Monday, September 27, 2010

Signing Off

I got a new job and I don't want to blow it by saying something stupid on my blog. Actually, while that's true, my new employer requested that I shutter the blog. So this will be the last entry for a while — unless I find a different stupid way to become unemployed, which I will studiously attempt to avoid.

As much as I've enjoyed this outlet for my observations, opinions, photographs and even music, blogging has caused more trouble than it's worth. Honesty is not the best policy when writing about your job, or anything else that an employer could misconstrue as bad-mouthing or another bitter expression.

Even if it weren't a condition of employment, it would be wise for me to stop spouting my private thoughts to a public audience. I appreciate the freedom of expression, but it is not free, and the cost right now would be a job that I greatly look forward to doing.

So, goodbye for now. Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Plumbing Lesson #1

If you have only two bathrooms in your home, do not attempt to repair more than one toilet at a time. Doing so could require you to use a third "bathroom," otherwise known as "the back yard."

Friday, September 03, 2010

21st Century TV Job Searching

I thought I had moved for the last time but I may get on the merry-go-round again.

Freelance work has dwindled to where the emphasis is on free and I have begun looking for work in earnest, even considering jobs outside of the Tampa area. I like living here and I like freelancing here but work here has evaporated.

Several of the outlets for which I have done regular work have gone belly up and I have not found new ones to replace them. I haven't given up on my video biography business but it has not produced a reliable income.

Fortunately, threat of destitution is far off but I'd rather avoid making it a contest.

I also thought I had left television news behind as a full-time occupation. When I moved to Florida in late 2004, it was more important to choose where I lived than what I did for a living. That was easier when there were more available options for work.

While I have long embraced the new media -- I built my first web site in 1997 and encoded my first online video the next year -- that have become the buzzwords of traditional news outlets, TV news as a business is getting younger and cheaper. I am not and I wonder if there is still a market for someone with my skills and experience (read: age).

Maybe. Instead of mailing videotapes, many job ads now ask for online links to examples of your work, such as those on the video page at This not only saves money and time, my web site's stat counter eliminates the mystery of whether anyone sees my work.

It can also compress the time someone will respond. It used to be that you'd send a tape First Class. That would take 2-4 days. The the tape would become part of "the stack" that you hoped a station's news director would find time to watch. If you ever heard anything, it could take weeks.

Now a news director can open an e-mail on his BlackBerry, click on a link, watch your work and call you that day. I know this because twice now news directors have called me within hours of my sending an e-mail to them. I was not prepared for that and I hope I didn't blow my chances at what sounded like decent opportunities stumbling through my shock.

Another news director asked to see more of my news anchoring. I dug a newscast excerpt out of my computer, encoded and uploaded it to my site, created a page for it and sent him the link. I offered to mail a DVD if he prefers.

Here's what he'll see:

Yes, that newscast is five years old. There are clips of my traffic reporting from as recently as June so anyone can see that I still have some hair and can still perform on camera.

If you know anyone who needs a standout storyteller who has reported and anchored every kind of story from hard news to fluffy features, sports and even traffic, please point them to me.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Movie Review of the Year

As seen on a Yahoo movies user review of The Expendables.

by Chris (movies profile) Aug 13, 2010

Seriously after seeing this movie if you don't wanna eat a bowl of raw steak, while lifting weights.. inside of a hooters, inside of a strip club and then want to go blow stuff up. Then you might as well go see Eat Pray Love because you might not be a man.

The Expendables is the shoot-em-up, beat-em-up, blow-em-up starring Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham and Dolph Lundgren. The review above expressed the general sentiment of users.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Arkansas Radio Reporter Fired for Florida Hat

This will seem like homerism, since I live in Florida and, in fact, own a Florida Gators hat. But this is ridiculous.

Hence the ridicule to follow.

An Arkansas radio station that bills itself "Hog Sports Radio" fired one of its reporters for wearing a Florida Gators cap to a news conference with Arkansas Razorbacks football coach Bobby Petrino.

Renee Gork is a University of Florida alumna. She says she grapped the Gators hat without thinking because it was raining outside. It wasn't a stunt, a protest, or an attempt to provoke Petrino.

No matter how rushed she was or how wet your hair might have gotten, this was extraordinarily poor judgment on Gork's part. First of all, any Florida-themed apparel gets buried at the bottom of the closet the second I move into my Arkansas abode. Second, wearing any university-logoed cap to a college football news conference, friend or foe, is entirely unprofessional.

However, her punishment should have ended with the embarrassment she must have felt when Petrino finished a reply to a question from Gork by saying, "and that will be the last question I answer with that hat on."

But fired? C'mon. This seems backwards even for Arkansas.

"This radio station is Hog Sports Radio," KAKS general manager Dan Storrs told The Associated Press. "We are very biased. We support the Razorbacks 100 percent."

And you take your support for a college football team far too seriously.

I get it. You make your living kissing up to the U of A. It doesn't help that cause if one of your employees wears an enemy's hat to cover a Razorbacks event. But there's loyalty and there's idiocy. This goes beyond even that. Storrs had turned what should have been a reprimand and a local chuckle into a national embarassment.

For him. As if people don't already think of Arkansans as intolerant rubes, this just reinforces it. Unbelievable.

Tampa TV Reporters Fired For YouTube Video

WFTS-TV fired three people and disciplined four others for creating a mock newscast and posting it online. The spoof, anchored by Kerry Kavanaugh (left), reported that a Ch. 28 employee was one of Tiger Woods' mistresses. It was apparently meant as a gag gift for the woman's birthday. Click here to read details from the St. Petersburg Times.

Fake newscasts and blooper reels are as old as TV news. Before YouTube, they were the products of harmless fun that only a few people would see. You edited them on tape, gathered the intended audience into an edit booth and showed off the results in person. Tapes were inconvenient to copy, at least compared to copying-and-pasting a bit of text, so you were relatively assured that your inside joke would stay inside the group with whom you shared it.

Now, editing happens on computers, and you get a video file that is all too easy to upload to the Universe. Once there, you lose any control over who sees it and shares it. If it goes "viral," it can cause a fatal illness to your job, if not your entire career.

That's why I feel bad for those who lost their jobs. They thought they were doing something funny for a friend. It's the brain surgeon who thought he or she had to share the video on Facebook and YouTube whose career ought to be kaput.

Firing seems excesssive punishment. The station's GM told the Times that the video could risk the station's credibility, which I understand to a point. But I saw the clip before it was removed from YouTube and if the only people still watching TV news are ones who couldn't immediately tell that this was a fake story, I'm not sure that the business has much credibility left, anyway.

Meanwhile, I remain grateful that the bulk of my broadcast career happened in the ante-YouTube era. My on-air mishaps haunt me enough in memories. I'd hate to think how I'd feel if they were conveniently available for anyone to view.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

The words "Sarasota" and "jungle" don't often appear in the same sentence. Sarasota Jungle Gardens is a tourist attraction where I once shot a freelance story. In fact, here's the video:

I went back yesterday with a couple members of the local photo group to which I belong. No alligators bellowed. I see gators in the wild occasionally anyway so I focused on the parrots and flamingos.

There are more shots of parrots in from this shoot on my photo blog.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Today's Irony

When the narrator of a novel relates an anecdote and adds, "I am not making this up."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lowry Park Zoo Photos

I spent Friday getting rained on while feeding mosquitoes at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. Also, I took some photographs. I was disappointed that the tigers and cheetahs got the day off. But, don't worry, I still got to pay the full admission price of $20.95

There are landscape (horizontally oriented) photos over on my photo blog, not here only because they won't fit. Be warned there is monkey porn.

How VJs Are Changing TV News?

The money savings that one-person TV news crews promise is convincing more stations to use them. Instead of a reporter and a photographer, a one-man-band shoots and reports the story him or herself. These one-man-bands (OMBs) are variously called video journalists (or VJs) and multimedia journalists (MMJs), depending on whose pig the lipstick is being applied.

Former CBS News reporter Deborah Potter writes on that one-man-bands are changing not only how news is gathered but how it looks on the air.

Potter cites an unpublished dissertation by Kutztown University's Mary Angela Bock which reports that the challenge of shooting and reporting one's own work often forces OMBs to go for the easiest stories to turn, rather than those most interesting to viewers. "Because they work alone, VJs will be more apt to look for quick and easy access to story elements," Potter quotes Bock as writing.

Another problem with OMB work, Potter notes, is the physical demands of the job. Even common doorways can prove formidable obstacles to the lonely journalist larded with equipment.

Seriously. Those are the two salient points in the article, which seemed a veiled argument against OMBs. I hope that the 500 pages that Bock says her treatise spans includes more compelling information because the items cited do not detail accurately how increased use of solo news crews affects the news you see on TV.

First, OMBs are not the only ones who go for the low hanging fruit under the ever-increasing pressure of producing news for broadcast at 11 and for the web right now. It's not because they work alone that they pursue easy elements; it's because they have deadlines that come sooner than they once did. So do two-person crews and they're just as guilty of the "one-stop shopping" syndrome.

You can make a better argument claiming that former photographers new to reporting either seek or are assigned features because they lack either the confidence in themselves or the trust of management to tackle meatier stories.

And as someone who has shot plenty of my own stories (the homepage of my website,, features a story I shot myself), I have never found a doorway that was a serious impediment. The physical strain argument overlooks the fact that the major station groups — including Gannett, Hearst and Scripps Howard — that have adopted OMBs to some degree have all bought small and relatively cheap cameras for them to use.

Their physical load is less than that of a traditional photographer.

Potter notes that Bock "reports that the National Union of Journalists in England is starting to hear health complaints–such as exhaustion or back problems–from VJs who have been on the job a few years."

I hope Bock also reports what percentage of VJs make such complaints, how many traditional news photographers make similar complaints, and whether the National Union of Journalists opposes the use of VJs. That would added needed perspective.

If you want to argue against OMBs, here it is: When one person does the jobs that used to belong to two, it's not going to be done as well. Looking for shots is a different pursuit than digging for facts and when you have to do both, they're going to suffer for it.

That's it. The rest is like the mumbo-jumbo of the Atkins diet when the bottom line is that you lose weight because you consume fewer calories. Conversely, the advantage of using OMBs is that they cost about half of two-person crews. Anything more is just the aforementioned porcine lipstick.

The most obvious thing you see with OMB work right now is that it's new (or so old as to seem new) to many of the people doing it. You have life-long photographers suddenly trying to write and read narration for a news story. Reporters get two days of training with their new camera and out they go to turn a story with it.

Of course it looks like left-handed writing by right-handed people.

This will change as aspiring reporters learn that shooting their stories is not just something they will have to do in college or in their first job out of school. Stations won't be trying to teach people to write with their other hand. They'll arrive already ambidextrous.

Will they produce work as much or as good as two-person crews do now? Almost certainly not. Would it be ideal to have teams of two collaborating on a story? Almost certainly yes.

But OMBs didn't cause the Shirley Sherrod fiasco. And they're not going away. An article about how to do better work under the circumstances would do much more good than one apparently wishing the circumstances where different.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Conversation With the Cat

Said I: "Annie, you have to eat your food. If you don't eat it, it's not food. It's just stuff that somebody bought for no reason."

Said the cat:

Annie continues to be a finicky eater, which is not good when a supercharged metabolism caused by a hyperactive thyroid is literally starving her to death. Yet she often insists that I feed the food (even the gooey canned food) to her by hand.

Yes, there is medicine for the thyroid but it takes several weeks to have an effect. Meantime, I cannot afford to get into a contest of wills with the cat. Nor, apparently, can I engage her in a contest of wits, as I try to tell her that it's not cat food if the cat doesn't eat it.

She seems unswayed. She will eat with enthusiasm if I hold the food in my hand. Unfortunately, I sometimes go out of the house, leaving the cat to feed herself from the bowl, which seems to be anathema to her now. I don't know how she's lasting.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Massive Mix Six

So titled because there were five previous versions. However, if I rework the song I'll probably keep the title.

The drums and vocal sounds come from samples. I played the rest of the sounds on either my synthesizer or guitar and mixed them all together using free Sony's Acid Express program.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Movie "Airplane!" is 30

"I speak jive."

The idea behind that came from the movie "Shaft." Airplane's creators (three self-described "Jewish boys from Milwaukee") had seen it but did not understand the dialogue.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I Thought I Was Done With Soccer Too

But I forgot something.

I'm not an expert but it appears from the little bit of the World Cup I've watched that soccer is a sport in which the players are not allowed to use their hands and the referees are not allowed to use their eyes.

You don't have to be an expert to see the numerous blunders referees have made in the second largest sporting event in the world after the Olympics. Replays show them quite clearly.

That became a problem in the game between Argentina and Mexico. Replays of Argentina's first goal clearly showed that the player who scored it was offsides. The goal should have been disallowed. It wasn't just clear to TV viewers at home. Monitors at the stadium showed it to fans and the two teams.

Mexico was not happy. Their angry confrontation with the referee at halftime threatened to blow up into a brawl between the two teams.

Soccer's worldwide governing body is an outfit called FIFA. I'm sure one of the Fs stands for football. The other must stand for an F-word that teams feel after another bad call has victimized them.

FIFA doesn't seem to mind the botched call. What's one more?

Anyway, to FIFA, the problem in the Mexico-Argentina case was not the goal but the replay! ESPN quoted FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot as saying that replaying the incident was "a clear mistake."

One that won't be repeated, he promised. Problem solved!

Yes, because it is the replay's fault that the refs punted the call. But if they don't show replays of a bogus goal, isn't that like announcing to the crowd that it was a bogus goal?

Nevermind that. And don't try to fix the injustice. Try to fix people seeing it. What is so outrageous to us seems much more prevalent in the rest of the world. It seems to be an accepted part of the sport, judging by FIFA's actions.

It's something Americans' sense of fair play would never tolerate. A sport so rife with corruption, organized or not, will never catch on here.

That and it's soccer.

College Newspaper and TV Newsrooms Merge

The seismic shift in news media has begun to reshape journalism schools. The University of Kansas has merged the newsrooms of its student newspaper and television station. The University Daily Kansan will move into a newsroom where KUJH-TV studio is located.

A cynic will say that now the TV people won't have to go as far to get story ideas from the paper.

KU says in a news release that the merger will "provide journalism students with greater opportunities to tell their stories more dynamically across print, broadcast, online and new and emerging media."

In other words, the TV people won't be going to get stories from the paper because they'll be the ones writing stories for the paper. And the newspaper reporters will be producing stories for TV.

"The students will benefit from learning in a true multimedia environment," said Terry Bryant, lecturer in journalism and media lab manager. "The variety of skills they master will serve them well when they become professional journalists after graduating from KU."

If the students think this is theoretical, heretical or just radical, they should take a look at WFLA-TV and the Tampa Tribune, Media General-owned outlets which operate from a single newsroom with reporters and photographers shared between the two media.

WFLA-TV photographers have been given Nikon DSLR still cameras with which they shoot photos for the Tribune. More than occasionally, photographers will write and narrate their own TV stories. Newspaper reporters turn stories for TV. TV reporters write for the paper.

Convergence is not just a crazy idea in some bean counter's head somewhere. The debate about whether this should happen is moot. More and more large market TV stations are hiring what they call multi-media journalists — those who shoot their own stories and tap out a text version for the station's web site while they're at it.

If that's the real world, it's good to see journalism schools begin to prepare students for what they're in for when they get there.

World Cup Soccer: USA Loses, ESPN Mourns

I watch soccer like I watch figure skating -- once every four years whether I need to or not. Any more frequent viewing will come only at the invitation of a pretty girl who promises much kissing afterward.

It would have been fun watching the USA advance. Now it will be fun to watch ESPN try to jam soccer down Americans' throats with the likes of Ghana vs. Slovakia. Good luck with that!

It said a lot about the state of soccer in the U.S. that play-by-play announcing for the most significant match in this country's history was called by an Englishman. How many college (American) football games does ESPN and ABC broadcast each autumn weekend and not one of those guys could handle calling a soccer game?

ESPN/ABC color analyst John Harkes sounds just like tennis commentator Mary Carillo. Voice, delivery, phrasing, everything. It took me a while to realize she wasn't in the booth and that she's in London covering Wimbledon.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Be Ready To Evacuate Or Beware Citizen Journalists?

Recently I wrote about people's ever-increasing need to be wary of news stories they read. In the race to be first, sometimes accuracy gets lost in the rush.

And that's just among mainstream media. Many more so-called news sources exist, whose authors who lack the knowledge or interest in backing up their stories with pesky little things like facts.

Here's a great example.

Today a Facebook friend posted a link to an article that suggested that officials were ready to trigger plans to evacuate Tampa Bay because of the Gulf oil spill.

The article reads as if composed of a dash of fact and two cups of conjecture. It doesn't cite any officials saying that they're considering evacuating the area. Where's the story coming from? I dunno. The article does not even include a byline. I posted on my friend's page, "I wish the article cited sources. As written, it reads like speculation."

My friend had shared the link from another person. That person replied with a link to another article with a nearly identical story, as if the fact that someone copy-and-pasted the article adds credibility to its contents.

At least this version, which appears to be the original, had a byline. But the author is either a terrible writer or an awful reporter. She lets a reader infer that because "plans are in place" for an evacuation that those who could order one have their finger poised over the "go" button.

In a reply on Facebook, I wrote, "Is there a plan in place? I sincerely hope so! There is a plan in place for evacuation from a hurricane too. But there is no evidence cited that those who could order an evacuation have even considered it."

The article appears on, which pays writers on a pay-per-click basis. Whether the writer inadvertently failed to label a commentary as such or whether she deliberately distorted facts hoping the story would go viral, I don't know.

It was clear from the comments on my friend's Facebook page that more than a few people were willing to take the story at face value, believing what "they" say without question who "they" are or even if they exist.

As I concluded my Facebook reply, "Please, please, be skeptical of what they say. They are usually just making stuff up."

Monday, June 07, 2010

Suspect Suicide Caught on Video. Do You Air It?

Media aren't the gatekeepers of information they once were.

The story about a porn star suspected of murder hurling himself off a cliff as Los Angeles police tried to subdue him is a great example. Though police failed to grab Stephen Clancy Hill before he fell to his death, he was captured on video.

Do you air it?

It's not pleasant to look at but it's not nearly as graphic as the Budd Dwyer gun-in-mouth suicide televised live in 1987. Airing the video might counter accusations of police brutality. Hill was black and the LAPD is not known for just treatment of minorities. Rodney King, anyone?

It has the makings of a great debate.

One rendered totally moot by YouTube.

As stations and now newspapers and radio stations with their video-enabled web sites gnash their teeth weighing the merits, viewers have already decided for themselves if they want to see it. Those who do have no trouble finding it online.

If you're a news director or an editor or just an idiot arguing on a message board you are debating as an exercise. Your verdict has little to do with what news consumers actually see. That itself introduces a new dynamic in the decision-making process. I wonder how it will change news outlets' thinking (A) about showing the video and (B) covering the story?

Interesting times.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Eye to Eye

Sandhill cranes are used to people on golf courses. They also know that golf carts often mean available food. They have no compunction about stealing anything they can reach, though many people feed them voluntarily. This all means that you can get very close and the bird will just stand there looking at you.

If you happen to have your camera handy, especially if said camera has lens that will zoom to 300mm, you can get a close-up shot like this:

And, yes, that was the closest thing to a birdie I got all day. I shot a 96.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Floyd Landis Falls on Sword, Tries to Stab Armstrong

The answers from Floyd Landis raised the same question about Lance Armstrong:
How could anyone so dominate a sport so dominated by drug abuse if he weren't cheating too?

You've heard, seen or read the story by now. If not, here you go.

Floyd Landis, winner of the 2006 Tour de France, who lost his title after a positive drug test, finally admitted that his consistently vociferous denials of drug use were all lies. He doped throughout his career, he confessed.

In falling on his sword, Landis was not content to kill his own reputation. He claimed that Armstrong helped him cheat, even storing "clean" blood in Armstrong's refrigerator.

Armstrong was as dogged by drug use accusations as fellow cyclists en route to seven consecutive Tour de France titles. And he has been as vocal in his denials as Landis once was. A denial he had to trot out again, with added attacks on his former teammate's credibility, after Landis' announcement.

Unlike Landis — and so may other big-name cyclists felled by drug tests, if not killed by drugs themselves — Armstrong has been able to maintain innocence by repeating, almost mantra-like, "I have never failed a drug test."

Perhaps it is for that he deserves the greatest congratulations.

It is clear that the question is no longer whether Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs, the question is only whether he was a superior doper among equal competitors or a superior competitor among equal dopers.

Monday, May 24, 2010

NOT the "Female Viagra"

"When men show up at the pharmacy to pick up prescription drugs for sex problems, they have several options. Viagra. Cialis. Levitra. That hasn’t been the case for women with similar problems."

So begins a CNN story about flibanserin, a drug designed to boost a woman's libido that the FDA is considering. A story on CBS News' website calls it, "female Viagra."

The problem with these comparisons? While they're both pills and they both relate to sex, flibanserin does not treat the same kinds of sex problems that Viagra treats in men. It is not the "female Viagra."

Viagra can make a man able to have sex but it doesn't give him the desire for it. In fact, Viagra's maker, Pfizer, was forced to pull ads that intimated that the drug rejuvenated a man's sex drive. Viagra, Cialis and Levitra do nothing for libido.

It may not seem like a big deal. But it's another example of media outlets demonstrating that they don't understand the things they're reporting. This one doesn't require a lot of technical or medical knowledge to get right. You just have to pay attention.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

THE Campaign Ad of 2010

I know that there's a lot of time between now and November so it could be too early to make such a pronouncement. I also know people not paying close attention will scan this post and think I am taking a political stand here. I am not. My comments are not meant as either endorsement or derision of Dale Peterson's candidacy or his campaign tactics.

So listen up!

I am curious about whether Peterson, hoping to win the Republican nomination for Alabama's Agriculture Commissioner, is a product of today's anti-incumbent political climate or is merely capitalizing on it. And whether you can virtually command people to vote for you.

So listen up!

I'll say this: Peterson's ad didn't leave much room for parody. Good satire makes you pause and think for a moment before deciding it's not real. How much farther out than this can you get before your spoof is too obvious?

I did learn how indispensable firearms are for agriculture. Apparently you can't grow cotton without a shotgun.

So listen up!

Yes I Do Deserve Your Best

I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.

— Marilyn Monroe

A friend posted that on her Facebook page and I wanted to comment but refrained. She's going through a rough time and I didn't want her to think my thoughts were directed at her.

So they go here instead.

My first thought was, it depends on how bad the worst is and how good the best is. And how much of each there are. Then I thought, screw that. Anyone who says I don't deserve her best, regardless of the prior qualifying statement, probably isn't worth the effort.

Even Marilyn Monroe.

Advice to Reporter Advising Candidate: Don't

Media consultants help politicians better deal with reporters and communicate on camera. Basketball players have coaches, why not public servants? And who better to coach you on how to deal with reporters than a reporter?

(If you are looking for media training, I know a guy.)

The problem is when the media consultant is a current reporter who is covering the candidate's campaign, especially when the candidate names the reporter while introducing his campaign staff.

This happened in south Florida where congressional candidate Allen West says in the video below that West Palm Beach TV reporter Angela Sachitano "does our media relations."

The Palm Beach Post reports that Sachitano's boss at WPTV-TV, Jeff Brogan, doesn't believe the relationship compromised her journalistic integrity but that her work for West was "inconsistent with our policy."

It was also inconsistent with having a brain.

Look, if you live somewhere long enough you are (I hope) going to know a lot of people. One of them may run for congress. You might even give him some tips on how to perform better on camera, what reporters are looking for and how to answer their questions.

But if you're a real journalist, does anyone need to tell you to stay away from his campaign appearances? Or to inform your bosses at work that you're friends with the guy and shouldn't do stories about him or his opponent?

Full disclosure: I worked with Brogan at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati from 2002-2004. Please do not construe this post as casting aspersions on him.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Story vs. The Facts

Do media need to get the facts right or just the story?

There is a difference. If you tell me that two plus two equals five and I report that, I have reported the story correctly but I have reported the fact incorrectly.

Is that OK? Should we be happy to get the story straight, even if its information is wrong? The news director at WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh seems to think so.

Last Friday, the WPXI reported that former Pittsburgh Steelers player Santonio Holmes was escorted off a commercial flight at Pittsburgh International Airport. Turns out that Holmes was not escorted off the plane. He was merely admonished for not turning off his iPod prior to landing. He left the plane with the rest of the passengers.

The station later updated its story without clarifying that its earlier report was untrue.

"The story changed and we changed it," WPXI news director Mike Goldrick told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We didn't feel like we needed to correct it because we don't feel like it was wrong. The story we got, we reported, and when the story changed we reported it."

"The information we had at the time was right. The information changed," Goldrick said.

I guess that depends on what the definition of information is. The facts the station had at the time were wrong. The facts didn't change. Holmes was either escorted off the plane or he wasn't. Unless there were two separate flights, Holmes was not escorted off the plane earlier in the day and left it on his own later.

It happened only one way. If you reported something else, you got it wrong, no matter how accurately you reported the story you heard.

Now that the news cycle is no longer 24-hours but second-to-second, we can expect a lot of stories to change as first reports increasingly become less factual. As getting it first takes more priority over getting it right, people will become more skeptical of media reports. They'll need, like reporters once did, independent confirmation from another source before they'll believe what they see, hear or read.

When that happens, what will separate the mainstream media from ordinary bloggers?

Rush Movie "Beyond the Lighted Stage"

A new movie that began shooting almost 40 years ago comes out soon. "Beyond the Lighted Stage" documents the slow rise and steady popularity of Rush. No. Not Rush Limbaugh. Rush, the rock band.

If you are of a certain age, and a fan of what was once called Album Oriented Rock, chances are the soundtrack to your life story includes at least one Rush song.

There was nothing like them. Who else sang about black holes? Trees as allegory? And I'm glad I never listened to close to the words to "The Necromancer." I don't even want to know what that's about. And they played with a technical precision unmatched by most of their contemporaries.

Rush had its critics. Ken Tucker, commenting on its lyrics, wrote that drummer/lyricist Neil Peart had the best deal because "he gets to write this caca but doesn't have to sing it."

Fortunately for the band, critics have little sway over record sales. But radio airplay did so it was a dose of irony that gave Rush its first mega-smash on AOR stations. "The Spirit of Radio" decried the very thing that most stations had become.

"Integrity, yeah, integrity!" Yeah.

That song came from the album "Permanent Waves," which was the first Rush album I bought (on cassette tape!). Some of their earlier work was a little too out there for me, as it was for the legions who ignored it when it first came out, but "La Villa Strangiato," a 9-minute instrumental from the LP (or cassette, in my case) "Hemispheres," was always a favorite.

Rush's 1981 release "Moving Pictures" continued Peart's trend of more accessible themes, though I never found any meaning in the band's most famous song, "Tom Sawyer." If that was the song that sparked Ken Tucker's comment about Rush's lyrics, I wouldn't argue, but it's one of the coolest sounding songs ever.

That was the last Rush record -- and I actually bought the vinyl version of this one -- that I bought. After that their music veered too far into electronics and preachiness for my taste.

But I enjoyed Rush's 2003 concert DVD "Rush in Rio" and will probably buy "Beyond the Lighted Stage" when it comes out on DVD too, especially if it delves beyond their struggles to find an audience and into their creative process. Even on the songs I don't like, I can appreciate the artistry that went into making them.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

CNN's Rich Sanchez Ad-Libs a Tease

Apparently not knowing what "ad-lib" means. Sanchez is a one-man blooper reel. Here's the latest example as he does a Ron Burgundy, blindly reading whatever shows up on the teleprompter.

Tip for wannabe teevee news anchors: When it says, "Up Next... Ad Lib... A Tease," you're not actually supposed to say that. You'd think that would be unnecessary advice but, as you can see below...

Friday, April 02, 2010

I Should Put Something Here...

...So anyone who checks it will know that I have not forgotten its existence.

Blame Facebook and Twitter. I post something there in a sentence or two and it's complete. In fact that's all you can do on Twitter. I only have to put one thought together instead of a series of them.

I am trying to maintain my video biography company's blog but even that gets less attention than it should. There is no good excuse. Unless laziness has become one.

Be assured that I haven't forgotten about the blog, or the fact that occasionally people read it. If I think of something to write and can stretch the thought beyond 140 characters, you'll be the first to know.

I'll post notice of it on my Twitter feed.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Back to the Track

The bicycle racing track, that is. I stayed longer but seemed to get fewer good shots than last time. One reason was that the schedule was different today. The riders actually do more jumping during practice so that's more photogenic than the races. Most of practice was over by the time I started shooting today.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Named in the News

And I didn't have to get arrested first! My video production company, the Philip Randolph Parker Co., got a mention in the March 2010 issue of the Osprey Observer, a monthly newspaper in Hillsborough County, Fla. The article about PRP is on page 12 of the first section.

I never spoke to the reporter. She e-mailed some questions and also took — with permission — copy from our website as well as from the news release I had sent. (Previously published on my company's blog.)

If you click on the image, the photo might show up large enough that you can read the copy. I have not noticed a surge in traffic to our web site since the article came out last week but being featured in a news publication, no matter how small, without paying for it lends an air of legitimacy to our cause.

I haven't seen an online version but if one appears, I'll link to it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Shooting and Photos

I did a freelance job Thursday and Friday for a Canadian production company. I don't think they want me to share a lot of details but it's a demo for a reality show that was one of the more unreal experiences I've had in video production.

Granted, my background is news so I'm not accustomed to staging events for the sake of the show much beyond asking people to interrupt an action so that we can re-set the camera in a different place so we can edit the shots together in a sequence.

That wasn't the case here. I know that there's precious little that's real about reality TV shows but I felt bad for the subject because she's not going to come off in a way that even remotely resembles how she really lives. And I'm not sure she'll be flattered by the portrayal, though to a lot of people there's no such thing as a bad appearance on television. Being seen is flattery enough.

They paid at the end of the second day of shooting and I got to work with a Sony HVR-Z1U camera and came away impressed.** Good picture, easy to use, not too heavy but enough heft to hold reasonably steady and the image stabilization worked well. Overall it was a good experience and proof that among all the spam and scams there are legitimate paying jobs to be found on craigslist.

Today I took another Sony camera, my A100 DSLR to a local BMX racing track and shot a few frames. The photo group I shoot with plans to go there next Saturday and the folks at the track say they'll outfit us with passes so we can go into the infield to get a greater variety of perspectives.

**Yes, I was actually hired as a camera operator and it surprised the people on site that videography comprises very little of my paying work. But they weren't disappointed. "The footage looked great," the field producer told me on our second day. They had reviewed the first day's tapes and sent some of the video back to their bosses in Toronto before our second day of shooting.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Oscars Re-Cap From A Guy Who Hasn't Seen the Films

I am surprised to read that last night's Oscars telecast had the show's highest ratings in five years. It wasn't very good. Still too long, something still doesn't click with the hosts and too many acceptance speeches that are no more than shout-outs to agents and lawyers.

They could cut the show from three-and-a-half hours to 40 minutes if they banned the words "I want to thank" and agents' names. If they cared about the TV audience, show producers would tell the nominees, "You have been nominated. This greatly enhances your chance of winning. Have something to say in case you do."

This will never happen, of course. The self-absorbed are rarely self-aware. It is fitting that Hollywood's biggest night is Hollywood talking to itself.

I sat through most of it anyway, hoping that the Oscars telecast will substitute for watching the films themselves. I haven't seen any of the nominees. Remember that as I recap some of the thoughts I had as I watched.

However much time Kathryn Bigelow spent in hair and makeup for was worth it. She had a lot of face time with "The Hurt Locker" winning six of the nine awards for which it was nominated, including the two biggies -- best picture and best director.

She bested ex-husband James Cameron for the best director honor. Success may be the best revenge but I can't feel sorry for the mind behind Avatar.

"The Hurt Locker" has made $21 million worldwide, which means that not even all the Academy members who voted for it paid to see it. Avatar made $21 million in the time it took Bigelow to recite her list of thank yous and Cameron can boast that he has directed the top TWO highest grossing films of all time.

Film critic Roger Ebert opined on his Twitter feed, "Guys half drunk, watching at home: 'That Kathryn Bigelow is a fine woman.'" In my case, no inebriation was required to share the sentiment.

At least she looked good. The woman honored for costume design wore an outfit that made me wonder why people who win awards for dressing the actors can't seem to dress themselves.

Another standout outfit was the one Miley Cyrus wore when she presented an award. She interrupted the hurried delivery of her lines to acknowledge her case of nerves. I'd be nervous too if my dress was designed for someone whose torso was five inches shorter than mine and was barely winning a valiant fight to keep my breasts covered by pulling them down to my belly button.

Whether Quentin Tarantino won any awards for "Inglorious Basterds," it was enough to see people in formal wear saying "bastards" numerous times on national television.

Good thing for best actress winner Sandra Bullock that voting closed before Oprah Winfrey's stirring tribute to newcomer Gabourey Sidibe. Oprah envisions a huge future for Gabby but I don't see a lot of film roles for morbidly obese people. Maybe she can star in Avatar 2.

Though denied best actress, "Precious" won for best adapted screenplay and for Mo'nique as best supporting actress. I am sure it is a wonderful film that I will never ever watch.

Some of the best movies are the least enjoyable. I am glad they are made, I admire the people who make them and I ask their forgiveness that I watch films not to immerse myself in misery but to avoid it.

Avatar wins for best cinematography and for best visual effects? One is for capturing beautiful scenery, the other for creating it. It doesn't make sense for one film to win both.

Neil Patrick Harris sang the show's opening number. He is a good singer among people at karaoke night. He is not a good singer among professional singers. If they couldn't have gotten a bigger name than Doogie Howser to perform that song, they should have gotten a better singer.

Humorist Dave Barry was listed in the show's writing credits. I bet he doesn't admit that publicly again.

Shooting Motorcycles

With a camera, of course. A state park in Hernando County features an area open to motorcycle riders.

I shot about 800 frames of the same five shots. There's a montage with more photos on my photo blog, if you want to see more. That's not a ploy to funnel traffic to that site, it's layout is simply designed to show larger images than this blog's.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Don't Drive Through Standing Water

But if you're gonna drive through standing water, drive a train.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods Talks

And in 13 minutes doesn't say anything. I hope this didn't surprise you if you watched Tiger Woods read his prepared statement this morning at PGA headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Tiger is notorious for his articulately expressed nonsense in interviews. Stay safe. Avoid controversy or even anything interesting. Can you remember anything Tiger has ever said?

That's why I thought it was so funny that every major TV network would broadcast his monologue live. OK, so I also thought it was funny that networks would broadcast any reading aloud from a piece of paper by a guy who hits a little white ball for a living.

Tiger apologized. He praised his notably absent wife. He said he had been in rehab. Rehab for what, he didn't say. And he played the religion card, though instead of Jesus, it was Buddha he found, in homage to his Thai mother, for whom he also famously wears some shade of red in every final round of golf he plays.

He played every note written for his orchestrated appearance, pausing dramatically, if obviously, more than once before looking directly into the camera to say how sorry he was. It looked like he had directions written on his script. Whatever he's been doing since since his Thanksgiving incident that began as a minor car accident and turned into a career crash, it hasn't been taking acting lessons.

This event was theater, all right. Bad community theater. Unless the role was that of a guy saying what he thought he should say to save his bacon.

He did look sincerely, sincerely sorry — that he got caught. We still don't know a whole lot about Tiger, which may be good because what little we do know is almost disturbingly creepy, but we know enough to see that image and appearance matters almost as much to him as winning major championships.

That's why Woods mentioned his "friends at Accenture," the company that was the first to drop its endorsement deal with him, as he took time to explain the timing of his public statement. Fellow PGA pro Ernie Els was among those who criticized Tiger for selfishly upstaging this week's PGA event, sponsored by Accenture, by staging his show while the tournament was happening.

Woods was well-aware of this and other things that have been reported. That was evident in the things he addressed in his speech. By the way, one of the biggest lies pro athletes repeat is that the don't read or listen to stories about them. Baloney! Woods seems especially sensitive to it judging by the lengths he goes to shield himself from answering questions.

And, lately, the plentiful supply of writers wanting to give him advice.

"Tiger Woods is the first person in history to run his car into a hydrant and set himself on fire," Rick Reilly wrote in a column for as he became the 2,187,243rd person to throw his cents into the Tiger well.

Reilly then listed the things Tiger needs to do to get back into fans' and — more important — sponsors' good graces. Do an interview with Oprah. Take a break from golf. Stop throwing clubs and swearing on the golf course. Sign some autographs for fans. And the self-serving call for transparency: "Let us into your life a little. Do the 'A week on the road with Tiger' story. Give a home interview once in a while."

Conspicuously absent from Reilly's suggestions was the one most obvious to me: He needs to stop having sex with women who aren't his wife.

That would be my start. Tiger gave at least lip service to the idea, promising that the behavior that caused this tawdry mess would never happen again.

Tiger Woods does not need to hit the talk show circuit or sit for an in-depth interview for Sports Illustrated or 60 Minutes. He doesn't owe me an explanation or an apology for anything. I didn't watch today looking for one. He didn't take money from me. He probably broke the law when trying to drive while zonked on Ambien, but if the police didn't pursue it, my problem is with the police, not with Woods.

I watched for the entertainment value. Just how phony was he going to look? Now that the facade has been torn away, he's not going to be able to control his image the way he once did — hugely successfully. But it was fun to watch him try.

Much less successfully.

And I'm sure the TMZs and National Enquirers of the world are going to heed his call to leave his wife and kids alone. Good luck with that! Add that to all the other things he should have considered when he treated his marriage as nothing more than another photo-op designed to burnish his public persona.

The only outright lie I think he told today was the one in which he held his wife Elin blameless in the car crash. If not the fury of the 6-iron wielding woman scorned, what made him jump in his SUV for a getaway while sacked out on sleeping pills?

He said that he was not going to provide such details to the public about his private matter. He didn't even say when — or definitively if — he was returning to the pro tour this year, which surprised me. Golf is the only thing real about this guy. Plus, this fiasco begins to fade as soon as Woods wins another major championship.

The only thing Tiger Woods wanted to say was that he was sorry and it didn't even look like he really meant that.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Forgot to Mention

I've been taking a lot of pictures. See more on my photo blog.

Here's What's Up

I recently got a smart phone. And, yes, I've already made the jokes myself about how my telephone has more intelligence than I do so you can save yourself the effort.

Said phone is currently my only access to the Internet unless I venture either to the nearby public library or farther north to my parents' house. Yes, there are also numerous cafes with WiFi but if I wanted to pay $5 every day to log on, I'd just go ahead and get Verizon FiOS. And I need to spend less time online, not more.

I mention this to explain my lack of regular updates here on the blog. Well, that and not having a lot to report. Especially now that I've shared the smart phone news.

Yes, I could thumb-type little missives on my phone but I don't get a sense that anyone is holding his breath waiting for my next entry. If I did, I'd send that person an e-mail directly advising better use of his lung capacity.

I will brag about completing my annual mission to avoid junk food and to work out every day in January. This marks five years in a row I've accomplished this. Granted, some (OK more than some) of the workouts lasted less than ten minutes but at some point I pulled out the weights and did some work with them. Every day. All month.

With hit-or-miss freelance work now tilting more to the miss side, I added two more aspects to the New Year's challenge. I also played at least some guitar and piano each day of the month. Again, we're not talking hours of practice, here. Even I can stand to listen to myself play for only so long before nausea sets in.

This would explain why my high school friend Jamie doesn't e-mail me any more. Through alignments of planets and stars that would baffle Stephen Hawking, she may be the only person who has subjected herself to hearing me perform music in person twice. She is probably doing all she can to ensure that she has heard the last of me. Literally.

That doesn't count Mrs. Schneider, the teacher of the four piano lessons I had when I was 17. She was paid the princely sum of $4 per lesson and, by golly, she earned all of it. It also doesn't count my brother Jim, who listens to anything I post here but that's recorded and — through a generous amount of computer enhancement — sounds almost like music.

I did have a story I wrote about the Venice Gondoliers Barbershop Chorus air on WEDU last week. The station doesn't have video online that I can embed here but you can click here to watch the episode. My story comes about 14 minutes in.

Don't worry, that's not a request. I just put the link there to prove I wasn't making that up. You can watch the show's end credits if you don't believe me. Or you can just continue not believing me. That might be easier.

Last Friday, I did interviews for another WEDU story. Riverview High School in Sarasota (not to be confused with Riverview High School in Riverview) has a marine biology program. It even got a license from the state to operate a fish farm right in the classroom. Grants funded construction of the tanks, adapted from concrete burial crypts!

That reminds me. I should be transcribing the interviews instead of writing on a blog.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Recent Facebook Posts

These are bon mots to which I have subjected those foolish enough to be my online friends. Why should you be spared?
John has reduced the mountain of laundry to a mole hill. Granted it's a luxury condo tower sized mole hill that could accommodate a heckuva lotta moles but it's a mole hill nonetheless.

Tracy, I'm sorry about the rumor-mongering. I didn't think anyone would take me seriously when I told them that all those Will and Grace re-runs had finally caused a violent gastrointestinal reaction.

John played golf today. He did not make any pars or birdies but he did hit a roof, a gutter and an air conditioner. Ugh.

Jim, I'm an ass. You know that. The difference back then was that I was an ass with more hair who thought he was funny.

John is tired of sympathizing with people up north. Wants to empathize instead. That's when they're cold and I feel sorry for them as I walk outside in shirtsleeves. This is not just Florida cold. It's actual cold cold.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

USF Hires Holtz

I interviewed Skip Holtz when he was at the University of Connecticut and I worked at WFSB-TV in Hartford in the mid-1990s.

UConn started 5-0 in 1995 and I went to the campus in Storrs to do a story. He had the same kind of wit his famous father, Lou, has but without the lisp. That weekend, Holtz' team lost. I went out the next week and interviewed him again. UConn lost again.

At practice the following week, I thought I was joking when I told the school's PR guy for sports (the official title is Sports Information Director) that maybe I had cursed the team. But there was no humor in his voice when he told me that if the team lost again, "don't come back."

Then again, that could have simply been his usual demeanor. The lack of warmth I felt in New England was not limited to the weather.

Speaking of chill...

One thing the University of South Florida gets in Skip Holtz that it never had in Jim Leavitt is someone who understands that being a head football coach at a major college program involves a lot more than coaching football.

Leavitt never grasped the public relations aspects of the job. He antagonized the local media — at least the TV stations — from the outset with a big-time attitude even as the team operated out of trailers and had yet to play a game.

USF invited local media to cover the first fall practice of the team's inaugural season in 1997. I worked at WFLA-TV at the time. Apparently no one in the sports information department informed Leavitt. After the stretching and warmup drills, Leavitt came over to the assembled cameras and asked if we had gotten everything — his way of dismissing us.

True enough, most major college practices are closed to the media. However at the time USF was not a major college program and we had been told that we would be able to shoot practice.

An unfortunate PR guy had to feel our wrath. "We might have to endure this in Tallahassee or Gainesville," I told him. "But not here. If this is how it's going to be, we won't come out."

And we didn't. We gave cursory coverage of games and showed up for the free lunch, I mean, weekly news conference, but we never gave the program the kind of attention we would have had we been welcomed.

And that's all on Leavitt. Even after USF had joined the Big East and made a run up the national rankings, his team was rarely fodder for local sports talk radio the way Florida, Florida State and Miami were.

Nobody cared. People did not develop the kind of passions about USF that they did about the other major programs. Part of that is a function of time and tradition. But much more of that is Jim Leavitt's alienation of people who could have helped him build interest in the program.

It may be fitting that USF football became a top talk-about story for the first time when the story was Leavitt's firing.

Now Leavitt is left with trying to extract a severance check from USF. He claims he did nothing to deserve his dismissal. The grabbing and slapping of walk-on running back Joel Miller never happened, he maintains, even in the face of the University's investigation which revealed otherwise and Miller's own admission that he originally denied the mistreatment to protect his coach.

I have heard suggestions that Leavitt needs to come clean about what happened. It's too late. Leavitt has cast his die. God-Kings do not bow to anyone. There is nothing to apologize for, he says through his lawyer.

It was this kind of coverup as much as the crime that cost Leavitt his job. Had he acknowledged his mistake soon after it happened, it might never have become public, let alone topple him from his throne.

Instead he stonewalled. The man who is reported to have proclaimed himself "the most powerful man in the building" failed to see that there were other buildings and that the most powerful man in the building that counted was not even a man. It was Judy Genshaft, USF's president.

Leavitt has already lost one job. His continued insistence of innocence will cost him a chance to redeem himself elsewhere. But I don't see him changing course now. And I can't see him getting another head coaching job at a major college program. Not now. Maybe not ever.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

I Haven't Disappeared

It just seems that way because I've had little to report.

A story for WEDU is in editing right now. It's about a men's choral group called the Venice Gondoliers. That's Venice as in Venice, Florida, south of Sarasota as opposed to the one in Italy.

One of the thrusts of the story is the benefit to the members' mental health. Many of the guys are in their 80s and are still all there upstairs.

It helps them in two ways. One is that having to memorize music and lyrics for dozens of songs works their brains out. Secondly, it gives them someplace to go, something to do and something to look forward to.

I hadn't planned that to be one of the angles I took. Its something they mentioned during interviews and I was lucky enough to notice it.

The other major effort right now is in trying to figure out how to market my new video biography service. I completed the demo story for about a friend of mine's parents. He was thrilled with the results. At least that's how I'm reading the following quote he wrote on a Christmas card he sent me:

"We can't begin to thank you enough for what you have given our family. Your work is remarkable!"

Here is one of the chapters from the story (used with permission):

So I have the equipment and I have the examples that prove that I know what to do with it. Now it's a matter of getting the word out. I'm going to have to spend money on advertising. The biggest challenge may be convincing people to have something produced that won’t have its greatest value until after its subjects have passed away.

A life story video is not made for its subject(s). It is for the people who come after them, some of whom they have not met and maybe never will. In fact, most people who contact us are interested in producing a personal documentary about their parents or grandparents.

Even then some people struggle to grasp the importance of preserving their loved ones’ life stories. That is understandable. In this instant gratification world it is hard to think about something that will mean the most to you 20, 30 or 50 years later.

Yet if people will spend thousands of dollars on a casket that gets buried with them and is never seen again, there is a compelling argument for making a similar investment in something that people will treasure because it can bring their loved one’s faces, voices and stories back to them whenever they want to see them — forever.

A life story video also serves as a key part of a family history. With a video biography, stories of one generation are passed down to descendants in its own words.

Daily lives are hectic and it can be hard to see past the end of the week let alone look years into the future. For those who have the forward thinking to do so, they’ll see that one of the greatest gifts you can leave future generations of your family is the story of your life, told with your voice.

Of course, my professional interviewing, script writing and editing will make it easy for them. My business' site has new examples of my work if you're curious to check it out.

It also has a Facebook fan page, which I hope will help spread the good word. If you have a Facebook page and are so inclined, please become a fan.