You can’t live without news, but no one can live with it either.
I don’t know how currently active reporters manage to cope with the news these days. It used to be a job. A hard job, an active and sometimes even significant job. Now, it’s like being on the front lines in a war zone. A constant nonstop war zone.
I’ve never been so glad that Garry is retired. It’s bad enough as it is, but if he had to go out there and personally deal with the maniacs and morons running our world? I’m sure he’d wind up crazier than they.
Sometimes, I really wish the news was reallyfake. That we wish it away. Throw a spell over it and turn it into toads. Then we would not have to deal with reality and its effect on our lives.
Maybe that’s how the crazies who howl at Trump manage to do it. If the real news is fake, then the yelling, screaming, chanting — it’s like going “nah, nah, nah” when someone is saying something you don’t want to hear. They are making it go away by making a noise and they won’t have to deal with what it will do to them. Or how it will affect their children and grandchildren. If it’s not real, it can’t hurt anyone, right?
Somehow, I suspect all the screams and howls prove they do know it’s real. Like two-year-olds, they think a tantrum will make it vanish.
It didn’t work when they were two and it’s unlikely to work now. But hey, a good shriek probably feels good.
I think I’ll go do some keening and maybe a little high-pitched ululation. Perhaps the dogs will join me. Maybe we should all do it together. Set up a time and place and everyone can scream, screech, yowl, howl, yelp, and bay into the air and the wind will carry it around the world.
I watch way too much cable news. Which is odd because I don’t really like the news. I worked for CBS News for over 40 years. I had to watch the news. I was making the news shows. It was my job.
If I had a choice, I would rather watch the cartoon network But now I watch cable news all the time. I seem to be morbidly fascinated with the steady decline of America and what the ass-hole-in-chief did today.
I have noticed one interesting thing. Well, interesting to me.
Only old people watch cable news.
How do I know this? Simple. The commercials. They’re the same. Fox, MSNBC, CNN and for the most part CBS, NBC, and ABC.
By “all the same.”I mean the same advertisers. They break down into a few categories: drugs, medical products, drugs. Medicare supplement plans, drugs. Life Insurance and annuities, drugs, walk-in bathtubs, stair lifts and, oh yeah, drugs.
Every last one of them is depressing as hell. Most of them, I simply don’t understand.
Let’s start with a drug supplement that is supposed to help your brain think better. Why does it make your brain better? Well, they proudly tell you it’s because of an ingredient found … wait for it… in JELLYFISH!
Because, you know, when I think of something that involves brains and intelligence, the first thing I think of is a jellyfish! Billion-year-old multi-cellular organisms who float in the ocean waiting for food to become entangled in their floaty dangling tentacle-like thingies. Also, they have no brain.
Then I got to thinking about it and maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe jellyfish are the most intelligent, intellectual philosophical thinkers on the planet. You know, like those advanced omnipotent species that show up on Star Trek.
I mean, what else do they have to do all day? They just float around.
JELLYFISH 1: I think, therefore, I am.
JELLYFISH 2: Free will is an illusion.
JELLYFISH 3: Hey! Some food just bumped into my tentacle thingies!
Next, reverse mortgages.
This is where if you own your house you can sell it back to the bank. They pay you a monthly payment until they buy your house back. Then you have no place to live. So, you’re betting you die before you become homeless. And older.
Is that a bet you want to win?
Then there are all the companies that want to buy your life insurance policy. The pitch goes something like this: “We needed more money for our retirement. We found out we could sell our life insurance policy. Now we are set for life.”
UNTIL ONE OF YOU DIES and the survivor has no life insurance to collect and live off of!!! Isn’t that the reason you bought life insurance??
I guess you could room with the guy who just became homeless. Except, oh yeah, he doesn’t have a home.
Then there are the catheter commercials almost always being hawked by a guy who looks like a middle manager for an insurance company.
They all start out with the guy saying, “I don’t like pain when I cath.”
WHAT? Are there people out there who like pain when they cath? And when the hell did “cath” become a verb?? If you don’t know what a catheter is, Google it. I’m not going to explain it.
Having said that, here’s a true story.
Back when I was a college freshman I worked as an orderly and an ER technician for a hospital. One of my jobs was catheterizing patients. I had only done the procedure on old guys who were unconscious or in a coma.
One day the head nurse gave me a cath kit and told me to do it to a 45-year-old wide-awake guy who was being prepped for surgery. I walked in the room and said I had to catheterize him. He asked me what that was. I explained it to him. When I finished there was a really long pause. All he said was, “You gotta be kidding me.”
It was at that point I realized that:
I had never explained the procedure out loud to anyone before. And —
He had a point.
So I went back to the head nurse and said “Not doing this one. You’re on your own.”
Finally, drug commercials.
Lots and lots of drug commercials all of which are incredibly annoying because they take a beloved song from my youth and pervert it into shilling their drug. They all tell YOU to ask your doctor if whatever drug they’re selling is right for you.
Shouldn’t your doctor already know that? If he doesn’t, have you considered getting a new doctor?
Here’s the main take away from all drug commercials.
DON’T TAKE ANY OF THESE DRUGS!!!
For God’s sake, listen to the list of side effects they describe in each of them.
There’s actually a commercial for an anti-depression drug where one of the side effects is suicidal depression!
The drug side effects are worse than the disease you’re trying to treat. Except maybe for the one with rectal itch. I just don’t remember what disease it was treating.
So, to all you young folks out there. If you want to see where your life is going to end up, watch a cable news station for a day.
Me, I think I’m going to go back to watching the cartoon network.
I was in the middle of what I honestly call the Boston busing fiasco. On center stage, it played as a racial divide between Boston’s white and minority communities. It played well in the media – especially national and international media where they didn’t understand the local sentiments. The local news stations did a little better — when they tried.
Boston was sarcastically labeled as “The Athens Of America” in this period.
The key which I discovered by listening to students and parents – white and minority — was lack of quality education. Busing poor, low-income kids -Black and White – didn’t solve the problem of inferior education. Old, outdated textbooks. Antiquated curriculums. Teachers disenchanted by the lack of respect in pay and regard. Oversized classrooms where teaching was a mission impossible.
Time and again, I heard the same complaints from communities that reportedly were “racially divided” by Federally-mandated busing.
Students were transported from substandard schools in one community to substandard schools in another community. Few bothered to mention this. Most said it was a racial divide which was a cheap way to deflect the ball dropped by courts, legislators and local politicians who saw this as a way to build their constituencies by playing the race card instead of dealing with the fundamental issue: the lack of quality education in Boston’s low-income communities.
After I heard the anger over lack of quality education which was repeated over and over by white and Black families, I went with that as the core of my reports.
Truth be told though, I usually led stories with the standard visual images of angry crowds shouting racial epithets, school buses being stoned, and students threatened. Those images were overemphasized and inaccurately interpreted by national and international journalists and commentators.
I often tried to explain things to the network reporters, but they blew me off, labeling me as a local unable to see the big picture. It was exactly the opposite. They didn’t see the picture and they weren’t looking for it, either.
Many local politicians and community leaders – who really knew better — preyed on their constituents for votes instead of trying to calm the firestorm which often turned violent. We in the local media played the violence up, too because it brought in big ratings and that’s what our bosses wanted. If you wanted your job, there was no escaping the error.
Real efforts to explain the education issues were left to minority affairs shows which aired while most people slept.
Although I was proud of my body of work and earned an Emmy for coverage of that era, it was a bittersweet honor. Had I been able to cover it honestly, it would have been a different story.
There’s certainly no excuse – 50 years later – for Presidential hopefuls to use busing as a political tool. Again, they are ignoring the real issue of that volatile period in the name of getting some votes from people who weren’t here and don’t understand what really happened.
A long time ago, when Garry and I still lived in Boston and both of us were working, we used to get both Boston newspapers delivered daily to our townhouse in Roxbury. I mostly scanned them and read Doonesbury, but Garry pretty much read both papers cover to cover, but always from the back to the front because the sports and entertainment were in the back. He was dedicated to the news in a professional way, but he was personally dedicated to sports and entertainment. So he started with the fun stuff and moved frontwards.
I was doing what I did for a living which was writing or editing manuals — or doing both — depending on the size of the project and how each job was defined. I was in “auto-correct” mode and often found myself unconsciously correcting errors in the newspapers. Usually, these were typos, misprints, incorrect tenses, or clumsy writing. I forgave most of it because people who write for the news — any news service be it TV, radio, or press — are under constant deadline pressure. They have to get it right and on time.
So there I was, reading the Boston Herald. Not my favorite newspaper, but it had better comics and a bigger sports section, which made Garry happy. The Boston Globe had better writers. Or, perhaps, they were encouraged to be better writers at the Globe, while the Herald prided itself on being “down to earth.”
There had been an unfortunate event. I think it happened during a police training camp for upcoming recruits. The weather was very hot and the training instructor refused to let anyone stop for a drink of water, even in nearly 100-degree heat.
One of the recruits had a kidney problem, unbeknownst to the drill sergeant and the heat and lack of water caused him to die of kidney failure. It was quite a scandal and it ultimately changed the way recruits are trained.
In the Boston Herald, they wrote: ” … and with the weather so hot, the young man’s kidneys, which were already damaged, became exasperated causing the recruit to die.”
I know it was a tragedy. Truly, it was. And I realized that this was probably an autocorret error. Autocorrect had decided the writer couldn’t possibly mean “exacerbated” and must have meant “exasperated.”
I had a sudden weird mental image of his kidneys throwing up their hands or whatever kidneys throw into the air and saying, “That’s it. I’ve HAD it. I’m outta here.”
The poor young man suffered from exasperated kidneys.
I’m not sure what the moral of the story is except if you are writing for the news, you should probably turn off autocorrect.
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.
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.
Tip with Boston pols
Garry with Tip O’Neill
“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.
Jon Stewart’s rant at the Senate a couple of days ago is still all over the news. This is unusual insofar as he has beaten the “news cycle.” Lots of other things have happened, but he didn’t get forgotten. I think in part, he has not been forgotten because he was and is a particularly eloquent speaker and a very professional handler of news, microphones, and politicians and even after all these years, I miss him. No matter how many times he said “I’m just a comedian,” we all knew that was not true.
He may have started out in comedy, but he ended up as good a newsman as I have seen. Rather better than most.
So, for anyone who might have missed it, here it is again:
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