The WALTHER REPORT
By Tony Walther
There’s more to this blog than Sarah Palin, but I just have to comment on this:
Sarah Palin did one appearance on Saturday Night Live. I think now that she didn’t get the vice presidential gig, but has tasted fame, she wants a permanent gig on SLN. I mean that absurd video that anyone who watches cable news or surfs the web cannot have missed with her talking glibly but in that weird syntax while turkeys are being slaughtered in clear view of the camera just in back of her beats anything that SLN writers could have even conceived of. Apparently she was oblivious to what was going on.
I’m so happy her ticket lost and that U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska who was in danger of being kicked out of the Senate over felony convictions lost too so she can’t appoint herself senator. Please Sarah, go back to your governor’s office and don’t bother us again (somehow I think she will be back, though, she hasn’t even left yet).
And just how does that terrible funnel contraption they were stuffing the turkeys into work? It seemed that when they pulled them back out they still had their heads, but there sure appeared to be a lot of blood running.
I’m not that big on animal slaughter, but I accept it, and I sure am a meat eater. My dad used to tell me about how his mother would use a cane to pull in a chicken from the yard and then swiftly chop its head off – her version of dinner prep. Somehow that seems more humane than what I saw on the Palin Thanksgiving horror video.
I also once toured a meat packing plant and watched the whole process from the killing to the hide being mechanically stripped off to the cutting and so on. The tour guide said that in most tour groups the men were more squeamish about the whole thing than the women.
– Al Franken was a good comedian, I suppose, not so good of a left-wing political talk show host on the liberal Air America Radio network, I thought, and I’m not so sure that he would be a good U.S. Senator, but I guess that’s up to the folks in Minnesota. I saw some of the disputed ballots on TV and I think the whole thing is absurd. One ballot showed that the voter clearly filled in the bubble for Franken, but there was an ink line that went to the name of Sen. Norm Coleman (Franken a Democrat, Coleman the incumbent Republican). On other ballots voters marked in the wrong places – skipping the bubbles. Whatever – instead of puzzling over the intent of the voter (or examining hanging-chad style as in Florida eight years ago), it seems to me those contested ballots ought to be thrown out. I mean I always have supposed that if I did not follow directions on my ballot that it would not count. That is why we have rules. If you can’t figure out how to clearly fill in a bubble next to the name of the candidate you are voting for and not at the same time mark in or around another candidate’s name, you shouldn’t be voting in the first place.
– Okay, so the internet is cutting into the profits of the traditional news media and in the process journalists are losing their jobs. My question is: where do people think the news comes from? Sure there are some on-site bloggers and folks are forever posting things on Youtube, but these are not always coherent or accurate and complete and reliable news sources, although they certainly can add (or in some cases subtract) from the volume of information. The first time I ever scanned the internet I asked myself and my wife who in the heck pays for this? I think I mentioned in a previous blog that after losing my last newspaper job in a corporate downsizing I thought I might freelance or put out my own newsletter – but who was going to pay me to do this while I built up a circulation and would people pay for this anyway? Then I read today that Associated Press plans to cut its workforce down by 10 percent over the next year due to declining revenues. But as the story I read pointed out, if you scan internet news, the source is often AP. Once the paid journalists are out of the picture, your news really will be The Daily Rumor. Maybe when people can no longer get advertising-financed free news they might actually be willing to pay for news directly or maybe they’ll just be happier in their ignorance.
(And remember when they first tried to push what was called “pay TV” back in the 60s? Folks wondered why pay for TV when it’s already free (thanks to commercials). Then along came cable and people did pay for it. But wouldn’t you know it, along with it came commercials. And now thanks to the conversion from analog virtually everyone is forced into cable or dish. And we still can’t get rid of the commercials. On the contrary there are more and more of them crowding out the actual programs, such as they are. The only quality TV is on Public Television, but even it has its own version of commercials now, and the fund-raising is annoying too.)
But back to AP, I sure hate to see AP in trouble. When I even get an inkling something has happened I go to Google and type in a subject and the letters AP and invariably I get the full story as it is known at the time.
And as a matter of fact, as I was working on this blog I heard a TV report on FOX, of all places, that there was a shooting at Savannah State University in Georgia, but there were no details. Switched to other channels, nothing, then Googled in Savannah State shooting, ap, and got several paragraphs from AP.
And now one of my newspaper memories: the first newspaper I ever worked for, the Red Bluff (Ca.) Daily News, used to subscribe to the other major domestic wire service United Press International and then switched to AP. The first 24-hour period we were on AP I got a phone call in the middle of the night from the AP San Francisco bureau. The guy at the other end in rapid, wide awake fashion fired off something at me that I did not comprehend in the least. I was still basically asleep. He repeated it several times. Finally, I understood. There had been an Amtrak derailment several miles to the south of Red Bluff and he wanted me to get down there and get photos and a story. As it happened, my boss beat me down there and back to the office. He did the lead story and he ran a photo he had made. But the paper also ran a photo I took of a rail coming right up through a train car (come to think of it, I’d have to see that old newspaper, but I think that would have been the better lead photo anyway – ahh the jealously among journalists). I also went to the Corning (Ca.) hospital where the injured had been taken and got a good sidebar story.
(To describe how backward we were then, in order to get a photo to AP we had to ship it on the Greyhoud bus.)
Now certainly that would have been an instance where freelance journalists could have been helpful, but during most of my so-called journalistic career freelancers (many of them photographers wanting to get publicity for their own businesses) often approached us for work, but turned out to be unreliable.
I did see a fascinating piece on C-Span the other day about a guy who teaches folks how to use these modern miniature hand-held video cameras, complete with sound, that are fully automatic (point and shoot) and then how to use the latest software to edit. It works both for conventional news organizations and amateurs. As an example, he worked with BBC and replaced 80 high-paid cameramen with 1,000 low-cost video recorders. Not only do you not have to pay as much for the operators, but you expand your coverage capability in the process at a lower cost. I remember seeing TV news shot the old way back in the 1980s. I saw a network TV news guy, followed by a camera man, followed by a sound man tethered to the camera man, followed by a man with a stopwatch (the producer). That was at the Harvey’s Hotel-Casino bombing incident at Stateline, Nevada (South Lake Tahoe). All that for a two-minute report on the nightly news. Fast forward and the other day I saw a good video report on the devastation of a trailer park in the LA area from a wildfire. The news media was not let in, but the network gave a resident one of those newfangled light-weight videos (you can hold one in the palm of your hand).
Where am I going with all of this? I don’t know for sure. Well, let’s see. Back when I took my first journalism class in the early 70s (and I’ve written that line before, sorry), my instructor thought that the new comparatively cheap offset printing process (as opposed to the old hot lead type process) would revolutionize or democratize the newspaper business because people could economically paste up their own newspapers (instead of having the old time lead type composing room with men with eye shades). Of course the catch was and remains: you still have to have access to a very expensive thing called a web printing press. Well, things did not work out as he had hoped. But I do have to admit that this new relatively inexpensive and user-friendly video technology could democratize and even improve the electronic news industry. Nonetheless, few people can afford to work for free even when it is a labor of love.