Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It's Jim Brady All Over Again

Category: News Rant

If you are old enough, you remember the assassination attempt on the life of President Reagan on March 30, 1981. Reagan's press secretary, James Brady, was shot in the head during the attack. In their rush to be "first with the news," CBS reported Brady died without checking their facts.

Flash forward to August 20, 2008. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a Congresswoman from Cleveland, is declared dead by CNN, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, two Cleveland TV news station web sites, a Cleveland radio station, and then it's picked up by everyone as official.

One problem: this was at approximately 2:00 p.m. Tubbs Jones was still alive at the time.

Two hours later, the media outlets are tripping over themselves, blaming -- of course -- everyone except THEMSELVES for not checking sources. A number of comments left at various Cleveland news outlets voiced as much outrage over the inaccurate reporting as the sadness over the sudden loss of their representative.

And they should be outraged. Only one station's web site stated that a news conference was scheduled for 2 PM and nothing else, bucking the trend to be first with the news and settling instead to be first with the correct news.

It doesn't take that much effort to check a source. And the fact that the Congresswoman did indeed succumb to the massive brain aneurysm later in the evening does not excuse the WRONG reporting of her early demise.

WKYC's web site has a motto posted: "Report the facts. Respect the truth." Their site was the sole holdout for confirmation of Tubbs Jones' condition, and as a result they were the only ones who did not have to wipe egg off their face...or require a refresher course in Journalism 101.

My condolences to Stephanie Tubbs Jones' friends and constituents, and especially her family who should not have to endure the added trauma of bad news reporting for the sake of being able to brag they were "first to report" in a future ratings commercial.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Talk About Eerie

Category: Obituary/News

Isaac Hayes was found unresponsive by his treadmill in his Memphis home today (8/10) at about 2 PM central time. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Foul play is not suspected. Although no cause of death has been immediately released, Hayes had a number of medical problems including having suffered a stroke in 2006.

Hayes won a Grammy and Oscar for the theme to the 1971 blockbuster film Shaft, one of the few "blaxploitation" films to achieve a mainstream audience. In fact, one could argue that the success of Shaft contributed to the glut of blaxpoitation films in the early 70s. Hayes suffered a career lull and even had to file for bankruptcy. However, his career revived and introduced him to a new audience when he voiced Chef on South Park.

Hayes' best-known album is Hot Buttered Soul, an album of unconventional (for 60s mainstream radio) songs. Most notable was his 18-minute rendition (complete with an eight-minute introductory rap) of Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," the big country and pop hit by Glen Campbell.

What is so eerie about the timing of Hayes' death is that it comes one day after comic/actor Bernie Mac's death from complications of pneumonia. Hayes had recently completed filming a small part in the forthcoming film Soul Man, playing himself. Bernie Mac was the star of that movie.

Isaac Hayes was 65; he would have turned 66 on August 20.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

They've Done It Again

Category: TV Review

For the most part, Animal Planet is tough for animal lovers to watch. Sure, there are those cute meerkats on Meerkat Manor -- but then they show Flower dying after being bit by a puff adder. Certainly any animal lover is thankful for emergency vets, but watching them work can be as heartbreaking as uplifting. However, Animal Planet does occasionally throw us a show that is nothing but pure delight. The annual Puppy Bowl is such a show, where the screen is filled for three hours with puppies doing what puppies do best.

Capitalizing on the success of that annual event, Animal Planet presented Puppy Games 2008 to coincide with the opening of the Olympics. In contrast to the Puppy Bowl, where the little fellas and gals just romp, there was a "competition" theme to this three-hour joy ride: puppies in water ("swimming event"), a boxing ring, gymnastic equipment, and a soccer field. Medals were awarded. It was as cute as it sounds.

The Puppy Games will repeat on August 23 in three-hour loops from 8 PM till 2 AM eastern time. Prepare to "awww" a good deal.

Animal Planet's Puppy Games site

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Category: News/Sports/Rant

The Houston Astros played the Chicago Cubs Monday night at Wrigley Field. The Astros won, 2-0. In actuality, however, every player who walked off the field alive was a winner.

Chicago was hit by severe weather, including a tornado warning. The game was delayed after the 6th inning for nearly three hours because of the severe thunderstorm. When the game resumed, the teams were able to play about another inning and a half before lightning again streaked through the sky. When a bolt hit near Wrigley, Astros center fielder Lance Berkman ran off the field before the umpires could make any decision about the game.

Good for Berkman. He should be given a medal. In contrast, Wally Bell, the crew chief of the umpires working the game, should be strung up a flag pole during a thunderstorm.

You simply do not put people out in an open field with spikes on their shoes and a lightning pole with an American flag hanging from it at the top of the stadium. I would love nothing better than to see the Cubs win the World Series this year (the 100th anniversary of the last time they won the World Series, as the ESPN anchors like to remind us at least 47 times a day). However, in order for them to accomplish that feat, they need to be alive. Bell's inaction put the Cubs and the Astros players at serious risk. I sincerely hope the Commissioner's office will take prompt disciplinary action against Wally Bell for allowing the players to be on the field in such dangerous conditions for as long as they were. Lightning is the #1 weather killer in the United States. Because of Wally Bell's indecision 18 men could have suffered that fate -- as an ESPN audience watched. They could have resumed the game today before the regularly scheduled game or played a day/night double-header.

Former Cubs pitcher Geremi Gonzalez, a friend of Astros pitcher Humberto Quintero (the pitcher on the mound when the game was called) was killed by a lightning bolt earlier this year, although not on the playing field.