I Still Believe In Local TV News

I took one TV journalism course in college. One. I didn’t know it at the time, but the course with professor Jim Thistle at Boston University would change my life. I went to school destined to be a radio DJ, or so I thought. I studied radio, and film, and writing, but only took that one course in TV news. (Right now, some of you are thinking this probably explains a lot) When I got out of college I pursued my career in radio, traveling 75 miles each way to my first on-air radio gig at a top 40 station in Portsmouth, NH. Then one day, months after my graduation, the phone rang. It was professor Thistle on the other end of the phone. He said he knew ABC’s Boston affiliate WCVB needed writers, and he thought I’d make a great writer, and he wanted to know if I was interested. I was. It was that one call with professor Thistle, a long time and well respected news director in Boston that changed everything. WCVB took a chance on me. They trained me. They gave me the knowledge to learn and to grow and to embrace the power of local TV news. It’s been more than twenty years since then, and I’ve experienced two decades of history on the OTHER side of the television, as we bring news to the communities we serve.

Today I thought of professor Thistle when I read an article in the LA Times about the steep cuts to the LA Weekly, the amazing alternative paper in Southern California. The cuts there this week were brutal. In the article, the LA Times quoted a professor at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, looking to provide perspective on what it means that the LA Weekly is now a shell of its former self.

The professor said, “At this point, local news coverage is the L.A. Times’ California section and car chases on TV news.”

A professor of journalism chalked up local TV news to car chases and nothing more.

So I emailed the professor, for myself, but really and more importantly for ALL my friends in the local TV news business.

I said, “I respectfully need to disagree with your quote in the LA Times…. While car chases do drive ratings, we cover a huge range of topics—local, national, human interest, and breaking news of course….”

I went on to talk about the achievements of just my local TV newsroom recently, big investigations which went national, stories we broke that viewers couldn’t see anywhere else, not even in the alternative newspapers, stories that matter. Each of our local TV newsrooms covers its share of stories that matter to Los Angeles.

I added, “I guess I’m hoping that as professor to the next generation of journalists, you won’t discourage people from finding a good home in the local TV news business.”

I thought of professor Jim Thistle and the love he had for local TV news as I wrote to this professor who clearly, it seems to me from that quote, has lost his faith in local TV news. I told the professor in closing, “I feel myself needing to defend ALL journalists nowadays, especially TV news, and just wanted to give you my thoughts.”

I still believe in the power of local TV news. The idea of fake news has been incredibly damaging. When the naysayers become people even within our own industry, it’s important to remind them, and to keep demonstrating to the viewers, that we’re much more than just car chases.

 

 

 

 

 

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A World Without Mirrors

In a world without mirrors,
you never get to stand there and just stare at your imperfections

In a world without mirrors,
you might know you’re different than someone else, but those differences aren’t staring back at you

In a world without mirrors,
you are just you, and someone else is just someone else

perhaps THAT’s why on a random day, in a random moment, my 9 year old suggested simply the beauty of a “world without mirrors”.. saying if that was the case “no one could ever be too confident… or have reason not to be confident enough”

In a world without mirrors,
beauty comes from within, because that’s the only thing you can base it on.

Maybe she’s on to something, building confidence from within, and beauty from within, the makings of our next generation, not just another pretty face.

 

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There Are No Words

I work in the news business. My life is all about words. WORDS. But words only work when they can accurately portray what someone is trying to describe. I haven’t posted anything about Las Vegas and the tragedy there which has reverberated across the country because honestly I’m fresh out of words. I’m out of words to describe the terror, trauma, and pain. I’m out of words to describe the tears, heartache, and loss. I’m out of words to put into words what can’t possibly be described. I’m out of words to try and explain and put into context what can’t possibly be explained and put into context. I’m out of words to try and speak to my little kids about the world we live in, where we are now, and where we are going. I’m out of words. One day I hope to find them again. For now, I’m speechless. So I offer no words. Just a hug.  And a heartfelt thank you to all the first responders and incredible everyday people who were heroes in a time of need.

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I Smashed Her Legos (and immediately regretted it)

I warned her. I really did. I warned her. And she just stood there. We needed to get ready. We were late. She KNEW we were late. So I warned her again. I did. And she just stood there. And I started counting to 30. I gave her 30 seconds to get it together. Time to get ready. NOW. We’re late. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 You need to get ready to go. Shoes and socks. NOW. 9,10,11,12,13,14,15 And she stood there. And I counted. And she just stood there staring me down defianty. NOW. And I counted more. 16,17,18,19,20. Don’t make me get to 30. She just stood there. Don’t do it. Stood there. Don’t. 21,22,23,24. We’ve been here before. The morning battles. The not listening. The stare downs. Stood there. Not this time. 25. I took one of her small Lego sets … and I smashed it. Just like I threatened. One of the Lego sets she built piece by piece and proudly displayed. Destroyed. And she ran to her room in tears as Lego pieces scattered across the floor. I didn’t wait till 30. I warned her I was going to punish her by getting rid of a Lego set. I warned her. I wanted to send a message. It was the culmination of ALL the not listenings. ALL the morning battles. ALL the frustration. So I sent a message. I did it. It was done. And immediately I thought, “WHAT did I do.”

She got ready for school in silence as I picked up all the Lego pieces I could find from the floor, from under the table, from behind the piano. I never found them all. We were so late that there wasn’t even time for breakfast anymore. We’d lost so much time on a useless battle over being late, the endless parenting battling over morning routines, I had to bag up some fruit and cereal for her and we headed out the door. In silence.

I dropped her off and headed to work and I couldn’t shake it. In one instant I created a memory she will NEVER forget. NEVER. I called my wife and we talked it out as I drove. She listened. She’s always a good listener. And at some point she said, “They’re little. We only have them for such a short time.” And she was right. I wanted to punish my kid and I wanted to send a message. I did. Unfortunately.

When I got off work it was already dark. I battled the freeway home and as I approached the exit for home, I passed right by it. And I went to a local toy store. I scanned the store shelves and spotted the same Lego set– the one with the little rocket ship amusement rides that spin around. I bought it. I brought it home and walked up to the house. My little gal already in her pajamas for the night. She saw the Lego set and smiled. I gave it to her and I said, “I didn’t handle the situation this morning properly. I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” And she gave me a big hug. She took the Lego box and dumped out the pieces on the floor and immediately started to rebuild. We started to rebuild.

Still, I know I created a memory she’ll never forget. The day dad shattered her little Lego set. Like little scratches on the surface of their childhood. This scratch was all mine. And I can’t take it back.

I can do better.

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Eclipse 2017: A Wish For My Kids

I was just four years old the last time the moon passed across the sun casting a shadow over such a wide section of the United States. It was wintertime in New England and I remember making one of those homemade shoebox view finders to watch the shadow of eclipse. I remember it being rainy and cloudy too. At least that’s what my memories are. Memories have a way of playing tricks on you.

But I didn’t remember until just recently when I saw the video posted online, the words uttered by ABC news anchor Frank Reynolds when he talked about the next total solar eclipse which would take place in 2017. He said, “May the shadow of the moon fall on a world in peace.”

Boy did we mess this one up.

We sit here today looking at one of the most awe inspiring moments in humanity. It is time to take stock of who we are, and who we can become. Truth is, it doesn’t take a rocket scientists to figure out humanity has a long way to go. We made sure to buy the kids eclipse glasses hoping they’ll get at least a peek of the 60% of the sun which will be blocked in the Los Angeles area. It’s better than nothing.

Like Frank Reynolds in 1979, I have a few words for the next total solar eclipse.

May the kids be in a good place in their lives, strong, confident, and on a good path forward.

May we be enjoying what life has given us and not always chasing what we don’t have.

May the nations of the world find a way to come together instead of always finding a way to tear apart.

Too idealistic? Maybe.
Too simplistic? Maybe.

For me the total solar eclipse will be viewed from the back row of a television control room as we bring our news coverage to the viewers. For a couple of hours, partisan bickering, Washington nonsense, divisive rhetoric, and hate, will be set aside so we can all focus on an incredible moment of wonder, a phenomenon you only get to see a couple of times in your lifetime if you’re lucky.

Consider Eclipse 2017 to be a giant cosmic wishing fountain. Go ahead, throw a coin in, make a wish, and let’s hope for the best. When the next total solar eclipse casts a shadow on the United States, may the shadow of the moon fall on a world in peace.

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Lessons Learned From A Family Road Trip

Let us be lovers,
We’ll marry our fortunes together.
And we walked off
To look for America.

Gloria and I long ago married our fortunes together. We had about a buck-fifty between us when we met nearly 25 years ago at Boston University. It seems like a different lifetime. So much has happened. Cross country moves. Job changes. Living. Two children growing up in a blink. It’s all going so fast. For one week, we decided to slow it down. So we packed up the car to go see America.  Just like the Simon and Garfunkel song which has been playing on a loop in my head. We drove. The majestic stone caverns of Zion. The peaks of Grand Teton still dotted with snow on the first of August. The beauty of Old Faithful and the sulphur pools of Yellowstone. We put hundreds of miles on the car on side roads and backstreets through Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming… looking for America.

Laughing on the bus,
Playing games with the faces,
She said the man in the gabardine suit
Was a spy. I said, “Be careful,
His bow tie is really a camera.”

On our last big road trip the kids played the license plate game for money. Spot a different state we hadn’t seen and earn a quarter. Find a full house of numbers or letters and earn more. The kids are a couple of years older already and that didn’t have the same attraction. This time around the kids played name that tune with the radio. And we watched episodes of Glee they’ve been binge watching on their iPad at night. We bought a couple of board games Sushi Go and Celestia. Apologies for the one hotel where we moved all the hotel furniture to turn the desk into a game table as the heated Celestia game went for at least an hour. One kid played solitaire. The other clutched her new plush bison we bought. Busy planning the next day. What would we do. Where were we headed… as we looked for America.

And the moon rose over an open field.
“Kathy, I’m lost”, I said,
Though I knew she was sleeping.
“I’m empty and aching and
I don’t know why.”

Sitting in front of the Jackson Lake Lodge in Wyoming. It’s 820 AM and I’m clutching my coffee on a chilly morning while watching the mountains. How many other people have sat right here while the mountains watched back. Morning is my mirror. It’s reflecting time. Time to think. Time to look back. And on this trip so much to think and look back on. I left the room this morning and the wife had snuck into the kids’ bed. How many more times will she be able to do that. How many more road trips will we take as a family. We’re packing up for our next destination this morning. We’ll never have this moment again. THIS moment.

Counting the cars
On the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come
To look for America,

Somewhere on the road it finally just clicked in my head. Thousands of miles in the car, beautiful landscape shots on many people’s bucket list of destinations, it clicked. I wasn’t out here looking for America at all. That was nice. That was memorable. But that wasn’t it. I was out here looking for my family. And they’d been here all along.

All come to look for America,
All come to look for America.

I sat listening to nature, watching the mountains, and finishing my morning coffee, while the wife and kids slept. We hit the road in a couple of hours.

 

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To The Man Who Saluted, When No One Else Did

It’s been nagging at me ever since the 4th of July. We went to the Rose Bowl for one of the largest fireworks shows in the country as we’ve done several years in the past. There’s food, motorcycle stunt, a Beatles tribute band- because what says celebrating our independence from Britain more than a bunch of Beatles singers. We were there with the kids, and our friends, and their friends.

There were thousands of people there. Among them, an older man in suit pants and pressed shirt, and black polished shoes. He was there sitting by himself in the row reserved for people with disabilities. Some people were singing to the Beatles. My kid was playing games with her friend and laughing. Vendors were selling their food and patriotic wares. The older man in the suit pants and polished shoes sat quietly against the railing. Just sitting. He’d caught my eye earlier. I didn’t know who he was. He didn’t seem to be there with anyone. He certainly wasn’t watching the motorcycle tricks. He just sat there.

Now if you’ve ever been to the Rose Bowl celebration on the 4th of July, it’s basically a patriotic assault on the senses. Stars and Stripes and beer and hot dogs and motorcycle wheelies and anthems and music and finally fireworks. Lots of fireworks. But while the stadium is still filling up and half the seats are empty there’s something else as well. Each year, the Jumbotron flashes the pictures of local military members who gave their all for our freedom and independence. It’s a blip. It’s a gloss over during the evening of fireworks and music and streamers and bouncy red white and blue super balls being tossed in the air. It happens when everyone is getting nachos and finding the bathroom and looking for their friends while trying to Instagram cool pics. And so it was on this night. As we sat with friends. As my kids laughed with their friends. The names of local soldiers who had died in battle flashed on the Jumbotron while it seemed everyone wasn’t paying attention.

Well, not everyone.

The man in the dress pants and pressed shirt and polished black shoes caught my eye. He stood at the railing now. He stood. Just standing. Then I saw him raise his hand, slowly, slowly, and he brought it to his brow, and saluted. One specific photo popped up on the screen and he saluted. It took me a moment to process what I was seeing. I watched him. My wife must have seen the same thing. About the same time we both asked our kids to quiet down and be respectful while the pictures flashed. People still streamed into the stadium. Vendors still sold their ice cold lemonade and seven dollar waters. The man stood and saluted. We sat quietly. The faces flashed for several minutes. The man with the weathered face sat back down in his folding chair. The night went on. The Beatles band played. He sat there. He just sat for a few minutes. Quiet contemplation I guess. I thought about going up to him. I don’t know why. I wanted to say hello. I wanted to ask WHO he was saluting. I wanted to say thank you. I chickened out. He left before the Beatles band hit the third song. He never returned for the fireworks.

Now I’m left only to think about why he was there, who he was saluting, and how 25,000 of us could have been so selfish. If I had to do it all over again, I’d stand respectfully, honor those served, and thank that man, for standing and saluting when we all were too busy eating our stadium food and posting status updates.

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