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#CWAA: Can We All Agree™ – 4/14/18 edition

April 14, 2018

Can we all agree, Mr. Trump will have a tough time convincing Americans that his missile attack on Syria was anything more than an attempt to distract attention from his troubles at home?

Can we all agree, the investigation of New York attorney Michael Cohen, could ensnare more people than the Russian investigation? Even  Mr. Trump seems to agree.

Missiles in Syria

Missiles in Syria

Can we all agree, Mr. Trump’s unhinged reaction to the Cohen investigation suggests he knows what’s coming?

Can we all agree, the war of words between former FBI director James Comey and Mr. Trump, favors Comey, if only because he knows more words?

Can we all agree, anyone who has raised children, knows Paul Ryan is lying when he says he’s leaving Congress to spend more time with his teenage children?

Can we all agree, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is probably happy to have the focus off his probe of the White House and on New York prosecutors – even for just a day or two?

Can we all agree, Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress proved one thing, elected officials have no idea how technology works?

Can we all agree, the legal pot industry can finally exhale, now that the administration has agreed not to prosecute marijuana users in states where it is legal?

Can we all agree, journalism is under assault from multiple forces determined to push a conservative agenda?

Can we all agree, the courts must continue to protect sanctuary states from the administration’s  the vindictive policies?

Can we all agree, there was so much other news this week, no one noticed the continuing flood of ethical issues enveloping EPA chief Scott Pruitt?

Can we all agree, the decision to reconsider the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, leaves no doubt Mr. Trump’s  ‘policy decisions’ are based solely on his ever changing mood?

Can we all agree, the same could be said for his pardoning of Scooter Libby and his investigation into Postal Service contracts?

Can we all agree, whoever thought giving teachers small baseball bats, even as a symbol of defiance, really has no understanding of the mood in our schools after the Parkland tragedy?

Can we all agree, it’s comforting to see The Pope admit that he made a mistake in the Chilean sex abuse scandal?

Can we all agree, it won’t be long before climate science deniers find a way to put a positive spin on reduced ocean circulation?

Can we all agree, after years of railing against budget deficits, it’s pretty clear the GOP legacy will be trillion dollar deficits for years to come?

Can we all agree, no one is optimistic about the administration’s ability to negotiate with North Korea?

Can we all agree, as long as the White House zigzags from one policy crises to the next, there will be no coherent GOP message for their candidates in 2018 and Democrats will benefit?

Can we all agree, it’s ironic that this administration might be toppled by a former porn star and not Special Counsel Robert Mueller?

Can we all agree, travelers to LAX should be cheered by news that an elevated train system is planned to move visitors around the airport?

Can we all agree, the Governor of Missouri needs to resign?

Can we all agree, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney may not has wrecked the consumer watchdog agency, but it’s not because he hasn’t tried?

Can we all agree, there has never been a more unpopular winner of the Masters golf championship?

Can we all agree, the San Francisco 49ers’ response to the domestic violence charges against a player, was shocking – even in the misogynistic world of the NFL?

and finally:

If you attended a March for Our Lives protest, you participated in the third largest  demonstration since Mr. Trump took office.

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A Remembrance – Mark Merenda

March 14, 2017

“He was going to live forever, or die in the attempt.” – Joseph Heller, Catch-22

In many ways “Catch-22” was the cornerstone of my relationship with Mark Merenda. When we met in 1972 he embarked on a literary exercise to make me memorize sections of the novel’s dialogue, so we could recite them back and forth to each other. He was much better at it than I was, but eventually I became Orr to his Yossarian.

He was much more literate than I, and had the kind of memory  I could never hope to achieve. He was also brilliant, well read, opinionated, stubborn and a cad of the highest order – all of which made him my idol.

Mark Merenda circa 1972

Mark Merenda circa 1972

We met at our first jobs, at a small newspaper in Massachusetts where he was the sports editor and I covered one mid-size town. We became instant friends since we were among the only staffers who were not members of the  clan that ran the business. Like Heller’s Yossarian, it was us against them, and we were determined to keep our sanity by taking advantage of everything we could.

I lacked his self confidence, and  was never sure what he saw in me, but I accepted my role because he was everything I wanted to be. It worked out well for both of us, I got an education and he got a wing man. I could never really describe our relationship until many years later when the movie “Sideways” came out. We were a buddy movie before I knew what buddy movies were.

We had no business covering Boston’s professional sports teams, but as long as the Red Sox , Patriots, Bruins or Celtics would give us press passes and we did our jobs at the paper, we played the part of big-time sports media types. Mark was the writer, and I was the photographer, and we were both pretty good at our roles. He got to meet his idols and I got to get trampled by Dave Cowens, John Hannah, and almost beaned by Willie Randolf.  That’s the chance you take when you sit under the Celtics basket, along the sidelines of the New England Patriots, or in foul territory at Fenway Park.

Even Mark knew that his stories had more readers if there was great art alongside.

He was warm, dry and safe while I was often soaked and had a bad back from carrying camera equipment all over whatever field we had chosen to cover.

But I would not have traded the experience for anything, because it was really the post-event education that was the best part. After the game, we’d head over to  Cambridge where Mark and I set up shop in the bar, at either the Hyatt Regency or later the Charles Hotel. Both were target-rich environments for a young stud and his wing man. I was not very good at meeting women, but Mark was a pro and more often than not an hour or so after we arrived, he would glance in my direction and throw me the car keys so I could drive myself home in his MG.

I never asked how he got back home but I just marveled at  the show. The fact that he lived with a very nice young woman who had to put up with his behavior just made him seem more dangerous. I’m sure she knew, but was willing to put up with his behavior for the same reason I did. Every discussion with Mark was an education and just being in his presence made you feel better.

Mark could pretty much talk me into anything.. He would take me shopping in Boston, to Louis, the most expensive store in the city, and convince me that I ‘needed’ a $700 cashmere overcoat. It was a great coat, and I loved it, but I was almost afraid to wear it.

His brother, Guy, was trying to start a leather business so I ‘needed’ to buy a new briefcase. It’s still here in my office next to my desk.

No matter, it was just part of my role. The flip side was, what I have since learned, is what drew Mark to me: I could tell him what an ass-hole he was being. He knew, that I knew, that sometimes he was simply full of crap, and I would be brutally honest without messing up our friendship.

We grew to respect each other, covering news, and sports together learning skills that they don’t teach in journalism school.

We even started a magazine. It was mostly about sports and we were sure it was going to be our ticket to stardom, or at least untold riches. At least until our bosses at the newspaper decided it was a little too much like competition. Forty years later I still have a few copies and I know Mark did too, even though we only produced two editions.

The beginning of the end was like a scene from “Good Will Hunting,” when Robin Williams’s character misses what was, until 2004, the most famous event in Boston baseball history, because he “had to see about a girl.”

When my future wife,  had the audacity to claim Zelda Fitzgerald really deserved major credit for F. Scott’s work he refused to even debate the topic accusing her of “getting her facts from People Magazine.” To this day, she relishes the fact that history and research have proven her correct.

We got married three years later, after I had moved to Maine to manage a newsroom. I always thought Mark never forgave her for taking up the time he wanted. He never came to the wedding and I never expected that he would. I have no idea what he thought when he found out we divorced 5 years later.

I lost touch with him and his career and it wasn’t until 30 years later when I decided to become personal coach that we reconnected. Somehow I found out he was now in marketing, so I called to ask for help. He refused to accept any payment for developing my web pages and freely offered marketing advice.

We had both matured, and the youthful arrogance was tempered by life, and now he had hundreds of friends, clients and employee who depended on his wisdom  I never made it to Florida, as I had promised,  and we missed connecting on his trip to San Francisco where I now live.

We chatted off and on, and he even allowed me to do some freelance writing, when I restarted my writing career. I would send him sporadic texts when I visited my parents near Boston. Always making sure I stopped by our old haunts, so I could bore my new wife with stories from the good old days and text Mark a photo or two.

He would text back quotes from ‘Catch-22.’

 

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Can We All Agree – 2/8/15 Edition

February 7, 2015

News and Commentary in the hope that: We Can All Agree on Something.

Can we all agree that the latest ISIS atrocity may have finally tipped the balance of public opinion in the Mideast against the terrorist group?

Can we all agree that comparing the fight against ISIS to The Crusades, as Mr. Obama did, was not a good idea, but the concept has  crossed your mind before?

katy-perry-prismatic-tour-us-2014-01-billboard-650Can we all agree that regulating the Internet as a public utility sounds like a pretty good idea?

Can we all agree that the latest GOP vote (their 56th) on repealing The Affordable Care Act, cements their image as a doomed party, beholden to ultra-conservatives, and unwilling to present an alternative agenda?

Can we all agree that the situation in the Ukraine is taking a scary turn and Mr. Putin seems to have the upper hand as long as European rulers won’t confront him.

Can we all agree that last weekend’s Super Bowl was one of the best ever – no matter which team you supported?

Can we all agree that initially, after hearing there would be a new book by Harper Lee we were all thrilled but after a closer look – a 40-year-old rejected manuscript may not be such a good idea after all?

Can we all agree that adding 275,000 jobs in a month is good news, even if it means the unemployment rate increased.

Can we all agree that the British vote to allow babies created with the DNA of three people may be a bit too close to a brave new world?

Unknown-1Can we all agree that this week’s train wreck is TV news anchor Brian Williams? As a journalist, all you have is your credibility and he has none, now.

Can we all agree that the State of New York’s decision to investigate the supplement industry will make everyone who takes supplements safer in the long run?

Can we all agree that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s decision to tone down both his extremist rhetoric and policies, was a long time coming?

Can we all agree that watching Tiger Woods struggle on the golf course is just heartbreaking?

Can we all agree that, no matter how they wind up slicing it, the President’s $4 trillion budget is a lot of money?

Can we all agree that Democrats are disappointed, and Republicans are thrilled, that Mitt Romney decided against another Presidential run?

Can we all agree that GOP support for Elizabeth Warren is pretty transparent?

Can we all agree that the current measles outbreak could doom the anti-vaccine movement?Unknown-1

Can we all agree that the Super Bowl ads were, as usual, a mixed bag? My personal favorite was the Brady Bunch Snickers spot, but that just shows my age.

Can we all agree that Pete Carroll will be explaining his Super Bowl play calling for the rest of his career, or until he wins another Super Bowl?

Can we all agree that Katy Perry brought her ‘A’ game to the halftime show?

Can we all agree that it’s disheartening, but probably not surprising to see Robin Williams’s family fighting over his estate?

Can we all agree that no one is surprised that NFL player Johnny Manzeil is in a treatment program?

Can we all agree that the murder of a prominent Argentinean prosecutor may topple the government, which is just what President Cristina Kirchner said was the goal?

Can we all agree that Anthem’s data breach, in which ‘several million’ customer and employee records were stolen, will make little difference to them, but a big difference to those whose records were stolen?

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Would You Reprint Charlie Hebdo’s Cartoons?

January 13, 2015

Ever since the attack on Charlie Hebdo last week I’ve been wondering what I would have done if I were still an editor at a newspaper.

The day after the attack, I was consumed with embarrassment for my profession when so few papers, who reported the murders, printed any of the offending cartoons.Madonna-Uses-Paris-Shootings-Je-Suis-Charlie-to-Promote-Her-Album-469566-2

As part of their coverage some publications in Europe did print a cartoon, but except for the Washington Post, I’m not aware of any major US publications who printed an example.

Even the Post printed the cartoon on the editorial page leaving the news columns free to describe the artwork. They, like the New York Times and other publications, claimed the actual drawing ‘were not relevant’ and their message could be communicated in words.

Clearly the cartoons were relevant, and just as clearly, mere words could not describe why the cartoons led to the attack. In truth, after looking at a sampling of the cartoons, I found many childish, insulting and tasteless, but I would still defend their right to publish them.

Almost every religion came under attack, but according to some, only the Muslim faith specifically prohibits depictions of their prophet.

My outrage, was tempered by a good friend, recently ‘retired’ from a small local publication, who noted that if had been editor, he’s not sure if, as a married father, he could take the risk of publication, even in a small hometown weekly.

Would the emotions of any editor be any different. Presumably they could all be the mothers or fathers of young children, and publication would open them up to the same fate as Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists.

I guess my anger was more rooted in the excuse that the cartoons “were not relevant” to the story. I just wish the editors would admit they were scared and, while they knew that failure to publish meant the jihadists had won, they would be honest about it.

I had the same thought this week when the new cover of Charlie Hebdo was released and the announcement in my email, only showed half the drawing.

I still don’t know what I would have done, were I still the editor of a newspaper or even if I should use a cartoon to illustrate this blog post?

But I hope I would at least be honest with my readers.

Maybe, if somehow everyone published the cartoons, there would be strength in numbers like the 1 million French citizens who marched in defiant solidarity in Paris last weekend.

 

 

 

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Can We All Agree

November 15, 2014

Filed under: Coaching,Journalism,Management,observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — admin @ 1:20 pm

Can we all agree that putting a spacecraft on a comet 500 million miles from earth is pretty spectacular

Can we all agree that the GOP won the election by taking control of the political conversation.

Can we all agree that if the Democrats, had paid attention to James Carville’s “It’s the economy, stupid,” maybe things would have been difference. (Ok maybe stupid is a bad choice of words—voters are very smart)

Can we all agree that 1 week after the election any thought of political compromise is out the window.

Can we all agree that while the post-season baseball awards are nice- winning a World Series is better.

Can we all agree that Fox News created the Ebola panic, and we now have a Czar with nothing to do.

Can we all agree that Jerry Brown is doing a pretty good job as Governor. (although I’m not sure about that high speed rail line or WaterWorld)

Can we all agree that Putin glad handing at the Asian summit while sending more troops into the Ukraine is pretty surreal.

Can we all agree that getting China and the US to agree on anything – much less a climate treaty – is pretty amazing.

Can we all agree that all this talk about who shot Bin-laden is a bit of a bore.

Can we all agree that the 2016 Presidential race officially began November 4.

(Hillary vs. Bush, Huckabee, Ryan, Christie, Paul, Cruz, Perry, Rubio, Walker, Santorum, Jindal)

Can we all agree that the GOP might have just a two-year window to control the Senate, since they have 24 seats to defend vs. the Democrat’s 10 in 2016.

Can we all agree that Alibaba’s $9 billion in sales on one day is pretty good for a made-up holiday (singles day in China, 11/11)

Can we all agree that net neutrality is a good thing.

Can we all agree that watching San Antonio Spurs play is sublime

And finally:

Can we all agree that the thought of a Las Vegas show based on the stars of Duck Dynasty is just too unbelievable for words. Unless they can get Kim Kardashian’s butt to star in it.

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So, Why Does the World Exist?

May 10, 2013

I admit that I started reading Jim Holt’s “Why Does the World Exist?” as penance. Many years ago, Douglas Sturm, my political theory seminar leader at Bucknell University, tried to introduce me to Plato.

Seems I never had time for the deep thinking required and I almost flunked.

So when I saw Mr. Holt’s book on several 10-best lists last year, I decided to get it another try, for Professor Sturm.

I guess it took 43 years before my brain could wrap itself around the concepts but I’m glad Mr. Holt succeeded.

I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to spend some time contemplating our world’s oldest question, but particularly journalists who get caught up in the daily routine of facts, figures and political hyperbole.

Holt’s writing is erudite, easy to read and understand but filled with concepts that most of us never consider, or try to avoid.

At the same time, like any good journalist, he examines the question posed in his title from every conceivable angle. No just as a personal essay, but by interviewing leaders in the field and then explaining what they seem to be saying.

Others have called his book a “detective story” but, like his readers, who want concrete answers, he accepts or rejects various arguments along the way. He reaches his own conclusions, which we are free to accept, or not, and manages to humanize the whole effort with references to his own life and his experience with death.

The journey is interesting, entertaining and, if Professor Sturm is reading this, enlightening. I’m finally starting to understand some of what Plato was telling us. Thanks for whetting my appetite.

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An Era Ends Here

August 2, 2011

Filed under: Coaching,Journalism,Management,observations — Tags: , — admin @ 7:13 am

After 62 years, a daily newspaper will no longer be delivered to my house. This is a big deal for me and for the newspaper industry.

As someone who grew up with the Haverhill Gazette and The Boston Globe and then spent 30 years in the business, giving in to digital dominance was like saying good-bye to an old friend.

My dad, who will be 91 in a few weeks, beat me to the punch. When his poor eyesight forced him to give up reading a few years ago the newspaper was a casualty as well. For him the iPad was a savior and he  now reads four papers a day because he can make the print as large as he wants.

For the newspaper industry, losing a reader like me is a sure sign that they have lost a major battle. If someone from a generation like mine gives up, I guess it’s a foregone conclusion that the newspaper printing business is pretty much over.

I guess I’m the last to admit it.

My wife asked what it will mean. I’m hopeful that reporting and publishing news online will remain strong. In an age of Twitter, Facebook and Google+, legitimate news sites where editors actually make judgements about what is news, are needed. These sites will, hopefully, continue to set the agenda that reasoned consumers need.

Our political climate, including the soon-to-be concluded debt ceiling debate, is largely a product of the unedited, extremist debate that takes over when no-one is in charge.

I could go on about the reason this has happened. The newspaper publishers have no-one to blame but themselves. Their unwillingness to change on a wide range of issues has led to their own demise.

Thankfully, news is still alive. Weekly and small daily publications seem to be thriving. The kind of information that has always been important – the stuff that makes the front of the refrigerator – is still in demand.

I will continue to consume news online, so I guess the final chapter is a long way off, but my small step is still painful.

 

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Arianna and Patch.com

February 7, 2011

Filed under: Journalism,Management — Tags: , , — admin @ 4:21 pm

I’m a big fan of Patch.com and their local news gathering operation – even if they are owned by AOL. It was interesting to hear Arianna Huffington being interviewed today about the puchase of her Huffington Post site by the AOL content empire (at least in their own eyes).

The only AOL division she chose to name while answering question on The PBS Newshour was Patch.com. I’m not sure if it was a random thought, or if I should be nervous that Ms Huffington will start monkeying around with what has become a pretty successful formula for local news gathering.

AOL and Arianna had conference calls with all the AOL properties which will be under her control but singling out Patch.com would make me a bit nervous if I was one of their local editors. I’m not the only one expressing concern.

Only time will tell, but I really hope I don’t wind up reading local news as dictated by the folks in Washintgton D.C.

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Journalism-Back to Basics

January 31, 2011

Filed under: Journalism,Management,Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 9:02 am

I’ve been thinking a lot about where journalism is headed and I think I found the answer this week. Meet Emilie Raguso, the Albany, CA editor of Patch.com.

Emilie Raguso

Patch.com is a collection of web-only news websites which is trying to focus on the kind of hyper-local news-gathering that has been the staple of community newspapers for the last 200 years. Give people news about what’s going on in their  schools, little league and community and they will actually support your product.

I’m proud to say that I’ve worked for a number of newspapers which were based on this remarkable theory and I know it works. Patch.com, which is owned by AOL, is just doing it without a printing press. You can read the New York Times take on the process but don’t be thrown off by the “looking-down their noses” attitude of the piece. The Times, like other large metros and many journalists, just can’t seem to grasp that people care more about what’s going on in their community than they do about the rest of the world.

I’ve been following the Albany Patch.com site with some interest, even though it doesn’t cover the town where I live. I happened to meet Emilee at a local coffee shop.

I have to admit that I had lost faith that journalism would ever be the same with the internet, but as Emilie sat down – camera draped around her neck – and began talking about all the stories she was trying to cover and how much fun she was having, my hope was renewed.Her dedication to trying to cover meetings, plus doing features and working with freelancers, and being unbiased and getting reaction from the community was refreshing.

She’s only been on the job here for six months, but as we sat at a table outside the small restaurant, we overheard two women talking about a recent Patch.com article, a man walked by with a Patch.com tote bag and several folks stopped by to say hi. That is community journalism.

Maybe we are not all doomed to getting our news from left or right leaning blogs and there is still a place for the kind of  journalism I was taught –  way back when.

Let’s hope so. And I hope that there’s a Patch.com site that c0vers your community. With any luck the folks at AOL won’t screw things up by trying to control each site from a central location. Only time will tell, but at least they’re off to a good start with Emilie.

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