(Carl) Ed Sisson's rembering the newsroom in early 70's and Johnny Evans

What a pleasant jar of my memory. Ol' Johnny Evans. A straight up man. One of those who met you on the square and passed on the level. Some around the station referred to him (behind his back) as Poolroom Osborn. Never saw him in action with a cue, but with his nickname came a reputed prowess with a stick. I never bothered to check out that rumor on him. I always hoped it was true. He was the finest slick salesman I knew and one of the few who was a gentleman and as honest as could be. He was one of those who could bring you a smile with a whispered word of encouragement, and his pat on your back was like a treat to a trained dog. He could tell a person to go to hell and make them look forward to the journey. Yep, slick old lovable Johnny. Fond memories of that man.

By the way, I never knew about the battle of the pens or, if I did, memories of it got over shadowed by memories of shouting matches that erupted in the volcano we called a newsroom.

I was in newsrooms at a young age and for so long, it took years for me to grasp it was not people with normal folks. Now I view my two decades in news as time spent in zoos filled with unusual species.

The hardest part was to explain to myself why I was there with them. "Ouch" was my response when I got the answer.

Part 2

When I came to WAAY t.v., I did not know memories from the station would yet bring a smile and a chuckle thirty years later.

WAAY was a nerve stretching experience with perimeters at the borderline of sanity most of the time, sometimes crossing the line, or, in other words WAAY was small town t.v. at its best.

Sparse was the expertise to be found in the newsroom. Skill levels were rough, to be kind, and self-esteem was so high, it was difficult to believe improvement could be made. But it was. Within six months, my ten o'clock news show was number one, a show which had been number four in a two station market -- Nashville and educational t.v. had been doing better. What did that? The team did that.

Grit did that. Continuous improvement did that. A newsroom that would argue that it was perfect got better and better; perhaps more importantly, we worked hard and we worked smart -- and as a team -- usually.

We were out-doing much larger markets and, on a given day, just might have the best news available in the South, or close to it. It was enough to make you giddy and enough to make you respect each and every one of your coworkers, a place that is hard to reach and difficult to keep.

How did it start? One of my first news shows called for varying shots on all floor cameras, for chromo keyed slides, original art by Dave, audio tape with film, voice over film, voice on film, video clips from the NPS at NBC, voice over natural sound video tape, voice over natural sound tape from NBC news, audio fade outs, extreme long shots from the floor and to keep me posted with hand signals for time.

Bob Sullivan looked at the script and said "you can't do all this will bubble gun and bobby pins." But he did do it.

I yet remember hearing John Stannis shout over the ear phones, "standby and cue Ed." I didn't have the script. Adrian Gibson strolled in with a smile, handed me the script and asked, "can I get you anything else?"

"Later," I grinned back.

It was a flawless show, to everyone's surprise. Not really a good show yet, but already better than our competitors.

Then there was the time that Johnny Evans got sick and could not do Coffee Break, a morning talk show dedicated to what was going on in Huntsville. I lived but a few blocks from the station, my mistake, and got a call to come in and do the show. It was supposed to be with a telepathists (but that's another story - editor)

(Further from Ed - May 15,2003)

About Sam Depino: allow me to speak for those who have worked with him.

Sam Depino was a professional who had a self-ordained halo which he awarded to himself during the days he spent at ABC Radio Network as a network anchorman.

Sam had gotten axed by the net during one of many massive budget cuts which defined that news era, an experience that must have been like making it to heaven only to be forced back to the real world to work among mortals, frustrating for Sam and mortal alike but, while Depino was at WAAY, we did the best we could to polish his halo while stealing his talent.

Usually, I could mumble enough brilliant nonsense to polish him, and it was easy for me to steal talent from Sam: each of us understood that stealing talent is the highest flattery to be had in newsrooms, nor should it go unmentioned that both of us wore a halo of self-ordained perfection as methods of survival in snake pits which are called "newsrooms." A halo is actually a badge recognized and respected by fellow-snake-pit brothers.

But I also knew how to say "screw you" in Italian, which generally brought a musical Italian-laugh from Sam about the hidden joke that was between us: no one in the newsroom understood Italian nor knew Sam and I were plotting to kill each other, even though the plans were momentary.

In other words, Depino and I worked well together and remain friends. We have some difficulty expressing our friendship in English, since macho men do not do that easily, but more so because "go and fornicated yourself" does not sound as musical and poetical in English as it does in Italian. Still, our friendship survives, as does the envy and hatred of co-workers for us, which I can explain, Depino style.

During the years we worked together at WAAY and before, we had the mutual job of making silk purses out of sow's ears. Though we were successful at doing that, various sows may hate us to this day, as sows do not want to be silk purses, nor do they appreciate self-ordained halos either.

In case any of the sows reading this are still too ignorant to understand the above is tongue-in-cheek, let me send a warm and endearing greeting to each and every one of the wonderful people with whom I had the pleasure to work during my time at WAAY. As for Depino, let his imagination hear the music coming from choice Italian phonetics: "ungatz, piasano."

When I jumped out of that plane doing a "participation" report for WAAY news, my fear was not uncontrolable. I was not too afraid compared to other fears I have had.

Jumping from an airplane is not nearly as frightening as anchoring your first news show at a lowly rated station, and I kept telling myself that the station had given me the best jump master in the South from whom to learn; they had done that hadn't they? I kept asking myself that question, and I had second, third and fourth questions while steping out of the plane and onto that strut.

Staring down with the bazar perspective of a bird, an alien sucking sensation in my stomach, I tried to rationalize how I was going to flap my hands hard enough to get safely down if my chute failed, or maybe I could glide to that farm pond I could see. Nah, just open the auxillary chute was the answer, wasn't it?

The master shouted his lungs out over the roar of wind whipping past the open door: "jump...now...jump, jump...jump now!" I let go of the struts and noticed my knuckles had turned white, and I fell, twisting a little and lightly striking my wrist on the side of the plane, ripping off an expensive watch, (just remembered that -- you owe me a damned good watch M. D.) twisting the static cord which twisted the chute.

Then, all was beautiful. I was falling too rapidly, but I did not know that. It was too sweet of a sensation for things to not be going right, and I wondered why the plane was circling above my chute with the jump master making twisting motions with his body in the door of the plane.

The rascals in the plane were interfering with paradise, distracting me from that sheer emotion of moving through space so peacefully and wonderfully. Why was that plane screwing with paradise? They did not need to be that close to film. I had a Bell and Howell camera (a WWII work horse in t.v. news for decades) to shoot arials, and cameras were in the hands of Bill Cob and Adrian Gibson.

As I watched the jump master twisting, I suddenly realized my chute was twisted, and I was enjoying the pleasure of nearly free falling. Nice sensations, but it would be my last, if I did not tune in to the jump master's ballet instructions, which I did.

It was suddenly clear to me I was on the stinky end of a falling stick. I twisted my body. The chute ballooned and bounced me upward a little, and things got right in paradise.

Things slowed to another emotion, that of suspended animation, of being a dot in the sky floating along with an infinite view of the sky and northern Alabama. As I floated down, I smiled. If I could clear the power line in my way, this report would be one of many little upward bounces in the ratings that would take us to number one, and it would give our viewers a vicarious experience they might not otherwise ever have. There is a legitimate nitche for that kind of reporting in News, and we did a little of it in those days at WAAY.

Will the luck of an Irishman, I cleared the power line and made a soft touchdown within feet of my target and, probably for the first time Adrian and Bill were glad to see me. It had gotten more tense down on the ground than it had up in paradise where I had been deluded into a false sense of beauty.

On the ground, Adrian and Bill had kept audio communication with the plane while I floated in wonderland obvlious to danger until reality stuck. But, in the few moments in which I was kicking to twist and unkink that chute, I grasped fully my danger and felt it in every cell in my body.

Now, in closing this old reporter's WAAY "war" story, let me say I never thought of either Bill or Adrian as beautiful men, but they were to me on that day. Fine as it was up "yonder," it was beautiful to be back safely on the ground with the boys.

M. D., send me the best watch you can afford. It's not to be bought with advice from Cactus and a trip to Walmart.

A little joke folks.

Another Update email from Ed of interest.

The pieces (web letters) you have are good. The site can be possibly of some value to future historians as not much has been done on Southern television's daily life during the early seventies. Hope I was helpful.

By the way, thanks for living up to your promise of giving me a raise when the ten o'clock was number one. The raise was a help to offset the network pay checks that were harder to get in Huntsville than the other places where I worked. Made some money from the net there, but there was not much going on of national interest in Huntsville. In Colorado and Mobile (with the Rockies and the Gulf for flavor) AP, UPI and Net checks often exceeded my local pay, but that too is "another story," and the personal consideration given to me by the people at WAAY to introduce your family and the shakers and makers in the community were appreciated more than the old-hat of a net-check.

It has been nice to reminisce about the "good ol' days" at your family's station. My memories of you, your mother, father, sister, Dan, and your wife and children are fond ones. Probably got to know your mother best of the other family members.

She stopped by regularly to query me when I first got there. Made me feel at home as she decided what she thought. She was a sharp lady, and I am glad that, in her own way, she and her poodle came to the conclusion I was worth my pay. Yes, sweet and cute personal memories.

I remember clearly the day we buried the lovable black man (editor's note: This was James Kinnamore) who had worked loyally and long for ya'll, His funeral was quite a special event for the station and one of those memories which I cherish, not just because the deceased was personable, but also because I had older reasons for which to participate in the occasion.

When I was a boy down in Mobile, I was sick for a long time and got a "mammy," named Bertha to care for me. I loved her dearly and owe a lot to her and regret that I was never able to learn her fate in latter life. In an associative manner, WAAY's participation in the funeral allowed me to pay respect to memories of Bertha and to the lovable man who had been so much a part of your family. The compassion and love shown by each of them has been a blessing to the communities in which they lived, directly and indirectly.

Well, enough of walking down Memory Lane. Guess you too have realized that you are at that age where the look back is longer than the path forward. It is perhaps of interest to mention that, in two decades in the media, you are among no more than a dozen persons with whom I would take the time to correspond. Time is precious when you know life is so short.

You take care, ol' boy, and stay in touch.

More from Carl Ed Sission

I did a personally involved story in Mobile in which I let an old wino brain dead WWII fighter jock cheufeur me around up there in the wild blue yonder in a crop dusting bi-wing while I shot sound on film. The jock was braver than any pilot I ever flew with or, more likely, was crazy as hell, or both. He flew just inches over crops and pulled up on tree lines a second before I would of met the god with whom I was in hysterical communion. My screams were caught on film and were loud enough to make part of the film useless -- the story was about crop dusting, not my screams.

When he finally landed, my knees were so weak I needed help to climb down from the plane, and I had this deep motivation to guzzle a gallon of rum, and I don't drink rum, and I could only be grateful that I did not chuck my cookies in the plane's cab. All in a day's work?

When I realized I was safe and would be fine, I grabbed the jock, and he told me some guy at the television station where I worked had called an asked him to find out if I really had the guts I appeared to have -- to give me a thrill. If I learn who that @#%tard was he'll never be safe from recrimination. Seriously, it was a thrill. I loved it.

Still More from Carl Ed Sisson - - - Night of the '74 tornadoes

On the night Tornado Alley drifted over our coverage area, WAAY TV. was not immune. We were knocked of the air for awhile. WAAY radio station was still able to broadcast during that time.

The guys and gals at the profitable rocker whisperingly refered to those of us at the t.v. station as "the Smith's new toys," because the rock jocks at radio had to pay for the new cost at the new t.v. station. Someone at radio called and asked for one of those expensive "toys" at t.v. to come down and help at radio. What could an expensive "new toy" say but "yes?" Besides, all the egos at t.v. were fighting over a dead mike like a pack of dogs over a bone, and I really did not want to get bitten.

Sharal, my new bride, did not want me to go out into the dangerous night, but I reminded her: alley cats and newsmen have nine lives. It worked. In the early days of a marriage, a man can sure get away with some b.s.

I hurriedly grabed material to read on the radio, dashed from the t.v. station and raced at high speeds through all of the danger that was littering the roads and air.

The roads down Monte Sano Mountain, where the t.v. station was located and into the valley to the radio station were empty of vehicles, don't think I saw a single one, a bazzar drive, like a sci-fi movie where humans had fled a town to get away from aliens, but worse, it was real. I can yet remember the feel of my sweaty palms on the steering wheel of that old 68 station wagon.

Wood spinters, pine neetles, paper and illdefined larger-objects whirled around and over and bounced off my windshield. Rain came horizonally with debris and then stoped for awhile, then would hit again and again. The wipers got screwed up when on and nothing could be seen when they were off. I was glad when I saw WAAY radio.

I had to beat on the door a few minutes to convince the engineer that a human wanted inside; so much air-born debris had been banging against the building and door the engineer was hesitant to open the door. I beat with vigor and kept beating. It was sporatically nasty outside. Dangerous. The door finally opened.

I was admitted by an engineer, and I have a mental-video of following him through the radio station by dim light to the mike. Through dusty memories, it seems to me the engineer had to get the station back on the air, as radio had also had some problems with the wind and debris, and he rigged a system for light which quickly died but, within a few minutes, he fired up the transmitter and kept it cooking.

I remember thinking it was strange to be able to have a mega-volt-sucking tower and not be able to get juice to a 110 volt light bulb. But then Cactus' boys always had their priorities right.

By flashlight, I monitored the off-air meter and read from a list of what to do and not do in a tornado. The engineer left with apologies but, if my memory recalls correctly, it was the end of his shift, and he refused to approve his own overtime. The phone lines were dead, and the engineer insisted that I did not have the authority to authorize him any over time, no matter how much I tried to sweet-talk him into believing otherwise. Like I said, Ol' Cactus' boys were well trained, and I did not blame that talented engineer for leaving.

I had a third class ticket, and he told me what to do to if either the tower or transmitter were lost. He agreed that he would leave the transmitter on, if I would do as he asked. I did. If what he and I agreed on was illegal in the eyes of any federal buracracy, my memory is in error about that night.

He had done his job, stayed beyond the call of his duty, had risked himself for the well being of the community, and he had to have been as frightened as all of us who were listening to the banshee-like screams of the wind.

I think it was after he left that I looked out an elongated window, turned off the flashlight and, when lightening flashed over the eerie yellow-green sky, I could see a dark silhouette which dominated the sky. There was no way to miss the massive spell-binding funnel which gave me an easy ad lib for the listeners but which also put kinks in my guts.

I did my spooked-best to tell any listeners, who might be listening in windowless bathrooms or in corners of dark basements, what it looked and sounded like when Mah Nature pitched a house-throwing tantrum. For several hours, I gave a play-by-play narrative of what seemed like a team of tornados.

Suddenly, the radio station was dead air, and, once again in my career, I thought it was the end for me. Sitting there in the resounding darkness of the otherwise empty studio, the screeching sound of horror penetrating the walls of the building, I can tell you a dead radio station is more spooky than imagination or narrative can tell when Mah Nature has called hell into session outside.

I had no idea I would meet thousands of listeners who later thanked me, to a point of embarrassment, for being their only comforting-contact with the world outside of darkened and threatened homes. Several said they had feared I had been killed when the radio went dead. So had I, but I did not tell.

That was was among the few times in my career that viewers could let us know they understood what we news persons did was relevant to their lives and that they appreciated our work for them. Nice.

I drove the residue-littered air and road up the mountain back to the t.v.station, and Adrian said I could go home and get some rest, as we would be working long hard hours through the immediate future.

The last thing I remember before doing as he suggested was to check with our weatherman and learn that many hooks had shown at one time on our weather radar, meaning the area had endured a rarity even in tornado-circles -- multiple tornados in action at the same time.

I concluded before zonking into sleep that we would be going through another of those gory work-weeks that so jade and wear on the spirit of professional newspersons but, as it turned out in Huntsville, few or none had been hurt by the twisters, though Madison county and surounding counties did suffer a lot more, total losses were less than a hundred, bad, but not nearly as horrid as having deaths into the thousands as I had expected. Ariel photography which was shot the next day by M.D. showed the paths of tornados looked as if unfathomable lawn mowers the size of football fields had skipped and cut and clipped trees and houses with a randomness which appeared to have spare lives intentionally.

I'm not religious, do not like listening to folks either blame or credit god with the things done by man, good or bad, but that film of the violence expressed by Mother Nature in such a frightening but almost benign way pressed against the window of my inner self in a good spooky-way.

The work we did during that trying time, including the follow ups of tearful folks full of grit cleaning up, rebuilding their homes (Mennonites traveled to the area to offer free labor to help the needy rebuild homes), and watching brave people go on with their lives, was an inspiring experience that stuck with me through the rest of my two decades in journalism.

More from Ed, directed to young journalists . . . . .

Moving a small market station upward in ratings is simular to moving soldiers forward. News persons and soldiers must both have the tools or weapons needed, and good leadership must be in place to make important gains. With good tools and good leadership, there will be organic progress.

In a newsroom, in order to maximize the progress, the "show and tell" seen in public schools needs to be changed to: don't tell, show. Leaders need to lead by example. Reporters in small markets may not have the experience to listen to the assignment and go out and return with an excellent report, but they will try to imitate what they admire when it is done by others in the same newsroom using available tools. Over time, excellence will arrive, if leaders show excellent examples.

We great apes will mimic, mime and plagiarize good t.v. journalism which is done in our newsroom and with tools available to us. It's the monkey thing. Monkey see, monkey do. Genes show we are close cousins to Chimpanzes.

It is not important that anthropology's truths are unpopular, for popular or not, we are great apes, with stress on the word "great" in its finest sense, and we great apes learn by imitating.

Great apes working in newsrooms have duties. To smile, is our first duty, and we should smile often. That said, let me state the necessary. There are more complex duties than smiling, and those other duties often are of much greater worth than a smile or cuteness.

So, cuties and simplicity freaks need to smile and skim through the rest of what I write -- unless you are a smiling cutie who likes simplicity but is willing to do get to simplicity through complexity.

The first complexity is: someone has to draw standards as if a line in sand, with no gripes or groans, but by being hard headed in refusing to compliment whoredom or complacency. The line needs to stay in the imaginary sand as inexperienced reporters may be in the process of learning their ethics as well as skills. It may be necessary to step on some shoes. Try not to mess up the shine.

Inexperienced news persons have but one thing to offer, and that is a want to achieve professional ethics as well as professional skills. Want is the block with which to build. If you want to help them be the best they can, the key is to "catch them doing something well," and give compliments imediately, which is the most effective encouragement.

Try not to forget that intellectually-lean apes may respond better than others to bananas. If you help them get all the bannanas they need, they will no longer be lean but, while trying to reward, do not ignore the reality you may confront. There are some dogs which cannot or will not hunt, and many humans will not move up to doing quality journalism.

Do not blame them as if they are being intentionally mediocre, nor blame their genetics, nor their environment. Do not waste time worrying whether or not it is nature or nurture, or your fault, for in a newsroom, time is what you are paid to utilize. Move on, unless it really is your fault, AND your boss knows it. But that is a story that brings a smile and puts me in the catagory of being a cutie, so I'll get back to business.

If the boss wants to carry dead weight, it's his choice and his money and, if he wants to keep a person who insist on functioning beneath professional standards, your boss has power to do just that, though, if he does, a Catch 22 is left for the entire newsroom as each newsperson is mutually responsible for the overall newsroom ethics -- for is it not a lower level that to which water will flow and apes are tempted to go?

Water has no choice. We great apes do, meaning, rather than an inevitable seeping to a low level, a newsroom will develope competition between those who want to go high and those who like the low path. A newsroom is a choice of which path -- the high or the low.

It is inevitable that not all great apes will make the same choice. Not all will go high. Not all will go low. Accept that, and accept taht the two groups will do battle. Also accept that you will loose some battles if you are a High. Learn that success in t.v. news can be a sign of selling out your duty, though there is never a complete domination at the top by our profession's prostitutes.

So, tribal warfare between the high and the low is usual, the advantage being that of the more numerous tribe of the "Lows" who refuse to accept "crazy notions" like the people have a Right to Know, for to acknowledge that without this right there cannot be any intelligent voting (without which Freedom shrivels) is "whacky liberal propaganda" in the Low's viewpoint. Don't suck up that lie about a journalist's duty to freedom.

That said, let's add: a great ape that will not learn its most fundamental duty is due pity, not hatred. To understand what makes Lows go so low, it is most instructive to watch them pick and eat their boogies, better than a trip to a zoo and an explanation for why newsrooms are called "zoos."

Though this humor is close to jaded, it is important to be able identify another metaphor and to laugh at what must be endured in news-zoos. This humor is slightly less important than beatitudes of the tribe of Highs. Beautitudes are a product of a "faith" in logic within the profession, so here are a few of those "logical" beautitudes.

Encourage smiles, laugh, appreciate the importance and rewards of news work, exalt in sharing progress, give your need to improve a higher priority than what you have placed on others' improvement, and remember: it ain't over till the fat lady sings...or till ratings are in, regardless, manifest that which you want to see in coworkers, and fight to your professional-death to fulfill the journalist's duty to honor the people's Right to Know. Some beatitudes from Highs deal with how to do news

To paraphase how one should write t.v. news from Sam Kuczun, Professor of Journalism at the University of CO: "say it briefly, clearly, accurately, fairly, honestly and in the language of the common people." To this beatitude, be sure to add who, what, where, when, why, how, cost, cause and effect. Do all of the above interestingly, and with respect for the viewer's Right to Know fully what is happening.

These beatitudes do not work perfectly but are better than any of the others I have seen tried from time to time -- the people can't know if they ain't watching, and they won't watch where there is no expertise, or smiling faces or sincere effort to honor a viewers Right to Know what is going down in towns, counties and states across the nation, as well as behind the spin in Washington.

This duty to inform the public is but a beginning to professionalism in news, for communication involves science to such a high level that occult arts may seem to be at play. It is our art to be knowledgeable of science and to make simple the complex. Often, the most complex tools with which we work in a modern t.v. newsroom may have come as evolution rather than out of scientific conclusion, having evolved intuitively from theatre, movie, newspaper, radio or some combination of all, and may be understood scientifically, once the concepts can be categorized, as can much on-air work.

In modern newsrooms, relationships and roles presented on the screen are important and need to allow for viewer-empathy and identity.

Sam Depino described his and my on-air relationship as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. At first, I thought Sam was being nuttier than a fruitcake, but it was not unusual for me to think that, and since I was not always right, his words merited thought.

In fact, it was one of his most brilliant insights and, with journalistic duties set aside to focus on the image projected by the two of us, Sam had stated our on-air relationship. We did not plan to come over that way. It just happened.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid had a relationship that worked on the screen, a fantastic economic success. It seems relevant that they could smile and laugh at their Catch 22. It is also relevant that, no matter what is done to prepare a newscast, it is a production, and the people seen in the newscast will be judged by those viewing by the same "feelings" that the viewer uses to judge an actor in a movie. Sorry, but that is the way it is.

Sam made an excellent Butch, and I truly did not know he had "never shot any one before," so the gang of armed peasants gave us about the same end they gave to Butch and Sundance.

But, before the end came, Sam had this great plan about Australia and...

Neither Sam nor I ever surrendered to the Lows. Though, over the years of seperate careers, each of us did loose our share of seperate battles to them. We also got to see air tallent become little more than young pom pom girls cheering on a system that would have been best served by old watch dogs defending the people's Right to Know.

Had that right been defended as well as possible, the public would respect the news media, and ratings would be solid for those who practiced their duty and their craft, nor would we have such dibilitating taxation, politicians refusing to not bankrupt the national budget and economy. There would not be a Nanny government meddling and destroying lives, nor would citizens be but vaguely aware of how things got like they are.

Consider: a career with impact, dignity, honor and significance would be better than that of the cartoon characters and prostitutes who have won the battles in newsrooms that have lost the war for Freedom -- temporarily.

Without regrets, with no remorse, with pride in acomplishments and knowing what I now know, I would have done my career no differently, but I would have had less compassion on those selling out their duty to bosses, or a political parties, or politicians or advertisors.

Though my days in journalism are long since over, it would be my greatest joy to know that young journalists who care for freedom might read this and find even a trace of encouragement to go out there and spend their lives trying to get the truth to a news audience. Even though it may take two generations of dedicated news persons to make the difference which is needed, there may be time for that to happen. To young journalist, let me say do your work with dedication and with great urgency.

[ another note from Ed (Carl) called "Some news-zoo beatitudes:"]

Some news-zoo beatitudes: Blessed be the peacemaker, for he shall get his hand oft' bitten and become wise. Blessed be the doer of good for no good deed goes unpunished and is an act confusing to the critters within the zoo -- confused critters bite less. Blessed be he who sees and tells the public the truth, for he is a target and a diversion to slow witted critters who will be too busy barking at truth to chase and bite each other -- insurance bills go down. Blessed be he who has escaped from the news-zoo, for there is thereafter one less critter to concern zoo keepers.

Teach these things in my name, for those who believe will come to know my fodder and will eat at the table of the survivors.

[update added from Ed on 7-8-03]

Sam was worried about loosing his soul if he were not a true newsman. Perhaps his use of the world "soul" was as a power word to emphasize the importance of all news persons taking their jobs seriously, but not taking mortals, including yourself, too seriously.

I didn't worry about souls. That's god's job and of interest for those who worry about that anthropomorphic god bit.

To me, news work was more real and of more value to the communities I served than a word borrowed from theologians, which is but my way of distinguishing the profession of news from the profession of soul-saving. There are similarities.

I see a distinction between the two as being necessary -- news work can be confused with spiritual work, since news can require the dedication of a "saint," if I may play at the art of being a monkey by borrowing that word. It is right for those in the craft to know professional ethics do not require them to be crucified, but they should expect to endure risk to their jobs. And there are other risks.

There is a risk that those who twinkle for a living will deify themselves and think they are so important they take themselves too seriously, or go to the other extreme and take on a defeatist attitude and see their jobs as insignificant.

A news person deluding themselves into the belief that it does not matter what they do or how they do it in communities where they work, that all that is important is what cuties do on-air, that all that matters is to let the cuties get the largest audience, is so short sighted as to flirt with picking up one bang-up case of the dummies.

If you fall into that temptation, you may lower your standards until, eventually, a market, or significant segments of it, will try to avoid you, which is, in my opinion what is happening on a massive scale across the nation as viewers jump around looking for something that is not full of hyped hot air or touchy-touchy dribble.

For a news person to think that the news they choose to cover, or delete, is not of importance, that only on-air cuties make any difference (not to demean anyone for being attractive nor to deny having done air work myself) is to start a path toward making yourself into a hack, the beginning of justifying being a news-whore, and that is not a sexist statement but is inclusive of both sexes, or more, depending on your preferences in your reality. More about reality in a minute.

The only legitimate claim to existence a newsroom has is coverage of hard news (i.e. bad flood) and to expose things the public needs to know (i.e. bad politician) which is an editorial choice of putting the news above cartoons, an editorial choice which, when actually exercised fully has the support of the newsperson's buddy, Bobby Bluecollar, known in some regions as Bobby Beerguzzler. The latter term being due more attention.

Guzzling with Ol' Bobby is a good way to avoid getting too uppity and high falooting in how you see your work. Helps remind a journalists that Bobby is not stupid, though glib people in the craft do feel superiority by showing disdain for our ol' buddy.

If you think Bobby is stupid, guzzle a beer with ol' Bobby after you have done a show that you thought would slip by him as what he needed to know. He may quickly tell you some things he knows you know but have not told him on the air.

Should you find yourself in that situation while conversing with Bobby, realized you are experiencing why we seldom see the Dan Rathers of this world inside Bobby's place of imbibing or eating. The Rathers in journalism are clever enough to know Bobby might prick self-satisfied bubbles.

Along with Bobby, journalists had best also remember his sister, Barbette, the quintessential working-woman who does not consider male jocks blabbering away while scratching certain parts the sum total of sports coverage. And never forget ol' Tyrone, or Kim Lee or Jose. Still, there is a bottom line all Americans tend to share with Bobby when viewing t.v. news.

Americans know its important for them to have news given to them straight. And they know when that is not happening. They know it in their guts.

Pursuing hard news and expose-news can earn more solid ratings than can all of the slick nonsense being shoveled by so called "sophisticated" news organizations.

From the brightest to the dumbest and most illiterate worker, regardless of race, color or creed, there exist an intuitive awareness of dependence on news to help make Americans' life-space safer from enemies abroad and politicians and police and bureaucrats within.

That perception of news is deeply rooted as an instinct which tells an audience that news has a function different from that of cartoons and religion, though news may legitimately reflect the emotions and goals of both.

T.v. audiences do need to see talent they like and who will share a smile and other pleasantries with them, but they do not like to see Porky Pig and the Laugh In gang pretending to be brain surgeons.

Such pretenses make the Bobbies of this land angry, particularly the blue collared Bobbies bright enough to know that the brains being messed with by Porky and the gang belong to Bobby and his fellow blue collared workers.

Playing with Bobby's brain, while under delusions of getting away with it, is to be found guilty of what I call Porkyism.

When all of the stations within a market is guilty of Porkyism, an insidious distrust of the media sets itself within the body of our Politik Real.

The viewers may be getting news, but they know they are not getting the whole news, and they know they are not getting nothing but the news. They know when a drip of dribble is a waste of their time, and they justifiably refuse to give their trust.

That distrust is seen by some of those in the media as a "misunderstanding" by an ignorant public, an overly convenient view, and one which fails to acknowledge that those blaming the public are the ones who are responsible for public ignorance.

Newspersons-apologists who think they are getting away with deceit, whether it is self-deceit or deceit or others or both, or who do not know what deceit is, manifest one of the clearest examples of failure as is seen in Principals of Liberty, or is found among apologists ignorant of Dynamics of Freedom, or void of collective courage or competence needed to perform their proper function in the American media, all of whom currently appear to easily justify refusing to exercise the enlightened self-interest of comprehending and doing the duty inherent in news work i.e. telling the people the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Gad, what a mouth full of words that paragraph was, but I do not fear I have stated less than truth, and being mindful of that fear can be a worthwhile standard among journalists, helping them to fulfill the people's need to know. Still I promise to not take myself more seriously than I have already.

That there is a need for people to know about their government, that fulfilling that need is a duty in news, is lost on general managers who will not step out of the spin the media puts out about itself, which is to portray the media as victims of the wants of the "lowly multitude," when the public is what it is because alleged "victims" have failed to inform the public and have failed to exhibit minimum editorial-judgment.

Many t.v. Whigs refuse to admit reality is not whatever they chose to say it is; they find the myth of their public service to be their chosen reality and thus reality. Are they exercising a right to have a Clintonian reality, or what?

Reality IS and is what it is regardless of who says what and no matter how much power they have. The world is not flat. Though all the efforts of the power within christendom attempted to wish it into flatness, the earth is a spheroid.

Reality has a funny kink in it whereby the truth eventually gets to be THE reality, no matter who wishes what nor who tells lies to themselves and millions of others, and that means an identity cannot be made to be real until a news organization's attempt to make an identity real acknowledges the invalidity of the Clintonian Belief System: a person can be a foolish jackass but be known as great if they but say they are.

Clintonianism is not reality nor an identity-in-reality.

An identity-in-reality must be "a functional-identity" i.e. YOU MUST BE WHAT YOU CLAIM TO BE to be understandable and credible and thus acceptable to viewers over the long haul of getting and keeping an audience, furthermore, that which is a spheroid will not forever be known as flat. No longer than big-lie commercials be an effective spin of the message "how great we are" for obvious hacks.

When audiences flip-flop from station to station in a given market, you are seeing the results of one or more stations running a "body shop" in on-air talent, or radical changes in programming, or money being spent on commercials rather than talent, or Porkyism, or combinations of these characteristics.

If a station is a representative of cartoon-character news, it is best for that station to leave the hard news to competitors and sell their air talent as the most lovable and laughable cartoons in their market -- with all of the benefit in that spiel and without the down side of faking otherwise. That may not be as much fun as falling into the folly of thinking you are deceiving viewers, but it is safer for the station's ratings and for our republic.

Viewers are not just uncomfortable with phoniness in "high" places. Eventually, they get subtly and subconsciously angry with newsrooms for putting viewers in the position of having to rely on Porky Pig.

When the news "rating-war" degrades to the point where competition is but a battle between cute goons launching happytime-chatter and cartoons while revealing little but puppies, and warm and furry things for a touchy-touchy feel good, you are slowly but surely earning the animosity of the viewers you have refused to serve.

You are also witnessing a market that is at its peak opportunity to be conquered by professionals willing and wanting to be in there every day hammering at the door of those who assault the People's Right to Know, such that Sam's alleged statement to an official that he had an eye on him is but a statement that a news person's role in a republic is to be a watch dog over all public officials. That is a journalist job.

For anyone in a t.v. station to have found what Sam said to be funny was queer -- and in a revealing way -- it announced a suspicion in the station's self-perception of having a legitimate news organization. It might have also announced that Sam should not have stated an "obvious" which may not been established in a t.v. market just recently gone highly competitive.

I must add: the official in the above story was an official I liked as was the coworker who saw Sam's words as funny. In fact, the words were funny, if seen as if Sam had stuck his finger in eye of pet poodle, which he had not.

The official was not any ones pet dog. But let me keep this out of personalities by saying I liked those people, the official, the coworker, even that schmuck Sam. But that should make no difference in evaluating the story.

A public servant should not take offense at a reporter stating the obvious. In fact, I happen to know this official did not, but he may have been surprised and taken off guard in that the duties of news persons may not have been declared in what was a market gone suddenly competitive.

This necessary dynamics in the American Way makes intellectually-insecure people uncomfortable, even those who do not have something to hide. I do not think anyone thought Sam was trying to frighten anyone. If they did...what can I say?

Making fools, as well as the unscrupulous, uncomfortable is what free journalists do in their profession, and that is done routinely to prevent the status quo from becoming too corrupt, or satisfied about deceiving the public, and to keep all news persons from being so banal as to be dysfunctional or too cute and dull to take seriously.

And that takes us from the cause to the effect in this manner: rating games do not have to be a contest to see who can be the most foolish, unscrupulous, deceitful or banal.

The hard news coverage by WAAY during Tornado Alley's visit was, by comparison to would-be competitors, fantastic hard news coverage and created real gratitude among viewers beyond trends to watch a certain station to see if a hair piece was going to fall off of a given talent, or Sam, Adrian and I were going to portray the Shootout at the O.K. Corral, to which none of us ever felt inclined...I don't think.

What WAAY got out of the hard news was a loyal-momentum which carried beyond the absence of the talent the audience had at one time associated with the event, rather like Edgar Rice Borough's Tarzan kept an audience in movie houses through several different actors performing a role as Tarzan. It is unlike a Tarzan role in that the talent in t.v. news were not imaginary characters. The "reality" of the talent at way rubbed off and lasted.

As a revered redneck friend of mine often says at appropriate times, mimicking an ancient but successful Coke commercial: "Ain't no thang lak the real thang baby."

We had times at WAAY when we were "the real thang." And I am proud to have helped leave that legacy at WAAY, no matter how transient such things in journalism inherently are -- as one body drops, another has to pick up the banner.

© 2003 Smith Broadcasting, Inc. [update 7-8-2003]