I Hear Ed Allen Sr. Calling…..

While watching the CBS Evening News about the horrific tornadoes that struck large portions of the South an odd memory came to mind. During the report video footage from the RV service and repair business in Moundville, Alabama was shown. It was most dramatic to see the large vehicles tossed about like match-box cars.

But it was when the name of business owner Tommy Muckenfuss was carefully pronounced on the air that I smiled. And thought of the owner of WDOR, the Sturgeon Bay radio station where I had my first job in the 1980s. I had come across a name much like that Alabama man while on-air in a newscast and learned the hard way why always pre-reading the copy is a good idea.

When I slipped up shortly after starting my radio job and added a hard ‘k’ sound to the-then-City Attorney Staufaucher’s name it created a phone call from the owner. At least on-air I always had the ability at times like that to never look back and just keep talking. It was soon apparent to the owner that I knew my slip-up was not professional and I was determined that type of error would not be repeated.  

Ed Allen, Sr. knew I had an old-school reverence for radio broadcasting and took my on-air time seriously. So he just reminded me to pre-read the names of local people I had not before encountered.

I had to smile broadly tonight as the CBS reporter, David Begnaud, eased up and over what Trevor James (my on-air radio moniker) would have plowed through with the hard K echoing over the country.

All COVID Newscasts Underserving America

Network-Logos

If one only receives their news via the evening broadcasts from the three main networks it is most likely there is no awareness about a long list of international events that are shaping regions of the world.  I am clearly aware of the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the many tentacles it has on all parts of the nation.  I am also aware of the need to report and juggle events within the roughly 22 minutes allotted for the nightly broadcasts.  But it also goes without saying that news programming needs to adapt during this time of pandemic so the events from Poland to Hong Kong also get covered.

If everyone read a morning newspaper there would be less reason to find concern about the absence from ABC, CBS, or NBC about events that not only impact large swaths of the world but also impact international policy decisions our nation is then required to make.  A well-informed citizenry aids in shaping our national discussion on the issues which our leaders will then be offering a response.

I wrote about the actions nations like China, North Korea, and Iran have been undertaking over the past months, as they hoped a pandemic and the lack of ability from our president would allow them to get away with their long-held desires.  In April I summed up a post entry with these two paragraphs.

There is  no doubt that international players are watching the United States very closely as this pandemic takes hold of the country.  They are most conscious about the lack of leadership exhibited from this White House.  It is troubling to see so many rogue players and confrontational nations seeming to wish to take moves that run counter to international norms.

While there is a lack of credible leadership in the White House there will be those who take advantage of the existing circumstances. At the fringes that is what we are seeing play out on the world stage. It is not something we can dismiss, and it is not something that the television news media in this nation should fail to report.  We need to be aware of international events, even during a pandemic.

A most draconian national security law imposed by Beijing has left Hong Kong in a most perilous position.  Those living in the city can now be jailed for life for vaguely defined laws.  What China deems “subversive” can mean not only a citizen of the city can be forced to the mainland for trial but jailed for decades over the most bizarre of reasons.

A truly important election is taking place this weekend in Poland, where the outcome could signal the beginning of the end of right-wing and illiberal democratic governments in Eastern Europe. (Illiberal democracy is a topic of importance on CP)  Those who follow the trend lines over the past years can attest to the dangerous outcomes for democracy when the press is vilified, courts turn out rulings dictated by oppressive rulers, and human rights are tossed aside like old bread.  Warsaw Mayor Trzaskowski is seeking to remove the right-wing incumbent President Duda.   The outcome is vital to the international tide of democracy that needs restoration.

If a news story on a major network started out with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, when completed, being nearly twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty and as wide as the Brooklyn Bridge is long or that the reservoir behind it is roughly the size of London, viewers would pay attention. Once operating the dam will be the largest hydro-electric project in Africa.  It will produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity, but a massive dispute with Egypt and Ethiopia and Sudan has prompted threats of war and concerns about a future conflict over water resources under pressure because of climate change.

The world is filled with these types of news stories that we need to know about and with newspapers and newsmagazines, many people are better informed.  But there is a huge swath of the public who rely upon television network news for their source of information.  And that demographic is not prone to tune in to PBS’ NewsHour.  So it is incumbent that the three main networks find a better use of the time allotted to them in the evening.

Increasing the length of their national newscast is not an option due to the importance of local advertisers to affiliates around the nation.  Going without advertisers on the national broadcast would add about 8 minutes of content.  If there would be just a cold opening without a playlist of upcoming stories, and also jettisoning the ‘feel good’ story at the end of each broadcast would add at least 3 minutes of airtime for actual news content.

There must be a better way to inform those who tune in to the evening broadcasts and rely on it for most of their knowledge about the world. The recent past underscores why there needs to be a better-informed citizenry, which then allows for a better performing electorate.

And so it goes.

Face The Nation Celebrates 65 Years Of Informing Nation

For the majority of my life Face The Nation has been a part of my Sunday mornings. Many in the nation can say the same. When in my late 20’s, and driving home on Sundays to be with my parents, I would listen to the show on CBS News Radio WBBM from Chicago (780 AM).  This week the show turned 65!

 

Nora O’Donnell Goes To The Story

I have been very impressed with the Hurricane Dorian coverage that CBS Evening News anchor Nora O’Donnell has delivered to her viewers.  That has been my view since Monday evening when she started anchoring coverage from Flordia as storm squalls were lashing at the news crew.

But this evening, as NBC’s Lester Holt again sat behind a desk in New York,  it was O’Donnell who reported while hanging on at the back of a coast guard plane, with its tail section open, while capturing images of the devastated regions of the Bahamas.  

I am sure the CBS reporter would not think it proper to be placed in a blog post alongside journalists such as Ernie Pyle and Edward Murrow when it comes to covering stories.  But going to where the events are happening, and allowing for the best effort at conveying facts to a news audience, is the job O’Donnell signed up for.  And she has delivered, just like Pyle did with his writing and Murrow for his live reports from war theatres in World War II. 

Anderson Cooper may look better in a wet T-shirt but when it comes to professional doggedness for getting a story this blogger is mighty impressed with the work of the news anchor for CBS.

First Post-Mugabe Election in Zimbabwe NEVER Mentioned On NBC, CBS Evening News

I am always desiring to have a citizenry informed about the news and events of not only our country, but also the world.

One of the truly important, and also inspiring stories, took place Monday in Zimbabwe as millions of people voted peacefully in the first election since the long-overdue ouster of Robert Mugabe.  The election was no small thing.  The outcome will go a long way in determining the former British colony’s future for decades.

I went to bed last night listening to BBC radio for updates, and spent the day with either newspaper accounts or media updates via the computer.

But when turning to the evening newscasts on major networks in the United States I found what can only be described as a severe lack of sound editorial direction.   Neither CBS or NBC had a single mention of the story--with CBS not even having a mention of ANY international news.   NBC decided to carry a closing story about a basketball player.

Many minutes were spent on the large and raging wildfires in California.  Yes, they are news and impact many lives.  But from a news editor perspective the stories and images of the fires have been on the nightly broadcasts for a week, and nothing appreciably different occurred Monday.

Meanwhile a very significant vote was underway in a major African nation, where for the first time since Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980 after a brutal guerrilla war against a white supremacist regime, Mugabe was not on the ballot.

And it deserved coverage!

Thankfully each evening in our home we record on the DVR the BBC World News.  The BBC continuously provides full coverage and insight about the world.  It is due to the shortcomings of programs, such as the network newscasts this evening, which help create a citizenry that is under-educated about international events.

Charlie Rose Let Us All Down

So here is my take on Charlie Rose, who tonight has been released from his duties at both CBS but more importantly for most of us who love interesting and informative discussions, PBS.

The Washington Post in a very long and detailed article today reported that eight women have come forward to state Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.

Rose has words of remorse for his actions, though he claims some of the allegations were not viewed by him in the same light as his accusers.   But the bottom line is his personal character was mighty flawed in this part of his life.

Not only do the women who he mistreated have a reason to feel let down, but so does that segment of the nation–small segment though that may be–who thrilled to an hour with the likes of Walter Isaacson talking about Da Vinci.  The Charlie Rose show was a very special place on TV.

Just the past two episodes have been remarkable for the journey they have taken viewers regarding the 50th anniversary of 60 Minutes.  Each program over the years has aired at midnight so I taped it on the DVR and watched it later.  He was a routine and a most pleasant one at that.  Lets face the fact there are not that many places on television where an erudite personality takes the rest of us who need such a journey into the topics that challenge and stimulate.

So when Rose felt up the leg of a woman who did not invite it he not only undermined himself, angered the woman, but also prevented those of us who wanted something deeper on television to have that opportunity continued.

So yes, Charlie Rose let us all down.

Jeff Glor Takes Center Stage For CBS News

Emmy-award winning CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor has been named anchor of the CBS Evening News.  He has reported across the globe for virtually all CBS News broadcasts and digital platforms in his 10 years with the network. He has anchored numerous breaking news stories, including most recently in the field for Hurricane Irma and in the studio for the Las Vegas shootings.

It is needless to say this is a great moment in Glor’s journalistic career.  There are truly impressive and historic shoes that he now fills when behind the anchor desk at CBS but his integrity as a journalist–a must for anyone who wishes to convey the news that matters to the nation–will allow him to make a comfortable fit.

I am delighted with this news and know he will make his mark in his duties on air.

What Movie Did We Watch Following The Election Of Donald Trump?

The power and responsibility of the media to present the needed information to the public was on my mind all this afternoon.  As such when it came time to think about what we would do this evening I offered up to James the idea we watch this film.  Powerful, brilliantly filmed and directed.  Five Stars.  There is a deep requirement that the public airwaves not be allowed to become more focused on info-tainment when it comes to reporting news.  I do not wish to paint too broad a stroke or detract from the solid and fine reporters who prove their professional stripes every day.  But there were many this election season who chased a reality-TV star and early in the process were more concerned about ratings than vetting a presidential contender.   Journalism must always have a higher calling.  That is why we watched this movie tonight.