Musings From Morton

Call this a spot to just put stuff I find and thoughts that I have. Who knows who will visit but in the end the site isn't here to get visitors but to just put... stuff.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Random Thoughts

Just some random thoughts that popped up while traveling today. Admittedly only I will really care about the thoughts but who knows....

Cubs and Bears Hats Attached to Garbage Truck - While driving to the airport today I passed a garbage truck and attached to the handles at the back of the truck were a Cubs and Bears hats. My question... Were they put there to proudly announce their love of the Cubs and Bears or making some other statement? If I only had my camera handy for a pic!!!

I didn't mean to pry... - While sitting in my seat on the plane at the last minute this older couple came in just as they were about to close the door. The lady walks up and tells me she has the window seat next to mine. Since there was a seat behind me that was an aisle and open I asked if the man behind her was with her since I would offer him my seat and take the one behind so they could be together. She looked at me and in the nicest way says (very loud), "Honey... My husbands dead but he's who I live with now. We're not married though". Everyone around us chuckled and I hope it was because they understood that I was trying to be nice... Not pry into her personal business.

Red is two syllables in the south - I'm fascinated by dialects (I think many people are) so tonight I found it amusing that while at dinner the waitress at the table next to me asked a little girl what color the bow in her hair was. I couldn't hear what the answer was from the little girl but found it amusing when the waitress in the deepest southern drawl says, "It's Ray-Ed isn't it!" I never realized that red was two syllables.

Teddy Bear Hair - I've never seen this before... I went to the mall tonight (I'm "Down South" for business if you haven't guessed) and noted that at the "Build a Bear Workshop" they had hair for their teddy bears that was... African American in style. Kind of cool that they're thinking of everyone. It reminded me a bit of the Cabbage Patch dolls that were of all ethnicities.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

If I Was On Fire Would The Media Help?

I've listened with interest during the Hurricane Katrina coverage as politicians and others have blasted the media for not helping those they were covering. Okay that's not 100% true since I did see Geraldo helping people but I always discount Geraldo. He never is about helping others... like Oprah, it's all about Geraldo. But my dislike of Oprah and Geraldo is another whole post in itself.

I was listening to WJBC the other morning as Colleen Reynolds was defending the media saying that they can't be part of the news. They have to remain impartial and cover what's going on. It threw me back to my media law class in college where we read a case where a television crew showed up before the authorities and a person doused themselves with gasoline and lit a match. While all of this was going on the news crew videotaped and did nothing to try and stop the person or put them out after the match was lit. While this is at the extreme I think it is a similar if not as horrifying situation as what has occurred with Hurricane Katrina. It raises the question of if it is the media's responsibility to help someone and "become" the story or just record what is going on?

I wish I could remember and/or find what the court ruled, but if you ask me the media's job is to record the event and not take an active part in it. So I would agree with Colleen that technically the media isn't there to "be" the story. They are there to cover it but because of that coverage others should help.

At the same time as human beings we need to help our fellow human beings. My job may be to "cover the story" but as a human being I feel obligated to do what I can to help and if some news director or producer tells me otherwise then they can fire me or deal with it. If some guy is about to torch himself after dousing himself in gasoline you can darn well count on the fact that I'm setting down my camera and going to do something to stop it or at least try and put them out if they light the match before I can stop them.

In Hurricane Katrina's case the question is what could you do? Honestly not being there I can't say but I can tell you that if I had a case of water I would dole it out where I could. I would note where I saw or found people and then let the authorities know. On the way back through those I could fit in my boat or car are getting a ride. Yeah some may have to be left behind but I would do what I could do.

Maybe the media did this... maybe they didn't. I don't think anyone can paint all those covering the story with one broad stroke but I'm sure there were some who just ignored people so they could later tell someone how horrible it was and they felt helpless, forgetting to mention that they did nothing more then add a story to their resume tape.

So in the end what has caused this backlash against the media? Well first off I think the backlash is a bit minor but in the end the media should take some if not a lot of the blame themselves. It all falls into the unhealthy side of competition as well as lazy reporting and the dollar driving decisions.

Storms are what the military would call a target rich environment. There are all kinds of action opportunities in a storm... I love the fact that when a hurricane is coming ashore there is some poor sat truck operator, photographer, and reporter who are camped out using a concrete wall as a block so they can beam live images back from it. The best part is when the reporter is standing out in the gale force winds screaming at the top of their lungs. What has been accomplished in doing this? What is the news value? It's the same thing I asked when covering fires and accidents (which thank god we don't see as much of in the local media these days)

So after the storm the media formula works like this. First you cover the death and destruction. Then you get the politicians warmed up and finger pointing. Finally if you're really lucky there might be a racial angle which pops up where you can get good reaction.

Meanwhile the "ethnic" media. News organizations covering ethnic populations are doing stories that provide proactive solutions. See the CNN article called "Katrina through a different lens". It's a great story and exactly the reason why most people are blaming the mainstream media for not helping or caring. The story tells how instead of pointing out death and destruction these outlets are doing stories on reuniting families and finding housing for those in need. Some media types will argue that this is too soft that we need to uncover the evil politicians who let this tragedy happen. I don't disagree but does it need to be the first thing? I mean it's like a multi car crash on the Murray Baker bridge. Do you get the accident cleared and the people taken to the hospital or do you start pointing fingers that if the car was better constructed and the bridge had wider lanes and.....

So while the discussions have begun in earnest over how the government will handle future disasters I truly hope that the national and local media look at how they cover disasters and maybe take a look at what some of these non-traditional media outlets are doing. I think those are the types of stories that the public wants.

Remembering Weather Coverage

While writing the post about the media helping people during Katrina it brought me back to my days in news doing weather stories...

I always joked and said that when the newscast was telling everyone else to stay inside "the weather was bad" at that same moment a producer or assignment editor was telling a news crew to head out into the weather, "but be careful". It always seemed at odds with each other.

There is one weather event however that I always remember. I don't remember if it was me or another photog (I actually think it was with someone else who did the shot) but it was a weather live shot with Rollie Keith. Now any live shot with Rollie was an adventure. He hated being live anywhere. I only remember one live shot in my time at WMBD where Rollie wanted to do the live shot and that was the one with Sam Kinison. I was lucky enough to do that one and the funny side note for that one was that I got called into the News Director or GM's office before the live shot and told to keep my hand on the video cable and if Kinison got out of control to just pull the cable and go black. They would understand.

Anyway Rollie was out doing this live shot on the riverfront and just as the live shot started the weather started to roll in. I mean it was a big old nasty summer thunderstorm that just popped up. Watching Rollie fight the weather and do his forecast was one of the funniest things anyone has ever seen. The best part is that while he grumped about it for hours, weeks, months, and years later if you watch the segment he remained the incredible pro that he always was through the whole thing. Even though his scripts were blowing away and dirt was blowing into his face, etc...

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

News and the Tangled Web

As mentioned earlier I don't watch much news on television and it would be fun to just start railing on that again especially as it relates to the comments about how busy today's news crews are, so doing a little research on a story is too difficult... but I'll resist the temptation for now.

So how do I get my news? Well mainly via the web. I used to get the Journal Star but for a number of reasons largely having to do with service I gave them up at least in the paper form. Now I get most of my news via the web. Three main sources... CNN, PJ Star, and the Pantagraph with a little Google, and Yahoo news thrown in there as well. I'll hit a number of national newspaper sites as well for individual stories but those three compromise my regular news viewing (or would that be reading?). You may notice that I don't include any television station sites in the list. While the site holds a special place in my heart most of the stories there are just text versions of what was on the newscast. As mentioned in that previous post... I don't much care for today's local news product so why would I go there to read the stories but there in lies the rub!

Even if I LOVED the local television news content I still wouldn't likely go to a stations website for news. I can hear the local newsies now saying "Fine we don't want you anyway!" The point is that Television news content does not translate well into web content. On the other hand newspaper content does! No real surprise there but it does raise a good point about what people are getting for news and why the Jay Leno gag where he goes out on the street asking insanely easy questions which some (okay a lot) of people have a hard time answering is so funny! Now those who are really reading may remember that I said I go to CNN's site and may say,

"But wait... you said you don't go to television new sites because they just use versions of their newscasts."

That's the thing... CNNs site is a separate entity from the television side with news editors and writers who provide more detail then what is on air.

If a person is soley getting all their news from television god help them! It isn't anything against the television side it's just that news is broken up into bite size chunks which hit a topic and then blow past it. If the local newsies whine that they're busier then ever holds, that just means that there are a whole heck of a lot more VO's and VOSOTs out there and even less 1:30 packages. Translate that into a whole lot less in depth news!

I'll relate a story from a bunch of years ago just to prove that I am old and been away from the news game for a while. We were doing a story about the Mitsubishi sexual discrimination (or was that harassment... I can't remember) lawsuit. We were talking to Pat Benassi who happens to be one of my least favorite local attorneys but I will agree with her on this comment. She asked me how it was that with such a complex issue as the case was that we were going to be able to explain it in the 30 seconds to 1:30 we were going to have to tell it in? My response was that we just hoped people read the newspaper. That got a laugh out of her and myself. My reporter just looked at me like I was stupid, but what do reporters really know anyway?

So what is the moral of this story boys and girls? Society today needs to read more and watch less television. I'm not saying that television news isn't needed... Just that it should be a supplement to a broader base of news. I admit that when I was in high school and college I did very little reading of news. My broadcast journalism class at ISU however got me into the habit and I've never lost it. Thanks to Jay Groves for quizzing me every week on local news and making the Pantagraph a required text book. I don't think I would have started doing it without that pressure. I wonder how many college journalism professors require their students to read the paper today? I wonder how many local television news crews (photogs and reporters) read the paper. I'll say that I think for the most part producers and assignment editors do but they're an odd bunch anyway. Just kidding... I like assignment editors and producers for the most part.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Households Using Google

The other day I became excited as only a true computer geek could be... I heard that Google was coming out with a new desktop search tool. Overall this week has been a pretty good one but if you ask me what the highlight was... Well I'd have to say the desktop search tool. No my life isn't that boring but it's a cool tool. Okay I admit that the toolbar isn't the best thing that happened to me this week but it ranks right up there!

So why is some desktop toolbar so cool that I've felt the need to go on about it so much? Well it has a bunch of little tools which I really like and I'm guessing that they will be adding more as it becomes more popular. Let me explain a bit about the toolbar.

First off it isn't that thing at the top of your browser that just lets you search. The toolbar is this toolbar that sits on the right or left side of your screen and it holds a number of tools you may use on a regular basis. So... If I want to see my last few emails it's in the bar. If I want to see RSS feeds from my favorite sites when they update the site... It's in the bar. How about photos? Yep it's got that too. I can load up my favorites and it will run a mini slideshow or if I go to a photoblog it automagically downloads those images into the mini slideshow. It also has an area for my stock ticker as well as weather. The only thing it is missing is a radar image but I have to believe that is either coming or I could put it into my slideshow area since it will read from a website.

So if you want a cool tool then just go to google and download it. The Google Desktop bar is just the ticket!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Baseball as a metaphor for life

Just got back from a friends house. Good meal, good conversation, and a good movie. Overall a very enjoyable evening after a long week. The best part however was the movie although the food was incredible in its own right! Tonight we watched Bull Durham. I've seen it plenty of times and am really surprised it isn't in our DVD collection.

The thing I like about the movie is the play on life. Tim Robbins is a gifted athlete but stupid. Kevin Costner is a good ballplayer but not gifted enough to make it in the bigs, although he has had his cup of coffee (to use the baseball term for saying he played in the major leagues but only for a very short (in his case 21 days) time). Susan Sarrandon plays the love interest but is really the glue that keeps the movie together. She sees the future in both players although you don't get the impression it is real clear in her mind. She knows that Robbins will only be there a short time and she knows that Costner is just there to help out Robbins but isn't quite sure about what happens to him after Robbin's leaves. At the same time it's telegraphed almost from the beginning that Sarrandon and Costner are going to be together in the end but the interplay between the two is witty and well written. So in the end Robbins ends up in the bigs. Costner... well he gets let go from the minor league club but it is suggested (from the beginning of the movie) that he is going to become a coach. Sarrandon meanwhile sees herself as being the odd man out and thinks Costner is going to dump her. Instead... he tells her that he plans on hearing her weird opinions for a long time to come.

So why do I say the movie is a metaphor for life? Well I look at the deeper meaning of the movie as saying that we are all good at something. In this case some are athletes and some are not. At the same time we have to give a shot at our dreams. When you think of baseball players the quantity that play at the professional level is pretty large. At the same time the percentage that make it to "the show" is pretty small. I look at my time in television (not really trying to make this a television post) and say that I made it at the professional level but things along the way changed my direction and my plans of becoming the next big reporter or photographer had to be set aside. I sit here working now at a business almost 180 degrees different then television. That isn't a bad thing... Just a change from where I saw myself when I started down my professional career.

The moral of the story? well life is about transition. What appears to be a pretty straight road to travel has unexpected forks and stop signs. We can dwell on what we might have been... or we can head down the new path and find new adventures.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Were We That Bad?

I will admit that I rarely watch much tv news these days. It bothers me that I don't, especially since I came from that world. The problem is that local television news is so bad these days. What shakes me the most is the question that I ask right after I watch a bad newscast... Was I or the people I worked with just as bad? The answer is always "we couldn't have been..." but who is to say. The internet and blogs weren't around for us to find out for sure.

That takes me back to the Dana Carvey skit where he plays the grumpy old man on SNL News my favorite line from that skit was:

"Life was a carnival! We entertained ourselves! We didn't need moooovin' pitchurrrres. In my day, there was only one show in town -- it was called "Stare at the sun!" ... That's right! You'd sit in the middle of an open field and stare up at the sun till your eyeballs burst into flames! And you thought, "Oh, no! Maybe I shouldn't've stared directly into the burning sun with my eyes wide open." But it was too late! Your head was on fire and people were roastin' chickens over it. ... And that's the way it was and weeee liked it!"

Thanks again to the internet for being able to find the actual words.

So the follow up question I ask myself is always why do I think it is so bad? In most cases it seems like the stories are poorly put together with no real flow. The stories for the most part aren't creative when they can be creative, and not hard hitting or in depth when they need to be either. What happened to the market developing quality reporters like it did in Peoria 10-15 years ago. Jay Shatz, LP Phillips, Fraser Engerman, Dana Koslov, Anna Werner just to name a few.

Those reporters put time into a story or at least learned a bit about it before so they were at least somewhat ready and had an idea about what was going on. A for instance... When Cat does it's quarterly release the story on the news today reads almost verbatim the press release that Cat puts out. Now I'm not saying that Big Yellow isn't telling the truth but listen to the analysts call and hear what they are asking and hitting on. It's easier now then ever since it's on the internet! Do some basic learning on any number of web sites explaining how to read a financial statement. Instead I see the Cat press release which I could have gotten off the internet and read. I'd be willing to bet that if asked any of the reporters in Peoria what a 10Q is and where you could find one they would just stare dazed and confused at you.

I was always taught by my parents that if you have something negative to say be sure to offer a solution since being negative without offering a solution isn't any better then the problem you are complaining about. Well I wish I could offer a long term solution. In the short term I guess I would suggest watching a lot of winning NPPA videos (national press photographers association. The group has regular contests for best news stories based on writing and video together) and a subscription to the local newspaper of their choice. See if they can't sneak into the assignment editors story pile and be prepared for the coming days story or come in with one that is fresh and well researched and not done by Time Magazine or one of the local papers. Finally... try and do an in depth piece sometime OTHER then sweeps.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

In the beginning....

In the last few months I've started getting into the blog scene. It started out just looking at what others had to say on Peoria area television. I commented here and there but mostly lurked but now it is time to sort of de-lurk and post some of my thoughts.

As I mention in my title my site isn't really here to have people visit it. Everything found here is my opinion and just that. If you are visiting and disagree so be it. Post a comment and we will go from there.

Briefly about myself... I used to work in Peoria television long ago (10 years total). I'm not originally from around here but consider the Peoria area my home now. Why did I leave television? Partially I saw the writing on the wall in the changes in how television works. Partially because I had done everything I was ever going to get to do in the Peoria market. Long before I had the opportunity to move to bigger markets but after meeting my wife we decided that Peoria would be our home. The final decision was that when the opportunity to jump to real hours, real pay, and the ability to move up a ladder came I would take it. I made that jump and haven't regretted it since. I still keep my hands in television doing freelance work for regional sports broadcasts usually "in the truck". I miss running the hand held camera but while not that old I'm happy to leave the sore shoulders to the younger guys and gals.

Finally For the time being I remain anonymous. Not that I have problems letting people know who I am (those who know me probably can figure it out via the comments above) I have to admit that there is a fear that if I comment on something my current employer doesn't agree with they could send me packing. I will however never comment on my employer or their policies since that is just asking for trouble. In fact I will do everything in my power to dodge anything that may remotely cross their path. I don't really think they are patrolling the web looking for people like me. I just prefer to be safe since you never know how people will fall into a website.