On crib notes and TelePrompters: giving a speech in front of the world requires some back-up plan. Why the press tattles on trivialities while ignoring the real stuff.

When I started working as a Language Studies professor at Mohawk College in the early aughts, I did not like the idea of talking in a public forum. I was always more of a Teller than a Penn. I studied my subject matter, and then wrote out entire scripts of each of my lessons and decided to I was going to be chained to my dais, and that’s that.

Over time, I let go of the dais and walked around the room, so that students in the back couldn’t hide away from me and have little private gabfests. That meant I had to forego scripts, and by then, I was confident enough to just use overheads as reminders.

Eventually, I could give lectures with any aids or props at all. No notes, nothing.

It helped that I gave the same basic speech — making it constant practice.

If I were a world leader, I don’t think I would be so brazen. I did teach public speaking, and I always warned students to have a back-up plan in case everything that could go awry during a speech, did.

So the press going on about Donald Trump’s crib notes is just silly. Barack Obama used a TelePrompter, and it didn’t always work, either — but if you are giving a speech to the entire world, I would expect some form of aid and back-up.

I never understood the Right’s obsession with Obama’s TelePrompter, nor those in the press who called him out for it — television anchors use them. They are there so you can not worry about blanking out in the middle of a speech — and as someone who taught students how to give speeches — I have seen my share of otherwise confident and smart young people blank in the middle of a presentation — and what they usually blanked on was the things they otherwise knew cold.

The use of speaking aids is not news: it is the method of conveying information. A speech is essentially a press release with a face — or an audio book version of one. It’s a petty, nothing thing to talk about — there are real things happening and unravelling as they are imploding — that’s what needs to be covered.

You can have the best speech and deliver it flawlessly — but if you are facing dangers all around you — words will not change anything. It’s about action.

But for the press — it was also about uncovering inaction; unfortunately, their own inaction and relying on stories that require no research, that contributed to the problems facing the world now.

A day late, and a dollar short: Newsweek’s conflict of interest reporting, and how the press always needed investigative beats that watched over them.

Newsweek is in serious trouble. Their own reporters covering their spiral into the abyss will not be objective: not because they will cover up what their owners have done, but they will deflect attention on their own slumber and complicity.

Their coverage now is a day late, and a dollar short.

But journalism always needed other reporters writing investigative pieces about the profession. I wrote numerous articles over the years, but the hardest-hitting ones were always nixed. I had, early in my career, proposed a media column for the now defunct Guelph Mercury, and the editor/publisher at the time had been interested. I had written sample columns, and it was to be a-go…and he died before the first column was ever published. His replacement did not like the idea, and so, instead of writing it for Canadian newspapers, I decided an upgrade to US magazines would be the better choice, and then I made the switch.

But while there were media beats, they were more about the ethics than the actual flawed mechanisms. Howard Kurtz was the closest to it.

The trouble always was that journalists covering journalism were more cheerleading and making unfounded assumptions, always looking at outsiders as the bad guys who were having various “chilling effects” on journalism. Media critics tended to be professors who may have studied journalism, but as they didn’t work as journalists, their theories were always widely off the mark.

As someone who worked as a reporter to study how it functions — or didn’t — the signs of trouble were always glaring, but very rarely were my media criticism books helpful as guides. There was always some sort of disconnect: the ones who had the experience didn’t have the science, but those with the science didn’t have the experience. You can’t just watch journalists do their jobs or even interview them to get the full story.

You have to be put under the gun and go through the motions. You have to have articles shelved because there is a fear of a lawsuit or the publication has ceased to exist. You have to have those fights with editors, and hunt down elusive sources and deceptive handlers.

I always felt like an army of one-woman with a thousand enemies at my throat as a reporter: the siege is real, and it is everywhere.

And all that, and the story gets published, and people write a complaint letter with a Red John happy face on the envelope thanking the postman for delivering hate mail to you…and then when you see the letter, you realize the person not only didn’t actually read your piece, but they are trying to sell you Avon.


And then you go into battle and do it again and again.

Had the press actually been vigilant, they would have exposed Newsweek’s woes long before the raid. The profession needed a form of meta-journalism that turned over every rock with the shadow of conflict of interest hovering overhead.

Journalism was supposed to be a serious business, and it refused to take a hard look at itself. It would have helped.

Instead, the lack of vigilance killed it, and that was its greatest tragedy: the death was absolutely needless. What happened at Newsweek would have never gotten that far if the press learned to be as skeptical of themselves as they purported to be to outsiders.

American media consolidation continues with Sinclair fighting for exceptions.

Not surprising that Sinclair is fighting to keep its empire as big as it can. The media landscape has been shrinking at an accelerated in the last twenty years in the US. Canada’s media consolidation was always worse, and its recent woes are making an inexcusable situation catastrophic.

If people are looking for a They to solve the problem, they are sadly mistaken as such a group doesn’t exist…

Scripting questions for television is not new. Neither is happy talk: how to make the news seem natural when it isn’t.

CNN denies that they told a young man what question to ask during a “town hall” meeting on the network, but one conservative commentators have pulled up history stemming back since 2007.

In my book Don’t Believe It!, in the first chapter, I give another example from 2004 where they did ask a young college student to ask an inane question for which she got lambasted in public, before she revealed that her original — and more serious — question was rejected, and she then was told what silly question to ask instead.

This absolutely nothing that deviates from the usual mode of television news: from the “noddies” that interviewers tape after the interview is done to the scripted “happy talk” between anchors during a newscast, there is very little room for natural talk on a telecast. Things are edited. People are told what to say for the sake of brevity — but also for the sake of spin. You will often notice a flow during town hall events on television — but not so much if you attend on that isn’t televised. Reality shows are scripted, talk show interviews are scripted, and so are many elements of the news.

When writing television news copy, for instance, the software times the number of seconds it takes to read a passage: so to fit everything in tightly without bumps or cringes, many times, the spontaneity is taken out in favour of prepackaged speeches. Many broadcasters have employees sign nondisclosure agreements not reveal their operations, but if you pay attention, you can figure out just how much is actually scripted in the evening news.

It is something to be aware of when you are watching a newscast as anchors fight over who gets to say how much and when. It is silly to deny that news is a highly polished and processed product, especially when the polish is more than visible.



The Big Boo Hoo: Why journalism’s self-reflection never looks at its own core.

The Gateway Journalism Review has an interesting article on the plummeting fortunes of the Columbia Daily Tribune once GateHouse Media bought it and squeezed its assets, calling it “Tibune’s ‘Tragedy'”.


It is not just Tribune’s tragedy: it is journalism’s tragedy.

The entire industry fell apart, and yet we still have people in that dead profession who don’t see the big picture. The scene Columbia, Mo. is not different than in Los Angeles or Chicago. Newspapers fell the hardest, but they are crumbling globally.

So to point the finger at the new buyers misses the point: that newspaper would not have been sold had it been profitable.

Many newspaper companies have, for years, bought properties, squeezed out the assets, and then sold those papers. It was an over-heated market in the late 1990s and early 2000s, even though circulation was actively eroding.

The bottom line has been shrinking. People stopped feeling connected to their local media outlets and then the apathy hit that bottom line.

But it all stems from the actual product: the news story. That was always the draw: the actual news.

Journalism never kept up with the times, and now they are paying the price.

You have scavenger companies now, trying to suck out the last of the grains, but they don’t show up on the scene until it is too late.

Journalists never saw it coming. They always saw the next owner as the knight in shining armour — and they still do.

The article provides no insights into the real problems, and it’s the reason they cannot expect a turnaround: they can’t alter their thinking, and so, the toxic habits are still shackling them on the ship to oblivion.

Passivity, journalism style: Do not look at the facts, just tell people to embrace the status quo and suck it up…and then beg the government to bail out your industry. Well played, Globe and Mail.

The Globe and Mail has bee on the Fear and Pity bandwagon for quite some time, instructing the government to bail out newspapers because they cannot afford to run their papers anymore.

But what does one of their columnists do?

Tell Millennials to stop complaining about the new mortgage rules, they cannot afford houses, so just suck it up.

There is absolutely no questioning of reality here: Canadians got poorer last year, with a sizeable chunk of people who no longer see themselves as middle class, and this is a country who has a family of four on $20,000 a year who think they are middle class, particularly in Hamilton, where the housing prices went out of whack last year, but with people unable to pay for basic utilities.

People rent rooms, sell their assets on Kijiji, divest of their family’s jewelry, drive for Uber, and rely on the “sharing” economy to make ends sort of meet.

That is a crisis. That is something that needs to addressed. If Millennials — who are mightily educated with graduate degrees, are struggling with affording a house, then we should be active in seeing what is going on here. We have people who are precariously employed in this country. We have people trying all sorts of things to make a decent living — not an extravagant one, but a decent one.

And you have an obtuse ditz dismissing an entire generation with a suck it up attitude?

Journalism was a profession that perpetually stuck its collective nose in the air, trying to seem worldly and well-to-do, and now they have been decimated.

Yet they still just want people to go along with any and all rot.

They are unteachable. They never learn, or wise up to the very environment they made a promise to cover.

And their ignorance isn’t helping this country’s fortunes, either.

The Guardian’s David Vujanic problem: vetting the politically incorrect in a Post-Progressive era.

The New York Times had Quinn Norton as one of their opinionists for about one day before her tweets were “exposed” (considering they were not deleted and were always public, it is hard to make an argument about exposure, or unearthed, considering information can be called up with a search engine, not digging through papers), and now the Guardian has a similar problem with David Vujanic, described as a Serbian “anti-racism YouTube star” whose own tweets were, for the lack of a better term, also exposed.

He made Hitler/Holocaust jokes and used racial slurs about five years ago. I am not certain if the former offence was a poor attempt at dark humour from someone whose people also were slaughtered in the Holocaust, but my grandmother’s family was killed in concentration camps during that period, and I am not one to make cracks because it is not the way I cope. That’s not an excuse at any rate. I have seen photographs of the atrocities committed by the fascist Ustaše, and it was not humane in the least, and were far worse than the Nazis in their torture and killing of Serbian civilians during the Second World War.

But the racial slurs do not have a single grain of leeway. None. The Guardian took down the video, which itself was not offensive. What was offensive was the old tweets.

You would think that in 2018 where what is left of the news media, who are already obsessed with what people on Twitter rant about, would vet, looking at early tweets.

It still is a Live Out Loud generation. The Guardian should have done some homework. The New York Times could have done some homework.

Because people who live and die by social media seem to know all about these lapses.

There is a difference between being controversial and being offensive.

He was being offensive and obtuse, and the Guardian should have properly vetted him.