Archive for December, 2023

Missed communication

Author: admin

Many, many years ago, the only uncle I ever had told me to get into mass communication when I grew up.  He said this was the “coming field” for young people.

His words came as a surprise.  I may have been 10 at the time.  Many years went by.  I can’t put a finger on when it “happened” but, involved I’ve been.  Still am for that matter.

My career path involved mainly broadcasting.  Both radio and TV.  Some 60 years.  With a bit of newspaper(ing) on the side.  And, I’ve loved every damned minute!

But, something is happening in mass media – all over the country – something terribly disappointing for a practicing journalist.  Something that saddens those of us who’ve been fortunate enough to have had careers in the field.  Saddens me as a citizen.

Newspapers in communities – large and small – are either ending their press runs or are being bought out and closed.  Some are going to the I-Net.  Some  just allowed to die.  Local news is being lost in many places.  At best – in a few cases – local “reporting” has been cut way back or transferred to the I-Net.

To those who get news from national publications or radio/TV, you may feel you’re still being informed.  And, for some people, that’s O.K..  Headlines, brief broadcast stories.  Good enough for some.

But, for local news enthusiasts, something real – something very important – is missing.

Stories that used to come out of city hall or the county commission.  Police activities involving crime in your small town.  Local weather reporting.  Local advertising.  Stories about local planning and zoning issues that may affect your property.  Your home.  Politics.  Business. Births and deaths.  Local.

The loss of a local paper may seem just a passing event that doesn’t affect you.  Doesn’t seem important.  But, it does.  And, it is.

“What’s causing this,” you ask.  “Why should I be concerned?”  “So what?”

Has your city/town ever been faced with an important local political decision?  Do you know your (local) county commission just raised property taxes?  Have you heard a significant (local) retailer is going out of business?  Do you know about a BIG sale at your (local) car dealer’s?  Have you ever missed an important (local) event?  Local sports?

We live in a town of about 35,000.  No local TV.  One small radio station.  One newspaper.  A family-owned newspaper having to deal with major market radio/TV, I-Net, social media and the rest.  Trying their damndest to stay in business.

The owner is cutting back on a print edition to once-a-week.  Local news and advertising moving to an I-Net edition. Trying to keep the doors open, trying not to lay off staff, doing whatever he can to keep from joining so many small newspapers whose mastheads have disappeared.

The major market and national television you may enjoy is not going to report on what’s happening in your city hall or county offices.  It won’t check in daily with law enforcement.  Local law enforcement.  Won’t be carrying a lot of the local advertising you now have.  The national newspaper won’t be reporting on events in your town.

That uncle of mine was right about mass communications being the “wave of the future.”  Surprisingly right.  Seventy years ago.

But, we can’t let “mass communications” replace local communications.   We need – we must have – local information, the on-your-street information so important for our daily lives.  The loss of a local newspaper – in many towns – means the loss of connections needed to stay viable and thriving.

There are times in our lives when being bigger isn’t better.  When “one-size-fits-all” threatens the fiber of community.

Your local newspaper is that damned important!

Dangers of volunteering

Author: admin

I’ve always held the belief that, as citizens of our communities, we should all be required to undertake some kind of public service.

In Israel, nearly all citizens serve in one or more public roles for at least two years while in their teens or 20’s.  It can be in the military or a program linked to a community need.

When we graduate from high school, most of us don’t have a good idea what we want to do next.  If you did, great!  But, I know I didn’t.  Had something like the Israeli requirement been offered, it would have changed the rest of my life.  As it was, I voluntarily

turned to the military and that was the “change agent.”  Aged a bit.  Got my head cleared.  Was exposed to some life experiences.  Figured out what I wanted to do.  Voila!

When aged a few years, the next step was some sort of community service, i.e. Chamber of Commerce, school board, city council, local committee, etc..

While I’m of the opinion that each of us should serve the public good in some capacity, that’s more of a tough sell nowadays.  Biggest reason for that is it makes you a better target for violence.  Or, threats of violence.

I’m ashamed to say it, but public notoriety now can be dangerous. In the current environment, threats against public officials or those serving in many volunteer roles can be bad for your health.  And, there number is increasing.

In our hometown – and quite possibly yours – there are openings on civic committees.  People are being urged to volunteer.  Used to be, there were more volunteers than vacancies.  Not always the case these days.

One of the reasons, I suspect, is volunteering for certain jobs can put a target on your back.  Even in our small city, it’s not unusual for members of boards and commissions to receive threats of one kind or another.

Most often, it’s through (un)social media.  The vast exposure we have to nutcases, screw balls and folks who hide behind the anonymity of the I-Net can’t be ignored.  Whether they mean to carry through on their threats or just want to scare someone, the person on the receiving end can’t be sure.

Local law enforcement is being called upon much more often these days when city/county/state/federal or other public-serving citizens receive threats.

Broadcasters have been on the “threat list” for years.  More than 45 years ago, I was assigned a police detail for several weeks after receiving threats of harm.  We were told then that people making anonymous threats seldom are a real danger.  The word “seldom” always seemed to me to be a huge disclaimer of the assurances.

Our nation runs on volunteerism.  People who give of themselves to serve on boards, commissions, committees, task forces and the like are absolutely necessary for continuity and getting things of a public nature accomplished.

But, the current wave of threatening communications has put a damper on people volunteering.  Almost everywhere.  The aforementioned I-Net gives lowlifes the anonymity to make their threats.  Unfortunately, it’s not possible to tell the harmless, mindless idiots from the real bad guys.  On the old I-Net, they’re all the same.

We live in a small, almost rural community.  Sort of out of the “main stream.”  But, I’m not sure I’d accept a request for public service now if one were to come.  “Rural” we may be.  But, threats-against-service have surfaced here as well.

With local, state and federal elections just 12 months off, it’ll be interesting to see who’ll choose to put their names on the ballots.  Or, work the elections.  It could be there’ll be more open spots than in previous years.

I hope not.


The boomer factor

Author: admin
Aside from current political wars tearing this country apart, other forces are at work changing our entire society.  They’re seldom talked about but they’re very, very real.
I’m about to make some generalizations.  You may find fault with those comments if they pertain to you.  That’s O.K.. And, if they do, I’d appreciate some feedback.  But, for the moment, let’s deal with these – generally.
Across our nation, we’re seeing a rapidly declining rate of participation in traditional practices – mainstream religion, service clubs, social organizations, volunteerism in traditional activities and more.  All are losing members/workers and not seeing the usual influx of new people to carry on the tradition of free labor.
Granges have all but disappeared.  Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Eagles, Masonic bodies, Knights of Columbus and other civic and/or fraternal groups have declining memberships and, in some cases, have forfeited their charters.  Had some not taken in women a few years ago, many would likely be gone by now.  Many small Chambers of Commerce have expanded boundaries to include nearby communities to keep membership up.  Some small chambers are just about gone.
Barb and I live in a small community of about 35,000.  Much of what might otherwise be done by paid city employees is done by volunteers i.e. parks and rec duties, swimming and golf operations, security, beautification, etc..  All groups – and I do mean ALL – are losing volunteers and not seeing enough new ones.
Here’s one of those generalizations – though where we live, we’re seeing plenty of specific evidence.
Boomers – born in the mid-forties through about 1964.  They’re retiring now.  But their unique societal habits and lifestyles are drastically changing life.  Here and everywhere.
Many Boomers, generally, tend not to join existing groups.  They often go their own exclusive way about things.  They sometimes start their own clubs rather than joining existing ones.  They’re the first retirement generation for which computers are basic to their way of life.  They seem to prefer electronic social connections over face-to-face groups i.e. service clubs, mainstream churches, etc.  
Now, I’m not finding fault with that.  It is what it is.  But, to think life is going on “as usual” is to ignore this large societal shift going on under our feet.  And to ignore even larger changes ahead.  
If you don’t think huge change is out there, I invite you to check those three teens in that fast food joint as they text each other at the table rather than talk face-to-face.  They’re the advance party for generations to come that will be largely unable to interact in business, political, societal or any other direct form of interpersonal communication.
“Rainey,” you say.  “You’re all wet!”
Maybe.  But, we’re steadily moving in our communities from volunteerism – which is disappearing – to hiring people to do the same tasks.   Dues/fees have to be raised and that may price some elderly, who retired here and elsewhere many years ago, out of their homes.  
Leadership recruitment pools are shrinking in size.  In a community in which we used to live, there was a large managing board election a year ago for an organization that runs a $20 million annual budget. Three seats open.  Election advertised for months.  Three folks volunteered in a community of nearly 35-thousand.  Thirty-five-thousand!  No election.   Just appointments.  
As our aging demographics change, there’s less participation – less involvement – less volunteering.  But, the fastest growing group here – and elsewhere – is the Boomers.  Example: they’ve organized several exclusive duplicate clubs – limited to Boomers – taking members away from other groups who’re starting to feel the loss.
And, when you reach an age of about 70, you find yourself not always being included in Boomer activities or on mailing lists.
These aren’t isolated instances for just this community.  Sociologists are finding growing evidence of these Boomer trends all over the place.  Changes are subtle – very subtle.  But, they’re becoming more apparent and more important to the fabric of our society.  
We’ll talk about this again.

Shooting blanks

Author: admin
If you’re waiting for the current crop of Republicans in the U.S. Senate to do SOMETHING to stop whack jobs from killing our children in the classroom, NEWS FLASH – you won’t live that long.
As the number of months – years – pile up since the Uvalde and Nashville mass murders, you can see it in Republican eyes, hear it in Republican voices.  Nothing meaningful – or game-changing – is gonna happen.
Despite multiple graphic testimonies about the Texas, Tennessee and Florida carnage involving the scattered and blood-stained remains of nine, 10 and 11-year-olds – despite Matthew McConaughey’s angry description of a child’s body so badly destroyed by AR-15 bullets only her tennis shoes could be used to identify her body parts – despite a pediatrician’s brutal description of the blood and gore he found as he looked in vain for some child to save – nothing “game changing” is gonna happen.  Nothing.
Yes, backed embarrassingly into a political corner, we got some minor changes in a few situations involving the buying and limiting use of some guns.  Not AR-15’s or other semi-automatics which are the weapons-of-choice for crazed killers.  Nothing to address the mass violence.
There’s no shortage of people, places and things to blame.  The NRA, “Didn’t happen in my state,” “I’m just one voice,” “Not my problem,” “Weren’t my kids,” 
Sound nutty?  Sound irresponsible when discussing such a horrific matter as classroom killings?  Sure.  But, so is doing nothing.  Or, nearly nothing.
Being elected to Congress has become the first step to making a career of what the Founder’s viewed as a part-time job.  “Citizen Congress” they wrote.  Get elected, do things, go home.  
But, somewhere along the way, we – we citizen voters – lost control.  Like bed bugs in an old mattress, once they got in, it became nearly impossible to get ’em out.  “The power of incumbency,” it’s called.  Simple as that.  
If one’s desire to keep one’s position at the perpetually sweet, perpetually flowing public trough sounds too unrealistic an argument to make in the face of inaction after several mass murders, you come up with a better one.  Go ahead.  The rest of us will wait.
 Mitch  McConnell assigned Texas Senator John Cornyn to “work with Democrats” to see what both parties could “agree on” when it comes to gun legislation.  You really expect sweeping, meaningful legislation to come out of that?  “Both parties can agree on?”  Really?
By the way, it’s been two years  now.  Heard anything from Senator Cornyn?  Read his report?  Heard any new ideas to stop killing our young?  Me, either.  Not word one!
It’s taken a lot of political disappointments and a heap of Congress doing nothing to cause me to do a “180” on term limits.  A full “180.”
Taking the possibility of a career-by-the-Potomac off the table may be a first step to getting movement – even action – by a future Congress.  If one takes the job in the first place, with every intention of serving and acting with a citizen’s sense of doing what’s right, rather than what’s going to keep them in office, then retiring, we might expect some positive action.
There are still some important objections to the term limits idea.  But, we’ve seen so many opportunities missed – so many wrongs go un-prosecuted – so many deadbeats relying on incumbency and longevity to stay in the “hallowed halls” – so much worthy legislation die in someone’s desk drawer – and all in the name of someone staying employed.
So, yes.  Inaction by the current Congress on the subject of meaningful legislation to stop killing our kids can be predicted.  With near certainty.  It was “Ol’ Mitch, himself, who said it in his charge to Cornyn.  “Work with Democrats” implying the GOP’s ready to act but not Democrats.  
Skeptical?  Yes.  Cynical?  You’re damned right!   I assure you, no pleasure is taken in these words.  But, we’ve seen this all before.  After Sandy Hook.  After Parkland.  After Columbine.  After Reno.  After Buffalo.  After New Orleans.  After Miami.  After Brooklyn.  After.  After.  AFTER!
We need a term-limited, citizen Congress.  We need people to take responsible political action without fear of reprisal.  We need people to be motivated less by self-service than by service-for-all.  We need people who will do what’s right for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do.
Until that happens, don’t hold your breath.  It ain’t gonna happen.