourself pulling for the kid because you know he can use the money. He won’t win because his picks have no basis in reason. He’s an elementary school kid, after all. Instead, some friend of a friend of a co-worker who’s an Alabama alumnus will hit the jackpot and you’ll be disgusted for a half-day. In a couple of weeks you may not remember who won the national championship. Next March, we’ll do it all again. Is it Madness? You be the judge.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

What's New Since 1980? Not Much

I called my father today. It was a regular check-in, "How ya doin'?" kind of weekend call. He's 80, so he doesn't get out as much as he used to. The first time I called, he was napping (of course). Old people are like dogs in a lot of ways. If they run out of things to do, they'll just nap. I kind of envy it. I called him later and asked "What are you doing now?" He said, "watching TV" I asked what he was watching. He said "Bonanza." Bonanza! It's Super Bowl Sunday and he's watching Ben, Hoss and Little Joe.

This really comes as no surprise to me. About ten years ago, while we were building a house, we stayed with him for a few weeks. It dawned on me then that he does not watch any television show produced after about 1980. He pushes the envelope a little by catching late-season reruns of "Dallas" on TV Land, but that's about as far as he will go. He has no awareness of the current hot TV shows. He's never seen American Idol or Lost or Desperate Housewives. Don't get me started about any of the Law & Orders or CSI's. He's not into any kind of comedy or reality shows. Jerry Seinfeld? Never heard of him.
This man is a huge fan of Country & Western music. I wanted to take him to see "Walk the Line," the Johnny Cash-June Carter biopic. He asked me, "Do Johnny & June play in it?" I said, "No. Johnny Cash is dead." He wasn't interested. The only current TV production he will watch is a boxing match. Even then, he prefers old fights from the 70's he can dig up on his satellite dish. I am intimately familiar with his viewing habits not only because I stayed there a while and learned more than I ever wanted to know about J.R , Bobby, Sue Ellen and Pam, but also because I have programmed the Wish Lists on his TiVo.
James Gandolfini? Who's that?
Did I say TiVo? Yes, the flip side of this man and his enigmatic entertainment tastes is that he may be the only 80-year-old in Louisiana with a TiVo and XM satellite radio. Of course, his XM is on one channel: 13 (Hank's music no more current that about 1970). At least he's consistent.

I asked him recently why he watches the same shows over and over again and doesn't start with anything current. He said he doesn't know any of the actors. I asked how he can get to know them if he doens't watch. He just shrugged. The other day, he was flipping through the channels and ran across All My Children on ABC. There's a character on the show named Adam. My dad said, "Say, isn't that old Candy from Bonanza?" I looked up David Canary's roles, and I'll be damned. It certainly was.

I wonder when we start to get like this. My wife's grandfather, in his 80's and 90's, wouldn't watch new shows, either. He got by with Lawrence Welk like my dad does with Lorne Greene and Larry Hagman. I have a buddy at work who refuses to upgrade his TV to HD, even though he can well afford it. He steadfastly maintains he's happy with his Trinitron. He loves a good football game, but doesn't have time for any TV shows. He said he keeps his radio tuned to the 70's channel on XM where he can listen to songs by great lyricists like Steve Miller. This guy and I are the same age, so that alarms me a little.
Come see me in thirty years or so. However we're being entertained, I'll probably still be watching Seinfeld reruns. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

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Foster Gets Mainstream Media

As noted here a few days ago, my old buddy Dave Foster has a new anchoring job in Nashville. Here's how the Nashville newspaper reported on it Friday:
Please note the other Shreveport connection here. News Director Ken Smith is a former KTBS producer.

Friday, 02/02/07
Foster named Ch. 17 sports anchor
Staff Writer (Nashville Tennesseean)

Dave Foster returned to his hometown a little more than a year ago and is now set to return to the air as the weekend sports anchor at WZTV-17.
Foster grew up in Nashville, then moved with his family to Franklin, where he had attended high school. After spending more than 10 years as a sports broadcaster at two different stations in Shreveport, La., Foster returned to Nashville in December 2005 as the assignment manager at WZTV.

When Amy Fadool submitted her resignation as the Fox affiliate's weekend sports anchor in the fall, Foster decided to explore the possibility of moving back into sports.
"I had been wanting to come back to Nashville for a while; I wanted to get back toward my family," Foster said. "And then this job opened up, so I threw my hat in. I had some experience and loved the sports around here. I grew up watching all the teams around here as a kid so I'm looking forward to it, it's going to be exciting."
After playing football at Franklin, Foster graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1993 with a broadcasting degree.
A new market
Along with wanting to be reunited with his family, Foster said he started getting the itch to return home when Nashville began landing pro franchises — first the Titans and then the Predators.
"I went off to Louisiana around 1994, and for the sports market there's been a huge difference since I've been gone," Foster said. "I am looking forward to working with the pro teams, but I also still enjoy the local colleges and high schools. I went to the University of Tennessee, so I am a big SEC fan."
WZTV news editor Ken Smith said it always is a benefit when a station is able to hire talent with local ties.
"He comes in, and unlike most people he already knows so much about the area," Smith said. "He knows who the coach at MTSU is; he went to the University of Tennessee, it's a big plus for us."

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