In the news world it’s “root hog, or die”

Quite a piece it has been since I heard those quiet tappings from the keyboards, the telephones, the occasional neighbor talking too loudly to his source, the buzz of CNN on the TV screen, and people pissing me off because they stopped to shoot the shit right behind me as I try to finish a story on deadline. I am talking about the sights, sounds and, yes the emotions, of the daily newspaper newsroom.

Actually, next month it will be six years that I stopped working full-time as a newspaper reporter. I left under what is called a “confidential agreement.” You can draw your own conclusions, but sure as shootin,’ I don’t want to pay back the eight weeks severance I got when I left on that ugly April day.

Over time, though, you see that those feelings you once held so tightly and rightly about how you went about your job and how the means turned out looking differently from the ends sometimes, especially to the readers.

The three local TV stations we had where I worked — we had three TVs in the newsroom and we watched them each night at 6 & 10 — were mediocre small market news operations. Like many small markets I have seen, they always tried to claim their news superiority was more than it really was. Particularly galling, was the phrase several of the news anchors used “”As we first reported.” The trouble I had with the phrase was 99 and 1/2 percent times, the “first reporting” meant that they were first to report it on the air. As to where the story originated, it was almost always something the TV stations stole from the newspapers.

I followed a couple of important stories in that town and market over the seven years I worked for this paper. More often than not, when news broke on these stories, it was I who did the breaking. I fancied myself a better writer than reporter for a number of years until I became really good at the reporting end of it. I am not bragging. It was just a fact that I was an above average reporter who had that “nose for news”  and who kept on top of his “stuff.” That is why the TV people would piss me off. I was the one who broke the stories.

These days, since I do little real reporting and I tend to “bury the lead” more than I would like, I often look differently at TV news knowing that — normally — the area’s local daily or strong weekly newspapers supply the TV with their stories. The “pretty boys and girls” put the underpaid newspaper beat reporter’s words into tons of mousse and hairspray. Sorry, I know I am just being mean there. I know a number of local TV reporters who are nice people and very competent. But I also know some who are as worthless as a beer bottle in a gunfight.

To be perfectly honest, the place where I now reside doesn’t have a very good, prominent, daily newspaper. The paper is blessed with a few good reporters/writers, but the old, established daily, suffers from a severe lack of leadership. The best newspaper reporter in the World can only carry a medium-to-small-medium-sized newspaper so far.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Barry launches a Tomahawk missile March 20, no doubt, to NOT find its way up Libyan strong man Col. Quadaffi's butt. (Navy photo by ICFN Roderick Eubanks)

Okay, so I bury this way deep. Last night when CNN’s foreign correspondent Nic Robertson reported Quadaffi’s compound was “blowed-up” by a cruise missile or something of the kind, I noticed the visible excitement of his back in the “USSA” anchor T.J. Holmes. Continually, it seems, Holmes would replay the moment when Robertson first reported that Q-daffy’s place went boom and he would not be hesitant to announce we saw it all first on CNN.

As the “Breaking News” went on, I was becoming rather ready to throw a shoe (a flip-flop at least) at the TV set and Mr. Anchor Holmes. But I remembered how I used to hate the TV stations for bragging about their exploits to the point where I finally said — with an editor’s approval — if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.’ When we were the ones who broke a story, we told God and everybody.

All in all, dealing with a medium which stole your stories and claimed those stories were theirs, it came down to just standing up to the local TV thieving bastards. Sorry, most weren’t like that, I only used the term “thieving bastards” first, for effect and secondly, because that’s what a very few were with which we were dealing.

In the end, no honor exists among thieves whether it be pimps, dope dealers, lawyers, Realtors, or reporters. The world is that of the subterranean and you have to dig for it, and “root hog, or die.”


News overload continues

The “Great News Overload” continues. So much is going on of interest, to me at least, I hardly know where first to turn.

Perhaps it is a flip-up between the nuclear crisis in Japan — a little radiation goes a long way — and Libya where the UN Security Council has approved the use of  “all necessary measures to protect civilians from military actions by forces of Muammar al-Qadhafi. Yet another way to spell this lunatic’s name.

Maybe I am in the minority but I think the decision by the UN, which is backed by the Arab League and the U.S., is a right one. I just hope that all necessary measures which includes a “no-fly” zone is a) Not too late in the game and b) Something that will not drag our country into a third combat front. It is my understanding many military types are not for it, of course, the military leaders with any sense never want to put their young men and women in harm’s way. Let’s just hope this goes right.

Radiation in Cali? I don’t think the sky is falling quite, yet. I still don’t know what all is happening with the Japanese nuclear reactors. Looks like I might watch some CNN later on today.

Have a good weekend. Here’s hoping that all your news is good. Cheesy, I say? Ah yeah buddy.

To Kim Jong Il: Good night and Good Hawaiian Luck!

This in from the Korean peninsula:

What’s up with North Korea  shelling a South Korean island? Are the North Koreans nuts? No, not all of them, just their leaders. Something may eventually give way over there. I hope not, but if it does, I hope the U.S. Navy Seals or whatever U.S. military forces can go in and take back the U.S.S. Pueblo. It is anchored in Pyongyang where it is a tourist attraction and remains the only U.S. naval vessel in captivity. For this act of your ancestors and your continued idiocy, here is a Hawaiian Good Luck Sign,  Kim Jong Il. (Note: Linked is a good account of the Pueblo Incident and the ship’s captivity in the “Anchor Watch,” a Navy magazine. It is a pdf document so you may not land right on it. If not, it is Page 16. The Hawaiian Good Luck Sign is also explained if you haven’t figured it out yet from the below photo.

Can you find the "Hawaiian Good Luck Sign" in this N. Korean propaganda photo taken of U.S.S. Pueblo crewmen? Maybe not if the picture is too small.

What would happen if war broke out between the South with help from the U.S. and probably some allies, especially Japan and Australia? That is a big what if, especially with the U.S. in one and one-half-to-two wars in progress. Can you say “Draft Board?” Sure you can.

Let’s  hope it doesn’t happen but this belligerent behavior from the People’s Korean Fruit Cake can’t go on indefinitely.

Iraq: Is it the end, or is it just the beginning?

One is tempted to say: “Mission accomplished!” Or President Gerald Ford’s line upon taking office after Nixon’s resignation: “Our long national nightmare is over.”

Except I am talking about Iraq here. The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division left Iraq this week. It is the last “combat force” to leave where the U.S. fought during the past seven years. There are U.S. soldiers left behind. They are combat soldiers but they’re not.  About 50,000 American troops will stay behind to teach and assist the Iraqi forces including about 4,500 special operations soldiers.

Like it’s predecessor in 1990-91, this Gulf War was hardly a surprise. The first war seemed ill-advised and reeked of oil. The second war just reeked. We were already fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We still are. I wrote almost five years ago that I thought that the nation and its military had found itself boxed in by the Iraq War. It didn’t seem possible that we could get out of that country without somehow losing face among World powers. But somehow, at least for the moment, it seems we have “won.” At least in some artful use of spin and sleight of hand. Have we won though?

I fear we will be back to Iraq, and that region in particular, in spades sooner or later. I fear sooner.

However our military posture appears to our World partners and enemies now due to our “combat troops” leaving Iraq, I’m glad more of our U.S. troops — Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard, both men and women — are gone from that place that I feel we should never have been. I doubt the war is over for many of them because of Afghanistan. But maybe some will never have to live their young lives in what I feel was a war that, under different circumstances, might have caused the  president to be removed from office.

A lot of folks don’t see it that way. A lot of folks also want Islamic mosques wherever they feel they should be located rather than members of that religion. Go figure. Welcome home GIs.

David Stockman says his GOP sunk the nation’s economy into the Deep Doo Doo Sea

Just a little while ago I stumbled across this article on I had to stumble upon it because I never read it unless I see a potentially interesting story linked to the site from Google News. Perhaps I should bookmark it or even add it to my blogroll because it has more than once produced great articles about some aspect of the economy or the other.

Rather than my blathering I think it best you read for yourself the story by Paul B. Farrell on how Reagan administration budget wonder boy David Stockman now says the Republican Party has wrecked the economy for the last 40 years. To better grasp what he is saying, first link to and read the rather simple definitions of some essential economic theories in the event they are not familiar: (Go on, it won’t hurt. I promise you.)

Laissez Faire, Keynesian and Supply-Side.

If you happened to read the article first, then I suppose there is no hope for you. Seriously, some economists — especially those who have seen the harm done by their own hands — sometime see only the darkest of the dark.

Secondly, Stockman  touches upon the mega-defense budgets of which President and General of the Army Dwight David Eisenhower saw as part of a “military-industrial complex” that should be kept in check and which is described by the former budget director for Reagan as “war-mongering.”

While Stockman’s description may be apt for some in said complex it certainly shouldn’t be writ large for either the military or the defense industry. Who was it said that “Only fools want to go war?” I don’t know. I did. Just now.

It has been out of necessity and, perhaps at times spurred by a  lack of vision, that the nation has seen its defense posture ebb and flow. It certainly built up for major wars the country fought and then cut back to bare bones. Reagan did advocate the buildup of defense in the post-Vietnam United States, his “600-ship Navy” making more sense to most folks than did “Star Wars.” However, the Navy buildup was not all “build” as ships were kept in commission for a longer life and others were sailed out of mothball such as the battleships Iowa, New Jersey, Missouri and Wisconsin. As for the latter, if you were a sailor and found ships kind of cool as I do you couldn’t help but be glad to see the old battlewagons back at sea.

But the ebb and flow of the nation’s defense seems often too much ebb and not enough flow or vice versa. The balance never seems to be enough. If only there was a way to make that equilibrium a reality, and there might be as I have just been talking out of my a**,  then perhaps we could at least solve the one problem David Stockman (remember him?) says has shot our economy all to hell. Batten down the hatches, full speed ahead and you may fire when you are ready, Gridley! Sweepers, sweepers man your brooms, give the ship a clean sweep down fore and aft. Yeah, something like that!