Posted by: dharmabeachbum | November 29, 2013

Media must focus more on issues, pass on public relations pieces

Most of us want to keep up with what’s going on in our respective communities. We watch local nightly television “newscasts,” listen to the radio, read newspapers and chat on the internet to keep up with the Joneses. Many people believe what they see, hear and read, regardless of their media of choice. There was a time in our great nation’s history that one could rely with confidence on the media to serve as a watchdog of democracy. Today, not so much.

I remember with great fondness sitting at home on South High Street in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, with my parents and siblings and watching CBS Evening News anchorman Walter Cronkite close his nightly report by saying, “And that’s the way it was.” Indeed. There was good reason he was known as “the most trusted man in America.” When he reported on the bloodshed in Vietnam and documented the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., he did so unbiasly and accurately to the best of his ability.

Today. No way. Our national newscasts are slanted to political extremes whether they be on MSNBC or Fox. They lack both integrity and truth. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle to stew. Those media outlets come across to me as being, respectively, commie and fascist. Hyperbole? Yes. But it’s not like I can raid George Carlin’s list of seven dirty words and go on a rant. My site’s rated PG. My language does get quite colorful, on the other hand, when I’m lounging in the ol’ bungalow with Jon Seagull VIII and Master Po. Especially when my Jets, Gamecocks or Irish are losing.

Local television broadcasts annoy me every bit as much as the alphabet sludge-soup aired nationally. They serve as public relations outfits for the very corporations whose head honchos earn huge paychecks at the expense of nature and our country.

A month or so ago I spoke with a gentlemen much like myself, an old-school journalist with a deep appreciation for pure journalism. I was hunting sharks’ teeth in front of a local hotel when he approached me and it wasn’t long before we learned of the bond we share. He writes for a newspaper in Kentucky. I wrote long ago for several newspapers. We agreed on the poor quality of today’s media. I admitted to him that I was once a pap pusher, one who was paid low salaries while being required to produce bulk articles for companies that didn’t give a crap about the content of its “news” publications. Advertising revenues were all that mattered. I told him I still wish I had quit on the spot.

On Nov. 19, I was reminded of that chance meeting. While catching up on some morning news, I happened upon a WBTV Channel 13 website article that made me sick. It was a what appears to be a press release dictated by Santee Cooper executive vice president of corporate services R.M. Singletary and printed verbatim. The Santee Cooper announcement documented the company’s plans to make use of the ash that rests in ponds at its Jefferies (Moncks Corner), Winyah (Georgetown) and Grainger (Conway) generating stations. Remember, this is the same crap WBTV’s talking heads report on air. It’s the same crap nearly all local television “news” anchors spew. Talk about airing dirty laundry. Regionally published company press releases amount to propaganda.

Am I living in “The Twilight Zone?” Wait, don’t answer that yet. I want to limit your answer specifically to my belief that media outlets shouldn’t be in the business of doing public relations for state-owned companies. How could any media that supposedly practices objective journalism publish word-for-word a message issued by a corporate executive or any mouth pieces thereof? When did our media start fashioning itself after TASS?

“Santee Cooper has recycled fly ash, bottom ash and gypsum since the 1970s. Prior to the recent recession, Santee Cooper was using about 90 percent of those materials for beneficial purposes,” the press release read.

A good reporter would have asked, “Was it 90 percent or was it less than 90 percent?” A great reporter would have asked, “Well, who put that ash and chemicals into the atmosphere and environment in the first place?”

(Rod Serling narrating) “Meet WBTV..A television “news” organization that touts itself with the slogan, “Coverage You Can Count On”..A week or so ago, however, they led you astray..as do nearly all local television programs of its kind..all across this nation of ours..a nation still in its infancy..WBTV asked you to follow them down the wrong tine of a forked road..the end of which is dead..for so-called “news” organizations should never..ever serve those who specialize in serving themselves.”

There was more information, possibly misleading, published from the press release without any questioning of it.

“As we continue working to close units at Jefferies and Grainger and consider long-term needs for Winyah, Santee Cooper is focused on solutions that are cost-effective and beneficial to the environment and the economy,” Singletary said. “This is a triple win. It is cost-effective, which means it is responsive to our customers’ best interests. It utilizes innovative technology to help an important South Carolina industry be sustainable. And it is an EPA-approved use of ash.”

The late, Rod Serling, an excellent writer with great imagination and insight, and a person with genuine concern for humanity.

The late, Rod Serling, an excellent writer with great imagination and insight, and a creative genius with genuine concern for humanity.

Details. The devil’s in the details. A Santee Cooper representative should have been asked many questions. Among them: What, specifically, are Winyah’s long-term needs? How is this move cost effective? For whom is this a triple win? You, your immediate subordinates and your families? A reporter might also have suggested to said representative, “People who may have suffered related illnesses didn’t win. Mother Earth certainly didn’t win.”

It’s staggering to think about how many billions of flora and faunas have been killed since Santee Cooper introduced itself to our neck of the maritime woods. Tens of billions. Species, possibly.

Nobody questioned this? Wow. Maybe I am living in a different world than everyone else, but “The Twilight Zone” isn’t all that great.

“Today, I submit for your approval or disapproval..or total ignoral of..yet another opinion..that of a man who dwells in another dimension..a dimension not only of sight and sound but of warped mind..A journey through an oxygen-depleted seascape..where boundries are often overlooked..and even more often overstepped..Your next stop..the Dharma Beach Bum Oh No Zone.”

Just so there’s no misinterpretation of what I’m writing: I want to make it clear that this blog is addressed to the Singletarys across the United States and anywhere else for that matter. It’s addressed to the Singletarys’ immediate underlings. In no way am I pointing a finger at anyone else who works for the utility company. My philosophy is that every person in our country other than the above mentioned more than deserve their salaries and wages and they have every right to earn a living for their families — as long as they, too, aren’t earning their money at the expense of fellow human beings and nature. I applaud them no matter where they work.

I’m also speaking to my fellow journalists. Good journalists know the difference between pap, public relations pieces and news. Very good ones rise above it when they are allowed to do so by the companies for which they work. The great journalists, like Walter Cronkite, humbly lead by example, telling a story “the way it was” from an objective point-of-view. Anyone who would publish the type of press release of which I write needs to find another profession. That or, uh, look up journalism on Wikipedia.

I did come across an article that gave me hope for today’s media. It was written by David Wren, an investigative reporter for The Sun News. He’s the best reporter in the region. Better than I ever was. He takes the time to ask pointed questions when reporting on important issues. He wrote an excellent article published Nov. 14 that outlined environmental concerns surrounding the demolition of the Grainger electric plant, a process that is to start with asbestos removal from the site. Environmental concerns include contamination of groundwater. The Waccamaw River is very near Grainger.

We, meaning our country, need more reporters like Mr. Wren.

The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, said in introducing his version of the classic song, “War,” amidst a mid-80s tour, “Blind faith in your leaders..or anything will get you killed.” Blind faith practiced by the media is flat out dangerous and any practioners of it are complicit in corporate greed and they lack compassion for all forms of life on Mother Earth. Shameful.

(Bum raps: This article is dedicated to my late father, Robert Sr., and my mother, Linda. My mother is alive and, at 73, doing very well. The “rock” of our family. My father died a few days after Thanksgiving – our favorite holiday – in 1986, just months after his 46th birthday. I know he died worrying about mom, my brother and sister and me. We’re just fine, dad. I should be doing much better, but I’m getting there. Baby steps, you might say. Mostly because of the way you and mom raised me, though, I aspire to “Walk Like a Giant” in both my adopted home community and in my beloved country. The greatest in the world. Yes, still. When using that Neil Young phrase, I mean that I want to contribute to the Grand Strand through community service and I want to be a good citizen of the United States. We’ll chat again tomorrow, dad. Rest. Dad was the definition of a family man. I spent Thanksgiving Day hunting sharks’ teeth for an hour after dawn, remembering both on and off the beach what a nice and good man he was, writing this piece in honor of my parents and eating whiting. Pity me not. I’m flying to Pennsylvania for Christmas for my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding and I can’t wait to see my family and touch base with good friends whom I haven’t seen in a long time. There were 100,000 or more fellow citizens who serve our country in the military who didn’t have the chance to see their families and friends on Thanksgiving, nor will many of them have that opportunity on Christmas. They of course, don’t want pity either, but they deserve our thoughts and prayers. Oh, yeah. I also enjoyed a Thanksgiving Day tradition — following football. I would have said that I thoroughly enjoyed it, but the Cowboys won.)

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Responses

  1. I obsessed for a while about how you could make giant internal grids with two types of metals. The first a very quick conducting metal (so it would not get too hot) out in branches of some kind. the second of a slower conductive metal. Then you would throw in various forms of human waste and shit loads of cockroaches, dung beetles or whatever else. The static electricity would be collected from the beetles to create a good sustainable power source. I thought perhaps this is why Scarab beetles and gold were sacred to the egyptians. And maybe this is why the band “the beetles” were so popular. I sometimes ponder if there is another use for cows also.

    • Matthew, that was ab-so-lute-ly fascinating reading. You come across as a freakin’ genius. But I love the stuff about the Egyptians. Isn’t it amazing how all those ancient cultures had so much knowledge..i.e. very early brain surgery and such precise stone-cutting? Gold and Scarobs (can’t remember how to spell it, mind is racing). Incredible. Connections in our cosmic web of earthly destiny..or was there alien technology involved. I’m like Spooky Mulder. I want to believe. Seeing is believing to me. Yet, any being with the ability to travel distances that vast certainly can conceal themselves if they want to. But why would they want to, if indeed they have visited? To assume they have been here, also places limitations on mankind’s abilities. It’s equally possible that those ancient cultures were just that intelligent. They didn’t have TV and internet to divert their concentration. And, while the Kings and Emperors were vain, the peons couldn’t obsess over their own vanity. Like our culture does on Twitter and elsewhere. So the peons, many many of whom were extremely intelligent but lacked the bloodlines of the Kings & Emps, had more time when they weren’t slaving away their lives, to create and design and think scientifically. It’s very possible that they figured out ways to operate and cut stone so precisely. Love and find so much humor in your avatar, by the way. I have trouble finding matching pairs, so I go without here in the subtropical climate of the south. LOL. Chat later, man.

      • Well I suppose they were a lot more contemplative. My friend who has been a dj said for a while he had a thing where he thought he maybe controlling lamp posts. My thoughts on this were that he controlled the will and minds of many through playing records, therefore he had a grasp of lots of tiny electrical signals that go through peoples brains. Now these signals quickly could travel all accross the world a lot more as there are mobile phones, fiber optics, satalites etc etc etc. So I can see how at a very anolouge level we could all be among each other in our dreams. Although this would take a certain degree of sleep deprevation, drug use, possible brain damage to tap into. Which is all a little pointless as it is just imbalance. A wizard is a very ill person, who has understanding of there troubles

      • Matthew, you are so funny, man. “sleep depravation, drug use, possible brain damage.” Hilarious. Yeah, I agree with you on your friend’s controlling the wills and minds of others through the playing of records. Dreams? Oh, yeah. It seems in my dreams that the people are actually there. I still wonder if we aren’t sharing thoughts via extra-sensory perception. But at this point science makes more sense. Peace, my friend.

  2. rob i read this blog n i can truly appreciate the view point u make n also your frustration in the lack of truth by your media comrades. not that im lumping u in with them cuz i think ur a far better journalist than these numbskulls could ever be. not to mention the level of “truth in journalism” that u have which they lack but i like to sometimes play devils advocate with things i read. i think the media has switched gears over the years n not in a good way. its my belief that if there was a mis-truth in journalism in the 50’s thru 80’s it wasnt due to lack of facts but instead because of the facts they given by r government that was trying to hide the real truths in the world. much like everything else in the world i think that standards have gone so far downhill in journalism. where it use to be men n women trying to get the facts now i feel that the focus is on being the first one to get the story out no matter if its aired or written we gotta b the first n screw the facts. my theories r proven on a daily basis by “the deadly item.” not to mention if a story isnt juicy enuf for the public the out n out lies they inject so they can get a better scoop. horrible but true. just food for thought n possibly another side to the coin

  3. you can add cnn, hln to your list of fox & msnbc.they don’t know how to tell the truth. i wrote about it in florida…for years i watched trials & they always talk about cases from florida & i was there watching the 3 orlando news channels & cnn kept spreading misinformation about the zimmerman case until they riled up rev. jessee jackson & the country & i noticed it would take weeks, before they would tell news if they ever did at all. they can’t be that stupid.i didn’t have an opinion either way.i just wanted the facts, the truth & they don’t give it…

    • Beautiful and I agree on every point. I felt the same way about coverage of the Zimmerman trial and even watched some, if not most of it, on CNN and HLN. It was disgusting. I had to keep the long list short when writing ’cause I was already really rambling. I’ve done the FB scroll thing this morning and when I get back from the beach I have to go to WordPress and read more of your writing. No, I shouldn’t have said “have to.” I want to. I learn so much when I go through and take the time to read what everyone else is offering to the world. Free of charge in a lot of cases. I find beauty in WordPress, I really do. Anyway, I’ll be visiting your sites tonight. I’s gots to go. Take care.

      • that was funny- want to not have to..i watched the trial too.never saw a trial where the medical examiner kept saying,i know nothing…he must have been on hogan’s heroes.

  4. Dear friend, you left me a comment that I am obliged to answer it. You asked me: “Is writing as easy as you make it seem?” I really don’t know how to answer a question like this but if I give you some information about me, you might find your answer. I begin writing at age 10. As a teenager my insomnia began. I used the time that I am not sleeping to write. Almost most of my writing either poetry or my novels come to me in a very short sleep that I have. I can’t wait to put them on the paper. And always my first draft is my last draft.
    Thank you so much for your beautiful words of confidence. I will check your blog a lot more from now on, friend. Be well…

    • Oh my gosh, Miss Ellie. Even when I was young, I never slept too much. Maybe seven hours. I loved nature then, too, and couldn’t wait to get outdoors early. I had what amounted to an emotional breakdown in the mid-90s, and from then on I’ve slept little and not straight through the night. I’m bipolar and six hours is a “good” night. Five is average. I, too, use most of my spare time writing. I just wish I had started writing, like you did, at an earlier age. Growing older (laughing, I don’t think I ever fully grew up) I watched the Odd Couple and especially liked Oscar. Klugman and Randall were both terrific in their roles, I think it was then that I realized that the writer was instilled in me. But I never started writing too much until college, when I wrote for two college newspapers. After spending some time in what amounted to unforced slavery in the newspaper business (low wages, forced to fill space with crappy article content), I started dabbling in creative writing. As I know you can appreciate, the transition between the concise, formula-style of newswriting and creative writing is still a work in progress. I’ll continue to read your poetry. It’s beautiful. When I get a chance, I have to check out a novel or two of yours as well. It’s an honor to me that you addressed me as a friend. Indeed, we are. Peace, my highly regarded friend!


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