Category Archives: media

A Nation Divided

Americans were so outraged with the Ferguson grand jury decision that many of them actually tweeted about it.

If only we’d had Twitter during the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement. Who knows what would have been possible with so many people sitting on their couches blurting out their opinions to nobody in particular.

True Crime

It’s been ten years since Christopher Porco attacked his parents with an ax, leaving his father dead and mother horribly maimed. It doesn’t surprise me that the Times Union would commemorate the brutal murder with a slide show of the “Unforgettable Crimes of the Capital Region,” but this Facebook post seemed strange.

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Seriously? Maybe “some crimes remain in our psyche” because you celebrate their anniversary with a slide show. I’m sure it got lots of clicks.

“The Ghost of Christmas Ass”

I sometimes like to share things I like from the ad world, and I found this Christmas spot particularly inspiring. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

I was not previously aware of Poo-Pourri — and this is not their first off kilter video — but you can be certain that I’ll pick it up for the house. I may even bring some to work for those people who insist on shi**ing during the work day.

What Were They Thinking?

Our public radio station, WAMC, has a pretty serious commitment to local news. They do a good job covering serious topics — so when I heard the story, College Community Shaken by Student Death it really got my attention. The piece was about the tragic passing of UAlbany student Trevor Duffy. You can read or listen to the story here. A couple of thoughts:

I can excuse that the headline has nothing to do with what’s in the story — and that the reporter, Dave Lucas, didn’t bother talking to a single student or UAlbany staff member.

It’s also understandable that he would rely so heavily on information from other media, referencing stories from WNYT, Time Warner and “some reports” as his source of quotes and points of fact.

And the story’s tortured attempt to paint this as a town and gown issue, summoning up the Kegs ‘n’ Eggs riot of 2011? I don’t agree with the premise, but it’s a harmless idea.

But what’s truly atrocious — in fact, one of the most revolting things I’ve seen recently — is how the reporter cites several items from “an account on Twitter that appears to be Duffy’s.” He uses these tweets, presented without any legitimate context, to try making a point about the student’s state of mind. That’s just downright sleazy.

Look, I understand that sometimes you need to throw something together. Every story isn’t going to be a finely cut gem — but where are the editors who are supposed to keep crap like that off the air? That’s a mystery.

Arms Race

Some people believe that crossing your arms is a sign of resistance and defensiveness. I think it’s a sign of JOURNALISM!

The Times Union has started highlighting some of their key talent like Chris Churchill, Jordan Carleo-Evangelist and Jennifer Gish — reporters who have clearly earned the right to stand with their arms crossed.

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I’ve done plenty of shoots, and the conversation usually goes like this:

Talent: What should I do with my hands?

Producer or art director: Ummmmm… I don’t know. How about you cross your arms.

The truth is that it always looks pretty good — unless you do it every single time you shoot a picture. Then the power stance starts losing its power.

Vox Populi

So, Times Union, how’s that comment thing working out for you?

When the paper introduced commenting on news stories late 2013, I wondered if it would elevate the conversation above the untreated waste often found in the blog comments.

I wasn’t alone. When the comment system was launched, Paul Block, the TU’s online executive producer, said, “Let’s hope for some positive discourse on our stories in the days to come.”

That may have been asking for too much.

For example, let’s look at a recent story about a young man subdued by taser wielding cops. Here’s a sampling of the positive discourse:

-Commenters describe the young man as stupid, a twit, and a freak.

-One comment alleges that the young man has a “serious drug problem” and has been arrested before on “numerous” charges. He also claims that the tazee soiled his pants.

-Readers assert that the young man’s father is stupid, acted to “get him out of trouble,” and that he “needs mental help.”

-There are two uses of the word scumbag — and one of the plural, scumbags.

And that was only in a handful of comments.

Look, you can judge for yourself whether reader comments add anything to online content. Some papers are very strict about what gets posted and others either don’t care or simply don’t have enough warm bodies to keep after this stuff.

It used to be if people wanted to write a comment on a story they had to mail a letter to the paper. And maybe we were all better off.

The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing…

Cheers to the Discovery Channel for pulling off a whopper.

As part of their Shark Week ramp up, this video was circulated showing a shark off the shore of Wolfe Island in Lake Ontario:

This was of special interest to me because I vacation on the island each summer; the presence of sharks would certainly spice up my kayak excursions.

The whole thing caused quite a media sensation until Discovery’s PR firm revealed it was all a big promotional stunt.

The best line to emerge from the shark panic came from Frontenac Islands Mayor Denis Doyle, who joked, “We’re going to have to get a bigger ferry.”

Newsies

During one of my slow, pathetic runs this week I was alarmed to hear a car directly behind me. After years of running on the road — always facing traffic — I can tell what a car sounds like when it’s coming from the other direction behind me. And this? This sounded wrong.

I darted for the grass, and looking back saw a car driving on the wrong side of the road, dangerously close to where I now stood. A drunk? Someone who had fallen asleep at the wheel? No, just the guy delivering the Times Union.

To paraphrase an old joke, I should have worn my brown shorts.

This is not the first time I’ve seen this.

Early in the morning, Times Union carriers routinely drive on the wrong side of a busy state highway near my house. Stretches of the road have limited sight lines, so this doesn’t seem like a great idea.

But maybe it’s no big deal. I’m sure he’s paying extra close attention to what he’s doing and never fumbling around with his newspapers or anything. Clearly, these are highly experienced professionals who’ve had training in safely driving on the wrong side of the road. It’s possible that they even hold a special license that allows them to drive on the wrong side; I must check the DMV website for that.

Call me old-fashioned, but I miss the days when twelve-year-old kids would deliver your paper. It seems unlikely that you’d get run over by a kid on a bicycle.

When I venture out in the morning, I’m always wearing a reflective vest or sash, and if the sun’s not up yet, I have an annoyingly bright headlamp to alert drivers. I’ve jumped off the pavement once or twice over the years. The one thing I have little control over is cars coming from behind me, and what with all the distracted driving out there, maybe it’s time to be concerned.

So, I hope you don’t read about me getting run over by someone delivering newspapers. It would be a hell of a story, though.  Newspaper people do love irony.

Fright Fest

If you are a fan of Night of the Living Dead, you must see Birth of the Living Dead, a documentary about the making of the iconic horror film and its influence on popular culture.

George Romero’s stories about the ragtag cast and crew, a motley assemblage of friends and business associates, are priceless. It was everyone’s first movie — and as if by magic, they created something completely different. The film also puts Night in the context of its time; they may not have set out to make an allegory for the turbulent late-sixties, but that’s what they ended up with.

One of the interesting things I learned was that Night was originally released in theaters as a matinée feature aimed at kids; it was typical in those days for theaters to run low-budget sci-fi and horror stuff on weekend and holiday afternoons.

Harmless fun — but Night of the Living Dead was like no horror movie ever made.

I vividly remember seeing it at one of those afternoon shows. As my mother dropped us off in front of the movie house in Mineola, a pimply faced teenager with thick glasses accosted us. “I hope you brought a spoon! This movie’s so scary it’ll make you swallow your tongue!”

I was really little, like 7 or 8 years old, along for a fun day out with my older sister and cousins. Swallow my tongue? Bring a spoon? Now I was beginning to worry.

Well, it turns out that spoonboy was correct.

The film was so intensely disturbing and terrifying that several times during the movie we ran from the theater screaming and cowered in the lobby. It was just too much.

Film critic Roger Ebert happened to attend one of these matinée screenings, in a crowd full of children, and wrote this:

The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. There was a little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, who was sitting very still in her seat and crying.

A good time was had by all!