Tag Archives: NPR

Time of My Life, Part 6: Kudos to NPR

There once was a time — and it wasn’t that long ago — when newspaper editors’ opinions were of some value, that others actually sought them out.

I got to play the part of a media “expert,” but I use the term loosely, as in quite loosely.

The 2008 presidential campaigned exposed me to the marvels of radio editing and the magic that radio hands perform with raw audio “copy.”

National Public Radio was looking for two newspaper editors who plied their craft in politically disparate parts of the country. They settled on Kevin Riley, editor of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News and, um, yours truly . . . me!

Dayton is a heavily unionized community in southern Ohio. In 2008 it was considered to be part of the electoral “battleground” where U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain were fighting in their quest to become the next president of the United States. Riley was editor of the paper. I don’t know the fellow.

I was editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, deep in the heart of McCain Country. There wouldn’t be any fight in the Texas Panhandle over voters’ preferences. Our readers were solidly behind Sen. McCain.

NPR wanted to talk to the two of us to get our take on how our communities viewed the upcoming election.

I showed up at the High Plains Public Radio studio in downtown Amarillo, got comfortable sitting amid all this radio equipment. My good friend Mark Haslett — who worked for HPPR at the time — set up the studio nicely. The call came from NPR, I introduced myself to Liane Hansen, the NPR host, and to Riley, who was on the other end of the line in Dayton.

We chatted for about 30 minutes or so. I was terribly nervous, more so than Riley; at least that’s how I figured it, given that he stammered and stuttered far less than I did when he was answering questions from Hansen.

The bottom line was that Riley said the race in Ohio between Obama and McCain would be tight; meanwhile, I told NPR that McCain was likely to win the contest in the High Plains of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Kansas in a walk.

NPR boiled the interview down to about a 4-minute presentation on its “Morning Edition” broadcast on Sunday.

Here’s the most astounding part of it: NPR’s editing team made me sound much smarter and erudite than I am. They edited out the fits and starts, the “uhs” and “ums” and the occasional mangled sentence structure.

What’s more, they did it without changing any context! They broadcast my remarks completely and correctly, but without the mess I made of it.

I tell you all this to make two points: First, given the decline in print journalism and the explosive growth in other forms of media, newspaper editors no longer are deemed to be as valuable a resource as they once were; I am proud to have taken part in that discussion. Second, National Public Radio comprises geniuses who are very good at what they do . . . and I was proud to be a part of NPR’s broadcast.

Take a look and ponder these words

It took me just a few minutes to read the essay I have attached below this brief preamble. I would like to share it with you.

The writer is named Charles Pierce, who I understand is a sportswriter and “liberal political commentator.” He makes occasional appearances on National Public Radio and has been published in several national magazines.

He is highly critical of Donald J. Trump. I cannot possibly add a single word to what he has written.

***

“In my life, I have watched John Kennedy talk on television about missiles in Cuba. I saw Lyndon Johnson look Richard Russell squarely in the eye and say, “And we shall overcome.” I saw Richard Nixon resign and Gerald Ford tell the Congress that our long national nightmare was over. I saw Jimmy Carter talk about malaise and Ronald Reagan talk about a shining city on a hill. I saw George H.W. Bush deliver the eulogy for the Soviet bloc, and Bill Clinton comfort the survivors of Timothy McVeigh’s madness in Oklahoma City. I saw George W. Bush struggle to make sense of it all on September 11, 2001, and I saw Barack Obama sing “Amazing Grace” in the wounded sanctuary of Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

These were the presidents of my lifetime. These were not perfect men. They were not perfect presidents, God knows. Not one of them was that. But they approached the job, and they took to the podium, with all the gravitas they could muster as appropriate to the job. They tried, at least, to reach for something in the presidency that was beyond their grasp as ordinary human beings. They were not all ennobled by the attempt, but they tried nonetheless.

And comes now this hopeless, vicious buffoon, and the audience of equally hopeless and vicious buffoons who laughed and cheered when he made sport of a woman whose lasting memory of the trauma she suffered is the laughter of the perpetrators. Now he comes, a man swathed in scandal, with no interest beyond what he can put in his pocket and what he can put over on a universe of suckers, and he does something like this while occupying an office that we gave him, and while endowed with a public trust that he dishonors every day he wakes up in the White House.

The scion of a multigenerational criminal enterprise, the parameters of which we are only now beginning to comprehend. A vessel for all the worst elements of the American condition. And a cheap, soulless bully besides. Watch him again, behind the seal of the President of the United States.

Isn’t he a funny man? Isn’t what happened to that lady hilarious? Watch the assembled morons cheer. This is the only story now.”

POTUS seeks to control news information flow

Donald J. Trump’s reported anger over first lady Melania Trump’s desire to watch CNN aboard Air Force One brings to mind a curious conversation I had with a key staffer who worked for U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican who represents the 13th Congressional District of Texas.

Trump wants all the TVs on the presidential jet to be tuned to Fox News, his favorite news/commentary network. He considers CNN and other news networks to be purveyors of “fake news.” What makes ’em “fake”? They report news the president deems to be negative. I presume he’s issued the same edict for the TV sets throughout the White House.

So, negativity equals “fake news.” Got it?

OK, back to my conversation with the Thornberry staffer.

We were visiting some years ago. I was working for the Amarillo Globe-News. This individual was talking about a news report she heard. She then told me in a hushed voice over the phone that she heard the report “on NPR.”

Oh, my! Heaven forbid! A staffer for a conservative Republican member of Congress would get her news from National Public Radio! She didn’t want it heard, I guess, by her fellow staffers that she was listening to NPR.

I laughed at her over the phone. She happens to be a friend and we have had a very constructive and productive professional relationship over the years.

I was able to needle her about NPR and the myth that the publicly funded radio network was somehow a progressive mouthpiece for left-leaning politicians.

It isn’t. Public radio reporters and other staffers have informed me over the years about how they were schooled in the manner they should describe public policy. For instance, one NPR news hound informed that the Affordable Care Act would not be referred to on the air as a “reform” measure; “reform” connoted an improvement over the current system. The term that NPR reporters were instructed to use is “overhaul.”

Are we clear? Good!

Time to pray for a stranded soccer team

Let’s bow our heads and pray.

A dozen boys and their coach need the world’s prayers. They are stranded deep in a sprawling cave in Thailand.

How they got stuck in the case, trapped by raging flood water, is almost moot at this point. A team of British divers found the boys alive and apparently in reasonably good health. None of them has suffered any serious injury.

They are hungry. They haven’t eaten in about a week.

But this story is going to get dicey quickly.

According to NPR.com, the Thai government is predicting stormy weather that could impede rescue efforts. The word we’re getting is that the boys and their coach might need to dive their way out; they’ll have to don SCUBA gear and swim to safety.

It’s a treacherous procedure, according to reports. I understand none of the boys can swim. They’ve never dived before. They’ll be accompanied by expert divers.

I’m trying to grasp the terror in these boys’ minds as they know they’ve been found, but that it might be weeks before they are able to escape their entrapment.

They need nourishment to be sure.

They also need the world’s prayers. I’m sending them all the good karma I can muster up.

No plans to ID the latest shooting suspect

David Brooks is one of my favorite conservative columnists.

He writes for the New York Times and is a regular weekly contributor to PBS’s “NewsHour” and can be heard on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” evening news broadcast.

He said something today on NPR I want to endorse in a full-throated fashion. Brooks said in a discussion with E.J. Dionne, the Washington Post columnist, that he dislikes it when the media identify individuals suspected of mass shootings.

I agree. Wholeheartedly.

Thus, I won’t identify the young man arrested today after the Santa Fe High School massacre near Galveston. I didn’t ID the Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooter, or the Parkland, Fla., gunman, or the Las Vegas sniper, or the Orland, Fla., terrorist. And on and on …

Brooks’s rationale for asking that the media not ID these individuals is that he believes giving these individuals publicity emboldens future madmen from committing copy cat crimes.

Bingo, Mr. Brooks!

I’m in your corner.

Yes, I have posted the names of some of history’s more notorious assassins: Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray. Of those three, only Sirhan is still living. I see these individuals in a bit of a different light than the mass murderers who commit the heinous crimes that have become all too common place in contemporary society.

I accept fully David Brooks’s reason for seeking to refuse to give these alleged losers any more publicity than they deserve.

Which is none. Zero. Zip.

NPR: masters of audio editing

My career in print journalism enabled me to do some very cool things, see some fabulous places, cover compelling stories — and it exposed me to the magic of other media.

I want to offer a good word or three to National Public Radio.

I was given an opportunity, as the editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, on three occasions to take part in NPR interviews. Two of them involved the 2008 presidential election. NPR wanted to chronicle the outlook on the election as it appeared to us in the Texas Panhandle; the other party in the interviews was Kevin Riley, editor of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. NPR sought the views of editors from disparate regions of the country: heavily Republican Texas and “swing-state” southern Ohio.

The other interview involved President Obama’s economic stimulus package and its impact on our respective regions.

Here is what I wrote in February 2010:

NPR reaches out to the heartland

What I want to recall briefly here is how deftly NPR edited my comments to make them suitable for airing on the public airwaves.

High Plains Public Radio — an NPR affiliate — had a recording studio in downtown Amarillo. I was able to go to the studio and take part in the interview with the Washington, D.C.-based “Morning Edition” program.

What astounded me at the time — and still boggles my mind to this day — is how well NPR edited my comments. They eliminated the occasional stammer and extraneous verbiage without changing the context of my statements to the NPR interviewer. Kevin Riley, the other person being interviewed, sounded much more comfortable with radio. As for myself, it’s not my thing and I was nervous as the dickens every time I took part in this process.

It’s a remarkable skill that continues to amaze me.

NPR receives criticism from time to time, mostly from conservatives who allege the network has a “liberal bias.” My own experience with NPR did not reveal any such bias. I found NPR to be professional to the “nth” degree.

Moreover, the editors at NPR exhibited a magician’s skill at making a nervous newspaper editor sound like an experienced hand at radio.

Weaken libel laws? No can do, Mr. President

Donald John Trump wants to make it easier to sue publications for libel. The president vowed to change laws he called a “sham” and a “disgrace.”

Really, Mr. President?

He made the vow at the start of a Cabinet meeting in the White House.

Where can I start? I’ll give it a shot.

Trump said journalists cannot write stories that are knowingly false and then smile while they count their money as it pours into their bank account.

True enough, Mr. President. Except that current libel laws ensure that those who publish “knowingly false” stories are punished.

As for whether the federal government can rewrite the law, I need to remind Donald Trump that the U.S. Constitution declares in the First Amendment that there should be a “free press” that is allowed to do its job without government interference.

The founders wanted to ensure that a free press could function without fear of intimidation and, thus, established a high bar for public officials to clear if they decide to sue for libel.

The object of Trump’s tirade clearly is the publication of “Fire and Fury,” the highly controversial book written by journalist Michael Wolff, who reports some mighty scathing remarks from former and current White House staffers who had some disparaging things to say about Donald Trump. The president calls it all fiction; Wolff, of course, stands by his reporting in the book.

National Public Radio reports: And this is hardly the first time Trump has railed against libel laws, which as a matter of practice are made by the states and backed by a U.S. Supreme Court precedent that sets a high bar for public figures wanting to prove libel.

So, what is left for Trump to do? He can nominate Supreme Court justices who are willing to water down the First Amendment. However, he then sets up a proverbial “litmus test” for potential appointees.

Would he dare ask them prior to selecting them whether they would pledge a sort of loyalty to the president by agreeing beforehand to rule favorably on a libel case that comes before the nation’s highest court?

Now that I think about it, I believe he would … to his shame!

Trump’s war on the media keeps getting hotter.

Frightening … and dangerous.

Mind-boggling series of events keeps head spinning

My mind is officially boggled.

I awoke this morning, looked at my social media news feed and saw that NBC fired “Today” co-host Matt Lauer for “inappropriate sexual conduct.” It didn’t end with that stunning announcement.

Later today, I saw that NPR icon Garrison Keillor also has been let go by the public radio network for, um, similar conduct.

This is getting even more stunning than it was before.

NBC went straight for the throat in canning Lauer. The network didn’t wait for any further substantiation of the allegation that came from a network colleague. At this moment, I don’t even know the particulars of what the woman accused Lauer of doing to her.

The network acted immediately on hearing what I am going to presume it believes was a credible accusation.

Network news icons are falling like tall timber. Bill O’Reilly, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor. Those are just the biggest of the big names. Then we have the likes of Mark Halperin and Glenn Thrush who have lost their jobs over accusations of misbehavior with women.

When is this going to end?

I haven’t even mentioned — until this very minute — the accusations that have sullied the reputations of political leaders. It’s a bipartisan affliction.

I’m beginning to think that employers will need to revamp the applications they ask prospective employees to fill out. Many businesses ask applicants if they’ve ever been convicted of a felony. That’s fine.

They will now likely have to ask: Have you ever committed an act that someone could construe to be sexual harassment … or worse?

This wave of dismissals amid accusations looks for all the world like a purging that needs to occur.

Media getting the lashing they deserve

It hurts a bit to say this, but the so-called “mainstream media” are getting trashed — for the right reasons.

The media have been criticized for the slant of their coverage of news events, of politicians. Conservatives have labeled the MSM as tools of the liberal political establishment. I haven’t bought into that argument.

What’s happening now to the media, though, is an examination of a culture that seems to pervade it. We are witnessing the toppling of media heavyweights because of the way they behave toward women … allegedly.

Bill O’Reilly at Fox News: gone; Charlie Rose of CBS and PBS; he’s toast; Mark Halperin of MSNBC: he’s outta there; Glenn Thrush of the New York Times and MSNBC: he, too, is gone; Michael Oreskes of National Public Radio: see ya later.

What do these men have in common? They all were accused by women of making sexual advances on them, of committing acts of sexual harassment, of sexual abuse. The allegations include groping, prancing around in the nude, making inappropriate remarks … and some things I probably shouldn’t mention here because they’re in poor taste.

The word now is that media outlets are soul-searching. They are schooling their employees — the males at least — on how to behave, how to treat their female colleagues.

What gives this story its extra legs quite arguably is that the media have been covering the sexual misdeeds of others, namely politicians and entertainment tycoons. That coverage has exposed media companies — and the men who report and comment on others’ conduct — to the very revelations we have learned about their own behavior.

As Politico has reported: “We have robust policies in place and have become more focused on communicating those policies across the organization,” said New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha in an email. “In recent weeks, we’ve reminded employees of our Anti-Harassment, Equal Employment Opportunity, and Non-Discrimination policies and we’ve highlighted the many ways an employee can raise an issue or file a complaint, including through an anonymous hotline.”

That’s fine. Now it’s time for the Times and other media outlets to root out the bad actors within their ranks immediately.

Anthony Weiner … once more

So help me, I don’t know why I’m even remotely interested in Anthony Weiner.

But I am. Remotely interested, that is.

The former loudmouth New York Democratic congressman is facing a 21-month prison sentence for knowingly sending sexually explicit text messages to an underage girl.

This clown has destroyed his marriage to a brilliant political operative. He has shredded his own political career. He has made a mockery of himself and disgraced the New York congressional district voters who placed their trust in him to obey the law. Of the consequences mentioned here, I suppose the only one that gives me a mild case of regret is constituent trust he destroyed because of his shameful conduct.

Weiner is going to appeal his sentence. He ought to be thankful that’s all he got from the federal judge, Denise Cote. He could have faced a longer prison term. He’s also going to serve a three-year probationary period.

Here is now National Public Radio reported his sentencing.

Weiner made a bit of a national name for himself initially because he was such a gasbag while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. There was a particularly bizarre moment on the House floor when congress members were debating the cost of health care for first responders. Weiner exploded in anger that some Republicans opposed spending the amount of money that Weiner wanted spent.

This guy’s “sexting” escapades eventually became part of the story involving his wife and her work with the Clinton campaign during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Whatever. He’s gone to trail. He’s been convicted. The judge has sentenced him to nearly two years in a federal lockup.

Please … now. Just go away.