I Have a Gripe

August 30, 2016

Freedom of Expression vs. Freedom from Consequences

“There’s a place in the world for the angry young man. With his working class ties and his radical plans. He refuses to bend he refuses to crawl. And he’s always at home with his back to the wall. And he’s proud of his scars and the battles he’s lost. And struggles and bleeds as he hangs on his cross. And likes to be known as the angry young man”
~ Billy Joel

So last week Colin Kaepernick turned a hose on the hornet’s nest by choosing to sit during the National Anthem before a pre-season game when the San Francisco 49ers took on the Green Bay Packers. His reason was to protest the treatment of minorities by police and other groups within the United States.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

I have been a fan of the Niners since childhood. I had a SERIOUS crush on Joe Montana. I thought it was terrible when Alex Smith was traded and Kaepernick took over as the first string quarterback. But, I went with it. I thought he was a good player, but I didn’t think it was right that Smith lost his job because he was injured.

Kaepernick’s decision has sparked commentary, debate, and anger from what seems like every side of the ongoing discussion about race in the United States today. Personally, I disagree with his decision to sit down. I feel it is disrespectful to all of the members of the military and their families that sacrifice for our freedom. I love my country and I can’t imagine not standing.

The NFL does not have a policy on making players stand during the National Anthem. I know of people who do not stand during the Pledge of Allegiance or the Anthem and while I disagree with their decision to do so, it is their right to not participate.

Everyone makes their own decisions. That’s what this country is all about. We need to be willing to tolerate decisions made by others, even when we don’t agree. It is when people refuse to listen to each other when we don’t agree that debate turns to hateful vitriol.

Now what?

So Kap stirred up debate across the country. He has everyone’s attention. Now what? I would hope he uses this attention to do something positive. Go into communities where you feel there are issues and start a dialogue. Listen to everyone. Respect flows both ways.

Here’s the rub…

Now here’s where things get rough. Exercising your freedom of expression can come with consequences. There are rumors that Kap may be released from the Niners. He hasn’t been performing well, but it is interesting that this rumor begins to circulate right after he refuses to stand for the National Anthem. The point to remember is that if you are going to go out on a limb you need to be ready for whatever comes your way. Some people will be supportive and understanding, while others will vocally disagree. Still others will reduce to name calling and other nonsense.

“I believe I’ve passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage. I found that just surviving was a noble fight. I once believed in causes too. I had my pointless point of view. And life went on no matter who was wrong or right.”
~ Billy Joel

There have been times over the years where I opened my mouth in the name of what I felt was right. Sometimes the wind was with me and other times I got hit hard. I used to be a pretty serious hot head. Call it getting old (I prefer to call it “wisdom in age”), but maybe I am learning to approach things differently. I try to remember the old “honey vs. vinegar” line. I try to remind myself that I have not walked in someone’s shoes. Yes, I still get angry, but I try to stay calm and hear the other side before I spin like a top. When someone starts yelling, I stop listening, so I assume others will do the same. It doesn’t always work, but I try to remember that we are all works in progress.

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August 7, 2016

Journalist vs. Commentator

This shouldn’t be semantics or money. People will read this, and they’ll believe us.
~Henry Hackett, The Paper

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. More specifically, I wanted to be a journalist. One of my favorite movies is The Paper and my favorite classes in college were my journalism and print production classes. I did well in those classes, and more importantly, I was good. I wrote for The Setonian, my college paper, and even elevated to News Editor at one point. I wrote some pieces that made me very proud. There was a racially-charged fight on campus that I covered. I did some stupid things, like go to a guy’s dorm room alone to get his side of the story. I went (well, I tried) to a BSU meeting to get a comment. They asked me to leave, but I got the story. I wound up getting threats and was assigned an escort to go to classes for awhile. I pissed everyone off. I knew I was covering the story right when I got hit from both sides. It was a rush. Too bad Hurricane Irene flooded my basement and all my clips went in the dumpster.

Layout nights weren’t always a lot of fun (yes, old school layout, like running galleys through waxers and making box corners with 2pt rule and a blade). They were especially painful when layout would last until 3:00 a.m., my news writing class was at 8:00 a.m. and I was allowed zero excuses to miss. I still loved it and learned a lot. I could read upside down and backwards so I could understand how typesetting progressed. I memorized the AP Stylebook (I still have my original spiral bound copy) and to this day when I read a news story or hear a reporter on television, I am mentally editing what they are reporting based on my learning from my advisor, Professor (now PhD) Gottlieb.

When Dr. Gottlieb (who was also the advisor of the paper) would review my work for approval to publish and gave me a “good job” it was the ultimate high. In 1991 I received the Wordsmith Award for an essay I wrote. I was also a finalist in the photography category. It was awesome. I had grandiose plans of becoming a hard journalist and eventually an investigative reporter.

Well, I graduated into the worst job market in decades and took whatever job I could. I did wind up in print production, so it was at least an area I really enjoyed. My journalism plans, however, were put on the shelf. As the Internet rose in popularity and print began its slow descent, I had to find something else. I became the exact opposite of a journalist – a flack. I now work in digital marketing and specialize in SEO and analytics. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud that I am self-taught in all this technology and am always learning more. I am, however, very sorry I never had that chance to become a real journalist. At least I have my blogs that feed my writing outlet.

Why am I explaining all this? There’s a reason, trust me.

I hate columnists! Why do I have all these columnists? I got political columnists, guest columnists… celebrity columnists – The only thing I don’t have is a dead columnist. That’s the kind I could really use…. We reek of opinions. What every columnist at this paper needs to do is to shut the fuck up.
~Bernie White, The Paper

I read and watch a lot of news and every day I am increasingly ill. The profession I so desperately wanted is now a joke. Journalist, columnist, commentator – at one point in history they were all individual jobs. Now it is hard to tell the difference. For example, look at the following two headlines and ledes that cover that same story:

The New York Times
Can G.O.P. Tell Donald Trump, ‘You’re Fired’? Probably Not
We are in the midst of yet another of Donald J. Trump’s self-inflicted spirals of terrible news. And with prominent Republicans saying they will back Hillary Clinton and others announcing this week that they won’t endorse Mr. Trump, there has been yet another round of speculation about how the party could get rid of him.

ABC News
Senior GOP Officials Exploring Options if Trump Drops Out
Republican officials are exploring how to handle a scenario that would be unthinkable in a normal election year: What would happen if the party’s presidential nominee dropped out?

ABC News has learned that senior party officials are so frustrated — and confused — by Donald Trump’s erratic behavior that they are exploring how to replace him on the ballot if he drops out.

Neither of these pieces are labeled as an editorial. The New York Times piece, however, reads like a blog post. This is NOT news. It is opinion peppered with news. The ABC News piece is more down the line.

Here is another example.

Chicago Tribune
Body cams give close-up, disturbing view of fatal police shooting
Newly issued body cameras worn on the front of officers’ vests provided a disturbing, close-up view of the tragic events and questionable decisions made when Chicago police fatally shot an African-American teen trying to flee in a stolen sports car.

The word “disturbing” should not be anywhere in the headline and the lede is even worse. I was taught to ALWAYS take care when using adjectives and adverbs. This is NOT objective journalism. It is meant to incite.

There have been many different topics recently in the news that have been provocative. The presidential election, race relations, and a lot more. Unfortunately, many in the news industry and not hiding their personal opinions and biases.

This is not the level of journalism that sparked my soul. Maybe Dr. Gottlieb should teach some reminder classes.

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