REAL REPORTERS: BEHIND THE CAMERA JOURNALISTS – Garry Armstrong

It’s never been a one-man show.

I’ve logged over 40-years in TV and radio news,  including 31 years at one Boston TV Station.  I’m always flattered when people say they remember me and my work. The body of work is considerable. Usually 3 or 4 daily newscasts, 5 to 6 days a week,  48 or so weeks a year times 40.  That’s a lot of news, good, bad and ugly.

A reporter,  the face in front of the camera,  gets the credit for everything. The images of life, death and the furies of Mother Nature.  Wars and Peace. Happiness and sorrow. You see the reporter, center screen with a name graphic, proof that he or she saw everything in the visuals that tell the story.

It’s a false premise.  It’s impractical. The reporter couldn’t possibly be in all the places seen in the story that has you riveted to the screen.

We’re called “talent” in business lexicon.  That should be a dead giveaway. We’re the human, face connection, to all those images on your screen.

The real reporters are the people behind the cameras.  The men and women who frequently put their lives on the line to bring you the pictures, the video seared into your sense memory.

I’m proud of all the awards I’ve received over the years. I’d be a liar if I said the hardware didn’t mean anything to me. They are reminders of the stories covered across four decades – on the local, state, national and international stages.  The awards have my name clearly etched, front and center. But I can see all the faces of those responsible for bringing the stories to life.

In the 60’s,  I was a green rookie, assigned to the national and international news,  landscapes that ranged from Vietnam, civilian dissent against the war, Civil Rights marches and violent opposition,  assassinations of national leaders,  a historic walk on the moon and a music-culture changer called Woodstock. I was a 20-something, agape at all these events I was covering for Network News.  It truly was baptism under fire.  I survived because of veterans whose careers began with the birth of radio and television news,  The great depression and World War Two.

The 20 something was handed the keys to the news kingdom.  Right place, right time. I may have often been driving the big car but those veterans always rode shotgun,  guiding me through some very difficult mazes of network news closed-door battles with the Pentagon,  the DOD and the White House.  I had a grizzled news manager who always counseled me, “Just tell the truth…make sure you’ve corroborated 2 or 3 times at least.

Don’t let the Pols or Generals faze you…make sure the stories are short, punchy…dump the adjectives”.

All that was behind me when I landed in Boston in 1970. If I thought I knew it all, I was dead wrong.  Boston was just edging its way into a golden era of TV Journalism.  The technology was rapidly changing and changing the way things were done.  TV news was still viewed with skepticism and contempt by many old-school journalists who believed the word was stronger than the picture.

Boston is a highly regarded news market. It can be tricky for a newcomer not versed in the proper pronunciation of towns and cities or the political landmines in seemingly benevolent Norman Rockwell like settings.

I was thrust into local celebrity by being a general assignment reporter covering blue-plate special stories of murders, fires, prison riots,  sexual predators, bad weather, and quirky politics.

I quickly learned to lean on the experience of the people shooting the stories.  They knew the players, the back stories,  the dos and the don’ts.

A news director (one of nearly 3 dozen I survived) told me to keep the camera crews under my thumb.  He said they were just ‘picture takers’, ‘lumpers’ and ‘complainers’.  That news director was history before I figured out how wrong he was.

Those picture takers really were reporters who saw everything around them. They knew when someone was just using his “face time” to dance around the truth and delay legal consequences. They warned me about the “frauds” and “fakers,” political and community leaders who could clean your pockets while shaking your hand.

I am especially thankful for the photojournalists who covered “the mean streets.”   They’re the ones I always saw at 3 o’clock in the morning at a devastating fire,  a triple homicide or drive-by shooting.  They always knew more than the eye-witnesses or law enforcement people just catching the case. I apologize to those whose names are omitted.  It’s impossible to do justice to all of you who were there for me and other reporters over all those years.

Boston is a unique TV news market because the competition is benevolent.  Everyone wants to be FIRST with the story, especially with the advent of electronic newsgathering.  Everything is “Now”.  It happens and,  in a few minutes,  you’re expected to be “live with breaking news”.  Truth and facts often become victims in the quest to be fast and first.

Reporters feel the pressure.  They often feel their jobs are on the line if they are not first.  The folks behind the cameras become a calming force.  They’ve observed the scene, the people, possible evidence.  Often, cameramen and women can figure out the story while fielding frantic and demanding calls from newsrooms.  Over the years,  I’ve leaned on camera and tech crews, not only from my station but also competitors.

I’ve been slipped pieces of paper with key information during live shots and looked like the best damn reporter in town.  In truth,  I was saved by a competing cameraman who saw me struggling and threw the lifeline.

I’ve been praised for memorable “standups” — those on-camera appearances where we look you in the eye and deliver riveting reports. The truth is those words often came from the people behind the camera.  Their words, repeated with sincere conviction by me.

The camera folks also correct information that we, seasoned reporters,  are sure is true.  I was often interrupted with,  “Garry, I don’t want to tell you what to say.  You always know what you’re doing…”   The bulb in my brain flashes — “Listen, know-it-all breath”.

So,  this is a thank you to Richie, Andy, Nat, Jack, Premack, Warren, Eddie,  Susan, Leslie, Noot,  Messrs. Richard Chase, “Fast Al”,  Stan The Man and all the other REAL — behind the camera reporters.

These were the journalists who enabled me to have such a long and satisfying career. Thank you!

WE HAVE TO APOLOGIZE TO CANADA – BY TOM CURLEY

I’ve given up trying to make sense out of anything anymore. After over a year living in the waking nightmare that is our current government, I thought nothing could surprise me anymore.

Do I know what SCROTUS is going to do tomorrow? What he’s going to do in the next hour? Hell no. I gave up on trying to figure that out a long time ago. You can’t figure out what a crazy person is going to do. That’s what makes them crazy.

Our cheese-headed-so-called president has pissed off a lot of people. 60 to 75 percent of Americans. Pretty much all of Mexico. His new US Ambassador to Germany pissed them off so much his first day on the job they’re threatening to throw him out. For the last year, there’s been constant talk about rage fatigue. We can’t keep up this level of anger.

I’m not worried about that. No matter how mad you get at what he did today, I guarantee you he’ll come up with something tomorrow that will shoot your blood pressure right back up to 11.

But last week, the idiot-in-chief did something unbelievable. Even for him.

He pissed off Canada.

Think about that for a second. HE PISSED OFF CANADA!

I didn’t know that was possible! I mean, we’re talking about Canada! The country whose worst stereotype is that they’re all incredibly polite and they apologize for everything. Hell, they apologize for apologizing!

CANADIAN: Hey, sorry about that, eh?

AMERICAN: You didn’t do anything wrong. You don’t have to apologize.

CANADIAN: Oh, I see, sorry.

This moron goes to the G7 summit, called the G6 + 1 by all the other members. And insults everyone. He then threatens them with more tariffs if they don’t do everything he tells them to do.

His excuse for doing this to Canada, Europe, and Japan?  Our allies? An obscure rule in the trade agreement that says the President can impose tariffs on a country if it’s a “threat to our national security.”

Not surprisingly, everybody, especially Canada went “WTF!! We’re a threat to your national security?? We fought with you in two World Wars for Christ’s sake!”

What was his reply? “Well, didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” referring to the burning of the White House during the War of 1812. Which is when the British burned down the White House. When Canada wasn’t even a country!  Then, he leaves the summit early, in a huff. After he left, Justin Trudeau gave a press conference where he basically told the US president to go fuck himself.

He did it in the most polite way possible. He said, “I know we have a reputation for being polite, but we won’t be pushed around.”

He didn’t apologize for the statement! The media and the world were shocked. If we translate what he said into American it would be something like this. “WTF! You want to start a trade war with us!? FUCK YOU, you Goddamn moron! You think you can fuck with us? Oh, hell no! Oh, and sorry about the foul language.”

There’s a great picture that Angela Merkel released. It sums up the whole meeting. It looks like it should be a Rockwell painting.

You need to go to your room and think about what you did!

I’ve realized that we Americans have to stand up, take responsibility and do something about this. We have to apologize to Canada.  We need to start a movement. Use Twitter, Facebook, email, Instagram. I don’t care.

Each of us needs to say “Canada. I’m sorry. We all know this guy’s a fucking moron. He’s embarrassing all of us. Our bad.”

If you don’t have a social media account, just send Canada an “I’m sorry” greeting card. You can find them in any drug store.

The majority of us didn’t vote for the asshole

And while we’re at it, we also need to apologize to France, England, Germany, Italy, and Japan. Who am I kidding? Except for China, Russia and now, North Korea, we have to apologize to everyone.

We are sorry, World.

We’re working on fixing this next November.

HOW DID THAT HACK HAPPEN? – Marilyn Armstrong

A friend asked me how a hack could happen.

You can find plenty of information about this in the news almost every night. Multiple attempts by many governments to locate these guys and take them down are always underway. The problem is, there are a lot of them. Many are funded by the Russians and for all know, other hostile governments.

Does everyone think these guys hacked our election, then quit hacking?

They’ve hacked (that I know of): Equifax, Bank of America, Adobe, Lands End, Amazon, Facebook … and probably a lot more than that, but these I know about because they have all been in touch with me to warn me.

Forget about the dozens of television series that deal with this issue. If you read a newspaper or watch the news, the information is not exactly secret. The busting of these hacker rings has been major news for at least three years and probably longer, so if you’ve missed it … you should catch up. Hackers thrive on people who don’t understand what’s going on. That’s why they pick on the elderly so often.

Essentially, it all happened in one afternoon. Anyone whose identity has been stolen can understand how quickly your financial life can fall apart. Fortunately, that didn’t happen to me. I lost no money, although I had to spend $90 on a new router. I also spent a lot of time rebuilding my computer, but since I did it myself, it didn’t cost me anything.

Should credit card companies be more on the alert? Absolutely. They are pretty sharp even now. Far more alert than our so-called government who seem collectively helpless to fix this. I think they don’t want to fix it, but what do I know, right?

Anyone can call Experion, Equifax, or TransUnion and ask that they put your credit on alert. You can do this automatically on the phone and you only have to call one company who will alert the other two. If one of you has been hacked or think you might be in danger, you don’t have to wait until they have hacked your accounts before you deal with it.

Once you’ve set up an alert, all credit companies must contact you directly before granting credit in your name or changing your address, telephone number, email address, or password. I can’t even count the number of people who’ve been hacked on Facebook — had their accounts stolen. I think someone stole my Twitter account, but since I never used it, I didn’t know about it for weeks.

If you think you are safe because nothing like this has ever happened to you, you are naïve. It can — does — happen to everyone. Anyone. Young. Old. Retired. Poor. Rich. It hurts more when you are poor, but it won’t stop the hackers. If you’ve got any money, they’ll take it and leave you with nothing.

These are not people with a conscience or a sense of right and wrong. They don’t care what happens to you. They do not care if they kill you in the process, either.

So, here’s the timeline:

1.  Facebook gave my personal data to Cambridge Analytica. For a fee, I’m sure. I know this because Facebook told me they did it. They didn’t seem upset about and felt I shouldn’t be either. Right.

2.  Cambridge Analytica sold my data to hackers, most of whom are supported by the Russians.

3.  They got more information by hacking my home router. This had already happened in Europe, but no one mentioned it on our news, so we didn’t know. By the time they did mention it, it was 24 hours too late for me.

4.  They pretended to be a different company and had sufficient data to make me think they might be real. When they demanded money to protect my computer, I instantly knew they were hackers.

5.  They attempted to take money from a bank who controlled 3 credit separate cards, two of which I knew about. I stopped the transfers and they never got anything. The final one I only discovered today, but again, I’m covered, so no loss to me.

6.  They locked my computer and demanded $1000 to “protect” it. Talk about a mobster move! Not a snowball’s chance in hell. There’s no guarantee if you give them money they will release your computer anyway and I’ll bet they don’t. Not exactly trustworthy guys.

7.  To get my computer back, I had to rebuild it. From scratch. Which was not so bad — boring but not difficult. Because I back up my files, I was able to restore everything. In all, I lost one document, but I can live with it.

8.  I had to buy a new router with a protective patch.

Does this mean they can’t get me — or you — again? Of course not. These hackers are gigantic organizations heavily funded by Russian money. if they can hack Equifax, they can bypass my protection on a whim. And the places they operate are glad to have them. They hire people. They are a big business.

At the bottom of my personal mess is Facebook. They casually took my personal data and sold it to hackers.

It’s so simple …

Facebook made this happen. Our government helped them by refusing to go after the hackers. If you think Trump is a good guy, remember he and his team have protected these guys from the get-go. They have allowed the hacking, encouraged it, and supported it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are also getting paid off.

You could be next. They may already have your number.

NOTORIOUS HACKERS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Notorious

The day after I got hacked, it hit the TV headlines. Every network news station had the information at the top of the hour: REBOOT YOUR ROUTER. Apparently, millions of home users had already been whacked in Europe. Now The Notorious Gang was here, hacking home routers and stealing credit card information.

It turns out they are the same Russian-funded group connected to Cambridge Analytica — Steve Bannon’s babies — and of course, you-know-who, the guy who occupies the White House. And it all started with Facebook. The social media site I only use as PR for my blog.

Speaking of notorious, these thieves have been known to rake in billions of dollars in a single day, probably mostly from people like me who really can’t afford it.

I didn’t even know that this particular card had been hacked and only found out when the card wouldn’t go through because it kept saying the address was wrong. I finally called the company and the address they had was nothing to do with mine.

I’d like to say I have no idea how they manage to hack our cards, but it isn’t that difficult. I’m no hacker, but I understand the rudiments — and that three-digit code on the back of your card? You realize that any routine number-running mini-application could track it down in about 2 seconds. Maybe less.

I still have to look it up, but thieves — NOTORIOUS hackers — don’t bother. They just push a key. A program runs. They find the number and are charging thousands of dollars to your accounts a minute later.

I’ve gotten everything back, though I have a lot of closed accounts at the moment. My credit score took a hit too. Fraud apparently makes credit companies wary of extending credit. Who can blame them?

What a pity they didn’t announce the notorious router hacking crew until the day AFTER they hacked me. What a pity that Facebook gave out my personal information to hackers, no doubt for a fee.

How notorious does something need to be before we notice it’s happening to us? Apparently pretty damned notorious!

WHY DON’T I “SWITCH TO THE IMPROVED EDITOR”? – Marilyn Armstrong

I see that moronic line every time I write something — in the old, old format. “SWITCH TO THE IMPROVED EDITOR” lurks above my editing every time I work. I would make it vanish if I could.

I had no intention of writing this. I was going to put together a photo post, but there was that aggravating line again. I just started to write and didn’t stop until I finished.

Why don’t I use the new improved format?

The new editor is definitely different, but it isn’t better. It’s more difficult to use. You need more steps to accomplish simple things.

Nothing has been done to really improve the limitations of the old editing format. The terrible spacing issues that have plagued every template I’ve used during the past six years are as bad or worse as are all the problems that come with pasting text from some other piece — even if it’s from another WordPress post.

Nor have there been any improvements for editing pictures. Even simple stuff, like properly resizing a picture from native to “web sized.” Internally within the post, you are stuck using the standard font or a header. The “blockquote” function is always the wrong size.

We’re still putting bandages on your “other” improvements

Lately we’ve all been battered with WordPress’s “improvements.” You managed to cause actual injury — rare even in this industry.

So I’m here to tell you:


Change isn’t an improvement. An improvement means you’ve taken something which wasn’t working and made it better. Easier to use. More effective. Maybe with more options. 


At WordPress, improvements do exactly the opposite. You take something useful and remove a piece of its functionality. I have to assume there’s a reason for this, but I have no idea what it might be. I remember when you removed “edit” from the template and we complained. One of your “happiness engineers” actually asked why we needed an edit function?

Um, because we’re writers? Editors? Artists? Do the people who create our format use it? Do they consult people who do use it? Typically, your improvements make functions work less well than before, which I suppose makes them a dis-improvement.

I have a monumental investment in my site and am at an age where starting over is – pardon the pun – a non-starter. You might force me to quit. You may push out all your “old timers.” There is always a bill to pay when you refuse to listen to your customers. You won’t be the first major tech company to slither down that open drain.

Personally, I think you are slouching down a long, gravelly road to nowhere. Like so many formerly great platforms, the power you now hold will dwindle. I hope by the time you vanish, someone else will take over.

As for my “SWITCH TO THE IMPROVED EDITOR” option?

You don’t actually believe your improved platform is better than the one we had. Anymore than you believe changing our font sizing option from “points” to “small” “normal” or “large” improved customizing. Or eliminating our ability to create our own colors made our templates look better. Or deleting all the challenges that enabled us to form relationships with each other improved our blogging and creativity.

You’re just following orders. After all, everyone needs a job.

FOWC – WRITTEN UP IN THE PICAYUNE – Marilyn Armstrong

Picayune – The news that money can’t buy, has been around a long time. The oldest and probably most famous one was born and is still being raised in New Orleans. They’ve got three Pulitzer prizes and many more awards for quality writing and reporting. It’s one of those names that’s been picked up by lots of people who were or looked like John Wayne.

“Saw your wanted poster in the Picayune,” he said.

Oh no! Anything but the Picayune. Everyone reads the Picayune. Or at least they did in The Old West of Hollywood. The real Picayune, actually “The Times-Picayune” is still on the market and is often lovingly referred to as the news money can’t buy.


The Times-Picayune is an American newspaper published in New Orleans, Louisiana, since January 25, 1837. Wikipedia

Editor: Mark Lorando
Headquarters: 365 Canal Street; New Orleans, Louisiana 70130; United States
First issue dateJanuary 25, 1837
Format: Broadsheet
AwardsPulitzer Prize for Public Service, Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting

Famous, but still, not the New York Times — which, by the way, is going to be a 4-part series on Showtime. I saw the advertisement last night. We don’t get Showtime, but I figure it’ll show up on Netflix eventually. Everything else does. Or reruns, somewhere.


Mrs. Nicholson was the owner and publisher of the New Orleans Daily Picayune named after a Spanish coin called a “picayune”. She chose to name the city after her beloved newspaper. Today the paper is still published but is now called the Times-Picayune.


I’m not sure why “the Picayune” keeps buzzing around my head as something importantly Old Western. Garry says it was not the name of the paper in “Liberty Valence” or any particular movie he can think of.

The front page of The Times-Picayune of Nov. 15, 1960. (The Times-Picayune archives)

If Garry can’t name that Western, there probably wasn’t any. He is an encyclopedia of Western movie trivia, bar none. If you think you’re good, have a go at Garry and see who wins. There’s nothing he likes better than a good mental game of minor supporting character in minor westerns barely anyone can remember.

And he doesn’t look them up on Google, either. He says that’s cheating.

Somehow, for some reason, the Picayune is stuck in my head as an important Western newspaper. I’m going to have to spend some more time researching this. Does anyone have some kind of memory about this?

I’m having a bad case of “what am I missing?”

SIX THOUSAND SPAM MESSAGES IN AN HOUR – Marilyn Armstrong

Although this hasn’t affected WordPress, my email has been walloped by more than six thousand spam messages in the last hour. About 5,000 were caught by the Google’s spam catcher. I took care of the rest AND changed my password.

For safety’s sake — for me and everyone — I deleted pretty much everything I had in my inbox, trash, and “sent” sections, then rebooted.

I was hit like this once before, but it was on WordPress. This seems to be limited to Gmail. They don’t have my password —  I just changed it again and even I don’t remember it without looking it up — but whoever is doing this is being extremely annoying. I don’t want to change email unless I must. So many things are attached to this email, it would be a real hassle. If I have no choice, I’ll do it.

And Facebook assured me it wasn’t going to be a real problem. They wrote me and TOLD me that. Liars.

Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, there’s no threat to anyone but me.

Just letting you know. I was one of the people hit by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and their televised apologies just aren’t working for me these days. I’m pretty sure that’s where all of this is coming from, though I can’t figure out what in the world they hope to gain from it. It’s annoying, but unless I was dumb enough to actually open any of these, they remain harmless.

We also installed a new router. To the degree that any home user can be protected, we are. I have to assume these guys think if they just keep swamping me with emails, sooner or later, I’ll open something.

I won’t. I promise.