Category Archives: media

A Sensitive Area

A friend was concerned. “You don’t write much about local media any more. Is it getting better or are you just losing interest?”

Well, neither. It’s certainly getting different, but not better — and yes I’m still interested. The truth is that work consumes more of my brain capacity now, unlike in the Albany Eye days. Idle hands, idle hands.

But now and then, oh boy:

That headline is a masterpiece of poor taste, and it is funny at first — until you read the story. The jarring contrast between the jokey headline and the brutality of the crime is stunning. But maybe it was OK. After all, these were just a bunch of roughneck laborers from out of town, living in a cheap hotel. They aren’t like us, are they?

Oh, one more thing. Earlier in the day I read a story in the Times Union about a lawsuit brought by a man who’d been hit in the balls with a golf club. Before you ask, “What club does one use for that shot,” you should know that the guy lost a testicle. The reporter was less restrained, and wondered if the case, “might keep the judges from looking forward to golf season anytime soon.”

By the way, both of these stories were written by Robert Gavin, who covers law and the courts. I guess he’s the Paul Grondahl of crotch stories.

So local media? Maybe not better, certainly different, always interesting.

Reckoning

St. Peter settled into his chair. It looked like another long day — but every day’s a long day when you’re holding the keys of the kingdom. Peter has plenty of help for this day-to-day stuff, but he still likes to pull a shift at the pearly gates.

Halfway through the morning an interesting case approached the bench.

“So, in life you were a talk radio host.” St. Peter peered over his glasses. Standing before him was an ordinary looking man whose head was shaped rather like a light bulb. He was sweating and looking down at his shoes. “On the radio in Albany for 30 years. Albany. That’s certainly the minors.”

St. Peter flipped through a thick pile of paper.

“You said some pretty colorful things about people. Immigrants, refugees, Muslims, women, gays, lesbians, transgender. State workers, union members, cops, firemen, teachers. You’re tough on politicians. I suppose I get that, but you called Elizabeth Warren ‘Pocahontas’ 37 times in one morning? Really. Shall I go on, this is a very long list?”

“St. Peter, you need to understand, that’s not me — it’s just my act. It’s a radio show, it’s supposed to be entertainment. I don’t really believe all that stuff that I say.”

“Ah, entertainment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that. Remember the Romans feeding people to the lions? Entertainment. Dogfighting? Entertainment. Cop Rock? Entertainment.”

There was silence.

“C’mon, smile, that was a joke.”

St. Peter shoved his files aside.

“Look, maybe you didn’t believe everything you said — actually, I can’t accept that anyone would be so stupid — but do you think the people who listened to you understood that it was an act? I think they heard someone who echoed back the fear and hatred in their hearts.”

“What about them,” the host asked. “I was just saying that stuff — the listeners were the ones doing the hating.”

More silence. It was a moment, but it felt like a week.

“Well, I was going to ask if you’re ready to repent, but you already answered my question.”

St. Peter started tapping on his keyboard (a 27-inch iMac, in case you’re wondering) and cleared his throat.

“OK, here’s what’s going to happen. We’re sending you downstairs to think this over. We grant you an appeal automatically, but as you can imagine, there’s quite a wait before we hear your case. Right now, our next opening is in… March 2896. You’ll get a letter with the exact date.”

An angel stepped up to lead the man away.

“Hey, don’t look so glum, it could be worse. One of your friends will be down there to join you soon. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Trump. Donald Trump? OK, who’s next?”

Coyote Ugly

“The coyotes were after me!”

My wife was out of breath and extremely worked up after rushing back home with the dogs. In the woods along her regular route she’d heard a pack of coyotes — or at least what sounded like a pack of coyotes. She didn’t actually see them, but in the dark, scary noises are amplified; they may not have truly been “after” her, but it seemed that way.

Coyotemania gripped our house for a week, and we were consumed with talk of carrying pepper spray and cudgels to ward off the invaders. Then this.

According to the Times Union, these signs were posted around two adjoining golf courses in Albany and Bethlehem, warning of coyotes (“They are smart and fast”) and cautioning people not to mess with them.

By the way, what do you do if you encounter coyotes on the golf course? Let them play through.

Look, coyotes have been around here for a long time, and now all the sudden we’re freaking out? I’d suggest we all spend time worrying about real animal risks, like the deer who play chicken with your car. You’re much more likely to be injured in a collision with one of those damn deer than you are to be bitten by a coyote.

I much prefer the approach of Frank Vincenti of Mineola. This self-styled coyote defender spends his spare time trying to protect coyotes on Long Island and in New York City. Yes, New York City. From a recent NY Times story:

When he hears of a sighting, he closes his barbershop and heads to the scene. He may spend all night working as a human scarecrow, chasing the coyotes back into the underbrush. The goal is to keep them out of the public view and away from the traps set by specialists hired to euthanize them.

Vincenti believes the coyotes will persevere in the end, citing the most famous coyote of all:

“Wile E. Coyote always loses,” he said, “but no matter how they try to kill him off, he always comes back.”

The People’s Choice

Here’s something interesting: the Times Union has dropped the media category from its annual Best of the Capital Region readers poll.

So what, say most of you — but at local media outlets, winning in the Times Union Best Of — or certainly, Metroland’s annual  poll — was always a big deal. Being named the best is a point of pride, regardless of who’s number one in the ratings.

Lord knows these polls are not scientific, and in recent years, there have been allegations that some winners used social media to unfairly sway the voting. Is that really unfair, trying to win a popularity contest by encouraging your friends to vote? That’s called being popular.

It’s anybody’s guess why the media category was dropped. This whole poll thing does sound like a lot of work, and it could simply be about newsroom resources.

In the interest of full disclosure, my old blog, Albany Eye, won for best local blog years ago. Looking back at my career, I would have been way better off being best local plumber than best local blogger.

Fake Take

Oh, fake news. It’s all the thing these days — but it’s nothing new for people to believe anything they read.

Americans have been gullible for a long time, and 100 years ago, journalist H.L. Mencken put it to the test with a story titled, A Neglected Anniversay. Mencken concocted a history of the bathtub in America, filling it (the story, not the bathtub) with fake facts that to readers seemed perfectly reasonable. The story was so successful that it was widely cited for years afterward.

You can excuse the American public in 1917 for not checking its facts — indeed, for most of the 20th century, research meant going to the library or cracking open the home encyclopedias.

Today, checking facts is easy. It only takes a moment to figure out if a story you see on Facebook is real, with a bit of Googling or a visit to Snopes.com.  By the way, Snopes says there are so many fake stories out there that they’re having trouble keeping up.

But this isn’t really about the truth. People who read something they want to believe aren’t going spend time figuring out if it’s true or not. You probably have a few of them on you Facebook feed — and the only truth they care about is the one in their head.

When Black Friday Comes

I’m not a shopper, so the whole Black Friday thing makes me want to puke. But for deal hunters, Friday is the Super Bowl of buying and many wild-eyed shoppers will be clutching the gigantic Thursday Times Union.

Newspaper circulars remain an effective way to advertise, so Thursday’s five-pound edition must be a real money maker. The paper has taken to flogging the hell out of the Black Friday special edition, even heavily promoting its release as an “event.”

Marketing newspapers has never been harder, but I must say, five pounds of newspaper does sound attractive. That would get me through a lot of litter box changes.

By the way, if it’s Thanksgiving, that means it’s time for the best side dish ever invented, Albany Eye Sweet Potato Crunch. I first shared the recipe in 2006, so this is an anniversary of sorts. And for those interested in history, it was posted just weeks before Albany Eye would crash and burn in a most spectacular manner. Good times!

Panic, Worry and Chaos

I do enjoy that Times Union newspaper.

One day it’s the overwrought prose of this week’s Joe Bruno profile, and the next, a story so bad it looks like it was written by a fifth grader.

Case in point, a hilarious story I read this morning titled Vehicle strikes Colonie tavern; apparent burn victim. Who could resist a story with such a puzzling headline?  Readers were rewarded with passages like this:

Steve Cheslow, a Times Union employee who was at the tavern, said he heard “a big boom.” One man was rolling on the ground. Everyone was concerned about the cook in the kitchen. There was panic, worry and chaos, and everyone was told to get out, he said.

You can read the whole thing here; I saved a PDF because this story won’t last long on the website before being cleaned up or deleted. On the up side, we are offered some interesting details:

“It just went ‘poof!'” said patron John Ashley, who was with his wife. He said he tried to get the man to safety. The fire happened during the popular karaoke night.

Well, no need to worry about the radio stations swiping this story and reading it on the air. For them it would need too much re-writing.

Special Comment

This election season would not be complete without the voice of Keith Olbermann.

Thanks to GQ magazine, we’ve been able to hear Olbermann’s views on Donald Trump — exclusively Donald Trump — in a series of web videos called The Closer with Keith Olbermann. This one below is not his most devastating takedown of Trump, but as a dog lover, it is my favorite:

I miss having Olbermann on TV. It may be that the settlement of his lawsuit with Current TV means he doesn’t need to work the sort of jobs he did before, and if so, bully for him. To say Olbermann’s relationship with management has never been great may be the understatement of the decade.

Either way, Olbermann’s unshackled commentaries on Trump are one of the good things to come out of this dismal election.

UPDATE: Another Trump reference surfaced this week in a NY Times story. He referred to Arsenio Hall as follows:

“Dead as a doornail,” was his assessment of Mr. Hall in a previously unreleased interview from two years ago. “Dead as dog meat.”

Some Mother’s Son

Facebook: it’s America’s favorite place for heaping ridicule on people — especially those accused of crimes. But when you combine that with the irresistible urge to make fun of someone different? Well, that’s when you truly get online magic.

All the local news outlets posted this story about Carlos Rodriguez, a Florida man arrested for attempted murder. This is not something that would normally get national exposure, if not for this: Mr. Rodriguez’s lost part of his skull in an automobile accident, leaving him with a profound deformity.

So what do we have here? News outlets posting a story with no local significance, just for the shock value of the mug shot. Then their audience has the opportunity to make cruel remarks about the man’s appearance.

That’s a sick and sad state of affairs.

Maybe before people write stupid shit about Carlos Rodriguez on Facebook they should consider that he is someone’s son or brother. He’s clearly a guy that’s had some trouble, things that most of us can’t even imagine. Empathy, anyone?

I’ve discussed here before how TV stations and newspapers don’t bother trying to moderate comments on their Facebook pages. And why should they? All those little clicks add up.