NEWS ANCHORING: LOOKING INSIDE – Garry Armstrong

The handsome guy who sits at the main newsdesk on your television newscast is more than a guy who just sits and reads. He delivers the script, knows when to pass the baton to a reporter, live or on tape. In the old days, he was the “anchorman” because no one could imagine a woman doing the job. Given the recent discoveries about what a lot of anchors were doing in their “spare” time, there are suddenly a lot of women at the anchor desk.

Make no mistake: they aren’t “anchorwomen.” They are anchors. They pull the news broadcast into a coherent whole and make sure all the pieces show up in the right spot during the broadcast.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is. A very big deal. Most reporters would love to be anchors, but don’t have the talent. I was one of them.

Edward R. Murrow

The title of this piece perhaps should thus be News Anchoring. Doing the job. It may be something of a revelation for those who have no idea what it’s like working inside a newsroom. Maybe if you watched “Newsroom” (Jeff Daniels) you have a bit of an idea … but the real deal is a lot more intense.

Walter Cronkite

Plans go awry. News happens while you’re already in the middle of a broadcast and the crew and anchor need to be ready to ditch all the planned material and cover a live event. As in “it’s happening right now.”

Dianne Sawyer

News anchors were really the first television celebrities and stars, both nationally and locally.  You saw them every day and every evening. They were the voices of truth. They told you what was happening in the world, the nation, your state, and your neighborhood. The promotional blurbs assured you that they were giving you. “the straight truth.”

Chet Huntley and David Brinkley

Depending on your age, you may remember Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Frank Reynolds, Douglas Edwards, and Harry Reasoner, just to name a few of the many famous faces who held down the network anchor desks in TV’s early formative years.

Dan Rather

You probably have clear memories of the folks who anchored your favorite newscasts. They were smooth and believable. For years, Walter Cronkite was regarded as “The most believable person in the United States.” I think maybe the world.  Political leaders, even Presidents wanted Cronkite’s trust.

John Chancellor

As a young newsie, I thought anchoring was top of the hill in “the news biz.” It looked easy. You just sat there and read the news. A piece of cake, I thought.

Leslie Stahl

I didn’t have much TV experience at the time I made that evaluation of news anchoring. I was still a 20-something with a future of rapid advancement from college, to local news, to ABC Radio Network in 1967.

Norah O’Donnell

My first assignments at ABC were strictly low level, grunt stuff, even though my first day on the job was also the first day of the Middle East 6-day war. Talk about being thrown into the pit!

Peter Jennings

I had to receive incoming phone reports from correspondents around the world and transcribe them — verbatim — for our in-house reporters. Step two was producing and editing copy for those reporters. This gave me more of a hands-on look at the work of the “talent” as on-air reporters and anchors were known.

It still looked easy although some of the scripts needed work. That was my job. I absorbed the good and bad of news-writing quickly. Network reporters were under tremendous pressure to collect the information, write their scripts, then dash into the studio for their broadcasts.

Lester Holt

From my “outside” view, it still looked easy. The movie “Broadcast News” shows more of this.

My few network TV jobs didn’t test me. I was the grunt, filling in for the veteran reporters. These jobs were filmed and I made no live appearances.  Taped was a whole different experience from doing the same material live. It still looked easy.

My brief tenure with a small Hartford TV station provided experience with cameras. I wrote half-hour news scripts and co-anchored with my boss — the other guy in the small newsroom.

This was late 1969. We had teleprompters. They seemed easy to use. Just read the script as it appears. Look at the prompter, read and only rarely look down at the script. No one said anything except “Good work, kid.”  Piece of cake, right?

Fast forward to Channel 7 in Boston, my first “major market” television gig. It was 1970 and I was one of a very few minorities (nonwhite) faces on Boston’s TV stations.

For many years, channel 7 was regarded as the “also-ran” station among the “big 3” TV stations network affiliates in Boston. The others were channel 4 (WBZ) and channel 5 (WCVB today,  but back then, it was WHDH — which later became the letters for channel 7). It’s easier to remember the numbers!

Channel 5 was the most prominent local affiliate and had the best-known news personalities working there.  Channel 7, an RKO-General affiliate was mostly known for running old movies in prime time.

Channel 7 wanted to get into the battle for news viewership and gain some critical respect. Talk about opportunity and timing. I came through the door at exactly the right time. A reporter of color who looked okay and spoke well. Almost immediately, I was given good assignments and received a lot of air time. I loved it. Like the Edward G. Robinson movie villain, “Johnny Rocco,” I wanted more.

I wanted to become an anchor.

No problem. Channels 4 and 5 already had morning newscasts. It was the dawning of popularity for morning news shows while Channel 7 had “Sunrise Semester” reruns.

After some huddling, channel 7 decided to join in the morning news fray with “Daybreak.”  They needed two young, strong personalities to counter the established anchors at the other stations. I don’t recall if there was much newsroom politicking for channel 7’s new show. The veteran reporters, as I recall, turned their noses up at the project. The hours were ghastly. Moreover, it seemed unlikely to have a chance against the other well-established morning news shows.

Garry Armstrong

I don’t think there was any celebration when channel 7 announced that “Daybreak” would be co-anchored by two of it’s new “exciting young talents,” Steve Sheppard and Garry Armstrong.  There was some newsroom jabber about “ebony and ivory,” which was not complimentary.

There was a divide in those days between veteran reporters and “the kids.” as we were known.  We were hungry for success. The vets didn’t want anyone to stir their soup with new ingredients.

Steve and I were excited about “Daybreak” and what it might mean for us. Yes, we were bright-eyed and bubbling with enthusiasm as we did our first shows. Steve had a nervous habit of tapping his toes throughout the newscast. I used to fiddle with the contact lenses I was wearing for the first time.

It wasn’t a pleasant experience. The contacts would slip. Everything would go blurry as I read. I’d squint, tear up and plod on. The contacts would invariably fall out and I’d frantically hunt for them during commercial breaks. Steve Sheppard, covering for me, would move on with the script as we came out of commercials.

After I got the contact lenses under control, I had a new, unexpected problem. We finally got teleprompters. At first, we were enthusiastic. We could finally look like real network anchors.

We could just stare into the camera and, occasionally, look down at our copy and back up to the camera. Steve did it very well. I didn’t. I kept getting lost. Almost every time I looked down at my copy, I would lose my place when I returned to the teleprompter.

I was awkward and clumsy. Not smooth.

I was angry with myself. It had always looked so easy. A piece of cake. I used to practice with the teleprompter between shows. Techs would set me up, give me suggestions and I’d practice. Nope. An assistant director who became a director and later a long-time friend tried his best to guide me through the nuances of the prompter schtick. I had a few decent shows but in the end, I welcomed being “reassigned” to field reporting.

I accepted the “too bad” consolation from co-workers but knew I was not going to be an anchor. It was not a piece of cake after all.

The late Tom Ellis was one of the best TV News Anchors Boston has ever had. Tom was almost a cult figure during Boston’s golden age of broadcasting. The native Texan had a fresh, engaging way of anchoring.  He didn’t seem to be reading. It was more as if he was talking to viewers, sharing the grim “if it bleeds it leads” stories as well as the feel-good features.

“Texas Tom” as he was known, riveted your attention and held you as he delivered the news. I always admired his style and understood he was doing what I couldn’t do — and doing it very well.

Years later, Tom and I became colleagues when he joined Channel 7 as its prime time anchor. He brought that same “Texas Tom” expertise to our floundering newscasts as he had for the competing stations. Tom was even nicer off-camera than on camera. Ironically, he sought my advice on reporting which I gladly shared.

In retirement, our friendship deepened. Tom laughed when I told him about my anchor aspirations, as well as my opportunity, and ultimate demise.  He chuckled, “Garry, it ain’t as easy as it looks.   I sighed and smiled.

These days, I look at the current generation of TV news anchors. I have my likes and dislikes. However, I have a deep appreciation for their job.  It is even more complex with the addition of new software applications they have to smoothly blend into their delivery along with the teleprompter and script.

No, pilgrim, it’s not a piece of cake.

TRUMP STILL IN OBAMA’S SHADOW AFTER ISIS HEAD KILLED – THE SHINBONE STAR

President Barack Obama got Osama bin Laden, the meanest of the mean.

Oval Office Occupant The Donald got Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

WHO?

Oh, yeah, head of the Islamic State (ISIS), “the world’s No. 1 terrorist leader,” according to Donald.

Donald, is under threat of impeachment for abuse of power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his domestic political rivals. He’s sooo grasping at any straw to deflect.

Ever the “showman,” Don described in gory detail Abu’s ending, in a tunnel along with his family, where Abu apparently detonated a suicide vest rather than surrender.

“Osama bin Laden was very big, but Osama bin Laden became big with the World Trade Center (bombing),” Trump said, stating this kill by the U.S. Special Forces was the biggest there is. “This is a man who built a whole, as he would like to call it a country – a caliphate and was trying to do it again.”

Poor Donnie was upstaged in the dreaded media last night when the “fake news” broadcast the event.

The White House released a photograph of Trump surrounded by top advisers on Saturday in the Situation Room where he monitored the raid on al-Baghdadi’s hide-out in Syria — much like the famed image of President Barack Obama watching the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. An obviously envious Trump even seemed to suggest that killing al-Baghdadi was a bigger deal than killing Bin Laden.

Nowhere close Delusional Don. Even though he is/was a mean mother, he is/was no where as infamous as bin Laden. Don, you got a guppie.

Abu, 48, the son of an Iraqi sheepherder, was hiding deep inside a part of northwestern Syria controlled by archrival al Qaeda groups according to the Times. Hiding among your enemies. Brilliant.

Or, was he there to broker an alliance? Time will tell.

Abu al-Baghdadi has been incorrectly reported killed before, and American military officials were concerned that Trump, who posted a cryptic message on Twitter on Saturday night teasing his Sunday announcement, was so eager to announce the development that he was getting ahead of the forensics, wrote the New York Times.

“A Defense Department official said before The Donald’s announcement that there was a strong belief — “near certainty” — that al-Baghdadi was dead, but that a full DNA analysis was not complete,” wrote the Times.

Trump claimed that “American troops did “an on-site test” of DNA to confirm Mr. al-Baghdadi’s identity and that they brought back “body parts” when leaving the scene.

“The official said that with any other president, the Pentagon would wait for absolute certainty before announcing victory,” continued the story.

During his morning appearance, Trump put himself in the center of the action, describing himself as personally hunting al-Baghdadi since the early days of his administration. The only thing Delusional Donnie has hunted is glory and profits from his numerous visits to his own estates to play golf and bilk taxpayers.

He crowed that as he watched the action on Saturday with Mike Pence and others in the Situation Room (Not the CNN one with Wolf Blitzer.) it was “like watching a movie.” Wonder if he got to see all the blood and gore from the explosion?

Even more astounding, Trump trundled along Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R -S.C.), usually a strong ally who has been the most outspoken critic of his Syria decision, to join him for the speech on Sunday morning. Then, amazingly he sent cock sock Graham to brief reporters from the lectern in the White House briefing room. an unusual spectacle for a lawmaker, to say the least.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D – Ca.) called on the White House, to brief lawmakers about the raid, pointing out the Trump had informed the Russians of the military operation before telling congressional leadership.

Well, he had to tell his Master, Vlad “Puty” Putin first Nancy. Besides, you’re a woman AND a Democrat and he is apparently employed by Russia.

U.S. Oval Office Occupants typically follow the protocol of contacting congressional leaders, regardless of their political party, when a high-level military operation is conducted. As we know, nothing is typical about Trump except his lying and love for Russia.

“The House must be briefed on this raid, which the Russians but not top congressional leadership were notified of in advance, and on the administration’s overall strategy in the region,” Pelosi said.

Trump told reporters at the lengthy news conference that he did not inform the House speaker of the raid because he “wanted to make sure this kept secret.” In other words, we can trust a liar, but not a woman to keep a secret, eh Donald?

Asked whether he had informed Pelosi, Trump replied, “No, I didn’t. I didn’t do that. I wanted to make sure this kept secret. I don’t want to have men lost, and women. I don’t want to have people lost.”

Trump continued, that he was “going to notify [congressional leaders] last night, but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before.”

No amount of grandstanding attempted deflections or grandiose self-congratulatory rallies will change the fact that The Donald, a narcissistic lying crook, is facing impeachment.

Abu al-Baghdadi may be gone, but there are others who will soon fill the void and the blood bath in Syria will continue as American troops flee.

As Pelosi so succinctly told Trump last week, as she stood to leave after he called her “a third-grade politician,” “Why (with you) do “all roads lead to Putin”?

Donald still hasn’t come up with an answer.

LOCAL NEWS FROM UXBRIDGE! – Marilyn Armstrong

So what have I been doing with myself? It certainly hasn’t been creative writing or photography. Mostly, it has been medical. Yesterday, I spent the day with the valve specialist and got the best news of the month. My heart is doing well, exceptionally well considering how bad it was when they worked on it five years ago.  It’s pumping, the valve is working like a new valve should. My bypass is open and moving and the pacemaker is working fine.

I wanted to know why I am so exhausted and he said whatever it is, it’s NOT your heart because that’s fine. Which brings me back to arthritis and my spine. It’s the same old story which, I guess, will never end. I frequently need to remind myself that no matter how miserable my busted spine and arthritis make me feel, they are not going to kill me. Also, the rest of the exhaustion probably is the fibromyalgia which is acting up for no known reason.

That’s the thing about fibro. There’s never a reason why it does what it does. There are no tests for it, no medication that works. You can’t even get a proper diagnosis because there isn’t any except the intuition of your doctor. There’s a definite link between arthritis and fibro … as well as rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus. But what the link is, exactly, no one knows.

It’s hard to diagnose and essentially impossible to treat. Nothing seems to make it better, but a lot of stuff can make it worse.

To keep myself functional, I’ve been trying to get more sleep, to not push myself when I’m already tired … and keep my feet up because the swelling in my feet and ankles is apparently a side-effect of one of the blood pressure medications I take. And no, I can’t change medications because these are working really well and when the meds are working, you don’t change them so your ankles will look better.

I did want to know if there was any chance I could get a more modern pacemaker. Mind you, they have not improved the functionality of the pacemaker. They are still exactly the same. What they are improving are the cases, making them thinner, non-magnetic and more appropriate for a woman’s body. Mine is so big I can feel the wires.

But changing pacemakers isn’t a minor thing. It’s a life-endangering issue, so unless it stops working, I keep this one. With this one — which is magnetic — I can’t have an MRI. I hope I don’t need one!

Despite the downers, most of the news is good. Mainly, my heart is working and my son is lucky he didn’t inherit it.

Other stuff? We’re now in the pricing new gutters for the house. The ones we have were improperly installed and have never worked. I’ve known that for more than 15 years, but it never occurred to me that a lot of the rot on the house is because of those non-working gutters.

LeafGuard wanted more than $7000 for new ones. $7000? Seriously?

The actual real-life prices are closer to $1100 to $1400, which I think we can manage. The back door will have to wait for warm weather to come around again, but if I can get the gutters up before winter, we might be saved from the giant ice dams of winter and a lot less rot!

Our house, some snow, and the fence …

If you live in a warm climate, you might not know that one of those big ice dams can weigh hundreds of pounds. If one clunks you on the head, you might not wake up. We had a friend die of a falling ice dam and he was born and raised around here, so he knew better. There’s something irresistible about trying to knock down those ice dams. It’s stupid and damages your roof, but people still do it.

I’m still trying to decide whether or not to change insurance providers. Tufts, the most popular (with good reason) has none of our doctors in its plan, so they are out. That leaves Blue Cross (which we have) or HarvardPilgrim. Both are good. Blue Cross is a little bit less money but offers fewer other “advantages. Harvard Pilgrim pays you for more of your tooth stuff and also for eyeglasses. Also, they actually will pay for inhalers.

But if I change plans, we get into trying to move my medical records. This ought not to be such a big deal, but because every hospital and medical group has its own plan and its own software and doesn’t mesh with anything else. When you’ve had a lot of surgery and transplants and all that stuff, you wind up with pounds of records. I have a crate full of my medical records which I keep in the car because who know who will want to see them? And there’s a lot of stuff NOT in there, too. All the information from when I lived in Israel and before that, in New York (before computers, too). So much stuff, I don’t remember a lot of it.

I’m thinking about it. Not an easy decision.

Meanwhile …

On one side of our loveseat, there are three tables. One holds a very small lamp that’s almost always on. The middle one used to be part of my bedroom set, but moved to the living room when it didn’t fit in the bedroom. It’s really ugly, one handle is missing, and it’s covered with bills that need paying, others that need filing, miscellaneous odds and ends for which I have no “home” –my extra eyeglasses and all the paperwork for medical plans I am fully intending to read. Any day now.

The final table is empty. That’s where I put my computer. I have a lapdesk to work on, but when I move the computer, that is its home. It’s an old piece and if I refinished it, it might actually be quite nice, but right now, it’s just old and worn out.

To find an affordable table that’s 48 inches long, about 16 or 17 inches deep and standard table height has turned out to be a challenge. I think I’ll wait until spring and do yard sales when everyone is trying to get rid of their old stuff.

For reasons I find incomprehensible, everyone is selling “retro” television platforms that are exactly the right size. The problem is, these were ugly when they first came out. I’m betting they’ve been warehoused since the mid-fifties and someone said: “Hey, let’s make some more money, call them “retro” and sell them now. Retro is very “in” these days, right?” They are truly unattractive.

If that’s my choice, what I’ve got is already unattractive — and I own it, so it’s free. If ugly is what is available, I guess that’s the way it’ll be. These are the days when I wish I had some carpentry skills. I could just build a box of the right size, throw a cover over it and VOILA!

Maybe a few wooden crates?

IT’S HOPELESS – Marilyn Armstrong

No, not the news. Not the house. Not money.

Email.

I am hopeless. Any number of people suggested I move them to “notify” rather than email — and then I realized I couldn’t find ANYTHING.

I give up. It’s clear that no matter what I do, I will be swamped by masses of email. Forever.  But no one can say I didn’t give it my best shot.

Did you notice our new feature? Probably not, so we’re pointing it out!

I’m not actually sure I understand this, but it sounds like fun … in a pretty weird way.


 

THE SHINBONE STAR

By DUTTON PEABODY
Editor in Chief

DUTTON PEABODY

At a recent staff meeting in The Shinbone Star’s palatial newsroom, I worked to put down a coup attempt (there’s that word again) after beleaguered writers opined that they deserved a raise.

I challenged them.

“A raise?” I said. “But what have you actually done to help our readers?” Nobody had an immediate answer, so I pressed my advantage.

“We’re just preaching to the choir here,” I said. “All of you rant and rave about Trump, but that’s not helping readers who are already ranting and raving on their own. What they really need is a way to shut up their stupid relatives and stupid neighbors who still love Trump in spite of everything! You want a raise, then give me something that helps our readers do that!”

You could have heard a pin drop. I knew I had them then because…

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I COULD BE THIS YEAR’S SINGULAR SENSATION – Marilyn Armstrong

This has been a heavy news year and I can’t imagine anyone arguing this point. No matter where you stand, the news hasn’t just been The News. It has been … NEWS.

Giant hurricanes. Massive flooding, Russians trying to steer our election. A moronic president and his equally moronic cabinet. Destruction of everything we believe in or at least an attempt to destroy everything in which we believe.  Mass shootings. More mass shooting. Fires sweeping entire states. Sex scandals that will eventually include every man in Hollywood.

With all of that going on, there has been hardly any reporting of gruesome crimes and criminals. Usually, we are demented about serial killers and torture … but we haven’t had anything that could top the mass dementia that has taken over our government. That’s why I was thrilled to find this headline from overseas:


Italian lodger tells police he is ‘guilty’ of cannibal murder. 

I bet our newscasters would be thrilled to have a shot at something really juicy. Since the demise of Jeffrey Dahmer, there hasn’t been an incredibly disgusting, gory serial murderer to liven up the news cycle. It’s been all politics, government scandal … and tweets.

TWEETS! Do you believe it? I don’t. It must be fake news.

That got me wondering. Who among the outside world would I like knowing was reading our stuff? I know a few of my favorite authors drop by if I review one of their books. They are polite and send thank you notes. It makes me feel all warm and cozy, knowing at least some of the things I write is getting read by people who care about it.

But how cool to be followed by a cannibal? What a coup! That would definitely come with bragging rights!

While Garry was working, we occasionally got phone calls late at night from convicted serial killers, sometimes critiquing his performance. Turns out, they watched him on the telly. Who’d have guessed serial killers watch the news … and have phone privileges? They also sent Christmas cards and occasionally, letters.

Perpetrators of gruesome murders currently on trial used to wave and wink at him in the courtroom. I’m sure other reporters were jealous.

From my perspective, it was intensely creepy and occasionally, downright frightening. It also made me wonder if these weirdo’s fondness for my husband and his work might encourage one of these “fans” to drop by for an unexpected visit. They clearly knew how and where to track him down. And if they found Garry, they’d find me. They were his fans, not mine.

On second thought, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover I’m could be a big hit in prison. If seven or eight thousand of my followers are actually incarcerated, that might explain those thousands of nameless followers who never leave comments or even a “like.”

By any chance are you a big literary agent? Just asking.

Trump’s Latest Sucker Punch Pounds American Children Overseas – REBLOG – Shinbone Star

I often think 45 has no concept of where the money comes from. Like it just “pops up” from the soil like weeds? We spend billions on a useless wall to make sure we have an even more ignorant population than we already do. I have lost my ability to even talk about this without getting crazy!


 

THE SHINBONE STAR

Last Friday afternoon, The Shinbone Star took a quick shot at Dangerous Donald’s alarming order to misappropriate congressionally mandated funding from allegorical Peter to pay undeserving Paul.

But what really stood out was Trump-appointee Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s decision to deny American military dependent children living overseas a decent education in order to deny brown children a chance for a better life. His disgraceful decision typifies the venality of the Trump regime.

In this event, pitiful Peter is trapped in the arbitrary Pentagon money pit while predatory Paul lounges against Trump’s disastrous wall. In between are the children of powerless young service members living life overseas in near Spartan conditions.

It’s a particularly rotten deal for the kids, whose pennies their soulless president has purloined from their housing and school budgets to pay for his pretentious wall.

Since Thursday, after Trump’s fixation with weather forecasting waned, reports of Trump…

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