Monday, February 29, 2016


Calvin Coolidge was president when I was born. (Mr. Coolidge is back in the news again as the last American president to visit Cuba prior to President Obama's forthcoming tour.) In any event I have seen many a politician come and go – although Franklin Delano Roosevelt took a lot more time in going. Could lessons learned in the political past enrich campaigning in 2016?

The world has spun around many times since “Silent Cal” was in the White House, I wonder if his legendary reluctance to speak out loud and often wouldn't be a good approach. Campaigning has become akin to food fighting in a high school cafeteria.  Bad manners, vulgarity and character assassination are ruling the platform. If we were to count the wordage on issues compared to the thunder of promises and negative comments, the picture is beyond sad. Perhaps speaking softly and carrying a big stick - like focusing exclusively on victory at primary polls – would impress us more than this angry in-your-face howling.  Bring back Cal!

We are months away - some would say an eternity away – before the actual election of our next president. It's reasonable to ask if we the people can survive the storm of television ads, robocalls at dinner and the 1001 other political intrusions on our time, attention and sanity.

The reality is that politicians, along with lawyers and used car salesmen, consistently compete for last place on the list of professions we respect and admire. It's not like we are being entertained by beauty contests, best movies or something else that people enjoy.

The political season is surely hell on earth.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Media Madness

America's favorite whipping boy is the media. Little doubt about that. On top of this, depending on where you are reading, listening or viewing, there is plenty of bias. In the interests of full disclosure, I have been a part of the media for a half century. This means I must be guilty one way or the other for at least part of the media mess. Frankly I do not recall any digressions, save perhaps the time I wrote in less than flattering terms about Frank Sinatra.  Our editor got a phone call in full gangster voice asking “where's this guy Reilly live?  I'm gonna punch him in the mouth.”

Now that we have posted the disclaimer may I ask you a couple of questions? What do you think of the efficiency and the ethics of modern day media? For starters, we have to acknowledge that the ownership of newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, every other medium from cable to billboards and matchbook covers are in it to make a buck. Bad news usually suits that end. We, the receivers of the information communicated, may be happiest if all was well with the world, but that's not going to happen. There is always bad news somewhere. The media will go find it and tell us all about it. This helps to sell newspapers and air time.

I wonder if we wouldn't be better off if the media didn't report bad news over and over again. This applies particularly to cable news. They would be doing their job by reporting incidents once, but filling airtime with the same story repeatedly makes us feel we are in the midst of epidemics. The recent unfortunate killing of a black male by a policeman is sad news for sure. The facts must be thoroughly investigated. If the officer is guilty his badge and gun must immediately be turned in and a legal process initiated. But the media latch on to this incident and then dig up any cases across the country that appear on the face of it to be one and the same. Now we have a media-inspired impression that all police are targeting black males and routinely using deadly force 24/7 against this segment of our population. It's just not true.

Responsibility and accountability are two very valuable trusts that need to be reintroduced in our newsrooms. And to the general population as well.