Membership Has Its Privileges
The Times Union has taken to calling readers “members.” Does this give us access to the gym at the TU headquarters?
Among the rules for mass at my church this weekend: Masks all the time, no singing, four seats between individuals or family groups, no touching hands, limited seating capacity, attendance by reservation only, do not enter without an “ambassador” to seat you, do not leave until instructed to do so by the ambassador, stand at your seat to receive communion, no communion on the tongue, no books or paper, no mingling in common areas or the parking lot, bring hand sanitizer. Peace be with you.
Usually at this time, we’re getting ready for a week in Canada, to a quiet island where Lake Ontario spills into the St Lawrence River. Not this year. The border remains closed until July 21, at the earliest. Got to keep out the filthy Americans.
Hold on to your hats, because this will surprise some of you: Local newspapers used to have columnists and reporters who covered area media.
They’d document the comings and goings at the TV and radio stations, write about the ratings, talk about radio formats and new programs — but sometimes, there was more. Now and then, they’d take a sharp look at the journalism done on local TV and the marketing that sold it.
There was certainly an appetite for that sort of news. In a town this size, radio and TV were influential. People like news anchors and meteorologists were our celebrities. By the way, there was never critique of local newspapers on TV.
It’s just one of the things that are gone forever from your newspaper, and this is a time when we could sorely use some media literacy.
Local TV news has not improved in the decade since I left. There is good work done, but the quality of reporting has declined. You’ll still find old hands telling you the stories, but many of the jobs are filled by transient youngsters who have more ambition than knowledge and skill. I love ’em all — but the truth is that they don’t know what’s what around here or in the world at large. Did you know what’s what at that age?
And that’s the sort of thing you might have read about from your newspaper’s media/broadcasting reporter. Before social media, shrinking ad dollars, smart phones — it was another time another place.
As an EMT, we were trained not go into unsafe situations, regardless of the patient’s condition. Nope — not risking my ass, even if it means saving your life.
That’s why it’s so interesting when you see local TV reporters putting themselves in harm’s way covering the recent protests across America.
Not defending the cops here, but standing on the fringes of a riot might be — oh, I don’t know — a little unsafe. Would you go to a fire and hang around in the “collapse zone,” the area where the burning structure might fall if it comes down? Of course not — and this is no different.
Ah, but this is the noble profession of journalism! It’s not a job, but a higher calling, and informing the public is worth the sacrifice of my life.
Don’t make me laugh.
I’d encourage journalists to weigh the risks associated with any assignment. This includes fire and accident scenes, extreme weather, busy roadways, dangerously elevated emotions — and yes, riots. Your personal safety should always come first, and none of you are paid enough to take chances. If you think being on the sidelines of a chaotic situation, like that riot, is supposed to be a safe zone, you are wrong.
And if you’re a TV reporter in Podunk, Kentucky, don’t dare compare what your doing to covering a war. Those sort of journalists understand the risks — and they accept that when you go into a shitstorm you may be hit with some shit.
I’ve been struggling with how to say this, so if I don’t get it right, please forgive me, but here it goes:
Nobody cares about your opinion.
Nope. Nobody gives a hoot what you think. Oh, wait — this is not to suggest that you shouldn’t express yourself. Please, by all means tell us what you think.
Please give us your take on COVID. Are you a hardcore mask NAZI virophobe who condemns everyone who leaves their house or has meaningful contact with other humans? Or maybe you think the whole thing is stupid, and the overly cautious are paranoid imbeciles addicted to drama.
And the protests. Actually, we’re dying to hear how much you hate the evil cops. Or how you think the people abused by the police truly deserved it. Or how you went to a protest and walked around with a cardboard sign.
Good on you. You are better than us.
Once there was a time when the world was a better place. Do you know when it was better? When we didn’t have a way to instantly express everything that goes through our heads.
That may sound funny from a guy who’s written blog posts for more than 15 years, but here’s the thing: I don’t think my opinions are important, nor do I expect anyone else to think that they are. That’s what I found so puzzling about the whole Albany Eye thing. Why would anyone care what some idiot writes about local TV and newspapers?
But thank you for visiting, anyway. It’s nice to have someone hear it when you shout into the void, and maybe that’s the point.
I subscribe to the digital edition of the New York Times and get the Times Union delivered, which also gives me access to their online content. I may joke about the TU, but I still like reading an actual local newspaper — even though it may infect me with COVID-19.
And it’s all good — mostly.
But here’s the thing: if I pay for your newspaper, I should not be subjected to a barrage of trashy click-bait advertising, like what’s found on every page of the Times Union’s website. It’s full of garbage ads for nonsense websites, celebrity news, slideshows, unwanted videos that auto-play — if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, go to any story on their site and scroll down.
I believe in advertising, and legitimate ads from local and national advertisers are welcome — even targeted ads that prey upon the instincts and desires tracked by my browsing habits. What the Times Union is doing, however, is destroying the user experience for those who visit their website. Period.
Advertising is a social contract, of sorts. I’ve pointed out the relationship we agree to have with a lot of television content: I watch your ads in exchange for being informed and entertained. When the ads are intrusive and onerous? Then the contract is broken — and if I’m actually paying and still seeing all those shitty ads, shame on you.
If there’s one good thing about this coronavirus mess, it’s the way that it’s brought us together. That’s ironic considering how we’re being told to stay away from one another.
But let me ask you a question: Did you expect this thing with the toilet paper?
You’d think that certain food staples would be scooped off the shelves, but now we know that people are more concerned about wiping their ass than they are about eating.
This turns everything upside down, including what we know about dealing with a crisis. And zombies.
In The Walking Dead, you sometimes see the characters foraging for food and weapons, but toilet paper? Never. I argue therefore, that the Walking Dead is not realistic, because people are not obsessed with toilet paper. Yes, I know, the whole thing about people coming back from the dead is also unrealistic — but the toilet paper!
Art imitates life, so zombie stories will probably start including some toilet paper sub-plots, and you know what, it’s something we’ll all relate to.
Meanwhile, continue to ration and wipe with care. Me? I’m waiting for the bidet I ordered from Home Depot. The key to survival is self-sufficiency.
I was about to peek in the oven when I noticed them, the raisins on the counter that were supposed to be inside my soda bread. Oh, shit.
This was in the middle of a busy morning of baking for the annual soda bread contest at the Irish American Heritage Museum. This loaf, one of two for the “family style” competition would not do. I needed to start over.
My wife was like, what? How could you forget the raisins?
I didn’t have a good answer for that one — and I hustled into mixing my ingredients.
Everything was under control — until later in the morning when I got a sick feeling about my traditional loaf. I peered in the oven and saw that things were not right. I forget to add the baking soda to the soda bread.
These traditional loaves only have four ingredients — flour, buttermilk, salt and baking soda — and without the baking soda, you have something that’s inedible, like a big white hockey puck. What kind of idiot leaves out an ingredient that’s right there in the name?
This kind of idiot.
The wife eyed me suspiciously. Was he finally losing his shit, she must have thought, giving in to the early effects of dementia?
I assured her that I was not incompetent — or senile — and pushed ahead. Even with the delays, my loaves made it into the contest with five minutes to spare.
They say all’s well that ends well, and after all the trouble, my family style bread won second place. Nevertheless, I’m beginning to think that I may need to keep better track of what’s going on while cooking, the way I always go to the grocery store with a list these days. When I remember to bring it.
First, full disclosure: I have not always been the best at returning library books on time. Once or twice, I actually racked up fines high enough to cover the cost of the item I borrowed. My bad, please accept my donation, sorry for the inconvenience.
Today I am much more conscientious, but if I were a patron (library users are “patrons,” BTW) of the Troy Public Library I would not need to be conscientious at all, because Troy has joined the growing number of libraries that are eliminating fines.
According to news reports, the Troy library said that fines can be a deterrent to those who need their services the most, and a fine avoidance can actually delay the return of an item. They told WRGB, “Fines can interfere with the library’s important mission of providing information to the residents of Troy.”
Makes sense, right?
Well, WAMC dug a little deeper into the subject and found that the director of Utica’s fine-free library has much a diffferent take. He said that library workers are subjected to “stressful and often very contentious” work conditions, and that dropping fines reduces trouble. Director Chris Sagaas says, “There’s a lot less conflict between library users and our staff,” and that “removing conflict and aggression or the possibility for it is a good thing for library services.”
What’s puzzling about this is what’s always puzzling about everything: people. It’s one thing to be lazy, or a procrastinator, or downright irresponsible — but then to walk into the library and start a fight over the fines you accumulated?
Well, I think we can all agree that we don’t go to the library for conflict and aggression. If I want that, I’ll stop in at the Spectrum Cable store.
My kids say that I like Facebook because I’m old. Ok, whatever, what can I say? I enjoy finding out what people are up to and seeing pictures of their dogs and whatnot. What I don’t like are people who post ridiculous political shit or push their crazy ass ideas about things like vaccinations.
Fortunately, Facebook has a great way to make people go away, but not forever. The feature, commonly called the “Snooze button,” allows you to stop seeing a person, page, or group for 30 days.
It’s like saying, “I like you and I care about you, and I want to be friends, but I’m a little sick of your crap and I need a break.” Even better? They never know they’ve been snoozed, so no feelings, like when you unfollow a friend.
A guy I know pointed out that he’s found himself having to snooze the same people every 30 days. It’s true. I’ve got one person who’s become the Rip Van Winkle of Facebook friends.
Ah, modern living — but you know what we really need? An easy way to snooze people in real life. That would be useful.