Tuesday, October 10, 2017

You wanna be first or you wanna be right? These days, pretty hard to have both.

Looking back at my career in local news, it's hard for me to remember many retractions or corrections we had to make because erroneous information hit the air.

Now, it seems like not a day goes by when either the networks or the New York Times are admitting an error.

Honest mistake? Not usually. Often mistakes can be traced to biased reporting or a rush to judgment.

The Las Vegas shooting story was a prime example. Misinformation flowed fast and furious just about everywhere as reporters raced to be first with the big story.

Why so many errors? Because of the demands of social media and the requirements of reporters to constantly update things online. When you rush, you often make mistakes. And when the management wants more updates faster than the competition, reporters may feel they have to put something out there.

Problem is, something might not be true.

Back to the Vegas shooting. One of the hardest facts to find is a motive when the bad guy has committed suicide. We can never truly know what's in someone's mind if he's not there to answer the question. This sent people scouring the guy's social media history, work history, voting history. Some of the more ridiculous comments from network people tried to place the blame on a political party, as if the lever you pull in a voting booth makes you more likely to be a killer. Do any of these things tell you exactly why he started shooting?

So what do you do if management is wanting constant updates from you and you don't have anything?

Remember this phrase: We'll have details as they become available.

If you don't have any facts, don't broadcast rumors. Let viewers know you're working the story and chasing leads, that a news conference is coming up, that details will be released at a certain time. But until you have confirmation on something, remember that it's better to be right than first.

Because lately, if you're first, many times you're wrong.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE OWNER OF THE NEW YORK GIANTS



Dear Mr. Mara,
I grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, and have been a Giants fan for fifty years. When I was a kid my dad took me to the local sporting goods store, which was owned by Giants Hall of Famer Andy Robustelli. Mr. Robustelli personally fitted me with a football helmet, spent a lot of time with me, and left me with a great impression of a NFL player. To this day his football card is under the glass that tops my desk.
I spent my career in television news, which often took me more than a thousand miles away from New York. In the eighties I would actually drive to the TV station on Sunday where the engineer would tune in Giants game on the satellite so I could watch on a tiny monitor. When I bought my first house in the nineties I added a large satellite dish to watch the Giants, and have been a NFL Sunday Ticket subscriber since it began. I truly loved watching the Giants, going to an occasional game.
But after what I saw on Sunday, I can no longer stomach the product the NFL is presenting. I saw members of the Giants, who have been the class of the NFL, kneeling during the national anthem. I saw Odell Beckham “celebrate” by acting like a dog urinating on a fire hydrant. A week after I saw Even Engram “celebrate” by grabbing his crotch after a touchdown.
After the game, I thought long and hard before I contacted DirecTV to cancel my Sunday Ticket subscription. Did I really want to give up watching the sport I had truly loved since I was a child? Sundays in the fall had been such a source of enjoyment.     
And then it hit me. The NFL I loved no longer exists. The team which had been the gold standard for class is gone. The players are not role models, like Mister Robustelli, but just the opposite. What parent wants a child to turn out like Odell Beckham, who shows the maturity of a ten year old? What parent wants their child to emulate a football player like Evan Engram?
I have watched media bias destroy the career I once loved by dividing the country. And now this so-called “weekend of unity” in the NFL has done nothing but divide America even more. The President didn’t start this. NFL owners let it happen last year and failed to put a stop to it.
NFL owners are letting the tail not only wag the dog, but kill it. Your players are employees, and would act as they are told… if you’d tell them to be respectful of the anthem and act like professionals on the field. No business in America would tolerate such protests or disgusting displays by employees on company time. Like a parent who can’t say no to a spoiled child, NFL owners are letting the brats run wild.
I worked in my dad’s delicatessen during high school and college. One day a favorite customer came by, told us he was running for office, and asked to put a political sign in the window. My father politely declined. After the customer left, I asked my dad why he didn’t help such a good guy. He said, “When you’re in business, you can’t take a political side. You’ll make half your customers angry no matter what you choose.”
Since the NFL’s fan base is primarily patriotic, you have angered more than half your customers.
While I have loved watching the Giants, I now realize that nothing the team does actually affects my life. I also realize that with you being a billionaire, it doesn’t really matter that I won’t be spending $300 on the NFL package any longer, won’t buy Giants shirts or hats or coffee mugs ever again, won’t give NFL gifts to friends.
Today I cannot help but wonder how Andy Robustelli would feel about the way players act. And in your case, what your father would think. Free speech is fine… on your own time. When you’re paid to entertain, customers don’t pay to get a lecture on social or political issues. NFL players make 100 times the salary of a cop, firefighter, soldier and teacher; so who exactly is being oppressed here? Who is being divisive? It’s the players who are making fans angry. It’s almost like the NFL has adopted Hollywood’s business model; give your customers the middle finger, and expect them to remain good customers. My best friend has a favorite saying: “Do you want to make your point, or make your sale?” In the case of the NFL, by trying to make a point, you have not only lost a sale but are killing the entire business. The protests you have allowed accomplished one thing: they have driven away your most loyal customers. In my case, one who has been loyal for half a century.
Mister Mara, your team has a long and well respected tradition. I hope that you will reflect on that and realize that unless you make drastic changes, the team your father founded is gone forever. There’s a reason your father’s nickname “The Duke” is printed on a football; and every time a player disrespects the country, he’s doing the same to your father’s legacy.
Thanks for listening,
Randy Tatano

Monday, August 21, 2017

ECLIPSE BREAKING NEWS...


CLIMATE CHANGE SUPPORTERS BLAME ECLIPSE ON DONALD TRUMP

Washington, DC-- The powerful solar panel lobby has gone on the attack this morning, claiming that conservatives are responsible for today's solar eclipse in an effort to interrupt energy provided by the sun.

"Trump isn't fooling anyone," said lobbyist Sunny del Sol. "He got out of the Paris climate agreement and now he's worked with NASA to create this total eclipse. Those of us who believe in solar energy are being disenfranchised. And how are we supposed to tear down monuments if we can't see what we're doing?"

The eclipse, which will be seen across the US, will block out most of the sun's rays for a few hours, angering those who depend on solar energy. The lobby is backed by Al Gore, who announced that due to the eclipse he'll have to turn on all the lights in his twenty thousand square foot mansion and private jet, thereby adding to his carbon footprint. "Obviously the moon landings during the Nixon administration were designed to control the lunar path, and today they're using that technology to take a shot at proponents of solar energy."

The White House responded by issuing red hats to people on tour today, reading "Make Eclipses Great Again!"

A protestor in front of the White House was puzzled as to the timing of the event. "I don't know why they couldn't have scheduled this at night."

Friday, August 18, 2017

THE TIME I COVERED A KLAN RALLY... WITH A BLACK PHOTOGRAPHER

"Without conflict there is no theater."

Remember that phrase. It will make sense shortly.

This was back in the eighties. I walked into the newsroom on this particular day, looked at the assignment board to see what story I'd be doing and saw this next to my name:

Klan Rally

Oh, great. Just what every reporter wants to cover. And then it got worse. The photographer who'd been assigned to work with me was black.

I knew this couldn't be right so I immediately went to management. "I think you've made a mistake on the assignment board."

He looked at the board. "You don't want to do your story?"

"No, that's not it. I think I need a different photog."

"You have a problem with the one you're assigned?"

"No, he's a good guy and a good shooter. But I'm sure you don't want to send a black guy with me to a Klan rally."

"You'll be fine. They want to be on television."

"You can't be serious. Are you trying to get him killed?"

My argument fell on deaf ears. The photog, like all shooters who were born with a set of brass ones, accepted the assignment when he could have easily asked for a different one. And no one would have blamed him. A lot of people in the newsroom didn't understand management's decision.

I decided we would do the bare minimum for this story and get the hell out as quickly as possible. By the way, this was a political rally, as a member of the Klan was announcing his candidacy for public office. (No, it was not David Duke.) We arrived, got a few death stares from Klan members. I was as polite as possible and asked the basic questions I would of anyone running for office. "Why are you running?" and "What would you do if elected?" The photog shot some video.

And then we got the hell out of there. 

Later it dawned on me. Was management hoping for some sort of altercation? Some national headline that read "Klan beats black news photographer." It was the only plausible explanation.

Without conflict, there is no theater. 

And that's exactly what the media is doing today. Creating conflict. Creating the impression that the country is about to explode.

In reality, both the left and right have extreme fringe groups that make up a tiny part of the population. But they make for good TV. The conflict between the media and the President also makes for good TV. As do those "debates" on cable news every night and on the Sunday morning shows.

Every news person knows that people will play to the cameras. Would a lot of these incidents even happen if cameras weren't present? If cell phones didn't exist? If social media didn't create flash mobs? Would they happen if political activists didn't bankroll some of these protestors?

Is what you're watching simply conflict that was manufactured by people trying to divide America?

And if you're a journalist, are you telling a story or trying to create conflict?

Friday, August 11, 2017

WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE ON THE OTHER END OF THE INTERVIEW

Over the years I've met and interviewed a ton of famous people, and more often than not, they're different than what you see on TV. Jay Leno was kind of shy. Kenny Stabler was a news junkie. Donald Rumsfeld was funny as hell.

We've all noticed that most celebrities, especially those in the entertainment field, are very liberal. So a few months ago I decided to see what Hollywood types would actually have the requisite set of brass ones to speak out as a conservative. Seriously, it's pretty much career suicide if you're an actor who leans Republican and tells the world about it.

The two I came across who hold absolutely nothing back are actor James Woods and TV game show host Chuck Woolery. While Woods will fire away at liberals with wicked sarcasm on Twitter all day, Woolery has taken it to another level with a website called "Blunt Force Truth" (gotta love the name.) You'll find podcasts and weekly wrap ups of Chuck's minute-long commentaries. He hosts the site with a guy named Mark Young, an advertising executive from Michigan. The topics and interviews are very different than what you'll find on most talk radio shows and in newspaper columns. There are often more than two sides to every story, and you'll find the other sides here. Along with the stories the mainstream media ignores since it doesn't fit the "liberal narrative."

So, of course when I released my latest book "The Deplorables' Guide to Fake News" I figured I'd write to these guys and send them a copy. A short time later Mark contacted me, asking me to be a guest on the weekly podcast.

Now in more than 30 years in the news business, I've been interviewed twice. Once on NYC radio for this book a few weeks ago, and once years ago by a kid from a high school newspaper who wanted to be a reporter. (I told him, "run like hell.")

So the prospect of doing a one hour interview was something very different. I certainly didn't expect any gotcha questions, as we were going to discuss fake news and all the tricks media people play on what used to be an unsuspecting public.

The result was a terrific discussion with two guys who really have their fingers on the pulse of conservative issues and are very well versed in current events... especially those events ignored by the mainstream media. It was clear they are very passionate about their political beliefs and were very interested in talking with someone who has worked on the inside. They had great questions and it made for a very interesting interview. In fact, after we were done I was thinking a lot of the Sunday morning network talk show hosts could learn a thing or two from Chuck and Mark... how to turn an interview of a conservative into a conversation instead of the usual inquisition. The hour flew by.

If you'd like to check out the podcast, you can do so here:

 https://bluntforcetruth.com/

By the way, I'm using my pen name, Nick Harlow, for this book as I write all my political novels with this name.

Thanks to Chuck and Mark for inviting me and making me feel welcome. And, of course, for the work they do in getting the truth out when so-called journalists don't bother to cover stories that make liberals look bad.