The Boozy, but not Newsy, Mass Media

by Walter Brasch   The Big Story this past week was the Golden Globes awards. The Golden Globes, sponsored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and broadcast by NBC, drew 21 million viewers for the three-hour ceremony, preceded by a one-hour Red Carpet gush-fest hosted by “Today” show personalities. There wasn’t one TV or film personality the hosts didn’t fawn over. Tamron Hall several times excitedly told the viewers that last year she watched the Golden Globes on TV, and now was so thrilled to be on the Red Carpet to interview fellow celebrities. Hosts praised the gowns of the women; the women returned the compliments to Hall and Savannah Guthrie. No one said anything about the spiffy tuxes that … Continue reading

Government Should Not Define What a Reporter is—or Isn’t

    by Walter Brasch Sen. Diane Feinstein and a horde of members of Congress of both parties want to decide who is and who isn’t a reporter. Sen. Feinstein says a “real” reporter is a “salaried agent of a media company.” She mentions the usual suspects—New York Times, ABC News. She dismisses part-time staff. She dismisses freelancers. She dismisses those who write, often without pay, for the hundreds of alternative publications, and often break news and investigative stories well ahead of the mainstream media. She dismisses anyone who, she says, “have no professional qualifications.” The reason she wants to define what a reporter is or isn’t is because there’s a federal Media Shield Law that protects reporters from revealing … Continue reading

America’s Culture is Signing on the Dotted Line

by Walter Brasch The signing season has begun. Look through your local newspaper for the next few weeks, and you’ll see a lot of posed pictures of high school athletes. Everyone will be at a desk or table. Around each one will be their parents and their coach. In some cases, add in an athletic director, a principal, and someone representing a college the young athlete is planning to attend. It makes no difference if it’s a Division I or Division II school; sometimes it’s even a Division III school. Star athletes at the end of their high school careers get photos and applause. They can even get special financial aid and scholarships just for being able to play a … Continue reading

America’s Uncivil Phone Manners

Wednesday, I called the newsrooms of Pennsylvania’s two largest newspapers. All I got were disembodied voices telling me no one was available and to leave a message. It was 11 a.m., and I thought someone—anyone!—should have answered their phones. But, with publishers doing their best to “maximize profits” by cutting news coverage and reporters, I figured they either didn’t have anyone capable of answering a phone or figured no one would be calling with any news that day. So I left a message. It was a routine question, specific for each newspaper and related to verifying information from their papers for a book I was completing. I left another message the next day. I would have called individual assignment reporters, … Continue reading

The Fluff Factor: Today’s Journalism

Will someone please buy gags for Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford? It makes no difference what the color is. Plain or polka-dotted. Painted or sequined. Scented silk, Egyptian cotton, or an auto mechanic’s oil-soaked rag. Just as long as it can be stuffed into their mouths. When their mouths are open, the personality-drenched hosts of NBC’s fourth hour of “Today” are swilling cocktails, blathering about themselves, or interrupting their guests. It makes no difference who the guest is. Cookbook or romance author. Relationships or nutrition expert. A-list actors. No one gets more than a couple of seconds without cross-talk with one or both of the hosts. They may think it’s funny. Or, maybe, like authors who are sometimes paid … Continue reading

The Snipers of Jersey Shore

  by WALTER BRASCH   Garder54 calls Kevin June “a real scum.” LadyDawg4 calls him a “sleazeball.” Proud2bMom calls him a “liar and a thief.” Kevin June is the reluctant leader for the 37 families of the Riverdale Mobile Home Village in Jersey Shore, Pa., who were evicted from their homes, most of which they owned and paid a monthly lot fee. Some of the residents lived there for more than three decades. Most of the residents are elderly, disabled, or living slightly above the poverty line. Several are employed; all are struggling to survive in a bad economy. In late February, Aqua–PVR, a joint operation of Aqua America and Penn Virginia Resource Partners, bought the 12-acre trailer park for … Continue reading

Star Gazing: Comets, Actors, and Angelina’s Right Leg

In 1973, some friends and I went to the rooftop of our apartment building to watch Comet Kahoutek, touted by astronomers and the media as the comet of all comets. We were sure we’d see it since we had the requisite equipment—binoculars and beer. But we didn’t see the comet. Not that night nor the next night. What we did see was a lot of universe. And while we talked about the ungrateful comet that barely shone against a perfect sky, we explored a lot of questions about life, relationships, and our place in the universe. And we realized that no matter how egocentric we were, or how many kudos we earned from our peers, the universe must have a … Continue reading

Fewer Words; Less Filling

The Reduced Shakespeare Co. cleverly and humorously abridges all of Shakespeare’s 37 plays to 97 minutes. Short of having a set of Cliff’s Notes or a collection of Classic Comics, sources of innumerable student essays for more than a half-century, it may be the least painful way to “learn” Shakespeare. The critically-acclaimed show, in addition to being a delightful way to spend part of an evening, is a satiric slap upside the head of the mass media. The condensation of the media may have begun in 1922 with the founding of Reader’s Digest, the pocket-sized magazine which keeps its 17 million world-wide subscribers happy by a combination of original reporting and mulching articles from other magazines. Books also aren’t safe. … Continue reading