CENSORSHIP AND THE LIFE WE LIVE – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #42

It’s a good question for everyone to ponder these days.

There has always been censorship of some kind in every country as long as humans have been “civilized.” Its definition — or at last one of its many possible definitions is, “Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or “inconvenient.”

Censorship can be conducted by a government, private institution, and corporations. Or by your local sheriff or lynch mob.

The question is:

There is some kind of censorship in every nation, every government and in nearly every business. Even if the big secret is “what ingredients are in the Coca Cola recipe,” it’s still censorship.

There is censorship to keep technology private. Censorship which aims to keep military movements undercover. In some places, religions force secrecy. No society is completely open. There’s always something — militarily, governmental, corporate, technological, religious, or personal that are forbidden to say aloud. Sometimes censorship is unwritten, but everyone knows about it. Sometimes it’s part of your professional contract.

Sometimes you just know what you should simply not talk about because if you do, something bad will happen to you or those you care about.

Issues like this don’t affect everyone. The business you are in, how well-known you are, what kind of profession you follow are part of the process. If you are a general in an army, most of your life is censored. If you are in the Mossad, or a television reporter, what you can say is by definition censored. In the United States today you can get away with anything if you are personally unimportant but can get away with very little if you share a spotlight on the big screen of life.

Does it affect me? Personally? Mostly not because I am not regarded as knowing anything worth censoring. I don’t belong to a corporate entity that is creating new technology or know anything about the government other than what I read in the news.

Garry has a lot of secrets and most of them — nearly ALL of them — he has never told me. I have pointed out that many of the people about whom he “knows stuff” are gone from this world.

“They have families,” he says and that is the end of the conversation. Reporters always have secrets.

So do I personally feel threatened as an individual citizen by censorship? Not at the moment. When I worked for Grumman I had a “top secret” legal rating and there were things I could not say to anyone lest I be imprisoned and fined. I worked in a “black building” and I hated it. I hated everything except those great bridge games at lunch. They were fun!

If I live long enough, this could change, but I think for most non-political, not military, and no, not a spy either? No one cares what we say because we don’t know anything and when you are low enough on the totem pole, nobody much cares what you say.

But if our world changes dramatically and for the worse, this could alter. I hope I’m not alive if it does.

TOO EARLY TO BE DRINKING? – Garry Armstrong

I heard these lines recently in a movie. They made me laugh.

“Isn’t it too early to be drinking?” he said.
“No,” she said. ” I’m awake.”

The line had stayed with me many years after the laughter faded, replaced by memories of work, reporters, bars, and pubs from New York to Saigon. As a reporter, I covered Presidential politics from 1962 to 2001. From JFK to Bush, Jr. As a newbie reporter, I saw veteran correspondents fueling up with multiple Bloody Marys as we began our day on the political or campaign trail.

Diner bar and table

I was impressed. During my rookie year, I summoned up enough courage to question one famous reporter who had begun his career working with Edward R. Murrow. He was on his third Bloody Mary — in one 10-minute period.

“Isn’t it too early to be drinking?” I asked, slowly and politely.

The veteran reporter who’d covered FDR, World War II in the trenches, and the McCarthy Hearings, among other assignments. He looked at me for a long moment, then finished his drink.

“Is it too early to be drinking?” he repeated my question and ordered another Bloody. “No, I’m awake!”

I shook my head in amazement and admiration. He was clearly fortifying himself for the day to come. It would be another long day on the road. Cold, dreary, and filled by interviews with people from pompous to angry to clueless when asked about election issues and the candidates.

I remember one fellow decked out in a hunting outfit, cradling a shotgun. He sneered when answering my questions. When finished, he said “Figures the media is not tellin’ the truth. A Negro askin’ me stuff about that Catholic in the White House. That’s what’s wrong with our country.”

The veteran reporter had overheard the conversation. He gave me a wry smile.

Years later, I shared the story with “Tip” O’Neill, Speaker of the House and a personal friend. He laughed so hard the bar seemed to shake. Then he looked angry for a moment, patting me on the shoulder with a huge sigh.

“Garry,” he said, “Here’s looking at you, kid!” The Political Legend smiled as we clinked glasses. “Some days, it’s never too early to start drinking,” O’Neill concluded. And ordered one more round.

I wonder about “eye-openers” for those covering last year’s Presidential race and even more about how those trying to cover “news” in this insane political year are managing. These days, for those who still drink, maybe it really is never too early to start drinking.

CLUTCHING AT FREEDOM – Marilyn Armstrong

I want everything to last forever.

When I buy a television, I don’t expect to ever buy another one. I will keep using the old one until it simply won’t work anymore … or someone gently tells me that I really need a new one.

“Oh,” I say, “But I just bought this one.”

“You bought it 14 years ago. I can’t even connect most things to it. It doesn’t have the right connections.”

“Is it really that long ago? It seems like yesterday.”

It does seem like yesterday because I can remember buying it. I remember deciding which TV would give us the best pictures, be reliable. Which is how come it lasted 14 years. Actually, it still works. It’s just too old to be of much value — and too huge to get rid of, so I guess it will live in the basement forever.

The only things I buy more or less on a schedule are computers because operating systems change and software won’t run on old systems. I don’t want to get new computers. In fact, I hate new computers. Setting them up is a total pain in the butt. But I cope because I need them.

On the other hand, things like refrigerators, washing machines, ovens? The roof, the water heater, the floor, the sinks, and toilets — aren’t they forever? Don’t you buy them once, then never have to worry about them again?

I’m on my third water heater and beginning to worry about the roof. I’m discovering that the vinyl siding wasn’t a permanent investment as I thought it was. And the ants keep coming back.

Just to remind me how impermanent the world truly is, the rights we fought so hard to create, the young are fighting for them. Again.

Early 1900’s protests against the czar in Russia

How can that be? How can we have made so much progress and find ourselves back — not only where we were, but back to where my parents were. I feel like we haven’t regressed to the 1950s, but more like the 1930s.

The changes we make, the changes we paid for, fought for, battled for … they are supposed to be forever or at least for our lifetime. The roof should never need to be replaced. The heating system should be a lifetime investment.

Freedom should be given — and once achieved, you should always be free. We should never need to battle again for the right to live our lives as we please. I don’t think we should have to fight for it in the first place. We should be born free and take on obligations as a conscious choice.

Freedom has come and gone many times throughout human history. Rome was free until it wasn’t. Greece was free … until it wasn’t. Many countries were briefly free until swallowed up or conquered by others. I guess it’s our turn, my turn, to realize that the freedom I thought we’d won was merely a respite from the despotism of the world.

I’m not sure why it’s like this. Why is it freedom for which we need to fight? Why doesn’t tyranny require a battle? Why do the bad guys always seem to have the upper hand?

I think it’s because we let them. We say “Oh, a few huge corporations won’t really matter” and then we look around and the entire world is made up of huge corporations and we don’t matter. We give up our freedom incrementally.

We surrender it for higher wages, cheaper toys, nicer cars. We give it up because it sounded like fun and we don’t see the downside. We elect the wrong people because they sound good. We fail to examine if they are really who they say or are capable of being who we need.

We do it. Ourselves. We give up our freedom in tiny pieces until we have nothing left to lose.

Freedom is a costly gift which does not come to us without commitment and a battle. I didn’t imagine I would live long enough to need to fight for it again.

Is that some kind of bizarre payback for living longer?

GROWING UP WITH McCARTHY – Garry Armstrong

This is one I never intended to share. It had been buried in the deepest part of the memory chest I never planned to revisit.

I was branded a “pinko” as a kid.

I grew up in an era when the name McCarthy was first associated with Edgar Bergen’s puppet pal,  Charlie McCarthy. We followed Bergen and McCarthy on their radio show, religiously, along with Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Bob Hope and the other funny people of a more innocent era.

All of that changed when “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy unleashed his witch hunt of everyone in the guise of ferreting out Communist sympathizers. It was part of a bleak period when Cold War angst followed World War 2.

McCarthy is news again because of the current White House occupant and his apparent fondness for McCarthy’s tactics.

I didn’t understand why people shied away from talking about something called “The Black List.”  I was still in grade school but a voracious reader of newspapers, magazines and the gold mine of books in our home library.

One of those books was “Not So Wild A Dream.” It was written by Eric Sevareid, a news commentator I listened to every evening on CBS Radio News. I loved Sevareid’s gritty voice talking about the evil in far-off places like Russia.

I was puzzled when Sevareid talked about how “we” were endangered by a politician named Joe McCarthy. I had seen the newspaper stories and headlines – famous actors and writers ‘outed’ as “Commies.”  I asked my parents about it but they told me “no worries,”  it didn’t involve people like us.

What did that mean? People like us?

I was fond of taking some of my grown-up books to school. I liked to show off the books I was reading. I was on first-hand terms with Sevareid, John Steinbeck, and the guy who wrote about “Crime and Punishment” in Russia.

While other kids bragged about their new cars, summer homes, and vacations in Florida, I only had books with which to earn bragging points. I didn’t always fully understand the books, but I liked how the words were put together. I enjoyed reading them aloud.

It was the beginning of a lifelong passion for words. The sound and feel of words.  Words that you can sometimes stroke because they touch your heart in a special way.

All of this was the prologue to a nasty wake-up call for my youthful innocence.

Garry receiving his Broadcasting Hall of Fame award – September 2013

We had an assignment in Composition Class. Probably the 4th or 5th grade. My heart was beating at double speed as I searched my treasure trove of books. I skipped past kid stuff like “Treasure Island,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” and my whole collection of baseball related material.

“Not So Wild A Dream” was the winner. I was just getting into some heady stuff by people named Odets, Miller, and Lardner. I liked what they said. I used to memorize sections to impress my Mom who was always proud of my ability to sound like a proper young man. I figured everyone would respect that ability.

I remember it was a warm spring day.  I was wearing my new spring outfit — LONG pants, crisp white shirt, and shiny new shoes. I was brimming with confidence in Composition Class. When volunteers were asked to read their homework,  my hand shot up faster than Big Don Newcombe’s fabled right arm.

My throat was dry but I plunged right in when I was selected. I read some passages from “Not So Wild A Dream” and a quote from Clifford Odets who was talking about social ills.  I didn’t understand much of what I said but it sounded and felt good to me.  I looked around.

Silence and a few nervous giggles. My teacher had a strange look on her face and stammered as she praised my work. She told me I probably would see the Principal later to discuss my impressive homework. I was beaming with pride!

The Principal seemed nervous as he talked to me. He hemmed and hawed. He even stammered. Where had I found the books I read? Who gave them to me?  I proudly told him about our home library and the magazines we got every week. I remember the Principal’s eyes arching in surprise.

What was the big deal,  I wondered.

All the joy of that morning came crashing down on me during lunch recess. The warm day meant we could open our lunch boxes outside in the play area.  I was munching on my sandwich when I saw kids staring at me.

I began to pick up the words.

“He’s a pinko.”

“His parents are pinkos.  I’m gonna tell my Mom. All his people are Commies, my Dad told me.”

The whispers grew louder. Finally, I was approached by a couple of the guys who used to pick on me because of the way I dressed, my glasses, and my stupid hearing aids which made me look a space villain.  Oh, yeah, they also picked on me because I was the shortest kid in the class.

What now? Were they jealous of my composition?  What the heck?

The biggest kid came right up to my face.  He had bad breath and smelled worse.  I don’t think he bathed often. I could see the red pimples sticking out on his face. “Hey, you four-eyed deaf midget nigg_r,  so you’re a pinko too, huh?”

Pimple face leered at me,  obviously daring me to get up and fight. I gulped hard.

His pal, beady-eyed, and sweating, taunted me, “I hear all you people are Commies. You don’t go to Church — you go to Commie meetings! All of YOU people. I’m gonna tell my Dad. You’re in big trouble, you lousy little pinko.”

My throat was dry and I was very scared. I couldn’t think. Then, the bell rang.  Lunch was over. I was (literally) saved by the bell.

That evening,  I recounted everything to my Mom and Dad. They listened without saying a word. Usually, they’d interrupt me, correct my language, diction or choice of words.  When I’d finished,  they looked at each other for a long time before speaking to me.

Mom and Dad were unusually patient in explaining things to me. I think I was a little put off by their civility. I tried to absorb what they said. It was hard.

I remember Mom telling me I’d have become more mature than my age. I was going to deal with more of these “things” as I grew up. She smiled wistfully as she tousled my hair.

And that’s how I started on the road to journalism. Suddenly, I understood something about the grown-up version of the truth.

THE “MODERN” WAY? – Marilyn Armstrong

#FOWC — Modern Tyranny for Modern Times


Today is the press’ day to publish editorials supporting freedom of the press, but not every newspaper is doing it. Their reasons are varied. Some simply don’t have the financial structure to take on a major issue anymore.

Those papers have already lost the war. Like New York’s Daily News, taken over by the Trump mouthpiece of Sinclair to be the “nothing much” somewhere on the internet.

Illustration: Bangor Daily Tribune

As editorials show up in my inbox, I’ll reblog or post them, as I can. Some of them are “Pay to Read” and this is one of those days when that policy is downright foolish, so modern or not, I think press editorials need to be seen and read by as many people as possible, whether or not they are subscribers.

If trampling truth and publishing only what “our leader” (not my leader, but maybe yours) wants to hear is “the modern way,” then heaven help us all.

That is tyranny and our freedom will be, as they say, toast.

EFFERVESCENT INGREDIENTS – Marilyn Armstrong

I should be peppy and lively. I should be able to find the ingredients to get the laundry done, to go take a few pictures. Something.

I’m too beat up to find anything remotely effervescent in me right now. It has been a grueling few months. Not always in a bad way, but still exhausting and the crazy humid heat has not helped. I also suspect that my tolerance for extremes of weather is diminishing with the years because I’m far less energetic now than I was even a few months ago.

The combination of personal crises, national calamities, climate change, and a general sense that everything I worked for and cared about is being undone in such a short time, my head is spinning. The best part of the summer has been our winning baseball team. You know life has gotten awfully rough when you cling to sports as the only positive thing happening in your world.

I sense that I am not alone in feeling this way, either.

I read a piece on Facebook the other day where some Millennial was pointing out that we — the Boomer Generation — should stop blaming them and start accepting responsibility for handing them such a crappy world.

It suddenly crossed my mind that the world into which I was born was not exactly perfection, either. These kids have no idea how it was to grow up in a world where jobs were listed under Male and Female only … and if you weren’t white, there were no jobs listed at all. To live in a world where the only birth control was “not doing it” or a condom — and you couldn’t even buy a condom if you were under 18.

The voting age was 21, but the drinking age was 18. Great combination, wasn’t it?

The rivers and air were horribly polluted. We invented Earth Day, got the Civil Rights Bill passed. Cleaned up the air. You know the air over New York and Los Angeles used to be orange? Not just at sunset but all the time from the massive amounts of pollution. The river which runs through our Valley was one of the most polluted rivers in North America. We cleaned it up, along with the Hudson, Boston Harbor, and many other places.

We didn’t do all this because the earth was a perfect place, but because we saw how bad it was becoming and fought to fix it. I don’t blame Millennials for feeling they got the short end of some stick, but that stick has been pretty damned short for a really long time. Before I was born and for that matter before my mother was born too.

Garry grew up in a Jim Crow world. I grew up in a world where most of the people “like me” had been butchered or gassed to death. I had friends die of putrid abortions performed with a wire hanger. You really don’t need to tell me that we left you an evil world. It wasn’t wonderful when we got it, either.

Pogo – Walt Kelly – 1971

Welcome to the real world. There’s been more than enough evil in the human world for a very long time. Whoever you are, whatever generation you come from, it’s time you stopped whining about whose fault it is or was. 

It doesn’t matter who caused what. Get your act together, put your shoulder to the wheel, and start pushing to make it a better place. The big bad boomer bunch did that. I’m terribly sorry it has come unglued so quickly and I don’t feel really happy watching all the things I worked for fall apart. It is shocking, horrifying, and deeply depressing.  But on the other hand, I didn’t vote for that asshole.

Regardless, I’m too old to go out and fix it. I would if I could, but me and my generation — we’ve done our part. Our effervescence is gone. The ingredients you need to fix this bad old world are yours now.

Get up and do something. Vote. Run for office. Get a decent education. Learn some history.

It doesn’t matter who made it this way. It has been working on becoming this way for hundreds of years and if you don’t get yourselves moving, it will simply get worse and your children will blame it on you.

Except you know what? If you don’t start to work on making it better, your kids’ worlds will be a whole lot worse than yours.

Are you registered to vote? Will you vote?

FOWC with Fandango — Ingredients
RDP #71: EFFERVESCENT

THIS WEEK IN TRUMPLANDIA: July 21 – 28, 2018

A good summary of This Week In Trumplandia. I know it’s hard to keep track of everything and to be fair, I no longer try, so it’s useful to get a good summary of the madness surrounding us.

THE SHINBONE STAR

Sex, Lies and Audio Tapes Edition

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APPROVAL ALERT AT PRESS TIME:
Gallup Poll: 42% — down from 43% last week
Rasmussen Poll: 46% — up from 44% last week

Welcome to Trumplandia, a place where with a bit of wit and snark, we keep the world caught up on all of the tasty Nuggets-O-Trump you may have heard about but were too busy to care. Because most of this minutia occurs just below the massive headlines about the POTUS, it’s in a land of its own. Here, an infusion of social media, video clips and print media meld with our outdated political views to make more delicious “Fake News” about our Commander-in-Chief.

So just like the president, we start it all with a little tweet like this:

View original post 1,563 more words

IOKIYAR? – BY TOM CURLEY

I was reading a news story about the Trump Putin press conference in Helsinki where our Twidiot-In-Chief announced to the world that he is Putin’s little bitch.

Who’s a good little boy? You’re a good little boy!

Note: If you aren’t an American, the Daily News has always been a conservative, rather right-wing newspaper. Not anymore.

He put Russia first and threw the entire US intelligence community under the bus. It was just one of the dozens of stories I read. Two interesting things popped out at me after reading them.

First, the word “Treason” was showing up all over the place, both on the television news and in the newspapers.

Second, one of the comments on one of the stories about Republicans defending this asshole ended with this: IOKIYAR.

IOKIYAR?

What the hell does that mean? I know it’s internet slang. I know what most of the common Internet acronyms mean.

OMG – Oh My God

BRB – Be right back

WTF – Why the fuss?  (Why the Fuss? WTF?)

I even know some of the longer ones.

ROTFL – Rolling on the floor laughing

ROTFLMAO – Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off.

IMHO – In my humble opinion (Note: Nobody really means “humble”)

IOKIYAR? Never heard of it. So, I looked it up. It means:

It’s OK If You’re A Republican.

That got me to thinking.  Wow, this is a thing that happens so much, has become so pervasive in our world, that people have come up with an Internet shortcut to talk about it. Then I realized it makes perfect sense. The hypocrisy of Republicans has reached levels that were, until the last two years, unimaginable. For any political party. Ever.

The leader of the Senate can deny a sitting President a Supreme Court nominee for more than a year. Not even hold a hearing, yet he tells Democrats they have to be fair to the current nominee and confirm him immediately.

Hypocrite? Sure.

But IOKIYAR.

A Congressman, Trey Gowdy, can oversee dozens of investigations into Bengazhi, spending millions of dollars of your tax money to find absolutely nothing.

He can later demand the Mueller investigation be shut down immediately because it costs too much and all the evidence they have found must be turned over to them. Even though the DOJ never ever talks about or gives out information on what they are doing during an open investigation.

If a Democrat tried that, the Republicans would be screaming for their heads.

IOKIYAR.

The current administration is ripping children as young as one-year-old from their parents at the southern border and putting them in “baby jails” while few (if any) Republican Congressmen have anything to say about it.

Beyond shameful?

Yes, but IOKIYAR.

The President of the United States told the world he is a traitor and sides with Russia over his own government. The Republicans said Russia is bad but said nothing about the President who said it.

Beyond shameful?

US President Donald Trump (L) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands before attending a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. – The US and Russian leaders opened an historic summit in Helsinki, with Donald Trump promising an “extraordinary relationship” and Vladimir Putin saying it was high time to thrash out disputes around the world. (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP) (Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Sure.

IOKIYAR.

That’s the world we live in. It’s disgusting, immoral, vile, evil and unbelievable.

Every day I throw up a little in my mouth watching the news.  Many times, I’m ashamed to be an American.

So are a lot of other people.

IOKIYAR.

Or as Republicans would say “Why the Fuss?”

WTF!?

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!

MEDIA ISN’T FAUX BUT POLITICIANS ARE – Marilyn Armstrong

WHAT IS TRUTH? DOES IT MATTER?

I don’t have a lot of friends in the Republican camp, but there remain a few. It didn’t used to be such a gigantic divide, but it has loomed hugely since the last election.

The other night I heard from an old friend who lives down in the middle of Georgia. Not Atlanta. The less expensive part where the non-city folk live. She is a warm, sweet, kindly woman, but times they are a’changing.

I don’t know what I said — probably nothing I really thought about — and she said “But we don’t know what the truth is. The media just lies all the time.”

Pause. Longer pause.

“Garry spent his whole life in news and many of our best friends were or are in the news business. Sally, they DO NOT MAKE UP THEIR NEWS STORIES. They never did and they don’t do it now. They spend their lives searching for the facts. For proof. For truth. They do not lie.”

An even longer pause. “But what difference does it make anyway?”

If she cannot understand that there is an uncrossable gap between truth and lies, then what is there to discuss? Perhaps that is the bottom line of our current issues with truth, that so many people on both sides of the political lines don’t care about truth and don’t think truth matters.


If the truth doesn’t matter, then I am not sure what does matter.

For me, the truth always matters. I can’t imagine not caring about the difference between truth and lies. 


 

MEETING THE MOB: A PARTY FOR THE GANGSTERS OF MEDIA – Garry Armstrong

MEETING THE MOB AT FLORIAN HALL

Once a year, we gather to catch up.  It’s time for the getting together and annual partaking of the M.O.B. party. It’s the Media Of Boston where everyone who used to be someone and more than a few people who still are someone, get together and remember news — the funny, the weird, the crazy, and the scary stuff they covered during Boston’s news history.

Garry and Harvey Leonard, famed meteorologist sharing old Dodger baseball memories

I usually don’t go to these things. Part of it is that we are out in the boonies and all these events are in Boston or Dorchester. It’s a long drive through heavy traffic. As a general rule, I can’t find my way anywhere anymore. I never really could, but now that we don’t live in or near the city, it’s worse.

Lots of pictures of “the old days”

Marilyn promised to come with me this year, acting as my ears (she just went around telling everyone to yell in my left ear and oddly, that worked), and as my navigator which mostly meant yelling out the directions from the GPS. It’s not loud enough. Almost nothing is loud enough.

Andy announced dinner about to be served!

In past years,  most of us were competitors at Boston’s major TV News Departments, radio stations, and newspapers. Unlike media elsewhere, we always had a sense of respect, camaraderie between us — even though we all chased the scoops in one of the most  competitive major news markets in the country.

Three guys hanging out!

Careers overlap the end of radio news dominance, the transition from film to electronic news gathering. Some of us began working with elders from the Murrow Boys’ days. Our careers included covering the assassinations of political and social legends,  the Vietnam War, volatile court ordered school busing and integration,  Anti-Nuclear Power demonstrations, Watergate, Three Mile Island and the AIDS epidemic. The end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st saw an explosion of news coverage to match events like 9/11 and beyond.

Birth twins! Garry with Delores Handy (Brown) – both born April 7th!

Many of those at our newsies gathering have put their lives on the line —  multiple times — in pursuit of the truth which is often ridiculed by some public officials.

Charlie and Irene Ballantine – caught off-guard at the table!

The faces are probably familiar to those who have turned to the Boston media for news coverage for the past half a century.  Critics who have questioned their ethics have faded from public view as new crises demand instant and intensive coverage 24/7.

Something to drink?

Some of these careers began with Dwight Eisenhower in the Oval House,  John F.Kennedy as the Junior Massachusetts Senator and Mayor Kevin Hagen White overseeing the transformation of Boston into a world-class city that would host celebrated Tall Ships festivals,  court ordered school integration and a mega-expensive architectural “do” known as “The Big Dig”.

Garry, Lester, and Harvey. Someone is really tall!

Those of a certain age will remember some of these faces as young reporters and photographers who spent the best years of their lives covering stories that are now archive material.

You may not know some of the faces.  Many are behind the cameras that bring you haunting images of the news that never stops. They are reporters who never get their due respect. They’re part of the reason that Boston News coverage is highly respected around the world.

Many of us were bright-eyed idealists when we began our Boston careers. The city and New England region are journalistic gold mines and have been well paved over the years by those seeking journalistic treasure.

You’re looking at many ink-stained wretches who’ve been recognized for their diligent work.  Pulitzer, Emmy and other prestigious awards dot the homes of many of these folks who have devoted their lives to finding the truth, a job that is harder than ever in today’s political climate.

Our stories get bigger with each passing year.  We remember the facts but, in many cases,  prefer to “print the legend”.  We tend to remember our gaffes, the “egg in our faces” stories that go with any lengthy career. We smile at the recollection of our youthful energy and pursuit of stories that would top the likes of Watergate.

Garry and Fred Ward sharing stories

Amid the laughter of shared adventures, we remember those colleagues we’ve lost in the past year. Their images linger in our collective and personal sense memories.

Most of all, we agree, bad times aside,  we’ve been lucky to have spent years pursuing one of the best jobs on the face of the earth.


NOTE: Marilyn took pictures. Not enough and not as good as they should be — but she says she had the wrong camera. And it was hard to get people to stay put long enough to get a good shot. Also, there were so many cameras everywhere (what a surprise! with all those camera people and there were a lot of cameras!), she figured there would plenty of pictures getting taken, even if she personally didn’t take them.

THE PRESS DOESN’T MAKE UP STORIES

WHAT IS TRUTH? DOES IT MATTER?

I don’t have a lot of friends in the Republican camp, but there remain a few. It didn’t used to be such a gigantic divide, but it has loomed hugely since the last election.

The other night I heard from an old friend who lives down in the middle of Georgia. Not Atlanta. The less expensive part where the non-city folk live. She is a warm, sweet, kindly woman, but times they are a’changing.

I don’t know what I said — probably nothing I really thought about — and she said “But we don’t know what the truth is. The media just lies all the time.”

Pause. Longer pause.

“Garry spent his whole life in news and many of our best friends were or are in the news business. Sally, they DO NOT MAKE UP THEIR NEWS STORIES. They never did and they don’t do it now. They spend their lives searching for the facts. For proof. For truth. They do not lie.”

An even longer pause. “But what difference does it make anyway?”

If she cannot understand that there is an uncrossable gap between truth and lies, then what is there to discuss? Perhaps that is the bottom line of our current issues with truth, that so many people on both sides of the political lines don’t care about truth and don’t think truth matters.

If the truth doesn’t matter, then I am not sure what does matter. For me, the truth always matters and I can’t even imagine a time when that would no longer apply.

RACHEL MADDOW AND CABLE NEWS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I never used to watch 24 hour cable news. But after Trump’s election, I started watching The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC at 9 PM weeknights. I love this show because it has a different format and purpose than most other cable news shows.

Rachel Maddow talks directly to you for much of the show. She rarely has more than one guest at a time and there aren’t that many guests throughout her hour. This in itself sets her apart from the other cable news hosts. She sees her job as explaining and digesting key news items of the day for her viewers. She tells her chosen stories of the day with lots of background and perspective, both historical and political. Some hours are totally dedicated to unraveling and illuminating the complexities of just one story. She starts at the beginning and brings you up to date with the complete story, boring details and all.

Sometimes you don’t quite know where Rachel is going on a story and then suddenly, what she’s saying clicks with something in the news today and the light bulb goes off in your head. Rachel will then explain the significance of today’s facts and evaluate the importance of the information. She makes sense of the barrage of information we are being inundated with on a daily basis.

You end your hour with Rachel feeling that you actually have a handle on what’s going on, at least regarding whatever stories she has covered. I find that I often can help friends understand some issue by imparting some of the wisdom I have absorbed from The Rachel Maddow Show. Friends are grateful for their new-found understanding and look at us like we are founts of wisdom. It’s not us. It’s Rachel.

Lately I’ve started watching other shows on MSNBC, my chosen cable channel. I don’t find them as satisfying as Rachel Maddow. But they do serve a more general purpose. They just report on whatever is happening or is in the news at the moment. They often use interviews with multiple people in those little boxes on-screen. The experts and/or pundits explain different versions of the story and offer different opinions about it. Often there is shouting involved.

Other MSNBC show

There’s nothing wrong with that. Very little in this world is simple or clear-cut. There is a place for the two-sided, “he said/she said” news presentation. Most of the print news I read is presented this way too.

For me, there’s something about how Rachel Maddow presents the news which I find very clarifying. After her shows, I feel like I have a better grasp of the material she covered. I don’t always feel that way when I read or watch other sources.

I find so much in the media to be confusing and uncertain, as well as unbelievable. I’m grateful for every bit of clarity and comprehension I can get. I thank Rachel Maddow for giving me an hour a day of sanity in the middle of the information storm in which we live today.

FACTS, FAKE NEWS AND FACEBOOK – BY TOM CURLEY

As the drip, drip, drip of the Russia investigation is turning into a torrential downpour, the news cycle has been diverted to another story.

It appears the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama is a PEDOPHILE! A guy who had, or tried to have sex with CHILDREN!!

The facts are damning. The case against him is solid. So solid, in fact, most Republicans in Congress have come out against him and said he should drop out of the race. So, who isn’t denouncing him? Well, SCROTUS of course. What a surprise. Plus a whole bunch of Alabama Republican voters. The excuses some of them have come up with are mind-boggling.

How about: “Mary was under age. Joseph was much older, so Roy Moore is just being biblical.” Yes, that is real. I did not make it up. They also said “He might be a child-molester, but at least he’s not a Democrat.” That’s real, too.

My first thought at this was, is there no line that can’t be crossed with these people? Is there nothing this guy could do that would make them say “Enough. I’m out!”  Kill a puppy? Torture a kitten? Eat a baby?

But then I realized that the most probable reason they think the way they do is because they don’t believe the news reports. It’s all “fake news.” We live in a bizarre world where if people read news they don’t like, they refuse to believe it. Why?

Well, I think it’s mostly because of Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Most people get their news these days from social media. Not newspapers, not cable news, not network news, not local news. Just Facebook.

And where does the news on Facebook come from? Mostly from people on Facebook. All those folks sharing and sending stories they see on Facebook to their friends. Email is also a popular way to propagate “the new News”. I think the reason that this new “News” delivery system has been so successful is because you get the stories from your friends.

People you know.

There is only one small problem here. YOUR FRIENDS DIDN’T WRITE THE STORIES!

They just pass them along. 99.9% of them don’t check to see if they are actually true. It only takes about 30 seconds to go to snopes.com to see if a story is true, but almost nobody ever does it.

Unless your friend is an actual reporter you should take anything you read online with a grain of salt. Some with a grain of salt the size of a grapefruit.

That’s a lot of salt!


Here’s a sad fact. Almost all the stuff you see online is not true.


There is no pill, cream or exercise that will make your penis larger. There is no program from Bill Gates, Disney, or any other company that is donating five dollars to a cancer charity every time you forward an email.

You are not going to lose 50 pounds in two days using “This belly busting miracle food!” Nor is there a Nigerian Prince who is going to send you 25 million dollars. Did I mention there is nothing that’s going to make your penis larger?

Your friends mean well, but they’re your friends. They are not journalists.

The Russians managed to send fake stories to over 120 million Americans using Facebook. Mostly because people shared and tweeted those fake stories. Facebook is like the 9-year-old friend who knew everything about everything you had when you were nine. You believed every word he said. And he was always full of shit.

Babies come from Amazon.com

Try this as a general rule on whether or not the story might be true. If you read it on social media, check out where the story actually came from, not who sent it to you. 

News is news. It’s supposed to be factual reporting on what is going on in the world. It’s not supposed to be what you would like to be going on in the world.

P.S.: If you pass this blog along to at least ten people, absolutely nothing good or bad will happen to you, but it sounds like a good idea to me.

DANCING BETWEEN THE RAIN DROPS

BETWEEN THE RAINDROPS — SURVIVAL DANCING


When Garry said it, it meant he was on the air live, had absolutely no material written and no one had told him anything … and he had to keep talking — intelligently — for as long as the station kept the mike open and cameras rolling. I once watched him dance through the raindrops for almost an hour on a runway at Logan Airport while waiting for one or another President to arrive. This kind of thing happened to him at least once a week and on a busy day, could happen several times in various locations. He was better than most people at doing the dance. They don’t give Emmy’s for it, but they should.

For me, it meant writing about something — intelligently — about which I knew essentially nothing, but I had five days to turn out 500 pages to meet a deadline. I got hired for a lot of jobs like that because I was really fast. I could write about pretty much anything if someone could give me an overview of what the product was supposed to do, for whom it was supposed to do it … and someone else would produce screen dumps for me because 500 pages, including book formatting and readying for press, is a lot of work even if you work very fast. I got paid well for the work and I deserved it. In the tech doc gig, they don’t give prizes … but earning a living is a prize. It’s not glamorous, but it has its moments.

I remember riding down the elevator at Channel 7 with Garry, on our way home. The anchor came on. He’d had a difficult show because they’d given him the wrong script. He had to wing a couple of stories. In other words, no script. Nothing to read. You’d never have known what was going on unless you were in the studio and realized he had no script. He never lost a beat and when the commercial came on, they gave him a script and an apology. He looked at Garry and said “Let no one say that I cannot dance between the raindrops!”

From teaching kids who have no interest in the course you are supposed to be presenting, to giving a speech when the audience isn’t buying it, to standing in the middle of a major catastrophe while trying to explain to the watching world — when you’re working without a script or a producer and all you have to go on is your experience. When the rain is pouring down, that’s when you find your tap shoes.

We all learned to dance between the raindrops. Remarkably, our bosses never recognized how good we are. Never noticed or said thank you because we’d done a lot more than they ever paid us to do. We got no awards or raises for being able to perform the impossible. The best we got was from our peers. “Good job,” they said and that meant something. Sometimes, it meant everything.

We are amazing, aren’t we? Let’s clap for ourselves. Let’s tell each other how good we are. Because damn it, we deserve it.

GOD MAY WORK IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS OR MAYBE NOT – BY TOM CURLEY

I’ve been watching the coverage of Hurricane Harvey and the unbelievable flooding it is causing. I can’t help but think that God really, REALLY hates Texas. I’m 66 years old and I’ve never seen a hurricane hit land, turn into a tropical storm, go back to sea, hit land again, go back to sea again, and hit land a third time.

The statistics are hard to wrap your head around. As I am writing this, the storm is still going strong and will be for maybe two or three more days. To date, this storm has dropped over 20 TRILLION GALLONS OF WATER ON TEXAS AND LOUISIANA!

Stop now and try to wrap your head around that number.  And it isn’t over yet. There will be more. Estimates are for over 25 TRILLION gallons when this is all over. The weather channel has had to add two more colors to their rain fall charts to adjust to these levels of rain fall.

We need more purple!

The endless scenes of people being rescued reminds me of an old, old joke. There is a great flood and a man who is a devout Christian is trapped on the roof of his house.  The local police come by in a canoe and shout out to him to jump off the roof onto the canoe.

“Jump in the canoe!”

He replies: “No, I am a man of God, and my God will protect me!” The police argue with him for a while but he will not relent. Eventually they give up and move on. They have other people to save.

A few hours later, the water is up to his thighs when the State Police come by in another canoe and they tell him to jump in. Again, he states, “No, I am a man of God, and my God will protect me!” After arguing with him for a while they give up and move on.

Another hour goes by and now the water is up to his waist. A Coast Guard Helicopter arrives over his house and a bullhorn shouts out, “We are lowering a basket. Climb in and you will be saved.

Again, he replies, “No, I am a man of God, and my God will protect me!” So, the helicopter leaves because they have other people to save.

Another hour goes by and the water sweeps the man away and he dies. Suddenly he is in heaven at the feet of God. And he is livid. He is furious. He shouts, “GOD! I was a man of faith! I believed in YOU! HOW COULD YOU HAVE FORSAKEN ME???!”

And God looks down at him for a second and says: “Forsaken you?? What the Hell are you talking about?? I sent you TWO CANOES AND A HELICOPTER!!!”

I’m not the first person to notice that what may turn out to be the worst storm in history is hitting an area where a lot of folks there don’t believe in climate change.

I used to do a stand-up comedy routine (shameless plug):

where I talked about working in the news.

My point was that the news was always the same. Every week, somewhere in the world, there was an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or flood. And no matter where it happened, we would send a news crew to gather a poor family who had just lost all their worldly belongings, set them up in front of their recently destroyed mobile home and ask them THREE STUPID QUESTIONS.

The first was “How do you feel?”

The answer was never the one you would think …

“How do I feel? I just lost all my worldly belongings. How the hell do you think I feel? How do I feel? I feel great!!! I haven’t had this much fun since my last hemorrhoid operation!

The second was “Will you re-build?”

To this question the answer was always, “Oh yes, this is the third time in ten years we’ve been flooded out. We will rebuild.”

And the reporter would say “But why? You’ve been flooded out three times in ten years?”

And they would say “But this is Paradise! This is God’s country!”

And I would reply, “Don’t you think God is sending you a message??? GET THE FUCK OFF MY PROPERTY!! I’VE FLOODED YOU OUT THREE TIMES IN THE LAST TEN YEARS FOR CHRIST’S SAKE! CAN’T YOU IDIOTS TAKE A FRIGGING HINT???”

I’m telling these jokes because it helps me deal with the horror of what’s going on right now.

What’s happening in Texas now is horrific. Millions of people’s lives are being thrown into unimaginable chaos and despair. Global warming, global climate change is real. The NOAA and the weather channel label these storms as storms of the century, the floods are 100-year floods, 500-year floods. Harvey is being called a 1000-year flood. But it’s not. Hurricane Sandy was a Super Storm that was a 500-year event. And that was FIVE YEARS AGO!

Hurricane Harvey’s flooding is not a 1000-year event. It’s next year’s event. Maybe next month’s. The hurricane season isn’t over yet.


AND NOW — It’s a week later. Irma, the most powerful hurricane to ever be born in the Atlantic, is hustling towards Cuba … and probably, Florida … with 185 mph winds. After that … well … who knows, right? It looks like whatever parts of the U.S. aren’t underwater are on fire. 


Do you think that maybe God is, in fact, sending us a message?

PS: In case you’re curious, what was the Third Stupid Question?

“What did the tornado sound like?” And you all know the answer.“ It sounded just like a freight train going right through our living room.”

That’s a whole other blog.