NEWS AS ENTERTAINMENT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Something tragic happened to America’s news media in the early 1980’s. Before then, the news divisions of the major television networks were not expected to make money. They were considered to be a public service designed to give people the information they needed to be well-informed voters and intelligent citizens. At some point in the 1980’s, the news was suddenly expected to make a profit, like the other divisions.

News budgets got cut, investigative journalism, which takes time and personnel, went out the window. The emphasis shifted to what “sells” the news and gets good ratings.

The most trusted man in America during his career

The phrase “infotainment” got coined and the percentage of accurately informed citizens plummeted. The internet became a big source of news for many people, but the standard remained – give people what they think they want, not what they should know to make well-reasoned civic decisions.

Our news reporting tends to be ethnocentric. All forms of American news media report every word the president utters and every tweet he writes. Yet there is very little coverage, if any, of things going on in other countries which can often affect world politics and economics. This is what sells and doesn’t sell in U.S news.

Our news media also tend to focus on violence and sensationalism here at home, again, because this is what sells. Violent crimes in the U.S. are covered ad infinite – murders, assaults, rapes, police shootings, mass shootings, etc. Many of these are valid news stories, but so are the massacres, crimes against women and government sanctioned murders that happen daily elsewhere in the world and get little coverage.

Sports, celebrity and local government scandals are also wildly popular and omnipresent news stories. But I wish they were covered less and more was reported about the massive corruption in our system that allows Big Pharma or Big Food, insurance or oil lobbies, for example, to determine what drugs, food, insurance, oil, etc. we get and at what prices. These stories get some play but not with the frequency, enthusiasm and decibel level of the latest psychopathic murderer or morally questionable politician or media star.

No one has the time today to read or watch everything out there purporting to be news and decide for ourselves what we need to know to understand what is going on in our country and in the world. I wish we could go back to the days when we trusted an impartial media to sift through the world news and honestly decide for us what was important to know.

Wasting away in MAGA-ritaville – REBLOG – THE SHINBONE STAR

I can’t write about these last two horrors. I’m literally too angry and upset … and on some level, scared. If this election goes wrong, our geese (or is that gooses?) are cooked.

THE SHINBONE STAR

MAGA-ritaville, infested with MAGATs.

Sunday, first day of a new week still dripping with horror from the one that went before.

We’re wasting away in MAGA-ritaville, people, a place where Americans of conscience must divide their attention between a plot to assassinate high-profile foes of President Donald Trump by one of his acolytes, and the horror of a Pittsburgh synagogue shooting where a right-wing extremist who called Jews the “children of Satan” murdered 11 of them.

And the president? No acknowledgement that his hate-filled agenda has anything to do with either case, even though one suspect’s vehicle was a rolling shrine to MAGA ideals, while the other’s hatred for a Jewish group that provided assistance to immigrants is a page from the course syllabus for Trumpism 101.

Facebook — swarming with news of both horrors — says I must be angry or sad, with no possibility of being both. And…

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PIZZA WITH PINEAPPLE AND CRISIS ACTORS – Marilyn Armstrong

WEEKLY Word Prompt: Question


The answer to most serious questions is another question. Serious things don’t have simple answers. For example, “Does this pizza require a longer time to cook or will it dry up?” There are no quick answers to any questions pertaining to pizza.

Pineapple pizza
Credit: Getty

Let’s discuss pineapple. Whose idea was it to put fruit on a pizza and why does anyone actually order it? I can understand anchovies, even though no one can force me to eat one. Salty is okay on pizza, but FRUIT? Seriously?

And then, there are politics. How can you look at yourself in the mirror when you are caging children … for any reason? How can you face a kid who survived a mass school shooting, tell him or her that “it didn’t happen” and “he/she is a ‘crisis actor'”?

What’s a crisis actor?  How do you recruit them? Do you advertise in a special “Help Wanted” section of some undercover actor’s journal?



HELP WANTED – CRISIS ACTORS FOR FAKE SLAUGHTER

Are you the kind of actor who plays dead really well? Can you stay very still while buckets of blood pour out of you? If you are under 18, white, and ready to play dead, we want you. Resume required. Non-union.



You’d need a second advertisement, too. For families. Grieving parents, friends, and teachers.



HELP WANTED – GRIEVING FAMILY FOR MURDERED KIDS

Can you cry on cue? If you can convey deep sorry and heartbreak on camera, we need you to play the devastated parents of crisis actors for mock, mass school shooting. Standard rates apply. Send headshots, color only. Ability to cry with real tears mandatory. Non-union.



So many questions, so little time!

A SURREAL DAY – Garry Armstrong

“This has to be one of the most surreal days in a surreal administration,”   CNN Anchor Jake Tapper offered this assessment, opening the late afternoon segment of his newscast.

Tapper was referring to rapper Kanye West’s bro-mance visit to the Oval Office today. Rambling and profane, West’s rant apparently left Commander-In-Chief 45 speechless,  a formidable accomplishment in itself.  The West-Trump bro hug was the perfect photo-op in a scenario that ventured where even Mel Brooks would not go.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 11: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump hugs rapper Kanye West during a meeting in the Oval office of the White House on October 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Oliver Contreras – Pool/Getty Images)

West, presumably speaking for some segment of the Nation’s African-American populace, had nothing but praise and atta-boys for the President who sat with a broad smirk on his face as West delivered rambling compliments.  On the surface,  it seemed like a  boost for a racially divisive administration with the midterm elections less than two weeks away. Kanye West, to be kind, is not generally held in high regard by people of color.   Music?  Yes.   Politics and all things concerning civil rights, NO.  It’s a given that Kanye West’s high-profile salute of Commander 45 will have “legs” and be on a continuous loop for GOP spinmeisters. It’ll be fodder for the late-night comics, but who’ll have the last laugh?

I wouldn’t be surprised to see clips of Kanye West, in his MAGA baseball cap, pop up frequently as GOP candidates shift into high gear for votes with the days dwindling down to a precious few.

It’s shrewd politics on a day when most of our attention is focused on Hurricane Michael’s devastating wrath.  Once the major newscasts wrap their hurricane coverage,  the Kanye West story will get lots of play.  It’s win-win for the administration trying to spin away from the residual anger and bitterness that surrounds Brett Kavanagh’s Supreme Court nomination.

All the Kanye jokes will play well in the Trump hinterlands where minorities are regarded as fools or tools whose collective cord isn’t long enough to reach the socket.

Here’s hoping the political reporters and commentators are shrewd enough to dissect the controversial rapper’s White House rapport for what it is.  A one-way love affair with between two mentally defective guys who will do anything for attention — with no real affection from the West Wing where they are probably snickering over their cheeseburgers and smoothies.

Yes, it’s a surreal day but it’s also a sad day.  Time for some encore plays of “Send In The Clowns”.

SO I LOOKED DEATH IN THE EYE AND SAID “SCREW IT” – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Routine


Since November 2016, I’ve developed something of a routine. I open my email and usually spot about 150 new ones added to the older ones I’m planning to get to any day now (right, sure). Mixed in with the advertisements for things I might sometimes actually buy, are dozens of “news flashes” along with politicians begging for money.

First, I delete all the advertisements unless one of them has something I need. Then, I delete all the advertisements for companies I’ve never heard of, unsubscribing and “spamming” them as I go. Sometimes, I stop and actually read an article. Today I read one about the final days (we assume they are final or nearly final because he is 95) of Stan Lee and what a mess his life became in recent years.

This proved to me that no amount of money and fame can perfect your time on earth. It’s his money and fame that’s causing most of the problems — the issues of the will and who took what and when. It was a long interview which would have been easier, but Stan Lee is deaf and won’t wear hearing aids. I can really relate to that.

He’s obviously just a wee bit lost from reality, but I suspect that’s the way he wants it. He does not want to reconnect. There’s nothing for him anymore. When his wife of 70-years passed, that was the end for Stan, if not physically, then psychically.

It got me to thinking about age. Stan Lee is 19 years older than Garry and 24 years older than me. He has it all or at least everything that “the world” can give you — and maybe it made him happy. Before. Now though, it’s just a reason for everyone to fight with everyone else. When large amounts of money are involved, it can get ugly.

When we go, the only things that will be left are paintings, pottery, antique dolls and a ton of clothing that for all I know will have come back into style. And of course, books, DVDs and CDs. There won’t be a dime left for anyone to fight over. The house is more likely to be a burden than a boon, but who knows? The world keeps changing. Maybe 2-1/2 acres in Uxbridge will be worth something by then. You could certainly put a fair number of condos on the property and there’s a lot of water down there for wells.

I realized I really only have one important job left in this world which is making our lives — Garry’s and mine — as good as possible. It isn’t to repair a badly broken world or shine the light of reason on a society gone mad.

Between one thing and another, I’ve had an incredibly hard-luck run of health issues. I’m not going to bother to list them, but it’s remarkable I’m alive … and even more remarkable that, to the best of my knowledge, nothing is trying to kill me at the moment.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

This past couple of years, except for pain and discomfort which sort of comes as part of other issues, I’ve managed to not have to be in the hospital. I haven’t had a near-death experience, gotten pneumonia or any other contagious infection. For me, this is nothing short of remarkable.

Instead, I got trumped. We all got trumped and amazingly, some people seem to think that’s a good thing. Those people make me wonder if we are all living on the same planet. Maybe we aren’t. Have we considered the possibility that there is more than one reality and we live in one and they live in the other?

Maybe where they live, gravity pulls things up and death and destruction is what we are striving for.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

All of this has given me a migraine I can’t get rid of — and the distinct feeling that I should DO something about it. Somehow, crotchety old me has got to fix things. Not alone. I don’t think I’m a force a nature to redress the balance of the world but surely, along with a group of intelligent, right-minded people, we can make things better?

That’s not what’s happening, though. After this past week of watching America puke all over herself, I’ve begun to seriously consider the possibility I’ve got this situation entirely wrong.

I’m turning 72 this year and while I realize as ages go, this is not as old as people get, it’s nothing short of amazing for me. The nightmare of politics is ruining my world. Instead of enjoying being retired, I have nightmares about Republicans. Honest-to-God nightmares populated by people wearing MAGA hats.

It occurred to me I can’t keep going like this. I’m ruining the only thing we have going for us: freedom. Every time the news comes on, I froth at the mouth.

Why? Am I so attached to “the American ideal” — which has always been far from ideal — that I have to battle my way into my coffin? Is all this so that my son and granddaughter, who don’t seem to care all that much about the stuff going on merely shrug and accept what is — while I can’t? If the next generation or two isn’t the issue, what is the issue?

Why aren’t they in an uproar, screaming for a better America, a rational world? Is it possible that this is more important to me than to those who will live long past me? And they are not nearly as troubled by what they see as I am? Mind you I’m not trashing the whole generation. Some people are deeply troubled and trying to do something and I applaud them … but too many people don’t seem to care.

I decided I need to stop my routine and get into a different groove. I’m not giving up watching the news or caring about what happens. I couldn’t if I wanted to. It’s everywhere. Yet I did realize in another 20 years, I’ll be gone — or close enough. This isn’t my battle anymore. I feel like everything I believed my generation got right is being trashed.

It’s horrible. Shameful. Appalling. Humiliating.

And I can’t fix it. If the people who are going to be around in 20 or 30 years aren’t willing to put up a fight, then what’s the point? If they think this is okay, maybe it is. For them. Maybe the world I thought we needed isn’t what they care about. Maybe it’s just what I care about.

Photo Garry Armstrong

So I will not be frothing anymore. I’m sure I’ll occasionally work up a good rant when something particularly toxic is going on, but otherwise? I’ll vote like I’ve always voted: Democrat and Liberal. I will donate tiny bits of what we humorously call money to a cause, but mostly, I’m going to try really hard to take care of me and mine. I’m going to do my best to make Garry happy, to make me happy, to love my dogs and care for my home and remember to clip back the roses every spring.

The prettiest pink shrub

The flowers in the garden bring me joy. Reading a good book makes me happy. Writing something good gives me satisfaction. Garry’s hearing progress is making me feel better about his life as well as mine. So instead of trying to fix the world, I think I’m going to try to enjoy it.

With all the horrors surrounding me, I’m going to do the absolute best I can to enjoy our lives while we have lives to enjoy. I may not entirely succeed, but at least, I’m going to try.

REAL REPORTERS – Garry Armstrong

Word Prompt: Credibility

It’s never been a one-man show.

I logged more than 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!

PLUTOCRACY AND OLIGARCHY – WHICH ONE ARE WE? – Marilyn Armstrong

We live in a have a country full of shallow, if not outrightly stupid people.

They watch “the news” and believe it’s all lies because an orange-skinned bloke says so. As a woman whose husband was a television news reporter for more than 40 years, I’d like to point out that not ONCE in his entire career did my husband haul his tired ass out of bed so he could get up to fabricate lies for the public.

He made mistakes now and then — but not very often — and sometimes made the wrong choice about what story to cover, but never at any point in his long career did he intentionally lie to the public. Moreover, none of his colleagues lied to the public either.


Note that I do not include Fox in this discussion. Whatever it is they are doing at Fox, the news is not it.


The news has always been as truthful as the people who do the job can make it. Are there errors? Of course. Reporters are human beings and we are imperfect, but none of the errors was intentional. It wasn’t lying. Errors are not lies.

What Trump does? THAT is lying.

Garry was never told to tell lies. He was occasionally asked to omit something, but he didn’t do it even when asked. Garry tells the truth and so did his colleagues.

And the other reporters, photographers, directors, and producers? They told the truth, too.

Fact.

Reporters are not liars. They work their asses off trying to spread the truth to the dunderheads who too foolish to listen.

Fact.

The news is as true as the people who research and write it can possibly make it. Do they make mistakes? Yes, but they correct themselves and apologize. They don’t erase the truth about a president. Only an elected pathological liar could do that.

Fact.

The news IS the truth. If you are don’t believe reality, you are going to live with something worse. We are on a razor-thin edge between what we used to think was freedom versus a plutocracy or oligarchy — if we haven’t already crossed that line. Time will tell us soon enough.


Shallow people are stupid. I don’t mean they have a “low IQ.” I mean they are too limited, lazy, selfish, and foolish to find out the truth. It’s so much easier to believe bullshit, isn’t it? You don’t have to read. You don’t need to research. You don’t need to know anything.

You can roll along, believing whatever the current blowhard in power tells you. That’s how we got where we are and that’s how we will keep rolling down the long grassy slope until we become one of those infamous shithole countries.