Category Archives: media

At the Movies

I’ve been going to Albany’s Spectrum Theatre for more than 30 years. They’ve grown, but much is the same as the first time I went there: the hard-to-find indie films, the cool alternative vibe, the popcorn with real butter. But recently, I’ve noticed something new at the Spectrum: people who won’t shut the fu** up during the movie.

It seems that there’s an epidemic of talking at the Spectrum, and the culprits are almost always people who are over 60 year old.

It’s not a steady stream of chatter breaking the silence, but people making remarks about things happening during the film. For example, in a movie I saw over the weekend, it’s revealed that a character is having an affair. The man behind me said, out loud, “Well, that’s not good.”

Oh, really — that’s not good? Thank you for pointing that out because I thought it might be good that this character was discovered having an affair. I’m not sure I could understand the movie without your commentary, so I appreciate your help, you @#$% idiot.

You may think this sounds petty, but it went on throughout the movie. And lately, it happens every single time I go there.

I’ve occasionally resorted to being the guy who shushes movie goers, but why should that be necessary? Who are these people who act like they’re sitting at home on the couch instead of in a theatre? I’d like to know, because if I knew their names, maybe I’d feel less like strangling them.

The fact that it’s always older people is surprising, too. Maybe young people are too busy texting to talk to their neighbors. What should we do about movie talkers? I like this approach from acclaimed director, Richard Linklater

Oy Vey

Before my departure from TV world, I started to notice something in the newsroom: many of the young people working as reporters or producers were sort of ignorant.

I’m not saying they weren’t smart, just poorly educated in certain areas. What areas? Oh, I don’t know — little things like history, politics, culture… the sort of things you learn by doing some reading.

We saw a good example of that this week at Chicago’s WGN-TV where they used a wildly inappropriate graphic with a story about Yom Kippur:


Who would use this painful reminder of the Holocaust to represent a story about Yom Kippur? Someone who’s clueless. More likely, several clueless people — from the graphic artist who found the image and prepared it for air to the producer(s) who’s supposed to review this stuff.

Rack it up as an honest mistake.

Nobody knows everything — and context is not something people learn in school

Let Him Jump

I was listening to my local talk radio station the other morning and the host was bitching about a huge traffic jam that tied up an area bridge. It seems someone was threatening to jump.

He called the man on the bridge an “attention grabber,” and said we should just  “let him jump.”

Well, don’t be shocked.

Talk radio shows are just that: shows. The host’s job is not to be moderate and thoughtful, it’s to stir you up. The more provocative the better — and appealing to the angry mob brings ratings. Angry mobs don’t talk people down, they scream, “Jump!”

But I’m not here to attack the talk radio host. Doing that would be like going to the circus and criticizing the clowns for — well, acting like clowns. That’s their job.

I’ve never had a suicide affect my family directly, but I’ve known people who killed themselves and seen what it does to those left behind. It’s tragic — and the pain and loss upends lives and lingers forever. I suppose that “let him jump” is one solution when someone is in crisis, but maybe it’s not the best solution.

Meanwhile, the angry drumbeat of talk radio rolls along. Deport all the immigrants. Throw the bums out. And let him jump.

Shoe Business

Wouldn’t it be great if there were voice activated toilet seats? You just could walk in and tell it to go up or down and never have to touch the damn thing.

seatWell, we don’t have them — so until that wonderful day arrives you should just do what most sensible people do: use your foot.

This leads to an interesting question: how dirty are your shoes from touching toilet seats?

“How dirty” stories used to be all the rage in TV news. I did promos for stories where we tested hotel rooms, household items and common objects you find in public, like doorknobs and water fountains. We’d swab the things and send the samples to a lab for analysis. Two weeks later? Instant sweeps story!

Anyway, way back in 2008, ABC News did a story about dirty shoes. The results? Your shoes are astoundingly dirty — maybe even the dirtiest things you own. I’m not trying to freak you out here, but you may be making a toilet seat dirtier by touching it with your filthy shoe.

Just something to think about. Meanwhile, I suppose in the future it will be odd to hear people calling out “up” and “down” in public restrooms.

A Tale of Two Headlines


June 11, 2015


July 9, 2015

Well, it took a month, but the Times Union finally figured out what other media outlets were reporting from practically day one: that the Dannemora escape was far from the first.

In today’s front page item, the paper blames Governor Cuomo for spreading the “first escape” story; one has to wonder who Cuomo is blaming.

Paul Grondahl writes, “Cuomo’s comments were picked up and repeated, including by local residents.” Yes it was picked up and repeated. Please refer to the photo at the top of this blog post.

Anyway, this makes it all OK:

The Matt and Sweat imbroglio, however, did not eclipse the level of subterfuge in the escape of George Leggins of Coxsackie, who broke away on July 31, 1915, from a farm outside Dannemora’s walls.

Anyone who can use imbroglio and subterfuge in the same sentence gets an A+ in my book.

Would You Rather Be First or Right?

The Dannemora prison escape has been a fascinating story, and Friday evening, with one escapee gunned down by police and the other on the run, it was a big news night.

There were many wild tales from the North Country woods, many of them brought to us by eager reporters on Twitter. Unfortunately, some of them were not exactly true, like this one from Time Warner Cable News reporter Geoff Redick.

Exciting? Yes. True? No.

But, Rob, Geoff Redick says right there that “TWO police sources” told him this story.

Oh, really — what police sources? To be so confident, it must have been two very high ranking people with direct knowledge of what’s going on — like officials from the command post.

Mr. Redick went on to tap this one out:

Later in the evening, this all turned out to be bunk. Whatever — stop distracting me with all those annoying facts!

TV news has always been obsessed with getting stories first, even if only by a few minutes. Social media has taken it to the next level; it used to be about who could get it on the air first, and now it’s who can tweet it first.

I’d say this is progress. There’s never been a faster way to get things wrong.

Sounds Like America

If asked you to name a composer who evokes the American spirit, you’d mention Aaron Copland, but could you come up with another? I could a bunch — and all of them have worked in Hollywood.

There is a particular style of movie score that’s big and bold and sweeps you away. It sounds like America.

One of those scores is the one James Horner did for Rocketeer.

I have a long history with the movie.

Horner died in a plane crash this week. It’s telling that he escaped to the sky, a very American pursuit, which you can hear in his music. And you can certainly hear it in that title theme to Rocketeer, titled “Takeoff.”

Reporter Walks Into a Bar…

What a pleasant surprise to see Plattsburgh’s Monopole bar appear in a New York Times story. I spent many hours in the Monopole as a college student. It wasn’t my favorite haunt, but we’d often end the night there grabbing a slice of scalding hot pizza.

It would come right out of the oven and burn the hell out of your mouth. A sober and sensible person would wait for it to cool; we were neither. In the morning, you were not just hung over, but you had shreds of skin hanging down from the roof of your mouth. Good times.

But about that story. A Times reporter made the rounds of the North Country collecting theories about what happened to those two escaped murderers. Among the opinions was that of longtime Monopole bartender Gail Coleman, who posited that they ran off to Italy. Hey, why not?

Stories like this one show why it’s great to be a newspaper reporter. You can go around and talk to people, like in a bar for example, and whip up a pretty good piece. Your story comes from conversation.

Compare this to what it’s like being a TV reporter. Weighed down with a big camera and lights, the moment you walk in, all intimacy is lost and artificiality takes over. Plus, a certain type of person is attracted to TV news crews. What’s the word I’m looking for… oh, yes: yahoos. If you don’t think people act strangely when cameras are on, go home and turn on TLC or Discovery.

A lot of people won’t talk with a camera pointed in their face — not the way they’ll talk to some guy with a notebook who’s drinking a beer. I once had a TV reporter try telling me I was wrong about this; I guess that’s what happens when you inhale hair spray fumes for so many years.

It makes you wonder why anyone would do that job. The stagey interviews, reliance on pictures to tell your story, merciless time constraints — meanwhile some newspaper reporter is sitting in the Monopole chatting up Gail, all the while coming up with something better than any work you’ll ever do, all in his head.

God, I’m going to miss newspapers.

The Facts Escape Them

Vincent Musetto, who wrote the classic NY Post headline Headless Body in Topless Bar, died this week. You should read this fascinating story about how the Post fact-checked the topless part of the tale, and ended up printing the most famous headline ever.


But speaking of headlines and fact checking, let’s talk about Dannemora.

I’ve been deeply fascinated by the recent prison break and read everything I could get my hands on, like the Times Union’s front page story today with this headline:

Fugitives end 150-Year era — Residents worked “The Job” with no escapes — until now.

They interviewed John Egan, who used to run OGS and once worked in the prison. An excerpt:

Egan was “flabbergasted” by last weekend’s breakout, the first such incident in the prison’s 150-year history.

Egan went on to say, “That record of no breakouts stood for 150-years. It spoke for itself.” Well, that’s quite a record — except it seems that Egan may be a little confused on top of being flabbergasted.

The New York Times ran a story this week saying that the prison has a long and colorful history of “breakouts,” including two that involved escaping through tunnels and pipes. Then, just minutes ago, I heard a similar story on NPR about the “two dozen” escapes from the prison.

It could be that the New York Times and NPR are completely wrong about this Dannemora thing. After all, the TU story was written by the paper’s star reporter, Paul Grondahl, with help from one Keshia Clukey.

So why does it matter? I guess because if you can’t get something simple right, maybe we shouldn’t trust you with something complicated.

Oh, and by the way: the Times Union — without an editor’s note — changed the online version of the story so that the second paragraph simply reads, “Egan was “flabbergasted” by last weekend’s breakout” — without the 150-years part.

To tell you the truth, I’m a bit flabbergasted, myself.