MY NEWS OBSESSION – ELLIN CURLEY

I have a very nice life. By most objective standards, I have nothing to complain about. Then why do I walk around with a knot in my stomach and a sense of dread in my heart? The answer is – I read the news. Every day. Somewhat obsessively.

The question is – Why? Why do I subject myself to ongoing angst when I could be living a minimally stressful retirement? The daily workings of the government usually have no effect on my existence. Even a major international crisis rarely intrudes on my day-to-day life. The policies of HUD rarely, if ever interfere with my peaceful existence in the ruralish suburbs of Connecticut.

Dogs playing in my peaceful backyard in the woods

So why can’t I stay away from the major source of anxiety in my life? And why do I feel anxiety about things that will probably have little or no effect on me or my family? Other than masochistic tendencies, I’m not sure about the answer.

I do know that I came from generations of passionately involved women who actively protested the injustices of their day. My grandmother protested against the czar in Russia and my mother marched in favor of labor unions in America. They brought me up to feel connected to the world around me. They made sure I empathized with those less fortunate than me. They made sure I chaffed at injustice and inequality. They made me incapable of turning away from the deprivation and suffering of others.

Early 1900’s protests against the czar in Russia

My mother and grandmother were both activists. They put their money where their mouths were. I’m not like that. I’m an introverted coward. I’m slightly claustrophobic about crowds. I don’t do rallies or marches or protests. But I sit at home and cheer them on and worry. Maybe staying informed is my penitence for not being out on the barricades.

Protests in favor of Unions in the 1930’s and 1940’s

In the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, my grandmother chided me for not being a part of the protests that were taking place at Columbia University, where I was at college. The whole anti-Vietnam war movement started with Mark Rudd and the Columbia SDS chapter.

Their protests made the news. Photos of police on horseback clubbing students at my school were everywhere. The movement that was created there shaped the world for the next few years until the war was finally ended. It also shaped the whole Baby Boomer generation.

1967-1971 protests at Columbia University in NYC

My grandmother said that if the young generation didn’t make a revolution to change things for the better, then who would? I could have easily been a part of my generation’s ‘revolution’. But I wasn’t. It was a good one and I missed out.

My form of political involvement

So today, I read. I can’t stop, even when what I read depresses and scares me. On some level, I believe that being informed is a way of being involved. I also talk to family and friends and try to get them involved with the issues that interest me.

On Facebook, I take comfort in knowing there are so many others out there who also care about what I care about. So, I post and share articles that I think my online ‘friends’ should know about. Some of these people are honest to God activists. At least I can encourage and support them. It wouldn’t satisfy my grandmother, but it’s the best I can do.

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!

TWILIGHT OF THE POPULIST IDOLS by TRANSMUTATION – A REBLOG

It is both comforting and terrifying that the U.S. is not alone in its mad veer to the right and our sudden — or so it seems — readiness to accept something so far outside our democratic traditions.


TWILIGHT OF THE POPULIST IDOLS

Posted on A malicious ghost is creeping again over the streets of Europe, it is the spirit of simplified truths and self-proclaimed saviors of occident as a whole. The nationalist ideologies of the 19th and 20th century are on the verge of a disgusting revival in many countries.

Those responsible politicians – harmlessly named as populists – have initiated a postmodern witch-hunt, the victims of this unproclaimed war today comprise refugees, foreigners or people of different belief and way to live. The globalization of this retrogressive zeitgeist has opened new battlefields where peace should be.

These ruthless ideologists want to put the clock back, what implies the risk of warming up old already forgotten conflicts. Like unscrupulous pupils in magic, the radical nationalists have lighted blazing fires and stakes everywhere in Europe and elsewhere which need to be urgently extinguished again.


A reblog. Please, see the original at:

https://transmutation.me/2018/06/08/twilight-of-the-populist-idols/

FOWC – WRITTEN UP IN THE PICAYUNE – Marilyn Armstrong

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

SIX THOUSAND SPAM MESSAGES IN AN HOUR – Marilyn Armstrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I won’t. I promise.

AMERICAN ROYAL WATCHERS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve always loved following the British royal family. Growing up, I read about the young Prince Charles and his siblings, who were my generation.

When Diana Spencer came onto the scene, my interest spiked way up. I avidly followed her romance with Prince Charles, their wedding, their complex and eventually toxic marriage and their divorce.

In fact, I got up at 5 AM with my one year old son and watched Diana and Charles’ wedding live in 1981. I watched it while talking on the phone with my close English friend, in London. I still remember the excitement of that morning! (NOTE: Most Brits loved Diana’s poofy wedding dress and most Americans hated it, me included).

What intrigued me most about Diana, was how she modernized the royal family, single-handedly. This was particularly true in her role as mother to two young princes. She broke with the stuffy, old-fashioned tradition of remote and stiff royal parenting. She insisted on being a modern, hands on parent. This resonated with generations of younger Americans and Brits. She instantly became a royal to whom it was easier to relate. And the whole world fell in love with her.

She also brought the royal family into the modern era of fashion. Her contemporary, chic and sometimes casual style endeared her to modern women everywhere. She wore some risqué outfits as well as blue jeans and tee shirts. No one could accuse Diana of being frumpy or stodgy, like the Queen. Diana became a worldwide fashion icon – something the royal family had never dreamed of in the past.

Kate Middleton continued Diana’s tradition of modernization when she entered Prince William’s life during college. Not only was she a commoner, but she lived openly with William before they were married. She was also photographed (and still is) going to the supermarket and walking her dog and doing other everyday chores.

Once she had children, Kate took them everywhere with her. She also took care of them herself, with the help of William, her parents and one nanny. She functioned much like other wealthy working mothers. She gives lots of interviews about her children and her experiences with child rearing. Her devotion to her kids endears her to pretty much everyone.

Her great style and fashion sense also add to her cache. She is always well dressed and chic, even when she is dressed down. And she is incredibly glamorous when she needs to be. I love her clothes and admit to scrolling through vast numbers of fashion photos of Kate online.

Now the modernization of the British monarchy is taking another big step forward with Meghan Markle’s marriage to Prince Harry. Meghan is not only a commoner. She is also an American, divorced, a working actress/successful career woman, and biracial! These are all firsts for the monarchy.

Meghan’s acting career has prepared her for her future life in the limelight. She is already comfortable with the press, she is relaxed about being photographed and interviewed and she is confident about being in the public eye. So she is ahead of the game right out of the gate. She’ll probably be as much of a royal fashion plate as Kate is, but she will probably be more of a media presence than Kate has been.

Meghan is also naturally informal and open, traits the press love as well as the public. She reportedly likes to hug people, something that royal protocol strictly prohibits! She was also inclined to give autographs, which is also a royal no-no. So Meghan will be taking the monarchy down an increasingly accessible route.

I know it’s not going to happen, but I wish that Charles would abdicate in favor of William when the time comes. It would be nice to jump right into the more modern branch of the royal family. Instead we will have to live through another twenty years of Charles and Camilla – a throwback to the stuffy old days of yore.

But we’ll still get to royal watch William and Harry and their 21st century marriages and families. Even if William is not actually King, he can still be king of our hearts!

STUPID ON THE NEWS – Marilyn Armstrong

The first day, a family at a Dutch safari park gets out of their car to get a better look at a bunch of cheetahs. The cheetahs act a bit threatening. In fact, one of them gets into the car, sits next to the driver, and sniffs around. Fortunately, the driver sat there quietly. No screaming, sudden movements. Nothing that told the cheetah he was “prey.”

After that, the rest of the family got back in the car. The family had a conference. Lord knows what they talked about, but next thing you know, they get back OUT of the car — carrying the baby — I’m assuming to get a selfie with the big cats.

This time, the cats said “Hmm. Lunch? Dinner?” and they started to circle. By now, Garry and I are rooting for the cats. This family is too stupid to be allowed to live. They are far better off feeding some of our rarest large cats.

Garry is still muttering about them getting back OUT of the car the second time. How stupid were these people? Even the news people looking at the video were baffled. This was really, exceptionally, wildly stupid.

A day late and today, it’s Mother’s Day. Lots of films of deadly car accidents. Apparently there’s a lot of drinking on Mother’s Day. “Is Mother’s Day a drinking day?” asks Garry.

“Every day is drinking day, ” I comment. Hard to argue the point there.

Up comes video of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano which is pouring lava, ash, and poisonous gas all over the place. Half the island has been evacuated … but they are still need to ask rental areas to please close down because there is a shortage of water.

That’s not one stupid person. That’s a lot of stupid people.

They are still renting vacation spaces? On Kilauea? Where lava is rolling down the street and there is a very good chance that there will be  massive steam explosion. That is the exact type of explosion that took out the island of Krakatoa. In case you didn’t know that.

So they are interviewing someone from the island and she says “I am beginning to worry that maybe I’m not safe.”

You are on an island on which a large, multi-faceted volcano is actively pouring out lava, poisonous gas, and possibly going to explode. Just like Krakatoa. Boom! Giant rocks spewing into the sky.

And she wants to know if she is safe.

I am here to tell you a basic, but critical fact: living on an island that is on top of an active volcano is not safe EVEN if there is currently no lava in the streets and no one is predicting poisonous gases or an explosion that might eliminate the island entirely. I understand that it is a lovely part of the world, but it’s an active volcano. Of course you aren’t safe.

Safe is a hilltop in my neighborhood. The weather may be dicey, but the ground isn’t going to move. Moreover, there is minimal likelihood of mudslides, tornadoes, full throttle hurricanes (not impossible, but unlikely) —  and no volcano has exploded in several million years.

That’s about as safe as it gets.

Allow me to reiterate:

1 – Do NOT get out of your car in the safari park.
2 – If you are lucky enough to survive doing it once, don’t do again.
3 – Don’t build your dream house on top of an active volcano or earthquake fault.
4 – Avoid building on a flood plain or in places frequently buried by mudslides. Or turned to ash by massive wildfires.

The world throws all kinds of stuff at us anyway, no matter how hard you try to be safe. Personally, I think you should NOT help it along.