Tuesday, March 29, 2005


This is a big shift from Terri Schiavo, right-to-life issues and whether or not cable news channels are actually doing a good job, but tonight I was laying around at home like a big blob (I know that's a lovely image. I wasn't totally blobolicious, I did manage to paint my toenails and fingernails, which of course I promptly screwed up). While painting away, I watched CBS' Emmy-winning The Amazing Race, which features Rob and Amber, the now-engaged winners of Survivor: All-Stars.

When I watched Survivor: All-Stars, I was impressed with the Rob and Amber combo. They played the game ruthlessly, but with skill and determination, and I believed they deserved to win even though most of the other competitors told them at the end of the game that they were the worst people they had ever met.

Sore losers, I thought during that last tribal council. And it was so romantic when Rob asked Amber to marry him on live television.

So tonight I'm watching The Amazing Race, rooting for my favorites Rob and Amber, and getting progressively more disgusted by their behavior. An older woman, Gretchen, fell in a cave and seriously cut her head, and all Rob had to say was that her doting husband, Meredith, probably pushed her so they could con everyone out of their money. After that, Meredith and Gretchen came in last. Instead of eliminating them, the show's host seized all their money and belongings, guaranteeing them even rougher going the next day. When the pair took up a collection from the other players the next morning, Rob refused to contribute, saying “it's a game” so he and his fiance weren't going to help.

Later in the race, another team literally rolled their jeep while driving in the African outback. Every other team stopped to make sure the two were okay; Rob and Amber just drove on, not even slowing down.

Competitively, that was the right decision, because it put Rob and Amber in second place at the end of the round when previously they had been losing more challenges than Rob could stand.

Turns out, the older couple managed to come in fifth, even without belongings or money, securing their place in the race. And the brothers who flipped their car came in sixth after a sprint to the finish, beating the endlessly battling couple who still said they planned to stay together even though it's apparent to all of America that they hate each other.

Still, I thought the right thing to do would have been to eliminate Rob and Amber for bad behavior, giving the fighting couple their spot. Not that the fighting couple was so much better - they were the only other team that refused to give Meredith and Gretchen money. But at least they slowed down to see if everyone was all right. At the end of the day, people's lives are more important than any game, even ones played on TV. Especially ones played on TV, because now we all know who Rob and Amber really are. And I was such a fan ...

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Enough Terri Schiavo already

I'm working on a story right now about conservative books, so my research journey has taken me to Fox News Channel and many conservative blogs - see Captain's Quarters, AnnCoulter.com, RichardPoe.com and NewsMax.com. If you are on this site, you have likely read some of my other posts, and you have figured out that I'm not a big fan of the U.S. conservative movement. As Andrew Sullivan points out, it's really more of a move toward fundamentalism and away from libertarianism, which is ironic in light of the fact that the 9/11 attacks, one of the major catalysts for this shift in the party, were perpetuated by fundamentalists, albeit Muslims not Christians.

Anyway, what I'm confronted with in all these right-wing places is Terri Schiavo. No big surprise, but it's opened my eyes a little. Even though I'm a member of the media, I have never understood how some of these micro stories become mammoth monster stories that take over the news agenda of the entire country. Why Terri Schiavo, Elian Gonzalez and Lacy Peterson? Why not the many, many other brain-dead, hospitalized victims; Cuban refugees; or murdered wives?

I still don't know the answer to that question, but what I did learn (or what I was reminded of), is the copycat nature of news in the U.S. Watching Fox News, which last Thursday was airing Terri Schiavo almost to the exclusion of anything else (except a brief dip into the Michael Jackson lawsuit), I remembered exactly why discussion of the case has taken over -- fear. If Fox chooses to cover Terri Schiavo night and day, and Fox is the cable news leader, then everyone else has to cover it night and day because of the fear that viewers will leave in droves, ratings will plummet and everyone at the network will lose their jobs.

It's that point I believe the cable news directors lose their judgement. I do think the Terri Schiavo case is an interesting and important debate on morality and the right to life or lack thereof, and I do think this country should engage that debate. I do not think it should black out the news agenda to the exclusion of most of the rest of the news. What's more, with so many 24/7 news channels available, plus the Internet, and so on and so on, couldn't someone get brave enough to drop coverage of the Schiavo case unless something actually happens? And when it does, couldn't they just report that, maybe analyze it a little, and move on?

To some extent, I think copycat journalism is just easier. Why go break new and interesting stories when you can follow what everyone else is following? Why analyze trends or provide real, useful information when you can just chase your competitor? Why waste time examining what is happening on the international front that none of us really know about?

I also know from experience that most news organizations are limited in their funding. News outfits aren't run as non-profits, unfortunately, and thus are obligated by their corporate parents and their stock holders to show a profit margin. As a result, even if CNN makes lots of money, the channel still is forced to adhere to a strict budget so as to deliver profits to the corporate bottom line.

Within that budget, reporters, editors, and producers all feel obligated to cover the day's news agenda, even if it is repetitive and boring. They don't want to look like they got beat by their competitor. And at the end of the day, all of those news teams have nothing left - energy, resources, inspiration -- with which to bring original stories. They've given what they have to the issue of the day, and so have the reporters from every other news service.

If the news channels could somehow get brave enough to architect their own agendas and stop worrying about what the other guy is doing, that would much better serve the public interest and educate the democracy. The cable news channels could leave the nitty-gritty reporting of these ongoing stories to the wires and the major papers, report them as obligated, and spend their resources on the cutting-edge, the new, the unknown.

It's up to us, the consumers, to let the news organizations know we are fed up with copycat reporting by turning it off and demanding something better. As members of a democracy, we are obligated to educate ourselves on the issues of the day and the decisions--both pending and completed--of our government. To cite my hero, Oprah: what I know for sure is that there's more going on out there than Terri Schiavo.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I'm Stuck in Rehab with Pat O'Brien

I hate to be totally evil at someone else's expense ... oh, who I am kidding? I love it! Anyway, the following link will take you to one of the funniest things ever available on the Internet. Unless you live in Boulder and never watch TV and have no idea who Pat O'Brien is, BUT if you know anything about the TV industry at all, you will find this hilarious. So go there now:

I'm Stuck in Rehab with Pat O'Brien

Feel free to return and ask questions in the comments section of this blog.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


OK, I have been a horrible, horrible blogger. I didn’t even blog about the Oscars, which I had been leading up to for weeks.

So what brought about this complete lack of responsibility to my blog and the four people who read it? The deadly combination of travel, laziness and illness – so I’ve actually had tons of things to blog on about but no motivation to capture it all on paper or computer screen, as it were.

I feel like the Oscars passed me by, but let me say a few things.

1) I found the ceremony boring – including Chris Rock. And even though I appreciated Executive Producer Gil Cates’ attempts to spice things up a bit by placing all the nominees on stage so that most of them could be rejected and then recorded trying to cover up their disappointment, I found the exercise crueler than even the everyday reality show. This represents people’s life work in many instances – can’t you just let them slouch in their seat when they lose, like they get to do at every other awards show? I hope that format does not become a trend.

2) I like Beyonce as much as the rest of us, but one song with her would have been plenty. Also, what the hey did Antonio Banderas and Carlos Santana do to that song from Motorcycle Diaries? I think that when the guy won he was relieved so he could come up and let everyone know that it was actually a good song before the Banderas/Santana combo got their hands on it.

3) I didn’t pick Million Dollar Baby, but my excuse is that I hadn’t seen it when I made my picks. I’m not sure I would have changed my votes, however. The movie really gained steam toward the end of the voting process, and the acting nods for Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman really sealed the deal for Clint. Could Clint ever direct a movie that is not miserably depressing? Light-hearted is clearly not in his repetoire, as amazingly talented as the man is.

Meanwhile, I’m still seeing Oscar-nominated movies, even though the moment has passed. Last night, Mom, Ashley and I saw Pedro Almodovar’s Bad Education. In Ashley’s words: “I can’t believe I’m seeing movies about ass-sex with my mother.” And if it disturbed Ashley, you know it was over the top.

Parting comment: Why on earth does CNN insist on covering the blogs with their stupid stupid stupid segment called “Inside the Blogs” during Judy Woodruth’s Inside Politics. Word to CNN: a) computer screens do not make good TV and b) CNN (and all news services) is like the anti-blog, and as such, should not be covering blogs. It drives me crazy on a daily basis (yet I still persist in having CNN on all day because I need something to keep me company and bring me the news, and what are the options?).

And to my four regular readers: Since I have no travel scheduled until the end of July, I plan to be a better blogger in the future.