The Long Version

Retired broadcast journalist. Blogging helps scratch the itch. Recovering exRepublican – Sober and still Conservative.

TV News Has the Blues

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I began my career in the broadcast news business in 1990. In 1998 I discovered NewsBlues.com.

NewsBlues.comI visited the website regularly and subscribed to the newsletter. It was always an interesting read and almost always full of juicy insider stuff about the insiders. It was the one place you could go to get all the latest news about the news business from the national networks to the smallest local affiliates. And of course there was always “This Week’s Looker”

That spicy flare came from its editor Mike James who, after 19 years, is retiring.  But it may be his final words that turn out to be the most poignant and remembered of any penned by the testy editor over the past two decades.

His final post was a scathing critique of the industry he covered for 19 years and it was spot on.

Here is an excerpt from that post.

We have watched the unhealthy transformation of TV news: the steady shift to shallow tabloid content; the casting aside of older, experienced talent; the headlong pursuit of younger demographics; the drive to build newsrooms on ethnically-balanced quotas and newscasts on research-driven formulas; the abandonment of investigative journalism out of fear of litigation; the proliferation of 24-hour cable news and its need to fill time with opinion; the politicalization of news and the loss of balance; and the increasingly intense focus to “do more with less.”

And that had led to live shots for the sake of going live; mandatory walk-and-talks; syrupy live TV marriage proposals; weepy personal medical memoirs; mommy blogs and birth celebrations; newsroom sheet cakes; buyouts and layoffs; adrenalin-infused storm chasers masquerading as scientists; local meteorologists with sleeves rolled up interrupting programming for breathless storm alerts in distant counties; bigger, more powerful radars; mobile weather units covered in advertiser logos; beauty queen traffic anchors; TelePrompTer readers in cocktail dresses; endless promotion and slogans and shallow branding; verbless BREAKING NEWS that isn’t; tweets and selfies and sprawling studios meant to overwhelm viewers with style, rather than substance.

We’ve watched a handful of broadcasting companies leverage investment money to gobble up local TV stations by the hundreds, creating ownership behemoths that threaten the public interest by centralizing news production, eliminating competition and diversity, squeezing advertisers, steam rolling retransmission agreements, and generating obscene compensation packages for a handful of executives. Meanwhile, news staffs have been consolidated and salaries slashed. Local television, now dependent on scale, has expanded its local news hole to accommodate more advertising opportunities to pay the bills.

We’ve witnessed the unsound focus on self-congratulatory industry awards, the preposterous growth of regional Emmys®, and the surrealistic expansion of Edward R. Murrow trophies. We’ve watched major universities move from educating journalists to creating TV personalities, who seem eager to build careers on the shifting sands of social media. And we’ve watched a small university in America’s poorest state become an online factory for TV weather guessers. 

On our watch, America’s trust and confidence in the news media has fallen to an all-time low.

Ouch.

But sometimes a hard slap up side the head is a good thing. For the slapper if not the slapped…

 

 

Written by DCL

May 31, 2017 at 2:47 pm

What a Difference a Day Makes

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Wouldn’t you know it. Dr. Ben Carson endures 24 hours of non-stop abuse from media, Hollywood, and about every Democrat with a verified Twitter account, when the other shoe drops. But this time it drops right on the noggins of all those finger-pointing, name-calling, elites.

Come to find out, in a 2015 speech, President Obama made comments eerily familiar to those of Dr. Carson.

And perhaps, like some of you, these new arrivals might have had some moments of doubt, wondering if they had made a mistake in leaving everything and everyone they ever knew behind…So life in America was not always easy. It wasn’t always easy for new immigrants. Certainly it wasn’t easy for those of African heritage who had not come here voluntarily, and yet in their own way were immigrants themselves.

There was discrimination and hardship and poverty. But, like you, they no doubt found inspiration in all those who had come before them. And they were able to muster faith that, here in America, they might build a better life and give their children something more.

The Washington Free Beacon published a side by side video showing both Dr. Carson’s remarks and President Obama’s.

Did any of these folks spring to attack in 2015 when the President compared slaves to immigrants?

 Twitter attacks on Dr. Ben CarsonCelebs attack Ben Carson on Twitter

Don’t expect apologies. Expect them to double down. Expect them to defend a statement made by a black politician with a (D) by his name while excoriating the same statement made by a black politician with an (R) by his name.

Is there really any other difference here?

I’m open to reasoned and civil difference of opinion here, but check your team colors at the door. Look at this example free of the blue or red lenses. Just two men who made a very similar observation. Either what was said was right or wrong. It can’t be right for one and wrong for another.  If we go there, if we actually start to condone that kind of thinking and follow it with action, we are all in big trouble.

Let the honest discussion begin.

Be Careful How You Use the Word – Immigrant

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“That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity,’’ he said. “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”

At first all I’d heard, read, and saw was the ridicule, the disgust, the mockery, and the judgements.  I figured it must be really bad. Dr. Ben Carson, a man I respect because I think he’s just a good decent human-being was being crucified all over the media and social media. This must be it, I thought. His foray into the cesspool of politics has finally come around to bite him and he’s done something really horrible.

Then I read the quote.

I immediately saw what everyone was hysterical about.  He used the word “immigrants” where he shouldn’t have used that word. Not in today’s social/political climate, anyway. But I didn’t immediately interpret it as a slight toward the slaves who were brought over here or Black History in America. Some will say, “that’s because you’re white.” OK, but I still know the history and I can still read and understand words put in phrases and this one didn’t strike me as more egregious than Obama’s gaffe when he said he’d visited all 57 states. The Right took that into Islamic conspiracy world but the major media was quick to dispel it and help calm the waters. Not so this time.

It’s noteworthy, I believe, to show that nowhere can I find a definition of the word immigrant or immigration or migrate that specifies volunteerism. In other words, according to the dictionary, that volume which defines our use of words, an immigrant is simply someone “who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.” It doesn’t specify whether they came by choice or not. But that can be termed splitting hairs. OK, fine.

A decade or more ago, maybe 20 years now, his comment wouldn’t have garnered much attention if any. The word – immigrant – didn’t hold the same political meaning or have the same emotion attached to it in the common lexicon like it does today.

In my observation, however, there seems to be a double standard when it comes to gaffes by public figures, especially politicians. Everyone makes dumbass comments now and then, but some seem to be immune from the kind of public scrutiny, mockery, or humiliation or the magnitude being extended in this case.

Does the Right mock the Left when they make similar gaffes in public? Yes, certainly, but the Right doesn’t have CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, The New York Times, or Saturday Night Live to ingrain it into our psyche for all time over a week-long news cycle.

So this past week, armed with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, led by celebrities and politicians alike,Anger at Ben Carson comments on slavery and immigration and with the help of the mainstream media, an avalanche of criticism, denigration, and even outright hate, has rained down on Dr. Carson.  I don’t have a problem with fair-minded criticism, but the majority of what I’ve read and heard can’t be defined as such.  It’s just gleeful contempt for a man most of them dislike for mainly one reason, I believe…

He’s black and he’s not a Democrat.

So, point your finger if you must. Claim that Dr. Carson doesn’t know the history of his own people if that gives you a superior tingle. Call him the most horrible person on earth because he dared compare slaves to immigrants, but consider how silly, petty, and insignificant it really is. No one ends up better for it. No one.

I’m certain Dr. Carson knows his history well. The intent of his comment was to commend those who came before him and to suggest even they, in their horrible and dire circumstance must have hoped for a better future for their posterity. His poor choice of words to describe their circumstance, the context of his speech, and the turbulent political atmosphere in which he spoke them, led to this ridiculous firestorm of anger and righteous indignation. We’ve got to get better than this.

The Left has long held claim to a monopoly on compassion and tolerance. Where is the application of this claim? Hint: It can’t be selectively applied.

So we add another word to the “words to use cautiously in public if at all” list.

Or what if we discussed why the word choice was poor, allowed the offender a mea culpa, forgave and moved on?

 

Written by DCL

March 7, 2017 at 4:57 pm

To the Democrats, This is Why You Lost

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Why the Democrats Lost

Every anti-Trump rant I’ve heard or read coming from Democrats of late has been filled with assumptive statements so lacking in evidence they do little more than identify them as someone who doesn’t deal well with disappointment and must therefore find a boogie man to blame. They will inevitably lump half of the U.S. population into a small and narrow-minded cube of extremism and hate simply because that half doesn’t see the world through their political lens.

That said, four years from now they may end up looking like prophetic soothsayers or just pathetic partisans doing the Chicken Little routine.

Truth is, we don’t know.

I didn’t vote for Donald J. Trump. I officially left the GOP in 1998 and live at the political crossroads of classical liberalism and classical republicanism. Above all I consider myself a constitutionalist and during the 2016 election cycle neither candidate was showing any indication they planned to govern by that document.

Hillary flaunts the law, Donald uses it as a billy club.

The two major parties couldn’t have chosen worse candidates had they just set up a huge wall of random photos and thrown two darts. In fact it’s quite possible they would have chosen excellent candidates using that methodology, excluding the photos of anyone currently working in DC or the Federal Government of course.

Democrats, you lost because your candidate was only slightly more dishonest, slimy, and unlikable than “The Donald” and you had no message for the nearly 100 million people no longer actively seeking employment (yes, that’s the number of unemployed people in the U.S. not even counted in our official unemployment rate) or those folks living in “fly over country.” You know, those people you look down on and crack jokes about while speaking with a hick accent?

The people you should be protesting, boycotting, or throwing Molotov Cocktails at are your own party leadership for believing dynasties are more attractive to the American voter than true public servants. Does anyone still know what the definition of a public servant is?

The Republicans, on the other hand, have been envying Democrat dominance for 70 years, and trying to become more like them for so long they forgot this nation is populated by people who are politically, fiscally, and socially conservative, but still believe in helping their fellow Americans who are down on their luck, still believe we must be good stewards of this place we call earth, and still love liberty and an uncompromised free market (classical liberals).

If nothing else this election should be a reminder of that relevant fact and rather than throw yourself on the ground kicking and screaming you won’t be a part of it, try stepping outside your political bubble and getting to know those people you’ve labeled so ignorantly and vindictively.

And to those of you on the Political Right standing with smug vindication on your pedestal of payback, how about coming down for a minute to listen, because the Democrats are feeling what you felt over the last 8 years. You can relate. So try a little more relating and less dissociating.

It won’t be easy, but it will be enlightening, enriching, and healing.

It might even lead to a more “united” states again…

New Year, Same Old New York Times

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Well that didn’t last long.

It didn’t take much time at all for the New York Times to steamroll its own mea culpa after the November election. A time when Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and Executive Editor Dean Baquet offered a half-hearted apology to America, but an apology none-the-less, with regard to the way the Times had covered the election and for the most part America’s heartland.

As we reflect on the momentous result, and the months of reporting and polling that preceded it, we aim to rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism. That is to report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor, striving always to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences in the stories that we bring to you. It is also to hold power to account, impartially and unflinchingly. You can rely on The New York Times to bring the same fairness, the same level of scrutiny, the same independence to our coverage of the new president and his team.

Within that quote is a thinly veiled admission to the fact that the Times has not been exactly honest in its reporting. This isn’t news to anyone who doesn’t exist on the Left side of the political spectrum.

But now we see the Times is the Times and it’s probably going to take some serious time and perhaps hard times before the paper actually does what it says it will do.

Case in point, a recent article by the Times on former Texas governor Rick Perry who was pegged by Donald Trump to be the next energy secretary.  As the Washington Examiner points out and proves, the Times took a single quote, misinterpreted it, created a story around it, which was then picked up by every other Times wannabe on the planet, smearing Rick Perry in the process.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think the article was written by a first year journalism student who doubled as the president of the Democrat club.

So this is how the Times “rededicates” itself to the fundamental mission of Times journalism? Same as it ever was…

Read the full story here at the Washington Examiner

Even New York Magazine couldn’t back up the Times or condone the story.

Who’s going to revive the lifeless body of journalism in this country? I don’t see any legitimate organizations who can step in at this point.

Sad Times.

Written by DCL

January 19, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Posted in News, News Media, Politics

Dear Entertainment Industry

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This letter has been circulating on social media since the election.  I have no idea who the original author is so I can’t provide attribution, but I believe it sums up the thoughts and feelings of most everyday Americans.

I’ve made a few adjustments and added some thoughts of my own making it more about the players in the entertainment industry rather than about Donald Trump, because it doesn’t really matter who’s running for what, their opinions don’t matter to me.

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Dear Musicians, Hollywood actors, and Entertainers in general,

I’m not interested in your political views, social views, or personal activism. So please, don’t use your prominent place on the stage, big screen, or TV to shove them down my throat.

You exist for my entertainment. Some of you are great eye candy. Some of you can deliver a line with such conviction that you bring tears to my eyes. Some of you can scare the crap out of me. Others make me laugh. But you all have one thing in common, you only have a place in my world to entertain me.

That’s it.

You make your living pretending to be someone else. Playing dress up like a 6-year-old. You live in a make-believe world in front of a camera. And often when you are away from one too. Your entire existence depends on my patronage. I’ll crank the organ grinder; you dance.

I don’t really care where you stand on issues. Honestly, your stance matters far less to me than that of my neighbor. You see, you aren’t real. I turn off my TV or shut down my computer and you cease to exist in my world. Once I am done with you, I can put you back in your little box until I want you to entertain me again. I don’t care who you vote for or why. I’m glad you vote, now get back into your bubble. I’ll let you know when I’m in the mood to be entertained.

Make me laugh, or cry. Scare me. But realize that the only words of yours that matter are scripted.

I might agree with some of you from time to time, but it doesn’t matter. In my world, you exist solely for my entertainment.

So please just do what you do best. Read your lines, sing your songs, and dance.

Written by DCL

January 18, 2017 at 10:25 am

Posted in Humor, Politics

A Letter To Meryl Streep (not from me)

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This may be the most rational, well-written, fair, and accurate rebuttal to Meryl Streep’s public undressing of Donald Trump to date.

Don’t expect to see or read in any major publication. This letter will be ignored and intentionally buried because it exposes the Hollywood hypocrisy like no other.

It doesn’t just expose Ms. Streep but he industry and a large number of people who make a living there.

A Letter to Meryl Streep
Where was that empathy we’ve come to know?
by Lee Habeeb | Updated 13 Jan 2017 at 7:51 AM
An open letter to Meryl Streep from a conservative fan:

Dear Ms. Streep,

I’ve been a fan of your work since I first saw you in Woody Allen’s “Manhattan.” It was clear back then you were destined to be a star.

You didn’t hesitate to take the opportunity to attack President-Elect Trump — and by proxy, the people who voted for him.
The camera loved your striking good looks. But we all saw more. Your depth. Your intelligence. And your empathy. And empathy is what acting is all about. Actors don’t judge the characters they play. They become them.

And what characters you’ve played. Linda in “The Deer Hunter,” Karen in “Out of Africa,” Sophie in “Sophie’s Choice,” Sarah in “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” Rachel in “Heartburn,” Donna in my wife and daughter’s favorite movie — “Mamma Mia!” — and my favorite, Susan Orlean in “Adaptation.”

The flaws in your characters are never burnished, because you know all of us have flaws of one kind or another, and they can’t be separated from our virtues. You also know that there is, in every character you play, a part of yourself. A part of us all.

You are particularly good at taking seemingly unlikable people and making them fully human. In “Kramer vs. Kramer,” the movie that earned you your first Oscar, you turned an unsympathetic character into one we understood. And loved. Though your character had done the unimaginable, abandoning her husband and child for 18 months, you got us to see why she did such an awful thing. That she was in a lonely, desperate place. And did the only thing she thought she could do at the time: leave.

When she came back 18 months later to seek custody of her son, and won the custody battle, we were mad at her. But then she did something remarkable. Something hard. Despite the court’s ruling, she let her ex-husband retain custody of her son.

And that’s the thing about art. It challenges and surprises us. And reveals the contradictions and convulsions within us all. Indeed, it may be your crowning achievement that so many of your performances did just that.

That can’t be said for your performance at the Golden Globes. It was an obvious performance. A rude performance. And it lacked your characteristic courage to surprise and challenge all of us. Yourself included.

Let’s start with why it was rude. The Golden Globes invited millions of Americans into that room in Los Angeles, and millions of us invited you into our homes. But you didn’t hesitate to take the opportunity to attack President-Elect Trump — and by proxy, the people who voted for him. You either didn’t appreciate that fact, or took it into account and made the speech anyway.

Millions of your fans voted for Donald Trump, and millions were women. Good women you’d probably do a great job portraying if you had to. But on that stage, filled with righteous indignation, you paid them no respect. Like my wife, who admires your work, and who voted for Trump.

Moreover, what you failed to appreciate was this: Millions of people watching may not have liked Donald Trump, but voted for him anyway. Because sometimes, people we don’t like — people who offend our sensibilities — end up being very good at their jobs.

Like Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada,” the character you so capably brought to life. Could she have become a force in her industry by being anyone but the person she was? That’s what made your performance great. You didn’t judge her.

Could it be that Donald Trump has similar strengths and flaws? And might end up being a great leader, too? And could it be that those people who voted for him saw what you just couldn’t see?

Your performance was also obvious. When you started rattling the names of all of the actors, and where they were all from, we knew why you were doing it.

“Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners,” you said. “If you kick ’em all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”

The line got a laugh. But it was a cheap laugh. Because President-Elect Trump doesn’t want to throw outsiders and foreigners out of the country. Nor do his followers. Do you really think we want Ryan Gosling deported to Canada? And why that dig at so many millions of Americans who love you and the NFL? Love your movies and mixed martial arts? You treated us like we’re stupid, like you’re better than us. That’s a side of you we never saw on the screen before — condescending Meryl. Arrogant Meryl.

It’s an easy thing to caricature one side of a debate like illegal immigration, and worse, shut it down by calling people names. Or mocking them, which you did in your own elegant way. Which most of Hollywood has been doing in a not so elegant way since Trump launched his candidacy.

But what your performance lacked most was courage. You didn’t challenge your peers. They didn’t boo or hiss you once. We know why. They all agree with you. Moreover, you did not challenge the folks listening at home who did not vote for Trump. That’s not courage. That’s moral preening masquerading as courage.

I expected more from you. Because you know things aren’t always as what they seem, and that it’s easy to draw from single moments a caricature of any human being. Which you did when you focused on that Trump transgression with the journalist. You could have done that to Joe Biden when he implored a man in a wheelchair a few years back to stand up, not once, but several times. You didn’t, because you like Biden, and his brand of politics.

In what may have been the best movie of last year, “Hell or High Water,” Jeff Bridges plays an old Texas Ranger who teases his fellow Texas Ranger incessantly about his Comanche heritage. It would be easy to write the Bridges character off as a racist. But in the end, we learn that he loved his partner, and was willing to die for him.

That’s what art does. It surprises us. Inspire us. Even heals us.

“An actor’s only job,” you said, “is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like.”

That’s why your performance stunned us. The empathetic powers you so generously deploy with the fictional characters you play in movies was not extended to millions of real-life Americans watching on TV, the president-elect included, who see life differently than you.

You failed your own standard. And this is one case where you can’t blame the writer.

Related: Ingraham: Ironic Streep Rant Gives Elites a Pass

You still hold a special place in my heart. Your work always moves me and makes me think. Which is why I’ll give you a pass on your latest performance. Because, like you, I believe in art’s power to reveal the things not that divide us, but that bring us together.

From a fan for life, no matter what your political views,

Lee Habeeb

This letter has been sent to Streep’s agent. Habeeb anxiously awaits a response. He isn’t holding his breath. Habeeb is the VP of content for Salem Radio Network, and host of Our American Stories. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his wife and daughter.